1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Brothers and sisters, before Christ came into your life, what did you put your hope in? What did you pursue to give your life value? What did you seek to make you happy? What did you do to feel good about yourself? What did you do to look good in front of others? What did you put your faith and trust in?
I struggled with addiction my whole life. Since the age of twenty-two, I completed seven treatment programs for alcohol and drugs in the states of New York, Minnesota, Illinois, and Arizona. I spent twenty-three years in and out of 12-step programs like AA and NA. Each time I was willing to surrender my addiction, but I didn’t know that I needed to surrender my pride, my lust, and my greed. At the end of an AA meeting we would circle up and say the Lord’s prayer—but how can you have a Lord’s Prayer without a Lord?
Before Christ came into my life five years ago I didn’t know love. I never felt secure or comfortable in my own skin for as long as I remember. From about the age of five or six—I had an “orphan” heart. I lived in fear because I believed I was unlovable, undesirable, unworthy, incompetent, and defective. I did not know the agape, unconditional love of God.
So where was my hope before Christ? Where did I seek security and happiness?
Before Christ came into my life I believed that power, wealth, possessions, sex, wisdom, strength, image, and relationships would give me glory, peace of mind, contentment and fulfillment. I believed that no one could be trusted and to survive or get ahead, I had to trust in myself by deceiving, manipulating, controlling, and managing others.
Brothers and sisters, without the love of Christ I am hopeless—and so are you. I don’t know how to live; I don’t know how to love; I don’t know how to receive love. My whole life I searched for things to make me happy. When I could not find anything to deliver me or give me precious peace of mind, I defaulted to alcohol and drugs to escape the emotional pain of my shame, because I didn’t know love. In the end, my only goal was to avoid pain and gain pleasure.
Brothers and sisters, where is your hope—where do you seek security and happiness? What are you looking forward to—what is the very next thing when we leave here that you are putting your hope in to give you fulfillment? A cigarette? A Jumbo Jack? A worldly movie or song? Sweet whispers from the object of your desire? Do these things satisfy or do you just need more? Are they even healthy or productive? Are they getting or giving? Do they cause others in your path to be encouraged and edified? Or are they destructive or divisive?
Brothers and sisters, what are you putting your hope into today? Your children? A job? Your looks? Your inheritance when a relative dies? Your ability to charm or control others? Your nice things? Anything you put your hope into other than God, is called idolatry; anything you put your trust in, anything you feel you must have to be happy, anything you fear above God is called an idol.
What is the first of the ten commandments? You shall have no other gods before Me. What is the second commandment? You shall not make idols for yourselves. As author and Pastor Tim Keller stated, “Seeking idols, or false gods, is not just a failure to obey God, it is setting the whole of your heart on something besides God, your Creator; and that something you trust in to save you, to deliver you, to bring you fulfillment and wholeness, it will cripple you, and then it will destroy you.”
For example, if your hope is in your beauty, you will strive to accentuate, enhance, and maintain your beauty. But what happens when someone more beautiful than you comes along? What happens if you gain weight? What happens if you age? What happens if a tragic accident deforms your body? If your security is in your beauty and you lose your beauty, you’ve also lost your reason for being. This is why idolatry is so destructive. Whenever you place your hope and trust in created things rather than the Creator, you will be crushed.
What thing, if you lost it, could almost mean that you would also lose the will to live? What thing, if you lost it, could mean that almost all significance and value would be drained from your life. An idol is anything more fundamental than God, in your life, to your happiness, meaning in life, or identity. An idol is anything you love more than God or rest your heart in more than God. Idols can be your career, family, children, spouse, achievement, a political cause, your own physical attractiveness, romance, human approval, power, comfort, financial security, and all these can be good things. Idols are often good things, but we look to them to give us what only God can give us.
Brothers and sisters, Gods commandments were created to protect you, because He loves you—more than any person could love you. Do you see that? Here is the whole point—love is not something you get, it is something you receive, and you receive it from God. It is God who covers our shame. That is why we put our hope in Christ Jesus.
Man has three basic spiritual needs:
- Security – being loved and accepted
- Value – being valued; desired; having worth
- Purpose – A life of meaning, significance; if your life does not bring meaning to the lives of others, it is empty and grows tiresome.
Before I knew the love of Jesus I tried to create value through purpose in order to gain security.
Before I knew the love of Jesus I tried to create value (being something to someone), through purpose (my performance), in order to gain security (love and acceptance).
Before I knew Christ, when I relied entirely on self-sufficiency, life became a performance, and when my performance wasn’t perfect, what happened? My value and security decreased. Life became a game of highs and lows—absent of peace, because I was always looking ahead at the next performance or behind at the last failure. Life, without an intimate relationship with God, is like a treadmill and there is no time to rest; we become weary, tired of the hamster wheel, hoping for something to give us glory, honor, and hope.
What was my idol? My performance was my idol and what happened when my performance didn’t deliver? I had no security, value, and purpose.
When we rely on idols to meet our basic spiritual needs, our needs are never truly met. We become angry and depressed. We never experience real peace of mind and become more and more discontent, bitter, and hopeless–hardened.
In my life childhood wounds of abandonment and rejection, along with unmet emotional needs worked to erect a stronghold that ignited a rebellious response fueled by escape in alcoholism, drugs, gambling, sex, and thrill-seeking. After five DUI’s, seven treatment programs, multiple convictions, abortions, and injuries, Christ came into my life. I was an empty shell, separated from God, without hope. He nailed my sins, guilt, and many layers of shame to the cross—giving me a new identity in Christ and crushing the strongholds that enslaved me.
He commanded me to just stop–stop doing and be; be loved, beloved. He told me to stop trying to earn love because all I have to do is receive His love. When we believe who God says we are, and He says we are sons and daughters, it changes everything. I had a revelation of my heavenly Father’s love for me—He is my Provider, my Protector, the Lover of my soul.
When the core of our identity is being the beloved, we no longer have a need to conform to worldly standards; the fear of man dissipates; nothing else matters and everything is possible, because we trust in God’s abilities, not our own limitations. We have a perfect Father in heaven and perfect love casts out fear.
Psalm 27:10 “If your mother and father should ever abandon you, I will be here to welcome and comfort you.”
Hebrews 13:5 “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.”
Romans 8:38-39 “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
God reveals Himself to us; in His Word, in prayer, in an encounter with His presence, in our circumstances, and through people. Once the tender love of Jesus Christ begins to invade our inner man, we are wrecked—changed forever. He melts our hearts with a love we never knew existed—a relationship we never knew was possible. The truth of His word shines brighter than the sun and burns up—yes, consumes, the lies and the false beliefs we held about ourselves, others, and God. Has the love of God changed you forever?
When we discover God’s love for us, and become more and more rooted in His love, we are transformed and set free. His love will deliver you from fear, evil, the grip of addiction, and the grip of sin.
2 Timothy 1:7 “God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and sound mind.”
Without the love of God we ramble around like selfish animals, devouring one another, stepping on the hands and feet of others to gratify our own desires. We may fake love for selfish desires, but unless our motivation is the love of God, we will use, abuse, and manipulate others for selfish gain. Only with the love of God can we love selflessly and sacrificially.
Romans 5:5 “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
With God’s love we rejoice at the opportunity to GIVE to others, HELP others, BLESS others, ENCOURAGE others, PROTECT others, CORRECT others, et cetera. Sharing and spreading the love of God makes us joyful above all else.
John 15:7-11 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
Brothers and sisters, put your hope in the only One who can deliver, heal, and save you; put your hope in Jesus Christ, who loves you and gave Himself for you.
1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Brothers and sisters, God’s love is for you. Receive it. You have been born-again to a living hope in Christ Jesus.