July 25, 2016
The world is a difficult place. We need only open our eyes and look around us to see pain, brokenness, and death. Things are not as they should be, and that is a fact that needs no arguing for. The past century has been the bloodiest in the history of the world, and who knows what lies ahead in the next? Those of us who have not had loved ones taken away by violence have, no doubt, lost dear friends and family members to sickness, cancer, heart attacks, or car accidents. In such a world as this, broken by sin, what is our hope supposed to be?
Christians are often characterized as having future hope. We are those who look for “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (English Standard Version, 2 Cor. 5.1). This is true. The apostle Paul, himself a man well acquainted with disease, suffering, and persecution, wrote under the inspiration of God, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8.18) and also “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi. 1.21).
But our hope is also a present hope. We have hope for today. Our hope is rooted in the reality of the gospel and a God who is deeply concerned about every aspect and detail of our lives. To show this, let us examine what happens in conversion. Ephesians 2 says to believers, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2.1-3). Before God saved us, we were following our sinful lusts and thereby contributing to the brokenness caused by sin in this world. The subsequent verses explain how God snatched us from this deadly and destructive state, by grace through faith, and gave us life when we were dead in our sins. Then verse 10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has good works prepared for His people to do. This is the glorious reality of sanctification. God does not just save us from the eternal consequences of sin, but also saves us from sin itself, by degrees, in our life on this earth. Day by day He is making us more like Christ (Rom. 8.29), and though we will not be sinless here on earth, He will complete the work He started in us (Phi. 1:6) so that in heaven we will be totally pure and free from all sin.
Okay, so what does this have to do with the struggling single Mom, the teenager in juvenile detention with only a broken home to return to, or the parents whose child has recently gotten hooked on cocaine? In the gospel we have infinite power. It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1.16). As we already examined, God changes lives. He works from start to finish to save from sin, heal hurts, and restore brokenness. If sin is the problem with the world, the gospel is the answer. Only the saving, converting, sovereign grace of God will turn sinners into saints. The more sinners are transformed by this grace, the less violence, pain, and brokenness, we will have in the world. This is our hope for today. As we go out and speak the gospel, making disciples for Jesus, the Holy Spirit works to save souls and change lives.
This grace of God is free and powerful. No matter what sin towers like a grim giant in an individual’s life, the grace of God, through faith, stands taller to overcome it (1 John 5.4-5). This grace turns violent thugs into gentle evangelists. This grace turns prostitutes into Godly wives. This grace can take a murderous man like Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the early Christians to death, into the apostle Paul, who gave His life for Christ and for others to see His glory and be saved. Perhaps you are struggling with some sin today. Maybe you are broken. Maybe you have only months to live because of cancer. Come to Jesus, He will not reject you (John 6:37). Believe in Jesus! You will never be the same person. God will change you from the inside out. The power of God that has transformed so many others will come into your life and transform you! Come as you are. Bring your sins to Jesus, and let Him wash you clean in His cleansing blood. As the old hymns goes, “Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!” You will be one less individual contributing to the brokenness of the world, and one more bringing the hope and healing of Jesus to broken, suffering, and dying people.
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Someone is weeping today without a shoulder to cry on. Maybe God wants that shoulder to be mine. Someone is hurting today without anyone to comfort them. Maybe I can comfort them in Jesus’ name. Someone is lonely today and needs a friend to walk with. Maybe God means me to be that friend. Someone has their heart burdened today but no one will hear them. Maybe I can be a listening ear in Jesus’ name. Someone is weak today and needs a friend to come and help carry them through. Maybe God would have me help them.
But what if I myself am weeping, in pain, lonely, burdened, and weak. How can I bless anyone when I myself am in desperate need of help?
Then I realized that the One who wipes away our tears also shares our grief. The One who comforts us also experiences our pain in the most intimate way. The One who is a companion in our loneliness knows what it is to be despised, rejected, and utterly forsaken. The One who listens to us knows what it feels like to be misunderstood.
The One who bears our burdens on His very own back will also strengthen me to strengthen others. This one is Jesus.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.