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Home Sermons 2012 Hope in a World short on hope

2012 Hope in a World short on hope

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1 Peter 1:3-21                                         


 David Calderwood

Mark Twain once wrote, “History never repeats itself, but it does rhyme.” He was suggesting that things just go round and round without ever changing that much.

Nothing could be truer when it comes to our history of economic recessions and depressions, and the greed and spending sprees that set them off. The current Global Financial Crisis is simply the latest, but will not be the last.

Just over 20 years ago democracy swept across Europe, the Berlin Wall came down and hope of a new world order was everywhere. But all hopes of a new era of peace and justice quickly got lost in the brutal Balkans conflict, and first gulf war that ended the 20th Century.

But with a new century came renewed hope. But again the first decade has been described as “the decade from hell”: Dominated by the dreadful events of 9/11, but mixed with numerous brutal conflicts around the world; fears of global warming and natural disasters.

Closer to home there is growing dysfunction in family relationships with more than a doubling of the number of children in Australia in out-of-home care since the turn of the century; Domestic violence, self-harm, sexual assault, drunken violence in both young males and females are all increasing at a frightening rate.

Wherever we look in Australia, and across the world – politically, socially or economically - hope is in short supply and society prophets of the future find the only measure of comfort or hope in the fact that as people have survived past wars, recessions, and catastrophes, though battered and bruised, so too we will probably survive.

And with this backdrop we begin another year with millions around Australia and billions around the world celebrating the arrival of a new year and expressing their hopes for 2012 in the context of national identity and community which is New years Eve celebrations and wishes for a ‘happy new year’ for everyone

And at a more personal level, in New Year’s resolutions, we hear expressions of hope for 2012 because at heart hope is about security, certainty, and happiness now and in the future. Hope is inseparably tied to the quality of life in the future and longing for something better.

People have a deep need to belong; to have a home; to know that life has a purpose and that the future is settled and secure and good. That is hope!

Mark Twain was right, history does rhyme; the more people feel hopeless, the more they demand hope because we can’t live with anything less. And history also rhymes here in that the world continues to recycle the same hopeless ‘hope’.

In an increasingly hopeless world people look for answers and people who offer hope and are vulnerable to the cheap substitutes for ‘hope’ which are on offer.

Despair is one option on offer. Despair was a large factor in the recent London riots, and is a large factor in binge drinking and self-harm among our youth, and is a major factor in the epidemic of depression.

A little spoken of result of the Global Financial crisis was thousands of suicides. The crash caused such ruin that thousands of people could see no option but to kill themselves. 

Bland optimism remains a favourite.  There are still many who seem to believe that better social, educational, and economic policies will deliver us into utopia, an earthly paradise of peace, justice and prosperity.

But history proves such optimism is really only wishful thinking, showing repeatedly the human condition that erupts in ruthless greed, hatred and violence that easily justifies any means to achieve their end.

Escapism. TV programmers have long known that serious documentaries dealing in depth with real issues in our world, just don’t rate. People just flick channels, preferring to watch some smutty or feel good comedy show to escape reality.

We laugh at the modern idea of retail therapy – whether shoe shops or hardware stores – but they are strategies to offset the sense of hopelessness that pervades society.

Sport is another escape. Isn’t it sad that millions will be more interested in the cricket, football and Olympics than in famine in Sudan and the many conflicts around the world?

Self-indulgence. The ancient Greek philosophy of, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” is more popular than ever. Television is saturated with gourmet food shows, even though increasing numbers are not cooking ordinary meals at home, but eating take away.

Television is also saturated with home renovations and makeovers. People throw themselves into anything that gives them the impression that their life is improving, and is satisfying and exotic. Our consumer society is all about choice – choosing to accumulate more and more things as a visible sign of security and happiness for the future. 

Finally, Idealism: There’s political idealism such as the belief that the United Nations will be the instrument of a new world order of peace and justice. But the UN is a toothless tiger, as one commentator put it – always building blue-prints for Utopia but never able to build it.

And there’s the social idealism of radical conservation movements such as Green Peace whose hope for the future is on fixing environmental issues such as global warming.

Friends, these are just a sample of the ‘hopes’ that our world continually recycles in shiny new packaging. Many are very successful in motivating people to action, or in giving people a sense of security, however shallow.

But none of them is able to effect real change or guarantee real hope and security for the future.  Because people hold them dearly, doesn’t mean they offer real hope, it just shows how desperate people are to have some form of hope in a world real short on hope.

And as usual Christians are in danger of being conned by what the world offers whether by idealism, escapism or self-indulgence – but they remain poor substitutes, because the only real hope for the future is inseparably tied to Jesus.

A common line in advertising is: why go for a substitute when you can have the real thing? According to Peter, Jesus is the real source of hope.

And Peter’s confidence is all the more amazing given that he is writing to Christians scattered all over the Roman Empire and living in days of severe persecution and insecurity in terms of what the future will hold for them and their families.

It is in this context that Peter reminds Christians that Jesus is our living hope. In other words, it is not just wishful thinking, but something which is ours by right of birth.

As Christians we are united with Christ, not only in his death, but in his resurrection. So, because he is raised to new secure life with the father in Heaven, so we can be absolutely certain that we will experience the same. It is our inheritance or it is written in his will.

Peter spells out the twin truthes that underpin this certainty and security for the future.

1. Our inheritance is kept in heaven for us.

Read verse 4,

How comforting is it to know that God actually has our future stored away in heaven where we can’t get it and muck it up.

As children leave home, parents often present them things collected over the years – immunisation records, school reports, various significant drawings from kindergarten etc. - things they would not have valued as children, but kept safe for them by us.

In the same way, our heavenly father has our security and future stored up in heaven away from any harm and from any person who might tamper with it.

2. We are kept by the Father so that we might eventually enjoy our inheritance.

Read Verse 5  We can be confident that we will persevere as Christians and actually make it home to heaven because God will preserve us for the inheritance he has already set aside.

We can’t see the full security and beauty of our inheritance just now, but one day Jesus will come back and take us to be with him in heaven where we will experience in full what he has stored up for us, and which we can only appreciate through faith now.

Now do you see the basis for real hope? Christians are no crystal ball gazers or silly positive thinking people. Our confidence for the future is based on Christ’s resurrection in the past. And there’s not a chance we will miss out on what God intends us to have.

Therefore, verse 6, this truth gives us the perspective we need to maintain confidence even if in the short term we may have to endure tough circumstances.

Friends, why settle for the substitute hope the world offers, which will eventually let you down, when Jesus offers real, living hope which allows ongoing confidence and security even in the face of death?

But the passage before us this morning requires us to take one more step. Jesus expects us to demonstrate our hope to the hopeless around us. Christian hope is not simply a theory to tickle our brains, but a fact to change our behaviour, and thereby to challenge others to turn to Christ for the same security we have discovered.

It is not enough for us as Christians to be privately and individually hope-full. We need to demonstrate the reason for our hope to those around us in an otherwise hope-less world.

We need to show others that we do not live by sight. Look at verses 13-15. The connection in peter’s argument, introduced by the word ‘therefore’ is simple and profound.

Given the grace you have experienced from God in the past – summed up in verse 8. And given the amazing fact that all of God’s purposes in history were designed to deliver the salvation they had experienced, then live obediently, confident in future grace as well.

As Christians, we are defined by god’s grace to us in the past in given us an inheritance with Christ, in the present in sustaining us through tough circumstances, and in the future as we wait to be with Jesus forever.

Not to live lives that demonstrate our confidence and hope is in God’s grace – past and future – is like a billionaire living in rags as a homeless person. It doesn’t make sense. In fact it is an insult to the Lord. 

Friends, the great matters of life are already settled if you are a Christian – matters of your eternal future and security. We ought to reflect that in the way we approach life on a daily basis.

Now hear me carefully. None of us find it easy to live with the immediate uncertainties in life – and there are plenty of them. And of course we must plan for the future and work towards it every day. But we must never plan as if our security and future on earth is the only life and future we have.

Verse 17, we should never think we are permanent on this earth, or that it is our real home.

But sadly, lots of Christians convey that their whole future and hope and security rests in the affairs and activities of this world because all their time and effort and money goes to building earthly security. And so there is no obvious difference between them and their non-Christian family member, workmate or neighbour living up the street.

Now, you need to ask yourself – Do people see the difference in your perspective on the things that this world chases after for security?

Finally we need to tell others the source of our hope. Let me make this point really simply.

Almost every day there are thousands of people out on the streets trying to get people on side with their cause – save our planet conservationists; save our dolphins or koalas; stop coal mining or global warming; improve social justice and human rights. People do this because this is where they see the issues of hope and security for the future.

Then why are we not out on the streets and active in our families and workplaces to proclaim Jesus with the same passion and conviction? Look at verses 18-21. Is it perhaps that we have forgotten the message so that we have nothing to tell people?

Is it perhaps because we have sold out – at one time claiming to be Christians and finding our hope in God’s grace, past and future, yet living as though our future hope is down to us and our efforts and defined by financial or relational security?

Friends, in a world real short on hope, if we genuinely see and believe that the only real hope for the future is in Christ and being known by him, then surely we will speak because we will see how pathetic it is when those around us put their hope in substitute things in their desperation to offset their deep sense of hopelessness as they move through life.




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