JULY 18, 2004


Hebrews 11




I The Dynamic God  11:1-3

Faith is the absolute assurance of things hoped for - it is not a finger on a pulse, but a grasping with both hands.

Faith is affirming testimony of things not seen - the confirmatory cry in response, the conviction which draws on evidence, prompted by reality, stirred by actuality, like a fish, waving its tail and meeting water with it!

Here there are two aspects. Firstly, there is a fundamental reality so great that its appreciation brings strong assurance. Secondly, there is an evidential thrust so enormous that it brings a conviction from its very plainness. Things unseen are inescapable, inveterate, basic and original. They include all your purposes, motives and aspirations, all your heart's store of purpose and intention, but more importantly, those of the Creator of this universe, and the Maker of the heart and spirit of man. Spoken into a book, the book of the Lord, manifested in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, applied by prophets with just one message over the millenia, it stands under the power of the living God.

You see that the source of the visible is the invisible, the source of the programmed is the unprogrammed, the beginning and the end for man lies in the free origin of his sinful spirit - the Maker of liberty whose product, man, has twisted and torn it, until only a new making can redeem it. Of Him we read in Hebrews 1:1-3, who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person, when He had by Himself purged sin, sat down on the right hand of Majesty on High. Where He lived, He returned (cf. John 6:62, 5:19-23, 8:58).

II The Historical Chain of Links  11:4-31

That is the principle, the perspective and the reality. What is the testimony of so many for so long in this faith ? We read of Moses who for God put himself where the going was grievously difficult, and endured as seeing Him who is invisible; of Abraham who OBEYED when he was called to go to the place which he would receive as an inheritance, just as Christians are called to go from the ways of will and of this world, to the inheritance which is Christ's (Ephesians 1:11). We see Noah who when warned, went to the colossal expense of building an ark, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

These we read, all died in faith, and "truly if they had been mindful of that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return." Abraham even believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead if need be, when at first challenged about the lad; and does not his willingness teach us that unless we love God more than father or mother or son or daughter, we are simply not worthy of Him. Your FIRST concern is effectually your god, and if it is not God, then it is an idol.


III The Holiness Faith Requires  11:32-40

We read now of arrested heroes of faith, of those who "through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens  ... Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection ... destitute, afflicted tormented - of whom the world was not worthy."

THIS is the stuff of faith, this is the dynamic response to the dynamising glory of the Lord who takes His people and uses them, whether in deliverance or dynamic testimony, through strength or in weakness, on all sides and in all ways through courage and endurance, attesting what the world still despises as it tramps its final miles to the cliff face of judgment.

Faith is not a nice little feeling of security, or a nice pleasant assurance that you matter. You might as well say that athletics is looking after your body. That may be true in part, but it is for a PURPOSE, to RUN or act in strength in contest, to bring glory to the art. When it is with God you deal, it is neither comfort nor 'success', neither feelings of content nor displays of power which matter: it is obedience to the call of the Almighty, to the tasks Christ sets for you in His church, with the strength, joy and peace which FOLLOW. Thus Peter declared this: God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5).

Money is given to get a work done for a firm; power is from God for His purposes. Yet do not imagine it is mere employment; on the contrary, it is DEPLOYMENT, willing participation in the dynamic power and wisdom of God in order to achieve what He desires for you while the earth lasts just a little longer, before Christ returns. The world is on fire, and the Christian is a fireman, not to put out what sin stokes, but to rescue many, showing the situation to the ignorant, and bringing those who desire, out of the smoke into the light and its pure radiance.

Remember, without holiness no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Without faith, you cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Without love, you are nothing (I Cor. 13). Without the Lord, you can do nothing (to the point, of value) - John 15:5. How much DO you do without the Lord, without SUBJECTING your thought, plan and hope to Him ? Is HE the criterion ? Is YOUR will the criterion ? If the latter, this is not even related to Christianity at all. Unless you FORSAKE all you have, you CANNOT be (not merely are not) His disciple.

Consider the faith presented in Hebrews, and consider your actions: there should be parallel lines. Let us then with all boldness, fearlessly be spiritual athletes, never imagining that mere form counts for anything but condemnation as in Isaiah 1! The sort of pseudo-soppish-christianity (small 'c' on purpose since it is anomalous error) which makes it relevant for some article (The Advertiser, July 12) to refer to "the thirsts for the sacred may be turning people away from traditional Christian churches to religions that demand greater sacrifice and a more zealous demonstration of faith", is simply an unbiblical hash. It does however show that the long-known and increasingly violent departure from the Bible which many ONCE traditional churches (that is, once they were churches of a Christian kind) held to, but now seem increasingly to honour in the breach rather than in the observance, fails to fill the place God made for Himself in man's heart. Of course it does, since it is fraudulent.

The imperfections of the flesh are not the point here, for none is perfect, but the perfections of Christ are very much to the point, since when HE lives in you (Colossians 1:27), the transformation is radical (Romans 8:10-14) and dying daily is if not a routine, at least a rule. It never dies in its liveliness. Hence the failure of many formerly sound bodies, for 60 years or so in free fall from the Bible, has contributed to the growth of heresies of other sorts, violations of truth, of spirituality, mockeries of godliness, many money-grasping, power-seeking, satisfaction maximising as AIMS, major or partial (as in 'success Christianity' a strange version of taking up your cross daily), of foolish religions based on false prophets. This much is so, predicted, and predictable of the present falling away of which Paul spoke as a coming phase to precede the end of the Age and the return of Jesus Christ, in II Thessalonians 2.

But let us return to the Christianity of Christ.

Faith moves mountains ? It is GOD who moves them in answer to faith. Faith does what it pleases ? How could it, since it first seeks to please God. He is alive, His promises are clear: concerning all your affairs, ASK Him! Do not grieve the Spirit or do a Jonah, but walk in the Spirit and avoid the works of will. SEEK Him and His way, and do not merely hope you are on it. God is alive, and those who live in Him know it. Those who wait on Him, find it.

Life is not a mere theory, but a participatory reality. Being born is not an idea, but a reality; being born again is the same; being alive is not a surmise but a vital and enduring operation. Lifeless pretences do not make Christians; but Christians do still make the testimony of Jesus, and they are still being slaughtered, imprisoned, tortured, repressed, prejudicially suppressed, as  many as follow Him and abide in His word. The record continues, and the mass of unbelief, whether in former churches, in fads of philosophy or their outreaches in false prophets, this merely aggregates till the time comes, as Christ put it, to take the weeds and burn them in fire unquenchable. Gardening is like that. However, why be a weed ? Its whole life is an intrusion where it does not belong.