Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 3, 2017
18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
— Luke 9:18-26, ESV
Hope is many things to many people, with natural and supernatural implications. Hope is a town in Arkansas where some famous men were born. Hope is a woman’s name, even a member of our church. Hope is a feeling we get around Christmas concerning the present we most want. Hope the first Sunday of Advent, part and parcel of our celebration of Christ’s birth. And, hope is one of three cardinal virtues of the Christian life (ref. 1 Corinthians 13:13).
Ordinary hope looks to the future with weighted possibilities. We hope we get what we want when the time comes. Biblical hope, however, takes no chances. It is a sure thing that encompasses the past, present, and future. Hope for the Christian is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hope in the Past
I hope that Jesus Christ has died and rose again for my sin and salvation. I confidently believe that this happened nearly two thousand years ago. I stake, in the words of Isaac Watts, “my soul, my life, my all” in the person and work of Jesus Christ as described in this turning point passage in the Gospel of Luke.
Who is Jesus? He is not merely a man and a prophet. Jesus is the Messiah, the “Christ,” the Son of God and “Son of Man.” Simon Peter spoke for true believers concerning the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Fulfilling all prophecy, Jesus was the God-incarnate, virgin-born Savior come to deliver God’s people from their worst enemies.
Only the worst enemies of God’s people were not the Romans, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, or Egyptians. The worst enemies of God’s people and all people are sin and death. Sin separates us from a holy and loving God. Death is the ensuing, final permanent estrangement from God. Jesus did something, in the past, to defeat them both. He came to “suffer … be rejected … be killed, and … be raised.”
This was not the kind of Messiah the Jews were looking for two thousand years ago. But this is the Messiah who came, in the past, in whom I put my ultimate hope. I have found hope in the perfect person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hope in the Present
Hope in the gospel, like the grace and mercy it brings, is absolutely free. So free, in fact, that most people take it for granted and leave it unclaimed. They have a nominal hope, a worldly hope if you will, that says maybe it’s true and in the end I’ll probably be all right.
So how do we have hope, presently, that we really are saved by the free grace and full gospel of Jesus Christ? Ask yourself another question. Am I paying the cost of being a true follower of Jesus Christ? The gospel is free, but it costs everything you have. Jesus said so.
Denial, death, and discipleship are the costs for following Jesus. These things, according to Christ, must be paid in the present tense to enjoy assurance of one’s salvation. Your hope in the gospel is dependent upon the manner in which you are presently living your life.
What is self-denial? It is the radical removal of self from the throne and the acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord. Most people consider themselves to be the most important person in the world. Murderers take lives because their life is more important than the person they kill. Adulterers shatter families because their pleasure is more important than another person’s pain. And every so-called lesser sin stems from this same disease of selfishness that plagues the whole human race. Self-denial is waking up every day and realizing that you are not the most important person in the world. Jesus is. Serve Him by serving others and you will find yourself in the present hope of self-denial.
How do you get there? Through the cross, Christ’s and your own. Cross equals death and life, crucifixion and resurrection. Christians must be born again because they died before they were. After we die, we live, for Christ, one day at a time. And Christ is living in us to will and work according to His good pleasure.
So how do we please God in the present? We please the Lord by faithfully following Jesus Christ. A follower does another’s will by listening and obeying another’s word. God gives us Himself, His Son, and His Spirit through constant contact with His word, the holy Bible. If you are regularly looking into God’s word and finding ways and means to carry it out in your life, then you are following Jesus, you are carrying the cross, you are denying yourself, and you have every present hope that you are saved by grace and bound for a glorious future.
Hope in the Future
Gospel hope is anchored in what God has done for us in the past and what He is doing in us in the present. But true to the nature of hope, there is more to come, more to confidently expect. And, it’s the best part about being a Christian.
To appreciate the future hope of Christians, though, we have to go back to the past of the Jews. They were right and wrong in their rejection of Jesus Christ. They were right to expect a Messiah who would conquer their earthly enemies, too, all of those who disparaged and persecuted and martyred them over the centuries. They were wrong, however, dead wrong to not see in Jesus the Messiah who would take care of their greatest needs first — forgiveness of sin and salvation from death — before coming a second time to crush enemies and rule the world.
So, the Jews in Jesus’ day were ashamed of Him. They scoffed at His preaching and teaching. They mocked Him as He hung naked on the cross. They disbelieved His resurrection. Therefore, they will not share in His salvation and glory.
Christ makes it clear here, in this text, that the same is true for those who profess to be Christians today. If you are ashamed to take your stand with Christ and His church, if you take lightly his work on the cross, if you profess to be a child of grace but do not practice a life of worship and obedience, then you will not share in His salvation and glory.
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (ref. 1 John 2:28-29).
If you do, He won’t, and you will. If you profess and practice your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus will certainly not be ashamed of you, and you will be with the Lord “when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” I hope to see that day. And by hope, I mean confidently expect it will come.
Perhaps the greatest paradigm of hope ever put forth on the movie screen is Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption.” I find it so compelling I tend to overuse it as an illustration. Nevertheless, it is story of hope. A man hopes to be free. A man hopes his friend will be free, too. And, he hopes the can be free together in paradise.
This pictures our gospel hope. Christ is free from the death and tomb that held Him two thousand years ago. I am now free from sin and death by grace through faith in Him. And one day, we will be free together, face to face, in a new heaven and earth. Put your past, present, and future hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ!
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org