A Living Hope

PBC20200412AM1

“A Living Hope”

1 Peter 1

April 12, 2020 –Easter Sunday – Dr. Jack Graham

 

[Dr. Graham, “A Living Hope”]

 

Hello, everyone, and Happy Easter. And we welcome you to Prestonwood today from all over the world, around the country.

 

In case you don’t know Prestonwood, we are a church located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in Texas and in the heart of this north Texas region. We are a congregation of over 40,000 members and we’re grateful for each one. And our church, like churches all over America and even around the world are meeting not in our building. This is not our regular building as a matter of fact. We have a beautiful 7000 seat worship center and soon we’ll be back in our places of worship. But until then we are online and you are at home, and we’re coming into your home wherever you are, or on your device or on your tablet. And we’re grateful for the technology to be able to do that. And so welcome today, and we hope you’ll join us each week as often as you can… not only our Prestonwood members but people from around the world.

 

We want to talk about our faith and the title of this message is “Living Hope… Living Hope.” There’s a text in Scripture written by Peter who was an eyewitness to the resurrection. 1 Peter chapter 1, verse 3:

 

3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be (watch this) born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

 

So, there you have it. We have a great God who has given us a new life and a new birth in the Lord Jesus Christ. And with that comes hope… hope. Now what is hope? People are asking, “Is there any hope? Is there hope for the world? Is there hope for America? Is there hope for my family? Is there hope for me? And what is that hope?” Well, you know, you cannot live without hope. Hope has been described as oxygen for the soul. And just as your body cannot live without oxygen, your soul… our souls cannot live without hope. Now what is hope?

 

It’s far more than blind love, so much more than chance; it’s more than wishful thinking. “I hope, I hope, I hope!” It’s more than optimism. Now I love optimism and positive thinking. In fact, it was my pleasure for a number of years to be the pastor of the famous Zig Ziglar, one of the great speakers in the history of our country. And Zig was the ultimate optimist. And Zig would say things like “I would rather be around an optimist any day than a pessimist.” And he said, “Positive thinking produces positive results.” So, I believe in optimism; I believe in positive thinking. Because [Proverbs 23:7] “As we think in our hearts, so are we.” And therefore, it’s important to think positively, especially in times like these.

 

But I want to tell you something greater that positive thinking and optimism, and that is hope. Hope is not wishful thinking; it is not optimism alone; it is confidence… it is confidence in God who is the God of hope. The Scripture says, [Romans 15:13] “The God of all hope will fill us with all joy and peace in believing that in the power of the Holy Spirit we might overflow with hope.” This overflowing, abounding hope in us comes from Jesus Christ and what happened at the resurrection.

 

Without the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ we do not have real hope. We can’t promise hope for anyone in this life or in the life to come unless Christ came out of that grave. I like to say that if Jesus Christ is still in that grave, then nothing really matters. But if Jesus came out of the grave… and He did come out of the grave… then nothing else really matters.

 

You see, hope is not a something; hope is a Someone! Hope is Jesus Christ, and the death, the burial, the resurrection of Christ which is the message of Easter. Hope is the person of Christ! Jesus is hope! Hope has a name and His name is Jesus! So, we are born again to this hope in Jesus Christ. Now what does that mean, to be born again? It means that in Christ we have a living hope, a hope that is alive.

 

There was an old man by the name of Nicodemous who came to Jesus by night and he spoke to Christ and wanted to know how he could understand true religion and true faith. And Jesus began to speak to him about these things and that’s when Jesus made the statement, [John 3:7]“Don’t be amazed that I say to you, you must be born again.” Now Nicodemous was a religious man; he was a righteous man in many ways, and yet Jesus said to him, “Nicodemous, you must be born again.” You must be born from the inside out, a spiritual birth. It’s a rebirth, not a natural birth, but a spiritual birth. It is when the living Christ comes to live in us.

 

We often talk about a personal relationship with Jesus. And I know some people scratch their head; they say, just what does that mean… a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You know, I have my religion and you have yours, but what’s a personal relationship with Christ?

 

This personal relationship means that in truth… in reality Jesus Christ by His Spirit lives in us. And while we were dead and on our way to judgment without hope in the world, when Christ comes into our lives, we are born again. And when we are born again, we have a new destiny. Our future is secure in Him. We have a new direction in our lives; our lives are changed, transformed from the inside out.

 

You know, some people need to stop enduring religion and start enjoying salvation, the new birth in Jesus Christ. And that’s what I’m talking about. There’s nothing more dead than religion without God, without hope. But in Jesus Christ there is life. The Scripture says, [1 John 5:12] “He who has the son (Jesus) has life.” The Apostle Paul said, [Philippians 1:21] “To live is Christ,” and then he went on to say, “to die is gain.” So, when you are born again, you have this brand-new life in Christ and a personal relationship with God and you’re on your way to a future and a hope to be with Him. So, living hope.

 

Have you been born again? Has there ever been a time, a place in your life when you have bowed your head and received Christ into your life, and asked Him to give you a brand new life, to forgive all your sins and to live in you and to give you a future, a hope in heaven with Him? In just a few moments I’m going to give you the opportunity to make that decision, and I’m praying that God’s Spirit is already at work in your life and that you are responding deep within. This is a living hope, a relationship with Jesus Christ. This hope is alive.

 

And then not only is this hope that we have in Christ a living hope, but as we read earlier, we are kept by the power of God. So that means that this hope that we have in Christ is a lasting hope. It is a steadfast and sure hope that does not change, because [Hebrews 13:8] “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” And therefore, He holds on to us. This hope means that we are kept in the hands of God. And let me remind you that the hands of Jesus, crucified, are nail-pierced hands. He understands our pain, He understands our suffering, our grief, our sorrows, and He holds onto us. We are confident in these days of any days of our lives because of the resurrection that we are held in His mighty hand. The omnipotent grip of God. He’s got you right now! And that hope endures; we are secure in Him.

 

Sometimes we wonder when we mess up, when we fail if somehow, we could lose our faith or even lose our salvation. No, we are, according to the Scripture here, because of the resurrection, because Christ is alive in us, we are kept by the power of God. He’s holding onto us; we’re not just holding onto Him.

 

When I was a father for the first time… little son Jason who’s now 46 years of age… we were teaching him to walk, of course, and one day I had him out on the sidewalk in front of our house in Fort Worth, Texas, and I just had him by the hand. Well I really didn’t have him by the hand; he had me by the finger and I was just walking him alone just like this, just walking him along. And his little legs tripped over a crack in the sidewalk, and he let loose… he turned loose and he went down, and there was blood and there was crying, and his mom was really not happy with me. I didn’t handle the walking lessons very well. And I learned a lesson as a young dad. That is, when you have your little child and you’re teaching them to walk or you’re teaching them to stand, you hold onto them. You don’t let them hold onto you; you get a good firm grip on their little wrist or hand; you hold onto them!

 

So much more God holds onto us! God our Father has us in His grip. And in these days when there’s so much concern and so much grief and so much sorrow, and so much hopelessness… I’ve just been amazed… There’s so much hopelessness in the world, and no wonder! Because you know, if you don’t know Christ, you’re headed towards a hopeless end. But if you do know Christ as your Savior, then your future is an endless hope. And that’s what I’m talking about. This lasting hope that we have in Jesus. So, we have a living hope… we’ve been born again to this life in Christ… this brand-new life in Christ. We also, because we have a new birth, a new life in Christ and a living hope, we have a lasting hope. We are kept by the grip of God… by the power of God. His grace holds onto us.

 

One final thing: not only a living and lasting hope, but because Christ is alive, we have a loving hope. Verse 8 of this passage says, Peter speaking; he says:

 

8) Though you have not seen him…

 

Now Peter had seen the Lord with his own eyes. He was an eyewitness as many others were to the resurrection, but he was speaking to those who had not personally seen Jesus, like you and me. And he said:

 

8) Even though you have not seen him, you love him.

 

And I do. I don’t mind telling you I love Jesus. And my prayer is that you will love Him, too. And you know why we love Jesus? Because we know Him; we know Jesus in a personal way. He’s not someone we just talk about; someone we just know about; He’s someone we know. [2 Timothy 1:12] “I know whom I believe, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that Day.” The day when we stand before Him.

 

Yes, we know Christ and therefore we love Christ, and we’re looking forward to the day when we see Jesus face to face. One day we’re going to see the risen Lord, because He lives and He’s coming again. And every eye will see Christ! And I’m looking forward to the day when face to face I see Jesus. Right now, through eyes of faith, and I love Him. And I pray that you do as well, and that you will trust Him today as your Lord and your Savior. Because with all these deaths that we see and all the dying around us, there’s one statistic that is absolutely true, and that is one out of one person dies. We all die! Every one of us! [Hebrews 9:27] “It’s appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment.” We’re all going to stand before God in eternity.

 

This whole thing with the coronavirus has made us feel more mortal and more vulnerable and to think of eternity. So, one day you’re going to be standing before God and what you do with Jesus now will determine your eternal destiny. Because you have to do more than die to go to heaven. Jesus said, “Trust in Me. I will take you to the Father.” He’s preparing a place for you. And one day we will be in His presence if we’ve trusted Him as our Lord and as our Savior.

 

Mel Blanc was a famous voice for Looney Toons cartoons, and Mel Blanc was the voice of Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig and Woody Woodpecker and all those Hanna Barbera cartoons… Looney Toons, they would close with these words: “Th-th-that’s all, folks.” So, when Mel Blanc died, he requested that it put on his tombstone; his name, his birthdate, his death date, and then these words: “That’s all, folks.”

 

But you know, for Mel and for all of us when we die, that’s not all. That’s not all because God made you an eternal, immortal soul and you will be in either heaven or hell forever and ever. And so, what you do with Christ matters today. I’m going to invite you to trust in Christ and receive Christ as your Lord and Savior. Is Christ living in your heart?

 

There was a man by the name of Alfred Ackley. He was a preacher and a songwriter, as well, and living in California. And he was witnessing to a friend of his, a Jewish friend. And his friend rebuffed the witness. When Alfred would talk to him about Jesus, he would simply say, “Well, why would I give my life to follow a dead Jew?” And Alfred was having trouble answering that question. He kept trying and sharing his witness and wasn’t getting through. And early on Easter morning as he was preparing his message to preach in his congregation, he was really thinking about that question. Why would someone give up everything, give up their lives to follow a dead man? And he turned on the radio to hear a message on the radio. It was a liberal preacher from the northeast who came on, a well-known preacher, who said something like this. He said “Happy Easter everybody! You know, it really doesn’t matter if Jesus is alive or not; that He rose from the dead or not. What matters is that His truth marches on.” Well that angered Alfred. And he was so upset that he took the radio and he threw it against the wall. He said, “That’s a lie! That a lie! Jesus lives!”

 

He went on to preach that morning with passion as never before. When he got back home that afternoon he was still struggling. “Why would someone give their lives to follow Jesus?” His wife said, “Alfred, why don’t you do what you do best, and that’s write a song.” And Alfred said it just came really in minutes. He wrote this song, the well-known Christian hymn: “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. / I know that He is living whatever men may say.” And the chorus says: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me; He talks with me along life’s narrow way. / He lives, He lives salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives. He lives within my heart.”

 

The living Christ will live in you if you will invite Him right now. Would you just bow your heads wherever you are, wherever your space [background music begins] may be? In your home, in front of your screen. You’re watching this, you’re listening to this, but the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Living Christ is calling you to follow Jesus. Would you do that right now?

 

You say, how would I do that? What do I… what do I need to do? Admit that you have sinned and that you need a Savior. And then believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross, that He loves you, He gave His life for you, and yes, on the third day He rose again. Scripture puts it this way: [Romans 10:9] “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Saved meaning your sins are all forgiven, that Christ comes to live in you and that you have a hope and a future. You will be with Him in heaven. You will see Him face to face one day.

 

And then call upon Him in prayer. Scripture says in that same Romans chapter 10 in the Bible, [Romans 10:13] “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” So just bow your heads and say “Jesus, would you save me? I believe You died on the cross for me; that You rose again. I do believe! I now receive You, Lord, into my life. Forgive all my sin, change my heart. Create in me this new life. I want to be born again. I want to go to heaven. So, Lord, I’m following You. I’m trusting in You.” Just tell Him. You can just say, “Jesus, Jesus” Call on His name. Trust me, if you will trust in Jesus… if you will believe in Jesus, He’s promised that He will come into your life. That’s not me saying; that’s God’s Word saying it. “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord, will be saved.”

 

And then confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You know, there’s a way that you can confess Him today and thousands and thousands of people all over the world are receiving Christ today, and you can be one of them. Wherever you are, just look at your screen, there is a little hand held up, and you can click that hand and say I’m holding up a hand, I’m trusting in Christ. I prayed that prayer. I know that Jesus is now living in my life and I want to confess it. I want to believe and I want to express my belief today. So, click on it; hold up that hand right now.

 

Or even better… here’s something else you can do. If you don’t have your cell phone, get your cell phone and just type in this number- 74788. Text to 74788 and then just text in the word “Jesus”. Your calling on Jesus… Just say J-e-s-u-s. Just click it in, type it in and there’s someone standing by to celebrate with you your decision to follow Christ.

 

And we have something that we want to give you. Because it’s so important that you get started well and growing in your Christian life and so we have a new believer’s Bible. And this new believer’s Bible are first steps for new Christians, and there are wonderful study notes here written by my really good friend Greg Laurie, and they’re fantastic study notes to help you understand your Bible. It’s written so that you can clearly begin walking with Jesus, trekking with the Lord all the way to heaven. The risen Lord in your life. So, we will send you that, just give us the information that we need in order to get it to you.

 

And then there’s a book that I’ve written called New Life in Christ. We’ve been talking about it. New Life in Christ. Exploring the essentials of the Christian faith. And there’s several chapters here about the basics, the essentials of what it means to follow Jesus and to live your life for Him.

 

Just, again, 74788-Jesus or raise a hand and let us know and we will send you these because we just want you to grow, we want you get going in following Jesus. And this is a way that you can confess your faith today.

Do it right now. Trust in Christ and follow Him in the power of His Holy Spirit all the days of your life.

 

Again, thank you for joining us here at Prestonwood today. And I’m standing in front of a visual of just a piece of our property. It’s a beautiful pond outside our worship center. And there’s a cross there that reminds me of the eternal life that we have in Christ. It’s set there to say that this cross is now a triumphant cross. The cross is a symbol not of death, but now a symbol of life because Jesus lives. God bless you and Happy Easter.

 

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