Summary: In a broken, fragmented and angry world, the church must realize that we stand as the only legitimate source of hope.

The Culture of Hope 12-10-06

Series: Creating a New Culture…in the church Rom. 15:13

I am indebted to John Burke’s book, “No Perfect People Allowed” for many of the basic ideas expressed in this series. It’s a great read!

Intro. I want to pray a special prayer for you this morning, it’s found in Rom. 15:13 – “I pray that God who gives you hope will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hope…such a powerful concept in the bible and yet so often it’s absent from most of our lives.

Although we are one of the most prosperous generations to ever exist we’re still surrounded by broken, fragmented, angry and despairing people. Thoreau had it right when he wrote these sobering words, “Most people lead lives of quite desperation…an unconscious despair is concealed even under what we call the games and amusements of mankind.” Here’s what most people are experiencing – no matter what kinds of gimmicks and gadgets you have in this life, no matter how many bells and whistles you associate with your lifestyle choices…life still stinks! Do you know why? It’s because most people live their life w/o any sense of real hope. Now that’s understandable given the demise of our culture over the past 40 years. Think about it – we’ve sat back and watched the meltdown of the nuclear family, skyrocketing divorce rates, untold millions of abortions, the heartache of addiction, the shame of sexual misconduct and the compulsion of workaholics…all leaving the postmodern generation gasping for hope and yet w/o a clue where to find it.

The question is, “Why should the church be the purveyor of hope?” I’ll tell you why, because hope can’t be found anywhere else. The world offers its own special brand of hope, but it’s always an illusion. The world says put your hope in these kinds of people…politicians, superstars and athletes - but they always let us down. And even though we try to find a measure of hope in certain other things, we know deep down inside that our health will eventually fail us, we can lose our jobs, our homes can be repossessed, relationships do sour and nations eventually fall. So where is our hope? I believe it can be found in the church. Not in the organization, not in the building, but in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Listen to what the apostle Paul says in Eph. 2:12, “if you are w/o God then you are w/o hope.” The message we have to share with our culture is a message of hope, in fact it’s the only hope they have. That’s why we must work hard to create a culture of hope in this church…because generations are depending on us!

Last week we discussed how we could add certain ingredients to the soil of our church culture and change it for the better. If we want to have a culture of acceptance then we’ve got to let people come as they are. But when we talk about the culture of hope then we’ve got to let people know that they don’t have stay the way they are. Because of God’s grace, there’s real hope for them to change, not into something we want them to be, but into all that God has created them to be. Isn’t that a great message? You can come as you are, but you don’t have to stay that way. How do we create this kind of church culture? What’s it going to take for our church to give desperate people the kind of hope that’s literally life-changing?

The first ingredient is

1). Believing our own message.

It may sound strange to you but I’m not sure everyone believes the “good news” really is such good news. What we call the “gospel” is a GK word that means good news. But for many who are still struggling with faith, the good news sounds more like BAD news. In their mind they only hear rules and regulations, dos and don’ts. For many who live outside of the church our “good news” has become nothing more than finger pointing condemnation. Now I’m not saying that’s what we actually do, but it is the most common evaluation of church people from those who don’t attend church. Have you ever wondered why the world seems to get that picture? Why do they feel like we’re constantly condemning them instead of loving and accepting them?

I think its because most of us really do struggle believing the good news. The good news is the fact that a relationship with Jesus sets us free instead of binds us up. The Pharisees thought a relationship with God was all about conforming to some outward standards of righteousness. That’s why they had 615 different laws to follow. But when Jesus came on the scene, he rebuked them because they had burdened down the people with laws that had no ability to change a heart. At the core of the gospel message is this central truth – God will change your heart and that change will set you free. Here’s what I mean by being set free. Your relationship with God is not based on performance, but on His grace – His unmerited favor. You can’t do anything, you can’t perform any more religious duties that will make God love you more than he does right now. Here’s the good news…God is for us and not against us.

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