Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Hope is a thrilling thing. In one sense, it is a possibility that sets the affections of a person ablaze in the present in light of a potential future reality. In another, orienting one's life solely upon unexpected and unforeseen probabilities is paralyzing. Perhaps it is the mystery associated with journeying into the unknown that moves us to react in such ways. More often than not, however, this isn't the case. We tend to associate our performance in the present as having significant impact on future implications. This runs the gambit of spheres in our lives and is not limited to our understanding of the nature of God. As a matter of fact, we so associate our future of God 'blessing' us with our here-and-now doing that we have become a people far more concerned with cosmic karma than we are Jesus redeeming us because He so lavishly loves us.
You may think this is far fetched, but I hear these things in pastoral moments often. "I did not pray enough so God did not bless me with such and such a job." "I did not trust Jesus enough so my marriage fell apart." "God is punishing me for the sins of my past, so the quality of my life is not where I expected it to be." Far too often we view God through the lens of "what goes around comes around" or "God helps those who help themselves". Karma. When we believe that our doing stuff for God effects and affects His affections towards us, we become the karma police to our own souls, and this has devastating consequences for our life with Jesus. Conversely, when we do things to earn God’s blessings it affects our affections for Him – especially when “He doesn’t come through” with our expectations of what we want Him to do. Both obliterate a gospel-centered view of hope and our enjoyment of it.
Future hope isn't dependent upon our past or present doing. It is intimately linked to what Jesus has done. This is the very thing that Paul addresses in Romans 5. Justification, or God declaring us legally good and our sin debt absorbed by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, is by faith and faith alone in two ways: First, we have been justified because Jesus was faithful to the finished work of the Father in restoring all things to Himself in His death, burial, and resurrection. The merit of our justification is only accredited to the doneness of Jesus. Secondly, we only have access to faith in this finished work because of the faithfulness of Jesus to finish the work of the Father. Hope, then, has nothing to do with our performance. Rather, it is only based upon Jesus. Hope has nothing to do with God's approval of us in our works-based righteousness. We do not work for the approval of a future hope. We work from it. We are already approved because of the finished work of Jesus.
Future hope in the finished work of Jesus means we have peace with God now. Don't miss this. We are driven by a performance culture that states peace in our lives is determined by our striving towards enormous expectations we place upon ourselves due to our view that "God helps those who helps themselves" or "what goes around comes around". We truly believe that our busyness of doing will somehow make God less angry with us. Do enough good works, God will be happy with us. Fail to do enough, God will be angry with us. We completely miss our unity with Christ in our drive towards moralism. This is not peace; rather, it is futility. And futility always leads to chaos. Paul Tripp has this to say: "You can obey God perfectly for the next 1,000 years, and it will never move the needle of His love for you." In the finished work of Jesus, God the Father is setting all things as they should be. This is the very essence of peace. Stop striving. Stop working. Actively rest in the passive reality that Jesus has done everything for you.
Faith gives access to grace. Grace allows us to stand and rejoice in the glory of God. This is the ‘nowness’ of hope. Because faith is active belief in the finished work of Jesus through the finished work of Jesus, we not only have access to the very grace of God, we stand firmly in it as well. Our works do not justify us. There is no amount of righteousness we can conjure in-and-of-ourselves that will close the gap of how holy God is and how wretched we are. If this were the case, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus would matter nothing and we would be able to sustain ourselves by the perfection of our bootstraps. As Eric Mason says, “This is an unbelieving belief system.” We cannot save ourselves. To believe anything we bring to the table is impressive to God and that He favors us in light of our stuff is unbelief. It is folly. This is good news. No. This is the best news, for God loves us not because we are impressive. Far from it. We should be utterly unlovable. He loves us because He loves us. This is who He is. This is the depths of His grace. Not only are we undeserving of it, God the Father finds it fitting that our faith in the reality that He crushed Jesus be the firm foundation upon which we build our lives. It’s all of Jesus. And because it’s all of Jesus, it’s all of grace. Since this is true, our hope in the Gospel has nothing to do with our striving. It has everything to do with the finished work of Jesus. This is grace for the here, for the now. This is the hope of the Gospel for the here, for the now. When this stirs our affections, the glory of God burns brightly in our humbled hearts. We rejoice for our gracious God saves us from ourselves, from Himself, to Himself in the finished work of Jesus. Weary hearts, rejoice!
Future hope in the Gospel allows us to experience the ‘nowness’ of hope in suffering.
Since we live on this side of a creation that has not reached full restoration in the Gospel, we all experience suffering. Bob Dylan once said, “He not being born is busy dying.” David simply confesses in Psalm 51.5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is in this world and, as a consequence of it, we feel, see, taste, and touch the effects of it since birth. We are in a constant state of decay. This is the result of living in a world that is subject to futility – a world that we broke. In our white knuckled rebellion against the King of all creation, when we chose self over God, we welcomed this as normative living.
Yet, our God is gracious to redeem, to purchase us back from our enslavement to ourselves. And He graciously redeems our suffering in this present age. Suffering isn’t meaningless; rather, it is a shadow – a foretaste if you will – of the rescue we experience now in light of the hope that the Gospel will set all things as they should be. Consider 2 Corinthians 4.16-18:
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Endure the suffering. Do not lose heart, for in the crucible of this decay and chaos is where, as Henry Scougal would state, “the life of God is being formed in the souls of men.” Due to our union with Christ, we are strangely being perfected in every trial we endure. Why? The dross of self is melting away and only the strength of Christ remains. It is the very character of Christ sustaining us. This is why endurance produces character. We are united with Christ in His sufferings and we wholly lean on He who overcame the grave. The work that He began in us, He is carrying out to full completion right here, right now, though these temporary bodies are experiencing momentary afflictions. This is the weight of glory… we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God right now – especially in our sufferings – that He will set all things right when Jesus returns. We are merely experiencing a taste of the goodness of Jesus in light of a fallen creation. Oh, how magnificent it will be when we behold Him face-to-face in glory and the Gospel has redeemed all things, as far as the curse of sin is found!
The Holy Spirit with us is the fulfilled promise of the future hope of the Gospel.
When Jesus finished the work of the Father and secured our hope in a future restoration of all things, He ascended to the Father and promised to return and consummate the Kingdom of God. This should be enough. However, our gracious God and King has sealed us with His precious Holy Spirit, securing our position in such hope today. This is truly living in the power and the ‘nowness’ of the resurrection in the present. Romans 8.11 clearly states that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that lives inside of us. It is the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead; it is the same Spirit that raised you and I from the dead into the living hope that is Jesus. This is the very truth of the Gospel. And this is the depths of God’s love towards us: That while we were yet sinners, Christ did all this for the ungodly. This is you. This is me. This is the thrill of hope.
In Christ Alone
In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand