This is my third post on this topic. We are trying to grow in the discipline of hoping in and hallowing Christ. Before I review my previous suggestions and add to them, I want to give a few reminders. When it comes to this task of hoping in Christ, remember…
It is a discipline. We should expect to have to put forth effort. Structure and training and repetition are also appropriate. First Timothy 4:7 gives the command to “train yourself for godliness.” Other translations have “discipline yourself for godliness.” So, hoping in Christ takes hard work over a period of time. Structure and repetition will be necessary components too since they are part of “training.”
It involves growth. Unbelievers have no hope. They don’t need “growth” or “progress,” but rather “birth” – spiritual birth. Believers do have hope. They have a living hope. What we need as Christians is growth and progress. We aren’t looking for something that happens in an instant, but rather over time.
It is progress in a relationship. We aren’t trying to check something off a list. This isn’t “behavior modification.” Neither is it “cognitive therapy.” Hoping in Christ is about LOVING Christ! It is about knowing Him and admiring Him and worshipping Him. If you aren’t talking to Him (in prayer), listening to Him speak (in the Words of Scripture!), and responding humbly to His Word, then you are not making progress in this discipline of hoping in Him.
Now, let me remind you of the suggestions I made in the previous two posts and then continue with a couple more suggestions to help you hope in Christ.
How can you learn to hope in Christ?
First, pray for it.
Second, look long and hard and frequently at the beauty of the crucified and risen Christ.
Third, identify false hopes – things that you have “set apart” in your heart.
Fourth, after identifying your false hopes, consider them in light of Christ and Scripture.
It is hard for me to list these without explaining again what they entail, but I want to keep this post reasonable in length. If you need help with these first four action items, please look back at the first two blog posts on the topic (post #1 and post #2).
Here’s another suggestion to help you hope in Christ. Hoping in Christ is hard work! It requires strenuous mind activity. So,…
Fifth, prepare your mind to hope in Christ fastidiously. I choose the word, fastidiously, very carefully. When you do something fastidiously, that means that you use excessive care. You do it with “painstaking effort.” That’s exactly what you will need to hope in Christ.
Hoping in Christ is not easy. It doesn’t happen without effort. It is not “natural.” The human heart is fickle. We can hope in Christ one minute and forget Him the next. So, we must guard our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). Excessive care! Painstaking effort!
Our hearts/minds must be prepared to fix our hope completely on Christ.
1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In this verse Peter tells us to hope in grace. That’s the same as hoping in Christ. Hoping in grace and hoping in Christ would have to be the same. Otherwise Peter would be inconsistent with himself when he says “set your hope fully [or, completely] on the grace” and “sanctify [or, uniquely set apart] Christ as Lord in your heart.” Peter understands that all grace comes through Jesus Christ . Don’t miss this crucial point! Never should we hope in grace without having Christ supremely in view as the Giver of all grace!
Having established the fact that Peter is helping us to set our hope completely on Christ, notice the first phrase. Peter says we are to prepare our minds for action. Literally, he says, “gird up the loins of your mind.” In Peter’s day, everyone wore long skirts. They would go down really low. These long skirts were helpful – as a form of sunscreen and as something to keep themselves clean. But, they were not good for running. A couple quick steps and you could find yourself flat on your face! So, they had a solution, and that was to gird up their loins. They would pull up the corners of their skirt into a belt. So, what Peter is saying is, “Get your mind ready to run. Make your mind as streamlined as possible for action.”
How often does it happen that a trial comes and knocks us down because we haven’t girded up the loins of our mind? In the face of temptation we struggle to run in the right direction because we have not prepared our mind for action. Our mind is flabby and out shape. Fixing our hope fully on Christ is the equivalent of a marathon for our mind, and if we haven’t prepared our minds for such action, our mind will grow weary and weak, and we will quit the race.
But, how do we gird up the loins of our mind? How do we prepare our minds for action? We use the truth. We get rid of worldly thinking, natural thinking, and uncareful thinking. We have to know and understand the truth.
The Apostle Paul tells us…
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
How do you prepare your mind with the truth? How do you prepare your mind to hope fully in Christ? Here are 8 practical suggestions:
1. Increase what you know about God and salvation. People go to school to learn stuff, and they do it. We need to learn the Bible just as deliberately. What do you know about Christ? What do you know about justification, sanctification, propitiation, forgiveness, Christ’s obedience, etc.? You must be a student of Christ. Be a theologian.
2. Read good books. Teach yourself to focus long and hard on spiritual things. Let godly writers help you do this. Find a reading buddy. Set some goals. Pick a time every week or every day when you will read good books. And, don’t limit yourself to fiction – even Christian fiction. Those may be easier to read, but they won’t provide the help you need to discipline your mind.
3. Listen to sermons. Don’t limit your sermon listening to Sunday morning worship services. We’ve made past sermons at CCC available on the web. Also, there are other good sermons on the web that we would be happy to point you to.
4. Identify with a group of people in your church family that will help you think biblically. You need the local church! Be around people who will encourage you. Have people around you who will periodically ask you where your hope lies. You need people who will say, “I know this past week has been difficult for you, are you finding hope in the Lord? Have you been worrying? Have you been continually casting your anxieties upon the Lord?” In fact, don’t have close friends who don’t help you in this way.
5. Regularly ask God for divine assistance in this matter. I am reminded of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians that they would have an abounding love that was according to real knowledge and a comprehensive discernment so that they would identify and choose the things that are excellent. We need to pray for this. See Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11.
6. Memorize Scripture. Do you memorize Scripture? If you don’t know where to start, I would recommend 1 Peter 1:6-9.
7. Ask questions in response to the teaching you hear. If you have questions about what something means or how you should apply it, ask the questions.
8. Write down the things you learn from Scripture. Write out action items based on the truth of Scripture. Writing things out will force you to think things through fully and carefully.
Well, I thought this would be the final post, but I think this post is long enough. Check back shortly for the final post (I’m almost positive the next post will be the final one on this topic).
Hope in Christ! For the glory of Christ!