Advent begins today. As you know, the word ‘advent’ itself means ‘coming into place’ or ‘arrival’. The Israelites in the Old Testament had longed for their Messiah to come for a long time, and every prophecy in the Old Testament concerning Messiah’s first advent was fulfilled at the coming of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.
Advent is the season to prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s first coming, and anticipate His second coming, as Judge and Redeemer, to complete God’s ultimate plan of salvation. We are waiting and longing for our savior to come again.
But we don’t just wait while doing nothing. The Holy Spirit was sent to us after Jesus had ascended to Heaven. Jesus promised that He will be with us always through the Holy Spirit until He comes again. Jesus also invited us to join Him in His work on earth and to journey with Him together towards His kingdom. We are moving forward with the Lord and will continue our journey until He returns.
Jesus, who is our hope, joy, love, and peace, came to us and is now living in us and working with us. That means we can experience and live in His hope, joy, love, and peace in every area of our lives. We are living in a temporary home on earth. Our ultimate true home is God Himself. When you turn to and are coming to the true home, your new life that God has prepared for you will begin.
The title of this Advent sermon series is ‘Coming Home’: Coming Home to HOPE, Coming Home to JOY, Coming Home to LOVE, and Coming Home to Peace. As we are preparing for our hearts for a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and for an anticipation of His return, we’re going to begin this Advent season with the first theme, ‘Coming Home to HOPE’.
Our Lives Are Short and Full of Trouble
Job 14:1 says, ‘Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble.’
This verse reminds us why we need hope. Our lives are short and full of trouble.
On the scale of eternity, our lifespan is just like a speck of dust. Let’s for a moment imagine that there is no spirit and no God and see our life from a worldly perspective.
Someday, we are going to die and won’t remember anyone who we loved and cared about so much: our spouse, children, parents, and friends. We won’t remember anything that we valued and invested our whole lives for. Our family or friends will remember us for a while, but they will also die. Then, we will be forgotten forever. No one will know that we were here anymore. If that is all there is to life, then there will be no hope beyond the grave.
Apart from the Lord, there is no love, justice, and hope. People in this world are all self-centered and focus on attaining what they want for their only life here on earth. They are competing and fighting each other every day to pursue pleasure, possessions, or power.
If they lose, or things are not going well as they want, they get angry, blame, and harm each other. This worldly culture causes tensions, discrimination, injustice, violence, conflicts, war, or all kinds of sufferings in people’s lives.
Many survey results show that people are struggling with many life questions or issues: feeling of emptiness, death of loved ones, identity, purpose or meaning of life, uncertainty of the future, overwhelming responsibilities, financial troubles, going through a break-up, fear, mental or physical illness, feeling of hopelessness, loneliness, etc.
Two Different Choices in Finding Hope in Trouble
We are all sinners, and our lives are full of trouble as Job 14:1 says. But no one wants to be defeated by trouble. We want light in the darkness. We need hope in hopelessness. So, people are desperately looking for hope. Jesus fully knows and understands our endless frustration and troubles in this life. He said in John 16:33, ‘In this world you will have trouble.’
He also knows our desperate need of hope to get through all the troubles. So, He added this word. ‘But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ Jesus brought hope back to us by overcoming the world. His hope is already given to us. The hope is now with us.
But the thing is that not all of us are living in that hope. Some people still do not see the hope. Some of us feel we live in the hope, but sometimes we don’t feel that way. Why can we not find hope or live in hope fully, which was already given to us?
Let’s look at Luke 23. Jesus was crucified with the two criminals – one on his right, the other on his left.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
There were two sinners who committed crimes. They got caught and crucified for their crimes. There was nothing they could do except bear indescribable pain until their last moment. There was no hope for them. They were in great agony and desperation.
This story is also described in Matthew 27 and Mark 15. These two scripture passages say, both criminals insulted Jesus. The Bible says only the truth, and all must be true. So, that means that both criminals insulted Jesus at first, but one of them changed his heart later.
We can see two different choices and consequences here. They both faced the same crisis in the same circumstances. Jesus was on the cross there, side by side with them, and they both had the same experience with Jesus, who is true hope. One of the criminals found hope before dying, but the other criminal died without hope. One of them was forgiven and will live eternally in paradise with Jesus. The other one was eternally separated from God.
At first, the criminals must have got angry in agony without hope. They must have been full of fear and wanted to blame the world for their cruel doom. Out of that desperation, they insulted Jesus. But one of them began to see something different from Jesus. Jesus was under the same unbearable circumstance as they were, but there was no anger in His eyes. Rather He had a compassion on those who crucified Him and were insulting Him. He even prayed for them, saying ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
The repentant criminal might remember what he heard about Jesus from people before, and that might make him more confident about who Jesus was. I don’t think he fully understood who Jesus was, but he clearly knew Jesus was innocent, totally different from other people, and good. He also believed that Jesus had His own kingdom and power to lead people to His paradise.
The repentant criminal did two things. He confessed he was guilty, saying ‘We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve’. He felt sorry for his sins. He didn’t ask Jesus to get him down off of the cross or reduce his extreme pain. He said to the Lord, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He just wanted Jesus to remember him and to be with Jesus. He found hope in Jesus during the most difficult time of his life.
How about the other criminal. There was no regret or repentance about his sins. He was in extreme anger, not because he committed crimes, but because he had been caught and crucified. He didn’t care about what he did to his victims. He was not interested in who Jesus was at all. He was only interested in how he could escape from his trouble. He said to Jesus, ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
What he is saying is, if you are God, get me down off the cross. If you can’t do that, you are not God; you mean nothing to me. He determines who God is or not, based on if a god can give him what he wants. His focus was not on God, but on what he could get from God. He got nothing from Jesus and died with no hope.
Hope in Rooted in the Lord
True hope is already given to us and with us. If you focus only on resolving your earthly life issues or what you want from the Lord, not on the Lord Himself, you won’t be able to find hope. We say we believe in the Lord, and the relationship with Him is our focus.
But Christians are often tempted to say to the Lord, ‘aren’t you God? Save me from this life issue’, ‘aren’t you God? I invested my money and lost it all. Save me from this financial crisis, ‘Aren’t you God? Give me a wealthy and healthy life.’
When you are only interested in your own agenda, you won’t be able to find and experience hope. As much as you focus on your own agenda, you will be farther from hope because hope is not about what you want or making your dream come true. Hope is not rooted in our personal goals, but in God’s word, His promise, His character, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
If you want to find hope, you need to look into your heart and motivations first, to check if your relationship with the Lord has been the center of your life, if your heart has been aligned with His heart, and if you have pursued what God wants.
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
God revealed His plan for Abraham in Genesis 12, saying ‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.’ Abraham couldn’t see it fully fulfilled in his life, yet he chose to believe God. He still looked forward with joyful expectancy to the fulfillment of God’s promise. God’s blessings and promises have come to down to us today through Jesus. God’s plan is much bigger and higher than ours.
How about Joseph’s life. God blessed him and was with him, but he was sold as a slave by his brothers. Later in Egypt, he was put in jail unjustly even though he had been so faithful in all situations. If he had focused on what he was getting and experiencing on his tough journey, he would have been so discouraged, and would have blamed God for his life. If he didn’t have hope in God, he would have given up his life, or had gotten revenge on his brothers. God’s way cannot be compared with ours, and His plan is beyond human understanding.
How about the early church in Jerusalem. The Lord sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples and blessed His first church. They must have prayed for the church and for God’s kingdom every day. But many of them had to flee Israel because of the continued persecution after the death of Stephen. They were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. They might be wondering about the future of the church and where God was in that situation. But God used them as a key part of the rapid spread of the gospel. The gospel has been spread throughout the whole world since then.
I think you got the point. True hope is not rooted in our own agenda, plan, desire, or understanding, but in God’s word, His promise, His character, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our God is all knowing and all powerful. He is loving and holy and cannot lie. Our hope is firm and secure.
Coming Home to Hope
16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
The inner sanctuary behind the curtain was the most holy place, and only the high priest could enter the place once a year. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a large veil. The veil guarded the people from accessing the Ark of the Covenant and coming into the presence of God.
We are going to celebrate Christ’s first coming in four weeks. Jesus came to us to enter the greater, perfect tabernacle in heaven with his own blood, which is our ultimate home. He entered the home once for all and secured our eternal future forever.
When Jesus died on the cross, the veil tore from top to bottom. By tearing the veil, God declared that we can directly approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.
Our hope is rooted in God’s word, His promise, His character, and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord is the source of hope. Jesus anchors us the hope in our true home where God dwells in glory. The hope holds you steady in your life and secure in the future because the Lord is the source of the hope.
You know the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He left his home with his own agenda expecting a better life with his own hope. He eventually lost everything. His life was full of trouble and became miserable. He was hopeless and there was no future. He decided to come back home and find hope again for his life.
How is your life? What trouble are you getting through now? Is your hope rooted in the Lord or in something else? Whatever life situation you are in now, I’d like to remind you that you have your true home where God is waiting for you with open arms. If you are away from home in some area of your life, you won’t be able to find and live in hope. You need to come back home. The true home is the only place you can find the hope that is the anchor for your soul.
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