Living by Faith-2
November 5, 2016
Hey, the 2016 world series will stand out in one of the most remarkable in history. I mean coming back from a 3 1 deficit. The Chicago Cubs went all the way out the extra innings, and then on the heroics on their MVP, Ken Zobrist, they did something absolutely remarkable. In fact, the MVP Ken Zobrist will probably be in the hall of fame because he actually was in two world series in a row last year being on the Kansas City Royals, and when you think about these men who have done such great things remind us all of the great hall of famers like Tye Cobb, Babe Ruth, Sai Yung, Dizzy Dean, Lou Gehrig, all famous because of great feats that they accomplished. Some of these records are still holding today, but when you boil all down to it it’s just baseball. When you think about Hebrews 11, these are also heroes that have accomplished great feats but these are significant because they are eternal in nature, and that’s why we want to look at today is heroes of faith. He wants to write to them, to really encourage, to inspire them to stand up in their faith, and here’s why. They were being pressured by the Jews in Jerusalem to go back. Back to the old testament ways, which is just a shadow and copy of the reality they had in Christ already. And so, here’s the problem though.
They’re being pressured, and so this is a really key thing for us because people who are strong in faith are people of influence. In other words, instead of being drawn backward, and being pressured or being drawn background. They need to grow stronger in their faith, and they should be the ones influencing the people around them. We have this phrase our sphere of influence. It suggests to us that we all have a sphere, in which we should be the influence instead of being those that are influenced, we should be those that are leading, and those that are strong in faith, in fact, are those who influence the people around them. So, this is a great lesson for all of us as we look at these heroes of faith, and the lessons that go with it. Let’s start in Hebrews 11 beginning in verse 6. “Without faith, it is impossible to please him.” You want to please the Lord? Faith is a good place to start, “For he who comes to God must believe that he is” okay, believing that there is a God is a starting point, but also that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. It’s not just a matter of believing that there is a God. It’s not just a matter of believing that Jesus is a Son of God. It’s a matter of believing that is personal that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.
I. These are the Days of Noah
And then it goes on to describe these heroes by faith, Noah being warned by God about things not yet seen in reverence he 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, and that really applies to us. Then he brings up another great hero of course. Abraham, by faith, Abraham when he was called the obeyed by going out to a place, which he was to receive for an inheritance, and we’re speaking here of course Israel here today. The land of promise, and he went out not knowing where he was going. Simply walking by faith. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, and as in a foreign land dwelling intense with Isaac and Jacob, followers of the same promise.
But notice verse 10, very intriguing. “For he was looking for that city, which has foundations who’s architect and builder is God.” By faith, even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive even before the proper time of life. Yes, she was 90 years old. Since she considered him faithful who had promised. Now you might remember that story in the book of genesis, and say I think there was some lapses of faith along the way too. Actually, that’s true. There were some lapses of faith along the way too, but what he’s highlighted here. What he’s celebrating is the victory of their faith, and I love that frankly because we all have stories where there are failures. Ever one of our stories is laced with our failures, and sins, but I love this point because our sins, and our lawless deeds he remembers no more. When he remembers your story in eternity it will not include those failures. I’m very, very thankful for that. So, he goes oh, in verse 12, “Therefore also there was born of one man and him as good as dead as that” that was Abraham, “Many descendants, like the stars of heaven in number and in numerable as the sand in which is by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without receiving the promises, not all of them, but having seen them, and having welcome them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers, and exiles on the earth. Take a hold of that phrase. It’s a key phrase for us, and for those who say such things, make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed, if they were thinking of that country from which they went out they could have had opportunity to return to it. But as it is, they desire a better country that is a heavenly one. Grasp this, they had an eternal view.
This is their faith. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God. I love that phrase. He’s not ashamed to be called your God. I love that picture for us. He welcomes us to draw near to him. Notice this phrase though, “Because he has prepared a city for them” by faith Abraham. He was tested, he offered up Isaac, and he had received the promises, he offering up his only begotten son, and so this is a great section of Hebrews 11, and I really want to look at it and understand how it applies to us because when I particularly look at verse 7 there’s something that I think we need to grasp when it comes to the days in which we are living, and that is this that these are the days of Noah. And here’s what I mean. Let’s go back to the story of Noah. The name Noah means rest, and his parents gave him that name saying this one shall give us rest from our work, and from the toil of our hands, which I think is actually funny because you can just imagine a parent having kids, and saying, “Oh, we’re having more kids, great. More help on the farm.” I was wondering why my parents had six kids, now I know. Noah is not a picture of Jesus. This is important, Noah is not a picture of Jesus. There’s a lot in the old testament that’s a picture and copy of Jesus. Noah is not. He is a picture of us. He’s a picture of those who rest in the work that God has accomplished for us that work and salvation that he accomplished through the blood of Jesus Christ his son.
A. God warns us in advance
Noah’s ark, however, is a picture of Jesus. Noah’s ark is a symbol of Jesus Christ because he is that refuge from the gathering storm that is going to culminate in the judgement of the world. Look at what’s happening in the world today. There is a storm gathering on the horizon. Storm clouds are gathering in the world, and we have to recognize this is very, very important. Jesus is that ark is that symbol of Jesus who is a refuge from that gathering storm. Now, it’s not enough to be near the ark. It’s only those who cross through the threshold, through the door, and they are the ones who are saved. This is important for us. Notice that in verse seven it says, “By faith Noah, being warned in advance.” See, God warns us in advance even today.
He says, “Was warned in advance about things not seen.” Talking about, of course, the flood that would destroy the world. He, therefore, became an heir of the righteousness, which is according to faith, that phrase could be applied to us as well. And it tells us that he warned Noah in advance because of the condition of things in the world. Wickedness on the earth. Wickedness that man was great. The intent of the thoughts of their heart was evil continually. Interestingly, Jesus gave a similar warning in Matthew 24. “The disciples came to Jesus, and they said tell us what will be the signs of your coming end of the end of the age.” So, in Matthew 24 he begins to describe the condition of things on the earth. Things to be a watchful to the signs of the times, but notice what he says in Matthew 24. We look at verse 12 and 37. They combine for our point that he says, “Because lawlessness is increased in the latter days, many people, or most people’s love will grow cold.”
That phrase lawlessness is increased, he’s speaking to the condition of an unrighteousness, debaucheries, going head long into the pleasures of the world people, and this is describing the days that we’re living in because Jesus said the coming of the son of man will be just like the days of Noah. There is that warning that he gives us in advance that there is a gathering storm. You look at what’s happening in the world. I think you can sense it. I think most people with any spiritual discernment see what’s happening in the world today, and can sense there is a gathering storm that is on the horizon. Is that not true? And the Scripture tells us in fact, revelation 14, we’re going to get to the book of revelation early next year. In verses six and seven, “I saw another angel flying in mid heaven having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, and he said with a loud voice fear God, and give him glory because the hour of his judgment has come.” There is this warning he gives in advance, and in fact, I mentioned this last week. I want to mention it again.
There is another very important thing that God holds people to account of, and that is the resurrection of Christ. Let me give you Acts 17, verses 30 and 31. “God is now declaring that all people everywhere should repent.” That is absolutely a bold statement for us to take hold of because he’s fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom he has appointed. That is Jesus Christ, but this phrase here, “Having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead.” Now, back to Noah he says he was warned by God about things not yet seen, and up to this point in history of the world they had never seen rain. If you remember from your history there was a canopy that covered the earth creating the famous greenhouse effect, which is why they are, of course, discovering all kinds of fauna and flora that had been growing in the artic area even. And so, it’s interesting, of course, Noah heeded the warning of God out of reverence, it says, because of his faith he did what God instructed. Now, I think we got to look at that and apply this to our lives even if the world does not end in cataclysmic judgement in our lifetime. Even though the signs of the times are all around us. Nevertheless, the moment that you die it is the end of the world for you, and so therefore, the question really should be one of are you ready for eternity? Are you ready to step into eternity because of the provision that God has made is the ark of God, you might say. It is Jesus Christ, and by faith you enter into that, and have that great assurance that God has given you a provision of salvation. You become an heir of the righteousness, which is according to faith. Then notice this by faith make a difference in other people. See, Noah, you look at the world in which he was living in, and it was a debaucherous, and sinful, and the intent that the heart was evil, but Noah didn’t follow the crowd.
B. By faith make a difference in others
Noah was distinctly different, and it is very possible to follow up the Lord and to honor God in your life even though many people are around you doing the opposite, but it takes that faith of walking with God. And not following the crowd, which is interesting because the nature of human beings. The nature we were given is, in fact, to be part of the crowd. To follow the crowd, to want to do what the crowd is doing. It’s a part of the human nature. I remember when we were in Russia in one of our trips. We saw this crowd mentality right before our eyes. It was humorous to watch because you go into these stores, and they have these glass display cases, and things are hard to find there. So, you never know what’s in the cases. You just got to look and study, and so I notice that if I looked at something in the case long enough people started gathering around me to see what I’m looking at, and I thought this is interesting. I wonder how big a crowd I can get. Obviously, I had too much time on my hands so I started telling my other team members, “Hey, you won’t believe, this is the funniest thing to do. Let’s do it.” So, we did this, but here’s the thing. I can make fun of others, but the reality is I do it too. I remember when I was at Oregon state, and wanting a place to belong, I guess. Sense of family. I joined the fraternity, and it was a terrible mistake because it was a very worldly environment. Parties, you can imagine, and I’m just going along with the crowd. I can criticize others until I realize it’s me too. It’s in me too. I’m just wanting a place to belong. I’m just following along with the crowd, and it got to the point I was president of the fraternity. I’m leading the thing now. I’m influencing other people in the wrong way. How did it come to this? I’m not just following the crowd. I’m the president of this thing. Then one day it just hit me, it just hit me like – like a lightning bolt. What am I doing? What am I doing? I remember it hit me Sunday morning. I got up and just woke up, and I just wanted some fresh air. The smell of beer was everywhere, and I walked out to the sticky floors, and around the beer bottles, and I went outside, and it smelled so good. And the sunshine, I thought, “Lord, what am I doing? What am I doing, I can't do this anymore. I’m coming home.” And so, I decided to go to church. It was a Sunday morning.
I went back to my room to try to find my Bible. It took some effort, and I finally found my Bible, and I went into my car and I just started driving until I found a church, and I walked in, and sat down, and started worshiping, and started bawling. It just felt so good to be home, but I was alone. It was just me, no one else. But I started to see that I was influencing. Others started to join me, and the people could see that there was something that was happening in me. Even to the point, I remember distinctly there was a party in room twenty something or other, and someone said, “Hey, Rich, there is a party in twenty something and there’s some dope and stuff, you want to go?” And before I can answer, somebody jumped in and answered for me. “No, he’s not going. I tell you what, he’s already high. Yeah, he’s high on life.” I thought, “You know what, I’ll take that.” Absolutely, the influence. See Noah lived in a time of great wickedness, and not only did he not follow the crowd. He became a preacher of righteousness. This is actually second Peter 24, “God preserved Noah a preacher of righteousness with the seven others when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.” But interestingly, though he was a preacher of righteousness no one listened to what he preached. No one took it to heart. Well, that is except his family. See, even if they don’t listen. Even if they wouldn’t listen, he still spoke the truth. The same is true with us. See, we’re not responsible for whether people receive the truth. God expects us to speak the truth, but to speak the truth in love. Your job is just to be faithful. God does ask us to be an influence in our sphere of influence. Do your part, leave the results to God, and you never know. You never know what impact you might make. You might be planting a seed that someone else will water, and then someone else will harvest. You don't’ know, you have no idea. You could be planting seeds you have no idea what you might be doing to someone when you’re speaking the truth.
You’re making them think. Consider, you might be planting a seed, and who knows? Maybe you will have an opportunity o harvest someone you might say lead someone to Christ, then somebody else might’ve planted a seed. You don’t know, and if you make an impact on your children that is most certainly worth it. See, this is very important. Parents, we have a responsibility, and a call to bring our children into a relationship to God. I tell you what, if you bring your children into a relationship to God you will never regret it, but if you don’t you surely will regret that. Abraham Lincoln, the famous Abraham Lincoln, credited his mother with instilling his character. Timothy had such a mother, and a grandmother that Paul calls them out by name. This is fascinating. These women made an impact on the world because of what influence they had on their son. This is second Timothy one verse five. “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first evolved around your grandmother Louis, and then your mother Eunis, and I’m sure that it is in you as well.” Whatever your sphere of influence, God wants you to make an impact.
II. By Faith be Men of Action
He says, “Out of reverence for him because of your faith.” But notice this, going back to Hebrews 11. “By faith, be men of action.” See, by faith Noah, taking God at his word, took action. He did something. He built the ark. Verse eight, “By faith, Abraham when he was called the obeyed by going out to this place, which he was to receive with an inheritance.” He did something about it. In other words, faith moves, faith takes action, faith does things, faith makes a difference in the way a life is lived. Faith moves. Be men of action because you’re men of faith. See, when Abraham was living in the land of Iran with his relatives God called him to leave that land, and to leave his relatives, his Father’s house, to go to this land, which God would show him. A place he had never seen before. This place that he would give to his inheritors. The land of Israel. Here’s the point. He trusted God, and therefore, he took action though he had never seen it.
A. Walk by faith and not by sight
He simply trusted. In other words, he walked by faith. This is the point. “Walk by faith and not by sight.” See, many people would love to have a blue print for their lives, and this blueprint that lays it all out before them. It would be great. Lord, just lay out the entire blueprint for me, and send me a memo of what you want me to do every step. Just text it to me, email it to me, tweet it to me Lord. Just anything, I want to know every step of the way, but God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t tell you in advance how everything is going to work out. He expects you simply to trust that he knows the way through the wilderness, and all we have to do is follow just one step at a time. See, I’m convinced that God does not tell us the whole story in advance for very important reasons because our story includes some difficult things, and I think if we knew those difficult things in advance we would do everything in our power to avoid them. But God knows that even those difficult things are part of the unfolding of the will of God in our lives. You know, you think about the church and the early days in Jerusalem. They start out pinna costal. Thousands came to faith in Christ. They were having a wonderful time. They were eating together, they were fellowshipping together, they were praying together, they were worshipping together. It was awesome. I mean, they were hunkered down there in Jerusalem and having a great time. Thousands of people eating, praying, fellowshipping, worshipping. Oh, it was absolutely marvelous, and one day a persecution arose against the church.
A very harsh persecution rose against the church, and you know what the end result was? They had to scatter. They had to scatter all throughout Judea, and Samaria, and you know what they did when they scattered all throughout Judea and Samaria? Yeah, they preached the gospel. Yeah, so now the gospel isn’t hunkered down in Jerusalem anymore. It’s been spread to Judea, and Samaria, and it’s all spread out in the world. God is using it now for his glory. I mean, they would have never chosen that. No one would ever say, “Lord, persecute the church please, we kind of need it.” No one would ever say such a thing, but God uses. You can see now just spreading out the gospel through this. One of those people that got spread, and is preaching the gospel is Phillip. As he’s going from village to village preaching the gospel. An angel of the Lord spoke to him and said, “Go out to this desert road.” That’s it, go to this desert road that leads to Gaza. Didn’t tell him why, didn’t tell him what he’d find. Just go, just go to this desert road. So, out of faith he goes. So, he goes to this desert road on the way to Gaza, and while he’s on this road he sees an entourage of chariots. Very important, you can tell they’re very important, and he sees this chariot where there’s a man sitting, reading a scroll. And so, the Spirit speaks to Phillip. “Join the man in the chariot.”
So, he goes up to the man in the chariot, and he’s reading the scroll, and it just so happens to be a scroll of Isiah. This man is an Ethiopian court official who had just been to Jerusalem to worship, and no doubt purchased at great expense. This is very, very rare. Picked up at great expense a scroll of the old testament, and he happened to have Isiah open. Just so happened, and it just so happened to be reading in Isiah 53. Just so happened. Now, if you know Isiah 53, you would say, “Really, that’s amazing.” I mean, Isiah 53 out of all the chapters in the entire old testament is one of the most clear, specific, messianic prophecies that you can ever find. In fact, a Jew today, if you said to him, “Can you explain Isiah 53?” “Not really” but in the light of Jesus Christ is brilliantly revealed. Absolutely marvelous. He just so happened to be reading Isiah, and he just so happened to be in Isiah 53, and so Phillip came up to him and said, “Do you know what you’re reading?” And the man says, “How can I unless someone explains it to me. Please come and join me.” So, he begins to explain to him this is a prophecy of Messiah. His name is Jesus from Nazareth. And the suffering is described there just happened. The scourging, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, all of that prophesized, and he was raised from the dead on the third day. The man said, “I see water, I see water. What prevents me from being baptized?” Phillip said, “If you believe with all of your heart you may.” “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” “Yes, you may be baptized” and he baptized right there. You know what’s absolutely interesting? History tells us that a revival broke out in Ethiopia, and it was absolutely fantastic at the Saturday night service last night even there were several families that are here just came over from Ethiopia, and they’re Christians, and so they trace their roots back to that very same thing. Here’s my point. God expects you to just walk by faith. He doesn’t give you a blueprint telling you the whole thing in advance.
Men of faith are men of action, but they are also men of faith. In other words, they are men of action because of their faith. They do what they do out of a desire to honor God. This is the point. See, we walk by faith and not by sight, but we walk. We walk. They move, they do something, they do something because of their faith. Ventures of faith. They walk, they do something. They’re men of action, but he also tells us that how we walk is very important. As you’re walking by faith how you walk, you walk according to your faith. According to the character of God. According to his wisdom. Let me give you Catalonians one, nine, and ten. “We have not ceased to pray for you, and ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, and all spiritual wisdom, and understanding so that you will walk in a manner that is worthy of the Lord. To please him in all respects bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” This is important because some people believe that the ends justify the means, and that as long as you’re doing something it doesn’t matter how you get it done. Not so. With the Lord, how you do something is as important as what you do. When I thought of this, I thought of a quote from the famous Wesley in Princess Bride, one of my favorite movies. At one point in this movie he says, Wesley is the hero of this whole thing. He says, “We are men of action, lies do not become us.” I love that quote. Whenever I hear it it just instills something strong and brave in you. We are men of action, lies do not become us. Like yes. There’s the point in faith we walk by faith, and we walk according to his character.
B. Faith looks to the reward
Lastly, and we’ll end with this. Faith looks to the reward. There is an amazing, and intriguing theme that runs through these chapters on faith. So, perhaps part of the reason for faith is this. Looking to the reward that God has in store. This is a very key thing, and very intriguing when you look at this. In fact, would you allow me to just – I’m going to collect several verses together right now. I’m going to read you several verses that makes this very clear to us. You don’t have to turn there, let me just read them. In chapter 10, verse 35. “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” Chapter 11 verse 6, “He who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.”
Chapter 11 verse 9 and 10, “Abraham lived as an alien in the land of promise dwelling in tents. He was looking for that city, which has foundations who’s architect and builder is God.” He was not looking for an earthly city, a heavenly one. Eleven verses 13 and 14, “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but having seen them and welcomed them from a distance.
Having confessed that they were strangers in exile on the earth.” Please capture that phrase. They are strangers and exiles on the earth for those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country on their own. The next verse explains it as it is they desire a better country that is a heavenly one, therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared a city for them. Eleven verse 35, “Others were tortured not accepting their desire in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.” A point must be applied. We’re all just strangers in exile on this earth. We also are looking for that city, which has foundations who’s architect and builder is God. What is this city? What is this city? Jesus said something interesting in John 14, verses 1 and 3. “Do not let your heart be troubled” he said. “Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If were not so I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you. I will come again, and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.” What is this place? What is he speaking of? What is this place? What is this city? What is this reward? Revelation 20 verses 2 and 3, sorry, revelation 21. “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. Made ready like a bride adorned for her husband, and I hear a loud voice from the throne saying behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell among them and they will be his people and God himself will be among them.” What is this city? There is built in human nature a great looking forward aspect of our nature. We seem to be always looking forward. When we’re young, we’re looking forward. We can’t wait to get our driver’s license. We’re looking forward. Oh, we can’t wait to graduate high school. Always looking forward. Can’t wait, if I could just graduate from college.
Remember, we’re always looking forward. If I could just get married. When I get married it’ll solve all my problems, and then we look forward. We could just have a kid, it would just make our lives so complete if we could have a child. Then we keep looking forward. If that child could just sleep through the night, just always look forward. Perhaps, is it possible that there’s a built in looking forward because there is a city. What is the city? What is this place? Rome, this great city of Rome. The magnificent city was sacked, and pillaged in the year 410 AD. Shocked the world. Absolutely, how is it possible that the great, majestic, powerful city of Rome could be sacked and pillaged by the Visigoth. How is it possible? Many people put their wealth there, their hope there, their dreams were there, and all of it came crashing. Unfathomable that is was possible. The great Augustine wrote a book in response to it because many people were so shocked that he wrote a book called the City of God. If you put your hope in the city of Rome, then you’ve invested your heart and your treasures there. You put your hope in the wrong city. You put your hope in the wrong place because there is a city who’s architect and builder is God. A city in which those who have faith look for in that place, and in that city God himself dwells with his people. That city, that place is where you put your hope. If Rome could fall the great majestic fortress of a city could fall. This country could fall. Where have you put your hope? Some who find their dreams here are sadly disappointed. We were built with a longing. Those who have faith have placed their hopes, and their dreams on that city. That is faith. Let’s pray.