Apr 30 :: 1 Pet 1:13 :: The Character of Christian Hope

note: This sermon relied on a 'prop' - a new-in-the-box standing fan wrapped like a Christmas Present. A volunteer was called on, at the beginning and end of the sermon.

Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13 +INPFSS+


We continue our three part mini-series this week on the three theological virtues – faith, hope and love – we continue this week by looking at hope.
Hope.
Now Christian hope differs from hope in the general sense, in that our hope is already partially fulfilled. It's not something that we just “hope” exists, it's something that we have caught a glimpse of already, and are waiting for the full un-veiling that is yet to come.
To picture this – I actually have something I've never done before: I have a prop for an illustration this morning.
Can I have a volunteer?
[[[have them come up, invite them to tear a corner off of the wrapping paper, until they can apprehend what the present is. Ask them what they think the present is....have them show the exposed corner of the box. Ask if it feels like about the right weight. And have them sit back down]]]


Now THIS is a picture of Christian hope.
At some level, we know what is coming to us, but, it's still hope, right? It's not yet a present fact. It's not certain in the same way that I am certain that I am standing here, and that this carpet is brown and other certain claims. We don't know for sure that what is in the box is actually what the box claims. In fact, how many of you had this experience in childhood? I did! Of opening a present, for a birthday or Christmas, and you tear off the wrapping paper, and the box – in my case – was a box for an awesome sound system (carelessly reappropriated by the giver) and so you open the box, only to find you had been misled. That it was in fact just an old, re-used box, and the present inside, I don't even remember what it was, I just know it wasn't the sound-system I thought it was going to be.

Thankfully our God is not careless. And for the purpose of this illustration, neither am I, so, _N._, Theoretically, if I were to give you this present, what would you hope to get? [[answer]]

Right.

Again, this is the true character of Christian hope.
Now listen again to Saint Peter in his first letter. Recalling that this is the same Saint Peter who saw Jesus calm the waves of the sea, who saw Jesus killed, and saw him raised from the dead, as we've been celebrating this easter. He heard Jesus promise to come back again, and with his own eyes, he saw Jesus ascend into heaven. Having seen and heard all these things, Peter then writes,
set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It has a different quality to it, when we consider all that Peter had experienced and known for sure doesn't it? He's not saying, “Hold on to this pie-in-the-sky idea that maybe we might get to live forever, if we're lucky!” No, this would be a baseless hope. He is exhorting us to have Christian Hope.

He's saying, look, the wrapping paper is off. We've seen the box. We know what's coming!

We have seen Jesus crucified. So we now have HOPE that our sins are forgiven.
We have seen Jesus raised from the dead. So we now have HOPE that we too will be raised from the dead on the last day!
And THAT is our hope!
THIS is what Saint Peter is charging us to do: To set our hope on the last day, the great day when Jesus reveals himself to all the world, never to disappear again. When he sits down on the great Judgment seat, and every human being will be raised from the dead, and will be judged as either belonging to Christ Jesus, or not belonging to him. As either being a faithful Christian, or NOT a faithful Christian. And those found to be faithful, will receive a blissful immortality in the presence of God forever.

THAT's what we're to keep our eyes on. THAT is the grace that we hope will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. That is the full unwrapping of the gift we behold at Easter.


And when our hearts are fixed on this hope, we can, as Isaiah prophesied,
walk through rivers of trouble, 
and not be overwhelmed.
We can pass through the waters of death, 
and know that the Lord is with us,
We can walk through the fires of temptation and trial,
 and yet not be burned.

In fact, the content of our hope helps to KEEP us from falling into sin and worldliness, because we know what is coming. We know that as long as we keep following Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have hope to be rewarded, but we also know that if we don't, we won't, and it will be terrible.
    


If we abandon our hope, it would be like saying, “I don't want that present anyway”.
And if we say this, our wish will be granted, and we WON'T get the present.

set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Last thing I want to say about Christian Hope – we can clarify our understanding of it, by looking at its opposites. 
Laying all around hope, we have un-hope, which can variously be
(i) apathy, (ii) despair, or (iii) presumption.

Apathy would be saying you don't even care about the present.

Despair would be to think that for whatever reason God is going to withold the present. That somehow we have disqualified ourself from receiving it. A grave mistake, to think so little of God's mercy.
And Presumption would be like the precocious child, presuming on the Father's goodness, and saying, 'I am going to get this present anyway, so who cares if I honor my father or not”. Putting TOO much confidence in our profession of faith or anything else.

All of these – apathy, despair, and presumption, are the opposite of hope.
And they are all worldly and fleshly in their own way; in stark contrast to true hope that is spiritual, and at its root, is child-like:
To just say simply, in faith – and here we see how the three theological virtues are in fact inter-connected – in faith say, “I hope that when I die, God will raise me from the dead. I hope that when I come before the great judgment seat of Christ, my sins will be forgiven, by virtue of his blood alone.”

That is our sure and certain hope.
A hope founded on all that our savior Jesus did on Easter Day. A hope founded on what he has shown us is underneath the wrapping paper.

So, N. , let's see if your hope was founded.
[[direct to receive and open the present]]
set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Amen.