Hope itself is sort of like this blog over the last year and a half. It is sometimes strong, sometimes flickering and sputtering, sometimes going out completely, sort of like those trick birthday candles that blow out and then come back.
It’s been a very complex time in our lives. Everything in this world has become very strange and confusing. Christians are not exempt from experiencing those things. Old landmarks, old trusted institutions, churches, people we admired or followed, all of the old is rocking and shaking and changing.
News last week of a big name pastor among far-right fundamental Baptists who got caught after sexual involvement with a 16-year-old girl he had been counseling really wasn’t much of a surprise. What would once have been shocking is almost not shocking anymore as the sad news that yet another big name has crashed and burned in the middle of a double life made headlines.
Christian rhetoric and high external “standards” can be the ultimate smokescreen for the reality of our lives. It is very easy to appear to have our spiritual lives together if we spout the right phrases, quote a few verses, stay clean cut in appearance and windex our “windows” that people see. But internal rot cannot be hidden forever. It will be revealed in time.
There is a passage of Scripture (Jesus’s words in Matthew 24:12) that talks about how in the last days of history, the love of many Christians will grow cold because sin is so rampant. It is happening before our eyes. These evil times have even the most devout Christians looking around, trying to make sense of the senseless ruin in so many lives of professing believers. I say senseless, because it is difficult to understand how we could hold the cure for it in our own hands or promote the cure to others while ignoring it in our own lives.
This is the time when hope can flicker in our own hearts and lives. The primary problem is that a relationship with a doctrinal position is not the same as a relationship with Jesus. Rectitude in your theological position is not the same thing as having the Spirit of God within, convicting of sin, creating new life in the old person.
We are told what the fruit of the Holy Spirit looks like. There is no mystery here. And there are no special exemptions for those who have done enough spiritual work to get a free pass on a fruit check.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…(Galatians 5:22-23)
The hallmark of believers is love for others. We are told in plain terms what that love looks like.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
~ I Corinthians 13
There is no way in ourselves that we can have that kind of love. Hurt creates resentment and bitterness. Hurt left unresolved for years can created a veritable tsunami of rage and un-forgiveness. It can wash away your very view of God. Only the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts can change this, but if we are children of the Light, this is what must happen.
The world around us is only going to worsen as the natural consequences of our culture’s and much of the visible church’s anarchy against God grows worse. Only God at work in our hearts, through His Son, can keep us in times like this. Our prayer has to be, “Lord, heal us, and we shall be healed. Rescue us from the tidal wave of sin and wrong reactions to the filth and destruction around us. We can’t handle it on our own.”
There is another part to this, however. My favorite music is sacred music. The opening lines of Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn is the great chorus singing, “Help, Lord!” The idolatry of God’s people had brought them drought and ruin. God showed himself at Mt. Carmel in a powerful way, the prophets of Baal were destroyed, and God was returned to His rightful place in their hearts. This is the area God, I believe, wants his people to address. We have to tear down these high places of idolatry, and then our prayers for healing spiritually will be answered. The healing rains of God’s deliverance will come. Only each of us individually knows if or where we have these places, but I know this: If we ask, God will answer us and point them out.
No, the Hope Blog has not completely sputtered out. The hope in my heart that has flickered and sputtered at times over the last 18 months is still here, and for that I give the Lord Jesus Christ all of the credit. He alone is the answer to our broken state, no matter how much we may want to find the cure elsewhere, no matter how much we want to write off spiritual answers, or walk away from the faith in the face of so much treachery and ruin.
Men and women will fail us. We will fail completely in ourselves. But Jesus never fails. He shines as our ultimate hope. Brighter than the sun at noon. Take the scales from our eyes, God, so we can see Jesus in all His glory and fall at His feet and worship.