Surprised by Hope: Hope of the Church

Surprised Here is the text to the next to the last message in our Surprised by Hope series. This one is on the Hope of the Church. So feel free to comment, ask questions, add your insight, push back, etc... Would love to hear from you.

So we are now coming close to the end of our series Surprised by Hope, but not before we hit two more major topics of conversation. Two weeks from today, of course, we are covering the crucial topic of resurrection. What is it? Why does it matter? And how we understand it in light of everything that we have been talking about during the last 4 or 5 weeks.

Today we are covering the topic of church by looking at the Hope of The Church. What is the Hope of the Church? What is the mission of the Church? What should we be doing together as the church? And what is the church anyway. So let’s dig into Surprised by Hope: The Hope of the Church and see what we might unpack together.

So before we go any deeper into our text for the morning and our conversation, let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard these words before, “The Local Church is indeed the hope of the world.”? What do you think about that statement? A large part of me disagrees with him, as I believe Jesus is the hope of the world. The church can’t redeem, save, renew, and put to right the world, at least not in its own power. But a part of me also says that if the church partners with Jesus, truly lives out the Kingdom calling, by being disciples, and the seeks to build for the Kingdom (cause only God can truly build the Kingdom) than we can be the hope of the world. In the heart of God, we are partners in bringing his hope to the world. But what is the hope of the church and what we are to be about? Let’s turn to a Scripture together that I believe answers that in some way. Now many of us when we talk about the purpose, hope and mission of the church would jump right to the text at the end of the gospel of Matthew, normally called The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20 which says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” But I’m not going to use this text, save to put everything in the context, that the hope of the church, the mission of the church, is to be disciples that make disciples. And so with that foundational understanding of the mission of the church, that our community is to be a disciple making community, we can move on to, what I believe, being a disciple (and disciple making community) looks like, and how then that becomes the hope of the world.

The Scripture that we’ll be looking at together is found in Micah and is only one verse long. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” According to this Scripture (and many others) the hope of the church is more than just what lies ahead some day when Jesus returns. It is our experience of God’s Kingdom breaking into our everyday journey of faith as we do justice, extend mercy, express love, offer compassion and celebrate beauty…all in the name of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus does not move us to a passive and sedentary life of waiting for God to show up some day in the distant future. As I mentioned last week salvation means that you want to live under the rule and reign of King Jesus, and his rule and reign in your life, is then lived out through you. And what does it look like when the rule and reign of King Jesus gets lived out through you?

Just look at Micah 6:8. This is what God desires of those who call themselves followers of His. This is what the Lord requires of those who seek to follow after Him. The first think it says we are to be about (in the context of being a disciple) is about the work of justice. Now before we can go to the outworking of justice, we need to know what that really means. When someone says justice has been done, or where is the justice in that, they are appealing to the idea that things have either been set right, or they haven’t been set right. In fact, much of the time when you read the word righteousness, what it really means is this idea of justice being setting things to the right, making it the way that it once was, and how it should be. Back to the state of the Garden of Eden. So part of the Hope of the church is partnering with Jesus in the setting of everything to the right. To act justly is about using our lives for good in our world. All too often I believe we limit discipleship to inward things (spiritual disciplines like prayer and bible reading) while in fact discipleship is an inward and an outward journey. To be a follower of Christ means that we will work for justice in our world. Scripture bears this out. God has a heart for the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. There are over 2,000 verses of Scripture that deal with poverty, the poor, the needy, and the afflicted. In other terms this would be out missional, Kingdom life lived in the world. The hope of the resurrection inspires and empowers Christians to stand strong, work hard, pray more fervently, and live with compassion. As the power of the resurrection fills our hearts, homes, and churches, we stand firm, we let nothing move us, we always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know our labor is not in vain!

But just working for justice isn’t enough, there is more to the hope of the church than just that. It also is about how we do it, and why we do it. And there is where the next part of the verse comes in. That we are to love mercy. Why do we need to love mercy within the church? Think about it. You have been shown so much mercy from God. Each day you live, each breath of air in your lungs, everything you have been giving is a gift because of the mercy of King Jesus. But what exactly is mercy? Mercy is defined as compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power, a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion, or compassionate treatment of those in distress. As Christ followers we have been shown mercy- in that Christ has taken the penalty for our sake. In other words we don’t get what we rightly deserve. And as we have been shown mercy by God we in turn should show mercy to others. We realize that it is not anything we have done or will do. Titus 3:4-6 says this about our lives and God’s mercy, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” As we grow deeper in our faith journey, one of the fruits that we should display more of is mercy. We should love mercy, because without it we would be lost. We should love to show others mercy, because we realize that we are no better off than anyone else. Someone once said that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. I believe this trait of discipleship is severely lacking in our world today. We need more Christ followers to show mercy, to not judge others, and to be filled with compassion, grace, and love for all people. When we see ourselves how we truly are (loved by God but sinners saved only by the grace of God) then we are able to show others mercy. But as I said above there is not only an external part of the hope of the church, there is also an internal part as well. There is definitely an external, outward focusing part of the Gospel, but at the same time there is an inward, internal focused part of the Gospel, and the hope of the church is to perfectly balance those two calls. If we are engaging in the work of new creation, in seeking to bring advance signs of God’s eventual new world into being in the present, in justice and beauty and a million other ways, then at the center of the picture stands the personal call of the gospel of Jesus to every child, woman, and man. Which brings me to the last part of Micah 6:8, which calls us to “walk humbly with our God.” This is the area of discipleship that we talk about the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, bible reading and study, silence, and fasting. To walk humbly with our God requires a humility that means that we don’t have it all figured out. We don’t have God in a box, because as soon as we think he is in our box, he breaks the side of the box and escapes. The Christian church needs to relook at this idea of walking humbly with God. You and I need to relook at this idea of walking humbly with God. That the life of a disciple is about a journey and not an end destination. That is about walking with God, traveling with him through life and learning to see things and people through his eyes. To be about his Kingdom and not building our own kingdom. To partner with him in what he wants to do in and through us, and not try to do it in our human power and strength (which can’t be done).

Putting it succiently the hope of the church is to live out Micah 6:8. To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. And I believe that if we take justice, mercy, and humility with God and putting them in terms of the anticipation of God’s eventual setting to rights of the whole world, we will find that they dovetail together and in fact that they are all part of the same larger whole, which is the message of hope and new life that comes with the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

So what does it look like on the ground to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God? How do we do that as individuals, and more importantly, as a community? How can our church partner with God in building for His Kingdom? And what is God saying to you about the work of justice, mercy and humility and what are you going to do about it? And what is God saying to us about this and what should we do about it? Those are the questions that we’ll unpack together.

Here are the discussion questions that followed the message: 1. What does it look like on the ground to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God? How do we do that as individuals, and more importantly, as a community? 2. How can our church partner with God in building for His Kingdom? 3. What is God saying to you about the work of justice, mercy and humility and what are you going to do about it? 4. What is God saying to us about the work of justice, mercy and humility and what are we going to do about it?