Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Hope Imperishable

There are times when I wish the bad news would just go away. Everywhere I turn it seems like there's more. And I'm not talking about the news that is coming out of TV speaking of some distant event, but the news coming from your relative, friend, or fellow church member. The kind of news that is close to home. That's the kind of news that I'm talking about.

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon about the reality of the kingdom of darkness. We're walking through the book of Acts right now as a church, and the book of Acts is full of great stories of the Kingdom of God breaking in. But in the midst of the stories of the Kingdom of God there are stories of another kingdom. A kingdom that is adamantly opposed to the Kingdom of God. A kingdom that revolts every time the Kingdom of God advances. And as much as we celebrate and rejoice the fact that the Kingdom of God is breaking in, you can't avoid noticing that there are times when the kingdom of darkness appears to be winning. One of those moments is in the first few verses of Acts 12, when James is beheaded and Peter is imprisoned. Our tendency is to just keep reading and quickly get to the part where Peter is miraculously freed, and continue with the celebration. But what about James? James was one of Jesus' closest friends. He was one of the first disciples of Jesus yet with simply a few jots of the quill Luke records that "[Herod] killed James the brother of John with the sword." (Acts 12:2)

What do you do with verses like Acts 12:2? What do you do when you are living in the reality of Acts 12:2? 

The name of our church is Living Hope Fellowship, so the word hope is on my lips quite often. Hope is a funny thing though, because often times when we think of hope, we think of something that we do. We think of it as a verb. But in reality, the verb hope isn't nearly as important as the noun. What I mean by that is what's important about your hope isn't how much of it you have, but where it is directed. What is most important about your hope is where it lies. You can have a lot of hope in something that is weak, and it won't do you any good. But even a little hope in something that is strong will prove to be of great value. So my question is, what is the object of your hope?

In 1 Peter chapter 1, Peter tells us about the strength of the object of the Christians hope. In verses 3-6 he gives a lot of descriptions of our hope, but there is one, that in the moments of Acts 12:2, I cling to. And that is that we have a hope that is "imperishable". The word imperishable means that it is something that cannot be corrupted or ruined. And the way that the Greek word that Peter uses was used in the secular world was to an area that was left untouched by an invading army. When an army came in and ravaged the land, the part that was left intact, the part that was not ravaged, was known as the imperishable area. Christian, the enemy can do a lot of damage to us while we are on his turf (that's what this world is according to Ephesians 2), but there is one thing that he cannot touch, one area that he cannot ravage, and that is the hope that has been secured for you through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He cannot touch that. You might feel like your feelings of hope are weak, but your feelings aren't your hope, the inheritance secured for you by Christ Jesus is your hope. And that is imperishable. 

Lift Your Glad Voices by Henry Ware Jr.

Lift your glad voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man cannot die;
Vain were the terrors that gathered around Him,
And short the dominion of death and the grave;
He burst from the fetters of darkness that bound Him,
Resplendent in glory to live and to save!
Loud was the chorus of angels on high,
The Savior hath risen, and man shall not die.

Glory to God, in full anthems of joy;
The being He gave us death cannot destroy:
Sad were the life we must part with tomorrow,
If tears were our birthright, and death were our end;
But Jesus hath cheered the dark valley of sorrow,
And bade us, immortal, to Heaven ascend:
Lift then your voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die.