A Hope That Never Changes

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13

The Good News.  Hmm.  Everyone wants to hear good news.  I think we have a tendency to only want our good news to be good.  But God’s Good News is different than our good news.  God’s Good News is the ONLY truly GOOD news.  Scripture says, “Only God is good.”  Look it up.  It’s there.  It’s true.

Let me try a little logic here.  God is good.  Jesus is God.  Therefore, Jesus is good.  If only God is good and Jesus is God, then Jesus must therefore be good.  God and Jesus are one.  Why is that important?  Because it matters to my idea of understanding the true Good News.  Is living in the Good News of Jesus Christ about everything in my life being “honky dory”?  Is it about living the good life?  The Greek word for Gospel is “euaggelion” which means a good message.  What is the Good Message?  Is it just the words I want to hear or is it the words and actions I need to hear?

What does the world think “good” means?  Let’s check out Webster and see.  Oh my, it has over 40 variations of meanings!  It can imply strength adequate to its support, valid, complete or sufficiently perfect in its kind, having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, virtuous, proper, conducive to happiness, uncorrupted, wholesome, beneficial, suited to strengthen or assist the healthful functions, pleasant to the taste, full, valuable, competent, favorable, able, ready, kind, faithful, promoting happiness, prosperous, honorable, cheerful, great or considerable, polite, real, benevolent, gracious, commendable, festive, companionable, brave, of respect, fervent zeal to benevolence, handsome, and humane.  But I forgot to point out that Noah Webster was a man of God and he even defined many of his words based on their use in Scripture.  So, I think if we honestly narrowed down the definition of “good” as most of us think about it, I could narrow it down to that which promotes happiness .  In other words, thinking like the world I would say that those things or thoughts that make me happy are good.  If it doesn’t make me happy, it’s not good.

But God’s goodness is not based on happiness.  Look back at the verse that led into this, Romans 15:13.  God is a God of hope.  Does a happy person need hope?  What does this God of hope want to do?  He wants to fill us with all joy and peace in believing.  Well, if I’m so happy already, why would I need joy and peace?  And this being filled with joy and peace leads to my overflowing with hope.  Is hope different than happiness?  Because this is implying that there was a point I had no hope, then hope came, and then hope filled me to overflowing.  And this hope, which sounds like more than happiness, wasn’t attainable on my own.  It only came to me supernaturally through the power of the Holy Ghost, by the power of God, through Christ in me.

Can you imagine the elation of thinking that someone is dead and then finding out they are alive!  Would there have been the same elation if that had not been experienced?  Isn’t there a greater appreciation for life when we realize the frailty of it?  You, Lord, want us to have that kind of realization.  Before I can realize what hope is, I need to know Who Hope is.

Hope is not some blind idea of happiness.  It’s not some looking forward to this great pie in the sky and floating on clouds with harps.  Hope is about the person of God.  It’s about You, Lord.  It’s about every one of Your rights as Creator of all things.  It’s understanding the awe of You being You, that everything else pales and shakes in fear in comparison.  It’s about this great, almighty being that is You who always does what is right and pure and true.  It’s about realizing that my Creator has every right over me.  You have EVERY right over me.

You God took nothing and made everything.  I can’t do that.  The most brilliant scientist can’t do that.  He needs something to make something.  But not You.  You are God.  Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”  Keep reading Psalm 19 on your own.  Paul, in Romans 1:20 declares, “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”  And he ends that by saying that people have no excuse for not believing You, Lord.  I mean all we have to do is go outside on a starlit night and open our eyes or hold a newborn baby in our hands and our hearts cry out that there is Something more.

The Biblical account tells of the creation of the world, of light, sea, land, moon, sun, and stars, birds, fish, animals, and then Your “piece de resistance,” man and woman.  ” Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’   So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  (Genesis 1:26,27)  The point here is that God created the world and God created you and me.  That means I was created with purpose and for a purpose and that I have a responsibility.  I’m not autonomous.  I don’t have the right to make up my own independent government because I’m not independent and I don’t have that right.  In being created, in being made, Someone else, which is You, Lord, have that right over me, over what You created.  Face it.  We are owned by God, the One who created us.

Does that make you happy to know?  Because that’s the beginning of the Good News, of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ.  This is where it all starts.  We can’t really know the Good News until we start understanding this truth about who You are Lord and who we are in realtionship to You.  The Good News comes with knowing the truth about You and about me.  And part of that truth is knowing that You are in charge and I am not.  God, You know what’s best for me.  You knew what was best for Adam and Eve and even though You gave them authority over all in the garden they were under Your authority.  And in love, You set boundaries of what was best for them because You knew.  You created it all.

But I think that having it my way will bring happiness and fulfillment.  That’s the lie.  It’s not about happiness, it’s about pure goodness that satisfies.  Adam and Eve bought into that lie that pleasure was found in our experiences of things rather than in our experiencing the goodness in You God and Your protection and provision.  So, where is my hope and do I really have it in the first place?  Does happinness really cut it?  Actually, it ruined it for Adam and Eve.  Sometimes the Good News hurts, well at least when we leave it or when we need to find our way back.

But this word good, it describes God’s character.  It’s Your character, Lord, part of it.  Scripture tells us You alone are good.  So what are You like, then Lord, as a good God?  “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”  (Exodus 34:6-7)  Oh, thank goodness.  I’m glad that You as a good God feel that way.  That’s a relief.  But wait.  I haven’t finished verse 7 actually.  “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  Well, that’s o.k.  That’s not me.  I’m not guilty.  I mean not really guilty because there are lots of people more guilty than me.  Is that how You look at it, God?

Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong.”  If sin is anything and everything that stands in opposition to You and Your ways, whether it be thoughts or actions,  what sins will You allow into Your presence?  You are without sin.  To be Yours I must be like You.  But what if I have sin, even some sin?  Because You say all have sinned and fall short of Your perfect righteousness, Your perfect holiness, Your perfect sinlessness.

Am I starting to see the reason I need hope?  Am I starting to see something that has crept into my life and thinking that can rob me of this joy and peace You can bring if I only knew what I needed to believe about You and believe in You?  What if I don’t see the danger of my own death coming?  What if I don’t see the danger of the way I think leading me into eternal separation from You?  But the Good News, the news that is honestly GOOD, is telling me Who You really are, why I really need You, what my problem really is, where true satisfaction and purpose are really found.

We’ve all, by our human natures, rebelled against this God, You, who has absolute right to our lives.  You created us, every one of us.  You know what’s best for us.  But we chose to do it our own way, to look for our own righteousness, our own way, our own rightness, no matter how wrong.  I walk away from the One who knows good, and want to make my own good.  And it doesn’t work, because there is only one Good.  And I can’t be that without Your supernatural work.

It’s so needed that You sent Jesus to be made sin for me, even though He never sinned, so I could become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Now, I don’t happen to like lying.  1 John 1:8 knows our tendency though.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Deception is all around us.  Advertisements are deceptions.  They make us want what we don’t need and didn’t want in the first place.  Isn’t that what happened to Adam and Eve?  Make them want something else so they forget what the truth of God and His pleasure really is.  Focus them on lesser “pleasures.”  Draw them away from the truth.  Make them forget.

We’ll all face temptation.  The world and even our own hearts want us to believe a particular set of “truths” about You God.  But there is a real truth, the real You.  And we each have to live on guard for our own desires that want to lure us to believe what will make us happy.  Only happiness is fleeting.  Happiness lures, it entices.  Happiness deludes.  Because there is something deeper than happiness.  There is something better, something really GOOD.  There is Something that fills us with joy and peace even in the midst of tragedy.  There is something that causes us to overflow with hope not just for ourselves but for others.  And it all starts with understanding the bad part of the Good News.

I must die to self to understand the joy of life.  It’s not about my physical death.  It’s about first understanding that I absolutely need the authority of You, God in my life.   It’s about painfully, at first, coming to understand that I must relinquish my life to You because it belongs to You in the first place and I owe everything to You and You have it all under control.  And I must realize that You have every right to end my life today, to judge me guilty for even the smallest sin, because You are without sin.  And I can’t ask You to act against Your character, any part of it.  I’m created, I’m Yours, I’m guilty, and You tell me the penalty is death and separation from You.  This is not good news.  But this is where hope comes in.

You made a way for the price of my sin to be paid.  And it must be paid for.  I must realize that I am guilty and the penalty must be paid.  And this is where You sent Jesus to pay the price for my sin penalty 2000 years ago when He died on the cross.  He bore the wrath that You intended for me because You are a righteous judge.  You couldn’t just turn Your back on my sin.  So Jesus experienced that wrath for me and every sinner of all time.  He forgave me.  He paid the price for me.  He purchased me back.  That makes me double Yours by legal standards.  First You created me, therefore I am Yours.  Then Jesus redeemed me, therefore I am rightfully Yours.  But what will I do with this knowledge?  Will I surrender myself back to You and return Your rights over me to You?  This is the Good News.  But does it hurt?

Does it hurt to be given hope that the truth that was stolen from us can be returned?  Does it hurt to know that the relationship that was taken from us through deception can be restored?  Is it really bad news to realize that surrendering to You as Lord and Savior of my life fills me with everything I have really been longing for?

I don’t know about You, but this has been the most treasured decision of my life.  It was really scary when I started to realize who You really are, Lord.  When I started to realize that maybe I wasn’t good enough for Your standards, and I might miss out on You, that was too much for me.  You were my happy thought.  And even though it hurt to see myself as a sinner, it gave me a new freedom.  It gave me this beautiful freedom to surrender my life to You, to submit to Your authority over my life.  I could leave You in control.  And I could know that You would be in control every day for eternity.

I suppose I have a choice just like every person.  I can fill myself with stuff and ideas or I can be filled by the God of hope with immeasurable hope.    I can fill myself with the world’s ideas of happiness or I can let You fill me with joy and peace in knowing You and seeing Your word being brought to life as I believe and trust in Your ways.  My life hasn’t gotten easier since I trusted in You.  And the more I live by faith in Your word, the tougher things seem to get.  But for all the opposition, all the tough times, they have been the most beautiful times, filled with the greatest sense of joy and peace.  I am happiest when I experience You most and closest in my life.  And that’s the really good part of the Good News.  That when I turn to You and live a life of trust and belief in You, Your hope overflows in me and Your living power is demonstrated in my life and as I experience You through Your Holy Spirit.  Yes, this hope, this joy, this peace, way surpasses happiness.

Lord, I am so grateful for the hard to learn things You teach me about You.  I want to know You for who You really are.  I don’t want You to be some god I or the world has created to fit our standards or beliefs.  I want and I need a god who is God.  And You are that God.  You are God alone.  You alone are Good.  And in Your Goodness, and in Your almighty power, and in Your judgement, You still made a way for me to come to You and be made into Your image again.  What a precious treasure.  But I guess it means most to those who have come to see that somewhere along the line, we weren’t so precious looking or acting to start off with.  I guess it means most, Lord, when I see my need for my Creator to remold me, when I see that I’m scarred and not so beautiful on my own.  But thank goodness that You saw beauty in me simply by the fact that You created me.  And You saw me valuable enough to give the life of Your own precious Son in order to purchase me back.  And You have the power through His resurrection to bring me back into the hope of that relationship with You that existed in the beginning of creation.  Well, I’m grateful beyond words to have a Creator, and one that is like You are.  And I know I’m a messed up piece of work.  I need You.  And to others, that may seem like weakness, but I’m O.K. with that because I know by experience, Lord, that You alone are my strength.  I believe.  And I will choose to live in that belief.  And I love living in hope and joy and peace no matter what is going on around me, because my circumstances may change, but my HOPE never does.

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