REMEMBER OUR PAST AND THE PROMISES OF OUR FUTURE, LEST WE FORGET WHO WE ARE
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
7 NOVEMBER 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
If I asked you who you are, you would probably tell me your name.
But a person's name has little meaning unless we know something about the person.
And to know something about the person is to know something of their past.
Now, if I ask an elementary student what they are going to do when they finish at their school, they will probably tell me they are going to go on to high school.
They are looking to the future, and to the promise of an education given to them.
We are the person we are because of our past and because of the future we seek.
This is a very important concept for all of us to understand, if we consider ourselves to be Christians.
So, if I rephrase my opening question, and ask you who you are spiritually, and you respond that you are a Christian, then you are calling upon all of the past and future promises contained in our Bible.
We are not stagnant in our own current block of time; we live in a continuum.
Joshua understood this principle, too; for he reminded the people of how far they had come, lest they forget who they are.
Note what he tells the people in the first 7 verses of chapter 24:
1. Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
The leaders of the people were responsible for passing on to the next generation the history of the people before God, just as Joshua is fulfilling his responsibility by calling them together.
2. And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River [Euphrates], namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.
God wants His people to remember that they had once worshipped other gods, as do the people of the land they now possess.
He wants them to remember that they are in their promised land because they left their pagan way of life and now worship and serve Him, or at least they should be serving Him.
3. 'Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River [Euphrates], and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.
4. 'And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.
5. 'Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out.
This is the beginning of Israel's salvation message.
6. 'And I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea.
7. 'But when they cried out to the Lord, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them and covered them; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time.
Israel and her descendants have been celebrating the Passover out of Egypt every year, even to this very time, lest they forget.
The salvation theme is the underlying message of the Passover Seder service,
a portion of which we will be celebrating this morning as the Lord's Supper –
lest we forget who we are.
The message of the Lord's Supper is one of remembrance of what the Lord's love did for each of us, and what He continues to do for all who believe in Him.
In this message of forgiveness and grace there is hope; and with hope we should be able to face tomorrow.
There are many people who, for example, have lost a loved one; and they become depressed over their loss, which any sensitive person can well understand.
But if they don’t know that they will one day see that person again, they may lose hope; and without hope we have a tendency to give up.
This is exactly what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in his first letter (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
13. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
15. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The key, and the source of our hope, is in the understanding of who we are talking about.
It's about those who have fallen asleep in Christ and about those who remain alive in Christ.
We’re talking about the believing Christians, for to them is given this hope.
But where did the believers come from?
As Joshua reminded the people, they came from those who separated themselves from the ways of the world, as did Abraham.
And they remain as believers because they believed the promise of the Promised Land of which the Lord and Joshua spoke. They had the hope of a better life for themselves and for their children.
For the believer today, our hope still remains in the promise of tomorrow.
So, when we know from where we come and where we are going, we begin to have a better understanding of who we are; for these promises are spoken only to a specific group of people.
Thus, if we have no hope, we may not be the person we think we are.
But if we have the hope and assurance of the Lord's promises in our lives, we can be assured we know who we are.
We are the children of the Lord our God.
And if we remember who we are, we are much less likely to fall back into disbelief.
Your Comments are welcome
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