In our weekly small group this was greeted with a warm response – we will follow Jesus. But what does it mean when Jesus defines what following Him looks like – deny yourself and take up your cross? The room was very silent.
If our message to the Church is about following Jesus, many will follow. If it includes taking up our cross we will lose some. Even I get embarrassed sometimes, just like those who were with the blind man who called our Jesus’ name as loud as he could. It was this kind of hope from the blind man who saved him, not the embarrassed and ashamed people around him.
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? – Romans 8:24
Someone came up with some hope values and one of them was generosity – “we love to give up things we love for the things God loves”.
Ultimately, to the Christian, this following of Jesus becomes the hope of heaven, since our leader has gone there (Heb. 6:19-20): but first comes the cross (Mark, p. 207). – Alan Cole
The hope of future glory encourages disciples amidst present suffering while following Jesus.
Following Jesus means that our joy and hope of a harvest of glory comes with our minds made up to sacrifice and to die to this world. It is in the dying that we find life.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”– Mark 8:34-38
Hope in the future is of the very essence of the Christian’s life. Hope, at the time when I first believed, made me realise my salvation. This is, indeed, implied in the very nature of hope. Its proper object is that which is future and unseen.
“Hope” signifies the grace itself, but here the object of it; which is represented as unseen, not yet fully enjoyed, something future, and to be hoped for; as the resurrection of the dead, which is the object of hope, and is unseen, and even incredible to carnal reason, and is to come, and good foundation there is in divine revelation, to hope for it; and the hope of it is of great use to the saints, whilst in this world of trouble: eternal glory and happiness is also the object of the hope of believers; it is said to be the hope of their calling, which they are called by grace to; the hope of righteousness, which the righteousness of Christ is the ground and foundation of; and that blessed hope, the sum of their happiness; and hope laid up for them in heaven, where it is safe and secure; all which is unseen, and yet to come; but good reason there is to hope for it, since the Scriptures of truth so clearly express it; and the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, lay such a solid foundation for hope of it: the Alexandrian copy reads, “why doth he yet wait for?” and so the Ethiopic version, with which agrees the Syriac version, reading the whole, “for [if] we see it, why should we wait for it?” – John Gill
So simply I am kept, preserved, sustained in all my trials, by hope. There are trials so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience.
In essence, we are cheered on and sustained from sinking by the hope of certain deliverance and a complete redemption. It is in the hope of eternal life, a promise of God.
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25
Are you willing to turn from what you have been trusting and transfer all your hope of heaven upon Christ?
What hope then do we have? God has made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him by providing a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. God sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life so that He could die, not for His own sins, but for ours.
How can we can receive forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life? The Bible’s answer is that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace which we receive through Jesus by responding to Him in faith.
But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. – Acts 16:28-34
… through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved. Peter compares these two contrary points – to have hope in the grace of Christ and to be under the yoke of the law. So if we cannot receive salvation until the yoke of the law is removed then it follows that salvation is not in keeping the law at all and it also follows that those who have accepted the grace of Jesus are not subject to the curse of the law. So it is that we hope for salvation by the grace of Christ.
To speak of salvation it is assumed that one would need salvation from something. Jesus said He had come to seek and to save the lost. What does it mean to be lost?
- To be without hope and without God in this world.
- To not know what it is to live now, and have no hope for life to come.
- Those who were dead while they were still alive.
- It means to spend eternity in hell.
We believe…our church is doing a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed – here is a bit of a taste of why such a statement of faith was necessary for the early Church. Peter here is declaring his first statement of faith – “we believe through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.”
“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” – Acts 15:6-11
We Believe – Kenneth Cope.wmv
Peter proclaiming to the house of Cornelius the good news is a truth right from heart of God with equity and love, sweeping away all the narrow-mindedness which, in this case, was the hope of salvation found in being circumcised or in the theology of the Rabbis. For ourselves, we too may be wrapped up in the theology of our favourite theologian or in our faith’s dogmatism too. What Peter preached was similar to the words Paul used in Romans —
Because[a] if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. – Romans 10:9-10
We will only taste the full meaning of salvation when we call on the Lord by whom we shall be saved.
Believing in the name of Jesus does not refer to a general, vague sort of belief. Rather, it is specific and personal. To believe in Jesus means that I believe He is the Lord who gave Himself on the cross for my sins. I believe the promise of God, that whoever believes on Him receives eternal life as God’s gift, not based on any human merit, but only on God’s free grace. To believe in Jesus means that I no longer rely on anything in myself to commend myself to God. Rather, I trust only in what Jesus did on the cross as my hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
When Jesus Christ arrived, He destroyed the effects of evil everywhere He went. He did this openly, before witnesses, where everyone could see. He came to a world that was lost and despairing, without hope. Everywhere He went He set people free and brought again to human hearts the hope that there is a way out of the desperate bondage of fallen humanity.
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” – Acts 10:34-43