Investigating Hope, 8.10.20
That week was such an enjoyment, wasn’t it, seeing precious saints baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? It’s so easy to get discouraged and to believe that God is absent from life. He’s not, though. He is here, at work in our midst. We might not always be able to see his hand. But he’s there. He’s always working, constantly working in this world, in this state, in this city, in this church to complete his good, grand, sovereign purposes. God is good, amen? Amen.
Last week my sermon went a little short. So that means I get that time that I didn’t use last week on my sermon and I’m able to use it on this week’s sermon, right? That’s only fair! Believe it or not, I went even shorter in the second service. After I preached about a ten-minute gospel presentation in the second service, I had a brother tell me, “I didn’t know you had that in you.” That’s funny. I recently read this description of a good sermon:
The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending and having the two ads close together as possible.”
Now y’all better not “amen” that! Dear friends, I’m thankful for you. I’m thankful for this body, I’m thankful that the Lord has put me here. I don’t know why you voted for me to be your pastor, but I am so thankful you did.
If you have a Bible this morning, whether a hard copy or an electronic edition, please go ahead and open up to Phil 3:20. Our portion of Scripture will be vv. 20 and 21.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform four lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
(Dear church family, as a reminder, this word that we read and study and seek to obey is not the mere word of man. It is the very word of God. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our Lord will remain forever.)
This morning we are going to tackle the concept of hope. I’ve discussed the concept of hope on a number of occasions. Hope is such a central topic within the Bible that hope is an impossible theme to avoid. It’s everywhere in Scripture. I don’t believe, though, that I’ve spent an entire sermon on the concept of hope. This will be a first.
Just as a reminder, this section that we’ve been tackling in Philippians is about perseverance. That’s been our topic of discussion. To persevere, you have to have hope. You cannot and will not persevere in the Christian life if you do not have hope. There are many difficulties that Christians will experience in this life. To get through them, we need to see beyond them. We need to see beyond our problems to the realities that lie ahead of us. That is hope, dear friends. Fixing our eyes on truths beyond our current dilemmas and problems. As we behold these truths, hope arises in our hearts and provides us the strength we need to endure.
The way I want to address this passage and the concept of hope that it teaches is by using who, what, when, where, why, how method. This is a basic problem-solving method. I’m sure you have heard of it. We will ask this passage of Scripture these four questions regarding hope. Each question will form one point of my sermon. These are the questions: Where is hope found? Who is our hope? When will hope be fulfilled? And how will hope be fulfilled? You don’t have to write all this down at this time. I will mention the questions as we move from point to point.
Where is hope found?
We’ll start with the first point. Where is hope found? To put the question a bit differently: where is the location where the Christian’s hope is to be found? Is it found here on earth? Or is it found elsewhere? These are the questions we will address with the first point.
The answer to these questions is obvious based upon v. 20. Paul says this,
But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
This passage is not difficult to understand. The word “citizenship” can mean several different ideas. It can mean allegiance. That is, Paul reminds the Philippians that their allegiance is to heaven, not to earth. Their allegiance is to Christ, not Caesar. It can also mean identity. That is, Paul reminds the Philippians that though they live in the here and now, their identity lies beyond what they see. Their identity is in heaven, not in the Roman Empire. Or, it could mean home. Paul could be telling the Philippians that they are wandering through life in search of an eternal, in heaven, not here, in the Roman Empire. Paul could mean all of these ideas by using the word, “citizenship.” This could all be true.
What I want us to pull away from this passage is not the specifics of the meaning of this word “citizenship.” What I want us to take away from Paul’s statement is a broader point. And the broader point is this. What we are living for is not here in this world. Over and over and over and over again, God calls us to have our eyes not on this world. Over and over and over again, God calls us to look beyond the physical, beyond the immediate, beyond the plain and obvious, to a different world. This world, the one that we inhabit now, the one where were are right now, is not the Christian’s true home. This world is marked by difficulty, struggle, and pain.
This point was made painfully evident to me recently. We all have people in our lives who we think, either consciously or sub-consciously, that because they’re successful and wealthy that nothing bad will happen to them. Yah, they will die one day, but that’s in the future. Their good for the time being. We all think this about people. We think that someone’s success in this world protects them from difficulty in this world. That’s not true. Someone who is very close to me, someone who I would least expect, has run into some serious health problems, life-threatening problems. What started as a small nagging health problem has resulted in a life-altering diagnosis. Absolutely crushing. Dear friends, this happens ALL THE TIME. This world, this life, will chew you up and spit you out. We have to get this. We have to see this. We have to feel this.
Our identity is not here as Christians. Our allegiance, our home, our identity is not here. Neither is our hope, dear friends. It’s not in the here and now. While we do live here in our bodies, we do not live here by faith. By faith, the Christians needs to be constantly inhabiting a different world.
Who is our hope?
Now we move to our next point. It is this: Who is our hope? Who is our hope? The answer for this question comes from the latter part of v. 20. Paul says,
From it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
I want you to notice how I am asking this question. This question, the second point, is not, “What is our hope?” It is, instead, “Who is our hope?” That is key. I want us to notice what the passage does not say. The passage does not say, “from it we await salvation.” While that is true, that is not what the passage says. Paul is very specific that hope for us is not a “what.” It’s not a thing like “salvation.” It’s a person. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Christianity what you have is that the notion of hope boils down to a person, not a thing, or a teaching, or an instruction. To explain what I mean, it is helpful to understand Christianity in light of various other religions. Let’s take Islam, for example. In Islam, what you have is that Muhammad points out the way for the world to know and worship Allah. Muhammad shows the world the way of salvation. He instructs the world in the truth. But you can have Islam without Muhammad. Let’s say there was a different person in Islam that showed the way to Allah. Could you still have Islam without Muhammad? Yes, you could. Muhammad’s connection to Islam is not necessary. Islam does not hinge on Muhammad but hinges on the message that Muhammad taught. You can have the message without the messenger, though.
In Christianity, the reality is completely different. Jesus Christ does not merely show us the way to having a relationship with God the Father, although he does do that. Over and over again in his teaching, he shows us what we must do to know God. He does do that. Jesus tells us that we must do this or that to honor God the Father. But Jesus does more than this. Jesus not only tells us the way to the Father; he is himself the way to the Father. Jesus doesn’t just teach us the way; he is the way. In Christianity, Jesus is not only its main teacher; he is it’s object.
Christianity stands in a very different relationship to the person of Christ than the other religions do to the persons who founded them. Jesus occupies a wholly unique place in Christianity. Christ is Himself Christianity. Without his name, person, and work there is no such thing as Christianity. Christ is not [only] the one who points the way to Christianity, but the way itself.
WOW! In Christianity, our hope is not a “what” it is a “who.” It’s not what Jesus gives or tells us about. Our hope is him.
Looking again at our passage. How does this passage describe Christ? It describes him as “Savior” and as “Lord.” The passage reads, “And from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” In this presentation of who Christ is—he is Savior and he is Lord—we get a robust picture of who he is. Let’s first contemplate the “Savior” aspect, and then the “Lord.”
Savior communicates love, grace, mercy, and sacrifice. Jesus has rescued us from our plight. He has died for us because of our sins. As we were dead in our sins, Christ had compassion on us and came to us. He made us alive. He redeemed us. He has communicated to us the benefits that he has earned for us. He is compassionate, empathetic, understanding, and gentle.
Yes, Jesus is Savior. Yes, Jesus is compassionate and empathetic. But that’s not the whole story. He is also Lord. Jesus is meek and mile but also mighty, strong, authoritative, and true. He comes to us with his infinite love but he demands us that we receive it and share that love with others. He gives commands, not suggestions. We refuse to follow him at our own peril. He is judge of the whole universe.
Notice the unity of this message. He is both, dear friend. He is both. We cannot separate these two ideas. As I mentioned, we had a time of sharing of testimonies in our service last week. During one testimony, a sister in Christ mentioned the importance of recognizing that Jesus is both savior and Lord. She mentioned you can’t separate them. She’s exactly right. Look at this passage. Look at it.
When will hope be fulfilled?
Now we move to our third point, our third question of this passage. The third point is this: “When will hope be fulfilled?” When we what it is that we wait for—Jesus, our savior and Lord—when will he provide us what it is that we hope for? The answer to this question is found at the beginning of v. 21. Look there. Paul writes,
Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body
What Paul speaks of here is the future resurrection of the believer. We believe, as Christians, that there is coming a day when all people—both righteous and unrighteous—will be resurrected. The righteous will receive a resurrection body by which they will enjoy fellowship with God forever. The wicked will receive a resurrection body by which they will suffer an eternal torment for their sins. Paul here is specifying the resurrection of the godly.
Notice how Paul talks about this future resurrection of the believe. He refers to it as a transformation. A transformation. A transformation is different than a new creation. Jesus will not give us completely new bodies. He will transform “our lowly bodies” to become like his “glorious body.” What this means is that there is continuity between this body that we have now and the body that we will have later. In many ways, our bodies will be the same. We will still have arms, legs, eyes, feet. The major structure of our body will be the same. How do I know that? Remember Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. His body could do things that the disciples bodies couldn’t but he there’s no mention that he had an extra arm or leg. In many ways, Jesus looked the same that he did after his resurrection than he did before his resurrection. Our bodies will be transformed into different bodies. We will keep much of our identity that we have now in the next life.
What we believe as a church is that this transformation will occur at the Rapture. Our doctrinal statement specifies that we hold to a pre-tribulation understanding of the second coming of Christ. That means this. Prior to the tribulation, prior to the arising of the anti-Christ and the Mark of the Beast, prior to that, the church will be rapture by Christ into heaven. Rather than being on the earth during the tribulation, we believe that Christ will come and rescue us from the evil that is to come. It is at the rapture when this truth will be fulfilled in the lives of Christians. Do we know when the rapture will occur? We do not.
This point is very important for us, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this week’s FP&P I’ve written on this subject. I’d encourage you to read that. Many Christians feel that the end of the world is nigh. That these events that surround COVID-19 are either the beginning stages of the end of the world or that these events are preparing us for the end of the world. I want us to take a cue from Paul here and move away from that type of thinking. I want you to notice that Paul does not specify at all when this resurrection will occur. He just says that it will happen. He does not specify when. We need to follow Paul’s posture.
Sign-seeking can be a foolish endeavor. That’s one of the first things you learn about in seminary. Don’t be a sign-seeker. There have been many sign-seekers of the past. And you know what, they’ve all been wrong. Be content to wait. Be content not knowing. Follow Paul’s posture here.
Nevertheless, God’s lack of specification of when the resurrection will occur should not be taken as evidence that it won’t occur. Simply because God does not tell us when it will occur is not an indication that it won’t occur. Often times in life we know something will happen but we’re not sure when it will happen. Whether we’re waiting on an important phone call, an e-mail, a text message, etc., we know we’ll be contacted we’re just not sure when. That’s how the rapture is. We have no idea when it will occur but we know it will. Christ will complete his work in us. He will. He will do this when he communicates to us all of the benefits and blessings of his resurrection. Nevertheless, we don’t know when this will happen. So we wait eagerly and expectedly.
How will hope be fulfilled?
Now we move to the last question, to the last point. It is this, “How will hope be fulfilled?” We’ve covered that our hope is in heaven, Jesus—who is savior and Lord—is our hope, Jesus will deliver on this hope when we are resurrected. That’s all that we’ve covered so far. The last question, “How will this hope be fulfilled?” Or, in other words, how will Jesus raise us form the dead? How will he do it. The end of v. 21 answers this question. Paul writes,
by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
To put it simply, Jesus will do this by means of his power. That’s how we can answer the question in the simplest fashion. But there is more to this verse than just this.
Paul specifies here that Jesus will fulfill his hope to us by means of his divine power. The power that Paul discusses here is a power that Paul discusses elsewhere that belongs to God the Father. Three verses from Ephesians illumine this. Ephesians 1:19 reads this way,
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Ephesians 3:7 reads,
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.
And Eph 3:20 states,
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
What these passages in Ephesians indicate is that Paul believes that Christ has the same power that God the Father does. In other words, as the God-man, Jesus exercises divine power. Jesus’ power is not the power of a normal person. It is divine power. Jesus is God.
The Power of Subjugation
The power that Jesus has is divine power. That’s the type. He can and will fulfill hope to us by means of his divine power. But there’s more here, too. I want you to seen the ultimate outcome of Christ’s power. Paul specifies here that Jesus is able to “subject all things to himself.” I want to hone in on this word “subject.” What does it mean? It means this,
To cause to be in a submissive relationship, to subject, to subordinate.
To subjugate something is an expression of ultimate power. To cause something to subordinate itself to you means that whatever it is you have authority over it obeys you. You want it to do x, it does x, no questions asked. You want it to do y, it does y, no questions asked. That’s what subjugation means. It means total and complete control over something.
Dear friends, we do not have this power of anything in our lives. We might have mastery over something, but that mastery does not come automatically. This type of power is completely foreign to us. Even the smallest things of life can endlessly frustrate us. Let me give you an example.
So this our second summer in this beautiful state of South Dakota. Summer time is so enjoyable. However, during the summer, specifically in July and August, my house tends to be infiltrated by house flies. Do you have this problem? We do. We love going outside and to get outside you have to open the door. If you open the door a lot, the flies will come in. Also, if you forget to close the door, the flies poor in. These flies are SO annoying. Their gross. They fly on your food. They land on you and are annoying. The buzz around. And there’s so many of them. I’ve killed a hundred this summer. And yet they’re still there. These small little creatures don’t obey me. They’re not subjugated to me. Now if I get my fly swatter our, they might be forced to obey me. But I still miss. They still fly away. Such a small little creature, yet such a large amount of frustration for me. I’m unable to subjugate these little creatures.
Christ’s power is completely different. Jesus experiences no frustrations with his power. His able to exercise it universally with no objections. There’s no running away from him. No fleeing his presence. By means of the Spirit, he fills heaven and earth. He is the Lord. He has the power of subjugation. And notice his power of subjugation is over “all things,” Paul says. I can’t even master a little house fly. Jesus can master a housefly and all things. Even the wickedness of the human heart he can and does master. One day, Paul says earlier in Philippians, every knee will bow to Jesus and every tongue will confess that he is Lord.” Jesus has that type of power. The power to subjugate of all things.
Going back to the question that we started with for this point. How will hope be fulfilled to us? By Jesus’ divine and unparalleled power. He is Lord, dear friends. He will complete his work in us according to “the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Bringing this sermon to a close this morning. I want to end with a point of application. We cannot see any of these realities. We can’t see heaven, we cant see Jesus, we can’t see the future resurrection, and we cannot see the power that Jesus has to raise our bodies from the dead. We see nothing of this. Isn’t that an unbelievable thought? We give our lives to something we’ve never seen before. Wow.
And yet we believe this message with all of our hearts. We would give our lives for these beliefs. We would die for what the Bible teaches. We have faith, don’t we? We do not see these truths with our physical eyes, but we see them with the eye of faith.
This raises this important theological connect between hope and faith. Hope demands faith. To have hope, you must have faith. Hope is the conviction we have when we trust God’s plan for us by faith. Hope is a byproduct of faith. You cannot have hope without faith. And if you want hope you have to have faith. So we need faith.
One of my favorite passages on faith comes from the Mark 9:24. The story is of a father who’s son is possessed by evil spirit. During the course of the narrative the son’s father says this to Jesus. He says,
I believe; help my unbelief.
That sums up so much of our own faith. Yes we believe that Christ’s work will be completed in us but we doubt so often. We stumble in our faith. We falter in our trust and yet we still believe. This is what I want you all to pray this week. To have hope, we need faith. And to have faith, I want you to pray this prayer this week. Tell the Lord you believe the truths of his word, you believe that all hope is found in Christ, and yet you need to believe that more. Do that this week, brothers and sisters. Pray with me.