Our Future Hope Gives Us Reason to Work Today

Take note of the last lines of 1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter, Paul has gone on and on about the resurrection of Jesus and how our faith hangs upon that fact. Because Jesus lives we are assured a blessed future. Our weak and corruptible bodies will be transformed in a flash. Because Jesus lives, so will we. But that future tense doesn’t mean the Christian life is gazing off on the horizon. We do look ahead and can sing a triumphant song, as Paul does, because in Christ we have the victory. But in Christ we still live our lives in the present. Paul writes:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

He says “therefore” showing that this line is building upon the truth of the resurrection and our future hope. Because we will be made new in Christ, we now work for the Lord in all we do. The Christian hope does not remove our responsibilities for this life. Rather it should give us all the more reason to work for Christ’s kingdom today, knowing that such labor will never be in vain.

Hope Fulfilled Around the Throne of God

We see a powerful image of what life with God will be like, and in these verses are wonderful promises of Jesus truly fulfilled. Jesus, the bread of life, told us that if we come to him we won’t hunger and if we believe, we’ll never thirst. He said that he is our good shepherd. He offers us living water. Our lives are hidden within him, finding shelter there. Such hope is wrapped up in the scene around the throne in chapter seven:

They are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Job’s boldness to cry out “my Redeemer lives”

Job 19 includes what are probably the most familiar lines from the whole book. Verse 25 says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” It is a powerful line and in it we see the hope, similar to what I wrote last week, of Christ. But it is all the more powerful given the context. Job boldly says that he does have a redeemer. He says this redeemer lives and this redeemer is spoken of in relation to Job one day seeing God. But all this he says in his dire circumstances. Earlier in the chapter Job has said this:

All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?

Life has been bitter to Job. He has called out hoping to meet death, wishing the day on which he was born was taken from history. The ones who should be close seem far, the ones who should love hate, and Job says even children despise him. Yet even as his world seems to crumble Job is able to find the strength to say, perhaps the strength to believe, that there truly is a redeemer. He does not let his circumstance dictate truth. God is God even when life is painful. We have hope even when there seems to be no hope for us. Even in the midst of sin and death we have one who redeems us from such slavery and who will usher us into the presence of God.

More on Colossians 1

I put up the picture inspired by Colossians 1 on Monday, but I did so without explanation. So I thought today I’d talk more about what I see going on in the opening of the chapter. Paul writes beginning in verse three:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

You may have noticed by now that Paul likes to use long sentences. This is one good reason to slow down and make sure you’re understanding what he writes. The picture from Monday centers in on ‘hope’ and I did this because although it comes later in the passage, we hear that it is a cause for the faith and love about which Paul has heard. Their hope–their goal, their promise–spurs them on to have greater faith in Christ and to spread his love to others. Christians who journey toward the goal, who are bound to the hope we have in Christ, should exhibit in that journey the characteristics that arise from that hope: love and faith.

Later in verse five Paul tells of where this hope is found, that is in the word of truth, the gospel. These words have power as they have not only taken hold in these Colossian believers, but in the whole world. Where the gospel is sown it bears fruit and this fruit is faith, hope, and love.

The Colossians know what their end will be, they have their hope, and they are exhibiting the marks of followers of Christ, faith and love. But Paul then goes on to pray for them so that they may know best how to live. They are already trusting Christ and loving the saints, but he wants them to excel in it. Paul wants them to know what faith and love will continue to look like, so he writes:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Christians surely know we should have faith, hope, and love. What can be difficult is having the wisdom to know not only the what but the how. This is Paul’s prayer. He wants them to know God’s will for them and to have the wisdom to discern how to follow his will. This is not an endeavor to begin alone so we need the strength of God’s power to endure this life, and to do so with patience and joy.

Even though Paul gives thanks to God when he thinks of his fellow Christians, for their love and faith, he reminds his reader that this is not something we’ve achieved on our own, rather it is the Father who has qualified us to receive all we have.

Keep reading Colossians and you’ll see a beautiful picture of Christ and what he has done for us, and how what he has done is sufficient for all we’ll ever need.

The Incredibility of the Resurrection

In Mark 12 the Sadducees confront Jesus with questions about resurrection. They create a complicated hypothetical involving seven brothers, no children, and a wife who had been passed along once these brothers die in succession. They ask Jesus whose wife will this woman be? It is a bizarre question, and it is being asked by Sadducees who in fact deny the truth of the resurrection. They either want to trap Jesus or make resurrection out to be a ridiculous belief.

But Jesus replies saying that they really don’t know what they’re talking about. They know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. These deniers of the resurrection do not understand the resurrection at all.

This got me thinking back to an article I read a couple years ago. Christians do not deny the resurrection, we affirm it. But do we understand it any better than the Sadducees? Do we think about what happens after we die? Do we think about the resurrection of the dead? A bodily resurrection like that of Jesus?

Resurrection is a key belief in Christianity, and it is right there in the creeds that we recite. But do we get our understanding from God and his word or from pop-culture and its movies and books?

This article, which I originally read in a Newsweek, waiting at the doctor’s office, can be found here (Daily Beast). It looks at that tension that people have in which they believe in an afterlife, but have trouble with a bodily resurrection. But, as the article ends, “Resurrection may be unbelievable, but belief in a traditional heaven requires it.”

As the title says, the resurrection is incredible. You can read it two ways. The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are not credible nor is the belief that our fate is the same. Or you read it as saying the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, signifying the death of death for all who believe in him, is simply a wonderful truth and cause for great hope.

Minimal Art for Numbers

Do you know those motivational posters folks hang up in their offices that say things like “ACHIEVEMENT” or “COURAGE”? Well, this edition of the minimal art from the Bible taken from the site, Being RKP, could have hung on the walls of the people in Numbers. What are we doing in the desert? What is all this wandering for? Then they look at this poster and buck up. It’s an Israelite motivational tool.

MILK AND HONEY, “Taste and See that the Lord is Good.”

As hokey as those posters can get, it is good to be reminded of our purpose and our goals. We should not walk aimlessly through life, but should always hold before us the hope that we have in Christ and seek to be obedient to his call upon our lives. The Israelites lose sight of goals and of their past, and in so doing are tossed about by the influences of the nations surrounding them.