Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

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HOPING AGAINST HOPE

In Romans 4 Paul said of Abraham that he “hoped against hope”. What does that mean? I’m sure you know it means that when everything around him and in him said there was no reason to believe that what was promised [and what he sorely wanted] would take place that he went on in faith believing that the promises would be fulfilled.

It’s not only easy to admire the old man, it’s right for the soul to stand and applaud him. It is right to do that! God said he was proud of him for that kind of faith [Hebrews 11:13-16] so we don’t need to apologize for commending gallant people who live marvelous lives under years of trial.

Nevertheless, we need to keep in mind the kind of God that God must be to enable these people to say no to the harsh “”facts” of life. The old man’s faithful hoping for a glorious future was grounded in the God who came to him one day and said, “I have something more wonderful in mind than centers of power like this great metropolis [Ur] and I want you to be a part of it and a sharer in it.” Don’t ask me to explain precisely how such a God can bring people as ordinary as us to believe such words and strike out for a new world but he’s doing it even now long after Noah and Abraham and such people.

Romans 4 tells us that Abraham’s living hope for the future he looked for was based on his conviction that God could call things into existence that did not exist and that he could bring throbbing life out of death. Once more, the man’s faith is a lovely thing we must and should admire but what are we to say of the God who generates such a gallant faith?

Paul goes on in Romans 4 to say of the NT elect that their faith too, like Abraham’s, was grounded in the truth that God could raise the dead. The God who enabled Abraham’s old body and Sarah's dead womb to bring life to Isaac and who would have raised Isaac from the dead [see Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11:17-19] is the God who brought Jesus from the dead.

It is the resurrecting power of God that overcomes Death. Death is the supreme denial of hope. It is the final enemy, working with all its attendants like disappointment, illness, oppression, cemeteries, funeral homes and long black limousines—it is the final voice that would drive us to hopeless despair. Resurrection is the death of Death.

But the resurrection of Jesus is more than a promise that we will live after death and that one day we will be raised immortal. Jesus claimed his death was both a sentence being passed on “the world” [that is, reality as it has been restructured by Sin] and the casting out of Satan [John 12:31-32] and the resurrection proclaims that Jesus was vindicated. For all those embraced in the redeeming work of Jesus, Satan is a spent force and “the world” has been dismantled.

Satan no longer functions as if he were lord over us! “The world” no longer functions as the realm in which the redeemed live. There’s a new Lord and there’s a new creation that is even now grasped by faith and one day these present glorious realities will be the personal experience of all who are redeemed by the gracious God who has come to us in and as Jesus. The NT elect are said to be born again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead [1 Peter 1:3] and 1 Peter 3:21 insists that they are saved by baptism by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

She's a great sinner. That's a fact.

He’s a great Savior. That’s a fact too.

All the things that kill hope that is based on economic prosperity or political stability or military supremacy or health and fitness or marital bliss or scientific progress—all the things that kill hope based on these are powerless against hope that’s built on the resurrected Lord Jesus. Sin and sickness and finally death bring an end to hope based on our race to save ourselves and stay ahead of the game. The Lord Jesus has dealt with all of those brutal facts and offers a living hope that doesn’t die and that won’t shame us in the end [Romans 5:5].

There are those who remind us that we simply can’t get around the facts but some of us have been privileged to come to faith in One who was always “getting around” the facts by introducing other facts! Himself, for example!

    A competent doctor says:
It's cancer; inoperable; it's week, months at best.”  Who can deny that fact?

   But he who has risen from the dead to die no more says,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those that believe on me though they die they will live. 

That’s a fact!

    Checkmate!

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan