Tag: Hope for the Hopeless

E njoyment to the Fullest

John 16:20-24 

Hours before worst moments of Jesus’ life, focused on joy and his part in making it happen for his followers. Almost certainly not where our heads would be at time like that! Too much living in the moment to look through something like the cross and see what lay beyond. Gives indication of area where too many people miss the mark – devote too much to pursuing happiness / pleasure; should be pursuing joy.

Surely God expects his people to live this life for all it’s worth. Compared to this life, next life has far greater worth for believer. But… people we encounter every day, maybe several times a day, question whether this life can offer enough good to justify living it. Some have no hope good in this life can ever outweigh the pain, when cannot cope any more they try to end it. Others simply trying to endure until it’s over. Many have no expectation of good now or later, try their hardest to make everyone else as miserable as they.

Not the kind of existence Lord Jesus intended for his followers. Jesus not in denial, knew not only what he would experience in next few days, he knew what followers would go through. Jesus also knew what his willing self-sacrifice would purchase for his followers after Sunday morning. Beginning with encounter on road to Emmaus Jesus helped those who love him begin on that path through sorrow to joy and eventually Enjoyment to the Fullest.

A. sorrow will be turned into joy  v.20

sorrow is real

sorrow part of human existence from first breath on – often babies first response to new environment after birth, and continues

sorrow often connected with loss, always comes with pain of some kind – disciples’ sorrow would nearly overwhelm, drive to despair

mockery, dismissiveness of world adds to sting of sorrow – now we sorrow not only for our own loss, for what they risk losing

sorrow is temporary

Jesus knew their sorrow would end – was in part based on lack of understanding, limited sight – they didn’t know what was next

only one kind of circumstance where joy will never be possible: those who have ended this life without being reconciled to God

sorrow establishes framework for joy

“The Day Boy and the Night Girl”, George MacDonald – Phosgen had no comprehension of darkness/night, Nycteris none of light/day – had never been part of their experience, frame of reference

certain things necessary to give understanding / appreciation even for God’s character – as we grasp depth of our sinfulness, we better grasp greatness of God’s mercy and grace

from depths of sorrow that we grasp need for joy, its value and significance – gives greater appreciation when joy is experienced

B. no longer remember the anguish for joy  v.21

joy also is real

Jesus didn’t talk about imaginary things – not only promised his followers good, he actually delivered – Bible makes clear they did indeed rejoice following his resurrection

joy is not “pie in the sky”, it is the expectation of actually possessing something truly good… that inheritance reserved for us

joy is greater

Jesus gives good example, typical mother does not look forward to distress of labor, she looks forward to joy of holding newborn

is rare mother who refuses to take her baby, who says “let me process what I just went through first” – joy of a new life far outweighs distress

and… not only joy of the moment, is anticipation of what future holds for that life, what they will share together

joy replaces sorrow

may not happen all at once, often is a process as joy builds and sorrow recedes – One who knows end from beginning knows all about what comes next, whether tomorrow or next year or next life

if not in this life, certainly in the next will be no further place for sorrow – other things far more glorious will fill all our thoughts

far different from experience in this life – sorrow follows after sorrow, brief or no breaks between, easy to wonder how can endure w/o God

C. no one will take your joy from you  v.22

joy like faith has an object

joy is in part the anticipation of possessing something good – if anticipate possessing what God gives, no one can take that away

for unbeliever, only joy they have or anticipate limited to this life – not true for Christ-follower, ultimately looks to next life

seeing Jesus meant joy was secure

Jesus’ early followers hopes dashed the day he died, profound sorrow took place of hope – little reason for them to think joy of any real kind even remotely possible

seeing Jesus assured them their belief he was one God sent was justified… and somehow Jesus would surely keep his promises

if Jesus could have victory over death as he said he would, then everything else he promised suddenly seems not just possible but certain

our joy also secure – has same object

if we like them hope in Christ, his promises are just as secure and certain to us – if we have faith in same Savior, same future awaits

Jesus in Garden prayer expresses same desires for his contemporaries as for all who would come after… including future with him

truth is, if Jesus really who he said he was, did what the Bible said he did, just being present with him is enough to give joy

D. you will receive that your joy may be full  v.24

joy now is connected with prayer

believe it or not, there is more – Father and Son are committed to giving good gifts… starting now, in this life, to add to our joy

abundant blessing has condition attached to it: not an automatically deposited benefit – we must actually ask for it to receive it

the way Jesus talks here, don’t get idea he will be stingy – God will answer our requests with abundance, sufficient to give real and lasting joy

sorrow will end but not joy

Jesus’ intention is that our cup of joy will be continually overflowing with no risk whatsoever of supply ever failing

sorrows have limited lifetime, joy will not – God keeps replenishing the supply so joy which we experience now carries over into next life

joy can be complete in this life and the next

far too much of the time, God’s people act like they are simply enduring whatever life throws at them in hopes they can somehow make it through, next life will be better

Jesus was talking about joy full to the brim and running over now, before heaven, and after we get there, too

Sorrow and despair entered the world pretty early on, within days of Creation. What was God’s first move after that? To promise that sorrow would be part of human existence. At same time, gave promise of hope – the Seed of the woman would defeat the serpent. Since first man and woman, God has been delivering message of HOPE to the Hopeless – Lord Jesus himself preparing a home for his brothers and sisters; by his death he has opened the door to enduring loving relationship with God and one another; because of his resurrection, our hope extends to a promised future; and because of his victory over sin and death we can have enjoyment to the fullest.

And we can be participants in the process of bringing others out of hopelessness and into saving relationship with Jesus:

2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.


P romise of a Future

1 Corinthians 15:19-23 

 So we are here, Easter morning, Resurrection Day, all about life and hope and glorious future, right? Then why do 3 out of 4 points in outline start with death? Can’t we be done talking about death? dealing with death? Yes… but… not yet. And don’t forget this – resurrection is impossible if death does not come first. History and experience tell us it will – death is truly inescapable, unless of course are still alive when Jesus comes back. Second thing that is true, why majority of people have hard time with death… it is not the end… something comes after physical death. If only someone could have victory over death, might be some hope for future. God’s word tells about that, when that promise will become reality.

A. death is inescapable

result of the Fall/curse – “by man came death”

was by God’s direct and distinct action that man was first given life: Gen. 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

God warned them against disobedience, they sinned anyway, God kept his word – if knew no other way, have inspired record Gen. 5:5 “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.”

applies to everyone – “as in Adam all die”

have strong indication death would not stop with Adam and Eve, and wasn’t only murder of Abel by his brother that explains

God in beginning made man in his own image, according to his likeness – Gen. 5:3 declares that Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth”

all Adam’s natural descendants share his likeness… under the curse, corrupted by sin, subject to death – what we all have to anticipate

choice is how to deal with it

so far in all of human existence, no one has figured out how to prevent it – have come up with numerous ways to try and cope

pretend it won’t happen to me; pretend it didn’t happen to them – pretense not good long-term solution for anything so serious

claim only temporary, come back as someone else; hope only temporary, cryo preserved; try to believe nothing more than this

B. death is not the end

separation of soul from body – Luke 23:46 

“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.” – soul, an essential but immaterial thing that is indestructible except by God

pathologist: “Without life, facial expression or movement, robbed of our essential selves, our bodies can look very different.” Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd

if law of mass conservation is correct, matter cannot be created/destroyed only rearranged, then even matter that makes up bodies doesn’t cease to exist at death

is soul that provides life, essential self, and continues to exist and function after death – is what many people fear

Jesus had power apart from his body – John 2:19-21; 10:18

on two different occasions Jesus declared that he had power to raise himself from the dead… and at right time he would exercise that power

if Jesus’ claim turned out to be true, would be clear evidence that death does not have ultimate power – if so, a glimmer of hope

is the declaration of Scripture – 1 Cor. 15:4

Bible declares both that suffering / death / resurrection was necessary and would occur, goes on to plainly state it did happen

he died, was buried, rose again – same person in view throughout, and in Jesus’ case he rose again to further life and work

told Mary would ascend to the Father – would remain actively busy interceding for his people, ruling his kingdom until his return

and evidence many credible witnesses – 1 Cor 15:5-8 

seen by individuals, small groups, one group of over 500 – all could give witness that they had seen no ghost but real live person

Thomas, greatest skeptic of the bunch was convinced was really Jesus… alive… in the flesh, and risked his church membership to show his belief – worshiped Jesus, “My Lord and my God”

C. death’s victor gives life

death is inescapable but not unconquerable – “in Christ all shall be made alive”

shows that death can be conquered – not by fountain of youth, super healthy lifestyle, genetic engineering, but power of God

if the Man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator could rise from the dead, is hope for the rest of us – if he could be made alive, so can we

is God alone who raises the dead – Rom. 4:17

it is “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” – is creation power that is resurrection power

the only one who can restore life is the one who gave it in first place and by whose decree it was forfeited, God himself

made possible because of Christ’s victory 1 Cor. 15:45 

God doesn’t raise people from the dead just because he can – God doesn’t need to prove anything, but he does have a purpose

his purpose in raising men/women/boys/girls from dead also includes raising his son the Lord Jesus from dead – demonstrated he had broken power of sin and death, not for himself but for his people

D. promise becomes reality at the end

not instant gratification – “all shall be made alive… afterward… at His coming”

this promise of life, especially life that never ends one that we’d all like to start now – just skip the getting old part, all that goes with it

not how God has designed – won’t pass out that death benefit piecemeal to be experienced by few people at a time – must wait

shared experience – “we will all be changed”  1 Cor. 15:51 

God’s plan is that whether experience of this life ends with death or Second Coming, all his people will be transformed together

delay does not put outcome in doubt – Jesus’ resurrection enough of guarantee to make promise certain to us – results of “big reveal” glorious enough to be worth waiting for… with anticipation, desire

no more death hanging over our heads  1 Cor. 15:54; Rev. 21:4 

for threat and reality of death to be completely taken away, its cause must be cured also – if death is symptom of sin that caused it, all this must mean sin will be history too

is beauty of the Gospel: when, by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us, we receive forgiveness of sin and gift of eternal life, we are assured of a future promised and waiting for us

future when both body and soul has been fully redeemed / raised to eternal life will never be tainted by sin or its consequences

This glorious future not what awaits everyone. Paul, 1 Cor. 15:22 states two possible outcomes: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive”.

in Adam – under sentence of death because of sin, required to pay penalty on own behalf; in Christ – freed from sentence of death because Christ paid penalty on your behalf. One or other is what every man/woman/boy/girl faces – the difference comes about through faith in Christ, believing he was who he said he was, he accomplished what he said he did, he is only one who can save from sin, he stands ready to receive all who come to him in faith trusting him to save them. 

O pening to a Relationship

Mark 15:37-38 

 Evidence all around, people from all walks of life / economic station / educational background struggle to make and maintain healthy relationships. Whether domestic violence at home, bullying at school, uncivil discourse in media and politics, that is even opportunity for term “hate speech” to come into use all tell us people not doing relationships well.

Recent estimates suggest that anywhere from 22% to 75% of American adults are persistently lonely. Caccioppo

Large numbers of people have few if any significant meaningful relationships with other people in their daily lives. And all this in world where “social media” is driving force, shaping how people interact, influencing business marketing models, even changing landscape of how many do church.

2016 stats – facebook: 1.5 billion daily active visitors; 166 – average # of friends; 28% – considered to be close friends; 40 minutes average use per day

Did you notice the disconnect? 3 out of 4 people in US use facebook daily, have an average of 40 close friends on facebook, yet as many as 3 out of 4 American adults are persistently lonely. As pervasive and invasive as social media has become, is not making people feel less lonely. Simply cannot be a problem that develops once people have to start adulting:

parents with children under 18, average time daily (2017, US BLS) — reading to and with: 3 minutes; activities related to education: 7 minutes; playing, not sports: 20 minutes; physical care: 30 minutes

Yet it makes no sense – know from experience “is not good for man to be alone”. Is not an accident we are like that, not result of natural selection / evolutionary processes. We are that way by design.

For creatures who were made in God’s image to be relational, what’s the story? We know answer, also know solution. Text helps to broaden perspective on that solution, encourages us to make sure we are part of solution and not part of the problem.

A. banished – Genesis 3:21-24 

relationships perfect… in the beginning

with one another, with surroundings/environment – was all good, no conflict, no barriers to access or communication

most important relationship of all… with God… all good – perfect fellowship, God would come and go as he pleased, unhindered communication in both directions

freedom was accompanied by desire – God desired to be with Adam and Eve, they wanted to be with God… welcomed him when he appeared

sin fractured all of them

Adam and Eve’s first action after sin was to put up barriers – made clothes, served as wall between them… no longer free access to one another

their desire for God’s presence changed to fear and shame – had barrier of clothes, added barrier of bushes and then blame when God showed up

never again during their lifetime would they enjoy same intimate fellowship with one another and with God as at the beginning

driven out of Eden

meant more than just plowing new piece of ground – included that for sure, garden outside never as easy to till, production never again up to previous performance

relationship between God and man redefined – this far more significant than new physical location, involved new terms / conditions

God’s immediate presence now forbidden, guarded by angel w/flaming sword – fellowship never again the same, neither would worship be as close and intimate, instead distant with God at least partly hidden

B. veiled – Leviticus 16:1-10 

God’s presence off-limits to all but high priest

clear instruction given to Moses defining space where God’s glory would appear, included massive tapestry that completely blocked view of innermost sanctuary… Holy of Holies

everyone with only one exception forbidden entrance on pain of death – sinful man carelessly going into God’s presence not to be allowed

even then only once a year

on one day only, Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, high priest could go behind the veil and approach the mercy seat… throne of God

strict conditions of “access”

permission granted and safety assured if and only if high priest followed all the rules – both preparing self… and bringing blood of sacrifice with him for himself and people he represented

…in both directions

not only that all but high priest forbidden access to God’s presence, God so restrained himself that he remained veiled, hidden from view

only on rare occasion would God’s glory break out, astonishing and overwhelming all present – dedication of tabernacle, Temple, transfiguration

rest of the time, people of God could only see dim presentation of God’s glory, speak at a distance through intermediary – Moses granted special privileges no one else enjoyed

C. opened – Mark 15:37-38 

at darkest moment, light streamed forth

at moment Lord Jesus died that Temple veil torn in two – light of God and his truth no longer fettered, burst forth to eventually fill world with glory of Gospel

“the God Who had been a mystery became a Revelation, shining out upon all human history; and it meant also that excluded men were admitted. What happened when the veil was rent? All the world was brought inside; and all souls were made priests” G Campbell Morgan

as said last night, this not something deserved… by sinful man – access to God’s presence natural privilege Son of God has, we can share in that access because of Jesus’ merit

rules completely changed once again

and so new ones for us: no longer a veil between us and God, no longer earthly mediator / intermediary translating between

Heb 9:23-26 “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another; He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

D. restored – read John 14:18-23 


we are not abandoned, homeless, without family or friend – Lord Jesus promised would not leave followers orphans to make own way

through what Jesus accomplished by his suffering and death, that relationship between man and God first broken in Garden being restored


God intends his people to have real fellowship with him – Heb 10:19-22 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”


have a home waiting for us that Jesus is preparing and have something precious even now: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (14:23)

Was Lord Jesus who opened up that barrier between us and God, making intimate relationship possible. Right relationship with God leads to other things too – restored relationships with others, ability to make new relationships and maintain them. An area of huge need in our world, our community. Addressing it starts with having Jesus as our Friend.

H ome

John 14:2-6 

 Our community: one of fastest growing in state. Not only population, number of new construction starts also. Neighboring communities experiencing similar – single-family dwellings, multi-family units, many rented before completion. Might think homelessness be decreasing, evidence seems to say otherwise.

“two years ago [2017], more than 2,500 public school students in the state were reported as homeless or displaced. [30% increase over 2015] …Many of these youth are facing significant issues: domestic violence, substance abuse in the family, foster care, parents who’ve passed away and more.” “They are moving into shelters, couch surfing with other families and, in rare cases, camping or living in cars.” (https://www.mainepublic.org/programs/finding-way)

I challenge you to think beyond stereotypical homelessness box for few minutes. We call it homelessness, refer to home-owners and home-ownership, yet

“A house is not a home. It is but a pile of sticks. …Our hearts dwell in our homes… The difference is that we can inhabit a house or its cousins—apartment, trailer, hotel room—and not be remotely at home.” Gregory McNamee

Some things must be true about a house in order for it to be a home – way more than having people and stuff inside. According to McNamee, “Linguists have long remarked that the English idea of home has no true equivalents, even within cognate languages”. No other known word fully captures meaning and essence of “home” as we typically understand and use it.

Poet Robert Frost said this:

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in. I should have called it Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’ The Death of the Hired Man

On night when Lord Jesus was betrayed, eating final Passover meal with disciples, gave us insight into some of what can make place a home.

gathered together with friends… and one enemy, in close intimate fellowship around most significant meal in Jewish culture

something families had done by God’s instruction for 1400 years – if numbers were small, families joined together to make up group

gave them powerful example of gracious hosting, serving others – did it on purpose: that they should do just as he had done

service to one another, sharing with one another, conversation around and across the table, most importantly love for one another

 (13:34) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

That “mandate”, where we get name for this day “Maundy Thursday”, immediately followed statement by Lord Jesus that was hard for disciples to grasp:

“Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.”

Seems like even though Jesus kept talking, Peter stopped listening. As soon as Jesus stopped for breath, Peter asked “Where are you going?” (John 13:36), Jesus responded with short answer, then fuller explanation by telling them he was going home, to make the place a home for them.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

A. plentiful – many mansions/rooms  v.2a

no shortage of rooms

picture Jesus and rest of NT gives: a huge home, beyond what we can really imagine, countless rooms for family, not guests

no one sleeping in halls or stairways, cardboard shelters – will be proper accommodations for every person Jesus brings to live there

intended from beginning for many people – stars of heaven, sand of seashore

description of people of God as least among nations only refers to beginnings – God’s intention that end result be family of immense number

will be place of beauty – compare w/Notre Dame

don’t know exactly how it is designed but do know this: will be more grand and glorious and beautiful than anything ever seen

no disfiguring of sin or the curse on anything there – will display glory and beauty that exceeds even original creation

B. prepared – I go to prepare a place  v.2b

making a house a home

notice imagery Jesus used for his disciples: “In My Father’s house are many rooms” – spoke as though house already in existence

Jesus’ task after resurrection to go to that house, finish whatever necessary to make it into a home – place we can be attached to, have total security, surrounded by what we love

getting ready for family – Rom. 8:29 

God’s eternal plan has family as integral part – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Jesus not making place ready for servants, subjects, citizens – is preparing it for his family, brothers and sisters by adoption

C. promised – if I go… I will come again  v.3a

Jesus won’t leave his family to find their own way

didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding – leaving his followers did not equal abandoning them – again, idea of family, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

Jesus not scam artist – make promise, then disappear

happens far too often, take the money and run – Jesus’ guarantee he won’t do that… he will come back, and will take us there

Jesus our royal escort providing safe passage

more than wanting his followers to be in heaven, Jesus wants them to be with him… does all necessary to bring that about

D. purchased – I am the way  v.6

often focus on Jesus as “exclusive way”

not often popular message, but is necessary – Jesus the only one who can take someone safely into God’s very presence

mustn’t lose sight of destination – the Father…

this what makes it our real home: the Father present with the Son and the rest of the family – that enough to make any place a home!

and the place – has no mortgage

Jesus looking through his suffering and death and resurrection to what he would purchase by his life for his people

no remaining debt for family members to satisfy, no rental or lease agreements, no homeowner’s association fees

Is the Father’s home, the Son’s home, the true and final home of all God’s family… with all the comforts belonging to that kind of home. Is the home Lord Jesus gave his very life to purchase on our behalf, the one he is now working to fill with family members.

Robert Frost said home is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve”. This home that awaits us is one we cannot ever deserve. Only because the Father loved us and sent his Son who loved us and died for us and purchased that home for us can we enjoy it.