The Power of Hope. A life of hope will find the ability to accept people very different from ourselves enabling us to bridge divides through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. All of this is unpacked in Romans Chapter 15 verses 7 to 13.
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Music: Achaidh Cheide - Celtic by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Romans chapter 15 verses 7 to 13
Introduction: Hope is the most powerful motivator in life. Without it, you are trying to run the engine without gas. Howard Thurman an African American Scholar 1947- Harvard Lecture on African American spirituals- full of heaven, otherworldly. All the things people might mock you for believing in today! But they kept people resilient in the face of inhuman suffering. Imagine speaking to early 19C. slaves- “There will never be a judgment day in which wrongdoing will be put right. There is no future world and life in which our desires will ever be satisfied. This life is all there is. When you die, you simply cease to exist. Our only real hope for a better world lies in improved social policy. Now, with these things in mind, go out there, keep your head high, and live a life of courage and love. Don’t give into despair.” (Tim Keller. Making Sense of God p.158.) This hope is so big it has to be shared- by Accepting our differences, bridging divides, and embracing hope…
1. Deep Acceptance- means wholehearted acceptance. That level is never easy. It has to include deep connotations of forgiveness because it assumes there has been real tension and potential for division amongst the believers in Rome- Jewish versus Gentile. It is directly empowered through experiencing Christ’s offer of forgiveness, that you are justified by faith in Him, that is fully accepted, when redemption was applied to your individual soul, bringing it to life.
– Corrie Ten Boom and the German guard.
But acceptance is in the area of prevention rather than cure. Acceptance- cuts off the need for forgiveness at the pass, by cultivating an attitude toward one another based on Christ.
The argument here is that Christ has accepted Jewish people and Christ has accepted Gentile people. If the king accepts both then we his followers are in no position to think we are wiser or better than he is.
Reconciliation differs from forgiveness. But that is clearly aimed at here too. If things got so bad that forgiveness is needed, then a deep acceptance would have to involve the spiritual operation of reconciliation to cure the body of the church of any disease from disunity.
But acceptance should avoid the need for forgiveness and reconciliation ever having to arise. If we follow the example of Christ v.8 - He even became a servant/slave- on behalf of God’s truth by keeping his promises to them, that God would send them a delivered- a messiah. So true acceptance models itself on Christ’s acceptance- servanthood and faithfulness to promises made. Remember that when things get strained at home. Who do you struggle with? Life can be good in lots of areas, but if it’s tarnished in our relationships then the rest can barely outweigh that. If Christ has accepted you warts and all, then he stands ready to give you his love for others, so that you will accept them with all their flaws and frustrating habits. We are not called to only love the lovable, but to love all, including the unlovable! Not to leave them as we find them, but see love transform them as Christ’s love has done to us. This is the first step to a shared hope.
2. Bridging Divides: This is the business God is really into, and has been for a long time. So if you need his help, just look at how committed to it he has been: right there throughout the whole Old Testament. Verse 9-12 x4 quotes from the Jewish Bible! - that the Gentiles were always part of the plan not an afterthought.
God started with one man- Abraham- one family- one people- one line of kings- to lead to one king- for ALL the nations to be saved through. Always planned to accept all nations into his family. Just in case either side had any doubts he gives x4 quotes…insiders and outsiders-
v.10 rejoice- see that in a moment in v.13
v.11 – all- united together.
v.12 through a ruler- Messiah – Christ as King. Has a progression within it- from amongst Gentiles to the King drawing them in.
Covers the Law, Prophets and the Writings- the WHOLE Old Testament – same message: That we are all to be in the SAME family! Today America really needs to re-establish contact with this God of reconciliation. We need to live this plan out: community workshops- people of different sides talking to each other, not about each other – discover that as Americans you have more in common than separates. Can we show the same commitment to bridging divides as God clearly has been for a long time?
The last quote v.12 sparks a wildfire of Hope- The Gentiles share in this hope- This unity comes when one side shares its basis for hope with the other side. That’s how disunity is healed. So you can be a complete outsider but as insiders share their hope with you, then you can share in something you never had access to. No matter how far away you are from God, that can change today, right now.
3. Overflowing Hope: look above the entrance door to the sanctuary – Hope Church motto v. 13. It’s a common hope. Fuelled by this prayer/benediction- for it's God who alone can pass on hope to the outsiders through the lives of the insiders.
And He does so with outstanding generosity! It’s not a few drops of whisky- but fills the glass! Nothing grudgingly. Which is needed in our Age of Hopelessness- because there is no basis - tried human power and tech and science. But just led us in the bloodiest century every – C.20th. Because to make a better world, the kind of world we wish we all could live in is beyond us. We are not utopians- a form of socialism or Free market- but realists about the brokenness of this world. Your neighbors are screaming for this hope. Others pursue the pleasures of the instant to cloud out such despairing thoughts.
This is the power that carried a people through slavery!
Oh Chris - you say- I can’t have this hope of joy- I have mental health issues- life is all a fog and I can’t see what you are talking about. But you can. It’s a Promise of God- is it true or is it not? The answer doesn’t depend on you, on your mental state but on God’s existence and Promises! Which means – open to all.
Oh- you don’t know my life- The absence of hope in this world is usually linked to tension eg between nations- war, divorce- between spouses, parents and children? Boss and employee? Life becomes hopeless then. what if your kid doesn’t want to share your faith- what then?
a. Christ gives you strength to love the difficult.
b. Hope in his power that they can change.
c. That they will come to follow him one day, often when they have kids of their own, but on no account can you give up hope! Hope in the here and now- bec of reconciliation with others is possible.
For some there are seasons like winter. For a very few winter is almost permanent. But there will be joy again. But more than that- these are the exceptions that prove the rule- you are children of the summer - you have a right to this joy- because God is your Father, he loves he makes promises to sustain you, care for you. Don’t depend upon feelings. Do depend upon His promises.
Conclusion: Now, go and face this week with HOPE. Let him feed that hope now through this place at the Table to encounter the Spirit of Christ’s power to rebuild your hope.