Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:23-28 – Looking To The Reward

Grace For The Journey

We are studying through Hebrews and are in chapter 11, this great “roll call of faith.”  The writer is telling us about the faith of so many Old Testament saints, people he describes at the beginning of chapter 11 as “elders,” who had “obtained a good testimony,” a good testimony because they lived by faith.  They lived by faith, they were saved by faith, so they died in faith.

Imagine if you were one of the Hebrew Christians hearing this letter read for the first time.  In all the previous chapters, chapters 1-10, you have been heard how the new covenant supersedes the old covenant, how the new covenant is better, and how all the sacrifices of the old covenant and all the accoutrements of the old covenant point forward to the new.  And you have heard that Jesus Christ is better, better than the angels, better than the prophets, better than anyone and anything.  Yet, the believers of the Old Testament lived in a time before the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  

Naturally, you may wonder then about the salvation of these Old Testament believers.  If they lived prior to the coming of Messiah, how were they saved?  What of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and so on.  How were they made right with God if salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

The writer of Hebrews does just as Paul does in Romans 4.  He teaches that believers like Abraham and Moses were saved the same way as we are today.  Old Testament believers exercised faith looking forward to the promised Messiah.  By faith they looked forward to a Christ who would come.  We believers today, living on this side of the cross, by faith look back to a Christ who has come.  The believers under the old covenant hoped in things not yet seen, things yet to come.  

Just as the old covenant pointed forward to the new covenant, just as the sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed forward to the supreme once-for-all sacrifice of the Son of God in the New Testament, so the believers of the Old Testament looked forward by faith to the fulfillment of the promises to come in and through the Messiah revealed in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What the writer does in chapter 11 is to set all these old covenant believers in historical and chronological context.  He begins at creation at the beginning of the chapter, and goes from Adam and Eve’s son Abel, to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph – and all the while showing that each of these Old Testament believers looked forward by faith, living by faith as they looked forward to the promises of God, embracing the redemptive purposes of God ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the One the writer calls in chapter 12, “the author and finisher of our faith.”  

Yesterday we left off at verse 22 where the writer mentions Joseph.  Joseph was a great leader in Egypt, providentially an Israelite, yet second-in-command to Pharaoh the king.  But, to paraphrase the opening chapter of Exodus: “that was then and this is now.”  When Joseph dies, a new Pharaoh comes along that does not know Joseph.  The new Pharaoh did not care about the history, nor about how God worked through Joseph.  Times have changed in Egypt.  The new Pharaoh forces the Israelites into slavery.  Fearing they had become too numerous to control, the new king even commanded the death of all babies who were born male.  If Israelite babies were born who turned out to be male babies, Pharaoh commanded that they be drowned in the Nile River.  Pharaoh believed that by killing the male babies, there was no way then that the Israelites could become too powerful for him.

This goes on for 40 years, for 40 years God’s people have been living in bondage.  In the secret counsel of God’s redemptive purposes and plans, He raises up a new leader, a leader named Moses.  Moses is a pretty prominent name in the Bible.  We mentioned last time about Abraham and how he gets the most coverage in chapter 11, the most press.  Abraham was and is the father of many nations.  If we are saved, we are in that family line.  We are children of God because we are sons of Abraham.  But Moses is a pretty big guy, too.  Moses authored the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy.  Moses is mentioned over 800 times in the entire Bible.  Of those over 800 times Moses is mentioned in nearly half of the 66 books of the Bible, 31 of the 66 books from Genesis to Revelation.  

What does Moses’ name mean?  Moses’ name means “to draw out” because Pharaoh’s daughter drew him out of the Nile River.  One day God would use Moses to “draw out” His people from bondage in Egypt.  One of the key phrases in this passage is found in that last few words of verse 26 where the writer describes Moses as one who “looked to the reward.”  He looked to the reward.  

A dog lover once told about his dog Jake.  He is a three-legged dog because he thinks standing in the middle of the road is a good idea, even when cars approach.  But his family loves Jake.  He shares that they love to give their dog treats, little rewards.  They will hold one of the treats up and the dog fastens his gaze upon it, his eyes are fixed on that treat.  He says they can move their hand up and down and the dog will move his head up and down like a yo-you.  They can act like they are throwing the treat into the living room and the dog will look forward by faith into the living room!  He knows by experience that before long, the thing he hopes for will come to pass.  Eventually the family member will throw it into the living room and Jake, looking to the reward, runs into the room, and takes the treat.

There is something for us to learn in the way Jake fixes his eyes upon the reward.  His gaze cannot be broken.  He looks to the reward the way we should look to Jesus.  Captured and captivated by Christ, our eyes fixed upon the Author and Finisher of our faith.

I want us to talk about looking to the reward in today’s blog.  We will make our way briefly through these few verses and then I will give you three to four takeaways. 

Verse 23 says, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.”  Most of us know Moses’ name, but I will bet few of us know the names of Moses’ parents.  They are Amram and Jochebed.  I do not know any guys named Amram nor any ladies named Jochebed.  But that was their names.  The writer says that they saw Moses was a “beautiful child” and no doubt he was – every parent feels that way about his or her child, right?! – yet this may also mean that they knew there was something “special” about this child.  Rather than obey the king’s command to have this little boy thrown into the Nile to be drowned by the Egyptians, they managed first to hide Jochebed, hide her giving birth to the baby, and then kept him hidden for three months until he could be kept hidden no longer.    

Exodus 2 teaches that when Jochebed could no longer hide him, she took a little basket made from a papyrus plant, daubed it with asphalt and pitch – so as to waterproof it – and she put baby Moses into it and laid it among the reeds by the riverbank.  You can read more about this later from Exodus 2.  If you do, you will read how Pharaoh’s daughter providentially discovered the little wicker basket and the little baby inside the basket and that she raised the child as her own.  It is actually kind of cool that Moses’ sister Miriam was nearby and watched everything happen and volunteered to find a nursing mother for the baby and goes and gets Moses’ mother Jochebed!  But the point of the writer here in Hebrews 11 is that Moses’ parents acted in faith. 

Verse 24, says, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”  He could have remained in Egypt all his life, living in the comforts of Egypt and under the protection of the Egyptian rulers.  He is raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  Nothing bad could happen to him.  But he did not want to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  Moses knew that he was an Israelite and, at some point as he was growing up in Egypt, he made the decision not to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He was one of the people who served the one true and living God.  And he knew that he was to be their leader. 

That is why verse 25 says, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing(temporary) pleasures of sin.”  He chose to live among his oppressed people rather than enjoy the passing, or temporary, pleasures of sin, namely all the pleasures and treasures of Egypt.  

You can go back and read Exodus 2 for the background but there is an account given there when Moses sees a fellow Israelite being beaten by one of the Egyptians.  Moses intervened and killed the Egyptian.  And when Pharaoh found out about it, he sought to kill Moses, but Moses fled to a place called Midian where he remained for 40 years.  He was 40 when he left Egypt and spent 40 years away.  He was not ready for leadership when he was 40 and required 40 more years before God would use him to “draw out” His people from Egyptian bondage.

Secular business leaders say you should never make a lateral move.  Do not leave one position for another position of equal status and value.  If you are going to leave one company be sure it is a move up in pay or power.  Well, Moses was not a secular leader.  He made a move that was not even lateral that, in the world’s eyes, was a downward move! 

The point the author is making is that Moses could have remained comfortable in Egypt.  He could have not sought to identify with his own people, the Israelites.  Even though he was raised the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he did not leverage his royal position to get out of trouble.  He could have appealed to Pharaoh’s daughter and sought an interview with her father the king and explained the situation about the Egyptian beating up on the Israelite and probably would have been forgiven.  But he did not chose that route.

Rather, he chose to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin-sin being namely the pleasures and treasures of secular Egypt as the next verse indicates.  Verse 26 states, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” The word “esteeming” means “regarded, thought of, calculated.”  The term is a bookkeeping kind of term, and indicate that he calculated that the reproach of Christ was more valuable than the treasures of Egypt.  He would rather suffer the reproach of Christ. 

The writer here is reminding us that Moses looked forward by faith to the Christ who would come. 

Hebrews is a very Christocentric epistle,

A very Christ-centered letter.  

The writer has been showing us

From the beginning how all things

Find their fulfillment in Christ,

All things point to Jesus.

Moses himself would later write the prophetic words about the coming of a new kind of prophet, the anticipated Messiah in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”  And the Bible teaches that this prophet is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the one in whom all the promises of God are fulfilled (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The last part of verse 26 tells us, “for he looked to the reward.”  What was “the reward?”  It was not the Promised Land.  We might think so at first, since Moses was the leader of God’s people to lead them into the Land of Promise.  But remember that Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land.  It was the land beyond the Promised Land that held his gaze.  It was the eternal city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God; the city where Jesus Christ sits upon the throne and all the promises of God find their “Yes” in Him. 

Verse 27 says, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”  He forsook Egypt when he fled to Midian and he forsook Egypt again 40 years later when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Exodus 10:28 tells us, “Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me!  Take heed to yourself and see my face no more!  For in the day you see my face you shall die!”  By faith Moses forsook Egypt.  He left, “not fearing the wrath of the king.”  How?  “For he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”  This is what Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen” and Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” are telling us.  As Moses saw the unseen God, living by faith, so he saw the fulfillment of all the promises of God.  Because of this faith, Moses “did not fear the wrath of the king.”  He did not fear the king’s wrath when he left Midian and he did not fear the king’s wrath when he left 40 years later when he prepared to lead the Israelites out of Egypt during the Exodus. 

There is a reference to this in verse 28, “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.”  The background for this is found in Exodus 12.  God sends the Angel of Death, the Destroyer, throughout Egypt as judgment upon the unbelieving Egyptians.  And God preserves the lives of the firstborn of the Israelites through the institution of the Passover.  God commanded His people to take the blood of the Passover lamb, the lamb sacrificed for the Passover meal, and sprinkle it over each Israelite’s door posts and lintel, the beam across the top of the door posts.  And when the Destroyer, the Angel of Death, moves throughout Egypt, he will “pass over” the people who are “under” that blood.  God’s people were spared from, and saved from, the judgment of God because they were under the blood of the Passover Lamb.

In closing I want us to look at what these verses teach us about:

What Faith Values . . .

There are four things that faith values greatly.  Four things that faith values as better than and more superior to the value of opposing things by contrast:

1) Faith Values The Word Of God Over The Word Of Men – Verse 23.

In verse 23 the Bible says that Moses’ parents “were not afraid of the king’s command.”  Mature faith, strong faith, tested faith, does not fear the king’s command.  Mature faith values the Word of God over the Word of Men.  This is what the Bible says in Psalm 118:6, a verse quoted by the writer of Hebrews later in the last chapter, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

Mature faith does not fear.  Mature faith values the Word of God over the word of men. Whatever God says in His Word, if we will do it, He will honor your obedience. 

Moses’ parents put their faith

Not in the king’s command,

But in their King’s commands.

Do what God says and He will honor your faith.  Every . . . Single . . . Time!

2. Faith Values The Pains of Suffering Over The Pleasures Of Sin – Verses 24-25.

Mature faith understands that suffering is part of the Christian experience.  Suffering is part and parcel of Christian living.  When you look closely at verses 24 and 25 you see a connection there: refuse and choose.  Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, which included his refusing to enjoy the comforts and protections of Egypt because – verse 25 – he had made a choice; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.  In other words, he was able to refuse sin because he had made a deliberate decision to align himself with God and His people.

You have got to make a choice.  Do you want to do the right thing or enjoy the passing, temporary, pleasures of sin? 

Faith and sin are mutually exclusive. 

They do not go together. 

You will either walk by faith

Or you will walk in sin.

Note that there is a kind of pleasure involved in sin.  See that as a warning!  It will not last forever and when it is over all you feel is regret and shame.  The passing pleasure of sin is fleeting, temporary, and fugacious.  Like a drug that provides a kind of euphoria but robs you of lasting joy.

Faith values the pain of suffering to the pleasures of sin.  This point and the next are closely connected.  Faith values the pains of suffering over the pleasures of sin and . . .

3. Faith Values The Reproaches Of Christ Over The Riches Of Comfort – Verse 26.

To suffer at all is to suffer in some way share in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13).  Hebrews 13:13 says, “Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”  Donald Guthrie speaks of this truth when he says, “Those who identify with God’s people at once become the targets of God’s enemies.”  Remember this when you are insulted or made fun of because of your love for Jesus Christ.  It is not a popular position to follow Jesus.  Your faith may cost you a friend, or a position, or a relationship.  Remember to value the reproaches of Christ over the riches of comfort.

How?  Last part of verse 26 tells us, “for he looked to the reward.”  Like Paul in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” 

This takes us to the final thing faith values.  We have said the faith values the Word of God over the word of men, faith values the pains of suffering over the pleasures of sin, faith values the reproaches of Christ over the riches of comfort.  Finally . . .

4. Faith Values The Ultimate Reward Over The Immediate Reward – Verses26-27.

God’s Word tells us, by faith Moses “looked to the reward.”  Remember this is not the reward of the Promised Land, but the reward beyond the Promised Land, the eternal city where all of God’s promises are fulfilled in the final state of a glorious new heaven with Jesus Christ on the throne.  Moses “looked to the reward.”  The verb means to “look away” which implies a deliberate change of gaze, an intentional moving the eyes away to something far greater.  He looked away, and therefore endured “as seeing Him who is invisible” (verse 27).  Faith takes the long view.  It looks steadily and longingly at Him who is invisible, looking beyond the immediate, seeing by faith the ultimate.  The Message paraphrase puts it this way: Moses was “looking ahead, anticipating the payoff.”  

Do you live for the reward?  Do you anticipate the payoff?  Do you love Jesus more than anyone or anything?  Remember that is the main teaching of this letter.  Be captured and captivated by Christ.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Look to Him.  Love Him.  Keep your eyes on the prize!

Tim Keller said something with which I agree.  He said, “You’re only as durable as the thing you love most.” 

  • If you love your job most, what will you do when you’re fired, laid off, or out-performed?  You come apart because you were wrapped up in your job.  You are only as durable as the thing you love most. 
  • If you love your family most, what will come of you when your family lets you down, deserts you, or disappoints you?  You are only as durable as the thing you love most. 
  • If you substitute anything or anyone for Jesus and true riches in Him, then you will come apart because everything else is weak by comparison to Christ.

The Bible says in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 

Do you know Him?  Are you saved by faith in Him?  Are you “in Christ” and is He “in you?”    You know when those Israelites years ago observed the Passover.  They ate the lamb that had been sacrificed.  The partook of the sacrificial lamb.  The lamb was in them.  As the Israelites applied the blood to the door posts and lintel all who were in that house were protected by the blood, literally under the blood of the lamb, protected from the Angel of death.

Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb.  Isaiah prophesied of Jesus in Isaiah 53, referring to Jesus as one “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).  John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.”  Jesus shed His blood so that all who are under His blood may be saved from the penalty of sin, saved from death into life everlasting.  Are you under His blood and are you right now living for Him?  

The Bible tells us that Moses “forsook Egypt.”  What do you need to forsake?  What do you need to let go, repent of?  Say to God right now, “I forsake my sin and I forsake my stuff and I turn to you.”  Some of you have questions about salvation.  Turn to Jesus Christ and be saved today.  God lived for you and died for you in Christ.  Be saved today by admitting you need and turning to Jesus and taking Him as your Lord and Savior.  For those of us who have received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, is our faith causing us to look unto Jesus and the great reality of our future life in heaven? 

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:17-22 – Faith When Tested Grows Stronger

Grace For The Journey   

We are studying through the Book of Hebrews and finding our place today in Chapter 11 and picking up at verse 17.  This chapter is all about faith – Trusting God . . .  Taking God at His Word . . . Acting like God is telling the truth.  We have already seen in chapter 11 a number of people who lived that way.  Today we look again at Abraham in verses 17 through 19 and his immediate descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  We are going to find out what we can learn about faith in verses 17 to 22? 

This morning we are going to study about when faith is tested.  We will learn that . . .

Our Christian faith grows stronger

When God tests it and tries it. 

It is through God’s testing

Of our faith that we really

Grow to maturity.

Warren Wiersbe says, “Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”  Faith grows and gets stronger as it is tested.  I heard Adrian Rogers tell about a man who was having surgery and the doctor said, “You seem a bit nervous.”  And the patient said, “Yes, this is my first surgery.”  The doctor said, “I know how you feel.  It’s mine also!”  We want people who have been tested.  We know they have something of experience and are mature and tried and true.  Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.  God tests our faith to strengthen us. 

We read first in verses 17 and following about Abraham, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.”  The background of this narrative, this true historical account, is found in Genesis 22:1-18, “1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!  And he said, ‘Here I am.’  Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’  So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.  Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.  And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’  So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.  But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!  And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’  Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’  And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together.  Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.  10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham!’  So he said, ‘Here I am.’  And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’  Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.  So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.  And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’  15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

In Hebrews 11 and verse 17 the writer says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.”  Isaac was not Abraham’s “only begotten son” in the sense of his being the only one born to Isaac.  Isaac had another son named Ishmael.  Ishmael was 13 years older than Isaac.  Strictly speaking Ishmael was Isaac’s half-brother.  And Abraham had other children as well (Genesis 25:1-2).  Isaac, however, was Abraham’s “only begotten son” in the sense of his being unique, and one-of-a-kind, the one through whom God’s promises would come.  Verse 18 says Isaac was the one, “of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’”(Genesis 21:12)Isaac was the sole heir of the promise.  Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice because, we are told in verse 19, “Concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”

Remember when we read Genesis 22 you cannot help but notice Abraham’s confidence that he and Isaac would go up together to Mount Moriah and both would return together, that somehow God would intervene so that Isaac would not be sacrificed.  And even if God did not prevent him from sacrificing his son, Abraham trusted in the miraculous power of God to raise his son Isaac from the dead.

Abraham had been told three days earlier to sacrifice his son and for three days he knew his son was as good as dead and when he finally got to Mount Moriah and prepared to sacrifice him there, he was at the very point of death- but God! – God stepped in and rescued him, raising him up – in a manner of speaking – raising him up from the dead and preserving his life.

Now if we do not think too deeply about this we may just commend Abraham for believing somehow God was just going to rescue his son so he would not have to sacrifice him.  But . . .

Abraham is commended because

Of his faith in God’s Word,

God’s promises that many children

Would be born through this son of his. 

Abraham believed God and it

Was credited to him as righteous. 

He knew God was going

To do what he said.

It was not so much that he feared for Isaac – though I am sure he did – this exercise on Mount Moriah is more about Abraham’s trust in God’s Word, His promises.  Whatever may happen to Isaac, Abraham knows God will keep His Word.  The Bible tells us in Romans 4:21, “And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” 

Before we go any further, I want us to think about this – there are so many parallels here with the Gospel here!  This whole worship experience with Abraham and Isaac anticipates the Gospel story of redemption. 

  • Isaac is divinely named by God.  Jesus is divinely named by God. 
  • Isaac is born supernaturally.  Jesus is born supernaturally.  
  • Father Abraham dearly loves his only begotten son Isaac.  The heavenly Father dearly loves His only begotten son Jesus. 
  • Abraham travels 3 days before his son Isaac is “raised up” from death.  Jesus was raised up on the third day. 
  • Mount Moriah, where Isaac was to be sacrificed is the same general area where God’s son was sacrificed. 
  • Just as God provided a substitute – a ram in the thicket to die in the place where Isaac was to die – so God provides the substitute of the Lamb of God to die in our place.

There is a sense in which Jesus’ words about Abraham in John 8 have Gospel implications.   Jesus said in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.”  While not the main point of the writer of Hebrews here, it is hard not to notice the beautiful Gospel message, paralleled and pictured, there on Mount Moriah.

In verses 20, 21, and 22, the writer mentions three people at the time they reached the very end of their lives, and all three – Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph – died in faith.  They kept their trust in God to the very end, the point at which each one spoke blessings upon their children and grandchildren.  

Verse 20 says, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”  Isaac had hope for the future!  This is the truth spoken by God through the Prophet Jeremiah 29:11: “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord; ‘plans to help you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.’”  Like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac “died in faith” (verse 13).  Isaac died knowing of the blessings that would come to Jacob and Esau.

Verse 21 states, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”  Like Isaac, Jacob also was able to die in faith, praying a blessing upon each of the sons of Joseph as he “leaned on the top of his staff.”  The picture is that of an older man propping himself up by virtue of his staff and speaking of God’s future blessings upon Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. 

Verse 22 says, “By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.”  Joseph also died in faith and “when he was dying” gave instructions concerning his bones.  The instructions were, in essence, “Have my funeral here in Egypt, but don’t leave my bones here!  When that future day comes when God brings our descendants out of Egypt and into the Promised Land (the exodus; literally the word that is translated “departure” there), make sure someone takes my bones along so I can finally be buried in the Land of Promise.”  Not only did Joseph die in faith, he had faith to look far into the future, seeing the day when he himself would enter into the Promised Land, his bones carried by many sons of Abraham crossing the Jordan and entering into a land flowing with milk and honey.

In closing, I want us to consider Three Marks Of True Faith that we learn from out study today . . .

1) Obeys God Without Wavering (cf Hebrews 10:23; Romans 4:20).

When Abraham was called upon by God to sacrifice his son Isaac he immediately obeyed.  He did not waver.  Hebrews 10:23 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  And Romans 4:20 states, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.”  True faith obeys God without wavering.  True saving faith knows that God will keep His Word.

2) Trusts In The Miraculous Power Of God.

Abraham had already witnessed the miraculous power of God.  Remember from a couple days ago when we studied Abraham’s call.  God called Abraham out of his homeland when he was 75 years old and said, “I want you to go to a place I will show you and I’m going to give you a son and from him will come as many descendants as stars in the sky and sand on the shores.” 25 years later when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old, God gave them a son named Isaac.  And one of the points we drew from that study was that “Faith is the means by which God does the impossible.”  

Abraham had already witnessed the miraculous power of God so little wonder he obeys God without wavering.  God told Abraham to offer up his son Isaac and he immediately obeyed, “concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”  He knew God was able to do anything.  He trusted in the miraculous power of God.  It is not the size of our faith that matters, it is the size of the One in Whom our faith rests.  Jesus said you can have faith the size of a mustard seed, a tiny little seed, and yet if your faith is resting upon the One True and Living God, then you can move mountains in that power.  Abraham had that kind of faith.  He trusted in the miraculous power of God.

What is your miracle?  What are you believing God for?  What is your burden?  Are you burdened for a child’s soul?  Are you burdened for a loved one’s life?  Are you wondering about the future, how your situation’s going to turn out, that job, that relationship, that position, that test, or that court case?  When you pray, do you trust in the miraculous power of God?  Like Abraham, who reasoned, who “concluded that God was able to raise up Isaac even from the dead” is able to “raise up” your situation?  Able to do the miraculous?

Remember Jesus who said, “Have faith in God.”  And in Mark 11:24, “Whatsoever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you shall receive them and you shall have them.”  You do not need to remain in darkness, despair, and doubt.  You need not remain in affliction and addiction.  Look to the miraculous power of God to do great things in your life and in the life of those for whom you pray.  True faith, saving faith obeys God without wavering.  True faith looks to the miraculous power of God. 

3) Does Not Withhold Its Most Cherished Possessions From God.

It is hard not to reason that Isaac had to be Abraham’s most cherished possession.  Here was his son and God was testing Abraham’s faith as if to ask: “Abraham, do you really love Me?”  When the Angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and stopped Abraham from offering up Isaac God said, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12).  Abraham did not withhold his most cherished possession from God.

When we talk about repentance and how repentance is necessary for salvation – and it is – Repentance involves turning to the Lord by faith and repent from sin.  Two sides of the same coin. 

Salvation involves conversion is faith and repentance. 

Repentance leads us to turn away from sin.

Faith leads us to turn to the Savior.

Most of us readily understand that we cannot follow Christ and hold onto sin at the same time.  We understand that following Christ and loving Christ means getting rid of the bad things that keep us from Jesus.  But what about the good things?  What about other things or people – possessions – things that are not bad in and of themselves, but we have been allowing them to occupy the throne of our hearts.

Is your heart bound up or wrapped up in your possessions, even good things like a house, or a boyfriend or girlfriend or, in the case of Abraham, maybe a son or a daughter?  And your happiness is dependent upon what happens to your house, your stuff, your money, your son, your daughter?  What did Jesus mean when He said, “No one can have two masters?”  Following Christ does not mean you cannot enjoy the blessings of life.  It just means that God is always and forever first place in our lives.  He occupies the throne of our hearts.  What occupies the greater balance of our time, our thinking, our worries, our hopes, or our fears?  Is our heart bound up with something or someone other than Jesus Christ?

If God were to test your faith right now what would happen?  Can you take your stuff, your money, your son, your daughter, your grandchildren, your health, a boyfriend or girlfriend; can you take it up to Mount Moriah and say, “God I never want to love the gift more than the giver and You’re the One who gives all things, so if you want to take back these things, take them back.  So, ‘Here is my heart, Lord.  Take and seal it.  Seal it for Thy courts above.’”   

You can trust God with the things you give Him.  You can trust Him with your daughter; your son; your health; your stuff.  You were made to love Him, to know Him, to cherish Him first and foremost.  You can sing: “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.”  And, “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, except in the death of Christ my God!  And all the vain things that charm me most, I (LISTEN!) I sacrifice them to His blood.”  I offer them up because, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Jesus said, “If you love your life, you lose it. If you lose it for my sake and the gospel’s, you’ll find it.”  Do you love your life more than you love Jesus?  Do you live for the things of the world rather than the things of the Lord?  What do you need to offer up, get rid of, or sacrifice?  What is keeping you from being captured and captivated by Christ? Whatever stands between you and your Savior, give that up and give it to the Lord right now.  Say, “Lord, I don’t want anything or anyone to come between us.  I forsake my sin and I forsake my stuff and I turn to you.  I never want to love the gift more than the giver.”

Some of you have never really settled the matter of salvation.  You need to turn to Jesus Christ and be saved today.  God lived for you and died for you in Christ.  Be saved today by trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. 

We know that your love so amazing, love so divine, demands our soul, our life, and our all.  Let’s respond to that truth right now not only in our hearts but also in our actions.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:13-16 – How To Live In The World As A Temporary Resident

Grace For The Journey

Last Friday we learned five faith facts . . .

Faith works through imperfect people.

Faith means not having to know all the answers.

Faith is acting like God is telling the truth.

Faith is the means by which God does the impossible.

Faith helps us live in this fallen world, sojourning on as pilgrims living in temporary housing.

We learned those things largely from the lives of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham being the man referenced in the verse where we left off, verse 12: “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”  God worked through this imperfect person, Abraham, an especially imperfect husband to his wife Sarah. 

Abraham was a great man of faith, but he was an imperfect husband.  You will remember he lied about his wife Sarah’s being married to him.  However difficult some of the husbands in our church may be to their wives, I do not know a wife yet who has said, “My husband twice lied about our relationship to another!”  God works through imperfect people.  The writer here highlights Abraham’s faith in spite of his failures.  Today we will look at verses 13 through 16.  These verses alert us to the possibility that we could live in such a way that we would be ashamed to be called followers of God.  I pray today that we will learn how to live in such a way that we will not be ashamed to be called faith followers of God.  May God help us to that end for our good and for His glory through the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Digital 3D art was all the rage when it first came out in the 90s.  The way it worked was you look at all a mass of colorful dots and if you looked long enough, and in the right way, you can see a picture in the frame.  What looks like a mass of dotted confusion is actually a picture.  You have got to get your eyes right to see it.  When you do, it is like the light goes on and you smile and say, “Wow, I see it!”  If you have “eyes to see,” you can see a picture.  Not everyone can see it.  You have to see it by looking at it a certain way.

I thought of this when I read this text, because all of these people in Chapter 11 are people who look at things a certain way, living with eyes to see more than the world before them.  They have “eyes of faith,” seeing promises, as verse 13 says, “not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off they were assured of them.”

We will go through these four verses, my favorite passage in the whole chapter, and learn our way through them and then I will give three takeaways after we have studied them.

Verse 13 says, “These all(namely these in the previous verses 8-12, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob)died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  What does it mean that they “died in faith, not having received the promises?”  Abraham and Sarah were promised a beautiful land as an inheritance and innumerable descendants and yet all they had was Isaac when Sarah reached the time of their death.  They died in faith, not having received the promises, but they believed God’s promises, living as sojourners, travelers, and nomads moving from place to place through the land, never getting to see the Promised Land as a permanent home.  Yet, they embraced the promises, remaining faithful even to their death.

Here, then, is an example of living by faith.  Recall the definition of faith in verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Abraham and the others looked forward in faith.  So real was what they saw that you could say it was “substantial” and “evident.”  Faith is the substance of things hoped for or longed, the evidence of things not seen.  Though the eyes of faith, it is seen; seen with crystal clarity.  They could see the fulfillment of the promises and acted on them, acting as if God was indeed telling the truth.

And by their actions they lived out their certain faith, though they had not yet received the promises, they believed the promises, their lives thanking God for granting the substance of the promises to them. 

Remember that if gratitude is thanking God after He does it, then faith is thanking God before He does it.  To thank God before He does it means that we take God at His Word.  We believe His Word.  Remember the nobleman who had a son that needed healing and he took him to Jesus?  John 4:46-50 records what happened, “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.  When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’  The nobleman said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’  So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” Take God at His Word.  Believe Him.  If you can do that, then you can thank God before He does it.

Abraham and Sarah took God at His Word.  As the writer says in verse 13 not only did they see the promises afar off, but “embraced them.”  The idea the writer is trying to get across with this phrase is, “having seen them and greeted them from afar,” as though Abraham could see all of his future descendants and could greet and welcome the promises as much as if he were greeting and welcoming each of his descendants by name!  He saw them.

They lived by faith,

Their very lives were

A “thank you note” to

God for His promises.

Verse 14 states “For those who say such things(confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth)declare plainly that they seek a homeland (their eyes are fixed upon their true homeland).  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.”  Abraham could have gone back to Haran if he wanted.  If all he was interested in was an earthly homeland, he could have re-traced his steps and gone back to Haran, back to his birthplace in Ur of the Chaldees in Greater Mesopotamia.

In fact history indicates that Abraham’s hometown was an advanced city in many ways, having much more to offer than miles of sand, dust, and dirt, and tents, Abraham’s temporary housing.  The writer seems to be encouraging the Hebrew Christians here that, no matter how difficult it may be on their journey in Christ, it will lead to a far better place than the life from which they left.  In fact, he says in verse 16, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

By implication it seems that God is ashamed of some people, people who do not desire a better, heavenly country.  As we saw last Friday from verse 10: Abraham “waited for (or looked forward to) the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

I want to build on these truths by sharing . . .

How To Live In The World As A Temporary Resident

Three ways . . .

1) Let The “Hereafter” Shape What You Are “After Here.”

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then the Gospel assures you that you are headed to that “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

However many years you live here will be a short time when compared to eternity.  The Bible teaches that Christians either receive rewards or lose rewards based upon how they live as followers of Jesus.  This is not earning our salvation.  No one can earn his way to the kingdom.  We enter into the kingdom of God as those who receive freely the water of life from Christ Jesus.  We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.  But once we are saved, we live our lives for Jesus.  And we will receive or lose rewards in heaven based upon our faithfulness.  2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Let the “hereafter” shape what you

Are “after here” in this fallen world.

Do not fall in love with this world.

Here is evidence of God’s grace at work within our hearts . . .

That we are not too comfortable in this world.

As long as we are alive we live as temporary residents living in temporary housing.  Do not play the fool’s game of living for “the here.”  Do not live for your job, your career, nor even your family.  These are important things – it is not like we are supposed to be hermits in this world. 

The point is not to love these things

More than Christ and not to clutch

To them as though our identity

Is wrapped up in this world.

We are sojourners, pilgrims, and temporary residents living in temporary housing.  As Paul said in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Do not fall in love with this world.  Remember the warning of Jesus when, in speaking of the judgment to come said, “Remember Lot’s wife!”  It was Lot’s wife in the Book of Genesis who looked back longingly to the land of Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).  Do not fall in love with the world.  Let the “hereafter” shape what you are “after here.”  Spend time in God’s Word each day, read Hebrews 11 each day this week.  Ask God to speak to you as you read His Word.  There is light in the Word of God, light to shine in the darkness of this world.

I am afraid some of us may prefer the light of our TV or cell phones to the light of Christ.  We bask in the light of phones and screens instead of living in the true light of Jesus.  Let the “here after” shape what you’re “after here.” 

Secondly . . .

2) See Beyond Your Present Circumstances.

Remember that however bad it is here it will all be better there.  No matter the trials and battles you have here, they will all be forgotten there.  God is working through all of our present circumstances – good and bad – to make us more like Jesus Christ.  This is the point of Romans 8:28-29.  In His children, in Christians, God works all things together for the good of conforming us to Christlikeness.

This is largely where the writer is headed after he mentions all these folks in chapter 11 who lived by faith.  He will say in chapter 12, “Therefore we also, since we are surround by so great a cloud of witnesses … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross …”  Then in verses 3 and 4 he concludes, “For consider Him (Jesus) who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you also become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”  In other words, it has not killed you yet, has it?!  Your battles and struggles in this world, like your struggle against sin?  See beyond your present circumstances.  Look to the joy set before you.  Remember that however bad it becomes here, it will all be better there

Finally . . .

3) Keep Your Eyes On Jesus . . . Be Captivated By Christ

Abraham looked forward by faith, keeping His eye on the city which has foundations.  He knew, as verse 16 concludes, that God “had prepared a city” for him.  Jesus commends Abraham in a way that is even more praiseworthy.  Jesus said that Abraham could even see the coming of the Messiah, the coming of Christ.    Remember when the unbelieving Jews were arguing with Jesus in John 8?  They spoke of their father Abraham and his greatness.  And Jesus said in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”  Even Abraham had spiritual eyesight to look beyond his present circumstances and could see by faith the fulfillment of the promises of a coming Savior. 

You are either living with your eyes on Jesus or your eyes somewhere else.  Some of you have got your eyes on the passing pleasures of sin, on pornography, on recreational drug use or alcohol, on bad relationships, on your money, on your investments, and on your stuff. 

Get your eyes off of sin and self and follow Jesus.

God created you to joy in Christ, to joy in Jesus, the Savior, the way, the truth, and the life!  You can have life abundant and eternal in Jesus Christ. 

Never forget you are a temporary resident here.  This world is fading away.  One day it will be completely remade.  One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  One day there will be, as Revelation 21 teaches, a new city, an eternal city where Christians will live forever and ever.  We sojourn on until we reach that city.

All week-end long I have had this song playing in my head, “Sweet Beulah Land,” do you know that hymn?  It was written by Squire Parsons.  The Gaither Vocal Band sings it often.  It is a song about sojourning on or traveling on through this temporary world, looking for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.  Beulah Land is mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah as the place God’s people will go to once they are freed from Babylonian exile (Isaiah 62:4).  They once were “forsaken” but now they are “married (Beulah).”

In John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan describes Beulah Land as a beautiful and peaceful place where sojourning pilgrims await entrance into the Celestial city.

The song goes:

I’m kind of homesick for a country

To which I’ve never been before.

No sad goodbyes will there be spoken

For time won’t matter anymore.

Beulah Land, I’m longing for you

And some day on thee I’ll stand

There my home shall be eternal

Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land

I’m looking now, just across the river

To where my faith, shall end in sight 

There’s just a few more days to labor.

Then I will take my heavenly flight.

We sojourn on until we reach that city, letting the “hereafter” shape what we are “after here,” seeing beyond our present circumstances, keeping our eyes on Jesus; being captivated by Christ.

You know how you are able to see the image in this digital 3D art?  Rather than looking at it, try to look through it, like looking through a window.  Looking beyond the mass of dots one is was able to see the image out there, ahead, and able to see depth and dimension.  It is seen by looking beyond the confusion.  Look beyond your present circumstances, like through a window, see the City up ahead.   See the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Christ.  See beyond the confusion and see Christ.

Every single one of us is either following Jesus or we are following something or someone else.  We are either living for the Lord or living for the world.  Take your eyes off sin, take your eyes off your circumstances, and look to Christ.  

Some of you need to be saved today.  Turn from sin in repentance and take hold of Jesus.  Maybe you are wondering, “How exactly do I do that? “  The Bible teaches that we simply have to be aware and admit that we are sinner and that we cannot save ourselves.  It is not our self-worth or self-efforts that make us acceptable to God.  It is His grace that gives us the gift of redemption and eternal life.  Then, accept what Jesus has done for you, in your place, and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.  Or maybe you  have more questions about spiritual things.  Do not get hung up on the “whys” and “wherefores.”  It is not answers that you need, it atonement for your sins.   One we settle that issue, the Holy Spirit will lead us to the truth that will help us through everything we cannot understand or figure out and help us keep our focus on Jesus and Him alone.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:8-12 – Faith to Move Forward

Grace For The Journey

Many people speak of faith as something merely subjective, a blind faith, a leap-in-the-dark faith against all evidence to the contrary. 

  • People say things like, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe so long as you have faith.” 

That is just faith in faith, faith in nothing but itself.  That leads to dangerous ways of living. 

  • Someone says, “Just be sincere you know, it doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you’re sincere.” 

A doctor may reach into a medicine cabinet, sincerely believing he has grabbed the right medicine, not knowing he has actually grabbed a bottle of poison and – though sincerely believing he is doing the right thing by taking hold of the wrong thing – he would unwittingly poison a person with what he sincerely believed he was helping.  It does matter what we believe.  What we believe is objective, substantive.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for.  It is substantial . . . It is the evidence of things not seen.  We do not see with our physical eyes, but . . .

God’s Word points us to

Jesus Christ and we believe,

Not in some evanescent fleeting

Dream, but in a real person.

The writer says in verse 6 that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is …”  You come believing that He exists, that He is real, that His Word is telling the truth.  It begins there.  People demand God work on their own terms: “I will believe in God if this or if that!”  Christian faith does not work that way.  You believe first that He is, that He exists, and then He grants an ability to see so much that we see through the spiritual eyes of faith.  He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

We looked yesterday at three individuals who diligently sought Him.  We read of the faith of Abel, and Enoch, and Noah.  Now the writer turns in verse 8 to Abraham.  Of all the Old Testament saints mentioned in Chapter 11 it is Abraham who gets the most press, the most coverage.  And I think for good reason, too.  Remember the historical context of the Letter to the Hebrews.  The writer seeks to encourage Hebrew Christians who were facing persecution for their newfound faith in Christ.  They had been cut off from their families who remained under the Old Covenant.   They were excommunicated from the temple and everything with which they previously identified.  And who is Abraham if not someone who likewise left the familiarity of family, home, and culture to go to a new place, a place the Lord would show him?

Facing persecution for their faith and the temptation to go back to the old ways of Old Covenant, the writer presents Abraham, the “main man” of Judaism, as an example of what it means to live by faith, to move forward by faith in the promises of God fulfilled through Jesus Christ.  It is as if he is saying to those Hebrews tempted to forsake Christ: “You may think that by rejecting Christ and embracing Abraham that you are doing well, but I say that to reject the Lord is to reject Abraham’s Lord, also.” 

Frequently I find myself praying the first line of a hymn we sing from time to time.  In a paraphrase I pray: “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, lead me through this barren land.”  It is a plea for God’s help to guide through uncertain terrain, where we are headed today, where we are headed this week.  Guide me O though great Jehovah, led me through this barren land.  So much of life is about how to move forward, how to keep going, how to get through the trials and challenges each day presents.  All the people in this great chapter, chapter 11, help us see how to move forward, how to keep going, how to follow the leadership of our great Jehovah God who brings us to faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  All of the people in this chapter help us move forward in faith, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  

I want to go through these five verses with you, studying them together, and then at the conclusion of our exposition, provide five faith facts to help us move forward this week.  Verse 8 states, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”  Abraham is quite a contrast with Noah before him!  Noah, the last person we studied, was given so much information from God.  So much detail.  And Noah obeyed.  Abraham is given very little information.  You can go back to Genesis 12 and read about God’s calling him out of the City of Ur in Mesopotamia, calling him out at age 75.  And God tells him to go “to a land” that He “would show” him. 

Unlike Noah, to whom God had given great detail about what he was to do, Abraham was simply told to “Go out” in Genesis 12.  That is it.  God promises to make Abraham a great nation and that He will bless him and make his name great and that through Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed.  That is pretty much all God tells Abraham in Genesis 12.  He will renew His covenant promises later in Genesis 15, but for now that is all God gives him. 

Faith leads to obedience. 

Abraham acts as if

God is telling the truth.

Abraham accepts his inheritance on trust.  Does not know where it will be or even very much about exactly what it will be.  He just knows God says he would receive an inheritance.  He accepts it sight unseen . . . “He went out, not knowing where he was going.”

I picture him going to his wife Sarah one morning and saying, “Sarah, we need to pack up our stuff.”  Sarah responds, “Really?  Where are we going.”  And Abraham replies,  “I don’t know.”  “God will show us.”  Abraham trusts.  He trusts and obeys.  Faith leads to obedience.  That is why we sing the song: “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.”

Little wonder Abraham is called by the Apostle Paul in Romans 4:16 the father of the faithful.

Verse 9 declares, “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.”

Abraham dwelt in the land of Canaan, the land of promise, “as in a foreign country,” or as in a place where he was not exactly “at home.”  And “dwelling in tents,” he lived in temporary housing, tents.  You read through those chapters in Genesis from Genesis 12 through Genesis 25, reading about the life of Abraham and you read the life of a nomad, a traveler, a pilgrim, and sojourner dwelling as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents.  And he dwelt “with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.”

His faith was not just a momentary singular act in the past, back when he left the City of Ur in Mesopotamia.  It was a continual faith, an ongoing faith, a faith that moved him into the future, ongoing believing that he instilled into the lives of Isaac and Jacob, decades of believing and living by faith.  True faith, saving faith, is a faith that goes on believing.  

Verse 10 states, “For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”  I love verse 10!  Abraham lived in tents, but “he waited for the city which has foundations…”  I do not camp as much as I used to.  Frankly, I do not find it as enjoyable as I used to.  I mean I love the outdoors, walks in the woods, and the beauty of nature, but I am not too crazy about dwelling in a tent.  At least the “old school” tents with the old tent pegs you had to drive into the ground.  Using a tool to hammer the spike into the ground and watching it bounce off the ground as though it were concrete, the tent peg bending or breaking.  Some fun!  It is not like dwelling in house which has foundations, stability, solid floors, walls, and ceiling.

Abraham was able to dwell in tents

As a foreigner in a strange land

Because he knew he was

Just passing through.

The writer will say later in Chapter 13 and verse 14, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.“  Abraham looked beyond the present world and saw the world to come.  He was able to dwell in the present by looking to the future.  He did not focus on tenuous tent pegs, the frail, insubstantial stuff of the transient material world.  He looked forward by faith to a city not built with tent pegs, but a city with foundations, 12 of them to be exact as the Bible teaches in Revelation 21.  The great point being that this is a city whose builder and maker is God!

When we look out at the horizon, we see seemingly endless land and sky joined together.  When Abraham looked out at the horizon, he saw something else.  He looked beyond a temporary city to see an eternal city.

Verse 11 says, “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”  Remember back in Genesis that God came to Abraham and Sarah and told them they would have a son.  Abraham was nearly 100 years old and Sarah was 90. Initially both of them laughed.  Abraham’s laugh was more a laughing to himself as in nervous wonder that he would be so blessed.  Sarah’s laugh was a laugh of disbelief.   But the Bible says, “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive and bear a child…”  She gave birth 9 months later to Isaac, whose name means “laughter.”

I like the song by Michael Card . . . 

They called him laughter [because] he came after

The Father had made an impossible promise come true

The birth of a baby to a hopeless old lady

So they called him laughter cause no other name would do

The writer says that Sarah “received strength to conceive.” Literally it reads, “power to conceive.”  This is a reminder that it is God who empowers women to conceive.  He is the one behind every birth, which means there are no accidental births.  There is no such thing as a baby being conceived accidentally.  God is working through the mystery of man’s actions, bringing into the world a new image bearer, a new little person created in God’s image.  This drives home the truth that every life is sacred and every stage of life is a result of God’s grace and mercy.

Verse 12 states, “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead(this is a reference to Abraham!), were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”  You will remember from Genesis 15 that God told Abraham to look up into the night sky and try to count the stars.  And God said, “That is how many descendants will be born through your offspring.”  Many sons of father Abraham, many more sons like we who believe are sons of the father of the faithful.

Note the first word, “Therefore.”  There is a direct and purposeful link between the subject of verse 11 to the actions of verse 12.  What the writer is emphasizing is, “In light of Sarah’s faithful obedience, her faith being necessary to carry out the promise made to her husband Abraham – therefore from one man … were born as many as the stars of the sky and sand by the sea.”  In other words, without Sarah’s faith, God’s promise to Abraham would not come true.  Both Abraham and Sarah believed, in spite of their weak faith and inability to fully understand.

What a wonderful thing when both husband and wife believe, grow together, and live and love together!  What a wonderful thing when husband and wife are what Peter describes in 1 Peter 3:7 as “heirs together of the grace of life.” 

Five Faith Facts From This Passage . . .

1) Faith Works In Spite Of Imperfect People.

Abraham was not perfect.  Remember he had lied about his wife?  He lied and made his wife lie, too!  And Sarah, not only lied, but in disbelief initially at God’s promise that she would conceive and give birth to a son at the ripe old age of 90.  She even lied about her laughing.    Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  Even though Sarah wavered a bit, her name is listed on the great roll call of faith.  

That is encouraging to me.  Faith works through imperfect people, people like Abraham and Sarah.  The Gospel is for imperfect people, for sinners.  God accepts us not on the basis of our religious performance.  God does not accept us based upon our religious acts and behavior.  Thank God!  He accepts us in His Son Jesus Christ, the One who is perfect for imperfect people.  Faith works through imperfect people.

2) Faith Means Not Having To Know All The Answers.

When God called Abraham and said, “Get out,” Abraham did not ask a bunch of questions.  He just obeyed by faith.   In fact, when God initially called Abraham back in Genesis 12 Abraham was 75 years old.  And God goes on to talk about how He is going to bless him by making him a great nation and so on.  But 25 years pass before Isaac is born.  25 years!  Do you think Abraham may have questioned God?  Do you think he may have wondered why God was taking so long?  25 years is quite a delay, isn’t it?  Why the delay?  

God always has a reason for His delays, that is for certain.  Remember Joseph abandoned in that well and then abandoned to prison.  Yet God was with Him.  God is in control.  He may be slow as far as we are concerned, but He is always on time.  Faith means not having to know all the answers.

3) Faith Is Accepting That God Is Telling The Truth.

Faith leads to obedience.  God says, “Get out,” and Abraham gets out.  God says, “I’m going to give you an inheritance” and Abraham believes, he accepts that.  He takes God at His word and accepts that God is telling the truth.  Remember . . .

If gratitude is thanking God after He does it,

Then faith is thanking God before He does it.

Faith is the ability to so apprehend, so believe, so receive, that it is as though we see it now.  We live as though God has already done it.  Faith is acting like God is telling the truth.

4) Faith Is The Means By Which God Does The Impossible.

100-year-old Abraham is mentioned in verse 12 as a man “as good as dead!”  He is 100 and his wife is 90.  God gives them a child.  It is impossible.  Yes . . . But faith is the means by which God does the impossible.

What seems impossible to you?   Remember the lesson of the fig tree in Mark 11:22 where Jesus says, “Have faith in God?”  He goes on to say in Mark 11:24: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”  Do you trust God when you pray, believing you will receive what you ask for?  Do you trust God to take care of your health?  Do you trust Him to take care of your wayward child?  Do you trust Him to know what’s going on in that workplace of yours and that He is actually working something great and wonderful through your job? Faith is the means by which God does the impossible. 

5) Faith Helps Us Live In This Fallen World.

Like Abraham, our home is not here.  We live here “as in a foreign country.”  Like Abraham’s tents, we all live in temporary housing. 

It was not the material things Abraham was after,

Like so many things so many are after here,

But it was the “here after” he was after!

It was the city beyond the city.  That truth should help us live in this fallen world!  It is a great comfort to know where we are headed, to know about our final destination!

Rome was once referred to as the eternal city.  Today you can go and see the ruins of ancient Rome.  Whereas so many robbers and thieves have stripped ancient Rome of its many treasures, by contrast the city God is building in heaven is an eternal city.  The “new Jerusalem” of Revelation 21, that new city is unassailable, inviolable.  It has foundations because its architect and builder is God.

To focus on the eternal joys is the way to live in the present.  Truly focusing on the joy to come gets us through so much.  Our joy here is shaped by the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  The joy of Christ is something we actually enjoy right now.  We live in that joy now.  That joy will be complete in heaven.

Do not place your confidence in the temporary tent pegs of money, houses, land, and stuff.  Do not look for joy in so many castles built with sand as though the tide will never rise to wash them all away.  It will rise.  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, says Jesus.  Lay up for yourselves treasures in the eternal city.

Abraham did not place his confidence or look for his joy in his present circumstances or the things of this world.  His foundation was not the passing foundations of wealth, land, houses, or even family!  To quote an old puritan: “Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went; but he went out knowing with whom he went.”  He went out with the always-present, all-powerful, Eternal Traveling Companion, the Lord God! 

Faith will help you move forward in this fallen world this week.  God, the Supreme Traveling Companion, is with you through Christ Jesus, with you at school, with you at work, with you in the waiting room at the hospital, and with you at the graveside.   We see Him now by faith.  Our hearts cry out, “And, Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul.”

Are you living by faith?  Are you on your way to the city that has foundations?  Some of you are on your way, some are not.  I want to invite you to come go with us to the eternal city.  There is a sense in which every one of us is like Abraham – “as good as dead,” – dead in trespasses and sin.  But God can give us life today, God can do the impossible.  We need only admit our sin, turn from our sin, and turn to Him by faith, and we will be saved.  Let go of your sin and turn to Christ.  Live not for this world but for the One who has given you an eternal home.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:4-7 – Faith in Things Not Yet Seen

Grace For The Journey

Yesterday we looked at the opening verses of chapter 11, verses 1 through 3, and spent some time looking at the definition of faith, given in verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for (not uncertain hope as the word is often used today, but certainty of that for which we yearn), the evidence of things not seen.” We talked about . . .

The Christian faith being an objective faith,

Not a nebulous “leap in the dark” faith,

But a faith in a real object,

The Lord Jesus Christ

As revealed in

God’s Word, the Bible.

It is by faith the writer says in verse 3 that leads us to, “. . . understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”  God called all things into existence, creating all things, ex nihilo, out of nothing.  The author says “by faith” we understand this.

The Christian world view, like all other world views, is accepted by faith.  Science is based on empirical evidence, evidence including things observed.  No one was there to observe the origin of creation.  All world views are accepted by faith.  The Christian faith also maintains, however, that God was there.  God was there and He is not silent.  By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.

The writer then provides a great catalogue of people from the Old Testament who lived by faith.  He provides them as examples of those who lived by faith.  We are not to moralize them, suggesting that they are ideal examples of virtue.  This is the problem with sermons like, “Be like Abraham, or “Be like Noah.”  They were not ideal examples of morality.  As I have noted before . . .

Even the best of men is a man at best,

And

All men and women are sinners.

They are provided here as examples of those who lived by faith, looking forward by faith to the coming of One who would redeem them from their moral failures.  In other words . . .

They lived by faith in the Gospel.

In fact, it seems the writer has intentionally placed them here in chronological order such that their looking forward by faith builds in anticipation from one person to the next, historically. and sequentially through the verses of chapter 11, reaching the culmination of redemption in chapter 12 verse 2, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

If the believers in verses 4-38 are meant to inspire the Hebrews to look forward and to live by faith, then these same men and women in verses 4-38 will inspire us, too.  We begin with the earliest examples of faith, before even the formation of the nation of Israel: Abel, Enoch, and Noah, from creation to flood in verses 4-7.  We will walk back through this passage and see what it teaches us about having “faith in things not yet seen.” 

Verse 4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”  The writer recalls the life of Abel from Genesis 4.  in that passage we read about both Abel and his brother Cain’s bringing an offering to God.  Abel brought an offering from his flock, an animal sacrifice, and Cain brings an offering from the field, a harvest offering.  God looks with favor upon Abel, but does not look with favor upon Cain.  Why?

Was Abel’s offering better because it foreshadowed the sacrificial system?  Perhaps.  After all, the writer of Hebrews has written much about the symbolic importance of animal sacrifice as the means by which it points forward to the greater sacrifice of Christ.  But is this the real reason God looked with favor upon Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s?  Was Cain’s offering from the harvest an inferior offering?  This hardly seems so.  The Scripture actually says elsewhere that God is pleased to receive the first fruits of the harvest and demands the first fruits of the harvest as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord.  That cannot be it then.

Given the theological point of chapter 11 and the recurring phrase “by faith” used repetitively by the writer to underscore faith’s importance, we may reason why Abel’s sacrifice is regarded as “a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,” not so much because of the offering itself, but because of the attitude and spirit of the one bringing the offering.  It was brought “by faith” and true faith offers our very best (cf Matthew 23:35 and 1John 3:12).

Cain also worshiped and brought an offering before God but is not referred to in this verse as his brother Abel, obtaining witness that he was “righteous.”  We need not be surprised by this as there are many in the average church today who may feel as though they are doing God a favor bringing offerings to Him but are themselves not righteous, not living by faith, true faith offering our very best to the Lord.

Verse 5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him;’ for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  The background of this reference is found in Genesis 5:22 and 24 and you will note that both contain the phrase that Enoch “walked with God,” a way to describe Enoch’s faith as a believer who loved and enjoyed fellowship with His Creator.  Enoch never really died.  He was just taken.  I love the way the writer puts it in Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not …”  It could be that his obituary read: “Enoch, the man who was not.”  Enoch needed no tombstone.  No grave.  He was just taken.  He was not. 

He walked with God here

And

Continued walking with God there.

Charles Spurgeon has said, “One might desire a change of company if he walked with anyone else, but to walk with God for three centuries was so sweet that the patriarch kept on with his walk until he walked beyond time and space, and walked into paradise, where he is still marching on in the same divine company.”

Verse 6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  To be saved we must believe that “He is,” that He exists, an echo of verse 3: “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God …”  We also believe “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  We must believe that He will do as He says, that He will grant eternal life and reward our faithfulness.  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

While no man naturally seeks God, we may be assured that if we are seeking Him, seeking Him as a result of His granting to us the grace of His spiritual empowerment, then our search for God will be successful if we look to Him by faith.  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Verse 7 says. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”  The background for Noah begins in Genesis 6.  Because of sin in the world, God planned to destroy the world by flood.  He commissioned Noah to build an ark for the saving of his household.  The Bible says that Noah is “moved with godly fear” and builds the ark.  He had faith in things not yet seen.  There was not as yet a sea upon which to sail, not a cloud in the sky.  There had not even any been rain.  What did happen is that Noah is ridiculed by his neighbors at Noah’s faith in the unseen. 

The writer says it was Noah’s faith “by which he condemned the world.”  We too “condemn the world” when our holiness causes others to feel uncomfortable.  I recall a statement I heard some years ago; I do not recall the source, but it is: “When we enter the room there ought to be a hush that falls upon certain kinds of conversations.”  Our influence matters.  Not in a judgmental, sanctimonious way, but in a holy way.  

Because of Noah’s faith he “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”  From the very dawn of history, we see that man is saved by grace through faith.  Man receives righteousness by way of faith, belief, and trust in God’s promises.  All of God’s people, all throughout time, are all saved the same way: by grace through faith.  Believers of the Old Testament looked forward by faith to a Savior who would come, believers in the New Testament – along with us – look backward by faith to a Savior who has come.

Building again upon our living by faith and not by sight, how Christians live above “see” level, I want us to consider four questions by way of application of our passage this morning.  

What Do I Need to Change in My Life?

1) Do I Live For Temporary (Seen) Or Eternal (Unseen) Rewards?  10:34-35; 11:6.

What a contrast between Cain and Abel.  Cain had a short-sighted, worldly view of life and what God desired.  How blind and deficient in understanding to live for this world only!  Cain only had a worldly perspective – what he wanted and what pleased him!  Abel, on the other hand, had faith in things not yet seen!  He looked ahead by faith to a place where he would live not just for 20 years, 30 years, but for eternity. 

Do you believe that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him?”  Faith is the ability to so apprehend, so believe, and so receive, that it is as though we see it now.  We live as though God has already done it.  

If gratitude is thanking God after He does it,

Then faith is thanking God before He does it.

2) How will I be remembered when I am gone?  11:4.

Verse 4 says. “… he being dead still speaks.” (11:4)  This is what the writer says about Abel!  We need to hear him!  What about you?  When you are dead how will you “still speak?”  At your funeral when the so-called “eulogy” is given, what will be said?  The word eulogy means “good and beneficial words.”  Will good words be shared at your funeral?  If not, what needs to change?  Of what do you need to repent?  Let go of that sin and turn to Christ.

3) Does My Testimony Please God?  11:5.

The Bible says Enoch “waked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24) and therefore had a testimony that pleased God.  What about you?  Does your testimony – the way you live – only please yourself or only please others?  Remember: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.  

If you do not please God,

It really does not matter

Who else you please.

Repent of sin and turn to Christ.

4) Am I “Moved With Godly Fear?”  11:7.

Verse 7 says Noah was “divinely warned of things not yet seen.”  God has also “divinely warned” us “of things not yet seen.”  Noah could see not just reward, but also judgment.  He believed the prophetic Word of God.  Are you “moved with godly fear?”  The writer will say in Hebrews 12:29, that “our God is a consuming fire.”  There is a judgment to come, a judgment upon our sin.  Noah’s faith meant he was saved from the judgment.  He was an “heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”  

Here is the wondrous doctrine

Of justification by faith!  The

Imputed righteousness of Christ.

All God’s people are all saved the same way: by grace trough faith in Christ alone.  Old Testament saints looked forward by faith in a Christ who would come, we look back by faith in a Christ who has come.  But all are saved in Christ alone.

The Bible says in Philippians 3:9, “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

It is this imputed righteousness of Christ alone. 

We stand in the imputed righteousness of Christ

Oh, how we need to remember the work of Christ, His body crucified on the cross, and His blood shed for forgiveness of our sin.  We remember that Jesus lived a life of righteousness, died a substitutionary death in payment for our sins, and conquered death by rising from the grave. We need to remember these things and we proclaim these things every day as we live by the Good News of the Gospel.

We that God for Jesus Christ, the One who died for us.  The One who is coming back to us.  We thank God that because of Jesus we can be forgiven of our sin and live in a way that draws people closer to You.  We thank God for the forgiveness of our sins.  We love Him and thank Him for the hope we have in Christ alone.

“In Christ alone my hope is found;

He is my light, my strength, my song;

This cornerstone, this solid ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My comforter, my all in all—

Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,

Fullness of God in helpless babe!

This gift of love and righteousness,

Scorned by the ones He came to save.

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied;

For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—

Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,

Light of the world by darkness slain;

Then bursting forth in glorious day,

Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory,

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;

For I am His and He is mine—

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—

This is the pow’r of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand;

Till He returns or calls me home—

Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

No guilt in life . . . no fear in death!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 11:1-3 – The Nature Of Faith

Grace For The Journey

We talked yesterday about looking forward, enduring, persevering, by looking forward to the promises of God, knowing that we have a better and an enduring possession for ourselves in heaven.  It is looking forward that gets us through persecution, gives us the right perspective, and grants us what God has promised.  

The writer’s encouragement to us to endure reaches a pinnacle in the key verses of the book, Hebrews 12:1-2, “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …”  In fact, if you look at the last verses of chapter 10 and the first couple verses there in chapter 12 you see the continuity of this teaching about endurance, about looking forward in the midst of persecution, hardships, and difficulties.

Right in the middle of that exhortation is what many refer to as the great roll call of faith, or the hall of faith, a number of examples in chapter 11 of believers in the Old Testament who endured, those who were blessed to “Look forward,” living by faith as they looked ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promises.  They lived by faith.  What is faith?  What is the nature of faith?  We are going to talk about that today.

The opening verses of Chapter 11 describe for us the nature of faith, what it is, what it does, and what it knows.  This is helpful to us because of so many incorrect notions of faith.  Ask someone to define faith and you are likely to get a definition that does not line up with what the Bible teaches.

The secular literary world and pop culture define faith in ways that are incongruous with Scripture.  For example . . .

  • Samuel Clemens, writing under the pseudonym Mark Twain wrote, “Faith is believing something that you know ain’t so.”
  • Another says, “Faith is believing what you want to believe, yet cannot prove.”
  • In the Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” the lawyer defending Kris Kringle builds his defense on faith, arguing that “faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”

Many think of faith as something you have in spite of the evidence, or faith is a view you hold in spite of evidence to the contrary.  The idea is that if you just somehow “really believe,” hoping against hope, that everything will work out – a kind of finger-crossing, nail-biting, leap in the dark “positive thinking” when the evidence is against us.  What this kind of thinking results in is, “Just be positive!  Have faith!”

I read about a father who was talking to his son, his son was doing poorly in school.   The boy said to his father, “Dad, I think I’m going to fail this math test.”  His dad said, “Now son, that’s not thinking positively.  You need to think positively.”  His son replied, “Okay, I’m positive I’m going to fail!”  Faith is not merely positive thinking, nor is faith merely a subjective experience, an inward direction. 

Faith is primarily objective,

Leading us upward and outward.

One of the best little books on faith is Francis Schaeffer’s book, The God Who is There.  In the book Schaeffer addresses this wrong notion of faith, that it is merely subjective, where people simply “have faith in faith.”  He writes: “Probably the best way to describe this concept of modern [thinking] is to say that it is faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there.  Modern man cannot talk about the object of his faith, only about the faith itself.  So he can discuss the existence of his faith and its ‘size’ as it exists against all reason, but that is all.  Modern man’s faith turns inward.  In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed. It looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time. This makes Christian faith open to discussion and verification.”

Like Francis Schaeffer, I believe that . . .

Not only the Christian

Faith is objective,

But that it provides the

Only rational worldview.

My aim today is not to rush this chapter on faith, but to slow down and look into these opening verses on the nature of faith.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of understanding faith in the Christian life. 

The Bible talks about faith over 240

Times in the New Testament. 

That fact alone should give us

Pause as we consider the nature of faith.

The writer will say in verse 6 that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  That is pretty significant.  Lest we think that defining faith is merely an academic exercise with no practical benefit, let us think again – Without faith it is impossible to please God.

You may please others by being what you think is a good person, morally upright, fair, honest, and just in all your dealings.  Like the scout motto: “… I will do my best to do my duty to God an my country … to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”  That is all well and good, but if you do not please God you are in a heap of trouble.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  If you displease God it really does not matter who else you please.

It is vital that we better understand what faith is, the nature of faith, how it works, and what it does.  God teaches us three in these three verses . . .

1) Faith Defined – Verse 1.

An Explanation.

Verse 1 states, “Now faith is the substance (or realization) of things hoped for, the evidence (or confidence) of things not seen.”  The first part of this definition explains that faith is substantive.  This means that faith is concrete.  It is the “stuff” of “things hoped for” or “things we believe will happen” because God has said so.  Put another way – second part of the definition – faith is “the evidence of things not seen.”  This is speaking of something that is substantive and real, evidently really, about the things we believe.  There is an object about them.  They are there.  They are simply not seen with the physical eye.  They are seen, however, by what we may call “the spiritual eye.” 

Faith is the spiritual eye. 

Faith is what allows believers

To see that which is unseen.

We will read about Moses, for example, later in verse 27 where the Bible says, “who endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” 

Faith is the inward eye,

The spiritual eye that

God gives to us

As a gift that

We may see.

That is why we often describe salvation as a state in which, “I was blind, but now I see.” 

What we see is not the product of

Our own imaginary wishful thinking. 

What we see by faith is that

Which God has said will be.

We do not see it yet with our physical eyes, but one day we will.  It will transpire.  It will come to pass.  God will bring it about.

Faith is apprehending

Or taking hold of

That which is unseen.

A helpful parallel to Hebrews 11 is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The writer of Hebrews in verse 2, mentions the Old Testament believers, using them as an illustration of those who lived by faith, looking at the things with are not seen. 

His purpose in doing this is to

Teach believers today that we are

To live this same way,

To believe the same way,

By faith.

We move from faith defined, to . . .

2) Faith Demonstrated – Verse 2.

An Example.

Verse 2 is a summary verse of most of the chapter, “For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”  The elders are understood here not as an office in the church, but in regard to age, the older believers.  We know that because of context, because verses 4 through 38 describe those elders in detail, Old Testament believers like Abel, Enoch,  Noah, and so on.  The record of their faith is found in verses 4-38, verses we will be studying in the days to come.

The writer says in verse 2: “For by it (by faith) the elders (the old-time believers in the Old Testament) obtained a good testimony.”  In other words, we look at their faith and see a great testimony – They are commended for their faith.

Mercifully, the writer does not remind us of all of their failings!  Anytime we are tempted to think of these men and women as spiritual super-heroes, we must remember that . . .

Even the best of men

Is a man at best. 

And

Every man is a sinner.

  • The writer does not say, “Look to Noah as the perfect example.” 

This is the Noah who shortly after exiting the ark gets drunk, passes out, and is found naked by his sons (Genesis 9:20-27).  Not the best example, right?!

  • The writer does not say, “Look to Abraham as the paragon of holiness.”

This is the Abraham who told lies more than once, lied outright about the identity of his wife and made her lie, as well (Genesis 12:1-20).

Speaking of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is also mentioned favorably in Chapter 11.  But just the good stuff.  The writer does not lift-up Sarah as the superior, virtuous woman.  Not only was she a liar with her husband, but like her husband she too initially laughed when told she would bear a son in her old age.  When the Lord called her out on it, she lied to Him and said she did not laugh! (Genesis 17:17-21; Genesis 18:11–15).

It is important that we remember not to place these so-called “heroes of the faith” up high upon an exalted platform and bow before them as the perfect exemplars of godly living.  They are common sinners; common sinners just like you and me.

At the same time, however,

They did some things well. 

And when they did things well,

That is when we follow their example.

It is not the writer’s point to lift-up these men and women as perfect examples, nor even as ideal men and women of God.  Rather . . .

He wants us to learn

From the times

They exercised true,

God-honoring,

Biblical faith.

Look to them

As an example

Of what faith

Looks like

When it is

Exercised rightly.

Look to them when they are doing it right.  Because . . .

When you look to them when

They are doing it right,

Exercising biblical faith,

You will find there is

A whole host of them,

A great cloud of them,

And they surround us

Like a great cloud

Of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1),

Their examples are

An encouragement

To us as we

Endeavor to “look forward”

With our eyes on Jesus,

Captivated by Christ.

Faith defined (an explanation), faith demonstrated (an example).  Thirdly . . .

Faith Displayed – Verse 3.

An Application

In verse 3 we have an application of faith.  The writer shows us how faith is displayed, how faith works in our everyday world.  He does so by telling us what we know about the world by faith.  Verse 3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”  The phrase “the worlds” refers to all the physical material in space and time.  By faith we understand that God spoke and called everything into existence. 

In the latter part of verse the writer states, “So that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” meaning nothing that you see was made by equally visible material.  In the material world that you see, none of the material things was made from equally visible material things.  Rather . . .

Everything was made

By God’s Word. 

God spoke and

Things appeared.

Look at the following verses that state this truth . . .

  • Genesis 1:3, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light.”
  • Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
  • Psalm 33:9, “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast.” 

And God brought everything into being from nothing.  This is the teaching of the familiar Latin phrase: “creatio ex nihilo,” or “creation out of nothing.”  God created all things, everything you see, He created out of nothing.  

I like the way the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 4 verse 17 where he refers to God as the one who “calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”  This is the doctrine of creation. 

Let me just briefly address the theory of evolution, Darwinian evolution.  The Bible does not support modern notions of evolutionary theory, namely the evolving of one life form into another form in terms of taxonomy and the changing of species, like a bird becoming a dinosaur.  The Bible nowhere teaches such things and it is not our concern to address that theory right now.

I do, however, want to point out something at a greater level.  And that is that the doctrine of creation and secular scientific theory are not at odds on the matter of the origin of creation.  I am talking about the origin of the universe.  No one was there to witness the origin of the universe.  No human being was there to observe how everything came into being.  Science is based on empirical evidence, things that can be observed and tested.  No human being was present to observe the creation of things out of nothing.  Yet both science and the Bible affirm that it happened.  Obviously we are all here!

Christians are wrong to reject science out of hand.  Science is our friend.  It was Kepler who said his scientific study was merely a way of “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”  The point I am making is that science alone cannot provide the answer for the origin of the universe.  No scientist was there when the world came into existence. 

Was anyone there?  The Bible says that God was there.  God says He did it.  Believers accept His Word by faith.  Secular, scientific theory, namely evolutionary theory, also says something happened, things came into being, but it is left to explain how something came into being, how something came out of nothing.  And the honest evolutionist will acknowledge that there is no provable explanation for the origin of things as even Dr. Richard Dawkins acknowledged when pressed on the issue by Ben Stein in his wonderful documentary.

The Bible provides the answer for the origin of the universe.  Now it cannot be tested in human laboratory, but it is an answer we accept by faith.  God spoke all things into existence. 

As Creator He is the

Witness of creation. 

He is the One

Who was there.

We may well expect God to address the modern skeptic as he addressed Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:4)  God was there.  God is there and He is not silent.  God spoke all things into existence.

Believers accept this teaching by faith.  You are free to reject it.  You can reject it and say, “I’m not placing my faith in that teaching,” but the teaching remains.  It is still there.

While a popular skeptic may demand proof that there is a God, if he is honest he will also acknowledge that he cannot equally disprove there is a God.  Man is a finite creature wholly incapable of plotting infinity on a map.

A reflective person will struggle to call himself an atheist because of the term itself.  In using the term atheist (“a,” meaning “non” and“theist” meaning “god) the term supposes some notion of deity that one maintains does not exist.  But who is he to say?  Exactly what notion of God does he have in mind in his wholesale denial and rejection of deity?  How does one unequivocally reject something he also maintains does not exist?  And from where does he get his information about such deity?  Why should he be trusted regarding his information about the God he denies and on what basis can he prove absolutely that no such being is really there?

The refusal to believe in God

Is not for lack of reason,

But for lack of will. 

It is a moral problem,

Not an intellectual problem.

The Bible says in Psalm 14:1: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God …’”  The word “fool” means one who is morally lacking, not intellectually lacking.  Literally, the Psalm says, “The fool has said in his heart NO, God!”  It is a moral problem.  

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men.  That is why children are more inclined to believe in God.  Not because belief is childish, but because it is part of our human fabric as those who bear God’s image. 

The reality of God is a truth

We suppress by nature;

By our sin nature. 

We suppress the truth

Within us and without us.

A child was raised in an atheistic family, taught from childhood there is no God.  All he heard was, “There is no God, there is no God.”  Finally, one day the little boy looked up into the face of his father and asked, “Daddy, do you think God knows that we don’t believe in Him?!”

Faith defined (an explanation), faith demonstrated (an example), and faith displayed (an application) – God spoke all things into existence.  There is power in His Word.  And when God speaks, we believe Him.  We trust Him.

Faith is acting like God is telling the truth. 

Now jot that down big and plain!

God says “Noah, you’ll need to build an ark because I’m going to send some serious rain.”  Noah goes gets a hammer and starts building.  Not a cloud in the sky.  It has not rained in weeks.  But Noah has faith.  He acts like God is telling the truth.  He can see it.  He can see the rain coming by the inner eye of faith.  

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “… We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 

Our learning should lead us

To live above “see” level!

Faith leads us to live with our eyes on Jesus . . . That will lead us to want to . . .

1. Know the Promises – Read.

2. Believe the Promises – Receive.

3. Remember the Promises – Recall.

If you are not a believer, remember: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Our relationship with God begins by faith in Jesus Christ, the objective real person who really came to us in space and time, to live and die for us, and to rise from the dead, conquering sin and death.  Sinners are saved by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ. 

If you are a believer, do you act like God is telling the truth?  Do you believe Him?  Do you trust Him?  Trust Him to take care of your children, trust Him with your money, trust Him with your worries, trust Him with your future?  

Can you really say: “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily life.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:32-39 – Look Forward

Grace For The Journey

True believers, however,

Do not fall away from Christ. 

If a person stops following Jesus

It is evidence that he or she

Was never a true believer

In the first place.

The Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  True believers continue following Christ, continue serving Him, and living for Him.

The writer of Hebrews, unable to know the precise spiritual condition of every single person who reads his letter warns all of them.  He warns of the danger of rejecting Christ.  We studied that last time and talked about the calamity of rejecting Christ, the severity of rejecting Christ, and the finality of rejecting Christ – it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  That was verse 31.  We pick up now at verse 32 with some encouraging words for true believers, true followers of Christ.  

From verse 32 to the end of the chapter is section, in a word, is about endurance, about enduring to the end, moving forward, and keeping our eyes on Jesus no matter what struggles we face in this word. 

This whole section – verses 32 to the end of chapter 10 – is about thinking forward.  In fact, contextually, the section continues into chapter 11, as we read about many people of God over the years who endured by “thinking forward,” living by faith, “looking ahead,” keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus, looking to Him and the final salvation that comes through Him.

This passage provides three benefits of thinking forward . . .

1) Looking Forward Gets You Through Persecution – Verses 32-33.

The writer reminds his hearers how they used to “look forward” back when they were first saved, when they experienced true conversion.  Verse 32 states, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.”  The word “illuminated” in this context describes those who are truly converted, having both received the light and living as the light of the world.  They began shining in the darkness.  They shined because they gloried in their salvation in Christ.  They kept their eyes on Jesus.  They were captured and captivated by Christ.   They knew – as verse 34 says – that they had “a better and enduring possession” in heaven that far surpassed whatever struggles they endured through persecution for their faith now. 

They did not allow their present

Problems to pull them down;

They endeavored to think forward.

The word for “struggle” there is a Greek word from which we get the English: “athletics.”   The writer is using the word metaphorically, describing persecution as a full-contact sport, as an action-packed struggle.  He says . . .

Remember your former days,

Not long after you were illuminated,

Converted, and how through God’s grace

And power you got through difficulties then?”

How about you?  Do you recall how you were right after you were “illuminated?”  Remember the early days of your Christian walk, right after you got saved?  Remember how you felt?  How evangelistic you were!  You were so glad just to be saved.  Whatever trials you faced as a believer in Christ, it was like, “Thank the Lord for His goodness and this opportunity to live for Him!  I know I’m saved!   I know I am going to heaven!  This world is short, but I have eternal life!”  You were so fired up.  The writer is saying, “Get back to that.  Get back to how you were, howe you felt.  Get back to thinking forward.”  Because of their “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5) they endured a great struggle.

Verse 33 declares, “Partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.”

That phrase “made a spectacle” connotes the idea of being made a public target for persecution; persecution because of their faith in Jesus.  We must remember . . .

That persecution and suffering

Is a natural byproduct of being

A Christian, living in a world that

Goes against the things of Jesus.

Recall that Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I trust you did not miss that word “reproaches” there in verse 33?  That word is also used by the writer in Hebrews 11:26 to describe the abuse Moses endured as he regarded his suffering for the Lord as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.  And the writer adds, “for he looked to the reward.”  He looked ahead to the reward.  Looking forward gets you through persecution.

The writer commends his readers in verse 33 for their “(becoming) companions of those who were so treated.”  In other words . . .

When someone else was persecuted

For their Christian faith, Their fellow

Brothers and sisters stood with them.

For us it would be like, if we see a friend at school taking heat for loving Jesus, standing for Jesus, and talking about his or her faith openly; our friend is teased for this and reproached for his or her faith.  Rather than our remaining silent or walking away to avoid confrontation, we go up and stand next to him or her, and we let them know, if they are going to mock, ridicule, or make fun of him or her, they are going to have to do the same to us.  That is a part of believing in and following Jesus. 

This is what Donald Guthrie

Describes as

“Fellowship on the deepest level.”

Thinking forward gets you through persecution.  Next . . .  

2) Looking Forward Gives You The Right Perspective – Verse 34.

By this the writer means, keep your focused on things that matter, the true and lasting riches in Christ Jesus.  Look at verse 34, “For you had compassion on me in my chains.”  The writer is talking those, like himself, who were being put in jail because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  The believers unashamedly identified with those who were being persecuted by imprisonment; locked-up for being Christians.  These were fellow brothers and sisters who visited them in jail and brought food to them and so forth, not minding at all that their being so public about their faith meant that they too would suffer reproach and insult.  

Verse 34 continues, “And joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods [or possessions], knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.”  The “plundering of your goods” was the result of their identifying with fellow believers.  It was the persecution they faced for standing with their persecuted brothers and sisters.    Roman authorities ransacked their houses as if to say, “You are going to stand with these Christians in jail?  Well, there is a price to pay for that!”  They were willing to lose their possessions, their houses, clothing, etc.  That would require genuine faith in Christ, wouldn’t it?  That would require great strength.  

The Bible says that it is not

Just that they endured this,

But the writer notes the way

In which they endured this –

He says that they “joyfully”

Accepted the plundering

Of their goods.

If the authorities broke into their homes and took every last item and then burned the house down, they could just smile.  How could they do that?!  Because of the truth of God’s Word, “knowing that they had a better and enduring possession for themselves,” their real treasure in heaven.

John Piper proposes this scenario: “Imagine after the worship service we all go out to the parking lot to get into our cars and find them all vandalized, smashed in, windows broken; someone has taken a can of spray paint and painted: Christians are bigots.  How would you handle that?”  That is a good question.  I would like to think that after an initial and profound disappointment, that we would be free enough . . .

To carry on in joy knowing that our hearts

Are not bound up with our stuff,

But that Jesus Christ –

And our glorious

Inheritance in Him –

Is far better than

Anyone or anything.

Our Lord spoke about this in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven …”

One of the reasons many Christians

Struggle to live a meaningful

Christ-Centered life is

Because they seek

Their reward here,

Instead of in heaven.

They clutch to their material wealth here, holding on to it as though life were found in money, stocks, bonds, investments, retirement homes, lake houses, and so on.  We are all susceptible to allowing money and material things to be life for us – whether we consider ourselves rich or poor.  Some of us may say, “Well, this is not a problem for me.  I do not have hardly anything.”  But possessions can pull us away from our “better and enduring possession” whether we have little or much. 

Think about the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is estimated to be over 500 billion dollars.  Someone broke that amount down and figured that he is earning $231,000 a minute.  Imagine earning $231,000 a minute!  It seems unfathomable, doesn’t it?  But what if it all goes away?  It could.  What if all your stuff goes away?  It could. Who really owns their stuff?  I read about a Christian who was away from home and someone came running to him, saying, “Your house has burned down!  Your house has burned down!”  He calmly replied, “No, it has not, because I do not own a house.  The one I have been living in belongs to the Lord, so if it has burned down, then that is one less responsibility for me to worry about.”  Now, that is peace!

The word “enduring” there in verse 34, “you have a better and an enduring possession in heaven” reminds us that this possession in heaven lasts forever!  It abides and endures for all time.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Looking forward gives you the right perspective.

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  

Looking forward gets you through persecution.  Looking forward gives you the right perspective.  Finally . . .

3) Looking Forward Grants You What God Has Promised – Verses 35-39.

This is the fulness of our reward in Christ Jesus,

Our glorious eternal inheritance in heaven!

Verse 35 says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”  Do not miss structure of his sentence.  The word “has” is present tense.  As we live by faith then we actually experience something of your reward even now, though the fulness of the reward is still in the future.

True life is in Jesus Christ!!

Verse 36 states, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”  The next chapter is all about those who had faith to endure, those who lived to do “the will of God,” looking forward so that they would receive the promise of their glorious inheritance in Christ.

Sometimes it is the will of God for us to suffer and go through times of persecution.  It is good for Christians to know this; to have a healthy theology of suffering.  You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God – which often includes times of difficulty and challenge and suffering – you may receive the promise.  Look forward.  Do not focus on the problems and the suffering.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Looking forward grants you what God has promised.

Verse 37 says, “For yet a little while(this is a quote from Habakkuk), and He who [or that which] is coming will come and will not tarry [or delay].”  Looking forward to Christ’s return encourages us in the present.

Verses 38 and 39 declare, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.  But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [or destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

There is nothing more

Precious or valuable

Than Jesus Christ. 

Be captivated by Christ! 

Keep your eyes

Fixed on Jesus,

The author and

Finisher of your faith.

Do not allow your present problems, struggles, and difficulties to pull you away from Jesus.  Do not draw back, but go on believing “to the saving of your soul.”

Verse 39 is a powerful way to end chapter 10!  Keep your eyes on the promise He grants you in Christ, your glorious eternal inheritance, “a better and enduring possession.”  Look forward!

Have you heard about the Flying Wallendas?  Do you know them?  They are a famous tight-rope walking family who have performed of the high wire since the 1940s.  They are known for not using a safety net and several of the Wallenda family are still performing today.  Kent Hughes writes about the tragic death of their leader, Karl Wallenda, who died in 1978, again tragically as he fell 75 feet to his death in an attempted high-wire walk in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Not long after his death, Wallenda’s wife was interviewed and she talked about the events leading up to that day:

She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling.  It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.”  Mrs. Wallenda added that her husband “even went so far as to personally supervise the installation of the tightrope, making certain the guy-wires were secure, something he had never even thought of doing before.”

Focusing on the challenge of the difficulties, he lost his focus and confidence.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (verse 35).”  Do not be overwhelmed by all the problems and challenges which you face.    Do not allow the struggles and difficulties of this present world concern you, engulf you, and pull you down.  Stay focused on what lies ahead.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Be captivated by Christ.  Look forward.

Some of you need to repent of the sin of clutching onto material things, money, stuff; the things that cause a failure to see that God is the true owner of your stuff.  Others of you need to repent of looking at your problems instead of looking at Jesus, repent of your failing to stand for Him while facing persecution.  Turn to Jesus today for forgiveness.

Some of you need to trust Christ as your Lord and Savior while there is time.  You may need to admit that you are a sinner, that you cannot saved yourself, accept what Jesus has done on the cross and the empty, and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.  Do it now so you can start looking forward to today and the future.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:26-31 – The Danger of Rejecting Christ

Grace For The Journey

The text for our study this morning is a text that underscores the need to get the Gospel out to folks who are lost.  There are lost people in every setting, even in a church setting.  I have a three-part prayer that I pray every day with the goal of sharing Jesus Christ at least once a day.  I encouraged you to use it as well.   I encourage you to incorporate it in your daily prayers.

1. Lord, give me an opportunity to share my faith today. 

2. Lord, enable me to recognize this opportunity when it comes. 

3. Lord, when it happens, give me the courage to proceed.

One of the encouraging things I have discovered as I avail myself to this prayer is that the task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.

The writer of Hebrews acknowledges as much as he has provided in his letter five warning passages, warnings about not rejecting Jesus Christ.  We have studied three of these already back in chapters 2-6.  Today we find ourselves studying the fourth warning passage.  It begins in verse 26 because.  Verse 25 concluded with a reference to the coming judgment.  The writer says let us exhort one another “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Judgment Day.  It would seem the mention in verse 25 about “the Day” approaching, the Day of Judgment, leads the writer to think more upon that subject and to warn folks who may not be prepared for that day.  I wonder if you are?  If you are, then you are encouraged about that day.

The author does not seek to unsettle those who are true believers.  For true followers of Christ, the “Day approaching,” the return of Christ is a great encouragement.  That specific encouragement begins at verse 32 which we will address tomorrow, Lord willing.  It is good for us today, however, to stop short of that encouragement and spend time talking about the danger of rejecting Christ and the judgment to come to those who “draw back” (38-39) and turn away from Jesus.

Sometime back I was listening to a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the godly pastor of a previous generation at the Westminster Chapel in London England.  He was preaching one evening about the true Gospel and what it means to be a true Christian.  And he made this statement, “There are many people in the world tonight who are not Christians very largely because they think they are Christians.”  That is one of those statements that causes you to stop and sit up a bit.  What does that mean?

Among other things, it certainly means that one may think he or she is a Christian simply by virtue of being exposed to the external things of Christianity – worship attendance, small group Sunday school attendance, feeling good when in the presence of Christians, help from biblical teaching, a feeling of love and goodness through musical worship, a concern for fellow neighbors and society, good works to improve the state of others and the state of the community – but these are not themselves the Gospel.  These are things that accompany the Gospel, but they are not the Gospel itself.  They are not the things that make one a Christian.  

Becoming a Christian is about

Receiving, surrendering to,

Following, and expressing our

Love for Jesus in how we live.

True believers are they who have acknowledged their sin, confessed it, repented of it, and turned to Christ, believing Him, who died a substitutionary death in our place, rising from the dead, to be their only Savior, and living a surrendered life which will allow to grow in knowing and experiencing the resurrection power so that Christ is praised and honored.  True believers go on believing to the very end, they persevere in their faith.  True believers will not reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  They will go on believing Him.  

The writer, in verses 26-31, is addressing those who are not true believers.  He is addressing those who have turned their backs on Jesus and have rejected Christ.  Now the writer does not know who those people are.  But he knows they are in the congregation there because there had been some already who had walked away from the church for fear of persecution.  They turned away from Jesus and went back to their old ways of thinking and living.  The writer is writing about what happens to those who forsake Christ.  

In our present context, I do not know who the true believers are and neither do you.  We all listen to the warning considering ourselves, considering our friends, and considering our loved ones.

 What is the danger of rejecting Christ . . .

1) The Calamity Of It – Verses 26-27.

This is the utter peril of what it means to turn away from Jesus Christ.  Verse 26 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  The first time I read verse 26 I was alarmed because I said to myself, “Well, I am a sinner.  I have sinned willfully.  I have sinned with my eyes wide open.  I mean as a Christian who knows better, I have sinned willfully so what does this mean that there is no sacrifice for sins?”  Remembering the writer’s main concern is helpful to us.  He is addressing those who have rejected Christ and gone back to their old way of living.  He is not suggesting that Christians never sin.  He is addressing a state of mind and a state of living that leads to total abandonment of Christ and the Gospel.  If you turn from Christ and refuse to repent, refuse to turn back to Him, then you have rejected Him, and you will remain separated from Him forever.  

The writer is not talking here about Christians who “slip up” from time to time; battling the sin that remains, giving in to it at times when we know it is wrong, but then immediately confessing it, and getting back into the race.  No, he is not talking about that here.  The tense of the verb is present continuous action “sin willfully,” which means “to go on sinning deliberately,” to go on turning away from Jesus Christ, to go on rejecting Him.

The writer addresses those who have rejected Christ as Savior.  Thus, they were never true believers.  They had “received the knowledge of the truth” but did not trust Christ savingly.  They abandoned Christ as evidence that they were never true believers.  This is very similar to what the Apostle John writes about those who did not continue in the faith in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”  True believers do not go on sinning, deliberately, willfully.  True believers are different.  God has changed our want to.  We do sin but when we do it bothers us and the Holy Spirit, who has “written God’s law in our hearts and minds, will not let us go on in it but will convict our hearts.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to live as those who delight in Christ.  

Some hearers had only “received the knowledge of the truth.”  They did not accept the truth and thus “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”  That is, there is no sacrifice other than the “once-for-all” perfect sacrifice of the One they have rejected. 

Rejecting Christ means there

Is nowhere else to go. 

There no longer remains

A sacrifice for sins. 

Sins are not atoned for

In any way other than

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I can preach the Gospel today to you who are reading my blog; I can preach the truth, and everyone reading my blog can “receive the knowledge of the truth” inasmuch as they can understand it and even intellectual assent to its teaching.  But that does not mean every single person hearing the truth accepts the truth.  Receiving the knowledge of the truth does not mean that every single person actually believes the truth savingly, receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.  

You will recall from Hebrews 6 that there were some who merely “tasted” the good Word of God (Hebrews 6:5), tasting it but not digesting it.  As James teaches in his letter, it is one thing to “hear” the Word and another thing altogether to “do” the Word.  The message of the writer is, if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.  Do not allow your heart to be as the hard soil in the parables of Jesus.  The Word tries to get down into that soil and bear fruit, but it never really takes.  Allow your heart to be the soft, fertile soil that receives the Word gladly and bears fruit, and goes on bearing fruit.

What calamity awaits those who reject Christ?  Verse 27 tells us, “But a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”  Verse 27 reminds us of verse 27 in chapter 9 that says, “… It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  There is a judgment day that awaits every man and woman, every boy and girl, every person of every race, tribe, tongue, and nation.  It is appointed unto man to die and after this the judgment.

The writer says that if we reject Christ, the day of judgment is bound up with “a certain fearful expectation” and “fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” devour those who reject Christ.  That is pretty plain, isn’t it?  The Bible can often be alarming to us.  This is God’s Word for our good.  It is good to read the Scriptures and pause and allow the teachings to get down inside us.  This is God’s Word.

The reading of the Scripture is not like the reading of the minutes in business meetings.  Unlike the reading of the minutes, “there are no corrections or additions; the Bible stands approved as read!”  This is God’s Word.

Those who reject Christ have only “a certain fearful expectation of judgment.”  That phrase intimates that those who refuse Christ have an inner sense of a judgment to come.  A person may suppress the truth of that judgment, trying to bury it down deeply within, cover it up, ignore it, or drowning out the sense of judgment with the noise of music, entertainment, drink, and drugs.  But it is there.  

The sense of judgment

Is a grace of God. 

He gives it to us

To awaken us, alarm us, and

Alert us to repent and trust Christ.

When we do not, when we reject Christ willfully after we have received the truth, all we have is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment,” – and – “and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,” which will devour those who reject Christ.  The calamity of it. 

The second danger of rejecting Christ . . .

2. The Severity Of It – Verses 28-29.

In verses 28 and 29 the writer argues from the lesser to the greater.  It is one of those statements that goes like this: “If this is bad, then how much worse is this?!”  If this is bad – verse 28 – —then how much worse is verse 29?  He argues: “If rejecting Moses’ law is bad (verse 28), then how much worse is it to reject Christ (verse 29)?!”  Verse 28 says, “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  Under the old Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, if an Israelite turned his back upon the One true and living God, he was to be killed by stoning.  The writer of Hebrews is referring to Deuteronomy 17:2-6, “If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones.  Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  That’s bad, isn’t it?  Aren’t you glad you are not under the old Covenant?  I am reminded of the preacher who was preaching from Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying.  The preacher said, “What if God did that today, struck people dead for lying?  If He did, where would I be?!”  And the congregation kind of snickered.  Then, the preacher said, “I’ll tell you where I’d be – I’d be preaching to an empty sanctuary!”  The severity of judgment under the old Covenant is great – however! – the severity of judgment under the new covenant is even greater. 

Verse 29 says, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”  Remember, the point is: “If rejecting Moses’ law is bad (verse 28), then how much worse is it to reject Christ (verse 29)?!”  The thinking is similar to what the writer wrote back in Hebrews 2:3, “… how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” 

Rejection of Christ is illustrated in three actions there in verse 29: 1) trampling the Son of God underfoot, 2) counting the blood of the covenant a common thing, and 3) insulting the Spirit of grace.

1) “Trampling the Son of God underfoot” is a vivid image of stepping on Christ as though He were nothing.  The same word “trample” is used by our Lord in Matthew 7 where He warns that we ought not cast our pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet.  Treating something pure, lovely, worthy, and infinitely valuable as a common thing to be trampled on.  It means to scorn Him; to besmirch His good name; to spit upon Him by refusing to be identified with Him through Christian faith and Christian baptism.  

2) “Counting the blood of the Covenant a common thing” is to treat Christ’s blood and Christ’s sacrifice as no big deal, just a common, ordinary, even mundane thing.  The phrase is literally: “counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing …”

The word “sanctified” is not theologically as we usually understand the term – “sanctified” with reference to salvation, but “sanctified” in the broadest sense of the word: being “set apart.”  These are people who had identified externally with those who were followers of Jesus.  They were numbered among them, visibly “set apart” in that sense.  But not true believers.  

3) “Insulting the Spirit of grace, insulting the Holy Spirit!”  Incidentally, this is the only time in all the Bible that the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of grace.”  That is a good term.  I encourage you to use that in your prayers.  Talk to God from time to time calling Him, “the Spirit of grace.”

If rejecting the law of Moses meant punishment, how much more severe is the judgment and punishment of the one who has rejected Christ, trampling His good sacrifice underfoot? 

It is Christ alone who saves! 

Apart from Christ we can never be saved!

We are sinners.  And since our sin is against a holy and infinite God, no amount of human works and good deeds will ever be enough to pay the penalty of our sin – because a holy infinite God requires a holy and infinite number of works of righteousness.  Only Christ can save us!  Christ who is holy and infinite and perfect and pure.  

The third danger of rejecting Christ . . .

3. The Finality Of It – Verses 30-31.

Verse 30 says, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’”  These statements are from Deuteronomy 32.  Moses spoke these words just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land.  It was a warning to them that God was watching and God would judge them.  And the Lord watches you and me and He will judge us. 

The solemn conclusion of the thought in verse 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  It is a fearful thing for those who are lost.  There is a finality to it.  God will treat us justly, just as our sins deserve.  If we have spurned the good name and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it will indeed be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It was this truth that Jonathan Edwards preached in his famous message nearly 300 years ago.  I encourage you to Google it later: Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  It ought to cause us to think about what Jesus taught in Luke 12:4-5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”

If you are saved, a true believer, then it is a good thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  2 Samuel 24 tells the story of David.  This passage tells us of his sin when he counted the fighting men, taking that census?  He was punished for that sin and was given the choice of punishments.  And he made the precious statement in verse 14, “Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great.”

Are you a true believer?  Have you received Christ?  There are just two categories of people in the world – Those who have received Him and those who have rejected Him.  If you are among those who have received Him savingly, then you will go on receiving Him, living for Him, and loving Him.  True believers persevere in their faith, go on living for Him.  The writer will press that truth in the following verses.  True believers will endure suffering and hardship and will go on living by faith.  They will not “draw back.”  

But if you are not a believer, then hear and heed the warnings in this, the Word of God.  Turn to Jesus today and be saved. 

Whether you are a believer, not a believer, or unsure, the answer is the same: turn your eyes upon Jesus.  His word shall not fail you.  “Believe Him and all will be well.  Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:19-25 – What Does it All Mean?

Grace For The Journey

In Hebrews chapter, verses 1-18, the writer wraps up a major section on the work of Jesus Christ – namely how Christ fulfills the New Covenant promises of forgiveness of all the believer’s sins through the cross at Calvary.  The Old Covenant of Mosaic sacrifices are fulfilled in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinners. 

While believers living under the Old Covenant

Were expected to worship with sacrifices,

Believers living under the New Covenant

Are expected to worship without sacrifices.

That old system is over. 

There is now a new and living way.

Today, we will be looking at verses 19-25.  What the writer does in picking up in verse 19 and following is to say, “Therefore, here is how to live.”  Before we look at the passage, let me invite you to be on the lookout for some things in this passage.  It is just seven verses, 19 through 25, and I want to invite you to see the structure of the passage.  There are four main points in these verses I want to talk about today.

You will notice in verses 19-21 the writer recalls the wonder and joy of the Christian’s being able to draw near to God, to boldly and confidently approach God, and to be in the very presence of God through Jesus Christ.  Because of this confidence believers have in approaching God, there are three exhortations that follow.  You note them in the passage; three of them, where the writer says, “Let us” in verses 22, 23, and 24.  We will look at them as we go through these verses.   

When I was in high school, I was one of those students who struggled with knowing the significance of what I was learning.  I found myself continually asking, “How will this apply?”  Whether it was algebraic formulas or geometric theorems, “What is the significance of all this?  What is the practical value of this?”  In chemistry, the periodic table of elements we were to memorize and then reproduce by filling in the squares with the their appropriate abbreviations (i.e. Na or CI).  I did that, but the main question in my mind was, “What does it all mean?”  Surely these isolated formulas, numbers, and symbols, these disparate bits of information all cohere in some meaningful way don’t they?  How am I going to apply this in life?!”

The writer of Hebrews, having provided several chapters now on the relationship of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant, having provided a number of details and having taught much of the intricacies of the old worship system as compared to the new, seems to anticipate a similar question: “Yes, but what does it all mean?”  How does it apply?  How does the theology of so many chapters find application in my real-world life of today?  The writer tells us today in this passage. 

It is a passage on the significance

Of Christ’s work on our behalf.

Because of Christ’s Work Christians are . . .

1. Confident – Verses 19-21.

Confident in our approach to God.  

Verse 19 states, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”  The writer has been talking about how the earthly tabernacle used by Old Covenant believers was a shadow of good things to come, a symbol of the reality.  “The Holiest” was that inner room of the tabernacle symbolizing the presence of God.  The “Holiest” was where the high priest entered just once a year on the Day of Atonement.   And only the high priest cold enter the holiest place.  If anyone else tried to enter without permission, they died.  No one was allowed to draw near to God except the high priest.

It is a bit like back in Exodus 19 when the people are gathering at the foot of Mount Sinai and God warns them through Moses not to approach.  Do not even touch the base of the mountain or you will die!  Because of God’s holiness and mankind’s sinfulness, only Moses was allowed to approach God.

The tabernacle had that inner room, “the Holiest” or “the Holy of Holies” where God’s presence was manifested on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, on the mercy seat.  No one could go in there except the high priest and only after some serious preparation!   He had to come carrying the blood of a sacrifice and so on.  That was the Old Covenant, the old way.  Things are different now!  

Verses 20 and 21 say, “By a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God.”  Believers have “a new and living way” to enter into the presence of God.  Not through a mere human high priest, but through God Himself, Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest over the entire house of God!  Jesus Christ is our way into the very presence of God.  

Whereas before, only the Hight Priest could enter into the way made known through the veil; the curtain, now all may enter into the way made known through Christ Himself.  Remember how the Gospel writers tell us the curtain tore when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51).  The curtain tore when Christ’s flesh was torn.  Christ’s body was torn so that His blood was shed, the blood of Jesus providing a new and living way, the way which Jesus Christ consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, the veil of His flesh. 

John Phillips, his commentary on Hebrews, Exploring Hebrews, provides a good example that helps us to understand what the writer is talking about:

Imagine with me a Moabite of old gazing down upon the Tabernacle of Israel from some lofty hillside. This Moabite is attracted to what he sees so he descends the hill and makes his way toward the Tabernacle.  He walks around this high wall of dazzling linen until he comes to a gate and at the gate, he sees a man.  “May I go in there?” he asks, pointing to the gate where all the bustle of activity in the Tabernacle’s outer court can be seen.  “Who are You?” demands the man suspiciously.  “I’m from Moab,” the stranger replies.  “Well, I’m very sorry, but you can’t go in there.  You see, it’s not for you.  The Law of Moses has barred the Moabite from any part in the worship of Israel until his tenth generation.”

The Moabite looks so sad and said, “Well, what would I have to do to go in there?”  “You would have to be born again,” the gatekeeper replies. “You would have to be born an Israelite, of the tribe of Judah, or of the tribe of Benjamin or Dan.”  “Oh, I wish I had been born an Israelite,” the Moabite says and as he looks again, he sees one of the priests, having offered a sacrifice at the brazen altar and the priest cleansed himself at the brazen laver and then the Moabite sees the priest enter the Tabernacle’s interior. “What’s in there?” asks the Moabite. “Inside the main building, I mean.”  “Oh,” the gatekeeper says, “That’s the Tabernacle itself. Inside it contains a lampstand, a table, and an altar of gold. The man you saw was a priest. He will trim the lamp, eat of the bread upon the table and burn incense to the living god upon the golden altar.”  “Ah,” sighs the Moabite, “I wish I were an Israelite so that I could do that. I would so love to worship God in there and help to trim the lamp and offer Him incense and eat bread at that table.”  “Oh, no,” the gatekeeper hastens to say, “even I could not do that. To worship in the holy place one must not only be born an Israelite, one must be born of the tribe of Levi and of the family of Aaron.”

The man from Moab sighs again, “I wish that I had been born of Israel of the tribe of Levi of the family of Aaron,” and then, as he gazes wistfully at the closed Tabernacle door, he says, “What else is in there?”  “Oh, there’s a veil. It’s a beautiful veil I’m told and it divides the Tabernacle in two. Beyond the veil is what we call ‘the Most Holy Place’… ‘the Holy of Holies.’”  “What’s in the Holy of Holies?” the Moabite asks.  “Well, there’s the sacred chest in there and it’s called the Ark of the Covenant. It contains holy memorials of our past.  Its top is gold and we call that the mercy seat because God sits there between the golden cherubim.  Do you see that pillar of cloud hovering over the Tabernacle?  That’s the Shekinah glory cloud. It rests on the mercy,” said the gatekeeper.

Again, a look of longing comes over the face of the Moabite man. “Oh,” he said, “if only I were a priest! How I would love to go into the Holy of Holies and gaze upon the glory of God and worship Him there in the beauty of His holiness!’  “Oh no!” said the man at the gate. “You couldn’t do that even if you were a priest! Only the high priest can enter the Most Holy Place. Only he can go in there. Nobody else!”  The heart of the man from Moab yearns once more. “Oh,” he cried.  The gatekeeper looked at the man from Moab again and once more shook his head.  “Oh no,” he said, “you couldn’t do that! Even the high priest of Israel can go in there only once a year, and then only after the most elaborate preparations and even then only for a little while.”  Sadly, the Moabite turned away.  He had no hope in all the world of ever entering there!

Apart from Christ we

Are like that Moabite. 

Sinful Gentiles with no hope

Of approaching God. 

But that is the old way!

That is what verses 19 and 20 declares – God accepts believing sinners!  

He accepts us in Christ! 

He accepts not on the basis

Of our religious performance,

But on the basis of Christ’s

Infinitely perfect righteousness

On our behalf –

His perfect life and His

Once-for-all sacrifice as

The spotless Lamb of God

Who takes away

The sin of the world.

If we believe in Christ Jesus, our Great High Priest, God accepts us, approves of us, forever.

In essence this is the first line of one of our favorite hymns:

Before the throne of God above 

I have a strong and perfect plea 

A great High Priest whose name is love 

Who ever lives and pleads for me 

My name is graven on His hands 

My name is written on His heart 

I know that while in heav’n He stands 

No tongue can bid me thence depart

This is the new and living way open to believers.  The word “brethren” in verse 19 is a word meaning believing men and women, brothers and sisters in Christ.  You have got to believe.  You have got to come the way of Christ.  He is the only way.  Because of Christ’s work, Christians have confidence, confidence to approach God.  That is the first privilege.  Now the three following “heads of let us!” 

The second privilege . . . Because of Christ’s work Christians are . . .

2. Cleansed – Verse 22.

The writer makes a connection to the old Covenant practice of sprinkling people with blood as in the case of ratifying the old Covenant in Exodus 24 or in the consecration of Aaron and his sons in Exodus 29, sprinkling them with the blood of the sacrifice.  These are washings, however, that were unable to cleanse from sin.  

Christ’s blood, however, cleanses us from all sin.  It purifies believers not just externally, but internally, too!  If you want to have your “heart sprinkled from an evil conscience” – internal cleansing – and your body “washed with pure water,” – external cleansing – you will need to believe in Jesus Christ.  He is the only way to be cleansed of all sin.  And this is an ongoing cleansing.  John says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us (continually cleanse us) of all unrighteousness.”

Christian baptism pictures this internal cleansing.  Baptism is a beautiful picture of what happened to Christ and what happens to us in Christ.  Jesus died for us and rose from the dead for us.  Baptism pictures that.  The believer goes down into the water, picturing death, and rises up out of the water, picturing life.  Jesus died, was buried, arose.  We who believe in Christ and are baptized are also picturing death, burial, and resurrection in our own lives.  Believers die to self.  We die to the old way of life, and are raised to walk in a new way of life.  Baptism pictures the internal cleansing.  

Because of Christ’s work Christians have confidence and because of Christ’s work Christians are cleansed.  Thirdly, because of Christ’s work Christians are . . .

3. Committed – Verse 23.

Verse 23 states, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  It is a call for commitment, faithfulness to the Lord Jesus.   The writer has said something like this before.  Hebrews 3:6, he said, “Let us” … “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.”  It is a call to persevere.  It is a call for endurance.  Remember this is one of the main themes of the Book of Hebrews.  Keep your eyes on Jesus!  Be captivated by Christ.  All these warnings to stay committed to Christ in the face of persecution and suffering.  Do not go back to the old way!  Stay committed.  

We will see something of in tomorrow’s study, Lord willing, in yet another warning from the writer of Hebrews.  H will go on to say – down in verses 35 and 36, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”

In verse 23, the writer says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.”  He did not want them to give in to temptation to compromise.   He exhorts them to hold onto Christ “without wavering.”  The motivation is set forth when he goes on to say, “for He who promised is faithful.” 

The reason you can be faithfully committed to Him

Is because He is faithfully committed to you.

Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”  You can be faithfully committed to Him because He is faithfully committed to you.

Because of Christ’s work Christians are confident, cleansed, committed, and fourthly . . .

4. Considerate – Verses 24-25.

That is, be considerate of one another.  We see that in verse 24, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”  Consider one another.  The Christian faith is a “one another” faith.  This truth comes right out of the New Testament where we read of the “one anothers.”  

“Love one another” – John 15:17

“Serve one another” – Galatians 5:13
“Bear one another’s burdens” – Galatians 6:2 

Encourage one another” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

“Admonish one another” – Colossians 3:16 

“Pray for one another” – James 5:16

Christians come together for worship and fellowship in order to show love for one another and stir up that love and good works in others.  The writer seems to suggest that the practice of love and good works does not just happen.  It needs to be stirred up.  It requires work.  In this sense “love” is a verb.  It requires action.  

It is like in a troubled marriage someone says, “Well, I do not love her anymore.”  Well, when was the last time you “stirred up love” in her and for her?  Love is not just a feeling.  Love often requires work.  Love often requires effort.  Same in the church.  

Verse 25 states, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Here is a verse that teaches us that worshiping the Lord is not to be simply an isolated event with just us and the Lord.  It is that, to be sure.  That is, we can worship the Lord alone.  There is a sense in which we are always worshiping the Lord insofar as believers are always in the presence of God.  The approach to God through the veil of Christ’s flesh is an open invitation, ongoing, forever!  

But . . .

Christian worship is not

Just us and the Lord. 

It is us

And

Others

And

The Lord. 

It is

A one another faith,

A one another worship.

Look at the verse again.  It says “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some …”  We are not to be like “some,” who do not assemble together in Christian fellowship and worship.

Adrian Rogers used to say some people go to church just three times in their lives: the first time, when they are born – as in their christening; the second time, when they are married; and the third time, when they are buried.  To use his own words, “When they’re hatched, when they’re matched, and when they’re dispatched!”  The first time they throw water on them, the second time they throw rice on them, and the third time they throw dirt on them. 

The Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.”  We are not the “some” who regard church attendance an optional event – because we don’t gather merely for ourselves.  We gather to “exhort one another,” to encourage one another…”  Such encouragement to continue on in the Christian faith happens both in big group and small group – in fact, even more so in the smaller group setting where there are a greater number of people encouraging one another during the meeting.  Are you in a small group Sunday Bible Study class?  It is biblical and right to meet together regularly.  In a small group or a large group setting you have an opportunity to stir up love and good works, to use your gifts, your spiritual gifts for God’s glory through the church.  

The writer says we are to meet with one another and encourage one another “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  The closer the Day of Christ’s return, the greater the need for assembling ourselves together, the greater the need for meeting with one another.  And we should live always as though the Day were today.  In fact, the last word there of verse 25, “approaching,” is in the indicative mood, indicating that the Day is indeed approaching; drawing near, imminent; right now.  It could be translated “exhorting one another, and so much the more as you now see the Day drawing near; Christ’s return, He’s coming.  It could well be today.”  Though centuries have passed, Christians are always exhorted to live in the reality that Christ may well come today.  We are closer now to that day than ever before and Christian must always live such as we see the Day approaching. 

Are you ready for that Day?  Are you ready to stand in the presence of God?  This is similar to what the writer has said earlier in Hebrews 3:13, “… but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  

Do not let the deceitfulness of sin take your eyes off Jesus.  Stay captivated by Christ!  If you need to repent of sin, do so right now.  In your spirit say, “God forgive me for becoming hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  Lord, you know what I looked at, Lord you know what I said, Lord you know what I thought.  God forgive me through Christ Jesus, my Great High Priest!”

Can I encourage you as we see the Day approaching?  Rejoice in the pleasures and promises of Jesus Christ.  He is the Great High Priest whose name is Love, whoever lives and pleads for you.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Captured And Captivated By Christ: Hebrews 10:1-18 – The New and Living Way of Christ

Grace For The Journey

In Hebrews 10:1-10 he returns to the earthly work of Jesus as High Priest, and in Hebrews 10:11-18 he brings the sermon to its stirring conclusion, returning to the citation from Jeremiah where he began in chapter 8.  The contrast between shadow and reality takes a somewhat different turn.  It is not the earthly Tabernacle which is the shadow of the heavenly, it is the Old Covenant that is the shadow of the new.  The writer thus shifts from the vertical antithesis between earth and heaven that had dominated his exposition so far, and reads the contrast in terms of the horizontal, and temporal axis defined by the terms “new” and “old” in the quotation from Jeremiah.  What casts a “shadow” (verse 1) is no longer a heavenly reality, as in the heavenly model of the Tabernacle mentioned at 8:5, but the present “bodily” (verses 5 and 10) reality of Christ, “foreshadowed” in the rituals of old.  The uses a common image of a body and its shadow (as in Colossians 2:17) to point to the reality of Christ’s example.

Continuing his interpretation of the Day of Atonement, he contrasts the penitential rituals of Israel’s high priest with the far more effective atonement accomplished by Christ (verses 1-4).  There are at least two ways in which the sacrifice of Jesus is superior to that of the former priests.  First, under the Old Covenant the Day of Atonement was celebrated every year, because the sacrifices performed by the high priest were not sufficient to accomplish real atonement.  God’s reconciling act toward mankind should not need an annual renewal.

Second, the sacrifices of the Old Covenant involved the blood of sacrificial animals. The sacrifice of the New Covenant was accomplished by the blood of Christ Himself.  We have hints here not only of the distinction between the inferior shadow and the superior reality, but of the traditional homiletical device: if the ancient sacrifices accomplished a little, how much more will the sacrifice of Christ achieve.

As he does so often our author turns again to Scripture in verses 5–7, where he cites Psalm 40:6-8, as we find it in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which differs dramatically from the Hebrew.  Instead of “you have given me an open ear” the Septuagint reads, “A body you have prepared for me.”  As he has with Psalm 110 in Hebrews 1:5 and Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6, the writer applies the words of the psalm directly to Jesus, and those words provide him the warrant for the body-shadow image that structures this section.

The author uses the Psalm to indicate that Jesus’ sacrifice not only surpasses the former sacrifices, but it abolishes them.  In this way he prepares the way for the discussion later in Hebrews of the abrogation of the rituals of the Old Covenant in favor of participation in the New.

The affirmation of the Psalmist, that our Great High Priest has come to do God’s will, includes another important claim.  The previous chapter, with its play on what a “covenant” is, suggested that the members of a New Covenant were “heirs” to something.  One of the essential elements of that package of inheritance is the example of the “inaugurator and perfecter” (12:2).  It is his example, as a “new and living way” (10:20) that his followers “inherit.” The example is defined by the words of this Psalm, in which Jesus, in effect, answers the Father’s call to be a “priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (5:6; 6:20; 7:21).

Here our author for the first time uses the full formula for naming the Great High Priest “Jesus Christ.”  If “Jesus” in some fashion is the most appropriate way of referring to

His full humanity and “Christ” is the most appropriate way of referring to His exalted divine status, the two names together serve as a reminder that the earthly Jesus is also the Christ enthroned in the heavenly places, and conversely that the exalted heavenly being is who and what He is because of His very human act of obedience to God’s will. The heavenly ideal is incarnate.  The reminder that this happens once and for all (that the readers’ redemption is accomplished once and for all) echoes Hebrews 7:27 and 9:12.

Verses 11-18 serve as both the culmination and the summary of everything our author has said in this long exposition of Jeremiah 31, beginning with 8:1.  The New Covenant is superior to the old because it is accomplished once and for all, and was not renewed annually.  The New Covenant is ratified by the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God. The New Covenant is not written on tablets of stone but on the hearts of believers.  At the same time that the believers’ hearts are inscribed with righteousness, God’s memory is wiped clean of the believers’ former sins.  

There is also a foreshadowing here of a theme that will be more fully developed toward the end of Hebrews.  Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God, has yet one more triumph to accomplish: “Since (sitting at the right hand) He has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’”  Here Hebrews alludes again to Psalm 110, but points ahead to a consummation even beyond the consummation of the great Day of Atonement. (See 1 Corinthians 15.)

The author returns to the citation of Jeremiah, calling attention to two of its promises that have emerged as absolutely central to our homilist, the writing of God’s laws on the hearts of the people (verse 16), and the forgiveness of sins (verse 17).  It should be clear now how these two things are related.  The “sacrifice” of Christ, which combines actions resembling the Day of Atonement and the inauguration of the first covenant (Exodus 24), creates a new covenantal reality, promised by Jeremiah.  In that reality those who are marked by Christ’s blood/life have received the example of His obedience to God to guide their lives and have heard the assurance that God simply does not remember sin anymore.  The “sacrifice” is not one in which a ransom or a debt is paid, nor is it one in which one suffers for another.  The sacrifice simply marks the recipients of God’s gracious forgiveness.

The author of Hebrews has repeatedly pictured for us the insufficiency of the elements of the first Covenant.  This is all summarized in the first four verses of chapter 10, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the ver image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshippers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”  The law was a shadow of the good things to come.  The law was never the reality.  

The first Covenant with its sacrifices and activities

Was only pointing to something greater to come.

It could not make perfect those who draw near as evidenced by the Tabernacle construction where no one entered into the presence of God, except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement.  If the first Covenant and the Tabernacle did perfect people so that they could draw near to God, then the sacrifices would not have stopped, and this system would have continued.

The repetition of the sacrifices daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly only grounded into the hearts of the worshipers two things.

1) It Reminded The People Of Their Sins – Verses 2-3.

It is important to carefully read that the author does not say that God remembered the people’s sins every year.  Rather, the text says that worshipers have a reminder of sins of their consciences every year. The guilt of their sins come back into their minds and hearts with every sacrifice that was offered under that system.  It could never cleanse the guilty conscience.

2) It Revealed That They Would Never Permanently Take Away Sins – Verse 4.

Think about how often each day we would have needed to have a sacrifice made for the various sins we commit, in doing so we can quickly realize that we need a better system for our sins than the Old Covenant.  Our lives would be consumed with the daily sacrifices for our sins, the guilt would remain in our hearts, and the problem is not solved.

Before we read this next section, we realize that the author has made the point in chapter about how Jesus’ sacrifices is vastly superior to that of the animal sacrifices of the first Covenant.  He does not need to retrace that idea again until the conclusion.  He wants to see something more as we carefully read Hebrews 10:5-10, “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.’  Then I said, ‘Behold I have come – In the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.’  Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleaser in them’ (which are offered according to the law, the He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, I God.’  He takes away the first that May establish the second.  By that will we have been sacrificed through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

What the author does in verses 5-7 is amazing . . . 

1) We see that the author is quoting from Psalm 40:6-8.  We will look at the quote in just a moment.  But first observe who the author says is the speaker of those words.  In verse 5 we read, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said ….”  When we turn to Psalm 40, we notice that it is identified as a psalm of David.  There are many things in the psalm that show that those were David’s words, like in Psalm 40:12 where he says that his iniquities have overtaken him, and they are more than the hairs of his head.  Yet, the author of Hebrews also sees this psalm as a messianic psalm, predicting something about what Jesus would do.

The writer of Hebrews puts Psalm 40:6-8 in the mouth of Jesus, declaring that God does not desires these sacrifices and offerings.  God does not delight in sacrifice after sacrifice.  It is not what God wants.  What does God want?  

God wants a person to

Delight in doing His will.

2) Notice that this picture is applied to Jesus.  He is given a body and what does He do with it?  Jesus says, “I have come to do Your will, O God.”  The purpose of the Christ becoming human was so that He could do God’s will on earth in the body given to Him. But . . .

Understand what else God is teaching us.

The contrast is not that God does not desire

An animal sacrifice but needs a human sacrifice in Jesus.

The contrast is that God does not desire in an animal sacrifice

But desires the heart of the person who comes to do the will of God.

This is the message of Psalm 40 and that is the reason why it is quoted here in Hebrews 10.  

God does not take pleasure in the mere

Outward activities of worship and righteousness.  

God takes pleasure in the heart that

Is desiring to do His will

That leads to the activities

Of worship and righteousness.

We cannot and must not ever strip away from our actions the heart that God wants underneath those actions.  The Bible is filled with declarations that God wants your heart and mind to love, not for you to simply fill up a sheet of things you have done for God.  God is offended and expresses displeasure for the good actions done with the wrong heart (cf. Isaiah 1:11-13; 66:3-4; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 51:16-17; 1 Samuel 15:22).  God hates hypocrisy.  God will not be treated like a god who can be appeased through certain heartless activities.  So often that is what we do.  But that is not what Jesus did.  The Son of God was given a body and He comes to do the will of God.

Now what is God’s will that Jesus came to do?  Verse 9 tells us, “He takes away the first in order to establish the second.”  As we have noted, this section is about the superior Covenant we need so that we can come near to the Father.  What Jesus does is He takes away the first Covenant that keeps us separated from God, remaining at a distance, and established the second Covenant that is able to bring us close to the Father.  

This is the point in verse 10.  By God’s will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.  

The perfect life of Jesus and His subsequent sacrifice

Are both critically important for bringing us to God.  

Jesus could not just come and die.  

He needed to live a life in complete submission to God,

Which the writer exposed for us back in Hebrews 7:26-28.

The weight of this act is fully declared in Hebrews 10:12-14, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”  Jesus accomplishes God’s will, sits at the right hand of God, waiting for all His enemies to be subjected to Him.

We are not His enemies because by His single sacrifice He has perfected us for all time.  God’s laws were written on the heart of His Son (Psalm 40:8).  

He delighted to do God’s will

Which is the heart of

Submission that God desires.

Because of the Son’s submission to the Father, He has perfected those of us who are being made holy.  Did you catch what the writer said in verses 10 and 14?  We are made holy through Jesus’ sacrifice.  The holiness we need is pictured in our lives as the writer quotes Jeremiah 31 again, which we see in verses 15-17.  God promised to have a people who have His laws written on their hearts and minds.  Those are the people that God forgives of their sins and those are the people that God does not remember their sins any longer.  We have been made holy when we come into a relationship with Jesus.  We are made holy when we have the laws of the Lord written on your hearts and minds.  This means that God’s will controls our life.  We do not follow our desires but God’s desires.

Here is what God says to us: “I have made you clean.”  Now what should we do now that we have been made clean and forgiven?  To answer this question, I want us to think about what we do with our children.  There is one time when you do not want them to go play outside in the yard.  That time is when you have just gave them a shower and put nice, clean clothes on them.  You have made them clean and put them in their nice clothes that are not intended for rolling around in the dirt.  So, you tell them that cannot go play in the grass because they just took a shower and have been made clean.

God is telling each of us that He has made us clean through the offering of Jesus.  Now He does not want us to go back into the world of sin and roll around in it!  Do not look longingly at the filth that Jesus has cleansed us from?  Do not strain to run right back into the mess that the blood of Jesus washed us clean from!   How sad it is that God rescues us from the things in this world that destroy us, only for us to run headlong right back into those very things that will continue to destroy us!  Rather than hearts that love the Lord because He has made us clean, we have hearts of resentment, loving the world that we have been cleansed from.

This is our hope to not give up by going back into the world.  Jesus has made us holy. We are clean and stand acceptable in the sight of God.  We are not put ourselves back in the world.  We are to make a clean break from the world; we need to let God write His laws on your heart and enjoy a relationship of forgiveness and hope of eternal life.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”