Consider the Christian believer’s hope. Think about three things. First…
A. THE SOURCE WE CAN TRUST
Where can you get 100% reliable truth about the future, including reality beyond death? There is just one place –the Bible.
Look again at 1 Peter 1:23-25. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.”
Some people turn to other sources for hope. Some believers do that. Let me mention just two current cases.
Some turn to what claim to be reports of visits to heaven, often during near death experiences. The one in the current spotlight is the book, and now movie, entitled, “Heaven Is For Real.”
You can read reviews that expose the problems with that book and movie. I will not take time to tackle details now. I simply want to ask what benefit someone might seek by reading the book or seeing the movie. Think it through with me.
First, when the alleged report tells you the same thing the Bible does, you do not need the report. It adds nothing new.
Second, when the alleged report disagrees with what the Bible says, you should not believe the report. God’s Word is perfect.
Third, when the alleged report gives details that neither agree nor disagree with the Bible, it tells you nothing you can build on. These various visiting-heaven books contradict one another!
We do not need a movie to tell us heaven is real. God’s Word does that.
Am I forbidding you to read the book or see the movie? No. I am not running a cult. But, as a pastor, I say you need to have a firm grasp on what God’s Word actually says about the gospel, including the afterlife. If you read the “Heaven Is For Real” book, or see the movie, without that foundation, you are asking for problems.
Consider a second approach popular is some circles. There are a number of books that claim apocalyptic significance for a cycle of lunar eclipses which give the moon a reddish hue. Science does not call these blood moons, but some preachers do.
The books link this predictable astronomical event with Bible passages that speak of the moon turning to blood in the end of history. TV preacher John Hagee’s book is #4 on “The New York Times” best-seller list in the advice/how to section, and it has been in Amazon’s top 100 books for more than 150 days.
Again, there are critical reviews available that show the serious problems with his book and the others. I simply point out that these books read things into the Bible text. Surface similarities become links in a weak chain. The words “blood” and “moon” are isolated from the context to produce sensational material.
The moon turning to blood and a series of blood moons are not inherently the same. To think they are is like saying that C. S. Lewis pictured the White Witch of Narnia turning a pony into stone, therefore he was talking about the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
I seriously doubt that the prophet Joel meant that a predictable set of eclipses would be an amazing sign. But John Hagee says, “I believe that the heavens are God’s billboard and that He has been sending signals to planet Earth, but we have just not been picking them up.” Pastor Al Mohler replies, “Well here’s what we’re supposed to pick up: the Bible. And we’re supposed to look to the Bible as our sufficient revelation that tells us everything we need to know about the return of the Lord and what we are to be found doing when the Lord returns according to His own timetable. We don’t need the heavens as a billboard in which God is speaking to us because God has told us that He speaks to us in His word, and the sufficiency of Scripture is undermined by this kind of Christian speculation.”
Unless you have a thorough grounding in the Bible, leave books about blood moons alone. Focus on the only perfect book. Don’t read things into the Bible. Read the truth from it, in context, and make appropriate application to your life. The Bible is the source we can always trust. The second thing we need to think about is…
B. THE SAVIOR WE MUST TRUST
Look again at 1 Peter 1:18-21. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Our focus must not be on blood moons in the sky, but on the blood of the one, true Messiah who appeared under heaven. In Acts 4:12, Peter preached, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus died on the cross as our substitute. To the cross, he brought his perfect holiness. He never, ever sinned. On the cross he paid for our sins. He offered pure worship even as he absorbed pure wrath for us. He did that because he loves God the Father and loves us.
That offering is the only thing that can remove our guilt and give us a right standing with God, our holy creator and judge. We can get the inheritance of hope because he made the complete investment. We depend on his work, not ours.
An inheritance is not like a paycheck. You get a paycheck because you work. You get an inheritance on a totally different basis. You cannot make your own inheritance. It is not like an IRA.
An inheritance means someone else worked. It means someone else died. You get the benefit of their work, after their death.
In the case of Jesus, his work was his death. He rose from the dead and he brings all the resources. We get the benefit. Our guilt is wiped out. We are no longer morally bankrupt before God. We get the standing of the righteousness Jesus credited to our account as a gift.
As Peter puts it in verse 3, “God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus.” We do not earn a thing. We receive a gift. Jesus is the savior we must trust. Consider the third thing from this passage…
C. THE INHERITANCE THAT WILL NOT GO BUST
Look again at 1 Peter 1:3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade– kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We have an unusual inheritance. Typically you get to use an inheritance up to the point you die. We go beyond that.
We get to use our inheritance of hope before we die and after we die. Before we die, we live in a growing relationship with God because of Jesus. After we die we go to the presence of God because of Jesus. In the end, we will get a resurrection body because of Jesus.
We get all that if we ask him. We must turn from self-reliance and turn to Savior-reliance. We can only receive eternal life by trusting the Lord’s rescue work.
Have you asked him for a new birth into a living hope? I have. I did that on an Easter Sunday years ago and have never regretted it. It has not made life easy, but it is great having solid, reliable hope. And the best is yet to come.
If you have not asked him for new life, why not? Why not now? The word of salvation has been preached to you this morning. You need it no matter how good you think you have been. He will give it no matter how bad you have in fact been. It is all about grace from Jesus. Where is your faith?
We close with a young woman who asked Jesus for salvation and received. Her name is Kristen Milligan. After trusting Christ, and as a mother of three children, she got deadly cancer. In time, she and her husband Deric formed an organization called “Inheritance of Hope.” It is now a vibrant, growing ministry to families with children and with a parent facing a life threatening illness. Many from this church have served in it.
The Milligans were members of this church before relocating to North Carolina. I baptized Kristen Milligan in this baptismal pool. Over a year ago, I led her funeral service.
The last time she spoke at one of the Legacy Retreats was shortly before she went to be with the Lord. She rejoiced in a living hope even in the face of death.
Kristen had known some special healing. But she believed that the resurrection to come is the great healing. She still does.
Jesus was her hope and still is. He is mine. Is he your living hope?