Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hope in Life

by Scott Foster at

A recent loss in the family has taken me aback.  I find myself sad for various reasons.  I can't say I was personally close to her.  She was my cousin's wife.  But I knew her well enough to know she was hurting and had been hurting for some time.  It has stirred in me a concern for those friends and family she left behind, and in addition for others that are hurting like she was.

This world can be pretty difficult.  Just look around.  People are rising up against their governments in certain countries because of oppression or other harsh conditions.  Others are recovering from devastating losses from tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, massive fires and other such natural disasters.  And that doesn't touch on the personal losses such as close loved ones that die from cancer, heart disease or other such health related issues.

I could go on.  But the fact of the matter is is that there is a lot of pain in this world.  It shouldn't come as a complete surprise, though. We do live in a fallen world.  Sin is real and devastating.  And Satan, who is also very real, is out to kill, steal and destroy.  John 10:10  We have an enemy of our souls, but oddly enough we often do enough damage to ourselves.  We tend to add insult to injury when we are enticed by the evil desires within our own hearts.  James 1:13-15

Like I was saying, my heart goes out to hurting people.  For these folk, it seems pretty apparent that they need help.  Unfortunately, the places they often go to for help either add to their difficulty or do nothing to address the real issue(s).  It seems the world is never short of its offers of pleasure and comfort that lead to self-serving motives and/or desires.  Its promises are fleeting and do more damage than good.  God says that "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

As much as I’m concerned for these people, I’m also concerned for my family and friends.  This statement might need some explaining.  Some of them may not believe or think that this could possibly apply to them.  And I understand that.  I understand that growing up doing good things, or going to church, getting baptized or even being religious seems like it’s doing all the things that matter.  It’s even possible that there are some that believe by going to a specific church automatically puts them in God’s good graces.  I even thought at one point in my life that if I do enough good things that outweighed the bad, then I might get to heaven.  (That, however, quickly faded when I was doing nothing but bad things and found myself headed in the wrong direction.)

At some point I realized it really wasn’t about me being good.  Or doing enough good to outweigh the bad for that matter.  I realized it had more to do with Jesus and the cross than it did me.  I prayed that God would forgive me and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  However, I missed the point.  I obviously wasn’t serious about my commitment to God because for several years after that I still pursued a lifestyle very contrary to God’s ways.  For years, I had believed that I was a Christian.  But I looked back and realized that there wasn’t ever a moment in my life that I could say it really changed.  I still wanted to live life my way.  I still was not serious about submitting to God and seeking to live my life for Him.  Isn’t that what it really means if God is my Lord?

It wasn’t until much, much later after years of bad decision after bad decision that I got serious about the direction my life was headed.  Actually, it was my wife (who was my ex-wife at the time) who called me about her decision to follow Jesus and become a born-again believer that convinced me that I needed a change too.  Maybe a month or two later, I found myself at a church asking God to help me.  To help me and save me.  I wanted to turn my life around and be serious about my commitment to follow Him as Lord and Savior.  At that point, I began to notice changes in my life.  Things didn’t happen right away, but over time I began to realize that I was a “new creation” in Christ, which is the idea of being born-again.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Becoming a Christian is not that difficult.  But often people misunderstand what being a Christian really means.  Jesus says that we must be born-again in order to enter Heaven.  “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  John 3:1-8  It’s a new life and a new lifestyle.  Does it always happen immediately?  No, but for a true follower and believer of Jesus Christ, there should be an indication of change over the course of his/her life.  This is often referred to as “fruit of the Spirit” in the Bible.  Galatians 5:16-25

This is really the point to this whole letter.  My concern is that there may be family and/or friends who truly don’t know if they are saved, or in other words, true believers.  There was a time that I didn’t.  Truth be told, no one really knows about you either, except for God and yourself.  It’s true that we can look at someone’s life over time and see whether or not that person’s life has been changed by God.  But sometimes I think it’s a mistake to point fingers and make accusations.  No one can see into another person’s heart but God.  It really is up to a person himself to ask the tough questions and go before God and see if they truly are a follower of Jesus Christ.

That brings me back to my cousin’s wife.  Where was she in her life?  How did she get to the point where there seemed to be no hope?  I don’t know all the answers, but I truly believe that if a person is in Christ, that person has hope.  This life doesn’t have anything to offer.  But God offers eternal life.  John 3:36  He offers Himself through His Son.  John 3:16  He offers hope.  Psalm 130

How does this work?  How can someone have this hope?  It all happens through Jesus Christ.  It’s nothing that we can do.  In fact, we’re completely helpless and incompetent to stand before God on our own because He is holy!  Look at what the apostle Paul says in the letter to the Romans:

No One Is Righteous
9What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

    "None is righteous, no, not one;
 11 no one understands;
   no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
   no one does good,
   not even one."
13 "Their throat is an open grave;
   they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
 16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known."
 18  "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

So what can we do?  If we’re relying on ourselves, like our own goodness, there’s nothing.  But if we put all our hope in the work of the cross that Jesus did for us at Calvary by taking our sins, accepting our punishment for those sins and dying on the cross, thereby exchanging his righteousness for our transgressions, then we have hope.  It’s the Gospel message, which is the Good News.  Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  Romans 1:16  The Gospel message is this:

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

 That’s where it begins.  By believing that Jesus took on the form of flesh, was born of the virgin Mary, died on the cross for our sins thereby taking on the punishment that we deserved, was dead and buried for three days and rose again.  In the process, he appeared to many who were witnesses of His resurrection and then ascended into Heaven and is at the right hand of God the Father.  Did you get that?  He died for your sins and mine.  He took on God’s wrath for all the bad that we’ve done.  He died in our place.  And in the process He conquered sin, death, and hell itself.

It’s not automatic though.  There is something you need to do.  You need to admit that you’re a sinner in need of a Savior.  You need to confess your sins, repent of them and commit your life to Jesus Christ.  1 John 1:8-10  To commit your life to Him, you need to believe that He came to die in your place and give you eternal life.  John 3:16-21  It’s a life-changing, life-altering decision.    

But how do you believe?  How does that happen?  The Bible says that the emphasis of believing is putting your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation and not on anything you’ve done yourself.  And faith in itself is also a gift from God.  “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17  If you’re truly serious about knowing God, draw near to Him by getting to know Him.  Read the Bible and allow His Words to grip your heart.  But also know, that God knows the intents of our hearts.  Hebrews 4:12  He knows whether you’re serious about your commitment to Him.

And pray.  It’s not the words themselves that save you, but it’s a heart that is truly repentant for sinning against God and believes that Jesus’ work on the cross satisfies God’s requirements for you to be saved.  You may say a prayer like this:

"Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner, and I am sorry. I need a Savior. I know I cannot save myself. I believe by faith that Jesus, your Son, died on the cross to be my Savior. I believe He arose from the grave to live as my Lord. I turn from my sin. I ask You, Lord Jesus, to forgive my sin and come into my heart. I trust you as my Savior and receive you as my Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me."  The Roman Road

 If you have prayed this for real and mean it, please find a church where they teach the Bible and help you to grow in Christ.  If you still have questions, find a Christian friend or even ask me and I’ll try to help.  I may not have all the answers, but I will try to help you get the answers from someone who can.  Ultimately though, it’s my hope and prayer that no one in my family or any of my friends have any doubt in their mind about their own eternal destination.  Make no mistake, this is the most important decision you will ever make.

God bless you! 

No comments:

Post a Comment