All My Hope is In Jesus
I grew up in an Independent Baptist church in South Florida. I loved my church, they were kind and good intentioned people, they loved God and loved each other, but that was where it ended. Their philosophy was, if you aren’t us, you are wrong! They had that “Us four and no more” mentality. Their view of church unity was that our little church needed to be united against sin. Well, that didn’t go very well for us because, like so many other churches with that mindset, we had church splits, and feuding among the members…we weren’t very united even among ourselves.
We see that same attitude among the Hebrews of the Bible. Look at Ephesians 2:11-12. This passage comes right after Paul talked about salvation being by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith and how we are God’s masterpiece. These two verses say, “11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.” See there? Paul is saying that, up until that point, the Gentiles had been pushed out by religion. But here is the real question, how many people today are still being pushed away from God by religion? Religion ostracizes unsaved people for their sin. It judges them and tells them that God hates them. The fact is that God doesn’t hate anyone. He doesn’t hate homosexuals, He doesn’t hate Muslims, He doesn’t even hate criminals or murderers. God hates their sin, but He still loves the sinner.
A great example of how religion pushes away sinners is the town where we planted a church back in Florida. We kept meeting people who were struggling with addiction and would ask them why they didn’t go to any of the four churches in town. Every time the answer was that they didn’t feel welcome at any of them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that any of those church people were intentionally trying to make the addicts feel unwelcome, but their religion was.
Here’s the thing, sinners will sin! We can’t push them away for sinning, if we do that they will never come to Christ. Now, that being said, we can’t water down the gospel either. We must preach the truth about sin but not make the sinner feel ostracized for their sin, we must preach the truth in love as it says in Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” We must stand strong against the sin but love the sinner.
Let’s take a look at the parable of the Great Feast in Luke 24. If you remember this parable, the master was throwing a big feast and invited all of his friends. When the day of the feast came, his servant went out to bring his friends in. The servant came back with the message that these so-called friends all gave excuses why they couldn’t attend. Then, in verses 21 through 24 we see, 21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” This is a picture of heaven but notice that when he sent them out to bring in the poor, cripple, blind and lame, he didn’t say to clean them up first. The same thing happened when they went back into the country lanes and behind the hedges. He just said to bring them to Him, in fact he said to beg them to come in. He didn’t tell us to clean them up first, that’s His job. The Gentiles were only able to come to Christ after the walls of religion were brought down and they were able to see the love of Christ in the believers.
But, he didn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them.” Do you see that? Because of religion, the Gentiles never knew God’s love. I have to ask again, how many people today miss out on God’s love because all they see in the Church are people who fight amongst themselves and look down their nose at everyone else?
Some think that God restricted salvation to the Hebrew people in the Old Testament, but we know that this isn’t true. Look at Rahab, she not only was able to come to God, but even ended up in the lineage of Jesus. We don’t see many of these examples in the Old Testament because religion kept the Gentiles out, but there are some.
This verse ends by saying, “You lived in this world without God and without hope.” What a desperate place to be. Living without God IS living without hope because all hope is in Christ, take a look at Colossians 1:27, “For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you the hope of his glory.”
When I was a child, I got lost in one of the Smithsonian museums while on a family vacation in Washington, DC. I was only 5 years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was probably only a minute or two before they found me, but it seemed like an eternity. We have probably all been there at some point in our lives, so you know that feeling of hopelessness. Wondering if they will ever find you.
The beauty is that in Christ we have the Hope of His Glory. All our hope is in Christ! I want to leave you this week with the lyrics to a song by David Crowder.
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood