“Hope for the Future”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. If there is one thing needed in the world today, I believe it is hope. I'm not talking about hope for nicer weather, or for better grades at school, or even for more wealth. I'm talking about hope for tomorrow; hope for eternity; the hope of heaven. So many people live without any hope of any kind. They drift through life without anything to look forward to and without any hope for the future. That may be the one thing we need more than anything else. That is exactly what God offers through His son Jesus. He offers a hope that is real and meaningful. He offers a hope that changes people's lives and gives us something to live for. Oh, God does not want any of us to live without any hope. He knows we get down and discouraged from time to time, and we need a reason to live. He knows this world is full of sin and problems, and we need something that inspires us to see beyond the present. That is why He offers hope for the future. Today on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will focus on that hope. We will look beyond the struggles and problems of life to the blessings and promises that are found in a relationship with the Lord. I know you will want to join us for that lesson as we look at the new life that awaits us when we put our hope and trust in God and in His son, Jesus Christ. Take a moment now, and join with us as we study together.
Sharing a meal with someone is special. Perhaps you know someone with whom you enjoy eating, and you look forward to doing so. You look forward to going out for a fine meal together or perhaps to meet in someone's home and to enjoy a delicious meal. And yet in addition to that, perhaps even more importantly is you look forward to spending time together. You look forward to being accepted by someone that you love and appreciate. You look forward to a time of sharing that love and that fellowship with one another. And, maybe we all have people that we enjoy doing that with from time to time. But, have you ever thought about sharing a fellowship meal with Jesus? Now, that is something that would be really special. In fact, Jesus wants us to share a fellowship meal with Him, and He invites us to do so. In the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, we find Jesus' invitation to do just that. Listen to these words from Revelation chapter 3, verse 20. <"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me."> Now, that's a special invitation, isn't it? Jesus is standing and knocking at the door of our heart and He wants us to invite Him in to eat with us. There is coming a time when there will be a great banquet feast in heaven and that will last for all eternity. We don't know for sure what that will look like. We don't know for sure where it will be, or the food that we will enjoy together. But, we do know that there will be people from all over this world, from all walks of life. They will be there; people who look like us and people who don't; people who are from a different part of the world; and, people perhaps from our own neighborhoods. But, the most special thing about that is Jesus invites us to be there and He wants us to be there. Perhaps you have seen that beautiful painting of Jesus standing at a door and knocking, and there's a person on the other side of the door who is listening to that knock and considering whether or not he should open the door to Jesus. And the most interesting thing about that painting is there is no door handle on the outside, where Jesus is. There is only a door handle on the inside, where the person is. And that is exemplary of Jesus' invitation. He does not open the door to our heart and barge His way in uninvited. We have to make the response and open the door to Jesus. That's a beautiful example of Revelation chapter 3 verses 19 and 20. He doesn't force His way into our life. He simply offers the invitation, and now it is upon us to receive it. But, why does Jesus invite himself into our life? It is for the simple fact that He loves us. And time and time again throughout Scripture, we find statements to that effect, that Jesus loves people. God the Father loves people, and He looks forward to sharing that fellowship with all who will receive that invitation. There's one passage of Scripture I want us to focus on in our lesson today. It was written by the apostle Paul many years ago, and he wrote it to a group of Christians living in Ephesus, and yet the passage still applies to us today. Listen to these words beginning in Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 4. <Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus..."> Oh, there's lots of good news in that passage of Scripture, isn't there? Let's talk about it for just a moment. We notice, first of all, that God's love is described in a variety of ways. We recognize that He is rich in mercy. God is abundant in mercy. God has more mercy stored up than all of the other people throughout this world combined. But the interesting thing is that God does not hold that mercy only to Himself. He extends it to everyone who is in need of it. His mercies and His compassions never run out, as He blesses our life with it. We notice also that we are made alive with Christ, and that suggests that at one time we were dead. We were dead, according to the passage, in our transgressions or in our sins. The sin in our life has made us dead in the sight of God, but because of Jesus Christ, and because of God's great love, we are now raised up. We are given a new life in Jesus, as our sin is behind us. It is forgiven and washed away. But then, there are some other phrases here. We notice that we are raised up with Christ; that, just as Jesus was raised up from the grave and started life over again, so we can do that same thing as well. We put the old life of sin behind us and we rise up to begin a new life with Jesus Christ, and then we are seated with Jesus. And, where is that? We are going to notice here in just a moment, from Hebrews chapter 10, that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. Can you imagine that, being raised up with Jesus, being seated with Jesus at the right hand of our Father in heaven? And there, we can enjoy all of the glory and all of the blessings and all of the promises that God has in store for those who are His children. And, all of that is because of God's great love for us. It is all done through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior. But then there is something else. We notice that it is by grace we receive this salvation. It is by the grace and the mercy of God, that He pours out upon us, that we receive these promises and these blessings. So many people throughout the world today believe that it is by their own efforts and by their own abilities that they receive the grace and the salvation of the Lord. Many people believe that if they say enough prayers, or make enough sacrifices, or read the Bible enough, or go to church enough, then God owes them something and they have earned their salvation. And, they are able to enjoy the promises and blessings because of what they have done. Yet, that is exactly opposite of the passage we have just read. It is by God's grace that we receive our salvation. It is a gift that is given to us because of His love. Oh yes, it is important to offer our sacrifices to the Lord, and to study, and to pray, and to do all of those things I just mentioned, but those are simply expressions of our gratitude and our appreciation for the salvation we have already received, that comes from the hand of God. When I think about Ephesians chapter 2 verses 4 and 5, I'm reminded of the fact that God loves me in spite of my sin. And He gives me another chance, through Jesus Christ, His one and only Son, to be right in His sight. When I think about the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf, I think about the passage in Hebrews chapter 10. And there in that passage, we find a contrast between the Old Testament priest and the priest called Jesus. I want to read that passage of Scripture that begins in verse 11. And as I do, think about the contrast between the roles that are played; Hebrews chapter 10, beginning in verse 11. <Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.> The Old Testament priests had a very important role to play. First of all, they had to make sacrifices for the sin in their own life. Once that was done, they then could make sacrifices for the sins of all of the other people. As we just read, those Old Testament priests had to do that each and every day, over and over again, the same thing, time and time again. But yet, all of those sacrifices never really made a person holy and right in God's sight. It simply rolled sins forward. Now in contrast to that, we find Jesus Christ. He made one sacrifice and it was good for all time. And, He doesn't have to stand and make those sacrifices any more. He gave His life, and that was His sacrifice. And once He did that, He was finished and He sat down at the right hand of God; again, a contrast between the Old Testament priests who continually stand up to make their sacrifices. And so, it is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that we are able to receive the forgiveness of our sin. It is through that sacrifice that we are being made holy in the sight of a holy God. In the Old Testament we read the story about a man named Job. He had 10 children, as we are introduced to him there in the first chapter, and we are told that those 10 children often times would throw a party. They would have a feast, or a festival, and they would eat and drink, and they would celebrate and do all sorts of things. And, Job was concerned about that. For we notice that after that party was finished, he would pray on behalf of his children, in case they did something that was wrong. In case they offend God in some way, Job prayed on their behalf. In other words, he stood in the gap between his sinful children and a holy God. That's exactly what Jesus' sacrifice does for us. He stands in the gap between us and our perfect, holy, Father in heaven. He prays on our behalf. He is our advocate. He fills up the void and what is lacking between us and a right relationship with God. That's the role that Jesus now plays for us. He forgives the sin in our life through the sacrifice that He made upon the cross, and now He is our advocate before our Holy Father in heaven. When I think about all of those things combined, I realize that God loves me. He loves me in spite of my sin, in spite of my transgression. He has provided a way for me to be right with Him through His son Jesus. He makes me alive through Jesus Christ, His Son, because Jesus made a one-time sacrifice by giving His life upon the cross. And then, being buried in a tomb, He rose up again from the grave to give me a brand-new life in Him. Now understanding all of that, we might naturally ask our self the question; what do I do now? How do I respond to that? Oh again, we find several places in the New Testament that tells us how to respond. Listen to the words from the apostle Paul in chapter 3 of Galatians, verses 26 through 29. <You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.> Paul plainly states that with faith and baptism we become God's children. And, there is no distinction between any of us. There is no distinction between a Jew or a non-Jew, a male or a female. It doesn't matter how old or young we are, where we live throughout this world, we all become a part of the family of God. We all become His children through faith and baptism. And then, our life takes on a new look as we are clothed with Jesus Christ. We become His. He becomes ours. We take on that new look. We follow in His footsteps. We follow His example, and we represent Him to the rest of this world. There's another passage, again, written by the apostle Paul, which tells us basically the same thing. Listen to these words from 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 12 and 13. <The body is one unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though all of its parts are many they form one body, and so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.> Paul uses the body as an illustration. He mentions the fact that our bodies are made up of various parts, a hand and a foot, an arm and a leg, eyes and a mouth, and all of those parts work together in unison to form a complete body. If one of those parts is missing then our body is incomplete. And likewise, Paul states that's the way it is in the family of God. The body of Christ is made up of many members. None of us look the same. We all bring different abilities and gifts to the body. But as we work together through faith and through baptism, we become a part of the body of Christ, or the family of God. Again, as a part of that new body, we begin to live a new life. We are important to God. We are special to God. We are His children and He is our Father, and we have a very intimate and wonderful relationship with Him. And, perhaps most importantly, we also have a seat at the banquet table with Him in heaven, as we have responded to the invitation of Jesus. When He knocked upon the door of our heart, we opened the door and we accepted Jesus into our life through faith and through baptism, and now we are children of our Father on high. That's a good place to be, at the banquet table that is prepared for us in the throne room of God. For as long as I can remember, I have been able to enjoy a very special holiday in the home of my parents. It happens every year. It happens on the fourth Thursday of November. It's called Thanksgiving, and we in America enjoy that holiday. But, I go to my parent’s home and we enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and day together. And, there are many of our family members who arrive. Sometimes there are over 20 in attendance. We have a long extended table that everybody sits around, and we have wonderful food and drink to enjoy. And, we sit at that table and we eat, and we are satisfied, and we enjoy fellowship with one another. My mom and my dad are great hosts. They make sure we have everything we need and they take care of everything. And, we eat some more, and we tell stories, and we laugh, and we shed a tear or two; but, we enjoy the fellowship and the acceptance and the love with one another. There is coming a day, in that banquet room in heaven, where Jesus himself will be our host, and we will enjoy food and drink that is far better than we have ever experienced before. And, we will be there, and there will be no tears, no sadness, no sorrow, but we will enjoy the presence of God and the fellowship with other children of God from all around the world. And, we will experience what it is like to be at the right hand of our Father and to enjoy that for all of eternity. And that is just a glimpse of the new life that awaits us in Jesus Christ. That is something that we can look forward to and anticipate because we are loved by God, as we are His children. So, what do we do now? How do we respond to all of that? We respond, simply, by living a life that is victorious. We celebrate our new life in Jesus Christ, knowing with full confidence and assurance that He is always with us. I'm reminded of the beautiful passage that is found in Romans chapter 8. Listen to this victorious life that we can live in Jesus, beginning with verse 35. <Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.> Isn't that a wonderful statement, that there is absolutely nothing in this world that can separate us from God's love for us, that we find in Jesus Christ? So, no matter what challenge or obstacle we encounter, no matter what persecution or problem we experience, no matter what sin or setback we meet, we are victorious in Jesus Christ because we are in God's family. We are part of the body of Christ and we can enjoy His presence in us. And, when we are on God's side, there is absolutely nothing that can overtake us. Oh, that doesn't mean when God is on our side, but when we are on God's side. And when we live according to His standards and His guidelines for our life, we have that assurance. Join with me now in a word of prayer. <<Holy Father in heaven, we thank you so very much for the invitation that is extended to us through Jesus Christ your Son and our Savior. Thank you for loving us in Jesus Christ, and giving us the opportunity and the privilege to be a part of Your family and to enjoy that great banquet feast that You are preparing for us, right now, in heaven. I pray, dear Father, that all of us would recognize that free gift of salvation and that we would respond with faith in Your dear Son Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.>> I don't know what your life looks like, today, but I do know what your life can look like in the future. Without a doubt, you can have hope for the future, no longer living in sin, no longer living in the past, but experiencing a brand-new life in Jesus Christ as a part of His body, the family of our Lord. And as we have just seen, in God's family there are no losers. Everyone is special. Everyone is important. We have the privilege to sit at that banquet table, and our sin is covered up; our sin is washed away and forgiven and we can enjoy God's presence forever. I encourage and I invite you, today, to receive that hope of a wonderful future, to receive the invitation of Jesus, as He knocks on the door of your heart so that you can have hope for the future.
Thank you for joining us for today's lesson. Isn't it good to know that God offers hope for our life? When everyone and everything seems to be turned against us and there is nothing going right. God gives us some much-needed hope. Oh, I certainly do not know where you are in your walk with God. Perhaps you are struggling to survive from one day to the next, or perhaps you are in a good place in your relationship with Him. However, I do know that whatever your life looks like, God's hope is available to each and every person, each and every day. No matter what our life looks like to us, or even to other people, God sees hope in all of us. He sees a way through His son Jesus that we can begin to live a new life. It is a life full of promise and blessing, both now and for eternity. If you would like to know more about what that new life looks like, perhaps we can help. We offer a free Bible study that requires no commitment of any kind. When you call the number on the screen, we will be more than happy to send it to you. We believe it will inspire you to learn more about our God, who loves us more than we will never know. You might also want to check out our website, keytothekingdom.com. There, you will find a variety of short inspirational messages along with other lessons like the one you have just heard. All of them can be downloaded at your convenience and they are free and require no commitment. You might even want to download the free KEY app onto your phone, or find our free channel on Roku television. All of these things are designed to give you a hope for the future, and I trust you will want to take advantage of them. Once again, thank you for joining us for today's lesson. And, join us next time, as we study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”