07 Jul 2019
God is a God of hope! He works to fill His people with glorious hope in the glorious Christ. Life is hard. This world is broken. Man is born unto trouble. And we all need hope. Someone said, "Human beings can live for forty days without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. But we cannot live for four seconds without hope. " In fact, one of the reasons why Hell is Hell is because it is where there is absolutely no hope! So find out how God is working in your life to give you hope, a hope that looks beyond the grave. A solid, assured hope that is not looking to the here and now, but to the eternal, celestial city promised by God. A hope that ushers in eternal ever-increasing joy and glory in the land of "no more's" (no more sin, no more pain, no more death, no more separation. . . ) with our God. Jesus is our Hope! Find out more here!
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Last week, I ended the sermon with a reference to a song, a song that I wish I would have played at my funeral. And the song is - Jesus, I, My Cross Have Taken. This week, I begin with another song, a song called, “There Is A Hope”. And someone told me after the first service, “You like ‘Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken’ for your funeral, I want ‘There Is A Hope’ for my funeral. And there's a beautiful link actually between discipleship to Jesus and the hope in Christ.
You see, this song tells us, “There is a hope that burns within my heart, that gives me strength for every passing day; A glimpse of glory, now revealed in meagre part, yet drives all doubt away.” Second stanza says, “There is a hope that lifts my weary head, a consolation strong against despair. That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit, I find the Saviour there.”
Following Jesus is not a walk in the park. It is not easy because following Jesus requires us to die to self, to deny ourselves and to take up the cross. It's not easy to die unless you find that there is hope that I will live. So, discipleship to Jesus requires a clear glimpse at the glory that is to come. So that's what we are looking at in Matthew chapter 17.
Matthew 17 is about the glimpse of the glory of Christ. It is strategically placed right after the teaching about discipleship to Jesus. As I’ve said because discipleship to Jesus requires a firm hope in the glorious Christ. So in this passage, we are going to hear, we are going to read about how Jesus, how God fills the disciples with great hope.
And so the big idea in this story is simple : God works to fill his people with hope in the glorious Christ for effective discipleship.
Now, you must understand the background, Jesus had just dropped a bombshell, “I am going to Jerusalem to die. I will be killed. I will be murdered.” And even though the Bible has always given hints that the Saviour must die, the disciples have not really come to terms with that. So, when Jesus told them very plainly, “I am going to Jerusalem, to be killed.” They were shocked. They were caught off guard. They couldn't take it.
So Peter, for example, took this news very badly. He took Jesus to the side and rebuked Jesus and says, “This must never happen to you!” And I can imagine the turmoil in his heart, the fears in his heart, the despair that is going on in his heart. He must be feeling lost and defeated. “Oh no! Our Saviour, our Master is going to die. What's going to happen to us?”
And it's in the light of that dark difficult period that Matthew 17 shines a bright light. God is now going to work to fill his people with hope in the glorious Christ that they may then be able to follow Him. So, what's the story? Well, it's a very simple one. You have just read. Let me take you through the verses before crystallizing some learning points.
The Bible tells us, Jesus now brings them on a little excursion, a little expedition, a little hiking trip. It is said in Matthew 17:1, “After six days, Jesus took with Him Peter, James, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” So, He did not take all of them, He took just a select few. These three are part of the inner circle with Jesus. There are 12 apostles, but they're actually layered in different degrees of proximity to Jesus. These three are the closest to the Lord Jesus Christ.
You read of them when Jesus healed Jairus' daughter. You read of them together with Jesus here at the Mount of Transfiguration. And then you read of them, with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. So, Jesus took His closest disciples and they went up a high mountain.
Now Singaporeans, we are very familiar with mountains, right? We have Mount Alvernia, Mount Elizabeth, Mount Faber, Mount Sinai, ay… Mount Vernon. We are familiar with mountains. Of course not! We are not that familiar with mountains! We don't have a mountain here in Singapore. The nearest we have is Bukit Timah Hill and that is so short.
I, I had a hike up the hill with my sons, just two weeks ago. We took about 25, 20, 25 minutes and we got to the summit. It's that easy! But I think this trip up the mountain is not that easy. First of all, it's not a hill, it's a mountain.
Number two, it's not just a mountain, it's a high mountain. Number three, you must realize going up Bukit Timah Hill is straightforward because there are roads paved for us but in those days, I doubt very much there are any roads paved for them.
So, this is a long, high probably difficult trip up the mountain. And one thing I learned about mountain climbing, if you have been mountain climbing before, I guarantee you this - you will remember, every single mountain trip you've had. Why? Because it is hard, it is not easy, a lot of effort is put in. So, this must be quite a memorable story for Peter, James, John.
So, Jesus took this inner circle up the mountain to pray. Luke 9:32 tells us so, and when they got up, I think it was such a difficult trip that, “The disciples were now heavy with sleep.” They were tired. I also suggest to you perhaps this is not in the bright noon day sun, but this is maybe in the evening, at night already.
So after a long trip, you're probably tired, it's dark at night, they fell asleep. But Jesus was not asleep, Jesus kept on praying. And the Bible tells us, “And as He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered and His clothing became dazzling white…” [Luke 9:29] So something miraculous, something supernatural, something totally unexpected took place. The carpenter's son is now changed in His appearance, verse 2 of Matthew 17 says, “He was transfigured before them.”
The Greek word is the word, ‘metamorphoo’, which is to say to transform, to change from the inside out. A word that you would use for maybe the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly. So, there was a transfiguration, there was a transformation. Jesus was altered in His appearance before them, “… and His face shone like the sun.”
I mean you must picture this, it is probably pitch dark there. There are no streetlights at night in those days. In the middle of the night when everything was dark, there is this bright radiance that came from Jesus.
I used to watch a movie many years ago, 1985. That's a long time back, right? I remember this movie called, ‘Cocoon’. Some of you, yes? And anybody knows Cocoon? All the old fogies. Oh, no, no, no, no, like myself … okay the older group. You remember the show, ‘Cocoon’, where it's about some aliens coming down to earth. And how they strip away the outer skin and the inner alien brightness shines. That's what I thought of! But I'm not sure if that's the case at all, it is just the brightness shines right through.
Now, you could also recall another person in the Bible, whose face shone. His name is? Moses. That's right! It's recorded in Exodus 34 and second Corinthians 3. Moses spent 40 days with God in the holy mount and when it was over he came down and met with Israel and they were all stunned. They, they could not look at Moses because he was so shiny.
So, you don't really need SKII, you just need to go up mountain a bit and your face will shine. But it was so shiny that he had to put a veil upon his face. But even then, I think the face of Moses will not shine as brightly as that of Jesus because I think Moses’ glory was a reflected glory. Possibly like that of the moon, receiving the light from the sun. But the brightness of Jesus was I'm sure far greater. “His face shone and His clothes became white as light.” [Matthew 17:2]
So, the disciples, at night sleeping, now realize that there's a brightness radiating around them and they woke up and saw the brightness of Christ. But that was not all because right after that, we read, “Behold, there appeared to them, Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus.” [Matthew 17:3]
So, there's the bright radiance coming from Christ, then, there were two men. Now, I wonder how they know that the two men were Moses and Elijah. Last time, they don't have photographs, right? How, how do you know it's Moses, Elijah? And I don't think they wore name tags. “Hi, I'm Moses.” I think probably in their conversation, they must have heard that this guy is Moses, that guy is Elijah.
Can you imagine how exciting it was for the disciples. “Wow! Our ancestors! Wow! Our revered ones! They are here with Christ.” How exciting it is! What were they talking about? ‘Jia ba buay’ [have you eaten in Hokkien dialect]. Probably not, because Luke 9:31 tells us they were talking, “speaking of His departure of the death of Jesus which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
So, this was a marvellous sight! Christ in absolute splendour and glory, in royal majesty. Then two men, revered leaders in time past, speaking about the death of Jesus. You say, “What is this about?” I think this is probably a picture about how the law and the prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah, are agreeing that this glorious Son of God will have to die.
In other words, the death of Jesus, as was broken as news to the disciples is not a misfortune, it's not an accident. It's not an afterthought but it's exactly the plan of God, as was always revealed in Moses and in the prophets; the law and the prophets.
Now, this was the image they had and you can imagine, that's all happening. And, and you know when people are watching something and they are not very prepared for it, they feel awkward in that silence. They need to say something and so of course, our friend, Peter had to say something. So, Peter said to Jesus, “Oh Lord, it is good that we are here. This is wonderful, we love this. If you wish, we can make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, one for Elijah. How about that?” [Matthew 17:4]
And in the midst of his talking about these things, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son with whom I'm well pleased, listen to Him.”” [Matthew 17:5]
It's almost as if God is saying to Peter, “Shhh … Quiet! I know it's exciting for you to meet Moses. I know it's exciting for you to meet Elijah. You had posters on the walls about them last time, I know, but it is not about them at all.” “They are like, if you're familiar with Cantonese, ‘calefares’. They are just the extras, they are just the supporting cast. The real star is My Son. This is My beloved Son. Moses and Elijah, they merely point to My Son, so listen to Him.”
So, I think this is the second time, God pronounces, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 17:5] The first time was in Matthew 3, when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. So God is affirming over and over again together with Moses, Elijah, “Christ Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, hear ye Him.”
“When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise and have no fear. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”” [Matthew 17:6-8]
So it's clear! What is the focus? What is the key picture they must get out of this episode? It is all about the glorious Christ. What is this all about? I bring you back to the big idea. This is the story of how God works to fill his people with hope in the glorious Christ for effective discipleship. So let me break this down as I've said into digestible points, so that we can bring something away from this time.
1]. Picture of Hope
I think number one, this is a picture of hope, this story is a story of hope. You've got to slip yourself into the shoes and the skin of the disciples. As I've mentioned, just six days earlier, before this Mount of Transfiguration, they were devastated, they were depressed, they were confused, they were wondering what is happening - why is our Jesus going to die?
But now from the apparent brink of defeat, they now see victory, they see glory because Jesus is revealed to them in His Majesty. It's almost like, how you'll buy durians, right, as I've mentioned last week? Some of you are not very skilled, like myself and you're not skilled at choosing. So you, you, you say to the uncle, “Uncle, I want to buy durian but can you please open for me?”
What does the uncle do when he opens for you? In the good old days, he just gives two slits to the shell of the durian, he pries it open a bit and he says, “Nah, you see.” And when we see it's yellow creamy, not ‘han zi’ [sweet potatoe in hokkien dialect], not ‘ca, ca’ [hard in Hokkien dialect].
When it's soft, “Wah! It's a little bit creamy, moist look and then he will tell you, “Okay, take a bit.” And you, you put your finger in and just ‘gyim’ [pinch in Hokkien dialect] a bit, you cannot take the whole thing, just take a little bit and you, “Wah! Wah! This is nice, uncle, I want this one.” And this is how you buy a durian. You don't ask uncle to open everything, then you buy. You just open a little, have a foretaste of the glory of the durian and you can then buy that durian.
So Jesus as it were, is giving them … God is giving them a foretaste of the glory. Now, Jesus has not died, Jesus has not yet ascended but God is giving the disciples, hope. How? Oh, I know Jesus is going to die, but look at him! This is who He will be, who He is all along. Have a foretaste of His glory. And this image, this foretaste is unforgettable. They never forgot this scene.
I know that because in John 1:14, the Bible says, John said, “And the Word became flesh.” John, the writer is the one was with Jesus in the mountain. Later on, John said, “The Word, that is Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory.”
Have you tried ‘Pahang Mao Shan Wang’? I have tasted that glory, very good, you can go and buy. Actually, I never! But anyway, “We have seen the glory of Jesus - it's unbelievable, it's unmistakable!” Not only John but Peter corroborated when he said, “We were eyewitnesses of His glory on the holy mountain.” [2 Peter 1:16-18]
So, when they wrote the letters to the audience, to the church, they were referring to this unmistakable splendid vision of the glorious Christ. I can probably imagine John and Peter remembering the context by which they were seeing the glorious Christ. They were a depressed bunch but after they have had a vision of Christ, things were different.
I remember this story, I've said this many times, but I'm not here to entertain you, I'm here to teach and remind you, so I'll repeat the story again. England and France were at war, remember that? General Wellington led the British Army against Napoleon. After the war was over, the results of that or the outcome of the war needed to be transmitted back to the homeland in England.
In those days, don't have SMS, WhatsApp, Internet, so they did it via flashing lights at church towers. But there was a fog that interrupted the transmission of these light messages, so the message that England received at the end of the war were these two words - Wellington Defeated.
And a whole nation was plunged into despair, they were devastated - we lost! But when the fog lifted, the full message came in and one more word was added to the message, it was this - Wellington Defeated Napoleon. Everything changed! It felt like they were losing but actually there were victors.
Oh, when Jesus broke the news, “I am going to be killed”, it felt like we were losing. But now with the vision of Christ, we know we are winners. That's the glory! That's the vision! That's the picture of hope they needed to have.
So in our lives, maybe today, you're plunged into a kind of darkness. Like that dark night sky, seem helpless. But perhaps the reason why you're in church today is so that you may have a glimpse of the radiance; the brilliance; the glory of Christ, so that, you may have hope. Because some of you today, suffer from some illness, some of you suffer today from broken marital relationships, you have a difficult career. You feel like giving up in life, relationships are hard, life is hard, that's, that's where you are. But the hope is that Jesus is the victor.
Maybe today you feel like Jesus is defeated in my life. How come God is not coming through for me? How comes I'm still suffering this illness? How come I'm still in a bad family relationship? How come things are still so difficult? It feels like Jesus is defeated, but that's not the message of the Bible.
When you look at the glorious Christ, when you read of the glorious Christ, you know Jesus defeated sin and death and hell. Jesus is no loser, He is the winner! And so, I remember a Facebook post our church’s comms team put up and I thought it's appropriate for today, it is this - everything will be okay in the end, if it's not okay, it's not the end.
“What?” you say. Think about it a bit, a bit alright! I won't explain but everything will be okay in the end. Pastor, “Are you saying that if I'm handicapped because of accident, my legs will come back to be fully functional?” Pastor, “Are you saying that if my career is in a difficult situation, you will always restore my career?”
God can do that but I'm not saying, “He will definitely do that.” When we say, “Everything will be okay…”, it's not having short-term vision as if every problem here and now is solved. But the end here refers to the time Jesus returns in glory and we join Him in His glory. And it is at that point of time where everything will be okay. The hope of the Christian is not short-term in life here and now.
The hope of a Christian is that confident expectation in that time when Jesus returns. And when He returns, He brings us to a place where everything will be okay. It will really be okay! In fact, when you read the Bible, when we read a book of Revelation, right at the end, you should be excited. You should be joyous, looking forward to that time, where they'll be no more sorrow no more pain, no more tears.
Someone says it this way - heaven is a place of no mores. No more sin, no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more temptation, no more evil, no more separation, no more death, for Christ has conquered all. He's a victorious, glorious One and has purchased for all believers, ever increasing joy forever.
Oh friends, this is the hope! You may continue to live with your backache, you may continue to live with a cancer, you may continue to live with a disease, a mental problem. You may continue to live with a difficult relationship with your spouse, it might be for your whole life. And when we say, “There is hope, I'm not saying that all these immediate circumstances will automatically turn towards your favour.” But I can tell you, “Based on the Scripture, everything will be okay in the end when Jesus comes.”
The picture of hope is not a healed body now. The picture of hope is not a reconciled family, now. I hope it takes place, I wish it takes place but I cannot be sure. But I can be sure when Jesus returns, it will all be well. I'll say more about that in a while, but that's the picture. Jesus will die but Jesus will rise. That's the hope!
2]. Priority of Hope
The second thing I want you to notice from this text is the priority of hope, the importance of hope. This event, sequence of events, they, they are not accidental, they are not random. But I believe God carefully planned it, orchestrated it, to work hope in the hearts of the disciples. It is important for the disciples. That's why I think we need to see that God is the One working to fill his people with hope in the glorious Christ.
We all know hope is so vital to life. Someone anonymous, said this, “Human beings can live for 40 days without food, four days without water and four minutes without air, but we cannot live for four seconds without hope.”
It's very difficult to live life without hope. Do you know what makes hell, hell? Some people say, “It's the fire.” Some people say, “It's the darkness.” I believe what makes hell, hell, besides fire, darkness, alienation from God and so on is that there is absolutely no hope. You can't get out! There is no way out!
For me, hell in life was being in the National Service. Okay, to all the SAF people, I'm sorry. But for me, it was like, “When will this ever end?” But what this … what made it sustainable is that I know I can book out in the weekend. That was what I am looking for. For all guys, that's what they look out to, look out for, right? You look forward to, “Hey, I can book out!”
But if they tell your army is forever and ever and ever and ever and you can never get out, I tell you what, “I'll hara-kiri, already! No hope! I don't want to live!” That's what hell is. Hell is where there is absolutely no hope, it’s difficult to live. And as Christians we all need hope. We all need hope because the reality is that even if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, life is hard.
This is a broken world, sinful world, and if I may say, “Especially for Christians, life is harder because you have to deny yourself. You'll be persecuted by the world, if you are living for Jesus. It will be harder!”
And therefore God makes it a priority to fill our hearts with hope. After all, this is what the Bible calls God. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. [Romans 15:3]
God is called the God of love, the God of Holiness, God of justice, God of mercy, God of grace, but do you realize, He's also called the God of hope. Because He's the one who gives hope, and He wants you to abound in hope, not just have a little hope but to have great hope, overflowing hope.
You say, “How can I have hope today? My relative is suffering in sickness, my family is in turmoil. How can I have hope? Where, where can I get hope?” You say, “Oh, I know pastor, just as Peter, James, John was at the Mount of Transfiguration, tomorrow I'll go up to Bukit Timah Hill and wait. I pray God will show His glory to me at Bukit Timah Hill.” You try lah, you tell me next week whether he come or not. Unlikely, right! So how? I mean God did not promise He's going to meet us there.
But let me tell you where you can find hope and I think it's very certain, each time you go there. Peter said, “We ourselves heard this very voice born from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.” [2 Peter 1:18] So Peter said, “This is a real life eyewitness account. We were there, we beheld His majesty, His glory, it was exciting.”
But he also said, “Don't feel missed out. Don't, don't have FOMO - fear of missing out because even though you were not with us in the Mount of Transfiguration, we have, you have, “We all today have the prophetic Word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention.” [2 Peter 1:19]
I think what Peter is saying is, “Yes, we were eyewitnesses, we had that tremendous privilege. Hey but hey guys, you too have God's Word.” It's called the prophetic Word because it's the Old Testament that points us to the Saviour. It prophesies of the coming Saviour.
So when we go to the Scriptures, Peter is saying, “You have a sure Word. You have a sure foundation to see the glorified Jesus Christ.” Oh, not all of us will be at the mountain but all of us can go to the Bible. All of us can see Christ in the Bible and when we see Christ glorified, the Majestic Christ, it fills us with hope.
I think that's why Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days, was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” So, if you're struggling in life, you're depressed, dejected and you're trying to find hope somewhere, I tell you it's right with you in your bedroom; on your phones. It's called the Word of God.
And let me encourage you, when you read the Word of God, don't just read it for nice promises I can apply to myself. Nothing wrong with reading promises, but far more important is to read the Bible to see Jesus.
So, the last song before we have our preaching today is – ‘Show Us Christ’, at the preaching of Your Word. And I think that's what we need to do when we open the Bible to read it - Show us Christ. The Bible is about Jesus, it's not about you primarily. It talks about us but is primarily about Jesus. We need to see Jesus because it's the vision of Jesus in the Scriptures that fills us with hope.
And when you read the Bible, ask God to show us Christ. Ask God to work in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. Reading the Bible is not a mere intellectual exercise, there's a spiritual dynamic that if without the power of the Holy Spirit, there will be no hope. You understand that? When we read the Bible and we do not ask God to help us, we do not depend on His Spirit to show us Christ. We merely learn the facts and the figures and the stories but it does not touch right here [referring to the heart].
And that's why we need to pray, “God, show us Christ.” But this is great encouragement because in life, it will be difficult but I know where I can go to each and every time. I can go to the Word of God. I can pray, “God, by Your Holy Spirit work in me abundant hope so that I may abound in hope, so that I may see the Glorious Christ.”
So, this is the priority of hope that God works. And this is my trust, this is my confidence that He does not leave me comfortless but as I turned to Him in Scripture and in the Spirit, He fills my heart with hope.
3]. Power of Hope
Finally, this passage reminds me about the power of hope. As I've mentioned, discipleship to Jesus is powered by a vision of the glorious Christ filling us with hope. It's very hard to die to yourself unless you know you will live because Jesus lives. So, it's strategic that right after the teaching on discipleship, there will be a story of hope.
And that's what we sang just now or not sang, but we looked at the words just now:
There's a hope that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for every passing day;
A glimpse of glory now revealed a meagre part,
Yet drives all doubt away.
There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair …
Why? Is it that everything will turn out the way I want as if God is my genie? And I said, “Heal me and he heals me. Give me and God gives me.” Is it always that? Nope! It may be that you have to suffer. It may be that you have to live on with your disease. It may be that you have to live on with a difficult family relationship, but the hope is found when we find the Saviour there. It's a picture of the Glorious Christ at His Second Coming.
I find it sad actually that modern Christianity defines hope in God as temporal deliverances from sickness or bad circumstances or difficult relationships. It … it really is a prevalent message if you listen carefully. But the Bible gives us a more robust hope, the hope that is not about the here and now but about the life that is to come.
And actually, that's always been the case for God's people. Remember Abraham? God told him, “Abraham, leave Ur of the Chaldees. Go to a land that I will show you.” And you know something about Abraham, he obeyed. He went to the promised land, but he never possessed that land. He never! Because he was always wandering.
The Bible says, “By faith, he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” [Hebrews 11:9-10] He never built a house! He was always moving! He never rested and truly possessed the land! But you know something, Abraham's hope was not in possessing the land during his lifetime.
What was Abraham's hope? The Bible tells us, “He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Abraham's hope is in the eternal celestial city in heaven above, the place where there's no more tears, no more sorrow, no more sin, no more death, no more separation. That's faith! That's biblical hope! Not about here and now, but in the life that is to come.
Not only Abraham but others within the patriarchs of the faith. They, they died in faith. “Not having received the things promised…” [Hebrews 11:13] It's not in this lifetime, but it's fine because, “… they saw them and greeted these promises from afar.” Oh, from where they were the blessings of heaven is far away but that's good enough for them. They kept hoping and trusting in God.
How about Moses? Moses hoped in God but hope for what? Good life when he was on earth? Oh no! “Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward, reward of the things to come.” [Hebrew 11:26]
And how about, “Others who suffered mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, being killed with the sword? How about those who are destitute, afflicted, mistreated, wondering about in the deserts and mountains and dens and caves?” [Hebrews 11:36-38]
Were they suffering all these things because they believe that life will be good on earth for them? All the diseases will be eliminated? All the enemies will be eliminated? All their lives would be smooth and easy right here? Did they believe that? Oh no. “And all these, though commended through their faith did not receive what was promised.” [Hebrews 11:39]
So when Christianity, when churches, when preachers tell you, “Hope in God, life will be okay here.” I'm, I'm telling you, “That's not quite the message.” The message of the Bible is - that life here is not going to be easy. You will have to die to self, deny yourself but it's okay because when Jesus comes, it will be okay then. That's what hope is - confident expectation of all the future good God has promised in Christ Jesus.
I mean Jesus Himself did not live here hoping for a good life here but, “He looked forward to the joy that was set before Him.” [Hebrews 12:2] So, the Bible actually tells us in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
This is the Christian dynamic, not that life is easy here. Friends, if you came to church, you say, “Ah, I want to be a Christian because believe Jesus, very good, he “保佑，保佑我” [bǎo yòu bǎo yòu wǒ] he, he, he, he protects me from every harm and danger. My life will be smooth, it will be a bed of roses.” I say, “Sorry, you sign up for the wrong thing.”
I'm telling you, according to the Bible, “When you follow Jesus, you will have sufferings in this present time, in this lifetime.” But if you really follow Jesus, you will realize, you will believe, it is all worth it because , “All these sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” [Romans 8:18] And that understanding, that conviction comes when we’ jiak liu lian’ [eat durian in Hokkien dialect] every time.
When we ask, “Uncle, please open a bit?” When we open the Bible, oh! you taste a bit, “Wah! Nice! Nice!” Can lah, can suffer a bit. It's okay. So every time you go to the Bible, in the power of the Spirit, you … you see the glorious Christ, it fills you with hope, it enables you to go through life, hard as it may be. And that's what is stunning to a watching world.
The world thinks that Christians are those who are wrapped in bubble wrap by God. You know bubble wrap, right? Pop, pop, pop, pop, my kids like to pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. It's as if God wants to protect you, shield you from every harm and nature. Let me tell you Christianity is when a child of God, child of God, like Job is exposed to temptations, he goes through hardships but he still says at the end of it all, “God gives and God has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Because I have hope and I know that my Redeemer lives.”
That’s what's stunning to a watching world! And when we have such a hope, it powers our discipleship to Jesus. Like as in what John himself would say, “When we, when He appears, we shall be like Him.” [1 John 3:2-3] Wow! Have you thought about that? We shall be like Jesus! I mean that's crazy! But that's what it is because we shall see Him as He is. How is He? The Glorious One in the Mount of Transfiguration. “ And every one who thus hopes in Him purifies himself, as He is pure.”
It's that vision of the glorious Christ when He comes again that should spur us to live holy; pure; righteous lives. And I think it is also this hope of glory that inspires us to be faithful, “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” [1 Corinthians 15:58] It is appropriate to think like that because 1st Corinthians 15 is about the resurrection of Christ.
So Paul ends there by saying, “Therefore because Christ reigns, because Christ is risen, because Christ wins, because Christ is the glorious One, therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
It was Warren Wiersbe who said - Easter, the resurrected Christ, not the dying Christ, not the dead Christ, not the rotting Christ, not the decomposed Christ, but the resurrected Christ, the glorious One, that truth turns a church from the museum into a ministry. That's what inspires us to live and to serve Him.
It was interesting that during our elders get together yesterday, we thought about it and, and there was a … the observation that perhaps we don't really mention too much about the second coming of Christ. That's why I love preaching through the Bible, the balance is all there in Scripture. From last week's difficult dying to self, there is a needful, necessary look at the glory of Jesus Christ, that we today may live with that great abounding hope that will stun a watching world.
Run to the Scriptures, folks! Today, you are going through hardships, turn to Christ. No need to go Bukit Timah Hill takes 20, 25 minutes. Open your Bible, ask God, “Show us Christ.” And let that fuel you for effective discipleship to Jesus.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. Life is hard, but Jesus wins. So easy for us to be trapped in our own darkness and dejections. But perhaps in the darkness of your situation, let us pray that God would shine glorious hope in your heart. Not because we know that God is always going to turn every immediate circumstance the way we want but because we know Jesus wins and Jesus will return. That is what we need!
Everything will be okay in the end and if it is not okay, it's not the end. Be patient; be faithful; be watching; be serving. May the hope that God wants to fill your heart with, inspire you to discipleship to Christ.
Some of you today are not Christians, you are not believers. You do not understand what this all means, but I want to say to you, “Hell is real because we are sinful and God is holy.” And hell is hell because there is absolutely no hope there. But I want to tell you, “Today, there is hope. Today, you may be rescued still.”
And so I say to you, “The Bible promises that whosoever repents and believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life.” I want to invite you right here, right now to turn your hearts to God. To repent of your sin and to believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. You don't have to go to hell, you don't have to because Jesus paid it all. And if you're willing to repent and believe, you can be saved.
So Father this morning, we are thankful for Your Word, a simple message but I pray it will be a life-changing one. Even as we live in a broken; sinful; dark world, may the bright vision of Jesus Your Son empower us to effective discipleship. Save souls even this morning, friends and guests will not just come to church but they will really come to Christ. Grant repentance and faith, O God. So bless each one here. Show us Christ. Show us Christ. We thank You and pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen!
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