The Anticipation of Hope

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2 Dec 18 - First Sunday of Advent
The Anticipation of Hope
Luke 21
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien.
That is a quote from JR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It was said by a Hobbit - small folk - 3-4 feet tall. They preferred to stay within the safety of their homes in a place called the Shire. On occasion, a few would venture off into the big world, and indeed, it was a dangerous business leaving the safety of the known and heading into the unfamiliar. It can be frightening and dangerous. There’s fear, apprehension, uncertainty.
Perhaps one of reason we find Christmas so appealing is it symbolizes peace, sanity, safety - especially in a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. We long for something normal in our lives, something that lacks chaos. We want a break from the “real world.” Somewhere in Christmas we search for peace, hope, joy. We long for a silent night. Just once, could we have peace on earth. If not on earth, at least in my neighborhood, in my home, in my life.
The cold wintery truth is; however, we won’t find that in lifetime. We will find glimpses here and there, but we will not find lasting peace and rest in this life. And frankly, it will get more chaotic, more dangerous, more volatile before the end.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.” Soon, 2018 will be behind us and 2019 will come and go too soon, too fast. It’s a strange new world out there - it’s changing faster than anyone can keep up. Scientists, inventors, business men and women from different faiths and cultures are saying we need to put the brakes on. We’re moving too fast, too far, we’re crossing lines humans are not ready to cross. But no one knows how to stop it.
And so what do we do? How do we as people who claim to follow the Messiah face this brave new world? How do we keep our feet in an everchanging landscape? We can’t stay home. We can’t hide and wait for Jesus to return. Jesus saves us and sends us. We are called to go out our front doors and onto the road - but we do need to keep our feet, keep our wits about us.
In Luke 21, the disciples were facing similar times. Israel was under Roman occupation. The disciples were kind of getting caught up in the here and now; enamored with this world.
Luke 21:5–6 NIV
Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
He was just reminding them (and us) not to get too caught up in this world. No matter how impressive or advanced the world gets, it’s all temporary. Jesus is reminding us don’t get too distracted or too enamored with this world - you might lose your feet; might lose your way.
Luke 21:7 NIV
“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
They’re curious - like most people are - they want information: when, where, how …. Starting in verse 8 is what we call the “The Olivet Discourse.” Jesus and his disciples have made their way to the Mount of Olives where Jesus preaches this prophetic sermon. It is recorded in greater detail in Matthew 24–25 and Mark 13. Understand, prophetic passages do not always flow in a progressive orderly sequence, nor do they give all the details we would like have.
We’re not going to cover everything in this passage - but stick to the theme of Advent and the Anticipation of Hope.
Luke 21:8–9 NIV
He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”
The Advent season is a time of hope. We look back to the birth of Christ, who is the Hope and Savior of the World. Our hope is found in nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And we look forward to His second coming when He will bring justice, judgment, and redemption.
What’s interesting is that the disciples asked for information, for signs and dates, but the first thing Jesus told them was a warning. Watch out. Do not be deceived. He wanted to give them hope - something to hold onto - something so they wouldn’t lose their way.
And so the first thing we need to know about hope is-
1) Know where to place your hope.
What do we mean by hope? Hope has a lot to do with looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises - that one day Jesus will return to this earth and deliver us once and for all. That’s the great hope of Christianity - that this world is not it. We have hope that a new and better world is coming - whether we die first of Jesus comes back - it matters not for we our bound for the Promised Land.
So, here’s the question: when your day comes, what do you hope to find or experience on the other side? What you hope for may not be what you get. See, a lot of people put their hope in things that only get them through this life: IRAs, 401Ks, medication, healthcare etc. But what hope do you have that will carry you through to the next life - in Heaven or hell?
Some put their hope in religion - when they die, they hope will either be absorbed into the universe (in other words, you no longer exist - that’s exciting). Or, they hope to be reincarnated - get another chance at life (we can see that that’s working well). Or some hope that being a good person will pay off and somehow be enough. Or they hope that there is no such thing as an afterlife. This is it.
And some hope that all roads lead to God. Do you realize that that statement is purely human ideology? Who has enough knowledge and wisdom to know that is true? And people want to risk their eternal destinies on something a person made up? Why not believe in something that has yet to be proven false - i.e. the Bible.
Where have you placed your hope? How secure is your hope? How confident are you that it will get you through the worst of tribulations and into eternity in Heaven? If your hope is in something other than Jesus Christ and His grace and mercy and His salvation, how secure of a hope is it?
Psalm 25 tells us that those who hope in God will never be put to shame. In other words, hope in God’s love and salvation and truth are secure and trustworthy.
1 Timothy 6:17–19 NIV
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Do not be deceived - Jesus is the only hope we have in this life and in the next. He came so that we might be free from sin and death, trust in Him and have eternal life. No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born-again, born of the flesh and born of His Spirit (John 3) - by placing your hope and trust in Him. So, where have you placed your hope?
Luke 21:10–11 NIV
Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.
Nothing new since the beginning; however when you look at the whole of prophetic writings in Scripture, it is clear that there will be an increase in intensity and frequency.
Then Jesus talks about how bad the world is going to get - especially for believers in Christ. Then verse 17 -
Luke 21:17–19 NIV
Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.
Second thing else we need to know about hope is this:
2) Know where to plant your feet .
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
That’s wisdom! Standing firm in the wrong place can get you killed. Standing firm in a false religion, a false salvation, a false philosophy and ideology … won’t do any good when it comes time to leave this world or when Jesus comes back.
If you want to have hope, know where to plant your feet. In other words, know where to plant your mind, your beliefs, your values - because if you don’t there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
Jesus prayed
John 17:17 NIV
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
The Psalmist wrote -
Psalm 119:105 NIV
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Deuteronomy 5:32–33 NIV
So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
My friends, where are your feet planted? Where do you get your strength to stand firm in the faith of Jesus Christ?
If we’re alive during the End Times, knowing sports statistics won’t help you stand up for Jesus. Knowing the latest gossip about Hollywood stars won’t help. Knowing everything about anything won’t help you.
Eph. 6 tells us to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power and put on the full armor of God, which includes the Sword of the Spirit, the Word - and with that, we are encouraged to stand firm!
3) Know where to fix your eyes.
Luke 21:25–28 NIV
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
When the rest of the world is freaking out and cowering in fear, trying to escape the chaos, Christians are to stand tall, look up because our deliverance, the time of our salvation is near!
Way back in 1992, in Ft. Drum, NY, I attended Air Assault School (dopes on a rope) - soldiers who rappel out of helicopters. During the 2nd week of training, we had to go up on a 100 ft. tower and rappel off. There’s no guard rail on the top. You’ve got a rope and a ledge and that’s it - and my first time I was petrified. My instructor, whom all the other instructors called Santa Clause, said, “Eyes on me. Do what you’ve been trained to do and keep your eyes on me.” I was scared, but eye contact made all the difference.
Jesus tells us that when the world is it its worst, stand up and look up. He says, “Eyes on me! Do what you’ve been trained and empowered to do - but keep your eyes on me!”
Before we went to the tower, we spent days and hours learning the basics of Air Assault and rappelling, how to tie a swiss seat, how to use a D-ring, a handbrake, how to belay etc. They did that so when the real deal came, when we finally hit the tower, we knew what to do without hesitation. The basics were ingrained in us. When it was my turn, I didn’t have to worry about anything other than keeping my eyes on my instructor and drawing encouragement from him.
Now is the time to know the basics of our faith. For some, it’s time to move beyond - because when that day comes, you’re either going to be in the crowd running from Godzilla, or you’ll be standing tall with your eyes fixed on Christ.
Advent is a reminder that Jesus came once, and He will come again. Know where to place your hope. Know where to plant your feet. Know where to fix your eyes.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien.
Heb. 6:13-19 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” u And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
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