- Sermon Notes
Living by Faith
How important is faith? When it comes to our relationship to God, it’s everything. In fact, in the verses we are studying today, he writes, “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.”
These Jewish believers in Jerusalem were being pressured and even persecuted to return to the ways of the Old Testament, back to the laws of Moses, back to the shadow and copy of which Jesus Christ is the substance.
Line by line he proves to them that Jesus is superior in every way. In the days of old God spoke to the fathers through the prophets in many portions and in many ways, but in these last days, He speaks through His Son. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature. Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus. All of it was just a shadow and a copy. Jesus is the reality, the substance, and the fulfillment of it all.
He’s writing to open their eyes to the truth. Why would you want to go backward? You should be moving forward. He wants them to understand how great a salvation God has given them through Jesus Christ. When you understand the value of something, you appreciate it even more.
A man from Oklahoma had a collection of Chinese cups carved from ivory. He had them appraised and discovered they were from the 18th century and appraised for more than $1 million. Or how about the man from Eugene, Oregon who discovered that his Norman Rockwell print was actually a genuine Norman Rockwell painting. What a difference it makes when you understand the value of something.
He’s calling them out to strengthen their faith. In chapter ten he wrote, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward,” and then in another verse he quotes God saying, “My righteous one will live by faith.”
That brings us to chapter 11. It is famously called the “Hall of Faith.” These Jewish believers were very familiar with the Old Testament so he gives them one example after another of heroes of faith.
They were ordinary people like you and me. They were not perfect, that’s for sure, but they believed God and it made all the difference in their lives and in the world around them.
It’s interesting that though each of these people were common, ordinary sinners like you and me, there is no mention of their sin or their failures in this chapter. God gave them a second chance and what He celebrates, what He highlights, is the victory of their faith.
It should remind us of Hebrews 10:17, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” The good news is that your story isn’t over either.If there are sins and failures in your life, you can get up and continue in faith and finish well and God will highlight and celebrate your victory in faith as well and your sin and lawless deeds He will remember no more.
I. God Wants You to Live by Faith
- Verse one gives us the very definition of faith. It is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
- Remember that the Greek word for hope is different than our English word. In English, we hope in things we’re not sure of; we hope we catch fish. We hope the stock market rises. We hope the government spends our tax money wisely.
- In the Greek, however, the word hope means you have a rock on which you stand.
Hebrews 6:18-19, We who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope that is set before us. This hope we have as an anchor to the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…
- In a courtroom, juries are often asked to be convinced, “beyond a shadow of a doubt.” They weren’t there when the event in question happened, but they are presented with evidence and based on that evidence they must be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt in order to bring a conviction.
- Verse 3 – by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
- We weren’t there when God created the universe, but we see the evidence all around us.
Romans 1:19-20, That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Acts 17:30-31, “God is now declaring that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
- Our faith is in God. It’s not faith in faith, it’s not positive thinking, it’s not positive confession, it’s not simply being confident or optimistic.
- Faith is more than simply believing that God exists.
Illus - Satan himself believes that God exists. He even believes that Jesus is God’s Son. He said to Jesus, “Since you are the Son of God, turned these stones into bread…” He also believes that Jesus is coming again, which is why he wants to destroy as much as possible in the meantime.
It’s like ISIS in Mosul, they know they will be defeated there, but want to kill and destroy as much as possible while they still have power.
John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
James 2:19, You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
B. Faith takes action
- In other words, faith does things. Faith with no works is a faith that does not work.
- That’s the difference between a faith that is dead and a faith that is alive.
James 2:17-18, Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
- In other words, God expects you to use your faith, to put it into action…
Illus - It’s like someone who has one of those tricked out four-wheel-drive trucks. They’ve got heavy-duty off-road tires, a 16-ton power winch, and a tower with lights, heavy-duty suspension, skid plate and grill guard. And then one day you drive into a gas station in your hybrid Toyota Prius, because you need a cup of coffee, and the four-wheel-drive super truck also drives into the gas station, which he does often, and you strike up a conversation. “How often do you go off-roading?” you ask. “Are you kidding? As much money as I spent? No way,” he answers.
- That wouldn’t compute. In the same way, faith is a powerful thing and it’s meant to be used.
- But faith might be more comparable to muscles; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. That’s especially true when it comes to trials and troubles.
- When you trust God in the trials and difficulties of life, you’re putting faith into action and your faith will become stronger through the trials.
Illus - As someone once said, people are like teabags, you don’t know what they’re made of until they’re in hot water.
James 1:2-3, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
II. Having Faith Pleases God
- Verse 6 – Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
- That’s a great verse; faith is not only believing that God exists, it is believing that God is a rewarder of those who seek after Him.
- That’s the personal part of faith. You want to please God because you are seeking Him; you want to understand His heart for you, you want to understand His ways.
- What is it you are pursuing in this life? What is it you seek after? There is a deep longing in the heart of the human soul; understanding that the soul was made to seek after God is to be pleasing to Him.
A. God loves the heart behind the faith
- Verse 4 - by faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain… and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.
- Cain and Abel were the first sons of Adam and Eve. Cain tended the fields and Abel kept the flocks. At some point, each of them brought an offering to the Lord. Cain brought of the fruit of the ground and Abel, on his part, brought the first of the flock.
- The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. And, as a result, Cain became angry. God responded with a warning…
Genesis 4:6-7, And then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
- God knew the heart behind the offering. Even from these earliest days God required the offering of a lamb because it was a shadow of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Cain gave what he wanted not what God wanted. God knows the heart behind the offering.
Illus - Even in worship, it’s the heart that matters most, the heart of the worshiper is what pleases God. Someone may have the most beautiful voice and another person can barely hold a tune, but it’s the heart God desires.
Luke 21:1-3, Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them…”
- They gave out of their surplus, but the widow gave out of her poverty.
B. Walking by faith is walking with God
- Verse 5 – By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death… he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
- This also brings us back to Genesis. We know very little about Enoch. We know he was the father of Methuselah. But of Enoch it simply says, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”
- It’s a picture of a relationship that’s close. Before the fall, Adam walked with God in the garden in the cool of the evening. Beautiful.
- Enoch was close to God, it means he brought his heart as he walked, as he lived; every day they walked together and one day they simply kept on walking right into heaven.
Psalm 16:11, You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
- Faith that pleases God is the result of a heart that seeks Him, a heart that draws near to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:7-9, We walk by faith, not by sight – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
- When you hear that phrase, ‘we have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him,’ how does it sound to you? How does it ring in your ears? Does it resonate? Does it sound good? Does it have the sound of something you desire? If so, you have a heart that pleases Him. You want what He wants.
- Walking with God means that you can get up in the morning with God, that you can eat breakfast with your heart toward God, that you can drive in your car with God, that you can work all day with God, that you can go home with God, that you can watch TV knowing that God is with you, that you can talk to your family with God’s help and even go to sleep under the hand of God’s favor…
Psalm 127:1-2, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain to build it. Unless the Lord to guard the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.
Hebrews 11:1-16 NASB
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found becauseGod took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.