Hope vs. Optimism

As we have been studying through 1 Peter together, we have thought much about hope. Peter begins the letter by saying that as Christians, we “have been born again to a living hope” (1:3). Often when we speak of hope today, we simply mean “wishful thinking”. Biblical hope is so much more than wishful thinking. J.I. Packer explains this well when he explains the difference between hope and optimism. Packer wrote:

We can…clearly see that the word hope signifies two distinct, though related, realities. Objectively, it means the divinely guaranteed prospect before us; subjectively, it means the activity or habit of looking forward to the day when what is promised will become ours in actual enjoyment. It is thus quite distinct from optimism. Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God…Optimism is a wish without a warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that each day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is still to come. (Never Beyond Hope, pg. 15, emphasis mine)

Thanks be to God for the hope we have in Christ. As Peter says, it is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (Christian)” (1:4).

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Two Things

I wanted to take an opportunity to draw your attention to a couple of things.

First, our friend and church planting partner, Kevin Sanders, has recently dusted off his old blogging skills and put them to good use for our benefit. His most recent post, Give Jesus To Your Kids, is excellent. Give it a read!

Second, 9 Marks posted a panel discussion from last week’s Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The panel was on The State of the SBC and features Mark Dever, Danny Akin, H.B. Charles, and Al Mohler. For those who are interested, it is a good conversation and worth your time.

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“Christ’s Grace and Your Sufferings”

The love of Christ for me will get the last say. My indestructible hope is that he has turned his face towards me and he will never turn away.” -David Powlison

On Friday morning, the church lost a brother who has been a true gift to all gospel loving, Christ-exalting believers. David Powlison, at the age of 69, after a battle with pancreatic cancer, died and met his Savior. I mentioned the loss of our brother in the sermon today and wanted to post his sermon on suffering that I commended to everyone.

Justin Taylor offers a brief biographical sketch of Powlison’s life here. (It is well worth your time.)

Here is Powlison’s excellent sermon, “Christ’s Grace and Your Sufferings” from the 2005 Desiring God National Conference.

Here are some of Powlison’s books:

I am thankful to God for the gift of David Powlison to the church. I am thankful to God for the “indestructible hope” He offers us all in Christ.

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Summer Reading 2019

Summer is here, and for many, that means a change of pace that might provide an opportunity for a little extra reading. If you think you might be able to slip in a book or two in the coming weeks, let me make some recommendations.

Church Life and Individual Discipleship/Growth

Diehard Sins by Rush Witt

Untangling Emotions by Alasdair Groves and Winston Smith

The Rule of Love by Jonathan Leeman

Culture and Apologetics

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin

Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter Williams

Plugged In by Daniel Strange


Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father by Thomas Kidd

In The Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History by Sinclair Ferguson

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“You Must Be Born Again”

Here is a recent conference sermon from Tim Keller that I listened to this week. I hope it is as much of an encouragement to you as it was for me.

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The Main Thing

Rush Witt, in his book, Diehard Sins writes:

The gospel is the greatest reality in all the world, and it must become the greatest reality in the small personal worlds that we live in every day. Every heart that will be freed from sin is a heart that must first become overwhelmed by the life-transforming message of the cross. And our sense of awe over Christ and His good news must never fade from view.

The truth is that no one “gets” the gospel. None of us can corner it. We will never master the good news as though we could exhaust its power and move on to something better. The gospel must master us, as we continually explore its endless caverns of redeeming grace and truth. We should be careful, then, to avoid the trap that has ensnared many unsuspecting Christians. It is a serious error to believe that the Christian life must be undergirded by a more fanciful principle than the old-time message of the cross, such as man-made self-help principles or the “secret tricks” said to be hidden in modern psychologies…We must keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is the gospel. Are you being mastered daily by the good news of Jesus? (pg. 113)

As we often say at Redeemer, we never outgrow the gospel!

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Working for the King

During the sermon on Sunday, I mentioned a helpful principle from Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert’s book, The Gospel At Work. They say:

Who you work for is more important than what you do. (pg. 14)

This is the memorable and helpful truth I mentioned on Sunday. I wanted to take time here to provide more insight from their book.  They write:

You work for Jesus. That fact is the most important thing you can know and remember about your work. It’s much more important than the job itself, regardless of whether you’re a homemaker, a banker, a political staffer, a construction worker, a barista, or a corporate executive. No matter what you are doing you are doing it to glorify Jesus.

If you keep that one big idea in mind, it will change the way you think about your work and engage in your work. Why? Because when glorifying Jesus is our primary motivation, our work—regardless of what that work is in its particulars—becomes an act of worship. We are freed completely from thinking that our work is without meaning and purpose, and we are equally freed from thinking our work hold some ultimate meaning. (pg. 15, emphasis original)

That last sentence helps us understand why this truth of working for the King keeps us from two common pitfalls they emphasize.

First Pitfall: Being idle in our work. (pg. 16)

Second Pitfall: Making our work an idol. (pg. 16)

Working for the King motivates you to work diligently instead of being lazy. At the same time, this principle keeps you from worshiping your work because everything you do is for Christ’s glory.

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Worship Fuels Evangelism

Yes, I’m doing back-to-back posts from Elliot Clark’s book, Evangelism as Exiles. I shared this in the sermon on Sunday and I think it’s worthy of sharing again here. 1 Peter 2:9 says;

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Speaking of our call as Christians to “proclaim the excellencies” of God, Clark wrote:

We’re called to declare God’s praises to the world. So if we’re not faithfully proclaiming the gospel to those around us, it’s owing to the fact we’re not overflowing in praise to God. If evangelism doesn’t exist, it’s because worship doesn’t. (pg. 103)

Think on that last line for a moment. We love to tell others of the things we delight in. We will talk about our kids, hobbies, jobs, a good meal, and on we could go. Clark is saying if we aren’t sharing the Gospel, it’s because we aren’t delighting in the Gospel. He then continues:

While we demonstrate an incredible ability to proclaim the glories of endless earthly trivialities, we somehow stutter and stammer at the opportunity to speak with others about our heavenly hope. So it’s obvious our gospel silence isn’t because our mouths are broken; it’s because our hearts are. Because if we worshiped God as we should, our neighbors, coworkers, and friends would be the first to hear about it. (pg. 103)

These are strong words we would all do well to consider. Ask the Lord to stir your heart in worship as you reflect on the beauty of the Gospel. Start by meditating on the Gospel riches proclaimed in 1 Peter 1:3-5, 2:9-10.

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Appropriate Fear and Evangelism

This week I’ve been reading a new book by Elliot Clark entitled, Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers In Our Own Land. Clark is looking at how the letter of 1 Peter instructs Christians today as Exiles called to witness to Christ. I’m reading the book because we are currently studying 1 Peter. However, I wish I could have read it before my sermon on Acts 17:16-34 this past Sunday.

In one section of the book, Clark talks about how coming judgment should motivate our evangelism. His words compliment well Paul’s approach with the Athenians in Acts 17. Paul tells them that God created them, that they are accountable to Him as their creator, and that He will judge them at an appointed time in the future. In light of this coming judgement Paul calls them to repent. Paul is compelled by this reality to proclaim the Gospel.

Listen as Clark tell us how this reality motivates evangelism:

…the gospel must be proclaimed, because all will give an account to One who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5-6).

Have we really taken into account the end and outcome for our friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers? Is our failure to evangelize really an issue of fearing too much, or not fearing nearly enough? Do we cherish our comfort and others’ respect more than we cherish God’s glory and their deliverance? Will we love them enough to fear for them, to show them mercy and kindness by warning them and snatching them out of the fire? The consistent testimony of the New Testament is that if we have the appropriate fear for them and of God, we’ll preach the gospel. We’ll speak out and not be ashamed. (pg. 58, emphasis original)

He later wrote:

When we observe that our problem in evangelism is fearing others too much, we should note the form such fear takes. We typically aren’t running from people in terror…Rather, fearing others more than God usually demonstrates itself in trying to please them more than God. (pg. 59)

He concludes:

Christians who try to please people ultimately fail at pleasing God and fail at proclaiming his gospel. And far too often this is the problem in our evangelistic endeavors: We’re fundamentally committed to keeping people happy and having them like us, having them think we’re smart, contemporary, hip, tolerant, progressive, fun, approving—and the list goes on. We want to please them; and we want them to approve of us. (pgs. 59-60)

May the Lord give us a reverent fear of Him and a sincere love for others. When this happens, we will be motivated to proclaim the Gospel for God’s glory and their good.

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Growing Up In Christ

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” -1 Peter 2:2-3

On Sunday, I offered a quote from Ed Clowney on these two verses from 1 Peter. I wanted to provide the fuller quote because I find his words to be as beautiful as they are helpful. He wrote:

The goal of our growth is salvation, the full salvation in Christ that the gospel proclaims, and for which we are kept (1 Pet. 1:5). Again we see the alpha and omega of our hope. Peter writes to those who have already been given new birth by the word, who have already come to the Lord and tasted that he is good. Theirs is a sure hope, for their inheritance is kept for them and they are kept for it. Yet their hope is also future; they do not merely wait for it, they grow toward it, like flowers toward the sun. Faith is purified, love is intensified, grace is tasted as we are tested. (The Message of 1 Peter, pg. 80, emphasis mine)

In some of my reading the past few days, I was reminded of some words from Martin Luther that compliment well Clowney’s words. Luther said:

We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way; the process is not yet finished, but it has begun; this is not the goal, but it is the road; at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified. (quoted in Diehard Sins, pg. 66)

These words describe well the Christian life as we, by God’s grace, grow in holiness…as we grow up into what He has declared us in justification, righteous. As we press on, remember our hope:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6

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