Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Set Your Hope on Grace

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. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls...

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
I Peter 1:3-9 & 13-15

I went to a small college in a mid-western town whose only other attraction consisted of the Super Walmart. Needless to say there wasn't a lot to do outside of studying and partying. Many of the students seemed to think their education should contain equal parts of each. My college was ranked 9th in the nation for consumption of hard liquor, so it was no surprise when my friends and I found a group in the cafeteria advocating for responsible drinking. They had a set of "beer goggles" that allowed a sober person to experience just how impaired drinking can make a person. It looked pretty simple. After you put the beer goggles on they would spin you around two or three times and then they threw a tennis ball to you. You were supposed to catch it and throw it back. Then they asked you to walk heel-to-toe in a straight line without losing your balance. My friends and I were pretty athletic so we felt we could do this easily even with the added disability of the beer goggles.

As soon as I put the goggles on the world warped around me. My balance was off, the floors and walls seemed to move. My perspective was completely distorted. It is amazing how difficult simple, everyday tasks can become under these circumstances. Given normal vision I could have done these tasks without even paying attention. It was more than a little funny to watch. I was completely unable to catch the tennis ball they threw to me. I think it took me two or three stabs just to pick it up off the floor, then I threw it a clear three feet to the left of the person I was tossing it back to. I reeled and stumbled through the simple heel-to-toe exercise. Even after I took the goggles off it took several moments for me to regain a normal perspective on the world.

Beer isn't the only thing that has the power to warp our perspective. When your eyes are fixed solely on this world and on this life, then the smallest of obstacles can seem insurmountable. With this small perspective every problem is distorted as the cares of the world swirl around us making everything more difficult than it has to be. But when we fix our eyes on Jesus, on eternity and what has been laid up for us there...these same problems seem much easier to overcome.

But as the passage above makes clear, setting our hope on eternity affects much more than merely the size of our problems. I believe that it is impossible to live life the way God wants you to if you don't keep the return of Jesus always in your mind. Even in the Old Testament God continually reminded His people that this world is not as it should be. It has been marred by sin along with us. Sin has turned our world into a place of pain and struggle. But God has promised that there will come a day when He will set things right. We know that this day will be the day that Jesus returns. We know that Christ promised to take us to be with Him on that day so we must remember that this world is not our home. We must remember that our great hope is not in anything this world has to offer. It is not in achievement or wealth or even in family. No we must "set our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming." Our great hope is the grace that will be shown to us on that last day. Grace that will forgive our sins. Grace that will once and for all remove the marring effects of sin from our bodies and cause us to shine like fine gold refined in the fire seven times over. Grace that will gain our entrance into heaven. Grace that will enable us to gaze unflinchingly on the face of God. Grace that will enable Him to say "Well done good and faithful servant." Grace that will supply us with an everlasting inheritance in the house of the King of kings. Grace to allow us an eternity with the Master. Grace to be holy, because He is holy.

This is our hope and unless we enter the New Year with our eyes fixed on this, we are doomed to continue wasting our days living for this world. All that we accomplish for this world could be taken from us at any moment by death. That is why Matthew 6:19-20 says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." But to do this we must first fix our eyes on heaven.

Father, fix my gaze upon Your face and upon the prize that You have set before all believers in this new year. Help me to judge my challenges in light of heaven. Help me to make choices based on their eternal impact. Help me to live on this earth as an alien and a stranger...someone who is just passing through on my way home. And may You make it so that I feel more and more at home in Your presence this year as I do my best to serve You more faithfully.

For further reading...
  • Read all of I Peter 1-4 in light of this opening passage and the idea that fixing our hope on Christ's return changes everything about our lives.

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