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Hebrews 13: Heaven Is Home

Part of Hebrews 13 reminds me of being on vacation. Think about the last time you were on vacation. You are obviously still yourself, but you feel entirely different because your routine is thrown off. There is something almost uncomfortable about being on vacation because we are so conditioned to have a general routine. I know that when I am on vacation, there are some mornings I wake up and feel like I should be going to work because that is where I am supposed to be. I am so conditioned to be there.

I feel like this is somewhat similar to the way that we as Christians feel. If we are following Jesus Christ, we know where our eternal home is. We know what the routine is going to be. We know we are destined for heaven, but right now we are on “vacation” here on earth.

Heb 13:13  Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Heb 13:14  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

We’re still ourselves while we are here on earth, but we recognize that this is not our eternal home. Just like vacation from work does not last forever, our time on earth will not last forever. That ought to make us pretty excited. If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we are going to recognize the fulfillment of that desire for heaven, and we are going to spend an eternity with Him.

Heaven has stood out as an important theme for me lately, and I think it is one that we don’t talk about enough. There are plenty of good things to do here on earth, and Christians certainly should be doing good deeds and helping all of those around us. We want to bring glory to God while we are here on earth. Therefore, it is not like our time on earth is a waste or anything like that.

However, we want to make sure that our perspective involves heaven. It involves the recognition of the reality of an eternity spent in the presence of God. If that doesn’t give you hope, there is literally no hope for you.

Titus 2: The Hope We Have

As Christians, we have hope. That is something powerful about the Christian worldview. It fully acknowledges everything that is wrong with the world; we’re not in some kind of false bubble. However, we know that there is something better to come in the future.

In Titus 2, Paul is speaking to Titus about characteristics that ought to be present in believers, and he finishes off in this list with the most important in my opinion.

Tit 2:11  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Tit 2:12  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Tit 2:13  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

We live in this world. We should live in a way that God wants us to. However, we are doing that while constantly looking for the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. We live on earth, but we keep our eyes on heaven.

I think that we all have heard sermons asking about whether or not we would be proud to be doing what we are doing if Jesus Christ was to return today. I think it is a question worth considering, but even if Jesus did not return today, it still seems like the same question would apply. After all, God knows everything we are doing anyway.

Therefore, as we live on earth, we are trying to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Because the Word was made flesh, we do have an example of the perfect Christian life that we can follow. However, while we are living that life, we also keep our focus on the ultimate hope that we do have. The world is not all there is, and one our time here is done, the true adventure really begins. It has really struck me lately how amazing and exciting that really is.

2 Thessalonians 2: People of Hope

In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul speaks about how there is going to be a difficult time before Jesus will return. Many people are going to be deceived by this person who puts Himself in the place of God. Rather than debate the specifics of end times prophecy right here, I want to focus on the encouragement that Paul provides the church regarding this difficult situation.

2Th 2:13  But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

2Th 2:14  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Th 2:15  Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Even though dark times are coming, we can be excited because we have hope. Paul was excited that, despite the fact that there would be problems coming in the future, it was still possible to praise God.

I know that it is easy to look at the world and think that is going the wrong direction. It is easy to lose hope. However, I think Paul would give the same advice to the church of today. God is still God, and we can still be thankful because God has allowed us to have this free gift of salvation. Jesus did not need to die on the cross. God could have left us in our sinful state. However, Jesus did die, and He did that to provide us with eternal life.

I think that what we all really need is a change of perspective. We focus on the negative, but we have been given the greatest hope, and if we hold to what we have been taught as Paul has advised, then we know that God wins. That is the end of the story. I would think that in our world of darkness, we as Christians should be the most optimistic people.

Philippians 4: Not All Bad

I don’t know about all of you, but it is pretty easy to let your mind wander. It interesting that in Philippians 4, Paul advises some areas that it is wise for us to think about.

Php 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In greater context, these are the final pieces of advice that Paul is providing to the Philippians, so he wants them to control their thoughts. There are plenty of evil things to think about in the world. Just watch the news. It is easy to dwell on the things that are negative.

Rather, Paul encourages us to focus on those things that are positive. It does not mean that we can never speak out against evil or criticize our culture, but the definition for think on here carries the connotation of numbering. It is like taking inventory of the things that are honest, just and all of the other characteristics.

We can get so wrapped up in all of the negative things around us that we entirely miss out on all the great things that God is doing. God is opposed to evil. There is no doubt about that, but there is a lot more to God than simply being the force for good in the world. He is not simply a supernatural police force who shows up when someone breaks the rules.

Think about the implications that this would have in our everyday lives. Jesus Christ is our hope. It makes sense that our hope was also be the source of everything that is good. After all, there are many true things in the world, and we can thank God for them. There might be many false things out there as well, but we need to make sure that we are fully aware of the great ones as well.

God is good all the time. Let’s try to remember that even though it might be easier to think about all the evil around us.

Romans 11: Always Hope

Romans 11 provides a more detailed depiction of what happened to Israel and why the Gentiles had been allowed to be grafted into the family of God.

Rom 11:11  I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Rom 11:12  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

It is not as if God gave up on Israel. Even though they had fallen as a general rule in this time of history, the relationship was not lost.

Bringing this to the level of personal application, there are many people that have stumbled in their own lives. There are many people that have made bad decisions that derail their lives. However, there can be good that comes out of those situations. There can be positive outcomes even from negative situations.

However, even out of these negative situations, people can come back. There is always hope. There is always hope because God is good. That about sums it up. As the chapter in Romans points out, yes, the people of Israel fell, but all is not lost for them. The Gentile world became part of the family of God through the fall of the people of Israel, but how much more will everyone benefit when the children of Israel return? The family of God will be better than it ever has been.

Therefore, I think that is what we need to keep in mind when we talk about people falling away. There is always hope, and there is always an opportunity for those people to return. Yes, God can use bad situations to bring about good results. He does that all the time. However, it does not mean that those people who fell away are gone forever. They can return.

Jeremiah 17: Concerning Worldviews

Recently, I have been particularly interested in this idea of worldview studies. I have been thinking a lot about how we seriously ought to consider the presuppositions and assumptions that influence the way we interpret the world around us. Once we have established which way of interpreting the world is most valid, then we are able to move beyond that and think about how and why things happen the way that they do.

This came to mind again as I was reading Jeremiah 17. There are basically two alternative choices presented. You can put your trust in God, or you can put your trust in man.

Jer 17:5  Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

Jer 17:6  For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Jer 17:7  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.

Jer 17:8  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Again, this all comes back to a very basic level of human understanding. No one is arguing over global warming for example at this level. Your worldview is not based on your understanding of specific issues; your worldview defines your understanding of specific issues. When you are deciding whether to trust in God or trust in man, you are basically putting on a pair of glasses that influence the way that you view the world. This metaphor is not perfect though because I can choose to take off my literal glasses I am wearing right now, but I cannot take off a worldview. I might change my worldview, but I cannot be without one.

In Jeremiah, we hear from God, and not surprisingly, He did not think that is wise to put your trust in man. He compares it to being in the desert where you have no ability to grow. In other words, you have no potential, and you have no hope. You are as much as you are ever going to be.

That is one major area where the Christian worldview differentiates. It is expounded in verse eight, but in summary, the Christian worldview provides the opportunity for growth and hope. From a secular worldview, the world is evil, and that is about all there is to it. Our greatest hope is in the potential of humanity to become more moral. Maybe we can all learn to get along after all.

Christians have an understanding as to why the world is imperfect but also the assurance that everything will be made right in the end. The greatest hope in that worldview is found in God Himself. With the understanding that humanity has been evil for a very long time because of the fall and doesn’t seem to be getting any nearer to perfection as time advances, in order to find that moral improvement, it is best not to look into this human heart but rather look externally to One who actually is perfect. In other words, we have reason to hope that things can and will get better.

Worldviews are important. Everyone has one, and it is important for all of us to look at which one provides the most accurate depiction of the world as we know it. Does it appear that humanity is very good at acting morally? It does not seem so. Does it make sense to assume that humanity is going to become better at acting morally? Human nature doesn’t seem all that much different than ever has. The preferred violations have changed, but it seems that there has always been crime and evil throughout recorded history. Does human potential seem like a reasonable place to put our moral hope? It doesn’t

Ecclesiastes 4: Social Justice

Social justice has become a popular topic in both Christian and secular circles recently. It can be a little bit hard to pin down a definition for this concept, but the basic idea is to obviously emphasize the need for justice and fairness in society.

This is not a new concept though. Look at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 4.

Ecc 4:1  So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Ecc 4:2  Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Ecc 4:3  Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

While it is certainly an obvious point, there are a lot of bad things that happen. There are things like oppression. There are things like injustice. There are things like evil in the world. Solomon recognized that even in his day, and these things obviously had an effect on him.

He went as far as to say that because of some of the situations on earth, it was better to be dead than alive. Today, if people start talking like that, we worry that they might be suicidal. This is some serious stuff here. He was incredibly disturbed by this.

Notice what is never mentioned this passage. We never hear about God. We hear about the lack of a comforter, but we never hear about God specifically. That’s interesting.

Let’s try to find some synthesis here. When we read through Proverbs, I think it was rather obvious that God was the one who provided purpose. He provided the wisdom and the direction. Now, we have a passage that speaks to a life without purpose. It might as well be over, and God is not mentioned whatsoever.

I’m not going to lie and say that society is a perfect place. That would ruin whatever shred of credibility I might have. However, I will say that when God is involved, there is hope and purpose. There is a promise that we will live for all eternity in a better society with a perfect ruler who is not oppressive. We still ought to work to meet the present better and to help people as much as we can. However, when God is involved, the future looks great.

Psalms 147: God Delights in…

Psalms 147 gives us an interesting perspective on what God really wants.

Psa 147:10  He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.

Psa 147:11  The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

I think that is interesting. God does not necessarily delight in His creation. Sure, horses and people are amazing beings that have been created, but God does not receive His joy from simply the fact that these beings exist.

God receives His joy basically when we worship Him and put Him in the right position in our lives. Think about it this way. Verse 10 thoughts about the strength of a horse. That is simply a fact. A horse has a certain amount of strength. It is a biological fact based on muscle mass. Similarly, most humans have legs. It is not the kind of thing that we choose or don’t choose to have. It is just a fact that exists, and we all know that.

Verse 11 talks about things that we either need to decide to do or not do. We can decide to fear God and put our hope in Him. I have done it, and millions of other people have done it. However, we can also decide not to do that. Millions of people have similarly made that decision.

That is the contrast here. The first set are basic scientific facts. This second set refers to a choice. God delights in the choice. He wants to see us come to Him and recognize the reality that He is the God of the universe.

It feels like God is after something more than simply biology. Obviously, as the Creator, He must have thought that it was a good thing for horses to be strong or for people to have legs. As the Creator, He obviously had the authority over that decision.

Is interesting that God doesn’t really delight in that. He delights in relationships with humans who put Him in the appropriate place in their lives. The appropriate place is number one.

Psalms 131: Hope from Outside

Psalms 131 is awfully short, but we learn a lot about pride.

Psa 131:1  A Song of degrees of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Psa 131:2  Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Psa 131:3  Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

It seems like the third verse is somewhat disconnected from the first two. The first two talk about David trying to be humble. He is trying to keep his perspective right. We hear a lot in the Bible about being humble before God, and this passage seems to fit the theme perfectly. However, how do we connect that to the final verse about Israel trusting God?

I certainly agree that Israel should trust in God. That’s a no-brainer. Most of the Old Testament seems to be telling Israel that be they need to be coming back to God or remaining close with God. Again, this is a very popular topic, and we talked about it before.

I think that the main connection comes from the fact that when you are humble, you recognize that your hope is not in yourself. You are willing to say that you might not have every answer in the world, and you are willing to admit that you might be wrong at times.

If we have hope but not from ourselves, and then it necessarily has to come from somewhere else. Of course, if you don’t have any hope, then you don’t need a source for it. However, I think that most people put their hope in something, and David is advising that it would be wise for Israel to put their hope in God.

Obviously, this is not the most deeply developed argument. It is only three verses, but this is not a difficult point to take. If you are humble enough to realize that you are not your own hope and if you recognize that you do have some kind of hope in something, God is the best place to put that hope.

Psalms 130: The Gift of Forgiveness

I think that we can take forgiveness for granted, but when you read Psalms 130, you have to think about how great a privilege it really is.

Psa 130:3  If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

This verse is very adequate starting point. There is no possible way that we would be able to stand up to all of our sins. I don’t think it is very hard for most of us to think about times that we have messed up or done something wrong. As unfortunate as it is, it is hard to deny that reality.

Psa 130:4  But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

Psa 130:5  I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Psa 130:6  My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Psa 130:7  Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

Psa 130:8  And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Despite all of that sin that I just talked about, there is forgiveness in God. This chapter never says that we need to have under a certain number of bad marks in order to qualify for forgiveness. It simply says that forgiveness is in God. Our hope for forgiveness is placed in the one who rules the universe and created everything.

It really is an amazing gift if you think about it. God is certainly not obligated to forgive us. He would be well within His rights to say that we don’t deserve forgiveness. We should reap the consequences of the lives that we have created. However, God did not do that. He provided His Son as a perfect sacrifice to forgive all the rest of humanity for all time.

It is pretty amazing that we have that hope.