Not Home Yet: Hoping for What We Don’t Have

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Romans 8:24)

Somebody said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.” Hope isn’t optional. Human beings cannot exist without it.

nothome_350So the question is, what are we putting our hope in? Paul this week has revealed that his hope – a Christian’s hope – is for one thing and one thing only: the day of the Lord, the day when the “sons of God will be revealed,” the day everything will be put back the way it was meant to be from the beginning.

Until that day, we live on hope. Careful: We don’t live on wishes. We don’t live on maybes. Hope is all about being confident that something will happen. We know our Father will come and get us.

Until then, we’ll live with joy and groaning, peace and pain, and keep hoping in the day we will see our “Abba” face to face.

Think: How would you define this kind of hope in your own words? Why can’t we just exist without something to hope in? What happens when we try?

Pray: Thank God for giving you the hope of an eternity with him as your Father. Ask him to help you to live for that hope.

Do: Read how hope fits into the definition of faith given in Hebrews 11:1.

Not Home Yet: Creation Frustrated

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

Huge idea here: Christians aren’t complete. Sometimes we mislead people, I think, when we talk about the God-shaped hole inside of each of us. We imply that when someone becomes a Christian, that hole gets filled up and we never feel empty again.

nothome_350I don’t think that’s true. Paul here clearly says that we Christians “groan inwardly” – just like the frustrated creation all around us that is experiencing intense pain similar to a woman giving birth. That doesn’t sound to me like people who are always perfectly satisfied in this life.

It is true that God has saved us, that our God-shaped hole has been filled with His Spirit as a deposit, as a source of comfort, joy, hope, love, and peace. It’s true that we have access to a whole new level of happiness as we live in God’s will. But it is also true that we will never be fully complete and satisfied until we are with God in person, face to face.

That’s what Paul means when he mentions the “redemption of our bodies.” We were created to be with God, and we will be fully complete when he wipes every tear from our eyes and declares that his dwelling is now with us forever.

Think: Have you ever thought there was something wrong with you as a Christian because you still feel something like an inner “groaning,” like something is missing? Does this passage help you to understand that groaning won’t be all the way gone until we are all the way home with our Father?

Pray: Thank God that one day you will be with him in person forever and the groaning will stop.

Do: Read about that moment in Revelation 21:1-5.

Not Home Yet: Suffering v. Glory – No Contest

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Everybody suffers. Or hurts. Or struggles. You can use whatever word you want, but the experience of pain—physical and emotional—is universal.

nothome_350Jesus suffered for our sins on the cross, but he also suffered through all the painful parts of living a regular human life – just as we do.

Does the fact that everybody suffers in life make it okay? Does the fact that death and mourning and sorrow and pain are normal make that okay? We’re going to see this week that it does not.

Here’s the deal, though: As great as the pain of this life is, it won’t even be worth talking about once you step over the threshold of heaven and take your place there as a child of the king. The glory of that eternal moment, we’re promised, will make the enormous pain of this short life meaningless by comparison.

Think: Do you tend to think of hard times in this life as normal?  What do you imagine the glory of living for eternity as a child of God will be like?

Pray: Thank God that your current sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed in you as God’s child.

Do: Read Colossians 3:1-4 and try to practice it today.

Not Home Yet: Call Him Father

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)

There are still places—maybe your town is one of them—where belonging to the right family has its benefits. To have that name brings with it status, privileges, and often a whole lot of money. To be from the wrong family, the wrong part of town, means you’re not getting in certain doors. You’ll have to make your own way the hard way.

nothome_350Romans is written into a world that understood the value of belonging to the right family. Far more so than now, you were likely to carry your family’s status with you for your entire life.

What family could have more status—then and now—than the family of the God of the universe? What name could open more doors than His? What family fortune could ever be larger than God’s family fortune? And as His children we have a share in it—right along with Jesus! We are the children of God.

(Tune in tomorrow to hear about the suffering.)

Think: Do you sense in your spirit that God’s Spirit is testifying to you that you are God’s child? Are you comfortable with the idea of belong in His family? Do you feel any security in knowing that you are a co-heir with Christ to God’s unmeasurable, eternal fortune?

Pray: Thank God that as a Christian you have been included in His family and promised a share in your family’s eternal glory.

Do: Try to bring up in conversation (at church, at home, wherever) two or three times this week that you are in God’s family.

Why We Sin: We Skip the Chicken Exit

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Have you seen this? One of the amusement parks I used to go to had this enormous roller coaster. It was so popular, you could stand in line for an hour or more just waiting to get on the thing. And if you were nervous about the ride and the screaming and the upside-downness and the throwing up, you spent that whole time in line just getting more and more scared.

down_350At the very end of the line, though, just before you got on the ride, they had a little gate called a “chicken exit.” It was the way to get out if you just couldn’t do. You had to swallow your pride – and I never did it – but it was there.

Today’s verse is a powerful promise that God always provides a “chicken exit” when we’re tempted to sin. Except it would be better to call it a “courage exit.” It’s a way out of the line leading toward the sin you’ve been contemplating before you actually get on the ride. It’s a gate, an escape, provided by the Creator of all things as a one-last-chance gift to avoid the painful consequences of sin.

Next time, man up and take the chicken exit. The ride isn’t worth what it costs.

Think: Have you ever experienced an unexpected “way out” of a sin that you were prepared to go through with? What does it mean to you that God promises not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear?

Pray: Thank God that you will never face a temptation that is stronger than you are in his power. Ask him for the courage and faith to take his “way out” of temptation when you see it.

Do: This verse can be fascinating to talk about with a group of close Christian friends. Next time you’re hanging out, bring up this promise from God that he provides a way out of temptation and ask if anyone has ever seen this happen. You might be surprised.

Why We Sin: We Forget Shame

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8)

“We’re naked!” That’s the response of the first couple after committing the first human sin. They took the bite expecting to find wisdom, knowledge, something God had been keeping from them. Instead, they found shame. They hoped for freedom and power and instead found themselves running in fear.

down_350The sting of the serpent’s tempting lies was hidden in the truthful part of what he’d said. Their eyes were opened. They did learn about good and evil – by doing evil. But they did not become like God. Instead, they became much less than they had been: innocent, closely connected to their creator, shameless.

I think everyone reading these words has felt the shame of being caught in sin – or even of thinking about being caught in sin. It’s a sick, sinking feeling. It’s a trapped feeling. You want to hide, get away, escape, just like Eve and Adam tried to do. You want to be away from God instead of close to the one who made you, the source of your life, healing, and hope.

The point of remembering that feeling isn’t to keep feeling guilty for sin God has already forgiven. The point of remembering is to a) want really badly not to feel it again and b) be really glad that God has forgiven you because of Jesus.

Think: Do you think shame can sometimes be an appropriate thing to feel? Why do you think some people want to tell us that feeling ashamed is always a bad thing? How do you avoid wallowing in false guilt for sins that God has already forgiven?

Pray: Thank God for forgiving all of your sin through your faith in Jesus, including the sins you felt most ashamed of. Ask Him to help you to keep from wanting to go back to the sins that made you feel that way in the first place.

Do: Read what Paul wrote about sin, sorrow, repentance, and regret in 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Why We Sin: Because She Did

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)

We’ve been tracking with Eve’s temptation all week, but why did Adam sin? Why did he eat from the one tree out of all those others in the paradise garden of Eden that God put on the “no” list? And if he was there with Eve the whole time listening in on her conversation with the serpent, why didn’t he say anything?

down_350Much has been made of The Silence of Adam in this tragic moment, and there are warnings here for men about our role as husbands and spiritual leaders. But there’s a wider warning for all of us followers about why we sin. We sin because someone else did.

It’s a human tendency. We designate certain people in our lives to do our thinking and feeling for us. We refuse to take responsibility for our own choices. If she does it, then I’m doing it, too. If he says “no,” I’m out. Honestly, it’s much easier to delegate all of our spiritual decisions to other people, which is probably why so many lazy Christians live that way.

But we don’t get any credit with God for farming out our conscience; we still face the consequences for our sinful choices.

Think: How much more likely are you to make a sinful choice if your closest friend makes that choice first? What can you do to make sure that you’re not mindlessly following anyone else’s choices to disobey God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to follow him more closely than you follow anyone else, especially when it comes to choices about obeying him.

Do: Read Jesus’ harsh words for those who use their influence to lead children into sin in Matthew 18:5-6.