James Merritt - Our Only Hope (Easter Message)
Well it is Easter Sunday. It's a great Easter. And the reason I know that is because I'm reminded again as you are, that Jesus Christ has been risen from the dead. Now having said that, we all know it turned out That we'd never even heard of just a few months ago, is now one is known that is worldwide and frankly, we'll never forget it, even though we'd like to. Youth know what it is, kids know what it is, little children know what it is ,bar it is Corona virus. Yes we've never seen anything like this in our lifetimes. I used to hear my parents talk about going through the great depression. But they never went through the social, personal, commercial isolation that we're going through right now. And you think about it. In the great depression, people could go out, but they couldn't find work.
Now people can work, but they can't go out. And in these times I know that people honestly are not looking for, you know, go get them speeches are just a positive thinking platitude or something like that. And to be more blunt, I realize that people want more than just another sermon. I'll tell you the number one thing that people are looking for, hungry far, thirsting far for, begging far and even dying for. You know, what that is, hope. It's what we're all looking for, hope. And I can understand that hope that. Hope is not only one of the most powerful words in the English language. It really is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. One of my heroes is Winston Churchill. He recognized how powerful hope can be.
For those of you that don't know your history. He was the prime minister of England during probably the darkest hours in that nation's history, during World War II. When the war was over he was being interviewed by a reporter and he asked the Prince, Winston Churchill. He said, "Mr. prime minister looking back on it, what was your greatest personal weapon, what was the country's greatest weapon that you use against the Nazi regime against the most powerful army at that time in the world"? Without even pausing, here's what Churchill said. "It was what England's greatest weapon has always been, hope" You know what, that may be still our greatest weapon today. And I can say without deliberation, equivocation or hesitation. There's never been a greater time to celebrate Easter. And there's never been a greater Easter to celebrate.
And let me tell you why. If Easter is true, if Jesus is alive, if he was raised from the dead, then not only do we have hope, not only do we have the best hope, can I be honest? We have the only hope for not just our past, not just our present, but also for our future. You know why I know that? Because only a risen Lord can take care of yesterday, today and tomorrow. There is a letter that is in the New Testament. It was written by a man named Peter. Peter was one of the 12 disciples. He was an eyewitness to the resurrection. As a matter of fact, he literally gave his life for what he believed in and he preached the resurrection of Jesus until his last breath. And he wrote this letter, it's got his name is called 1 Peter. And in this chapter, the 1 chapter of 1 Peter he tells us, that the resurrection of Jesus gives the entire world hope in any situation.
So I wanna say to all of you are watching right now and you're a believer, but if you're not a believer thank you for watching, especially. But you are a believer in the resurrection, you are a believe her in the resurrected Lord. Hear me clearly. We may feel helpless, but we are never hopeless. There is a sure hope we have as believers. First of all, for our past. You say, "I need hope for the past"? Yes. let me tell you why. Peter says, "God has given us spiritual life". Think about that. God has given us spiritual life. Now Peter is writing to a group of Christians there they're scattered throughout various regions of Asia and Asia Minor. And there are new tremendous persecution for their faith. Some are in prison, some are being beaten, some are even killed.
As a matter of fact, according to church tradition even Peter himself was crucified upside down. He writes these great words to these persecuted Christians, "Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ in his great mercy he has given us new birth into," now listen to these three words, "A living hope. Through resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". We don't have just a hope. Peter said, we have a living hope because Jesus was raised from the dead, he said, "This is not an ordinary hope it's not a hope like I hope to win the lottery, a hope to get a date with that cheerleader a hope I aced that test even though I didn't even study for it". That's just wishful thinking. I read about a second great teacher who was teaching classes vocabulary. And she said, "Can somebody give me the definition of hope"? One little boy raised his hand and he said, "Yes mam, hope is wishing for something, you know ain't going to happen".
Well, that's not the kind of hope that Peter is talking about. He's talking about a living hope that never dies and a living hope that can never fail. Now we're told that's true because the greatest hope anybody could ever have is the hope, that there's life after death. The hope that there's more to this life than this life. And really that's all the hope that we need.
I learned the other day and some of you may know this if you served in the Air Force. But the United States air Force, trains its soldiers to memorize two numbers, so that they can survive during a time of crisis. The first number is a number you'll recognize it's 98.6, you know what that is. That is your optimum core body temperature. Here's what they teach their soldiers. If your temperature goes below 88, you can't think clearly. When it drops below 82, you're toast. So they teach them if you are stranded or if you're in a bad situation, whatever else you do, the first thing you've got to do, you've got to stay warm. You've got to keep that core body temperature up. That's the first number, 98.6. The other number is three. Now that's a little bit more complicated. Matter of fact, it's called the Rule of Three.
And here's what the Air Force says. "You can survive three weeks without food" unless you're addicted to McDonald's. "You can survive three weeks without food. Three days without water, three hours without shelter in extreme conditions. Three minutes without air, three seconds without hope". That is so true. You just can't get by without hope. And so Peter says, "Hey, we've gotta hope, but it is a living hope that will never die through the resurrection of Jesus Christ". Why? Because through that resurrection and faith in that risen Lord, Peter says, "We've been given a new birth, we've been given a new beginning, we've been given a new life". That means, and I've talked about this last week. If you saw the message. The moment you are born again the moment you receive this new birth your slate is white clean Past sins, present sins, future sins are under God's forgiveness.
I want you to join real close. I want you to listen what I'm about to tell you. Every human being that's ever been born, every human being was meant to have two births. We were born spiritually or physically. We were born physically so that we might be born again spiritually. We were born once, but we were meant to be born twice. What's the difference? The first birth places, us into a human family the second birth places, us into a heavenly family. And you notice what Peter said. He said, "This new birth has been given to us once and for all". He said, "God has given us". The tips of that Greek means, it's already done, it's in the past. He has given us.
So let me give you an example. How many times that you have to be born physically? He said well, once. Well how many times do you have to be born again spiritually? Ones. So once you are born again, you never have to be born again. So do you realize the hope that ought to be in you the hope that you ought to have? 'Cause here's what happens. When God gives you this new birth and you are born again you're born spiritually, three things occur. Number one, God forgives your sin. We've already talked about that, but there's more God adopts you into his family, but there's more God becomes your Father. And the reason why we can trust God for today and tomorrow is because of how he changed our life yesterday.
So if you're a believer, here's the good news. You don't have to worry about the past. You don't have to worry about anything you've ever done in the past. All the wrong things you've ever done because God has given you spiritual life. Now here's the question I want you to ask yourself right now, and there's no need to lie about it because it's not going to help you to lie anyway. Here's the question you need to ask yourself right now. Has God given me that spiritual life, Have I been born again, have I only been born once or have I been born twice? Because let me tell you something. You better be born twice, because if you've only been born once and you die that way, you will wish you'd never been born at all. God has given us spiritual life. That's for our past. But because of the risen Lord, God takes care of our present. Because not only has God given us spiritual life, watch this God is guarding us our personal life. God our guarding us in our personal life.
The moment that we receive spiritual life God gives us this new birth. God gives us that new beginning. Then what happens, here's what happens, you ready? God takes over. God goes to the first seat of the, of the airplane. God takes the steering wheel. God takes control. And this is what God does because of our faith. Now listen to, this is so exciting, "Who through faith," faith in who? The risen Lord. "Who through faith are shielded God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time". We are shielded. Get that in your mind, shielded. That is a military term. It literally means this word shielded. It literally means to be guarded by a garrison of soldiers. In other words, here's what Peter says, "if you are a believer, you're guarded by God's power..."
Wait a minute. So what kind of power is he talking about? Back in your seatbelt. He's talking about the power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead. In other words, the same power that was used to bring the body of Jesus back to life is now the same power that guards our bodies in this life. It is that power that keeps us safe and secure. So if you ever doubt God's power to protect you just think about the power that raised Jesus from the dead. So let me ask you a question. Think about, just think about that word power. Can you think of any greater power than resurrection power? For example, we would say today, "Well the greatest human power, I guess in the world right now is atomic power or nuclear power".
Okay. Let's take that power. The greatest power human beings possess on their own is what? It is the power to kill. But the power to raise someone from the dead is even greater than that. And those of us who have placed our faith in the risen Lord we are under heaven's lock and key. We're protected by the most efficient security system available in all of the universe. You know, what's really amazing? We live under the protection of God every single day, don't even know it. So what do you mean? Well, if you're like me, you're fascinated by space travel. I've always wondered what it would be like to go to the Moon or go to Mars or something like that. But have you ever thought about the fact that why wonder why these astronaut go up into outer space and they do these space walks. you ever thought about why do they have to wear these meticulously engineered and design spacesuits?
Well, you say, well, because they've, they've got to breathe because there there's not oxygen up there. Well, it's more than that. Once you venture beyond Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field, there is a nuclear army out there just waiting to ambush you and destroy you in a second. There are two major enemies in space, radioactive particles and waves that come from cosmic rays and solar radiation. I know this gets a little complicated. So just stay with me. Radioactive particles are generated by the explosions of supernovas and giant stars that are going on all the time. They're composed of hydrogen, helium, and iron. And when they explode, they release protons and alpha rays at nearly the speed of light. They are so powerful. They could destroy the entire population of planet earth in a microsecond.
The other source of daily radiation is something that we see every day it's the sun is sunshine. Do you sunshine is? It is the result of an own going thermonuclear reaction that creates a solar flare that releases protons at 10 billion times the rate of what we call a solar wind, if just one of those just one ever arrived at Planet Earth and came to Planet Earth guess what? There wouldn't be any more Planet Earth. We would literally disintegrate, not just told you these things happen all the time. Supernovas explode all the time. These thermonuclear explosions on the sun they occur all the time. But we don't know it don't pay attention to it. We've never been exposed to any of those things. Do you know why? Because we have an invisible forcefield it's known as the planets environmental shield.
Planet Earth is surrounded by a gas field atmosphere that is ringed by a two part magnetic field called the inner and outer van Allen belt, which basically forms an obstacle course. And it only allows light from the sun light from the moon and just enough ultraviolet rays, where we can get a good sunshine when we go to the beach all because of this, God created protective shield. And I want you to listen to this. When you commit your soul and your eternal destiny to God he is able to care for it, He is able to guard it, he is able to protect it today with the shield of resurrection power that is guarding our personal life. But there's one last thing that's for our present. We sing about the past, what about the future? Watch this. Peter says, "God will guide us to eternal life". He doesn't have to give us spiritual life. He does just goddess in our personal life. He will guide us to eternal life.
God takes care of our past by giving us the spiritual life are present by guarding our personal life. But now he says, "What about your future"? He says, "Listen, what about eternal life"? We've been born into God's family. God is our Father. He has an inheritance for his children. So eventually Peter says, "We will an inheritance". That's what we got waiting on us. "That can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you". We have an inheritance. And by the way, I love what he says about that inheritance. It is kept in heaven for you. And by the way, it's not just about heaven. It's not just heaven. He says, "This inheritance is in heaven". Well, if our inheritance is more than heaven, what is it? It's God himself, yeah. We're going to spend eternity in heaven, but wait a minute Gotta be clear here.
Heaven's not for everybody. The inheritance it's not for everybody. Peter says, "This inheritance is for you". Who are the you? The you are those who have received spiritual life, the you are those who have been born again, the you are those who have experienced spiritual life. So to get into heaven, you've got to have a reservation and that reservation can only be made in the name of the risen Lord Jesus. It amazes me. It blows my mind how people think they can do their own thing, live their own lives, go their own way, call their own shots and then just show up if, as heaven's door and knock and say, "Well okay, God by the way, I'm here open up".
Now I wanna say something as gently but as firmly as I can. If you think you can bypass Jesus, if you think you can live your life your way, if you think you can ignore the original Lord and still get into the presence of God, I'm just gonna be very honest. You are either incredibly arrogant or you are indisputably ignorant because only God's children are allowed into God's house. And once you've been given this spiritual life once you become a child of God you are guaranteed to get in. I mean, absolutely, you know why? Because God honors every reservation made in the name of his Son. This is a reservation that can never be canceled. Is kept in God's safety deposit box that no one but he can ever open. And I love what Peter says about this inheritance. He says, "It can never perish, spoil or fade".
In other words, nothing can destroy it, nothing can defile it, nothing can displace it. In the study of wealthy families, the Williams Group Wealth Consulting firm found listen to this. 70% of wealth families, 70% lose their wealth by the second generation 90% lose it by the third generation. Well, not this inheritance. Once you have you can never loss it you can never waste it, you can never disobey it, it is yours for ever. So we've got a hope, a living hope for our past, for our present, for our future. Only for one reason because of a risen Lord Jesus. So let me wrap this up. There are two places in the universe where there is no hope. One is Hell. We don't hear much about Hell but Jesus told more about Hell than any other subject. You know why there's no hope in Hell because if you go to Hell, there is no hope.
The other place where there is no hope is in Heaven. Because when you get to Heaven, there's no need for hope. And the beautiful thing is, when you know that your tomorrow is taken care of, listen to this. When you know your tomorrow is taken care of you can handle the troubles of today. God's bigger than the virus, the church is bigger than the virus, God's word is bigger than the virus, a risen Lord is bigger than the virus, our faith is bigger than the virus. And if you know, tomorrow is taken care of you can handle the troubles of the day, you can enter the heartaches of earth. If you know, you have a home in Heaven. So I'll say it again we may feel helpless, but we're not hopeless. And I declared to you today on this Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ is alive. I say it again, Jesus Christ is alive. And because of that, living hope that is immune to every disease, impervious to everything. it is a hope that never dies. Jesus. It's not just our best hope. He is our only hope. And we have this hope through a resurrected Lord.
Now here's the thing. Listen carefully. This is big on my heart. You're sitting there saying, "Boy, thank God for Easter, pastor I'm one of those people, I've got that spiritual life God's given me. God has guarded me in my personal life? God is going to guide me to eternal life.? I'm one of those people". Listen to me carefully, don't you keep this hope to yourself, do not in this day and age, in these difficult times in which we're living. Do not keep that hope to yourself. This is Easter Sunday, and every time we celebrate this, it reminds, I hope the world but especially you, you got to make a decision. It is the biggest decision any human being ever has to make ever.
Its very simple, either Jesus Christ was raised from the dead or he wasn't. And I say this to everybody. If you don't believe that Jesus raised from the dead I don't care what you believe it matter. I defy anybody to show me any lasting, meaning in life. If Jesus Christ is still dead but if he's alive, that's the ballgame. He is alive. Have you accepted him, have you trusted him, has he given you that spiritual life, have you been born twice if not? What a great time to do it like Easter Sunday, you can do it right now. Would you like to experience that new birth right now? Then just do this just, just right now, say to God:
Dear Lord, I've been born once. I want to be born twice. I've been born physically, I wanna be born spiritually. Lord, I believe you died for my sins. I believe God raised you from the dead. I believe you're alive right now. I'm receiving this moment. Your gift of spiritual life. I'm receiving that new birth right there. I'm accepting by faith that you've adopted me into your family. That God you are now just not my creator. You are my Father. I repent. I turn away from my sins and I give you my vowel today that I'm gonna live the rest of my life by your strength and your power for you.
We're gonna close out this Easter Sunday really worshiping our Lord together. But as we do, I want to leave you with this. We have a living hope through the risen Lord. Do not keep that hope to yourself. Let's live that hope let's give that hope to a world that now know they needs it more than ever.