Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!

Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen  
December 30, 2012 AM

What kind of heroes do we hold up to be emulated? Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. writes about the need for heroes: “My middle son, Marlon, complained to me just the other day that his generation is coming of age ‘in a world without heroes.’ . . . His words tugged at me. . . . Our children have learned to wait for the other shoe to drop, for ‘heroes’ to be unmasked and values betrayed.” A survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University shows that 60 percent of adults have no heroes. It’s an unhealthy trend, according to former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, author of the best-seller The Book of Virtues: “It is particularly important for young people to have heroes. This is a way to teach them by moral example, so that we can point to someone as an ideal.” I believe this is why true heroes, heroes of our faith can give us a renewed vigor to live for the Lord.

In a summary, the writer of Hebrews pointed out that people can still be living by faith when they die, even if by that time they have not received what was promised. By faith, the patriarchs and prophets saw the promises from afar but continued in their faith refusing to turn back to the old ways they had left. His listeners should also renounce any opportunity to go back to their ancestral religion. They should persist in longing for a better country promised by Jesus! A Christian’s faith should form their true worldview. The believer’s faith is what life is all about. Hebrews reminds of how those in the past expressed their faith. Let’s discover what that means for us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 11:17-40


Do you express your faith or do you acquiesce your faith? There are those who think that Christianity should evolve and that it should change its core values with the times. This flies in the face of not just tradition, but with actual biblical theology. The same is true for what constitutes faith. We learn that…

I. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

  1. The lives of those the author describes were defined by their faith. We would know nothing of these individuals without faith defining their lives. Abraham could never have offered up his son unless he fully trusted God already! Moses’ parents had faith that God would take care of their infant son cast adrift into an Egyptian pyramid scheme. And God provided every step of the way of Moses’ life! From making him a basket case, to bringing him up in royal court, to having him run for his life because of stupid decisions, and then leading his people to the Promised Land! His life was defined by his faith! Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” We see the Israelite’s faith when they ran through the Red Sea, when Jericho’s walls caved, when “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Her life was totally entrusted to her newfound faith! Because of their faith they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised… shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword,” their “weakness was turned to strength; and… became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated -- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground!” Can you imagine living your life in this way? Jesus reminds us that we often cannot do what he asks us to do “Because you have so little faith.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV) The reason that Christianity is not vibrant as it should be is because we do not find faith that moves mountains! Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

  EXAMPLE: Why do you do what you do in life? What makes you get up every day to go to work, clean your home, or simply live your lives? For some it is their children, for others it is their job ethic or education, and still for some, it is because they have nothing better to do! It is laudable to have a goal-oriented life, but what happens when children move away or rebel, what occurs when your job closes down or you retire, what is left at the end of your life when you realize you have lived for nothing? Just as the bedraggled crayon-scrawled signs, rain-drenched candles, and plastic sun-faded flowers left at the makeshift roadside memorials, our lives are not long remembered either. However, go back, look at the great folks of faith, and notice how they are remembered. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.” What about Paul, Silas, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or perhaps, the Wesley brothers, John Rogers, C. H. Spurgeon, D. L. Moody or Billy Graham? Maybe you remember Brother McMillan, Pastor Ward Lawrence, Dr. Bill Peters, or Jan Sander. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

There are those who say they live their faith, but when one takes a closer look at their lives, or especially their families, we find a whole other truth. One of the reasons we have the violence we do in our society today, is we have redefined what constitutes a family. When we look at these verses, we discover that…

II. Our families are to be managed by our faith!

  1. While there are not always good examples of parenting in the Bible, we do discover godly examples of faithful parents who entrusted their children to the Lord. Abraham “who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son!” Why would he do such a thing? Was he nuts? NO! “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Can you imagine? God asks you to do the unthinkable, but you understand immediately that God has a plan and you must above all trust in God’s plan for your family. All the way up the mountain, searching for wood, answering his son’s incessant questions about the sacrifice, and even while he was plunging the blade into Isaac’s chest, Abraham trusted God! Isaac wasn’t the best dad either, but he knew his sons, by faith he “blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” And Jacob, the liar, even though his sons had sold his favorite, Joseph, into slavery because of their insane jealousy “when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons”, and by “faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Even “By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.” From birth to death these parents, while not the best, had enough sense to trust God with their families! We live in an age where daycare, schools, television, and video games raise many of our children. Single parent homes are becoming the new “normal” with multiple transient hookups. God’s wisdom reminds us to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) and fathers are not to “exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV) Our families are to be managed by our faith!

  EXAMPLE: Neither Guns nor their availability make people kill one another. Sin does. I remember in High School, during hunting season; it wasn’t unusual for guys to drive to school with gun racks filled with shotguns or rifles. Often, my friends and I went shooting after Friday classes and we had pistols and ammo in the trunks of our vehicles. I even brought my .22 caliber revolver to shop class in order to make new pistol grips! I graduated from a large suburban school, but no one was ever threatened or harmed. The reason: It was unthinkable. Nowadays the moral and social fabric of our society is so corrupted; we no longer see sin as sin. Most school shootings and attacks since the mid 1990s confirm that the perpetrators were on some kind of antidepressant. i CDC data shows that one in 25 children ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. are on antidepressants. ii  Add to this the unmarried birth rate of 41%, where unmarried couples make up 12% of U.S. couples iii, and a divorce rate for first time marriage is 41%, for second marriages, it is 60%, and for third marriages, it is 73%, Houston, we have a problem! iv These statistics are important because research shows that children without a mom and a dad are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and are twice as likely to drop out of school, commit criminal acts, and engage in premarital sex. I would say that it is time again for families to be managed by faith!

During Christmastime, or when a national tragedy strikes, we find all sorts of folks willing to do good things for others. I am glad we can come together, but this should be more than writing a pity saying on a cup of coffee. Sadly, far too many think that by simply doing good, makes one good, and nothing could be further from the truth. We discover by these verses found in Hebrews that…

III. We are made perfect by our faith!

  1. If holiness were obtainable by simply doing good things, we would never have needed Jesus to die on a cross for us. This is why Hebrews remarks concerning Moses, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” It was “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Unknown to Moses at the time, was the mere fact that by his act of faith he was pointing to a better way, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! In conclusion, the writer pointed out that the great heroes of faith he had spoken of had not yet realized the result of their faith concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell. When we die, we are not eternally judged for the good we did in life, we are first weighed by what we believed in life! Paul, a Jew by birth, knew “that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) Like the author of Hebrews, Paul would say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) This proves that God had planned something far better for them and us. Paul would also write, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22 NIV) You see, Hebrews reminds us that, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect!” We are made perfect by our faith!

  EXAMPLE: When someone says she believes in God, does that make her a Christian? When someone says he believes in Jesus, does that make the person a Christian? The affirmation of faith was important in the ancient world. It showed the world what you trusted in, as James declared, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV) Of course, James also affirmed that his faith was shown by what he did after believing. Do you sometimes doubt your faith? I believe God knows our weakness and this is where faith comes in let me explain: One time Jesus saw a large crowd around some of his disciples and the teachers of the law arguing with them. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. The man tells Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:16-24 NIV) The boy’s father didn’t claim that he had perfect faith, nor did he walk away in despair. He acknowledged his doubts (unbelief) at the same time that he passionately expressed his desire to believe! Therefore, our faith does not need to be perfect our faith makes us perfect!

Conclusion:
Our lives are to be defined by our faith! Our families are to be managed by our faith! We are made perfect by our faith!
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i http://www.ssristories.com/index.php
ii  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/23/antidepressants-viewed-as-quick-fix/#ixzz2GJi0NgjB
iii http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/196 and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-05-26-census-unmarried-couples_n.htm
iv http://www.divorcerate.org
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!

Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2012 AM

In what has occurred in the past few days, people are trying to find meaning out of the violence. Sadly, bad people will do bad things to innocent people. Sin exists. And, this kind of violence has always been with us because we live in a sin-fallen world. Never forget that a madman king tried to wipe out a perceived rival for his throne by killing all the children, ages 2 years and younger, in Bethlehem following the birth of Jesus. When these kinds of horrendous things occur, we need to hide in the loving wings of the One who loves us and sacrificed His son for us. It is time to understand what faith means again.

Jewish believers were trying to go back to a worldly faith where the emphasis was on their feelings and good works. The author of Hebrews would have none of it and begins the process of defining exactly what faith has meant all along. God rewards those who seek Him and we can only become righteous by our faith. A person’s faith has always defined their character and their quality. Let’s discover from Hebrews what faith means…

READ: Hebrews 11:7-16

I grew up understanding there were certain things that a young gentleman did not do and things that were expected of him. That leadership was not found in consensus, but in those who are willing to take charge and lead. That morality is found in biblical precepts and not in what makes one happy for the moment. Life did not simply revolve around me. My life was founded in devotion as demonstrated in family, community, and nation, practiced through my faith. Perhaps we have forgotten what Hebrews teaches us, that…

I. Faith means obedience! (V. 7)


  1. It is not difficult to see why Noah must have been influenced “by faith.” Everything Noah did before the Flood was done in virtue of his simple belief and trust in what God told him. Noah had such a relationship with the Lord God that when He spoke to Noah, Noah obeyed immediately. Noah did not see the flood coming from a course of outside events that pointed to such a catastrophe happening in the future. He did not lick his finger and test the wind. He did not seek the advice of the world or public consensus. He was told by God and he obeyed. God’s warning was given a hundred and twenty years before the deluge, and such an event had never occurred before. In fact, it had never rained on earth until that time! Noah’s relationship with God was such that he trusted God’s words and advice. While God had become grieved at the rest of mankind, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8 NIV) It was simply because God had informed Noah and he put unwavering confidence in what God said. Hebrews tells us that, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen” acted on his trust in God. Noah did not need to see what God described to believe it; he just needed God’s assurance it was going to happen. God’s word was enough for Noah. Notice what Noah does next. He simply did not believe he acted on what he heard! The beautiful truth herein is that Noah “in holy fear” obeyed God and “built an ark to save his family!” The result of Noah’s faith is that “he condemned the world” by his actions of following what God told him to do and “became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Faith is not faith until it is obeyed. Faith means obedience!

  EXAMPLE: I sometimes hated the words my father would say to us to make us obedient. He would say, “Because I said so.” While I sometimes hated those words, I learned to trust my father’s words. His promises were real. If he said it was “yes” it was yes, and on the converse his “no” was no! Because of his consistency, I learned to have confidence in my father. I knew he desired the very best for my life. I therefore learned obedience. You know what God is the same way! Faith does not just believe in something, it is placing your trust and confidence in its outcome. You do not simply believe, you walk with God. It is obedience. Hebrews teaches us that faith means obedience.

We live in a day and age whereby we demand everything be given to us without personal sacrifice. The government promises us free handouts, but nothing in life is free. There are hidden costs in welfare, social programs, government grants and giveaways. The path to any worthwhile goal begins with the first step. It means personal sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that…

II. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives! (Vv. 8-12)


  1. There is no difficulty in determining that Abraham was also influenced by faith in God. The case is even stronger than that of Noah, Genesis 15:6 relates, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham acted in obedience as well. Paul wrote concerning Abraham’s faith by stating “the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5 NIV) “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Not knowing the outcome involves faith. We cannot know the outcome of where God will take us, but we can trust Him to takes us where He desires. Abraham had been comfortable in Ur but “By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country” where “he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” We can become comfortable in doing things our way. We become comfortable in our ritual. Faith always demands we leave the comfort of our lives; however, there is always a wonderful outcome in doing so! Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” God promises us blessing if we follow Him by faith! We all desire our name will live on to future generations. That we be remembered. Abraham desired his family name to live on and be prosperous! So, even though Abraham, by the world’s standard was too old and considered “as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore!” Because Abraham was willing to trust God and leave his comfortable life, we today are the result of Abraham’s faith! Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives!

  EXAMPLE: What one leaves for future generations is a very important question that demands an answer. There are those who could care less what they leave behind, whether it is debt, a path of destruction, or emotional and psychological devastation. One does not have to be an addict, alcoholic, or mass murder to adversely affect the future lives of others. We can neglect our faith. We can turn a deaf ear to the words and warnings of the Lord when He has asked us to go, serve, and tell others about His Son. We can become comfortably complacent. Yet, if we desire to see the great things of God, we must attempt great things for God. It is a matter of faith. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives.

When we decide to step out in faith like Noah or Abraham, we have to decide to keep on heading in the direction God sends us. It can be scary at first, but when we depend on God, there is freedom that comes from walking with Him. The Jews Hebrews addresses, wanted to go back to their old way not just because it was comfortable, but it was also easy. However, like Noah, Abraham, or later Paul, Silas, or Peter one has to learn that…

III. Faith means not going back! (Vv. 13-16)

  1. Hebrews reminds his listeners that, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Faith isn’t faith if you can see the outcome. Seeing does not always believe. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) It was no more difficult or dangerous for them to return to their old ways than it was to make the journey in the first place. This shows that their remaining as strangers and sojourners in the land of Canaan was voluntary. In fact, the Israelites preferred it, with all its inconveniences and hardships, rather than return to their native land. The same thing is true of all people of God. If you choose to return to the world, and to engage again in all its ungodly pursuits, there is nothing to hinder you. There are lots of opportunities and abundant enticements. There are frequent frivolous friends who would regard it as a matter of joy and triumph to welcome you back into their sinful circle. Misery loves company. However, “people who say” or admit they are “aliens and strangers on earth… show that they are looking for a country of their own!” One of the mottos of those who left their homes in the east to head west was, “Don’t look back!” If one keeps looking back or remorsefully thinking their old way of life was better, the road backward is easy! The Jews who had trusted Jesus could easily return to their old ways. They needed to learn the lesson of the patriarchs of faith that “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return”, but they did not! Looking at Abraham and others like him, we realize that “Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Faith means not going back!

  EXAMPLE: What was wrong with the Jews during the days of Hebrews? Why did they have such trouble trusting God? In Hebrews 3, we’re reminded that the Israelites heard God’s promise yet refused to believe. I think I know why—we have the same problem today. Instead of looking back and recalling that God could be trusted, they looked ahead and saw nothing but the possibility of a tough future. Their trust was blocked by a fear of the future when it could’ve been solidified with a simple look back at God’s deliverance; instead, they looked back for the wrong reasons. They looked back to Egypt and they wanted to return to slavery! Likewise, when our obstacles appear huge, we should not go back to slavery. We need to reassure ourselves by recalling what God has already done on our behalf. Not going back can give us forward confidence. Faith means not going back!

Conclusion:
Faith means obedience, faith means leaving the comfort of our lives, and faith means not going back!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hebrews 11:1-6 – What Is Faith?

Hebrews 11:1-6 – What Is Faith?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December  9, 2012 AM

What is faith? Is it a feeling, an emotional response, or the intellectual exercise of one’s will to decide to believe in something based on the evidence no matter what others say? Webster’s Dictionary states that it is defined as, “allegiance to duty or a person, loyalty, fidelity to one's promises, sincerity of intentions, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction, or belief and trust in and loyalty to God.”

The author of Hebrews gives us a definition of what faith is and then he spends the rest of this chapter in giving us examples of what faith meant for specific people. As we look at what he wrote and why, it should make us think about what our faith means to us.

READ: Hebrews 11:1-6

What in life are you certain of, that you know without a doubt you can depend upon? We can absolutely depend in life upon very few people let alone things. Human nature predisposes that at some point we will let one another down in some way. And material things in life are not made to last. In fact, many things are made with built in obsolescence. The Book of Hebrews gives us a wonderful promise then when he writes that…

I. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see! (Vv. 1-3)

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

  1. The author had just concluded the previous section by reminding us that God states, “But my righteous one will live by faith.” So, this section is a call for those “righteous ones” to live by faith and he defines this faith. If we are to live by faith, what is this faith he desires we live by? He shares three fundamental ideals concerning faith: It is “being sure of what we hope for,” it is being “certain of what we do not see,” and it is “what the ancients were commended for”! Faith is not some societal definition of moral virtue, it is not something you can necessarily see, nor can it always be grasped intellectually or physically. It is not defined by a person’s acts of will, but a person will definitely act on their faith! We cannot see God’s grace but we can experience it for ourselves. The sacrificial act of trusting our lives to God’s promise through his Son, Jesus Christ, assures us peace with him and eternal life. (John 1:12-13, 3:16) When we trust God, whom we cannot see, he promises us eternity! Jesus gave us his life as atonement for our sin, and we give back to him our lives by faith in his sacrifice! The ancients could not see the outcome of their faith, just as often we cannot either, but we like them can live by our trust in what God has promised! In fact, we see the outcome of God’s plan in the creation all around us, “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.” This is why the apostle Paul would dramatically write, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) We may not be sure of nor perhaps understand how all things were made, but we can certainly be certain that they were indeed made by the hand of God, if we do not we are without excuse! Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!

  EXAMPLE: We cannot actually see the love someone has for us, but we can experience it. We experience their love for us as they demonstrate it to us through their lives. This is why Paul would write, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV) I will never forget how one Christmas I wanted a Lionel train set. It was way more than my father could afford and I did not really expect one. Imagine my surprise when I went out to the tree that year on Christmas Day and there set up around the tree was the Lionel train chugging around the tree! However, more than the train set, I will always remember the look on my father’s face when he saw how excited and incredulous I was that the train was really mine. All I can say is, he radiated his love for me that day, I knew without a doubt he loved me. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!

I grew up in a faith where we were taught that we never knew if were good enough to please God with our lives. It was a constant striving for personal perfection and attempting to do just one more thing in order for God to be pleased with our lives. Can you imagine what it meant then when I discovered that God already loved me so much he sent his own son to die for me and that all I needed to do is respond by faith? Hebrews reinforces the fact that…

II. Without faith, it is impossible to please God! (Vv. 4-6)

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 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. 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.”

  1. How do we know when a person has faith? Can we look them in the eye? Can we see it in the color of their skin, the set of their jib, or in the new way they walk? Sometimes, bringing up the past helps us to see the present better. Now I am not suggesting that we nag one another about things we did in the past, but rather here, the author does so for a purpose. The author proceeds with examples of faith, and begins with Abel. The superiority of Abel's sacrifice to Cain's lay both in the substance and in the style of it; one was offered willingly and the other only for show; one was offered in faith and the other in pride. This is why, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Cain plotted, schemed, and planned his “sacrifice” and the ultimate murder of his brother Abel! Planning to do “good things” for God in order to be given kudos or be recognized for it is the outcome of personal pride and not an example of faith. Hebrews then moves on to Enoch, who offers us even a better example of faith: “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.” One verse, Genesis 5:24, relates the story of a godly man named Enoch. It is said that, “Enoch walked with God” and then because God loved Enoch’s faith, “he was no more, because God took him away.” It was because of his trust and confidence in God that Enoch walked with God, even before there was the Mosaic Law! “For, before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” God cannot be pleased in someone who has no confidence in him! “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.” You see, without faith, it is impossible to please God!

  EXAMPLE: The believer’s motto should be the same as Paul’s when he wrote, “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV) Paul knew without a doubt that God loved him and was pleased with his life. In a day and age where so many walk around with insecurity problems and have to focus their entire existence on themselves in order to feel good enough about themselves, it is wonderful to realize that God focuses on our faith and not on ourselves! Hebrews related that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!” (Hebrews 7:25 NIV) Today, remember the true meaning of Jesus’ birth, that God so loved us that he sent us his son, that if we simply believed in him we would be saved. God is pleased with our faith and without faith, it is impossible to please God!

Conclusion:
We discovered for ourselves two important truths concerning faith: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, and without faith, it is impossible to please God!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hebrews 10:32-39 – Keep On Keeping On!

Hebrews 10:32-39 – Keep On Keeping On!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 2, 2012 AM

Do you remember when you first came to Christ, how you felt, and how others viewed your conversion? Were you excited, were they excited for you, and what about your friends? When I came to faith in Christ, my family was not that thrilled and my friends did not understand. In fact, from both groups I received a certain amount of grief. In fact, my boss bluntly told me that he could not stand Christians and would make my life miserable. How did your salvation change your life and what in your faith makes you want to keep on keeping on in life? These very important questions challenge us to make some thoughtful answers.

The author of Hebrews knew his listeners were confused and wanted the easy way out by going back to what they felt was spiritually comfortable for them. Sin often works that way. Sin usually occurs in our lives not because some dramatically evil thing entices us, but rather because we get lazy or lackadaisical and we feel it is easier for us to sin than not to do so. Spiritual laziness is the root of a lot of sin in our lives. So, then, how do we keep on keeping on in our faith when we have a proclivity to snooze rather than do for our faith? Let’s find out what Hebrews teaches us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 10:32-39

We truly live in an era where everything in our lives must revolve around us. It is all about “me”, so much so that we have regulated our faith into the same myopic gutter. Many have forgotten what salvation truly means and that it spiritually changes a person. Attending Worship is not the same as having a personal relationship with Jesus. When one comes to Christ, they are changed, and the world will no longer like you because of your faith! Hebrews teaches us that we keep on keeping on…

I. By remembering when we first came to Christ! (Vv.32-34)

“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34 NIV)

  1. We know that the very early church was persecuted (Acts 6:9, 12), not by the Roman Government, but rather by their fellow Jews. In fact, Jews followed Paul and Barnabas around in order to stir up persecution for them. (Acts 13:50) So, the author of Hebrews tells his audience, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.” It is something American believers have little knowledge of or experience with in our day. Yet, it is something we should understand because it could be something we might experience for ourselves in the very near future. Often, the only thing we can hang onto when faced with suffering, is “those earlier days after [we] received the light.” Evidently, the author knew personal stories of those who had faced persecution. He writes about when they “were publicly exposed to insult and persecution” and where “at other times [they] stood side by side with those who were so treated.” Can you imagine being publicly exposed and ridiculed for your faith in Jesus? Those who have come out of other faith practices, who have been told they will be ostracized and there is no hope left for them if they do come to faith in Christ alone, understand. Notice too that these early believers “sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of [their] property.” How miniscule does the misunderstanding or ignorance, most of us face from family and friends compare to this? However, when we are faced with persecution we, like they did, must understand that we have “better and lasting possessions!” We keep on keeping on by remembering when we first came to Christ!

  EXAMPLE: What do you do when faced with persecution? When Lewis went on his first mission trip as an adult to Zambia and Kenya, his team visited people suffering with AIDS; many are rejected by their communities because of the stigma associated with the disease. As Lewis talked with the victims, painful memories came flooding back. Troy Lewis was often ridiculed as a young boy for his lack of coordination and constantly being sick. “I knew that look of just being sick and just wishing that you could be like everybody else … it really kind of explained all those years I asked, ‘Why God?’” he said. “… Out of that pain in my life there — it didn’t compare with the pain these people were going through — but it gave me this heart for these people that were rejected, ostracized and sick.” He remembered what he went through and how God loved him. Hebrews says we should keep on keeping on by remembering when we first came to Christ.

In the church today, we discover that carrying on often means to carry on in causing problems. There are those who practice the hit-and-run membership tactic. They hit the doors of a church for a few years, wear out their welcome, and run onto their next congregational victim. But persistence in the Lord is not just showing up on Sundays causing problems. We keep on keeping on…

II. When we persevere for the Lord! (Vv. 35-39)

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39 NIV)

  1. Immediately the author encourages his listeners by telling them, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” He is trying to help them to focus on the future and not the sufferings of the here and now. The same is true for us as well. Our reward is not only in knowing where our future is going to be, heaven, but also in knowing we will be rewarded for our perseverance!  Hebrews reminds his listeners, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Jesus related a parable whereby faithful servants who invested what was entrusted to them by their master were told, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!” (Matthew 25:23 NIV) Too often, we throw away our confidence in Jesus when we are faced with small trials or tribulations. God has promised us blessings if we remain faithful. The author here is not talking about the danger of losing our salvation if we do not remain faithful, but rather reminding us of what God has already done for us and we do not have to throw his blessing away! He goes onto warn and remind, “For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’” Interestingly, the author employed Paul’s, who used Habakkuk’s, description of a person who is justified by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17)  The idea is that God will not find pleasure or delight in the life of one who “shrinks back.” He leaves his audience with this encouragement, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed.” When one truly believes, God is never displeased with us and we can never be destroyed because we are “those who believe and are saved.” We keep on keeping on when we persevere for the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: Ten years ago, Nigerian Christians could expect a major attack against them about once a year. Then the attacks began to occur monthly. In the past year, attacks have occurred nearly every other week. Today, simply attending church on Sunday puts a believer at risk, and those who actively tell Muslims about Christ are at greater risk. We live in a church era whereby we give away mission trips as vacation prizes. We promote worship attendance as church membership and claiming ten steps to a better life if you know the secret! Is it any wonder then that few folks understand persecution often follows faith? Jesus related, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:19-20 NIV) Perhaps this is why many do not understand why our trials in life are there to mature us. James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV) Maybe this is why so many lack spiritual maturity? We keep on keeping on when we persevere for the Lord!

Conclusion:
We keep on keeping on by remembering when we first came to Christ, and when we persevere for the Lord!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.