This morning the first in a series called HAYSTACKS.
Most North American Adventists are familiar with an entree we call "haystacks." It is a layered dish. Corn chips reside at bottom, then piled above are beans, rice, lettuce, salsa and more. Haystacks can be prepared healthfully. They are commonly seen at social gatherings. You won't find the term "haystacks" in a list of doctrines or a Bible study. But I am going to use the word to compress significant Bible teachings into nine topics. The first letter in Haystacks is "H," and today we start with "Hope."
The Hope We Don't Mean
"Hope" is one of the most fundamental aspects of Adventist belief. But there are different kinds of hope.
We don't mean "hope" like two shipwrecked people stranded on a distant island in the Pacific who "hope" they'll be found even though the odds against that are 80 million to one. We don't mean "hope" as a state of desparation where we are wishing against all the odds that somehow we'll get lucky.
We're Christians. Our hope is built on something very solid. Jesus' sacrifice for us gives us hope. The evidence of His sacrifice for us is not in theories by theologians or T-shirt slogans or happy preacher-talk. Our hope exists on the basis of the Scriptures.
Hope Through the Scriptures
Let's look at something Paul says in Romans 15. He's been discussing food that has been offered to idols (Romans 14:13-23). The mature believer, he says, should be careful to take into account the less experienced understanding of the new believer (15:1-2). Christ is presented as pattern for the Christian. Like the psalmist punished for a crime he did not commit (Psalm 69:4, 7), Jesus was punished for sins He did not commit. As the psalmist was misunderstood, numbered with the transgressors (69:10-12), so Jesus was numbered with the transgressors. As the Psalmist submitted to a wrong judgment out of respect for the office of an erring human judge, and was falsely condemned (15:3), Jesus hung on the Cross, falsely condemned.
At this point Paul writes,
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).
Paul is saying that all those things which before have happened, and which have been recorded for us in the Bible, were written with the purpose of instructing those who would come after. They were written so that knowing what had occurred, we would come into possession of the perseverance and encouragement God spoke in the Scriptures.
For, it is when we possess the Scriptures, when we truly trust the God who gave the Scriptures and know He gave them to us to build us, that we become persons of hope.
Copies of the Bible sit on thousands of shelves. But the possessors of many of those Bibles have not made God's Word their own. They have not embraced the Bible as divinely-given instruction for needy humans. The perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures becomes ours as we seek instruction from God and let its factual stories and divine commentary given via prophet pen be our window onto moral realities.
As we begin to see the parallels in the lessons, as the work of Christ for us is shown to us, this perseverance and encouragement become ours. As these qualities are manifest in our life our walk takes on a different quality. Through the Scriptures we are led to a different kind of hope.
Without the Scriptures this window is closed. Our ability to discern moral realities is very limited. We are trapped in a moral situation without an informed moral compass. But through the Scriptures we are given help to live our lives after Jesus' life.
Seventh-day Adventists are people of hope as we make the Scriptures our own. We have no interest in condemning groups who are seeking God, but let's be reminded that many churches look to the Bible with embarrasing selectively.
When they come to the parts of the Bible they have "unselected," little benefit is received. They view some portions as written only for the Jews, or, as something superceded by modern knowledge. The creation story in Genesis is a quaint children's story from a uninformed time. We all know better now because science has told us that the earth is 4.3 billion years old. But once we throw out Genesis, we're on the pick-and-choose plan all the way through. And that, we cannot abide. But we have hope because we know the Scriptures are true all the way through and are a gift given us by Jesus. Adventists see the Bible as God-given revelation to humans so that we will know where we are and what we are to do.
Prophecy and Hope
At the deepest root of Adventism is Bible prophecy. We see ourselves as called by God to tell others what He has shown us.
Surrounded by a culture having turned its back on supernaturalism, still we describe the ancient prophecy and tell its fulfillment. The phenomenon of prophecy is God's direct contradiction to antisupernaturalists. He foretells through His prophets. He lets a bit of time pass. Then, He intervenes in history and shows that He is God. He does that which is impossible in a non-supernaturalist view of the world. He tells what will happen before it happens.
Into a world that has no God, no future, no divine intervention, God through prophecy shows that He is and that He owns the future and tells it to His children. Because God inspired Daniel and John who wrote the books we call Daniel and Revelation, telling the future before it comes to pass, He shows through His Word that there is hope; there is purpose; there is right and wrong. We are not alone. We are not left to create a fake morality out of human opinion. And again, it is through the Scripture that these prophecies are revealed and through the Holy Scriptures that we have hope.
Life Through His Word
Not long ago I was reading in The Desire of Ages and came to this:
The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the word. When His visible presence should be withdrawn, the word must be their source of power. Like their Master, they were to live 'by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' Matthew 4:4. (p. 390).
Jesus desires to fix our faith on the Bible. The Word is our source of power. Like our Master, we are to live by all its commands. Its truth, its commands, are ours. We can face every temptation aware that the power of His Word is with us. We have hope.
One page later, she went on to say the following:
By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude. This is what it means to live 'by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' This is eating the bread that comes down from heaven (p. 391).
That makes me hungry. It's not just that God has delivered precious revelations to us through His Word, but that He will make them; they're still coming, if we're still coming to the Bible. It is the ground for our hope.
Jesus died on the cross for us. The Bible did not die. But it is the Bible which informs us that Jesus died for us and ministers for us now. The Bible is our viewport onto our world. It is a gift from a personal Savior.
But the reproduction is stated to be for the disciple, for the learner, for the follower of Christ. There is a difference between looking at delicious food and eating it. And, there is a difference between a humanistic and a Christian hope. They differ in quality.
Consider what Paul says about hope in Ephesians 1:15-23:
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
What is this hope to which He has called you? That God is ready to give you wisdom now, to reveal Himself directly to you now. When we became His children, all things that belonged to Him became also ours. We can experience today the "immeasurable greatness" of His power toward us who believe. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is to be the power in our own experience.
It is this Jesus who has been made Head over all things to the Church. He would like to be your spiritual Helper and Guide. We are not to look to men as our spiritual guides, but to Christ Himself. We are all His priests, we all have direct access to His throne. We are His agents on planet earth to do the gospel. We settle for too little. We ask for next to nothing, or, we ask half-heartedly, as though we have no basis for asking.
We do have such a basis. Seventh-day Adventists are people of hope because Jesus is our Lord and Savior and has called us to be friends and co-workers with Him. He has unleashed us into a world without hope. There are points of light out there. Technological medical advances are nice, we gladly receive actual healthful advances. But, while adding a backup camera to life is a nice improvement, it doesn't add hope at the kingdom level.
We live day-by-day as hope-filled people. We have a totally different approach to the future than the humanist who hasn't really even thought things through far enough to know he's a humanist. Hope is part of our inheritance.
Light the Darkness!
Consider another familiar text, Psalms 119:105:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Before, we were bumping along an unlighted way. Have you ever run into a barbed-wire fence in the dark? Or stepped into a hole or off a platform in the dark? But through the perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures we have a lighted way before us. God has given us a light.
The Bible lights the way. Things that happened to God's people in centuries and millennia past are accurately recorded for our benefit. An inspired commentary is given. Its stories are true, and more, insight-giving. With the history we are shown also God's view of a matter, and given specific guidance for the moral way forward. We are not alone in the dark, but we have a Guide by our side and we can see the way forward. We are people of hope because we know where we are and where we are going.
The first letter in our HAYSTACKS acronymn is "H" for "Hope." Seventh-day Adventists are people of hope because of Jesus. In the Bible, that old, disparaged, hated, laughed-at Book in which few today believe--in this Book we travel to the past and future both.
The Scriptures are the infallible revelation of God's will, the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, the trustworthy record of God's acts in history. They tell us how and why God made humans. With all that they are our source of understanding about Jesus who suffered and bled and died to save us. From what? The Bible tells us. We would not have known what sin was but in the Bible God tells us. And we would not have known what right was but in the Bible God tells us.
The Bible is indispensible because without it we know none of these things. And so, at the beginning, Adventists are people of hope because we are a Bible people. We only know something about Jesus because we are a Bible people.
Don't lay down your Bible. Don't trade in the plain reading of this word for theories by those who would strip away its insights and turn God's revelation and replace it with the dim twilight of human opinion.
Our next presentation in this series will bring us to the letter "A."
- Youthful Eternity
- Alpha and Omega
- State of the Dead
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