Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hope: Christ in Us--Linden Malki

The difference between our faith and every other religious system in the world is the quality of our hope. Jesus came first to the "lost sheep of Israel" that had a long and spotty experience of waiting on God, who had basically proved that 1500 years of divine law could not produce perfect harmony with God no matter how hard they tried. Jesus' first message was "The Kingdom of God is at hand", given to people who were supposed to be expecting God to do something--but they were thinking in terms of a political, this-world Kingdom. The world is still looking for ways to make the perfect political and social community on this earth.

Thinking about this topic, I went to a Bible concordance and was suprised to find no references to "hope" in the early Old Testament. We begin to find it with the Psalms--David in a number of places, expresses a hope in God, but often in the context of not knowing what God is doing in his life. Jeremiah expresses the hope that the exiles will someday return to their land. (Jer 31:17). We don't even find the word in the Gospels. The Old Testament is full of the idea that God is going to do something with His people, and Jesus starts there.

One of the last century's leading preachers on discipleship was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was executed near the end of World War II for actively opposing Hitler. His book, The Cost of Discipleship, turned up at my house the other day. I picked it up and began to reread it at a point I had left a bookmark several years ago, and found this: "In his very first word, Jesus lays down a limitation of their [the disciples] work...they can only go where the word of Christ and his commission direct them. 'Go not unto any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel'. ... Not until after his resurrection does Jesus charge his apostles to go out into all the world. ...In the end it turned out to be a means of grace for the Gentiles. When they received the good news, it was the good news of a crucified and risen Lord."

Biblically. there is a huge difference in teaching about hope at this point. The Gospels show who Jesus is; the early church proclaimed how everything is changed. In Acts 2, Peter preached the death and resurrection of the Christ. Paul talks about hope in seven of his letters; and Peter tells his readers "to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you.." (1 Peter 3:15). "It was a living hope, full of a sense of reality, that was born into the world by Christianity, and with which the New Testament is vibrant throughout." (Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Bible Dictionary)

The hope we find in Jesus Christ is a living hope that is only found when we learn to lean not on our own understanding. Before Jesus, there was a "mystery that had been hid from from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints; to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27)

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