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Dr. Jay P. Cook, Pastor

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The Gospel According To…

What’s the Bottom Line?

Isaiah 40:28-31

1 Peter 1:3-4, 7


Intro:

The major question addressed by Dickens in the story of “A Christmas Carol” is there hope for another opportunity? Or are we doomed to our failures? What can we do when we learn that we aren’t measuring up?


One of the most energizing words in the English language is “hope.” Hope is what keeps us going in the tough times.


It has been said that a person can live:

40 days without food,

4 days without water,

4 minutes without air,

And 4 seconds without hope.

Hope is the power that energizes us with life.

Hope is what opens our lives to the possibility that there is something better out there. Hope gives us the power to look forward.

Peter sees that hope is at the center of the Good News concerning Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,

1 Peter 1:7

These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.


  1. It is a life of faith rooted in our love for Christ that brings hope to all that we do, and all that we dream of doing. It is this hope in Christ that enables us to say Hallelujah instead of Bah Humbug!


  1. It enables us to live our earthly lives with a heavenly perspective.


  1. This is what Scrooge was beginning to look for. The chains of greed and gold had crippled him. All the money he had was a waste.


  1. He had become a smaller man, rather than a greater man because he had only lived for himself. There are many people today that fit that category.


  1. The Ghost of Christmas Future confronts Scrooge with the type of life that he was building and was going to experience if he continued to live the way he did.


  1. We never see the Ghost’s face because we never will totally know what the future holds.


  1. But Scrooge is given the gift of mercy. He has a chance to look into the future.


  1. Video


  1. Scrooge has the courage to ask if he can change the future. Is it possible for him to write a different ending to his story? He wants a chance to alter his life and therefore alter his outcome.


  1. Scrooge is simply asking, “If we change the direction of our lives in the here and now, can our futures be different?”


  1. We need to ask the same question – if we live differently will it change our future?


  1. The answer to that is found in Christ Jesus. He came to the future outcome – He came to do just that; He transform lives.


  1. We may want to ask the same question that Scrooge is asking; “Is there hope for us?” And then how do we discover hope for our lives. Let me suggest 4 steps to being hopeful.


  1. First we need to accept the truth about life and about ourselves. The only way to fulfill God’s highest purpose in our lives is to face reality as fully and truthfully as possible.


  1. We are to trust in Jesus words that tells us; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32). Not only will the truth set us free it will probably make us angry at first.

a. It is not always easy to hear the truth, but it is the only way to have a hope filled life.


  1. Jesus not only spoke to the afflicted and hurting he spoke to the comfortable. Like he spoke to the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16:19-31. Summarize.

There was a rich man who had everything he ever wanted and there was a poor guy – a beggar named Lazarus who dug through the rich man’s garbage to just to survive. He would have been happy with some of rich man’s leftovers. They both died, the beggar went to heaven (Abraham’s side) and the rich man went to Hades – a place of fire. You know you have a problem when the beggar has a name and the rich guy is known just as a rich man. There is a lot of theology in this parable but I want you to notice there are consequences to the way we live. The rich man had a chance to help Lazarus but his response was zip. And he is paying the consequence, for his lack of action. So will Scrooge if he doesn’t change the way he is living.


  1. Scrooge was much like the rich man. Scrooge though is going to get a chance to make things better.


  1. The parable tells us that we all face a final judgment. How will we fare? It is not meant as a threat but as an opportunity to make a change.


  1. The second step to hope is accepting the truth about God. The message doesn’t end with bad news. God doesn’t have us just face the truth alone, He offers a healing to the truth. He tells us the truth so that we understand the ultimate healing, Jesus Christ.


  1. Our hope is in the Lord who will renew our strength. We will be able to soar with eagles, run without getting weary, and walk without fainting.


  1. God not only created us, but also pursues us so that we might live forever with Him. He has provided everything we need to be a part of His heavenly home. All we have to do is believe.


  1. We have to respond to his grace. The prophet Isaiah talks about the God of grace.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT)
28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.


  1. Thirdly, we need to trust in the Lord and what He says – we need to pay attention to God. If we are to soar like eagles and not grow weary in serving God and walking in faith we need to pay attention to where our strength comes from – it comes from the Lord.


  1. When we trust in the Lord we must also trust in what He says. If we don’t read and study the Word of God how do we know how to obtain His strength?


  1. We need to read and study the Word. It needs to become a part of our everyday experience.


  1. The Psalmist wrote about keeping our lives pure – it happens by us living according to the Word. (Psalm 119:9) The prophet Jeremiah speaks about eating the Word of God because it his joy and his heart’s delight to have the Word in his life.


  1. We are to seek God in prayer. If we lack wisdom ask God for that wisdom. As we seek God’s guidance hope springs to life.


  1. Lastly we need to be ready to make sacrifices to follow God’s leading. The way of hope is the way of sacrifice. Without sacrifices nothing meaningful will happen.


Conclusion:

There are many contrasts in life and hope can be contrasted by negativity and misery – Scrooge is his name. It depends on where our source of life, strength and hope are found.

Unfortunately, there are some people who have no hope at all. They live in a kind of existential pessimism and despair. Bertrand Russell was a brilliant thinker, but because he made no room for God in his thoughts, he could not figure out the mystery of life. He once said, “When I die, I believe that I shall rot, and that that is the end.” He went on to say, “All the labors of the ages — the inspiration, the noonday brightness of human genius — are destined to extinction. The whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried in the debris of a universe in ruins.” Now there’s something to cheer your day. But when you exclude God from your life and thinking there is no other way to think.

By contrast the life of Joni Eareckson Tada displays hopefulness and life. A diving accident in 1967 left Joni, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations.

Because of her paralysis, she cannot feed or bathe herself, or care for her most basic needs. And yet she is a deeply committed Christian, and even as a quadriplegic she sings, and she paints with a paint brush in her mouth. You may have received a Christmas card with one of her prints on it without knowing it.

Her best-selling autobiography Joni and the feature film of the same name have been translated into many languages, introducing her to people around the world. Mrs. Tada has also has visited more than 47 countries.

Joni has written over 50 books. She has received the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Joni’s latest book is Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story published by Zondervan.  Joni and her husband, Ken Tada, have been married since 1982.

Since 1982, Joni has been hosting the short-feature radio program "Joni and Friends" which is aired on more than 1,000 outlets. In 2012, the National Religious Broadcasters inducted Joni into its Hall of Fame.

She often talks of heaven and what it will mean for her. She says, “I have hope in the future. The Bible speaks about bodies being glorified. I know the meaning of that now. It’s the time after my death here when I, the quadriplegic, will be on my feet dancing.”


If you want your Christmas to be a hallelujah then aim at heaven and the Mansion Builder, Jesus Christ and you will find the hope of Christmas will chase the humbugs away.


Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.