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Waiting for an Unseen Hope (Fourth Sunday after Trinity)

[Romans 8:18-25] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Waiting for an Unseen Hope

We live, not by what we now see, but by the unseen, certain hope for which we wait. We live by conviction, certainty, assurance of what is unseen and yet to appear. As Christ our Lord said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

This weekend – this fourth of July, or Independence Day weekend – is a time when, typically, we spend time out in creation – in a backyard BBQ or maybe out camping – with family, celebrating our nation. We enjoy ourselves.

This creation in which we live, our nation in which we live, our families into which we have been born, and our very selves, are all things for which to be thankful – they are good things we have in this life – yet none of them are the things in which we place our final hope. Instead, all these things are perishing.

My hope is not in the creation which I see, the nation which I see, or in my current self which I see. Instead, my certain and sure hope is in a creation, a kingdom, and a renewed self yet to come.

The creation around us is beautiful and reflects God’s glory. Yet, it is broken, is perishing, and is a brutal place. I love nature, but I need a lot of gear just to survive one night in it. Our homes and yards are set up both for the enjoyment of the creation and for protection from it.

The current creation, though created good, has fallen along with man. When the first man, Adam, brought sin and death into the world, and into human nature, by his sin, human nature not only fell but the whole creation fell. Sin has broken it all.

The creation now, as our reading says, is subjected to futility. The creation is groaning, as in birth pains – like a woman giving birth in a hospital – in pain, breaking, waiting for the renewed glory of the children of God to finally be revealed.

The creation, in other words, is waiting for the unseen Last Day to come when a New Creation – a New Heaven and New Earth – will be ushered in with the children of God.

We celebrated, yesterday, our nation and its freedom. It is a great nation of the earth to which people flock. Yet, our nation too is temporary. It too will pass away in time like all nations do. It too is broken by sin and is therefore offensive to God in many ways.

Our nation is like our family. You belong to the one you were born into, you are loyal to it, you love it, yet you also see all its sin and dirt. Your lasting loyalty is to God. Your lasting family – your forever family – is the family of God into which you were baptized, not the nation into which you were born.

We hope for our nation, but our nation is not our hope. It is merely a nation of this world – it is not God’s Kingdom. It’s fallen man’s kingdom. It’s a place where God’s will is often not done. To think of any earthly nation as if it’s God’s kingdom is idolatry.

Instead of hoping in our nation, we hope for the people in our nation – that they would come to know Christ. Therefore, when we sing (as we will later), “God Bless America”, we are not praising our nation – we are praying to God for our nation, that He would bless it.

We pray “God bless America” not because our country is worthy of God’s blessing, but because our country is in need of God’s blessing - just as we pray God would bless us, though we are sinners.

In what nation is our hope? Our hope is only in the unseen nation of God’s Heavenly Kingdom – His true church which spans heaven and earth – to which we now belong by faith, but which isn’t truly and fully revealed until the Last Day.

In the Bible, it says that “you yourselves, like living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” and “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” [1 Peter 2:5,9].That’s our nation - the nation into which we’ve been baptized – the Church which is growing up into a coming glory.

What about the me I see right now? What about the me that I see in the mirror? What about the me as I see myself honestly in the mirror of God’s Law and holiness? It is not a me in which to place my hope.

If my present self were what I had to put my hope in, I would be hopelessly lost. I would spend myself thin on self-help, self-improvement, and on self-righteousness. And, in the end, I would only be the worse for it.

Our present selves are also fallen, perishing, subjected to futility, and cannot stand on the Last Day. My only hope is in a new self yet to fully come – yet to be fully revealed – my new self in Christ, the new self of my baptism – still hidden under a lot of brokenness of sin, and yet to be fully revealed in glory.

The old self is perishing. The new self is coming forth day by day, but not fully seen for what it is until that Last Day in the resurrection of the body. You are God’s children now, but by faith. What you see now is not very much like God’s children [1 John 3:2]. But you live by faith in the new self, the true child of God, yet to shine forth on the Last Day.

Unbelieving mankind only knows of the current creation, the current nations of the world, and the currently seen self in the mirror. Therefore, mankind only finds hope in fixing the current creation, fixing the current nations, and fixing his current self. He spends himself in anxiety and toil on a futile errand.

But Christ has come and has died for all nations, for all people, and for the whole creation. Sin subjected all to futility and death. The atonement for sin found in Christ’s cross – His taking away of the sin or the world as the Lamb of God [John 1:29] – has therefore made all things new, reversing creation’s fall. As Christ has said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” [Revelation 21:5]

Therefore, live by faith. Be assured and comforted that what is of this world – its nations, the creation, and your natural self – is perishing. What is new and unseen is coming. Live by faith. The suffering of this present futility doesn’t compare to the glory to be revealed.

And again, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Live only for and by faith in the sure and certain, unseen hope of Christ to come. Amen.

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