Hope is Essential
Hope is essential for a healthy artist as well as for a healthy culture. The human spirit makes meaning through story, and our own life story needs not only a hero, but hope anchored in something beyond ourselves. Beyond the mistletoe and Hallmark movies, God’s promise of hope possesses the inspiration to carry you into the new year with contentment, joy, and peace. This is what our world is longing for and it is what our hearts desperately need. Sadly, Disney movies and pop culture tout the words “hope” and “believe” with hollow stories that deliver something thin and weak. They remove any reference to what we believe in or what we have hope in.
As Gertrude Stein said of her hometown, “There is no there, there.” It isn’t what they purport it to be, and therefore does not provide what we hoped it would provide. The problem here is that without hope, artists lead the culture down the path to cynicism, despair, or naïve sentimentalism. Then the culture imbibes these toxins and echoes it back to the creatives. Such a cycle can only be interrupted by the hope of Godly men and women leading our culture back to something worth believing in – the God of Hope!
The Disney Delusional Hope
When it comes to hope in Christ, it is critically important that we accept no substitutes. When Disney movies tell audiences to “just believe,” it is a façade. It imitates a Judeo-Christian faith in God, but it removes God and then leaves the faith dangling and disconnected from anything worthy of our hope and faith. All too often this kind of “belief” is just a Pollyanna, sentimentalistic optimism with no moorings. This may seem to work well when your world is peaceful, and things go well. But it fails when evil rears its ugly head and wars erupt. Such vague hope is no substitute for a faith and a hope anchored in a God who knows what the future holds and a God whom we can trust to carry us through life’s challenges.
The Self-Hope Facade
The other alternative offered in our culture is “believing in yourself.” But, despite the strength of the human spirit and the power of the will to overcome (which is astounding), this is a dead-end road. You are imperfect and will fail. Eventually. Trusting in yourself is ultimately foolhardy. We all sin. We all make bad choices and fail to do all the things we thought we would. As my friends who have gone through addiction and AA or other twelve-step groups know, our hope must be in something greater than ourselves.
Our Cultural Doomsday Prophets
Our culture is drowning in depression, awash with the damage incurred by self-help gurus, self-transformation books, and journalists despising religion (especially Christianity). They look for answers anywhere but in God’s word. This is because, for them, there is no God. And if there is no God, all the doomsday prophets have the final word. It doesn’t matter if the doomsday prophets are focused on climate change, political change, or going green – their problems overwhelm them. Even the focus on identifying which people are oppressors and which ones are oppressed only leads to depression for all. Once identified, they all feel shame for their victim-hood or being a victimizer. This focuses on sins, guilt, and shame without any hope of the Gospel. It is like a person who recognizes that they are sinners before the law, but they never hear the Gospel truth that there is forgiveness, redemption, and joy found in Christ’s work on the cross.
The Gospel Cure
The gospel is anchored in the truth that Christ’s finished work on the cross gives us hope. This happens when we realize our sins are forgiven, and that God is present with us here in the challenges of life. No cultural substitute can deliver this kind of hope and peace. Only joy anchored in the Gospel can carry us through the storms of life. This must be the motivation of our lives and the inspiration of our creative works.
Our Future Hope
Hope is what fuels our ability to enjoy this life and to imagine the next. As believers, we are called to savor one and yearn for the other. All of our creative work should be designed to either contribute to the beauty and health of this world, or to create a yearning for a better world. . . which is the New Jerusalem.
“They were longing for a better country (speaking of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab and many others)—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” – Hebrews 11:16
This is the way to offer hope to a culture drowning in divisive politics, self-righteous propaganda, and digitally enhanced isolation. The world is lapping up tainted water from the fountain of mainstream media and art. They are looking for something to connect their imagination to their heart and to their soul. They will never find hope as long as they are looking to a government, a political party, or personal accomplishment to provide that hope. Our hope must be anchored in the promises of God.
Hope and the New Jerusalem
Jesus came to defeat sin and death, but he is not done. He promises he will come again… and we will one day live in the New Jerusalem. We will be walking in a promised land not only filled with milk and honey, but streets paved with gold. No longer will we struggle with our own sin, or the sin of our neighbors. No longer will we worry or have anxiety. No longer will our loved ones struggle with depression, mental disorders and disease. No longer will we worry about how our children will turn out, or how our parents will be taken care of.
Christ came to make all things new, but He isn’t done yet.
He isn’t done with your heart.
He isn’t done with my heart.
He isn’t done with our marriages, our churches or our countries.
So what are we to do? If we have the ears to hear this Christmas. If we have the eyes to see this Christmas, we must let God inspire our imagination once again to dream of Heaven.
We must learn to hold onto his promises and follow His word. To place before our hearts and minds the promises of God that he will never leave us nor forsake us, and that even the grave cannot stop his love for us.
As amazing as life is today in this age when we can fly around the world, eat food by amazing chefs, buy our Christmas gifts online and know exactly when they will be delivered. Even with all this, we have barely begun to taste and see how great life will be in the New Jerusalem. Imagine all these blessings, and to top it off, we will have no more sorrow, no more tears, no more disease, and we can worship our God, sitting in his presence, basking in His goodness, standing in awe of His beauty and, praising His glory. Our hearts will be filled with joy that never ends.
Hope Found in Revelation
Read these words from scripture and let it awaken the hope we have in Christ, and the hope we have in the future God has planned for us.
From Revelation 21 & 22:
“And an angel carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal… The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, and so on… 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Hope Infused Art and Worship
Now it is your turn and mine to respond in worship. I don’t mean merely singing songs in church, but our entire lives. How can we live a life infused with hope by considering what God has in store for us? As we accept the love God has for us, we are compelled to love the widow, the orphan and the stranger. We are also compelled to create art that honors God, and to live a life that honors God. In fact, when we behold God’s glory fully, there is no other possibility but to honor him with all our heart, our mind, our strength, and all of our art. This is the nature of hope, and why it is essential. Hope fuels our joy through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Let us know your response below in the comments!
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