God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation––if…
Today is about the if: that one little word that makes all the difference between those who take hold of the life that God offers in His Son, and those who let it slip through their fingers.
…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
Now how does that happen? How does a person move from the hope held out in the gospel? Answer: by drifting with the tide of his/her surrounding community.
I recently listened to a podcast by a church analyst named Tom Rainer, who said something really relevant to this issue: “Those who have no religious affiliation are growing in number, and what that means is that cultural Christianity is ending.”
Now that’s a simple statement, and a pretty obvious one, but just think about what it means. Cultural Christianity is ending. There was a time, not too long ago, when people came to church, when people called themselves Christians and aligned themselves with the teaching of the Bible because that was the culturally acceptablething to do. But now that is changing; cultural Christianity is coming to an end. And what that means is that unless you dig in, unless you take active ownership of your faith, you will begin to drift.
And the thing is, you won’t even notice it at first. You’ll just be doing life, going to work, going to school, hanging out with your friends and family, and suddenly you’ll look up and six months will have passed without you having spent significant time with God. Your thoughts on moral issues will drift with the thoughts of popular culture, and before long you’ll be in such a haze that you won’t even remember what it was like to really know God.
So what are the signs? What can you look for as warning signs in your life to let you know you’re beginning to drift? Two things:
- Weakening in your hope in Jesus, and
- Weakening in your work for Jesus.
Let’s take these in order. Weakening in your hope in Jesus. A lot of people would say their hope is in Jesus. But it’s one thing to say that, and it’s another to feel it. It is such a strange and foreign thing, I think, to truly hope in the news about Jesus. Living in a culture where you do what’s good for you and I do what’s good for me, we become desensitized to the reality of God’s moral standard, and the idea of sin seems archaic and distant, even as it cuts us off from real life with God. Why hope in a Saviour who died for your sins when you don’t feel the reality of your sin?
So that’s the first warning sign: weakening in your hope in Jesus. You might say your hope is in him, but when it comes to the level of feeling and of living, really you’re hoping in money or the approval of others, or some other shifting thing.
What’s the second warning sign, to let you know you’re drifting? The first was weakening in hope in Jesus, and the second is weakening in work for Jesus.
Now I can just feel some of your theological antennae coming up when I say that, because you’re thinking, “We’re saved by grace and not by works.” And that’s true, that’s something the author of this passage says in another place in the Bible. But I want to show a different passage to you right now. It comes at the end of one of my favourite chapters in the entire Bible, which is the resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15.
In this chapter, Paul talks about how the death and resurrection of Jesus are the foundation we stand on, the thing we are to stand firm in and hold fast to, by which we are being saved. But at the end of that chapter, he has a “therefore” sentence: the practical conclusion that flows out of the resurrection. Here’s what he says, in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
There is a kind of pretend hope that leaves you passive rather than steadfast. But real hope makes you active. It gives you energy. It makes you want to burn your wick down to the bottom for that thing that you hope in. But we want to be careful here; hope in Jesus doesn’t lead you to burn yourself out trying to earn your way to God. No, Jesus did that for us, in his death on the cross. But do you know what real hope in Jesus does? It is an energizing thing. Real hope in Jesus doesn’t lead you to try to earn your life with God; instead, it leads you to spend your life for God.
So go deep in your hope in Jesus! Dig down in prayer and the study of his word. Give yourself to the work of sharing him with others. Answer that “if” beginning right now!
Pastor Daren Redekopp
p.s. Once again this Sunday we’re going to go at it Bible-study style; so if you have a Bible, bring one. And if the weather is friendly, bring a picnic for afterwards!