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True Hope

Is Rare

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For we were saved in Hope. But a hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees? (Romans 8:24)

The Lord always puts us in environments which are beyond our power, environments which drive us to despair even of living (2 Corinthians 1:8) and which strip us of all hope. The environments the Lord prepares for us are always greater than what we can bear and what our strength can handle. Every thorn we suffer (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) is an unbearable, unendurable, and insurmountable thorn to us.

Only when the Lord puts us in these hopeless situations, and we accept them, do we begin to learn to trust in him and to rely on him a little. It is in the midst of such weaknesses that we acquire a little faith, a little trust, and a little reliance on Christ. Unconsciously, we touch a little Grace and a little power. Under such circumstances we find Mercy to overcome and our spirit is trained.

Do we ask for the thorns to be removed or do we accept them as the needed item for our salvation and growth in Christ?

What is Your Hope Today?

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For it is contained in Scripture: behold I lay in Zion a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and he who believes on Him shall by no means be put to shame. To you therefore who believe is the preciousness. (1 Peter 2:6-7)

There are two kinds of believers in Jesus Christ: those who believe and those who believe that they believe.

True belief in Jesus Christ requires us to be hopeless in our natural life so that He becomes our preciousness. Christ, as the cornerstone, is the very essence and center of everything to us. We are part of His building and His plan. Everything we do is a component of what God wants. These true believers are totally dependent on Christ in their daily lives. They place no hope in their own abilities, in their own dreams, or in their own desires.

Those who believe that they believe are those who put their inner hope in anything other than Christ ... in money, in power, in material things, in status, in people, in family, in friends, in their abilities, and in enjoying life for themselves. To these, Christ is an idol that helps them achieve their own goals, their own purpose, for their own satisfaction. They are discouraged, disappointed, and sometimes enraged when life does not go according to their plan.

If you want to know which of the two believers you are, just ask yourself "What is your hope today?"

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True Hope is Based on the Growth of God's Life Within Us.

We boast because of the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2-5)

True hope is based on the growth of God's life within us. This requires a process and cooperation on our part. We must be willing to not only face, but joyfully receive, trials and tribulations in our life that we recognize as insurmountable, unendurable, and unbearable.

This mindset allows us to endure such tribulations to the point that we receive approvedness from God, meaning we have passed the test. We endure the trials by clinging to God because we have no hope in ourselves or in our ability or in the circumstances.

At this point we recognize the hope that is abiding within us. That is, that God is operating to reproduce himself in us little by little. As hope grows within us it is accompanied by the love of God and we realize that God as the Spirit is indwelling us and was the very agent of overcoming what overwhelmed us and what we deemed impossible.

Walking in Newness of Life

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We have been buried with Him through baptism into his death ... so we walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Our spiritual walk should always be new. Our tendency is to endure until we obtain our goal and then to repeat the same process based on our own understanding and our own effort. In Christ every moment should be new in which we have to depend on Christ for every step.

A football team has four tries to make a first down. Once they attain that goal they have to start over and it's a new set of downs. In baseball the world series is at least four games. No matter the outcome of the first game the next game is brand new.

We tend to want routine, outward tradition, and a secure, known path to our goals but in Christ our hope is in Him alone. We depend on his leading moment by moment.

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Ugly Duckling or
Swan?

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8). The first man became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit. The spiritual is not first but the soulish then the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:45-46).

If we want to know Christ in reality we have to know our flesh, which is the greatest enemy of God. The flesh is our default mode and it is important to know that the flesh is our first reaction to everything in our daily life. The spiritual things are not first in our heart and therefore we must put the flesh to death in the Spirit (Romans 8:13). We must learn to deny the flesh throughout every day (Luke 9:23).

Our thoughts and actions always begin in the flesh (the ugly duckling) and we must learn to put that aside (by following the Spirit) and follow the Lord's speaking instead to produce something spiritual (the swan).

Removing
the
Veil

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Whenever the heart turns to the Lord the veil is taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:16.

There is only one Bible, only one book which God has authored through many men over centuries. However everyone's reading is different which has caused strife, hostility, contention, factions, and divisions. This is due to our heart turning away from the Lord to other things. Things like traditions, practices, culture, race, socioeconomic status, gender, history, sexual orientation, liturgy, preconceptions, theology, and these things become veils covering our heart.

We turn away from God in our heart and live and walk according to the law of the letter which is based on our own interpretation of God's book, the Bible, and this veils our heart. Our mind becomes fixed, shaped, and hard to alter. We must turn our heart to the Lord Himself for renewing (Ephesians 4:23). The Lord is not some scripture verse but a living Person that we must get to know in our innermost being, our human spirit.

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Collisions are Necessary and Normal

We are members of his body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This mystery is great but I speak with regard to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5: 30-32)

For many, marriage is a wonderful relationship that fulfills their life as two become one. The potential for intimacy, honesty, loyalty, forgiveness, and love are unparalleled in the human realm. But don't be fooled by the nice photos taken with outward smiles. Marriage is a battleground that requires long suffering, confession, forgiveness, and love ... all of which are not cheap. A husband and wife often collide because they are two completely different people with different ideas, goals, aspirations, but they learn to listen, forgive, and love despite the differences.

The same holds true for believers in the body of Christ. We must be willing to have the same kinds of collisions that are experienced in marriage where listening, forgiveness, longsuffering, and love become crucial elements. True fellowship involves an openness, a willingness to be laid bare, the realization that collisions between fellow believers are unavoidable ... but that listening, forgiveness, and confession are key ingredients.

Condemnation or
Salvation?

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There is now then no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

There is a lot of controversy on whether we should feel condemned in our daily life. Jesus Christ died on the cross to judicially redeem us from our sin and our separation from God. This is an objective fact. But the story does not end there. God desires us to be saved organically in our souls and this requires a conditional process, which includes our active participation and cooperation on our part.

The phrase "in Christ Jesus" has significant meaning because it not only includes what Christ has accomplished on our behalf, but also demands our cooperation with Him. We must actively enter into the condition of being "in Christ Jesus". When we do, we realize that condemnation is often God's way of telling us that we are outside of the realm in which we need to be. It often means that we are walking according to the flesh, we are setting our mind on the flesh, we are practicing the flesh, we are not subject to God, we are rejecting or avoiding God's arrangement for our lives especially related to suffering, we do not recognize God's operation, or we are not being actively conformed to the image of Christ because of our actions or attitudes.

On the other hand, condemnation is removed when we walk according to the spirit, set our mind on the spirit, allow Christ as the Spirit to dwell in us, put to death the practices of the body, be led by the Spirit in our daily walk, constantly cry to our Father God, dwell on the witness within our spirit, accept with thanksgiving the sufferings of Christ, groan in ourselves, and allow the Spirit to pray according to the mind of God. (Romans 8:1-27)

Our salvation is not automatic or spontaneous just because we say we believe in Jesus Christ. We must choose to abide "in Christ Jesus" throughout our day.

Light in Reproof

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All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light and everything that makes manifest is light. Ephesians 5:13

 

For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest his works be reproved. John 3:20

 

"The devil and the wicked will not suffer themselves to be made manifest by the light, but love darkness, though outwardly the light shines round them. Therefore, "light" has no transforming effect on them, so that they do not become light (John 3:19, 20). But, says the apostle, you being now light yourselves (Ephesians 5:8), by bringing to light through reproof those who are in darkness, will convert them to light. Your consistent lives and faithful reproofs will be your "armor of light" (Romans 13:12) in making an inroad on the kingdom of darkness."

Ephesians 5 lists several aspects of what it means to be wicked: sexual immorality, any kind of impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, unthankful, disobedient. (See Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:5-9 for more). The immoral, impure or greedy person — who is an idolater in God's eyes — has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Before we exclude ourselves from being "wicked" we need to realize that the scriptures here were written to believers in Jesus. We are not to walk in the vanity of our minds as unbelievers do (Ephesians 4:17), but must hear Christ and be taught in Christ to put off the former things, be renewed in our minds by the Spirit, and put on the new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-11; Galatians 6:14-15). This can only be accomplished in the light of the Lord, meaning we should constantly be in the light receiving reproof.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Why do we need cleansing (as believers in Christ) after we fellowship? True fellowship is full of light that exposes us, uncovers our sins, and brings the wicked things to the surface. The light (of Christ) always reproves us, exposes us, uncovers us so that we can repent and confess and allow the Lord to deal with unrighteousness and the unholy things that exist in our hearts.

Keeping
the
Faith

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Z lived in Iraq, a staunch Muslim nation that considered Believers in Jesus treasonous. But Jesus had drawn Z to Himself and he prayed, repented, and committed his life to Christ. The first person he told was his wife who became angry with him. She was the daughter of an Imam (Muslim leader/teacher) as well as her brother. How could her husband become an apostate and how would she tell her family? After initial kind entreaties to return to Islam, the families tactics changed to shouts, then threats, and then gunshots. Z fled and his wife refused to go with him and his two daughters were not allowed to go either. After two weeks, Z returned home only to have a grenade thrown into the living room. He fled again and this time spent six months living in a cemetery. He was starving and cold. At night he would hug rocks to block some of the frigid winds.

After six months, Z's wife C decided she would live with him despite the cultural shame of being married to a Christian since being divorced would bring more shame. She was not kind to him and took out her anger on him. Yet, over the course of the next two years, she observed firsthand as her husband lived out his faith in Jesus, in spite of great sacrifice. He lost his job, but kept his faith. He lost relations with his family, but kept his faith. C treated him poorly, pouring our her anger againt him, but he accepted her anger, returning blessing and love to her. Finally, C wanted what Z had, knowing that her family would completely cut her off. But what she saw in her husband so impressed her that she would suffer whatever she must in order to have what he had.

Craig T. Riesen

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