Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 6
Thesis: Hope comes only from genuine success.
Introduction: In our study last week we saw that there are two opposing "kingdom forces" that are heavily involved in our experiences. We are told plainly that God is committed to conforming us to the image of Christ. We are told just as plainly that the world is committed to forcing us into its mold. This is a recipe for enormous conflict and it inevitably leads to a third "plain revelation": we are the "third player", and it is our reactions that make the critical "tipping point" difference. There is one message in the Bible that stands heads and shoulders above all the others: without faith it is impossible to please God. A myriad of details lurks under this umbrella, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that the "tender spot" in our lives is this issue.
It was for this cause that Paul took so many pains to make as clear as possible the fact of the possibility of our having hope. This hope has two elements that are both very much alike and very different. One of those elements is what we have called the "vicarious" element: Christ doing for us what God required of us so that, by grace, we could enter into what He accomplished. The other of those elements is what we have called the "co-laborer" element: God refusing to do for us what He has required of us as recipients of His empowering grace. The "uncommon" aspect of these two elements is the issue of "vicarious" as opposed to "co-laborer". The "common" aspect of these two elements is the issue of "trust" as opposed to "independent pursuit".
Now, underlying this issue of "trust" there lurks one huge issue: the critical issue of the definition of the source of "Life". The Scriptures are very plain that God is the source of "Life", but they are also plain about the fact that this is precisely where the smoke on the battleground is the greatest. It is a great consternation for all of us that we are continually deluded by the smoke and noise of the battle into thinking that "Life" would be both "better" and "ours" if we were simply out of the battle. Mark this down: to the degree that we want to be "out of the battle" we are being conformed to this world. It is a major characteristic of this world to want to have all of the privileges of victory with none of the demands of the conflict. It is for this cause that Paul immediately began to address his attitude toward his "tribulations" in Romans 5:3. As soon as he had established the reality of what we have by the "vicarious" methodology, he turned to the reality of the inescapable battle and began to address the "victor's mentality". And, the bottom line in the victor's mentality is the issue of whether we have a clear-eyed focus upon the "Source of Life" or have smoke-filled eyes, and noise-filled ears, that have left us both wounded and confused about the promise of "Life". Our bodies scream at us: Life would be yours if I didn't hurt. Our souls scream at us: Life would be yours if there wasn't so much conflict. Our spirits scream at us: Life would be yours if I could just be the center of the universe. And God whispers to us: Life would be yours if you would trust Me.
This evening we are going to press on in our study to see how to "trust" in the midst of the warfare. A fundamental aspect of the warfare is expressed by Psalm 91:7. How could God make this promise to His Anointed in the face of reality? Do you realize that the Christ Who was crucified was the primary target of the promise? How does that work? We are going to attempt to see the answer this evening.
February 28, 2006
- I. The "Process" of Hope.
- A. It is initiated by the "vicarious" work of God.
- 1. He does all the work necessary to bring us to "birth".
- 2. He requires nothing of us for the "birth" except a cessation of resistance to His Promise.
- B. It is carried beyond birth by the "co-laboring" of the Spirit, Who is given to us by God, and our souls, which are the only aspect of our being that is going to survive death.
- 1. The movement beyond birth is a movement toward maturity.
- 2. The movement toward maturity requires an understanding on our part that energizes our cooperative labor with God's Spirit.
- a. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that even the Son could not "escape" the "process of hope".
- 1) He was a "perfect" baby.
- 2) But there was no maturation except by "tribulations".
- b. Romans 5:5 tells us that we, like the Son, only get to the reality of "hope" by the same process.
- 1) No baby ever achieves maturity by being allowed to capitalize on having others do for it what it needs to do for itself.
- a) A certain amount of screaming and crying is allowed for those things which it cannot do for itself.
- b) But no amount of screaming and crying will eliminate the inescapable fact that growth only comes from diligence in labor.
- c) The greatest mistake that parents ever make may well be to do for their children what they should have to do for themselves...giving them freely what should only be earned. The greatest temptation for parents is to think that because they have an abundance, their children ought to be relieved of the difficulties of labor. The most blessed children in the world are those of parents who are too poor to indulge them.
- 2) It is no accident that every culture that progressed toward abundance has been destroyed by the flabby laziness of the pampered offspring of its laborers.
- 3. The understanding that energizes our cooperative effort with God's Spirit has these parts...
- a. An exulting in the midst of our tribulations instead of a longing to have none.
- b. A deeply entrenched recognition that tribulations are the mechanism of maturity.
- c. An embrace of God's objective -- to be conformed to the image of Christ -- that energizes a warfare against being poured into the mold of this world.
- d. A developing skill in waging the warfare -- occasional "victories" that lead to consistent "victories" (steadfastness).
- e. A developing character that makes hope blossom fully: there is no "hope" that arises from "failure"; hope only arises from "success", and "success" only comes to those who learn to succeed by both failure and success.