What Faith does?

This is my message for the third Sunday of October at San Pedro CRC:

Hebrews 11:1-7

Read:

1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith

 

Redemptive/ Fallen Condition Focus:

  1. 1.      Being tempted to trust what we can see
  2. 2.      Being tempted to act that will make quick results
  3. 3.      To trust God and His promises even you don’t see the results now
  4. 4.      To obey based on what we know and taught from the Bible

Introduction:

Slide2

The Four Horsemen- not the one we know from Revelations/Apocalypse –but the one being read and viewed -Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchen –atheist : scientist, scholar, philosopher and a journalist. With their fears of fundamentalist and theocratic religions like that of the Muslim’s god- Allah: Sam Harris (my favorite-since he writes clearly) :

That religion is a significant cause of terrorism.[43]

“How many more architects and mechanical engineers must hit the wall at 400 miles an hour before we admit to ourselves that jihadist violence is not merely a matter of education, poverty, or politics? The truth, astonishingly enough, is that in the year 2006 a person can have sufficient intellectual and material resources to build a nuclear bomb and still believe that he will get 72 virgins in Paradise. Western secularists, liberals, and moderates have been very slow to understand this. The cause of their confusion is simple: They don’t know what it is like to really believe in God.”

And I might add –“ especially if it is a false god” and not the God the Father of Jesus.

When Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that He receives all authority and power –did He command us to wage war and compel others to convert- i.e. to use force so that they accept the Messiah whether freely or not? Let us read Matthew 28:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Markan version:

15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

No!  He wants us to share the Gospel –in order that anyone, freely and willingly, will come to Him and be his disciple- without outward compulsion –by sword or fear of hostility or being ostracize. And He assert this even when He has all the power in the world.

See also what the Apostle Paul is the power of God- it is guns? Swords? Armies?

Romans 1: 16     For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

And do we fight flesh and blood? And its weapons?

Ephesians 6: 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

And today…God willing I will be able to give you more armaments against our ancient enemy  of our soul- so you can that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm”

A Review:

In Hebrew 10 – we learned that Faith is based on the Person of Jesus Christ – Who He is –God and Man, Priest-King-and what He have done as Priest /Lamb of Sacrifice in atoning –once and for all –for our sins.

And that based on that –our faith endures and persevere and is eternally secured as we approach God through His Son and we assembled together –encouraging one another –while waiting for the Day when Jesus will come back again.

Here is a description of what Faith does (this is for a Justified Believer already) and is observable in the life of a Christian and those saints in both Old and New Testaments and that is mentioned in verse 1:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” NIV

Or the version influence by the old KJV like the NKJV or:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Slide3

Most would follow the newer version –which is more contextually right than the older one –which is use to define the Son of God at Heb 1:3 > “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”

But better is this reference Heb 3:14 “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold firmly till the end our original conviction”.

Also in 2 Cor 9:4 “For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident.

In 2 Cor 11:17 “In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.”

So Faith is being sure of what is in front of your heart- a work of the Holy Spirit amongst His chosen- as if the Unseen God is before Him – and that His presence is palpable –that s being felt by His being. Jesus is a reality to Him and not mere story or legend to Him. He is not yesterday’s news. He is the presence in the night –when he cries, in the morning –when he goes to work or rides the bus. He is the one He talks to –when no one is listening.

Faith also makes the future –as if it is in the present. It is a living Hope –and not a wishy-washy desire for something that a new fad or fashion will change- like the song Gangnam –which is very known last year but will never sing again at this time. It feeds on God’s Word or His Promise and is not dependent on anything else.

It is not mere statistical certainty –like 80% sure…but a direct testimony of the Holy Spirit to the hearts of his children..That can lead them to prodigious acts of bravery and endurance. It is part of his invincible Grace.

This should not be used for any magical conception of gaining your wish or money or wealth. As we see in previous chapter –this Faith revolves around Jesus-who He is and what He had done –and will do. It is not self-centred – meeting his needs or his wants- but focus on the work and mission of Jesus- we endure and do our mission in life. Contextually –the health and wealth use of these verses is suspect and does violence to the text.

And as Martin Luther said-  “Oh, if I had faith!” And often he confessed that, unless every day he read the Scriptures, and meditated on Christ, and repeated the Creed, and prayed the Psalms, his heart became dead and cold, full of dark and hard thoughts of God, and of dreary and tormenting doubts and fears. Let us dwell, then, on Christ; let us consider Him in steadfast, frequent, daily meditation; let the word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts, minds; and homes.”

Our Faith is sustained by the Word of God.

And in Verse 6 : “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

It is about acting to please Him and actively seeking Him – It is a life revolving the Sun – revolving every minute , every hour –so that his or her actions, motive and hopes is anchored on the very presence of Him who is unseen by others.

The Sun does not revolves around the earth and so –our lives must be outward – no more selfies ba?

Heidelberg Catechism Q21  

Q. What is true faith?

A. True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation,  out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.

In Summary- Faith as per Apostle Paul in Hebrews is

  1. 1.      Seeing the unseen
  2. 2.      Sure of the Future promised
  3. 3.      Acting on those truths

And we will try to see how these qualities of faith are played in the life of the elders of faith.

A note of perspective- we know Paul in the whole Hebrews is trying to contrast Jesus and the Old Covenant- Moses, The Law, The Temple, The Sacrifices and the Priesthood. Lest we think –that because something is lesser in estimate that that something is not true or was important in the plan of God-far from it –It is in its backdrop-background that the Person and Work of Jesus is seen in its full Glory and Greatness.

Paul-here –thinks in terms of covenant –not in the Creation or Original Covenant –which all men- on Adam was included- but in the Old Covenant that was presented by Moses and in the New Covenant ushered by the blood of Jesus.

So you can see that in the hallmarks of the heroes of faith in this chapter –there is no mention of being those persons being faithful to the Law- but all their exploits are seen in the perspective of Faith… a living and constant trust on God.  Not that there is nothing good with the Law- in fact in Romans- Paul  calls it holy and good …but in terms of contrast –we are not under the Old Covenant of Law but in the New Covenant of Jesus’ Grace. Just please remember this and avoid false antimony.

  1. 1.      Creation

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

It is clear that no one else is with God when He created the universe- He is alone as a Triune God when he created the angels, the worlds/aeons, dimensions of reality. It is precisely the wrong view that the Devil took when He thought that there is something else before God – He thought he can usurp the one who created him and his minions.

Some said we started from amoebas or simple cells or proteins or some ancient engineers planted us here like the books by Erich Von Daniken or the movie Prometheus. The crudest form of this evolution mindset is that we started from apes.

Slide5

Others point to the carbon dating and conclude that the earth is billion of years and cannot be merely 6,000 years –if you follow the chronology of the Bible as Bishop Ussher did.

Others point to the apparent age of the universe using the speed of light as a reference-meaning that the light we are now seeing now from the stars is million years ago…

Except is you accept the fact brought by revelation that God created this world or universe and He put a special place for man –that in even eternity past-He thought of us –in His Son. And that He is the Lamb –slain before the foundation of the world.

The apparent age of the universe can be easily explained by the act of God where the worlds separated and whirl themselves away based on His Word of command.

prometheus-engineer-image

But remember there is no one to see when God created all these things. We have to take God’s word on this…but can He be trusted? Yes yes yes!…better than men… like Darwin or Dawkins, Hitchens or Sam Harris. Will you risk your life in the words of men?

It is said by the Creation.com that Science is based on observation, and the only reliable means of telling the age of anything is by the testimony of a reliable witness who observed the events. The Bible claims to be the communication of the only One who witnessed the events of Creation: the Creator himself. As such, the Bible is the only reliable means of knowing the age of the earth and the cosmos.”

True –false religion is dangerous in this life and in the afterlife –and we must combat against them- But there is nothing wrong with God the Father or His Or His Son –Jesus.

As Church father – Polycarp. A disciple of Apostle John- in the Martyrdom, he is recorded as saying on the day of his death, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong.”How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour? Bring forth what thou wilt.” Polycarp was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.

Psalm 118: 8: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

 2.      Abel

Slide6

4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

See also Hebrews 12: 24

“…to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. “

It has t be observed that Adam was not mentioned here because He has seen God before –and thus the roll started with Abel- and why him?

See Genesis 4:

2 Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Was it because Abel’s sacrifice is the tenth of his flock? There is no mention here-and this before the Law was given to Moses. Nor this is not the same as Abram’s tenth of the spoils given to Melchizedek –since it must be based on a revelation or common custom of their day- the Law dictates differently.

Was it more than ten percent –even here there is no mention

Or was it because Abel remembered what God did for Adam and Eve- i.e. their fig leaves came from dead animal-

Gen 3: 21 “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them”.

Cain’s offering and worship was that of the natural, self-righteous man, who needs no blood, but trusts in his character and good works. Cain did not believe in what Yahweh- Elohim had declared concerning sin, the penalty of sin; and he did not believe in the prediction of Gen 3:15. God had cursed the ground, but Cain brought of the fruit of the ground.

Hebrews 12 seems to suggest this –except it speaks more of Abel’s death in the hands of Cain.

I John 3:12 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

Ever hear the phrase –“He does what pleases him” That is the picture here.  Abel –by faith-meaning He believes that God is real…that He wants to please Him…gave the best he knows to worship him… “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock…”not counting what we will do to his future produce –knowing God is better than anything in His life.

Abel (vapour) is better than Cain (acquired of the Lord) even though their names betray the hopes of their parents. He remembers his sins and offer a sacrifice –at least corresponding to that guilt.

Cain imitated him –so as not to be shamed before others –not because he is seeking God sincerely –but when God disapproved of Him – tries to kill God-but He cannot –so he struck his brother who pleases Him.

This is the heart of a relationship-religion based on a sincere faith – it does not compare with others-but responds to the revelation given to him and then acts accordingly. In contrast to that is a religion of works that constantly compares with the efforts of others.

Yan ang mahirap sa puso ng isang Pariseo..you are only good if you are better than others.

Abel sees God… seek him as his reward…and act based on that reality.

And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”

  1. 3.      Enoch

Hebrews 11: 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

Slide7

Genesis 5: 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365  years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

For 365 years –Enoch , amongst a steady decline in the days prior to Noah of the Deluge and Ark, lived and walked with faith- seeing God daily –as if He is present before him –he tries to please him and seek him and His fellowship as the Great Reward of this life and the life thereafter. And God decided to rapture him –without going through death-and he was instantly with God-why ? He pleased God. God is His all and all…and God knows it L

6 At kung walang pananampalataya ay hindi maaaring maging kalugodlugod sa kaniya; sapagka’t ang lumalapit sa Dios ay dapat sumampalatayang may Dios, at siya ang tagapagbigay ganti sa mga sa kaniya’y nagsisihanap.

Enoch sees God…sees the future wiht Him ..and live in accordance with that belief.

  1. Noah

7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

Slide9

I can relate to this..because I do send text messages –even before the typhoons or monsoons are being felt in actuality.

Sometimes –you got responses –annoyed by your warning- that as if it is big thing…when you can see the Doppler radar of Pag-asa and the Japan and those of Hkong, and US is showing the coming storm and its direction and its rain with it.

You watch, pray and prepare for what can happen- but others don’t take notice or just pray half-heartedly.

Consider Noah..600 years old – There was no rain yet at his time..and in fact since they enter the ark –it took seven days before it rained-

11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

Slide8

Most of his contemporaries might have laugh when he preached a coming deluge –which has no precedent on their time…when he built an ark…not near a body of water…when he filled it with animals and everything..and you know the joke about animal waste..and then the waiting.

But once He gave himself to God…He sees him …sees the coming future…and act accordingly to that warning…he condemned those who will be left behind and does not took his word.

By Faith –he is considered righteous!

He sees God the unseen..He saw the future as told by God …,and act according to that truth.

Application:

Slide10

We will apply what we learn now to the issue of money- thru the prism of 4 point perspective of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration:

We know we are created by God..that our part of our nature is to work…to create after a fashion…and because Man has fallen in Adam..there is now a Law, an Imperative. A rule to remind us now that we cannot just steal the fruits of other labours…that we need to save for a rainy day, to invest in other endeavours so that our money will not just stagnate.. that we need to learn to share to the less fortunate… that we ought to give the ministries and workers of God that is sharing the Gospel to the world..that our life should revolve around the Lordship of Jesus Christ..and sometimes …because of the cost of discipleship ..we might lose our properties or  be in disadvantage..but this okay since our final reward is in the future before our Great God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Slide11

This is how we mean that we walk by Faith- we see, we hope and we act…

Conclusion:

We know Jesus is God/Man

He is the only atoning sacrifice and High Priest we needed

We must trust Him and live all our lives for Him.

Our lives must reflect that we do believe Him.

We must see Jesus –the unseen Presence in our lives- We must see the future as He described in His Word-with Him and his fellowship-and we must act according to that truth. We must persevere to the end.

Hebrews 11: 6 and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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