Ever do something and then second-guess it? Think about, reflect on it afterward, wonder if you did the right thing? Were you sincere in what you did? Did you really mean it? Just heard strong, maybe frightening warning in v.4-8. Then encouraging words v.9-12. Contrast between those who fall away and those who stay the course. Which group are you in? What does the answer depend on? Is it even possible to know for sure? to have real assurance of our eternal destiny? Outward evidences identified in v.9-12 important but… should not be basis of our assurance of hope. Confirming evidence, yes; but, need something more dependable than them for an anchor.
“look within you for strength… for answers… for guidance… to find happiness” is an empty lie.
“Did you ever hear of a captain of a vessel driven about by rough winds who wanted anchorage and tried to find it on board his vessel? He desires to place his anchor somewhere on board the ship where it will prove a hold fast. He hangs it at the prow, but still the ship drives; he exhibits the anchor upon deck, but that does not hold the vessel; at last he puts it down into the hold; but with no better success.” Unknown
Tempted to ask some who claim to follow that way of life: “how’s it working for you?” Don’t really need to ask, though, just observe how they live, how they respond to storms and challenges, how they face leaving this life. Someone commented recently: “after midnight, just about anything goes on television”. In our culture, is more and more accurate way to describe real-life behavior, especially among young people. Why is that? Have thrown the anchor over the back seat, expecting to find strength, answers, guidance, rules for living… within themselves.
“The Christian hope is not hope in the human spirit, in human goodness, in human endurance, in human achievement; the Christian hope is hope in the power of God.” Wm. Barclay
Live in culture increasingly adrift – people with no sense of direction or purpose, nothing stable / fixed as reference point. Same is true in the church, among professing Christians and denominations. If we’re going to steer straight course, need strong anchor for our souls. We who know and love and serve Lord Jesus have anchor that comes with the best guarantee, shaped and provided according to the best plan, supplies the best encouragement, and offers the best hope.
A. the best guarantee
“He swore by Himself” (13)
not for God’s benefit, for Abraham’s and ours – think about what happens when God speaks, how sure his word is
WSC 9 What is the work of creation? A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
repeatedly in creation story: God said… and it was so; God said… and he saw that it was good; the results of God speaking were precisely what God intended
didn’t need to guarantee his word, chose to do so to make particular point to Abraham… and later to us, his children
look at original context of God’s action – Gen. 22; especially verses 15 thru 18
what is point here? God had made same promise before, that Abraham and Sarah would have lots of descendants
even when all evidence Abraham could see went against God’s promise – Sarah barren, Ishmael not the one, now “sacrifice your only son” – Abraham persevered in faith
important note: Abraham’s faith faltered, repeatedly; but kept coming back to God, trusting God, obeying and following God, even when he didn’t understand what God was really doing
now, at most difficult time of Abraham’s life, receives one of strongest promises God ever made to mankind
perhaps still somewhat dazed from what had just happened, hears God speak again: “I swear to you I will keep my promise”
Abraham had trusted God’s simple unadorned promise, showed his trust by obedience; now God says because of that, since you were content with that, here is my absolute unchanging ironclad guarantee nothing will prevent my keeping my oath and my promise
proven – “he obtained the promise” (15)
faith, even faltering faith, if it is true faith in the right object, God, will receive the inheritance – not immediately, only after persevering through all that God has to teach us
important to remember – we don’t persevere through all the stuff of life on our own: we persevere because God preserves us
God provides both the anchor and strength to hold the rope; much of the time, God is holding us in our place on the rope – his strong hands over ours, his arms around us on every side, shielding us from what we cannot bear in our own strength
Abraham walked all his life by faith, without ever seeing the reality – “These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them” (Heb. 11:13)
Abraham had his heart set on bigger promises than what he could see up close – promise of eternal inheritance – and that’s the one he received
we were included in God’s promise to Abraham: “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen. 22:18)
Abraham’s obedience was significant; God’s promise of blessing guaranteed by an oath, neither of which can possibly fail, is the more important piece
here’s where all that leads… and first piece of assurance: just as surely as Abraham received what was promised to him, eternal life, if our faith is in same God and same promise, we will also receive our inheritance
B. the best plan (17)
“the immutability of His counsel” – God’s plan is always the best one… and he never has to change it
think about it: when was last time you made a plan, and everything went according to your plan? without you changing it?
never happens that way with God – because God is who he is: best of beings, all-powerful, all-knowing, he has all he needs…within himself…to make perfect Plan A…once…at the beginning, without trial and error
even better, God has done exactly that, and has given us summary description, basic principles in his Word
what is best – summed up in the word “immutability”; not mutable, not subject to change; isn’t that God won’t change, he can’t change and still be God
#336 in hymnal: Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same; All may change but Jesus never, Glory to His name!
we sing that, appreciate its message, then move on; God doesn’t – he never moves on, and that is hugely important
if we are to have enduring hope, lasting assurance – something or someone must be unchanging, permanently, forever
we can have that kind of hope in God, and God alone; even more, it is God’s desire that his people have assurance, enduring hope
“Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath” HCSB
don’t rush over the beginning part – God wanted to show something to us, so he went the extra mile with his promise, guaranteeing an unchangeable promise with an unchangeable oath rooted in unchangeable character of God
C. the best encouragement (18)
“may find strong encouragement”
God not only desires us to have assurance, God desires to encourage us to “hold fast to the hope set before us”
not just any hope found anywhere: is hope God has set before those who find refuge in Him – is only place, in Christ, we can expect to find hope and assurance and encouragement
just like all the rest, is secured by unchangeable nature of God and his promise – if God changes, maybe he’ll decide something different about the future, then what happens to our hope?
hope set before us is same hope as was set before Abraham – hope of a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God
a real hope, but only available through faith in Christ; and… must be a living and active faith, not simple acceptance of facts
saving faith is that belief which says: in myself, my own abilities, my own goodness, my own merit, there is absolutely no cause for hope of eternal life – on my own, “without Christ am a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”; (Eph. 2:12) I am hopelessly, utterly lost, subject to eternal condemnation
Jesus is my only hope, am clinging to him with all my strength, trusting in him and hoping in him alone for my salvation
I have unchanging unchangeable promise of God guaranteed by his oath that he will keep his promise; that gives me strong encouragement to hold on, to not let go under any circumstances, to never seek help apart from Jesus
D. the best hope (19)
“hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast”
is our best hope because of its nature and its location: it is a sure and steadfast anchor for our soul, and, it is secured in Jesus in the very presence of God
is an anchor for our soul: other things anchor our minds, our affections, perhaps even our circumstances in some degree
our soul needs an anchor that goes beyond present existence… because our soul does; if soul continues to exist after death, need an anchor there, too
for those who love and trust and obey Jesus, our anchor is where our hope is, where our souls will be at death and for eternity
is sure and steadfast anchor because the object of our hope is sure and steadfast – our hope, our confidence in God’s promise is just as secure as God is; would have to stop being God in order to fail in his promise
at some point in your life, perhaps in middle of one of life’s storms, you dropped anchor for your soul and that anchor ended up in the Holy of Holies… the real one, not a copy on earth
you trusted in Christ, you wrapped your arms of faith around Jesus with a grip that won’t let go, now where is Jesus?
he’s the forerunner, the one who has gone on ahead of us “on our behalf, and has already entered the Most Holy Place, behind the veil
is the kind of hope that sometimes, through lack of strength, can only whisper; at other times it shouts in full voice
“I am his and he is mine, His forever, only His, Who the Lord and me shall part? Heav’n and earth may fade and flee, Firstborn light in gloom decline, But while God and I shall be, I am His and He is mine.”
People by the score in our culture are consumed with hopelessness; hardly a week passes without news of someone purposely ending their own life, many of them out of hopelessness. Scores more purse one false hope after another – chasing the allure of pleasure or power or prosperity. There is a genuine hope, a secure anchor for the soul in Jesus Christ and only him. Our first task is to seize that hope and not let go; our union with Jesus and hope in him is our life line, the only thing that stands between us and eternal death. Our second task is to make that hope known to those who are without hope – those in our homes, next to our homes, in the workplace and market place.