Finding Hope In Hopeless Situations
As believers, we experience many benefits through the gospel. Of course, the primary benefit to us is the fact that in his substitutionary death, Christ paid the debt for our sin and reconciled us to God. That is primary indeed, but there is so much more to in than that. The gospel isn't just primarily concerned about our final destination when we die, rather the hope of the gospel dramatically impacts our lives in the here and now.
Framing the gospel as our ticket to heaven makes salvation the finish line, rather than the starting point of our spiritual journey. Assuming "deathbed decisions" aren't the norm, this then can have serious ramifications for how we live in the days, weeks, months, and years AFTER our lives have been impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ. I believe the Bible clearly exemplifies for us that a genuine gospel experience is transformational in nature. One need look no further than the stories of Matthew, Paul, Zacchaeus, and many others.
I believe this truth undergirds Cody's lesson this week from Acts chapter 23. The question he was answering for us is how can a person, like Paul, remain hopeful in undeniably hopeless situations? Was Paul simply the champion of seeing the glass as half full? Was he the king of finding the silver lining? Was Paul certifiably insane? What is it that can make a man find joy in persecution, hardship, imprisonment, beatings, and the constant threat of death? The answer can only be found in the gospel!
A person whose hope is found only in this life and the things of the world, values their life, their possessions, and other worldly things above all else. You may be shocked to learn that the popular phrase, "Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!" actually finds its origin in scripture. The mantra, which typically serves as a call to make the most out of your life is actually an amalgamation of several different verses of scripture, each of which actually frame the idea in a negative light. This doesn't mean that God doesn't desire for us to value and even enjoy our lives, however, our joy in this life, if it is to sustain us even in the darkest of days, must be rooted in something greater.
Paul's ability to display, "sanctified optimism," as Cody called it, was the result of his being transformed by the gospel. Sanctification is the process by which believers are transformed and conformed, day by day, into the image of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the process, our old worldly thoughts, actions, and desires are replaced with with renewed and redeemed ones. When we see Jesus as our greatest treasure, and understand that we have been purchased by him with his blood and, as such, we are united with him forever, we live our lives knowing that no one and nothing can ever separate us from him. In light of that, we have nothing to lose!
Paul sums this up for us nicely in Romans chapter 8 where he writes, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." I pray that we would live abundantly in light of that promise.
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 52 - Sanctified Optimism
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. How does Paul survive yet another assassination attempt?
2. What is Paul's posture when enduring persecution?
3. What lessons do we learn when studying the life of Paul?
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