[Aug 22]—Painful Hopes

Romans 8:19-25

            Creation is groaning. Things are not as they should be. You can feel it in a mosquito bite, when a lowly creature dares to attack an image bearer of the Creator himself. You can hear this groaning grow into a deafening shout when you see an earthquake that destroys the lives of thousands.
            But according to Moses’ writings in Genesis, this is due to God’s curse. We rebelled against him (always a bad idea), and in turn creation rebelled out from under us. A garden that only produced the most delicious of fruit and the sweetest smelling flowers now produces thorns and thistles and weeds. Yes, Adam worked before the Fall; he had a job to do, but this work was nothing but unalloyed pleasure. Now, his choice was to either 1) earn his food by the sweat of his brow, or 2) starve.
            But as we saw from yesterday, Paul affirms the truth of Genesis (which of course he would) but also goes past it. Jesus didn’t come to abrogate the Law but to fulfill it. The curse that all creation was under (along with us), Jesus turns into a blessing. In fact, with the Good News of Jesus’ coming--on this side of the Cross and Empty Tomb--Paul never refers to a curse here. He says that creation was subjected to frustration in hope. Hope in what? A vague hope that somehow things might be better someday?
`           My friend, like faith, hope must have an object, and it's only good as its object. If I’ve already used this illustration, then please forgive me. You might have complete faith in the pilot of the plane in which you’re flying. You might have complete confidence in his skills, experience, competence, soberness, etc. But if that faith is misplaced, if you believe in him but he’s not worthy of that faith, you’re in deep trouble.
            Hope in the Bible is not a vague feeling that things might be better. It is complete confidence that God will accomplish everything he says to the benefit of his children. The term “sure hope” in terms of the Bible is repetitive: There’s no other kind that the Bible knows.
            And what is this sure hope that Paul is referring to here? It's when our Lord Jesus returns to claim his own, at which time he'll redeem our bodies. Notice that Paul says that we’re looking forward to the redemption of our bodies. My spirit is already redeemed, that is, bought back. As far as God is concerned, I'm completely clean and whole and righteous in his court on the inside.
But outwardly my body is wasting away. Presently my body needs eyeglasses to see properly. I’m diabetic, completely dependent on an insulin pump to stay alive. I’m getting older, which means as time passes I’m going to get weaker and sicker and frailer. I can exercise and eat right and try my best to keep healthy, but I’m only slowing down the inevitable decline.
There’s a parallel in creation as well. Everywhere we see decay and sickness and death and seeming futility. And the Lord has done this on purpose. Why? Because he—in his perfect wisdom—has permanently linked the physical creation’s state with ours. Right now it groans, along with us. But when Christ comes and redeems our bodies in the Resurrection, he will then also liberate creation “from its bondage to decay and [bring it] into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
But for now. . . we groan. Of course, all humanity groans, but we especially. Not necessarily because we’re experiencing so much worse lives than anyone else, but because by the Spirit we know better. Remember what we said about frustration? You can’t be frustrated without knowledge about something better. Yes, as far as God is concerned, we’re already adopted. The Spirit of Adoption who lives inside of us groans along with us as we lift up our hearts and prayers to our Father. But when our Lord returns, all the universe will see him proclaim us as his sons and daughters, his heirs and co-heirs with Christ. In the meantime, the Spirit is our “firstfruits.” Firstfruits? MacArthur: “Just as the first pieces of a produce to appear on a tree provide hope of a future harvest, the fruit which the Spirit produces now (Gal. 5:22, 23) provides hope that we will one day be like Christ.”
But regrettably hope is not something we see now with our physical eyes. “Who hopes for what they already have?” But we have God’s promises in his word, and we have the Spirit living within us who gives us everything we need. . . for now.
And also for now. . .enjoy a simple song that meditates on this truth. 

Father God, your servant Paul said that in hope we wait patiently. I guess that’s true, but it’s also true that it’s really hard to wait sometimes, especially as this world—and this body—seem to decay faster and faster as the days go by. But as it becomes more and more apparent that this world is not my home, the prospect of seeing your Face seems sweeter and sweeter. And in that, I hope, and groan. 

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