Source of True Hope

When I was fifteen, I started driver’s education. Everyone wanted to get through the coursework so that we could start driving. During the coursework portion of the program, I had such a hope for what could be. Eventually, test time came around and I passed! I gave my time and energy, suffered through the sometimes dry lectures, learned the material, and passed! I would be permitted to drive a vehicle during the next portion of the course! I was in a car with two other students and the instructor. The two other students drove before I did. One of them caught air going over the railroad tracks in the small town of Elgin, Oklahoma. They still gave him a license. When it was my turn, I did the checks to make sure nothing was obstructing the movement of the vehicle, I sat in the driver’s seat, fastened my seat belt, went to put the car in drive, and the windshield wipers came on… My teenage self was humiliated. This was my first time driving. I figured out how to turn the windshield wipers off, put the car in gear, and started driving. My hope had been fulfilled and I had a new hope, that I would soon earn my driving permit. I was willing to endure the humiliation to finally get that permit.

Hope is a wonderful feeling. We want to hope in something more than the possibility of receiving a driving permit. We want a lasting hope. In a world as hopeless as the one we live in, how is it possible for us to have hope at all? People are mean, we are lied to, we are betrayed often, churches are dying, the rich get richer while the poor stay poor, there is social and legal injustice, there is genocide, there are natural disasters, and we live just so we can grow old and die. Is there really such a thing as true hope?

Romans 15:1-13

Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself. On the contrary, as it is written, The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me. For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.

Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy. As it is written:

Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles,

and I will sing psalms to Your name.

Again it says:

Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people!

And again:

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;

all the peoples should praise Him!

And again, Isaiah says:

The root of Jesse will appear,

the One who rises to rule the Gentiles;

the Gentiles will hope in Him.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Source of hope

Everything is from God, through God, and to God (Romans 1-11), therefore we present our bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to Him (Romans 12-16). As we look to Romans 15, we realize that Paul is continuing to apply the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty and continuing to explain the proper response of the person to the sovereignty of God. We also remember that Romans is Paul’s broad commentary on the Old Testament. Chapter 15 begins with Paul stating that those Christ followers who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not please themselves.

When we experience the saving grace of Christ, our response is not merely a response to God. We, then, also have an obligation to others who are also in Christ. Scripture is so clear about this. I cannot rightly present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, if I do not also recognize my obligation to other Christ followers. That obligation, especially for mature believers, is that we bear the weaknesses of those without strength.

We think about what a local church is to look like and feel like- what we should look for as we think about what church to serve in and what it means that there is a Christ-like love present within the local church body. Often our desires are contrary to what it means for us to properly respond to God’s saving grace and His absolute lordship. We could play a game, “Design Your Own Church,” and I have a feeling that we would, according to our preferences, design a local church that is not reflective of this truth, mainly because most people don’t even know that this is part of the deal- bearing one another’s burdens and bearing the weaknesses of others. What this means is that if I am part of God’s family, then I am willing to suffer with my brothers and sisters in their weakness. I am resolved to be committed to them regardless of their shortfalls. Just as Christ never casts us out, neither will I forsake or drive a brother or sister in the family of God away. Why? Christ is lord, therefore I present my body as a living sacrifice.

This is a detail we often leave out of our church design. We design environments to facilitate happiness, comfort, and to try and entice people to come or to stay. Or, if we think about my own generation, we simply leave the church altogether because we are tired of putting up with fake religiosity. We don’t want to hear about sacrificial living or about the fact that we should be humbled before God because He is the one who is working out all things. We want to offer something. We want to hear a message of empowerment. We want the music the way that we want it. We like the atmosphere that we have created. We say we want growth, just make sure things stay the way we have made them to be. On this earth, the genuine Christ follower will practice long-suffering with his brothers and sisters in the faith, bearing the weaknesses of others (especially regarding their personal conviction and sin as mentioned in Romans 14).

This statement is followed directly by, “…and not to please ourselves.” This simply means that nothing about how we live as people of God should be about our preference. Christ is Lord, so we present our bodies as living sacrifices. Christ has saved us by grace alone, so we are humbled. Christ saves others by grace alone, so we consider them to be more important than ourselves because we also had nothing to offer. There is an authority higher than my preference. There are people that I am obligated to- so as a living sacrifice I am a suffering servant like Christ. He bore the weaknesses of the whole world. When I am willing to bear the weaknesses of my brothers and sisters, I get to be like Christ, a wonderful picture of who He is. That is Christian love.

This is why we are also instructed to build up others for their good. We are vessels of hope for others, not vessels of condemnation. So part of God’s method is that He uses His people to build up one another for their good and through long-suffering. Scripture arrives at the same conclusion in the next verse.

Verse 4 states that we have hope through endurance (or long-suffering) and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. What does it mean that we have hope through endurance? We could think back to Romans 12:1-2. Everything is connected. In Romans 12, we are instructed not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world. This means that the ways of the world are endured as we strive to live being holy and pleasing to God. We have already been challenged, here, to bear the weaknesses of others, to practice long-suffering not pleasing ourselves. So, we endure the world and we endure with one another. Through endurance, we have hope.

Secondly, hope comes through the encouragement from the Scriptures. Again, we reflect on Romans 12:1-2, “…be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” When we read the Bible, we see what it has to say about itself and the work that it accomplishes in our lives:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

“My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Isaiah 55:11).

“Is not My word like fire… and like a hammer that pulverizes rock?” (Jeremiah 23:29).

“The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise. The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad; the command of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold — than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey, which comes from the honeycomb. In addition, Your servant is warned by them; there is great reward in keeping them” (Psalm 19:7-11).

“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (Jesus praying in John 17:17).

“…if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works — this person will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:23-25).

“…everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock” (Jesus in Matthew 7:24-25).

Scripture is inspired by God. It is what makes the man (or woman) of God complete and equips God’s people for every good work. It will accomplish everything that God has set forth for it to accomplish. It is a fire. It is what renews life. It brings wisdom. It is living. It penetrates the soul. It judges the ideas and thoughts of the heart. It exposes all things. We will give an account according to what Scripture has exposed in us. We are sanctified by it. By keeping its words we are blessed in what we do. If we abide in God’s word, our foundation is secure.

There is a reason we don’t want to be guilty of preaching fluff. There is a reason the pastor’s labor is in the ministry of the word. There is a reason we make it a point to teach all of Scripture, making sure we are not guilty of forming an opinion first and finding Scripture to defend that opinion. That is what Satan did as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. There is a reason Paul had to write to Timothy and encourage him, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness” (2 Timothy 2:15), and again, “Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). There is a reason we do not teach last-minute revelations or secret knowledge. There is a reason hours are spent in study. With a correct teaching of Scripture comes great hope. With an incorrect teaching of Scripture, we are made comfortable in this world.

Scripture cuts into our souls and judges the inclination of our hearts (that’s called conviction, and I guarantee that the preacher has no idea that you think he is speaking directly to you). There have been many occasions on which I have finished delivering a sermon and someone asked how I knew what they were going through. I did not. Scripture is living and active. It judges the ideas and thoughts of the heart. I do not even try to be such a judge. It’s not my place. Many other times, someone is angry with me because they have experienced conviction. I don’t know what God is doing in your heart. Scripture is living and active, judging the ideas and thoughts of the heart. Scripture renews our minds. Scripture points us more and more to Christ. Christ is the one who saves. Everything is from Him, through Him and to Him. In Him we have a hope far greater than we could experience from any other source.

When we run from a correct teaching of the Scriptures or when we reject the conviction from the Scriptures, we experience great discouragement in the faith because we are rejecting Christ’s transformational work- the work that actually conforms us to His image and by which we experience life.

In verse 5, Paul identifies the source of this hope, this conviction and this endurance. The source is God, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things. God is the source. Hope is produced in His people through endurance and through the Scriptures. Verse six draws this idea out further, saying that when we are being drawn to hope through endurance and through the Scriptures, we are granted harmony as we glorify God. There it is again, this call to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.

Hope comes through endurance.

Result of hope

God does this so that we might glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and voice. This is the result- God’s glory.

There is a second result, when God is glorified, God’s people receive joy, peace, and overflow with hope. Consider verses 7-13 (Parentheses mine):

“Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. For I say that the Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy. (God first receives all glory) As it is written:

Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles,

and I will sing psalms to Your name.

Again it says: Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people! And again:

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;

all the peoples should praise Him!

And again, Isaiah says:

The root of Jesse will appear,

the One who rises to rule the Gentiles;

the Gentiles will hope in Him (God’s glory means our hope).

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (We experience joy and hope by God’s mercies as He receives all glory).”

In this conclusion, then, there is only one thing I can say according to Paul’s letter to the Romans, a letter in which he has commented on the message of the Old Testament and explained the true Gospel concerning Christ. Life is not about us, what we have to give, what we have to gain, what we have to offer, what we have made, how we have succeeded, how much we have gained, how good we think we are, how big our libraries are, how knowledgable we think we are, what we have done, what kind of education we have, what kind of image we have earned for ourselves, or what kind of world we would try to create for ourselves. Life is about God. All things are from Him, through Him, and to Him. The Christian life is about our being humbled and Christ being glorified. The result in our lives is true joy. I will spend the next couple months considering what true joy means and what it is like to experience true joy even in this life. I hope you will join me.

The result of hope is joy.

 

Hope comes through endurance.

The result of hope is joy.

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