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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - The Blessed Hope

John Bradshaw - The Blessed Hope

John Bradshaw - The Blessed Hope
John Bradshaw - The Blessed Hope
TOPICS: Hope, Easter, Resurrection

Hey, thanks for joining me. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River that flows through Cleveland, Ohio, caught fire. The river caught fire. You know we've got some serious environmental problems in the world. And we've got financial issues. We've got all kinds of health challenges. The world is in rough shape. What's the solution? What's the fix? Well, you're about to find out. Thanks so much for being here.

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. In the late 1960s, the Cuyahoga River running through Cleveland, Ohio, was in a real mess. Steel mills and oil companies and paint manufacturers and more dotted its banks. And the river bore the brunt of a booming industrial sector. To say the river was polluted is an understatement. It was an ecological disaster, and everyone knew it. Fish couldn't survive in it. But a dirty river equated with successful companies, and successful companies provided a lot of jobs and hired a lot of workers. So when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, caught fire, the river, no one was surprised.

In fact, by 1969 there were real efforts being made by the mayor of Cleveland, Carl Stokes, and others to clean up the river. Clevelanders were used to the perilous state of the Cuyahoga. In fact, it caught fire many times over the years. The 1969 fire, which burned for about 20 minutes, didn't really get much attention at the time. Right around that time people were starting to look for solutions for the troubles ailing the world. In 1957 the Natural History Museum described the River Thames as it flowed through London, England, as "biologically dead," unable to support life. Around that time, a prominent newspaper in London, the Guardian, described the river as "a badly managed open sewer".

So there were some problems. And there still are. There are rivers around the world today that are monumentally polluted, and many people have to bathe in them, even drink the water from them, even though it's been fouled by industrial pollution. And people die as a result. The air above many cities is deadly. According to researchers from Boston College and the Public Health Foundation of India, nearly 1 in 5 deaths in India in 2019 could be attributed to air pollution. That's a staggering amount. But here's the question: What can we do about all this? Can we fix it?

A little over 30 miles outside Tucson, Arizona, is something that was once known as Biosphere 2. The idea was to build an artificial closed ecological system, a place that was entirely independent from the outside. There'd be a rainforest, an ocean, albeit a very small ocean, mangrove wetlands, and more. It was meant to be a model that would demonstrate how life could be supported in outer space. But...they weren't able to produce enough food or oxygen. Animals and plants died off. There were interpersonal challenges as people were confined together in the biosphere for many months. It was never meant to be heaven on earth, but it was intended to demonstrate how people could live on earth, or in space, while avoiding the usual ecological problems that challenge our world. But in spite of all the money spent, in spite of all the science employed, the biosphere wasn't the solution to the problems facing our world. So what is?

Now, let's be honest, not negative, not cynical, but honest. World leaders have been trying to fix our planet for... well, to be honest, for not very long at all. But even though most people have figured out it's probably not best that we conduct world wars every few decades, no one's under the illusion that we have peace in the world, for the simple fact that...we don't. There have been many attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, but peace is as elusive as it's ever been. You don't have to be any kind of environmentalist to realize that there are some real issues with the planet. Something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch floats between California and Hawaii. It's made up of a gargantuan amount of plastic waste.

No one thinks that's not a bad thing. But if you think that's bad, it's said that there are five zones like it in the world's oceans, where plastic is accumulating in mind-boggling amounts. We're facing problems we just don't have solutions for: pandemics, and there have been several in recent years, terrorism, major health problems like suicide and depression and diabetes and cancer and heart disease. Now, I'm gonna tell you there is a solution. It's the ultimate remedy. And it isn't as far away as you might think. Here's what Jesus said in John 14:1-3. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also".

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting nothing can be done or nothing should be done to alleviate the problems facing the world. Far from it. But if you're looking for solutions, there's no question that there's only one place to find a solution for what ails our world, and that's the return of Jesus. Georgetown University reports that 65 million people die each year in the world. That's 178,000 every day, 7,425 each hour, and 120 people a minute. In the United States, 2.6 million people die a year. That's 7,123 each day, 297 an hour, 5 people a minute, 1 every 12 seconds. What are you going to do to end that? Nothing.

In fact, patient safety experts at Johns Hopkins University claim that 250,000 people die every year in the United States due to medical errors. That's roughly 1 every 2 minutes. But even if people live longer, they're still gonna die. We simply can't stop it. Cemeteries are filling up. But look with me; here's the fix. Revelation 21:4 says, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away". How about that? No more death. If it seems impossible to imagine, that's because it's all we've ever known. But one day, no more death, no more funerals or funeral songs, no more burials, they simply won't happen. And can we be sure of that? Oh, yes, we can.

First Corinthians 15:26 says, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death". Death will be gone one day. Right now there are people sitting in hospital waiting rooms hoping to hear some good news from a physician or a nurse. There are people getting news all the time that a loved one is now on hospice care. Hey, thank God for hospice workers. They're some of the kindest, most patient people I've ever met. But, but one day, they're going to be out of a job. One day, emergency room physicians, funeral directors, ambulance drivers, paramedics, coroners, they're all going to be out of work. So what is it that's going to put hospitals and nursing homes and clinics out of business? I'll tell you in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. One day, every doctor alive is gonna be out of a job, every last one. The same is true for firefighters and nurses and EMTs. There'll be no military, no 911 operators, no police. So what's going to happen to cause that? Look with me at 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4; we'll start in verse 15: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words".

The great truth of the Bible is that one day Jesus is gonna return to this world. And it isn't gonna happen tomorrow, but it is going to happen, and we would say soon. I'll tell you in a moment why we know that. But let's consider what the return of Jesus means to the world. A moment ago I showed you that the Bible says that after Jesus comes back, there'll be no more death. It also said no more sorrow or crying or pain. Think about that! The things that cause you sorrow, what are they? Well, there'll be no more loss when Jesus returns, nothing to make you cry, no unkindness, no, no isolation, no rejection, and there'll be no pain. So there'll be no more backache or arthritis pain or sore throats or headaches, for the simple fact that Jesus is going to return to this world and eradicate sin and everything sin causes. It'll cease to exist. And when Jesus returns, there's going to be a reunion like you've never imagined.

Think about it: seeing family again, a spouse, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, friends. What a day! Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'" - That's 1 Corinthians 15:51-55.

Paul knew how encouraging this was. One day the pain of this world will be behind us. The discouragements and the injustices and the challenges that have plagued us will one day have come to an end. Jesus is coming back. He's gonna make the wrongs right. He's going to heal our hurts. In fact, He's gonna take us out of here and take us home to be with Him forever. And this gives us hope. It's why Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words". Paul knew this subject would bring you comfort, and it should. There's coming a time when you'll be clothed with eternal youth. Mortality will be replaced with immortality.

As far back as the book of Job, this subject was offering hope. And we think that Job was the first book of the Bible to be written. In the midst of his anguish and suffering, as he struggled with an incurable illness that wracked his body, as he contended with the discouragement heaped upon him by his so-called friends, Job said, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God". That's Job 19, verses 25 and 26.

Now, think of what this means to you and me. We're on this earth a little less than 80 years on average. Can the road seem difficult at times? Well, yes, it can. Do people experience trials and disappointments? They sure do. What about that young man who died in an accident in his early 20s? The young woman who died from cancer in her early 30s? How do you make sense of that? You really can't, except that Jesus said in Matthew 13 that "an enemy has done this," and except as you remember that there's, there's better ahead. This world simply isn't all that there is. Imagine if it was? Imagine if a person genuinely believed that all they had was this world.

Anyone who truly believed that would have to be supremely committed to altruism, or supremely committed to selfishness. If you really believe that this world is all that you have, it makes no sense to be half-hearted. Every minute you sit still is a minute less that you have to squeeze all you can out of life. But the believer in the Bible knows that this world is not all you have. There's a world to come. Beyond this life is a life that stretches into eternity. If you don't believe that, try to make sense of life. Without a worldview that encompasses a resurrection at the return of Jesus, you've got a life on earth that expires with your final breath. You might try to tell me that that life isn't futile. Well, I'm gonna have a hard time believing ya.

David said, and these are profound words, he said, "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". Psalm 27, verse 13. He's saying, "There's something that got me through my difficult time". If you read Psalm 27, you'll see that David is talking about some real challenges: adversaries and violence and trouble. He faced a lot of that. And he said that what got him through was the hope that there was a better day ahead.

A crew member fell overboard as a cargo ship made a supply run to Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific recently. It seems that he fainted. Fifty-two-year-old Vidam Perevertilov went into the water at about 4:00 a.m. And he struggled to stay afloat. When the sun came up and he saw an old fishing buoy floating in the distance, he swam to it and grabbed hold of it. He waited in the hot summer sun for help to arrive. It took the ship's crew six hours to even realize someone was missing. And when they did, they turned back to try to find him. Miraculously, they spotted him. They came alongside and plucked him from the water.

What kept him going was grabbing hold of something that he knew was his only hope of survival. He held on and trusted that he'd be saved. Sometimes when things look rough, you've got to just grab hold of God and trust that He'll save you, trust that He'll come alongside you and pluck you out of the difficulties that you're facing. That's what God will do one day soon, because Jesus is coming back soon. But how can you know that it's gonna be a good day for you when Jesus returns? In a moment, I'll introduce you to a group of people for whom the return of Jesus is very bad news. And I'll tell you how you can sleep at night knowing the return of Jesus will be good news for you.

The Bible describes the return of Jesus to this world as "the blessed hope". Paul used those very words when he wrote to Titus, a young church leader on what's now the Greek island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Paul wrote these words in Titus, chapter 2: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous [of] good works".

Now, notice what Paul wrote: God's grace has appeared to all, and God's grace teaches us to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts," and it teaches us to "live soberly, righteously, and godly" as we look for "the blessed hope," the return of Jesus. "The blessed hope". But notice that Paul emphasizes preparation for Jesus' return. It's a thing you see all throughout the Bible. It's sobering to realize there'll be an immense group of people who are not ready for the return of Jesus. John describes them in Revelation, chapter 6, as saying to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand"?

Now, there's a question. The answer is... you are able to stand. I'll tell you how. In Matthew 24 we read the signs of the return of Jesus. The disciples asked Him, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age"? That's Matthew 24:3. Now, in response, Jesus mentioned false christs. He said "nation [would] rise [up] against nation, and kingdom against kingdom". He spoke of famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution, false prophets, people being deceived. He said that even the very elect might be deceived. Jesus stated that people on the earth "shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." - Matthew 24:30.

He said the elect will be gathered "from the four winds," and then He segued to mention of the flood in Noah's day, referring to how some people in that day were saved and some were lost. People with the same opportunities, some saved, some lost. In verse 44 of Matthew 24, Jesus said, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect". This question of being ready for the return of Jesus is a big question in the Bible. God wants you to be ready.

The next chapter, Matthew 25, opens with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Even though all of the young women slept, which is an interesting commentary on the state of the church in earth's last days, it was the young women with oil in their lamps that were able to go in to the wedding feast. That oil represents the Holy Spirit, without whom we simply cannot be saved. So we want to have, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. And how do you receive the Holy Spirit? This is Luke 11 in verse 13: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him"!

You ask, and God pours the Holy Spirit into you, bringing the presence of Jesus into your life. Now, the second parable in Matthew 25, that shows us how to be ready for the return of Jesus, it's the parable of the talents, where God asks, what are you doing with the talents God has given you? Your time, your abilities, your spiritual gifts, your money, your mental faculties, your speech, your influence, and more, what are you doing with those? Have you consecrated them to God? Or are you simply using them for your own benefit? People who are serious about honoring God will lay it all on the altar. They'll recognize that what they have was loaned to them by God and that they're only managers, stewards of the blessings that God has given. It's important to remember that.

And there's a third parable in Matthew 25, the one where Jesus tells people that they fed Him, clothed Him, gave Him something to drink, took Him into their homes, visited Him while He was in prison. Jesus calls them the sheep, and He says, "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." - Matthew 25:34. Those who refused to do those things, Jesus says they are goats. They're not ready to enter His eternal kingdom, and they gave evidence that they weren't converted by the way they treated others.

When you receive the Holy Spirit into your life, when your lamp is filled with oil, God's presence fills your life, and this will impact you. Your talents will be consecrated to God. You'll have a heart that sees Jesus in others and ministers to them and to Him. God wants to transform your life. He does that through the presence of Jesus in your life.

This is why Paul described the mystery of the gospel as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" in Colossians 1:27. When you're born again, when you accept Jesus as your Savior, when you surrender your life to Him, you can have the confidence that the blessed hope is going to be blessed for you. Jesus is coming back soon. We don't have time to waste. You want to be ready. God wants you to be ready. Surrender your heart to Him now, and you've got everything to look forward to.

Our Father in heaven, we want to tell You right now that we want to be ready for the return of Jesus. We want to live in the hope of His soon return and know that when Jesus comes back, we are gonna be with Him and with You forever.

Now, friend, you know the way to readiness. It's faith in Jesus, accepting Him into your heart, allowing Jesus to live His life in you so that not our will but His will is done. Friend, can you make that surrender right now? If you can, would you lift your heart up to God? Would you pray, "Heavenly Father, take my life and make it Yours. Jesus, live in my heart"? Friend, if you can pray that prayer right now, then you can face the future knowing that when Jesus comes back, eternity stretches before you, and that you'll be with Jesus forever and ever and ever.

So, Father, we're gonna alter that prayer a little bit. We started by saying we want to be ready, and now we say thank You for the reality of readiness for heaven. We look forward to Jesus coming back. Let that day come soon. We pray with John, who wrote the book of Revelation and said, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"! And we pray in Jesus' name, amen.

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