Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hope, Joy & Obedience

“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…In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials...Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” - 1 Peter 1:3,6,13-15

Jesus once told a parable about a farmer who sowed good seed upon various kinds of ground. The seed represented the word of God and the ground represented the various kinds of hearts which receive the word. One particular type of ground which I find personally convicting is the weedy ground. Jesus paints the picture of good seed falling on soil which is filled with weeds which sprout and literally choke the life out of the young plant trying to spring up. He goes on to say these “weeds” represent the life’s “worries, riches & pleasures”. The end result is the God’s word goes not grow up to bear any fruit in the life of that “weedy believer”.

The question that I want to pose this morning is, “What is it that we are setting our hope in today? What makes us excited? What is pushing us on to trod through the daily grind?” Too often, I am looking forward to the weekend, or coming home to watch some TV with my wife. I live for the pleasure of reading a book or playing some xbox. These are the “pleasures” of life. They are not necessarily bad. In fact, they are God’s blessing. But they cannot become my self-awarded reward for doing God’s work.

The problem is that when the trials of life come, these pleasures are simply not enough to keep me in the game. Peter tells us that it is normal for hard times to fall upon Christians (unlike the teaching of some “so called” preachers). When these difficulties arise, if all of our motivation is wrapped up in a vacation, or weekend, or new toy, or whatever, we will lose heart. Yes, we ought to be grateful for God’s blessings, such as food, shelter, clothing and pleasure. However, when we cannot define God’s love for us or our joy in the Christian life by those things. Why? Because at one time or another, those things will either be taken away for a season, or those pleasures will not be strong enough to counteract the pain we experience when life knocks us a good one.

That’s why Peter, very carefully, outlines for us a proper motivation, emotion, and response. Peter tells us that our hope, our motivation for living the Christian life, is not the blessings God gives us along the way, but the inheritance waiting for us when Jesus returns to set the world right again. The Jewish prophets painted a beautiful picture of a fairytale-like ending to our planet when the Messiah comes. Because we belong to the Messiah, Jesus, we will have a front row seat in that kingdom. We must always remember that is our true motivation. Our reward is in the next life.

Next, Peter tells us that motivation or hope inspires the emotion of joy in us. Yes, life can be brutal, but our current circumstances will not change the reality that we have a better day coming. No matter how hard it gets, it WILL get better. In fact, it will get GREAT! That’s enough to put a smile on our face and encourage us to press on. That emotion of joy gives us the strength to respond in obedience to Jesus. Hebrews 12 tells us that is was because of the joy set before Jesus which caused Him to endure the cross. He obeyed because He saw the end picture. He saw us with Him living happily ever after.

So enjoy life, but don’t set your joy upon this life. Our hope is still out there. It’s coming. And while it’s coming, we need to being getting ready for it. We do that by striving to become holy, just as He is holy.

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