“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). The ground of our hope is that God, on the basis of Jesus Christ, declares me just. That’s what justify means: God declares me just.
I put my faith in one who is just, in one who does die for my sins, and I don’t put my faith in me anymore or anything around me. I renounce all reliance upon me. I put my faith in Jesus, and God, because of Jesus, counts me like Jesus. His righteousness — we can picture it as a robe — is mine now. I’m in him, and what he is, he is for me. He is righteous and he’s acceptable, and therefore, I’m righteous and I’m acceptable by faith alone. That’s our ground of hope.
“The ground of our hope is that God, on the basis of Jesus Christ, declares me just.”
When I face God as a judge someday, I will not plead my righteousness. I’ll plead his righteousness and my faith in him alone. So, I’ll ask you right now: What are you going to plead when you face your Maker and Judge in maybe twenty years — thirty, forty, five, or even three hours? What will your plea be when he says, “So, what right do you have as a sinner in my absolutely perfect presence in heaven?” What will your answer be?
If you try to say, “I was as good as Joe,” that will not cut it. You might’ve been as good as Joe. That’s not a help. “I got baptized.” That will not help. “I was a member at Bethlehem Baptist Church. That’s a good one.” Wrong, wrong. Not a good one. That’s the wrong plea. Christ is good, and we are sinners.
I just hope some of you are not Christians in this room, and I want to make it really plain: You do not become a Christian by going to church, getting baptized, and keeping the rules. You become a Christian by despairing of your own righteousness, your own worthiness, and throwing yourself like a helpless person on Christ for his righteousness and his forgiveness and his mercy.
So, the answer when God says, “What right do you have in my holy presence?” I hope would be, from the bottom of your heart, “I have no right to be in your presence. But your gospel said that if I would believe in the one who has a right to be in your presence, your Son, who died in my place and bore all my sins, that his righteousness would count for me. And therefore, I plead Christ. May I please come in and enjoy you for Christ’s sake forever?”
A big smile is going to come to God’s face. He’s going to say, “That’s a very good answer, and a very Christ-exalting answer, and a very God-honoring answer, and a very self-humbling answer, and you certainly, indeed for his sake, may come in, where he gets all the glory here.”
I just want to be really plain about the ground of our hope. You can have hope by being saved like that, and the goal is, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Now God might ask as you stand before him at the judgment, not “What right do you have to come in here?” but I suspect he might ask, “Why do you want to come in here?” And if you say, “I don’t like being sick, my mother’s in there, hell is hot,” those are three bad answers.
They’re not wrong answers. They just don’t honor Christ. They honor health, they honor mom, and they honor your fear of pain. You want to honor Christ with this answer. What’s the answer? “I want to see the glory of God in the face of Christ forever with ever-increasing joy. That’s why I want in there. I want to see and savor the most spectacular beauty in the universe forever and ever with ever-increasing measures of appreciation. That’s what I want in there for.”
And God’s going to get another smile on his face and say, “Amen. Jesus be praised. That’s what I feel about my Son. You want to see my glory and my Son’s face? Come on in. That’s why people come in here. Yes, you see your mom. Yes, you’ll never be sick again. Yes, you get out of hell. But you better want to be with me, or it’s all about you, and that’s not what heaven is.”
“I want to see the glory of God in the face of Christ forever with ever-increasing joy.”
So, we’ve got the ground of our hope in Christ’s righteousness and death and our simple faith by which we’re clothed with righteousness. And we’ve got the goal of our hope: to see his glory. And this is the hope that will wipe away every tear and rectify every wrong and make us feel that it was all worth it. All the tribulation was worth it. Let me read you one verse from Paul that I love, because your day will come. Second Corinthians 4:17,
This light momentary affliction [by which he meant a lifetime of trouble] is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
That means, what you will experience when you taste the glory of God on the other side of death or when he comes will outweigh all pain in this life — no matter how much. It will outweigh all misery in every relationship as you have walked with Christ through it. It will outweigh every tribulation, and you will look back and say it was a light and momentary affliction by comparison.
Here and now, it feels very heavy and very long. It isn’t. It isn’t. Rejoice in hope.
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