Monday, March 1, 2010

Christians Groan (Romans 8:23-25)

The apostle Paul has already established the truth that the creation groans – that the creation longs for and groans for its promised deliverance from the destructive consequences of sin which is tied to the glorification and deliverance of believers from the presence of sin (Romans 8:18-22). The creation is eagerly waiting and watching for the redemption of God’s children which will result in its redemption from its slavery to corruption. The creation has a hope that is sure that causes it to patiently endure suffering while eagerly waiting for what has been promised.

Not only does the creation groan for and long for deliverance but we ourselves, that is, believers, groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23). The reason we groan is because we have experienced “the first fruits of the Spirit” – a foretaste of the glory to come. We have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are being sanctified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and we are being led by and comforted by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. We will be glorified by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ when He appears. “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

This gives us biblical hope which causes us to groan within ourselves waiting eagerly and patiently with perseverance for what has been promised and especially for the One who will bring it about – namely the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why we read, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13-14). Just as the creation is groaning for and longing for its glorification and freedom from corruption by waiting and watching for the glorification of the children of God so we too are groaning for and longing for our glorification and freedom from sin’s presence by watching and waiting for the appearing and revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is biblical hope and what is it based on? To answer that question I want to start off by offering to you what hope is not and then we will look at what hope is:

Hope is not an uncertain wish or a wish that is not firmly grounded in absolute truth. Many people have a false hope because of their false theology. They wish to be saved but not on God’s terms and in God’s way. “Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light….Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it” (Amos 5:18, 20)? There are many whose hope is only a wish that is not firmly grounded in absolute truth.

There is no hope either for those who have twisted God’s Word to their own destruction or for those who have not heard of the only legal and righteous way that God can and will save – “When the Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). They may have a false hope but they do not have biblical hope.

Biblical hope is based on the promises of God and therefore it is based on the certainty and truthfulness of God Himself who cannot lie – “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.’ And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as a confirmation is an end to every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor to the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:13-20). Biblical hope is not wishful thinking.

Where there is no communication of God’s promise of rescue and refuge in Jesus Christ there is no hope – “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands – remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12). Where there is no promise of rescue there is no hope!

Those who are not rescued in this lifetime will spend eternity with no hope because hell is a place of no hope. There is no promise of deliverance for those in hell so those who die without having taken refuge in Christ have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Without the promise of God that He will rescue you on His terms and not your own – there is no hope because there has been no communication of the promise of rescue. Without the communication of the promise of the rescue plan which enables men to take refuge in Christ, there is no hope – no reason to long for and groan for the deliverance that has been promised; no reason to believe that He is going to rescue you instead of destroy you; and no reason to look for His appearing.

Let me illustrate this truth with a real life rescue story: On Friday June 2, 1995, Captain Scott O’Grady and his wingman Bob Wright were patrolling a NATO no-fly zone over Bosnia in their F-16’s. The Bosnian Serbs had mapped the flight pattern of the NATO pilots and had moved a battery of Russian made SA-6 surface-to-air missiles directly below the path of the enforcing aircraft. The Serb commander switched on his radar for just a few moments in order to be able to detect the jets, their path, and their speed. He turned the radar off almost as quickly as he turned it on to avoid detection from the equipment on the jets. Bob Wright picked up the warning single for a few moments but nothing showed on O’Grady’s equipment because he was a little further out of range. The Serbs dialed in their surface-to-air missiles to intercept the F-16’s at just the right moment. Having calculated the speed of the jets the Serbs fired knowing that it would take approximately twenty seconds for the missiles to reach their targets. So after about ten seconds the Serbs switched their radar back on which would guide the missiles to their targets. The first missile exploded in the air between the two jets. The other struck O’Grady’s F-16.

When his F-16 aircraft burst into flames, O’Grady ejected from his disintegrating plane and parachuted to earth, landing deep behind enemy lines in hostile territory. With armed militia hot on his heels, O’Grady dove into the undergrowth. Moments later his pursuers passed five feet from his head. O’Grady’s situation was grim. His survival kit only contained eight 4 ounce packets of water, a first-aid kit, a few flares, a 9 mm pistol, a survival radio barely larger than a walkman, and some radio batteries.

O’Grady was undetected by the initial search conducted by the enemy to find him. Under the cover of darkness he began to slowly move to try to get to higher ground where he could have a better opportunity to make radio contact. O'Grady's efforts to establish contact using the survival radio were thwarted at first by bad weather, which kept allied planes away for several days. O’Grady’s radio not only transmitted his voice it could also transmit a beacon to notify the military of his position. The military was in fact picking up the radio beacon but thought that it might be an ambush by the enemy – they didn’t know if O’Grady was alive or not.

So far there has been no communication and no promise of rescue – there was no hope based on the certainty and truthfulness that the military was coming to get him. “This is Basher five two. Is anyone out there?” No reply! Then early Thursday morning, O’Grady’s sixth day on the ground, Captain Thomas O Hanford and his wingman were coming to the end of their patrol. Hanford wanted to go deeper into enemy territory to see if he could possibly make contact and communication with O’Grady. Running very low on fuel Hanford pressed on as his wingman urged that they should head back. But Hanford didn’t give up. Then at 2:08am Captain Thomas O Hanford broadcasted from his jet, “Basher five two this is Basher one one on Alpha.” And sure enough he hears O’Grady responding, “This is Basher five two – I’m alive”! Listen to this actual cockpit recording.

Now communication has taken place, the military knows that O’Grady is alive and they have given him a promise that they are coming for him. O’Grady now has hope. He is groaning within himself for the full and final rescue that has been promised. But he must wait. Captain Hanford has radioed the military and gone back to his base where his shift is over. But he refueled his jet and went back out so that he could comfort O’Grady while O’Grady waited for the rescue operation to be put in place. O’Grady would have to wait eagerly and persevere with his eyes on the skies looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the rescue package.

While Hanford was circling in the sky and comforting O’Grady the US military was readying the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and two of their CH-53 helicopters that would carry a total of 43 marines to go and get O’Grady. At 6:12 am the first of the big cargo helicopters lifted off, followed by two AH-1W Cobra gunships and two AV-8 Harrier jump jets. At 6:44 the rescuers contact O’Grady. His eyes are on the skies – and then he hears it – the sound is building and it’s getting closer and he sees as the helicopters touch down.

At 7:07 am the helicopter's side door had been open for all of three seconds when O'Grady tumbled across its threshold. He had two words, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

The US military could have failed in its mission – but it didn’t and we are grateful. However, God will never fail in His mission. We have a hope that is steadfast and sure and is an anchor to the soul. If God is for us, who can be against us?

One of these days and it may be very soon, as our eyes are on the skies and we are groaning for, longing for, and looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds – we will hear it – the sound is building and it’s getting closer – it’s the trumpet of God and the Lord Himself will descend with a shout and the rescue will be complete – the redemption of our bodies.

No comments: