Praise God, the Lord is making progress in the sanctification of even my sinful unbelieving heart. Last week I was accused of having out of control optimism. This is probably a first for me. In general I tend to be on the side of melancholy and pessimism. After growing up in a family strained by financial hardship, bankruptcy, the death of my brother to an automobile accident, and the death of my mother to cancer it has been too easy to get out of bed each day wondering what tragedy was on the menu next. But praise God at least once in my life I was accused of being too optimistic!
Forgive me while I savor the moment because I am sure that I will battle melancholy again. And Christian friends we should be optimistic, not because we have any righteousness in ourselves, but because mankind has been freely granted the complete righteousness of Christ. The grace of Christ has been and will be utterly super-abundantly victorious in heaven and on earth!
While searching for a verse to provide further reason for out of control optimism I found Matthew 16:15-21 (WEB).
15) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"16) Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17) Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18) I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19) I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven." 20) Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. 21) From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.
When reading this passage in the past I have been challenged by Peter's courage, Peter's confession of Christ, the church's authority to bind and release, and the sufferings of Christ. Recently, however, God has called to mind another forgotten, but important teaching in this passage. "the gates of Hades will not prevail against" the church. Now here is something optimistic. The church wins through Christ. But here is something also curious. Jesus says, "the gates of Hades will not prevail."
Typically we imagine that Christians wage war against the spiritual forces of evil only on the plains of this world. We think the battle ends with a line drawn in the sand in history future with Christ purchasing some for Heaven, Satan dragging the rest to Hell, and each enjoying their spoils. The curious thing, however, is that the gates of Hades are not on the plains of this world. Nor do gates fight. Gates are used for defense. The verses above explain that the grace of Christ through the church will press the enemy off the plains of this earth to the very gates of Hades. Wow! The gates of Hades themselves will be smashed by the church completely robbing Satan of all his spoils.
Whence comes the church's power to shatter the very gates of Hell? The army of souls receiving a salvation by grace alone must not, will not, nor can not rest until everyone whom Christ has died for is found safely in the arms of our Savior. Folks here is some news that could send your optimism out of control as well! The teaching of nearly every Christian sect rejoices that the grace of Christ alone has redeemed a people for himself. But what does Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anabaptist, Methodist, Anglican, Pentecostal or any other denomination teach about grace that will smash down the very gates of Hades looking for more sinners to save? Given time I may study their answer, but I will not let it spoil my optimism over the teaching of Christ.
Finally, Jesus speaks a solemn word that he himself was to be hated and crucified for loving all mankind, both Pharisee and pagan. Repentance for each of us, whether Pharisee or pagan, is the only way to join the redeemed at the level ground at the foot of his cross.
Rock on Jesus our rock.