If you were asked the question “What is the hope Jesus offers us?”, how would you answer it? Perhaps the first thing coming to mind is the hope of eternal life. Or it might be the hope of redemption from our sins. And these are certainly true.
Another response to consider is this: the hope that Jesus brings to us is the hope of restoring the image of God in us. The original design of us, the thing God said was “very good,” is that we are made in His image, made to be like Him with unhindered access to a love relationship with Him.
Jesus, it says in II Corinthians 5:17, makes all things new. We are no longer trapped in our sin, or by our life circumstances, or in what anyone has labeled us. No, we are made new, born again to the living HOPE which is Christ in us. Colossians 1:27 says it this way, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” That is, the riches and glory in Jesus are also in us. We are made fully alive because He dwells in us.
These are verses I have heard many times. Yet it has only been in the last few years they have become the filter by which I read or hear scripture. Prior to that my view of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, their love and longing to speak and hear me were all colored by the various filters my early church experience and my family life had placed over this Good News.
It is a process to recognize what keeps us from the hope of being restored to the image of God. This process begins when we first hear of Jesus dying for us and our need to accept Him as Savior and Lord. Our sin is a barrier to restoring His image in us. When we see that barrier, we know the need for repentance. As we grow in our faith, we learn that we need to forgive others their sins against us, or forgive ourselves for how we sinned in response. Unforgiveness is another barrier. Once those things have been done, there rises a third barrier – one that is not talked about so much. It is the barrier that prevents us from receiving the truth that Jesus now lives in us. I believe the barrier of receiving from God all He has done for us in Jesus is hidden by some of the things we have been taught or experienced. Those teachings or experiences put up filters on how we read God’s word.
From those early filters we have developed wrong or twisted thinking about God’s incredible love for us as individuals. One of the filters in my life was a need to prove myself worthy of God’s love and the sacrifice Jesus made. Consciously or unconsciously I had bought into the lie that God required me to work at cleaning up my act before He would transform my life. There were also fears – the fear that no matter how much I tried to live as a good Christian, my efforts would not be enough for God, fear that He was too busy to listen to me, fear that He might not really care about my situation. Where did those come from? From messages of judgment spoken to me like “Why are you doubting _____? You are not pleasing God, because without faith it is impossible to please Him”; or “You need to be more active in the youth program – faith without works is dead”; or “God helps those who help themselves. We’re supposed to run this race and finish well.” Each of those lies was based on the one big lie of we have to DO something to be acceptable to God. It is like saying God is controlled by my faith.
Our faith – the size of a mustard seed – does one thing only. It gives us access to what God has already intended to do for us. When doubts assail our minds, when circumstances get tough, when our needs seem overwhelming, we need to do one thing only: look to Jesus and receive from Him what He has already bought for us: “all that we need for life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3). Before the world began, Revelation 13:8 says, the Lamb was slain for us. It’s a done deal. Jesus gave His life to make us new. We have immediate access to His life in us.
Paul testifies “My God will supply all your needs according to…” what? Our faith? No, “according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). I heard a Bible teacher talk about faith is like deciding whether or not to trust sitting in a certain chair. She said she could stand and look and try to figure out if the chair would hold her, but the only way ever to know was to SIT in it. That’s what our receiving does – metaphorically we choose to SIT in the truth of what we have been given.
I don’t know what brought you to this point in time, but one thing I do know. Whatever it is, God has it covered. The promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 is for each of us “The Lord Your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you or forsake you.” You can start by perching gingerly on that chair, but soon you will find you can curl up on it, collapse on it, or throw yourself on it, and it will hold your weight. He’s a good father. His word is true. And we are loved by Him, now and for all eternity!