It was good to be back in my home pulpit on Sunday. We had an excellent service, and it was a faithful, God-centered, Christ-exalting Sunday. I’m grateful for how our people receive God’s word and join with me in the excitement of Christ. One of our elders caught me after church and said, “It looked like you enjoyed being home.” And I did.
Hope = Hard to Define:)
Hope is a challenging thing to define. I wrestled with it most of the week. Recognizing Isaiah’s certainty in the present and future, based on God’s past promises, gave me some direction. Also, seeing Isaiah’s hope in the darkness of his time and history stirred me. It made me wonder about a few things:
- It’s possible to have hope when darkness seems to rule.
- It’s possible to have hope when things don’t make sense.
- It’s possible to have hope when disaster is just over the horizon.
I’ve heard hope defined as “an expectation of a certain future” or “an optimistic expectation for a favorable outcome.” Those are undoubtedly true definitions. But what drives hope or motivates it? It’s something in the past that gives you an ‘optimistic expectation.’ I think Isaiah shows us that God’s past promises are that motivating factor. But even more specifically, I believe God’s character (which makes His promises certain) is our motivating factor.
Think about this: When hard things happen, if we think God’s character is sinister, mean, or, at minimum, can’t be trusted, that makes us hopeless. But, if we believe that God’s nature is always good, loving, and merciful, then we know that He has reasons for these hard things, and His reasons are good, loving, and merciful. Even if we don’t understand ‘why’ they’re happening. What we believe about God’s character affects our hope.
This is why a good understanding of the gospel helps us with hope. The gospel says, ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). God pursued us in our worst. The gospel says, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ’ (Ephesians 2:4). God’s love motivated Christ’s coming for us. The gospel says that God’s mercy triumphed over His judgment by fulfilling and satisfying His judgment toward us in Christ. Therefore, there is ‘no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). So, when hard things come (and they will), we, as Christians, have hope in the character of God because the gospel proves God’s character to us.
So, this week, when things come you didn’t expect…don’t just lean into God’s promises; lean into God. And let His faithful character give you hope.
Why Steady Faithfulness Matters
At the SGC pastors conference, I was recently asked about speaking on cultural issues from the pulpit. The reason for the question is that many pastors constantly feel pressure to speak about cultural things. I know of one situation where the pastoral team asked, ‘What cultural things do we need to address to our people this coming Sunday?’ I know of another case where, anytime a cultural thing happened, they wanted the pastor to immediately change whatever he was doing to speak about that cultural moment.
So, when I’ve been asked this question, my reply was that steady faithfulness matters to God and to the people you lead. Sometimes, the pastor needs to say something about a cultural moment. For example, after January 6th, 2021, I spoke briefly about the dangers our country faced, and we took time to pray for our nation. Then I took to the pulpit and preached the sermon I had planned from 2 Corinthians 4:14-21 about being representatives of Christ. I did this because speaking to cultural issues allows culture, not the Word of God, to drive the pulpit. I did this because I don’t want our people to think that the church is reactionary but rather steady and faithful. I did this because I believe that a steady, faithful diet of God’s word grows God’s people and evangelizes the lost. I believe God builds His church through the steady, faithful preaching of His word.
Now, I say this because 2024 is coming quickly. So is another Presidential Election, and I’m assuming a bit more chaos. I long for CLF to be mature, measured, and careful in handling this coming season. That starts in the pulpit. Steady faithfulness grows steady, faithful people.
Finally, on this point: I don’t think pastors should not talk about cultural things. I don’t think the Sunday pulpit is that time. Using seminars, classes, or other venues will help teach people how to apply the Bible to the culture they live in. But allowing the culture to drive the Sunday context is not a great idea, in my opinion.
This Sunday, we will continue our Advent study with Peace. We will look at Romans 5:1 and Isaiah 9:6-7.
From the Cheap Seats
- Ok, I didn’t see the blowout coming in the Civil War, even though I thought the Ducks would win. Dan Lanning has done an excellent job with the Ducks, and I think they will beat the Huskies on Friday.
- I sure didn’t want to see Jonathan Smith go. But hearing the audio of when he landed at Michigan State and him saying that he made up his mind a long time ago…yeesh.
- This is an unreal interception: https://twitter.com/DanWetzel/status/1728950290030968867
- And just in case you wondered where my mind is at right now: https://twitter.com/Rangers/status/1729198403463303633
Have a great week!