This week is the local Christian Union’s annual events week and so my thoughts turn today to the staggeringly good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a gospel that brings us hope because it is a gospel that is by nature a gospel of hope. This hope is a hope for the past, present and the future…read on and find out more.
1. Good news of a Living Hope
Paul says he thanks God the Father when he prays for the Colossians because of their ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ and the ‘love for all God’s people’. Then he says that this faith and love “spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel” (Colossians 1:3-5). Later in that chapter after talking about the supremacy of Christ, Paul speaks about how they were enemies of God but now reconciled through Christ’s sacrifice…without blemish and free from accusation. Those words however are followed by an ‘if’; specifically the question of ‘if’ they will continue in faith;
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:22-23a
Notice that Paul again introduces the notion of hope! Our faith is to continue, established and firm and not moving from the ‘hope’ held out in the gospel. The gospel (literally ‘the good news’ which Mark 1:1 says is about “Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” is a gospel of hope. This is the ‘living hope’ which 1 Pet 1:3-5 says we who are in Christ have been born into. This is the hope secured through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and intrinsically bound up with our inheritance which is kept in heaven for us until Jesus returns.
2. Called to a transforming Hope
Paul also writes much about hope in his letter to the Ephesians and his prayer for them expresses this as he prays “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19a). Paul’s desire is that they know the hope to which Jesus has called them. It is a hope that he spends quite some time expounding in 2:1-10 as he contrasts their captivity to the flesh, the world and the devil (v1-3) with what it means to be made alive in Christ (v4-7). It is a hope that results in a salvation that is based not on our own merit but on the grace of God as we believe in faith, a faith which itself is a gift of God (v8-9). We “are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance` for us to do” (v10).
After this lavish description of the hope to which we have been called Paul reminds the Ephesians that previous they were excluded from God’s people, foreigners to God’s covenant and “without hope and without God”…
“…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12-13
This ‘gospel of hope’ is good news for everyone whatever our background, whatever we’ve done or not done and whatever we’ve been through. It is good news for the broken and the hurting. It is good news for the lost and the blind. It is freedom for the captives. We live and interact every day with a lost world, a world without true hope because it is a world in which the majority of people do not know Christ. A ‘world without hope and without God’.
3. Prepared to give the reason for our hope
And so just as we are called to such hope God makes us ‘hope bearers’ and ‘hope sharers’, ready and willing to testify to the Gospel of Hope. Peter writes about this in those memorable verses in his first letter which say;
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
Notice that Peter’s first instruction here is to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts. If we are to share hope we must first ensure that we are revering him as Lord of our own lives. With that in mind Peter then encourages us to be prepared to give an answer.
- When are we to be prepared? Always!
- Who are we to give an answer to? Anyone who asks us to give an answer to the hope that we have! We are called to a precious and life transforming hope and in Peter’s view it should always be on the tip of our tongue ready to be shared with any who ask us for the reason of our hope.
- How are we to do it? With gentleness and respect so that any who speak maliciously against us will be ashamed.
This week of events is all about ‘sharing hope’ with those who do not yet know Jesus. We have a fantastic hope which all of us in Christ would surely testify has transformed our lives. At the lunchtime events today it was so encouraging to see so many crowded into hear Michael Green share the hope of the gospel as he shared on the reliability of the Gospels. Let’s pray that many this week will be challenged to really think and that some of those would choose to begin a lifelong journey of hope with Jesus. The truth is that once we were all ‘without hope and without God’, but now we know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and have been made alive in Him. The truth is that once we were slaves to sin but now we are “being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory” (2 Cor 3:18). The truth uis that once we lived solely for ourselves but now we have become bearers and sharers of hope to a lost world…
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…” Ephesians 1:17-18a