Hold on to the Hope

Hope

Sunday 03/21/21

Series: Maintaining this Hope

Message – Hold on to the Hope

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Hold on to the Hope

We are still looking at what the Gospel has to say about setting our hopes and expectations on the return of the Lord.

You know, a few years ago when I was around more people from the grace movement, they kinda gave a little bit of a kick back from thoughts and teachings about looking forward to the return of the Lord. Some of them because they didn’t believe in it… Them being of an extreme division of the Preterists who believe all fulfillment of “end time events” took place around 70AD. [For more on Preterism read this very good article from Got QuestionsHERE.

Others still looked at it as a misguided desire to “escape” this world – they refer to is as a escatological form of “escapism”. 

While I do not agree with their views, I do see a valid point in this later view. 

We are not to look forward to the return of the Lord JUST as an escape hatch from this world. If we do, we may be nursing a heart attitude towards the world that is something less than loving. 

We should love those in the world and desire to be salt and light to them as long as possible. Secondly for their benefit, but Primarily to honor Jesus our Lord and king. 

That having been said, we DO in fact look forward to our Lord’s return, but the focus is NOT escaping this world, but on fully embracing our new life with Him. 

As I’ve told you in the past, it is amazing how often the language surrounding teaching about Jesus’ return – be they parables or metaphors, they employ the language of marriage to convey not only the truths about His return but the heart emotions identified with it as well.

We are likened to a bride, waiting for her groom. It isn’t that she doesn’t know him. It isn’t that she does not believe in Him or in his fidelity to her or his promise to return for her – it is in fact because of her love for Him and because she DOES trust in His return that it places her in a continual position of eager and favorable expectation. 

This is about our excitement to see Him as He really is – to have the veil – removed from our face that we might see Him and know Him in intimacy on the level that will be available to us on that day which is NOT available to us right now.

So it is that the New Testament has much to say about His return and our need to maintain a continual and ardent anticipation of it.

Turn with me to the first chapter of Colossian…

Col. 1:1-29, “(1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:  (2)  To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae. Grace to you and peace from God our Father.  (3)  We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,  (4)  for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints  (5)  because of the hope reserved for you IN heaven.”

“You have already heard about this hope in the message of truth,  (6)  the gospel that has come to you. It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day you heard it and recognized God’s grace in the truth.”

The hope was taught as part of the gospel message, just as I mentioned to you last week. 

SO WHAT IS THIS HOPE RESERVED IN HEAVEN FOR US? 

1Peter 1:3-9, “(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  (4)  and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  (5)  who are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  (6)  You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials  (7)  so that the genuineness of your faith–more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  (8)  You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy,  (9)  because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

“(7)  You learned this from Epaphras, our much loved fellow slave.” 

You know I almost hesitated to mention this due to the overwhelming hypersensitivity of our day. So much attention pointing to select problems in our nation’s to the neglect of other, sometimes equal problems. It is in vogue to cherry-pick things in history, outside of their historical context and use them as a platform for radical change by claiming sustained and ongoing abuse. 

As such, there is a huge kick back and extreme “trigger” reaction in the modern world against the notion of SLAVERY… and that is not altogether inappropriate. Historically there have been MANY varieties of slavery some of necessity and matters of practicality and others monstrous and inhumanely abusive.

Slavery however, by itslef, simply means that one is another man’s servant – handling and managing things owned by another. 

This could and historically HAS been done: 

  • to work off a debt. 
  • because one was born a slave (this can be evil or not) 
  • had sold themselves into slavery in order to settle a debt with another 
  • or because someone bound themselves to a family out of love or devotion to them.

In any of the above cases this is NOT against scripture in any way, though scripture does have rules which govern the treatment of slaves. Scripture is clearly against abuse, BUT – and I know this runs at variance to what many believers think – the scriptures are NOT against slavery itself. 

So in order to address the words of Paul, calling Epaphras a “fellow-slave”, I find myself having to teach a lesson within a lesson.The biggest point of this lesson within a lesson is that scripture suffers much abuse at the hands of unbelievers…and believers alike, who are ill-informed of the biblical stance on issues like this. They either become unduly accusatory or are thrust into positions of attempting to defend scripture or be offended at scripture all while being at the disadvantage of possessing a whole inadequate knowledge of what scriptures actually teach.

American’s, in particular, recoil at anything that smacks at a lack of personal freedom… but the truth is, no one on this earth is completely free.

All freedoms are, in one way or another, subject to regulations.

Ever since a court ruling in 1823, the freedom of movement has been legally and judicially held as a fundamental human right under the American constitution. In practice what this Means is that no man or government has the right to restrict where you go or when. 

Once automobiles came to be common place, laws which restrict and govern the aforementioned “freedom of movement” began to be written and observed. 

While you may be free to walk or ride a bike in nearly any public place, you could not just drive a vehicle anywhere or at any speed you desired. To offer you that freedom, would jeopardize the freedom of relative safety enjoyed throughout the rest of society. So rules and regulations and tests and law enforcements had to be put in place. This is a simple example of freedom with restrictions. 

That is where we get the phrase, “The lines are our friends”. Though they do in fact restrict us, they also protect and even provide for greater freedoms.

As I am having these thoughts on Saturday evening in preparation for Sunday morning service, a book I had read years ago has come to mind. It is called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”, by Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey.

I remembered that in that book there was a chapter in which the freedom of movement which bones provide the human body was mentioned. So I looked it up.

As it turns out it was chapter 10 and was appropriately entitled, “Freedom”.

In it, they described a Welshman coal miner who, many years ago, had to have the upper portion of bone in his arm removed due to a sizable tumor which severely fractured his bone. The doctor had removed the unsalvageable bone and provided an external brace made of  leather and metal pipe which was attached about where the bicep muscle is, in order to create a type of exoskeleton for the otherwise limp upper arm.

The 206 bones which essentially make up our human frame create the potential for movement. Bones and muscles work on a triangle principle. The joints provide the fulcrum, while the two opposing bones work by means of the muscles. When our coal miner friend removed his exoskeletal brace, if he went to raise his forearm, his upper arm would shorten. The “triangle” which provided motion was incomplete.

People who do not understand how the body works have often wished freedom from bones or wished their bones were thicker and stronger. Neither scenario would be ideal. 

Without bones we are actually highly restricted in motion – especially on land. 

If our bones were thicker and stronger, they would also be much heavier and would restrict us in other ways. 

As it turns out, what we have is a fearfully and wonderfully made balance of both- leading to tremendous freedom of movement. 

Anyone who doubts the grace and near limitless movements the human body is capable of, needs only to glance through a sampling of YouTube videos for an hour to be so eminently impressed with our native capabilities as to remove all doubt regarding the wisdom of design in using strong and rigid bones to offer us nearly unbound freedom of movement.

SO it is with slavery!

We only think of it as restricting due to our limited affiliation with it’s potential negatives. On the other hand, there are also freedoms the slave enjoys which the master knows little to nothing of.

Wealthy people in today’s world seek to own nothing but control everything. In ownership are burdens, restrictions and liabilities. In owning nothing there is a certain amount of freedom to be realized and enjoyed.

These thoughts also reminded me of a song from Michael Card called ‘Through the Eye”, which is a phrase he borrowed from the great English author and poet William Blake.

The quote from William Blake runs like this, 

“This life’s dim windows of the soul

Distorts the heavens from pole to pole

And leads you to believe a lie

When you see with, not through, the eye.” 

Which inspired these words in the above mentioned song from Michael Card,

Through the eye

They must always believe a lie

Who see with and not through the eye

With and not through the eye…

Only the eyes of the heart perceive

That the deaf and blind can hear and see

That insanity’s saner than sanity

That only a slave can be truly free”

So in this verse in Paul’s letter to teh Colossians, he is referring to a slavery of heart devotion. 

Out of love and devotion to God we divest ourselves of our own pursuits, passions and agenda’s and lose our will in His. 

For those who have started down this road at all, there is a surprise of realized freedom that they never were able to enjoy when they were their own god. It is something which has to be experienced to fully understand.

Jesus lived in this freedom as well! 

By His Own admission He did nothing, said nothing, pursued nothing but the Father’s will – that was the skeletal framework of His life…. the restrictions and rigidity of which provided true freedom! 

Jesus was, as a direct result of His slavery to God, the freest human being who ever walked the earth and has become for us – an example to which to aspire.

Paul here refers to Epaphras, as our much loved fellow slave and I am saddened by the overwhelming majority of Christians who have no comprehension of what that means or freedoms it represents.

While this may seem like a departure from our topic it really is not. 

We cannot realize our hope of complete conformity to His image, by relentlessly pursuing person freedom as masters of our own lives. 

Jesus said, Whoever wants to gain his life will lose it for My sake AND the gospel’s; whoever holds this life dear to themselves, will in the end lose their life completely.

So Paul continues…

“He [Epaphrus] is a faithful minister of the Messiah on your behalf,  (8)  and he has told us about your love in the Spirit.  (9)  For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.”

“What we are asking in our prayers is that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,  (10)  so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.”

Even here you can see the notion of slavery – their prayer for the Colossians was to know God’s will so they can obey and pursue His desires above their own!

“(11)  May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy  (12)  giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.”

What is that inheritance? – well, part of it is complete conformity to Christ in all things and the downpayment of that inheritance is the person of the Holy Spirit of God! We will read about that in a little bit as we close. 

“(13)  He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves,  (14)  in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  (15)  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation;  (16)  because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

“(17)  He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.”

“(18)  He is also the head of the body, the church;”

“He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.”

In 1 Cor. 15 where we have been for weeks Paul called Jesus the firstfruits meaning essentially the same thing.

“(19)  For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,  (20)  and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross–whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

“(21)  And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions.  (22)  But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him–  (23)  if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” 

“This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a minister of it.  (24)  Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His body, that is, the church.  (25)  I have become its minister, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known,  (26)  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints.  (27)  God wanted to make known to those among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  

(28)  We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  (29)  I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”

Two more verses which kind of tie this up with a big bow are Romans & Ephesians

Eph. 1:11-19, “(11) In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will,  (12)  so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.  (13)  In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation–in Him when you believed–were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  (14)  He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.  (15)  This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,  (16)  I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.  (17)  I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  (18)  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints,  (19)  and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.

Rom. 5:1-5,  “(1) Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2)  Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  (3)  And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance,  (4)  endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  (5)  This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Blesings!

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!