A weekday devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find the archive here.
Friday May 15, 2020
1 John 3:3
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
As the world seems to open back up a little bit more each day, if you drive near the intersection of Governors and Whitesburg, make sure to look in the yard sort of diagonally across the intersection from the parking lot of Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. Going up the mountain you will see in huge letters the message “Hope is not cancelled.” The first time I saw the message, I am not too ashamed to admit, I nearly wept. As all of the closures and cancellations began to pile up, including one of the highlights of my year, the church mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I was filled not so much with fear as I have been with uncertainty and confusion and sadness. I empathized for our girls as they lost forever an entire season of soccer, their time at summer camp, and the last two months with the most incredible teachers at school. I felt sorrow for others we know and love who have been forced to experience graduations over Zoom calls, seen the postponement of weddings, were forced to close their businesses (some possibly forever), and have been unable to be with their hurting loved ones in the hospital.
In the midst of our isolation, most all of us have begun to feel more like God, not so much in the unsurpassably holy sense but rather in that our conception of time has gotten to the point where “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Even as things slowly inch back towards some semblance of normal, no matter where we turn, hope still seems as scarce as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and raw meat. Sadly, but predictably, for many, including many of us within the church, fear, sorrow, and anxiety have now been replaced by anger, vitriol, and name-calling driven by political and/or generational differences. For many, contrary to what the sign says, it often does feel as if hope is indeed cancelled.
According to the Strong’s Bible Concordance, hope is defined as “anticipating with pleasure; expectation or confidence.” The book of Genesis tells us that at the very beginning of humanity, Adam and Eve hoped in God. They enjoyed a beautiful and intimate relationship with Him, walking and talking with Him, eagerly anticipating with pleasure the time they were able to spend with Him in His unimaginably incredible creation. And yet, although they lived in literal paradise and all of their needs were more than abundantly satisfied, they still wanted more. Their hope and delight in God instantly turned to fear and shame the moment they broke the only law He had given them. And yet, even though their violation required the penalty of death, a debt that all of humanity would subsequently pay, God did not leave them in their despair. In chapter 3, on page 3 of my Bible, we find the first glimmer of hope, the promise of a child. The Child would not just be any child, but He who would, one day, be capable of delivering the death blow to death, even though He would be wounded in the process. In anticipation of this Child the true hope of humanity was to be found forever. Only He could finally restore that which was in the beginning and lost forever, the purification from sin.
What are you hoping in today? What are you anticipating with pleasure? Many of us have resorted to placing our hope in far lesser things than God. At the moment, we may be hoping for a vaccine, hoping for a certain outcome of the next election, or perhaps just hoping for a peaceful moment to enjoy a cold beverage at the end of the day. God wants us to remember that “everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” Through the repetition of masculine pronouns, we can be easily confused here. But when we replace them with their proper counterparts, the message becomes more clear: “everyone who thus hopes in Jesus purifies himself as Jesus is pure.”
Regardless of who you are and what you believe, we are all hoping for something to restore what was lost. Deep down, we know that we are responsible, we all live in one form or another of guilt or shame, either from what we did that we should not have done or, often even worse, regret over not doing something that we should have done. We all have moments we would like to go back and do over, just as I sit here this morning, there are several specifically that have caused me pain and regret as they entered into my mind. If you are like me today, I would offer again those words: “Hope is not cancelled.” Not because someone spelled it out on their lawn (although it is still pretty cool), but because, no matter how it seems at the moment, God has not given up on you or His world. Scripture tells us that hope in Christ does not, and can not, disappoint us. Jesus knows you, Jesus loves you, and Jesus gave His life for you, that when you place your hope in Him, you can at last know the purity of your soul, just as He Himself is perfectly pure.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we confess that all too often we look for hope in far lesser things than You. Not only does this harm our relationships with others, it soils our relationship with You. Forgive us for the times we dismiss or look down upon those who are still searching for hope, who have not yet found the promise of Jesus. Help us to confidently believe that no matter what we have done, or have not done, You have paid our debt on the cross once and for all. We pray that you would help us to see You in a very real way today. Help us to find our hope in You and You alone, help us to see that in Your blood we are washed clean, just as You are perfectly pure. For the sake of Your name we pray, Amen.