Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is your hope inside out?

Hope is a tricky word.

A common use of the word is the hope that something goes the way we want it to. I hope the Oakland Raiders win the Super Bowl this season. Since the last time they came close was the 2002 season, which ended in a lopsided Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48 Oakland Raiders 21 loss in Super Bowl XXXVII, I invest very little of myself in that hope. That way when they're out of the playoff picture midway through the season the letdown is easier to take.

Then there's the hope that life will get better. That advice was casually given at almost every mental health support group meeting I was a part of. Sure, it's good advice to tell someone to have a positive outlook on the future. Can we guarantee them their life will get better though? And even if it does, that hope is worthless beyond life on this earth

Hope takes on a whole new meaning when applied to religion. Ask 500 religious people what gives them hope of eternal life in Heaven and you may not get the same answer twice. That alone has caused me to use the Bible as my sole base of truth; not any religious teaching, church, or denomination. That said I am a Baptist. There are many distinctions that cause me to proudly proclaim myself a Baptist; however, to stand before God with "I'm a Baptist" as my hope of eternal life in Heaven; that alone won't impress Him. Hope that devotion to any teaching, church, or denomination will earn entrance into God's eternal Kingdom will be exposed as misplaced hope.

I've covered 3 distinct forms of hope and still no eternal hope. This is where religion has made a confused mess of the simple, straightforward answer to the only source of eternal hope God gives us in His Word. There are millions of religious people, from the unenthusiastic to the devout, who speak the name of Jesus, know about Jesus, and do good deeds in Jesus' name. They have all the outward signs of a person God would welcome into Heaven. But all they have is religion. They have changed the outside but not allowed God to change them from the inside out. They have a misplaced hope that what they do and say will suffice. 

Matthew 7:21-23 reads:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; away from me, you evildoers!’

 I see these as the 3 scariest verses in the Bible. If there is anything worse than having no hope it is having false hope. I have good friends that know a lot about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit but, best as I can tell, don't know God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. How sad that the "Lord" doesn't know them.

Totally confused? Please read the simple truth that we have made so complex.

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. . . (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

The gospel - so many people hope in so many other things to get them into Heaven; and it is those very things that are distractions from the simple truth of the gospel. Which is that Christ became a man, was crucified to pay the penalty for their sins, had his body buried for three days, and was raised to life conquering sin and death for all mankind.

We cannot save ourselves by changing our behavior, talk, or look. That is all external and does nothing about our internal sin problem. Only our acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us allows God to save us and change us from the inside out.

Is your hope inside out? If not, it is a misplaced external hope that leads to Hell. There is no polite way to say it. The simple truth of the gospel is now complex mix of truth and error due to man's attempts to make it more palatable.

It's hard to admit that there is nothing we can do to earn a righteous standing before God. It's even harder to admit we are deserving of eternity in Hell. Don't let your pride make you pay your own sin debt. Accept the simple gospel truth that the Lord Jesus Christ has paid that debt for you.