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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:I Believe in the Christian Life of Hope
Text:LD 22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:17-5:21

Lesson: Lord’s Day 22

 

I BELIEVE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE OF HOPE

  1. Our Hope of an Empty Tomb

  2. Our Hope of Eternal Joy

 

  1. Psalm 118: 1, 5, 7, 8

  2. Hymn 74: 1-3

  3. Psalm 130: 4

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 71: 1-2

 

Words to Listen For: afterthought, sandal, millisecond, treadmill, shed

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is the world’s definition of hope?  What is the Christain definition of hope?

  2. What is Paul’s “light and momentary affliction” ?

  3. Where does hope die for the unbeliever?

  4. What does our empty tomb mean?

  5. What’s the difference between happiness and joy?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

We love the changing of seasons.  Whether your favorite season is Summer, Spring, Fall, or Winter.  And when the season changes, we think back on the season that just passed.  I particularly enjoy the season of summer, especially living, as I do, in the beautiful province of BC.

In the summer, I get to take some time off.  I spend my summer times hiking, camping, surfing, and kayaking.  Enjoying forests, oceans, and of course, beaches.

And there is a certain “beach culture” that you experience, especially on Vancouver Island.  My surfing teacher, Greg, told me a lot about it.  He works at a surfing school, and he said that he LONGS for his days off, when all he does is surf all day, eat some amazing fast food, fall asleep on the beach, and do it all again the next day.  Then he looked at me and laughed, and said, “Not too different from when I’m working!  This is my life!”

I invite you to close your eyes for a second and imagine Greg’s life.

I wonder if your first reaction is the same as mine - for a second, I envied him.  A life like Greg’s is so simple, so full of pleasure, and absent of responsibility.  But Greg’s life, no matter how amazing it seems for him in his 20s, will ultimately be a life of regret and disappointment in his 40s or 50s.  Greg lives for basic, simple pleasures...but a deep and meaningful life?  Making a real difference, feeling a sense of accomplishment as you look back on your life?  I worry that Greg will never have that, unless he makes some changes.

And we have to change our way of looking at life too, you and I.  Because, though most of us don’t live exactly like Greg, if we are honest with ourselves, we are focussed far too much on the things of this world.  We are focused on our houses, our salaries, having an amazing dinner, and having FUN.  The way that the average Christian looks at life isn’t radically different than how secular people look at it.  Most of us have lost our joy and excitement and LONGING for heaven.  We live our lives focused on worldly things, and heaven is a brief afterthought.

God is someone that we love, but from a distance.  We are not filled with that passionate, all-consuming love for our Creator and Saviour.  We don’t go to sleep dreaming of heaven, longing for that day when all of this will be made new, and Heaven and Earth will be one.

Our Christian lives seem monotonous, day after day, reading your Bible, praying for strength to make it through another day of work.

But that’s not what the Christian life is meant to be.  That’s not what eternal life is all about.

Because, you know, we already have a foretaste of what that life will be like.  We already can feel in our hearts the beginning of eternal joy.  But you and I need to wake up to it.  Let us not slumber and sleep, but open our eyes to what the Christian life should be, here and now, and the glorious life that it will one day be.

I therefore peach to you the exciting, heart-pounding, truly AWESOME gospel of Jesus Christ, under the following theme and points:

I BELIEVE IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE OF HOPE

  1. Our Hope of an Empty Tomb

  2. Our Hope of Eternal Joy

 

I believe in the Christian life of hope.

Now, as a congregation, we have heard about hope from this pulpit a few times before, but let me remind you what it really means.  Because the WORLD uses “hope” in a very different way than the church uses hope.

Earthly hope is like how surfer Greg hopes for good waves.  Greg’s hope is the same as a wish.

He hopes everyday that there will be good waves, and sometimes there are, and sometimes there aren’t.  The strength of Greg’s hope is completely dependant on the strength of his desire. 

But heavenly hope, the way that the church should hope...this is altogether different.  For the Christian, hope is a sure and confident expectation.  A sure and confident expectation that our God will fulfill His promises.  The strength of Biblical hope is found in God’s faithfulness.

And as Christians, we must live a life of hope.  We heard that in our call to worship this afternoon -  we wait with eager longing...we wait eagerly for adoption as sons...for in THIS HOPE we were saved!

Hope is as fundamental to the Christian life as water is to the life of a fish.  But how many of us feel hopeless?  How many of us feel hopeless at times?

There are so many events in this life that can put our hope at risk.  Whether it's a pandemic, or political strife...whatever side we are on, however we think we should respond...what is common among us is the sense of hopelessness.

But that is exactly why we NEED hope.  And our God gives us hope in His Word.

Look at the hope that dominated the life of the Apostle Paul

We heard the following in our reading this afternoon - 2 Corinthians 4:17 - For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

This light and momentary affliction.  What is Paul referring to here?

It is more than just a stone in his sandal, or the pain of hunger.

As the Apostle Paul wrote these words, the cruellest emperor ever to rule was on the throne - Emperor Nero, the man who started the killing of Christians for sport, forcing them to fight gladiators in the arena, or be torn to bits by wild animals.  Paul himself would be killed at the command of Nero, a few years later.

It is unlikely that Paul was under house arrest when he wrote 2 Corinthians, but he had already been persecuted for his faith - thrown in jail, whipped, and stoned.

And yet, Paul calls this a light and momentary affliction.

And so it is, compared to the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

The Apostle Paul lived a life harder than most of us will ever have to live.  And yet his joy was greater than ours.  How?  How is this possible?  One word, four letters: HOPE.

Paul was not slumbering, but his eyes were open.  His eyes were open to the coming spiritual reality - a spiritual reality that is already all around us!  Because this physical world is not everything.  This physical life is not everything.

The world will tell you this - the common refrain since before the days of Paul has been: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!  We are to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of this world, because this is all that there is.

But that’s simply not true!  And while it may seem romantic and exciting, that life is more beautiful because it is short, what this lie actually does is place a big sign up over the grave: ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.  For the world, the grave is seen as the end.  Their grave, their tomb is their final resting place.  The place where hope dies.

But for the Christian…

For the Christian, our hope is not for this life only.  Our hope extends beyond the hospital bed, beyond the grave.

For we have hope in an empty tomb.

And when I say these words, “empty tomb” your mind probably runs right to the story of Easter.  When our Lord and Saviour burst through the tomb, leaving it empty, breaking the shackles of sin and death, rolling away the stone.

But the empty tomb isn’t just a description of that resurrection Sunday that changed everything, all those years ago, but the empty tomb is a description of each one of our graves.  Let me explain.

HIS empty tomb on Sunday NECESSARILY MEANS our empty tomb.  Just as death could not hold him, so too can it not hold us.  Our Lord’s Day speaks of this beautifully

My soul, after this life shall immediately be taken up to Christ my Head

For what is buried in the grave?  What is buried in the grave REALLY?  Not your loved one...just their remains.  For life has left them.  The sparkle in their eye, the working of their brain and their heart.  You’re not burying the full person.  You are not burying the soul of a Christian, for IMMEDIATELY, at the moment of death, their soul has left their body.

IMMEDIATELY taken up to Christ.  There is no break, there is no delay...though some teach there is.

There is no purgatory waiting for those whose sins have been only partially forgiven by Christ, but they need to pay for their own sins and be purified before they can enter heaven.  This idea is not found in Scripture, and does not treat the sacrifice of Christ on the cross with the reverence it deserves.

There is no purgatory, and there is no soul sleep - souls waiting in the ground, slumbering until Christ returns.  No.  Indeed our union with Christ in Heaven is immediately and instantaneous.

If Christ does not return in the next 100 years, then everyone here, you and me both, will die...  at least, our earthly life will be over.  We will seem to die, but we will not truly die.  It may look like death, but it isn’t death.  Not really.  Not truly.  For true death is the death of body and soul.  Body and soul forever apart from the God of life.

But when believers die in the Lord...there isn’t a millisecond when you are out of fellowship with your God.  Your soul goes immediately to be by the side of your Saviour.

This life on earth will become that life in heaven.  No delay.

Our souls will be immediately with our Saviour, and our graves will be empty - in a sense.  For the grave of a Christian will still contain a body.  We know that.  And the hope of an empty tomb is exactly that - not just empty of a living person, but truly empty.

For our catechism goes on - Lord’s Day 22 is not only about the SOUL, but the body too.

Not only shall my soul after this life immediately be taken up to Christ, my Head, but also this my flesh, raised by the power of Christ shall be reunited with my soul and made like Christ’s glorious body.

Because, our existence in heaven will not be that of disembodied souls.  We know this for Paul speaks of us longing to put our heavenly dwelling.  We wish, not to be UNCLOTHED (that is, free of a body, and only a soul), but we wish to be FURTHER CLOTHED (that is, with a heavenly body).

And so, while every Christian who has died in the Lord has an empty tomb, we hope and pray and long for the day when those empty tombs will be even emptier.  When the earthly bodies, stained with sin, corrupted by weakness, will be raised and transformed.  When our souls will be clothed with a heavenly dwelling - a body like Christ’s glorious body.

And you see, this is the hope that we have in Christ.  This is our Christian hope - no matter our light and momentary affliction, earthly disease cannot touch the soul.  Earthly sorrow cannot drag your soul away from Christ.  Trauma and pain, though they seem to have a lot of sway here and now - ultimately they will not stop your soul from being taken up to Christ.  They cannot stop your body from being raised and glorified, and made IMPERISHABLE.  UNDEFILED.  UNFADING.

So when we ask with the catechism: What comfort does the resurrection of the body offer you...our faces should light up with heavenly joy and hope - because this comfort is the GREATEST that anyone could ever experience.

Because our God is not a God who goes halfway with anything.  Not only is our soul washed clean by the blood of Christ through His death on the cross, but our souls have been given IMMORTALITY by His resurrection.  Our bodies will receive IMMORTALITY when He returns.  And then, with pure souls and incorruptible bodies, we will experience full eternal joy throughout eternity.  Our second point.

For so many of us, this life feels like running on a treadmill.  Continually working hard but getting nowhere - waiting for a payday that never seems to come.

We know that as Christians, we should be different...we should feel fulfillment, we should feel joy.

Our catechism says that we should...our catechism assumes that we DO

Answer 58: Since I now already feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy

So...what is this joy, and why don’t we feel it?

If I asked you how you feel most of the time...would your answer have something to do with eternal joy?  Probably not.

Your answer, like my answer, would probably revolve around work, or family. And we would say that we are busy.  Or we are stressed.  Or things aren’t quite how we would like them right now, but in a week, in a month, hopefully things will have fallen into place, and THEN things will be okay.

But that doesn’t come, does it?  Things don’t fall into place.

And so when there is a sermon that challenges you to be more joyful...this teaching is met with excuses.

     I’m too busy to be joyful.

     How can I be joyful when a family member is sick in the hospital?

     How can I be joyful when I’m dealing with chronic pain?

     How can I be joyful when I suffer with depression and anxiety?

And the problem with these excuses...the real problem is that we have confused JOY for HAPPINESS.

How can I be happy when I’m this busy?  Running around from place to place, driving kids, picking up groceries, working 12 hour days…

This is a legitimate excuse.  Being happy that you barely have time to take a breath...that’s just impossible.

Or being happy when you deal with physical or emotional trauma...smiling through the pain...that’s not logical.  You aren’t called to that by God.

But we are all called to be JOYFUL.

Because Joy is not the same as Happiness.  It’s not.

Happiness comes to us from outside circumstances.  From worldly pleasures.  We can be happy when the sky is blue and the sun is shining.  We can be happy when things go right at work or school.  When the waves are just right for surfing.

Happiness is easy.

But it’s also temporary.  Just as easily as happiness comes into our lives, it can leave again.  You have a fight with your spouse, you yell at your kids, you get drenched in a sudden downpour.  And your happiness is gone.  There are good days and there are bad days.

But JOY...Joy is deeper, joy is harder to obtain, but it is stable and secure.

Joy doesn’t come from outside of ourselves...instead it is inside of ourselves...and it comes from above.  Joy, true joy, eternal joy, is what lets you be at peace even when your heart is breaking.  Joy is what you can experience when a family member or friend dies and goes to be with the Lord.  You aren’t HAPPY...you may shed many tears.  But you can still have peace and joy in your heart, because you know that they have been promoted to glory.  You know that they are freed from sin, and that one day you will see them again.

Joy is harder to get.  But when you have it, it’s there forever.

And in this life, joy is far better than happiness.  If you have to choose - choose joy.

But there will be a day when joy and happiness will go together.  When they will be bound as one.  When the outside circumstances will match the inside joy.  And that is the day that we are longing for.

It is this day that the catechism speaks of with these wonderful words:

I shall, after this life, possess perfect blessedness, such as no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived - a blessedness in which to praise God forever.

What an amazing description.  I’ll ask you again, like I did at the start of the sermon, to close your eyes for a second and imagine this life.  Imagine this perfect blessedness.

There are a few difference between this imagined life and Surfer Greg’s imagined life.

First of all, you don’t have Greg’s life, and you never will.  But this life, this life promised to us in our catechism, this life promised to us in the Word of God...we are sure and confident that this will be our experience one day.  We hope for it with the strength of Christian hope.

This life is different than Greg’s because it is real for us, and it is different because it is ultimately fulfilling.

This life is FOREVER.  A life of eternal joy.

We can’t really wrap our minds around the concept of eternity, we can’t quite picture how it will look - will the streets really be gold?  Will the gates really be pearls?  Will we spend our time on the new earth, or in the New Heavens...we don’t know.

We don’t know what is figurative language and what is literal about these promises, but we know that they are TRUE.  And what we know for certain is that we will never again be separated from God.

Because the true joy of the life everlasting isn’t found in the golden streets, or in the strength of our new bodies.  These things will be glorious and wondrous...but they are simply gifts.

Our true joy isn’t found in the gifts, but in the GIVER.

The true joy of heaven is that the dwelling place of God is with us once more.

He will dwell with us and we will be His people.

God Himself will be with us as our God.

And right now, right now on this earth, where our happiness is lacking because of the pain of sin...let it not take away our joy too.  Let us not rob ourselves of the hope that is ours.

Because right now, we have a foretaste of that joy.  We have a foretaste of the joy that is to come - when we are singing God’s praises in church, and we sing your favorite psalm or hymn, and you aren’t distracted by anything else...when your heart feels light as you read God’s Word and feel the Spirit move...we have a tiny fraction of the joy that is set before us.

And beloved congregation, let this foretaste reawaken that hope in you.  Do not be deaf to what is coming.  Do not live a life focused on this world, but instead, let your eyes be heaven-focussed.

Because as Christians, we have been saved.  We have been saved FROM sin, and we have been saved FOR glory.  Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, endured the cross and despised its shame, because He was looking forward to the glory yet to come.  His eyes were focused on God’s glory. His eyes were focussed on your salvation - the salvation that He was accomplishing.

So people of God, share in the joy of your Saviour.  Share in the foretaste of the joy of your God.  Wake up to the passionate, all-consuming love that God has for us, and that we should have for Him.  Go to sleep dreaming of heaven, longing for the day when all of this will be made new.  And above all, live lives of hope.

Hope in the Lord, congregation.

For with Him is steadfast love, full salvation, and blessings from above.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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