Saturday, September 29, 2007

“The substance and evidence of the soul”

Hebrews 11:1 – 8
“The substance and evidence of the soul”

Just after saying “But my righteous one will live by faith.” [Hebrews 10:38a], the Bible challenges us with historical examples.  The reason is: “Faith has always been the mark of God’s servants.” Matthew Henry

I.    Faith is the EYES of the soul.

    A.    What is faith and how does it work?

“Faith is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all He promised to us in Christ.” [M.H.]

        1.    It is “being sure of what we hope for.”

            a.    KJV = “substance”

(Ill.) When you bake and the aroma fills the house.  You can smell the baking to the point were you can almost taste it.

            b.    Forward-looking confidence. (Future)

            c.    This means we will “We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:7]

        2.    It is being “certain of what we do not see.”

            a.    KJV = “evidence”

            b.    This is the demonstration or proof. (Past and present)

(Ill.) You can not see the wind but you can see and feel the effects.  You can not see oxygen but you breath it and benefit from it all the time.

            c.    It is irrational to disregard faith or think it is opposed to reason. 

(Ill.) Everyday we exercise faith.  Why do you use a light switch? (You believe it will turn the light on or off.)  Why do you use a key in your car? (You believe that it will start your car.)

    B.    Why is faith the foundation?

“Faith assumes the place of substance... faith holds the place of argument.” (Dante)

        1.    Faith allows us to have God’s “seal of approval.”

            a.    “This is what the ancients were commended for.” [v 2]

            b.    It stands to reason they are examples, if faith was honored then, it is honored now.

        2.    Faith understands the true place and nature of God.

            a.    The existence of a Creator is the foundation of faith.

            b.    A Creator means undisputed right of ownership. 

(Ill.) If you make something, it is yours.  If you design something, you own that design (assuming someone else has not created that design).

            c.    A Creator means undisputed authority.

(Ill.) If you design something and make it, you probably understand it better than someone else.  When God says, this is the way it works and this is the way it doesn’t... the created cannot dispute it.  It’s why you check the “owner manual” when you have a question or problem.

            d.    A Creator means undisputed power.

                1.)    “Formed at God’s command” [v 3b]

                2.)    God did not have to use tools, process, etc... God spoke.

“Faith in the creation is the foundation and specimen of all faith.” [John Wesley]

***** Another way to say this is if you do not believe in a Creator, you do not believe in God. *****

II.    Faith is the HEART of the soul.

    A.    Able’s example (He humbled himself before God):

        1.    “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” [v 3a]

        2.    What was different/special about Abel’s sacrifice?

            a.    It was the best of the best.  (“But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” [Genesis 4:4]) We can see, the difference is ATTITUDE.

            b.    It was a blood sacrifice.

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
[Hebrews 9:22]

                1.)    In other words the blood sacrifice reflected the penalty for sin and the need for mercy.  It reflected (set the precedent) the atonement of future blood sacrifices.

                2.)    “Able had faith in the blood substitute while Cain had faith in the work of his own hands.” [Jack Waite]

    B.    The result of Able’s faith:

        1.    Able died...

            a.    Many people today are under the hatred and persecution unleashed by Cain.

            b.    It is said that more people have died for Jesus in the last 10 years than in the history of the world.

        2.    Able still speaks.

            a.    We see the early and extreme degradation what sin does to a person.  (And are horrified by murder.)

            b.    We see a clear distinction between righteousness and sin.

III.    Faith is the FEET of the soul.


    A.    Enoch’s example (He earnestly sought God):

        1.    Enoch had a special connection with God.  He “pleased God.” [v 5c]

            a.    “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” [Genesis 5:24]

            b.    Enoch was also a prophet who saw the return of Jesus. [see Jude 1:14]

        2.    Other than that, we know very little about Enoch.

    B.    The result of Enoch’s faith:

        1.    Enoch did not die.  (This only happened twice.  Enoch and Elijah.)

        2.    Enoch’s example is that of seeking God. [v 6]

            a.    Enoch sought God, and the result of that was a special walk (holiness) with God (at a level none of us will ever know).

            b.    The image is that of Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden of Eden... Enoch did not have the Garden but he did walk with God.

IV.    Faith is the HANDS of the soul.

    A.    Noah’s example (He obeyed God):

        1.    Noah, when warned built an ark.

            a.    Context: it had never rained, never flooded.

            b.    Noah’s confidence was that God would do what He said... The word of God was sufficient to move Noah to action.

        2.    What else do we know about Noah?

            a.    “This is the account of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” [Genesis 6:9]

                1.)    Here was someone who also “walked with God.”

                2.)    He was called “righteous” and “blameless” by God as a contrast to the people of his day.

            b.    “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” [Genesis 6:22]

                1.)    Obedience and attention to the details are a mark of faith.

                2.)    God spoke, Noah acted on what God said.

            c.    2 Peter 2:5 “a preacher of righteousness.”

                1.)    Imagine preaching for 120 years and having nothing more than your family to show for it...

                2.)    Building and arch and preaching must have been humiliating.


    B.    The results of Noah’s faith:

        1.    He saved his family and condemned the world (which is the real reason people fear the faithful).

        2.    “Good examples either convert sinners or condemn them.” [M.H.] “Your obedience makes their disobedience stand out.” [LAB]

        3.    We love to talk about the mercy and kindness of God (which are true) but sometimes we God’s intention is to bring severe justice.

            a.    Isaiah’s call: “He said, "Go and tell this people: `Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'  Make the heart of this people calloused;  make their ears dull and close their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” [Isaiah 6:9 – 10]

            b.    Jeremiah’s call: “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land--against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.” [Jeremiah 1:18]  “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” [Jeremiah 7:27] 

            c.    Ezekiel’s call: “But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.” [Ezekiel 3:7]

            d.    Moses’ call: “The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” [Exodus 4:21]

V.    Faith is the BREATH of the soul.

    A.    Abraham’s example (When called, he did not hesitate):

        1.    When called, he went. [v 8]

        2.    Abraham knew it was right to follow even if he did not know the direction, destination, or duration of what God was asking.

    B.    The result of Abraham’s faith:

        1.    He gave up what was secure and familiar.

        2.    He gave up what was most precious (Isaac) [see Genesis 22]

        3.    His going became “the first link in the golden chain of his faith.”

        4.    He was never hesitant to obey God.

Conclusion:

1.    What has captured your eye and holds your attention?

2.    What has captured your heart and directs where your energies are focused?

3.    What has captured your feet and directs your habits and what/who you are seeking?

4.    What has captured your hands and motivates your affections?

5.    What has captured your breath and gives you the confidence to never hesitate to obey God?

Never forget, Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham were ordinary people... just like you. 

“Many Christians become frustrated and defeated because their needs, wants, expectations, and demands are not immediately met when they accept Christ as Savior.  They become impatient and quit.” [LAB]

***** Where do you start? *****

1.    Recognize there is spiritual distance between you and God.  This gap is created and maintained by sin.  It separates us from God and spawns suspicion and distrust about God, the church, God’s messengers.

2.    The only solution for closing this spiritual distance is through faith in God’s character (love and mercy) and desire (grace) to save you through the blood of Jesus.

3.    You are at this point because God is waking you up from your sin, you now have a choice.  Will you go back to the sleep of your sin or wake fully to the new life God is offering you through Jesus?
       

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