Archive for April, 2013

Hope Fully Living

Hope is one of those words that can be difficult for someone to define. If you have hope, you know it. If you don’t, and are hopeless, you know that, too. But what is hope? How would you define it? More importantly, how does God define it in the Bible? Let’s take a look in Romans chapter 15.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NKJV)

The first thing we need to realize is that Jehovah is a God of hope. He has so much hope that it is a part of His very nature. That means He is the source of all hope for His children. Biblical hope can best be defined as “a confident expectation”. God does not wish for things. No, that implies that He is uncertain of the outcome and is just “hoping it all turns out right”. No, God knows the end from the beginning.

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ (Isaiah 46:10)

God is the God of hope precisely because He is certain of the outcome of things that have not yet happened from our perspective. So we can anchor our hope in the one who isn’t up in heaven crossing His fingers and hoping for the best.

But how does God give that hope to us as His children? By “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). You see, nice we come to a realization of the nature and character of the One in whom we have placed our trust, we can experience deep joy. Because of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, we now have access to God. In prayer and in reading, studying and meditating n His Word, we can daily come into his presence and have that faith built up and our hope reaffirmed. As The psalmist David wrote:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11)

We not only have joy, but with God, we have fullness of joy!

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8 KJV)

Another byproduct of the hope we have in God is peace. Even in the midst of life’s darkest hour, we can be at peace with God. We have a calm assurance that God is on our side because if He was willing to save us by His death, He will also see that work through to the end by His life, and constant intercession for us. God gave us grace to save us, but that same grace goes on to change us as well.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 KJV)

So as we increase in peace and joy, we increase in hope. They all go together and build upon each other. So no matter what you are going through (and some of us are really going through it), even if it is the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear, for God is with us (Psalm 23). We know that we receive our hope from Him who is the very “God of hope” and can rest in His love and will for us.

that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus,(Hebrews 6:18-20a NKJV)

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Our Covenant Keeping God

Throughout history, Jehovah has always dealt with mankind according to covenants. He is a God of order, and does not rule in an arbitrary or capricious manner. Rather, He lets us know the conditions of His covenant so that we know what His promises are and can then exercise faith in His Word to us. Thus, Jehovah establishes covenant relationships and has signs to serve as a reminder of that covenant. Unfortunately, due to the divisions of our Bibles into Old and New Testaments, there is a common misperception that there are only two covenants. In fact, there are three covenants contained in the Hebrew Scriptures and one in the Greek Scriptures.

The first covenant, one that is still in force, is the Noahic covenant. It was established between God and Noah after the flood.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:9-13 NKJV)

I am thankful that this is in effect, as another worldwide flood would be a bummer. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow, and still occurs today. In Hawaii, it occurs on a daily basis! This covenant is also one that is unconditional, and was entered into after Noah sacrificed an animal on the altar in worship. Thus it was established by the shedding of blood.

The next covenant I want to consider is the Abrahamic covenant. In this one, God covenants with Abraham to give his descendants through Isaac possession of the land of Israel perpetually. Jehovah also promised that through Abraham’s seed (Jesus) all nations will be blessed. This covenant is also unconditional, and is still in force. In fact, those of us who have been reconciled unto God by His Son are those who are part of “the blessed.”

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)

Again, there were no conditions listed, and the covenant was sealed with a blood sacrifice.

The next covenant was the Mosaic covenant, made between Jehovah and the nation of Israel. This covenant was conditional unlike the others. It is within this covenant that most of the Bible is given. This covenant was given at Mount Sinai and was in force until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). The covenant, though perfect from God’s side, was beyond human ability to fully keep. It was designed to be temporary, and served to condemn the world under sin. The sign of the Mosaic covenant was circumcision. This covenant was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus Christ ushered in the New Covenant with the shedding of His own blood. While the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled and is not in force, but in no way does that negate the Noahic or Abrahamic covenants.

The current covenant is the covenant of Grace. It was also initiated by the shedding of blood, but this time by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The sign of our New Covenant are both internal and external. Internally, we experience circumcision of the heart at baptism (Colossians 2:12), and externally we show the covenant to others when we partake of the elements of communion on the first day of the week. What is the significance of this? It is that we are in covenant relationship with Jehovah God, whose nature is that of a covenant maker and keeper. He is not going to change His mind and decide to cancel our covenant. We are secure in Christ. No one is ever lost because God abandoned them or lost them. Jesus doesn’t fire people; they quit on Him! His part of the covenant is completed. We only need to accept the offer of salvation as He has prescribed, and walk in covenant obedience to Christ.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21)

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