Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if any of you do not have them, you are nearsighted and blind, and you have forgotten that you have been cleansed from your past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
—2 Peter 1:1-11 (TNIV)
The season of Advent began this past Sunday. Advent comes from the Latin, Adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” It is a season of reflection and anticipation in which we reflect on our Lord’s first coming in human weakness and humility in the Incarnation, and anticipate his return in great power and glory to finish the work he started in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. On Sunday we lighted the first candle on the Advent wreath. It is the candle that signifies hope and this week I want to focus on that particular Christian virtue.
What exactly is the basis for Christian hope? There is a two-part answer to this question. Christians base our hope on what God has already done for us and what he promises to do at some point in the future. Today, I focus on the former.
In our most honest moments, when we reflect on God and the nature of our relationship with him, many of us get quite discouraged. Like David in Psalm 51, we know our transgressions only too well and our sin is ever before us. We wonder how God could ever bring himself to forgive the likes of us and in the process we can easily lose hope.
But that is not the story of the Good News. It is precisely during these moments of doubt and despair that we must remember the symbol of God’s justice. It is not the scales of justice in which we get the punishment we deserve. If that were the case, none of us would have the basis for any legitimate hope at all. No, the symbol of God’s justice is the Cross. As Peter reminds us in today’s Scripture, God himself entered our history as Jesus of Nazareth and on the Cross bore the punishment for our sins himself. He did this because he loves us and created us to have a relationship with him, not for the duration of our earthly lives, but forever. Consequently, we are redeemed by the Blood of Christ and declared not guilty in God’s sight. That is the basis for our hope. On the Cross, God has made the impossible possible and it is a sheer act of grace on God’s part. None of us deserve it, but God wants us to have it.
If you are struggling with the basis of your Christian hope (or have none at all), take a minute right now in the midst of your busy day and ask God to give you the grace, wisdom, and faith to believe his promises to you. If you do not know the story of God’s love for us in Jesus, resolve to learn the Story. Our hope is a hope worth embracing because it is the only real hope we will ever have. Spend the time you need to embrace it and persevere at doing so.
The basis of our hope as Christians is not about us, but about the amazing love of God and his passionate desire for each one of us to have a relationship with him, now and forever. That is why he took on our flesh and died for us. Embrace your hope, not because you deserve it (you don’t), but because it is God’s amazing and gracious gift to you. Keep reminding yourself of this so that the Evil One cannot use the circumstances of your life or your infirmity to rob you of it.
Tomorrow we will look at the future basis of our Christian hope.