Thursday, December 22, 2016

Nothing Compares to the Hope We Have in Christ

This year, one of the most prominent things that God has shown me, is there is no way to truly know where a person stands with God.  Only He has the power to know this. 

As a result, I now have a new kind of love for the people I meet.

I watched someone that I love go through some big hardships that could have easily be prevented. My heart broke, I experienced grief, forgiveness, happiness, and hope all within a period of about three weeks.

I've had to watch someone else that I  love, who had appeared to be so strong in Christ, stray away from their faith, and embrace sin.  I had to come to terms with the fact that all I can do at this point is pray and encourage them through Christ.  My heart is still grieving.

I've witnessed many fruitless political rants, driving families and friends apart. The things that were said were so frivolous and left so many people with nothing but bitterness and even hatred towards others.

These few events this year left me searching for hope in more ways than ever before. 

So if you know me well, you'll know that I have a strong love and appreciation of the writings of Douglas Wilson.   Well, last night I stumbled upon this debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson from several years ago.

It is two hours long. And I watched the whole thing.  :-D :-O

I appreciate these types of debates.  They are a far cry from those silly presidential "debates" that take place on national TV every four years. After I watched the video I started reading this book review written by Douglas Wilson of a book titled 'The Faith of Christopher Hitchens' that was released earlier this year (2016).   Both Taunton and Wilson wrote very respectful accounts of their friendships with Hitchens, despite their polar opposite opinions.  I had always assumed he would be someone more along the lines of Dawkins - constantly in attack mode, but that wasn't the case.  His personal persona was very different from his public one.  After watching and reading these things, I couldn't help but wonder if Hitchens ever had any real hope.  Of course, on this side of Heaven, we'll never know that, but it's still an interesting thought to ponder.

All of this reinforced my belief that we are in no place to make public judgments about a person's salvation that are outside of what we know to be absolutely true

Proverbs 18:2 ESV A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Growing up as a Christian, I have heard many of the following statements, many times.

 "______ is a Christian because he DOES _____."

 "_______is not really a Christian because...". 

"There is no way there is any hope for ______."  

"I don't worry about ______ because he's a solid Christian." 

I've said these things myself, and I've done so repeatedly over the years. I'm telling you now, WE Christians assume way too much when it comes to salvation.

The truth is, God is sovereign.

If we truly believed that God is sovereign, He is all powerful, and He loves His people, if we truly had that hope within us, we wouldn't make statements like those ones that I listed above, at least not without conviction.

We cannot know what is going to happen.  We cannot read minds and hearts.  But we CAN have HOPE in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior.  Amen? 

1. We need to have HOPE for all who proclaim His name.

This includes:

Hope for the person who will happily claim the title of Christian, but only gives much thought to Him at Christmas time and Easter.

Hope for the person who has always been called Christian, but has never understood what it means when someone says, "Jesus died for you."

Hope for the person who has always known Jesus, but struggles with obedience and faith.

Hope for every Christian in every denomination out there.

If we automatically assume, either privately or in a publicly,  that a professing Christian is not actually saved, all that does is show that our hearts are not in the right place.  We are taking on the mind of the all-knowing God at this point.

We should be treating our fellow Christians the way we would like to be treated.   We should be overwhelmingly gracious and merciful.  

Don't think that Christian over there is really a Christian? Okay then.  Instead of publically or privately shaming them on the matter, go over there and share the gospel with them again.  It may turn out that they knew more than you thought they did.  They pray when they are alone.  They have ongoing battles with God through their acts of defiance.

We truly do not know what the end result of a person's walk with Christ is going to be when they take their last breath.

So, from here on out, if someone asks me, "Is ______ a really a Christian?"  I will only say that which I know to be true. If all I can say is that they are a professing Christian, then that's that.  If I am not sure, I will not say no.  If I have strong doubts, I will not say no.  I will choose to have hope that God is working in their heart and that complete repentance is in their future.  I do not know what is going on in the heart of most people, and I am not going to act like I do.

I want us to stop making assumptions about His people and believe that God knows what He is doing.

2. We need to have HOPE for those who reject Christ. 

Hope that the person who has always rejected Christ with fervor, would one day come to know Him.  We have no reason to show them disrespect.  We have every reason to show them love and kindness. They need the gospel, not constant nagging and criticism. They need to be engaged in logic-driven, mindful conversation, not to be called childish names.  We need to have hope that they will one day be blessed with the incredible hope that we have!

The least likely of person to become a Christian could very well be someone who God has chosen for himself.  We hear about atheists turning to Christianity all the time.

3. We need to have HOPE for the "strong Christians".  

We all have people we look up to, who influence us and teach us.  It is so important to remember that we can't let our admiration of people take the place of God.   And we should never allow ourselves to view others as sinless.  All humans are sinful, no matter how "perfect" they may appear to us.  Every person is fully capable of making the wrong decisions and even turning their back on God.   Just as we shouldn't assume a person is not walking with Christ, we shouldn't assume that a person is incapable of succumbing to a life of sin.   Knowing this can easily break your heart, but we need to faithfully maintain a hope that these people will persevere until the very end.

4. Absolutely NOTHING compares to the hope that we as Christians have!
Romans 5: 1-5 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
We should be falling on our knees, in absolute awe of this hope every single day.  God gave us himself and then he gave us eternal life.  No one could ever argue that he could have ever given more than that.  It is the epitome of all gifts that could be given.  The very least we should do now is to persevere until the end and proclaim this hope for all to hear.   If we are willing to humble ourselves and look at ever. other. living. soul as just that - a soul, we'll no longer look at them as just "people".  We will look on them with HOPE and we will see them as they are:  precious, hopeful souls created in the image of God, worthy of our love, prayer, and compassion.

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