Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P20 (06-02-20)
When you think of all those saints, those heroes of the faith that have gone on before us, we are to imitate their faith. What attitude of heart did they have? We read about many of them in the scriptures, and a sampling of them in Hebrews 11. Consider the faith of Abraham. The apostle Paul mentions the faith of Abraham when writing a letter to the Romans. God credited His faith as righteousness. Now, also consider Paul’s former way of life, when he was referred to as Saul of Tarsus. Paul described himself as the worst of all sinners. He had given approval to the death of Stephen. He went about trying to destroy the faith that he now proclaims. Did God ever give up on him? No. Has God ever given up on the Jews, these thousands of years? No. He has promised that all Israel will be saved. He will get their attention in the last days, and there will be a remnant who will accept Christ by faith. Even now there are Jews, and people all over the world, coming to Christ by faith.
How does God get our attention? In many ways, through creation, looking at His grace in the simple things of life and wondering who is this being who created all these things we enjoy. But also through our heartaches and pains, in the trials and tribulations of life. Are you thinking about how you have made such a horrible mess of your life? Maybe you were trapped in drug addiction and destroyed your family, leaving them homeless and now you are at the very bottom of your life. God has not given up on you, wherever you are. His patience is unlimited.
So what is the real problem of all men? You feel empty inside because there is something missing. What is missing is the life of God living in you. Nobody is born alive spiritually. Indeed, that is why God sent Jesus into this world, to take away all your sins, the ones you did yesterday, today and the ones you will do tomorrow. But He did more than that. He did this so that what caused your death, which is sin, is taken out of the way so He can give you new life, His resurrected life. You see, the struggles you have deep in your heart, the pain and anguish of heart you bear, Christ bore it all, all the sin that caused that, so He can give you lasting peace, and the power to live in a new and different way. He will give you a new heart, and He will live in you to live and act according to His good purpose. So then, come to Christ for life. That is the Spirit of God drawing you so you might have eternal life, to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, when many people think of faith, people often think that once you are a child of God, you will have no more problems. No, that is not true. We just learn to overcome our problems. We learn to have peace that surpasses understanding. We learn to do the will of God no matter what trials and troubles might come our way. We have this anchor, this life of God, who has overcome the world. So we overcome the world by our faith, faith in the Spirit of God living in us. We hold onto these promises of God, that He has given me everything I need for life and godliness, that He lives in me to will and to act according to His good purpose, and that He will complete the work He began in me. These are examples of the many great and precious promises I can trust Him for, who is always faithful even when I am not.
That is why you read about men of faith, both those who escaped the sword and those who died by the sword for their faith, those who conquered kingdoms and those who went about poor and destitute. What was their faith that God commended both of them for? They trusted God with their life and trusted God that he is able to do what He has promised and to cause all things to happen for the good for those who love Him and are called to His purpose. If God told them their enemies will be destroyed before them, then they went into battle, trusting God to defeat their enemies, and their enemies were defeated just as God said. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Stephen spoke the truth of the gospel before men, and was stoned to death. As he did so, who was there among them when Stephen said, “Do not hold this sin against them” but Saul of Tarsus, who later became converted, and whom we now know by the name of the apostle Paul. Was God able to cause all things to happen for the good? Who else came to understand the gospel of God’s grace through the apostle Paul? They trusted in what God had said, and the world was not worthy of them.
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
We read about King David hiding in caves, fleeing from king Saul. All the disciples of Christ were martyred, and Paul was nearly stoned to death three times. Stephen was stoned to death while Saul, before his conversion, had given approval to his death. Saul later came to Christ and became known as the apostle Paul.
Now, folks, that does not sound like a bunch of fun to me. I do not know about you, but that does not sound like to me as to what is being taught in Christian circles today. What is wrong with those people? Why did they not just have enough faith to get in the face of those people who were having jeers toward them, and flogging them, that that old whip would fall right out of their hands? Do they not have enough faith that if they are in chains that those chains would fall off and the prisons would blow up? What is wrong with those people? Did they have enough faith? How come they would not have enough faith to just let the jailers die? Just let the jails just blow up? What is wrong with their faith that they had to go through these things?
Some were stoned to death and others sawed in two. Man, what was wrong with their faith? What was wrong with Jesus’ faith when he was being tortured? Did he not have enough faith to stop those guys?
Read the account in John 17 and John 18, and also in Matthew 26, in the garden of Gethsemane, of his decision to carry out God’s will, then shortly thereafter, of his betrayal, and of a detachment of soldiers, of Peter drawing up a sword cutting off a man’s ear. What was Jesus response?
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
Yet, what does man think, “After all, are we not supposed to be the initiator and God the responder?” If that were true, then why not cause those stones to be turned into powder puffs? What is wrong with them? They were put to death by the sword. Why did you not have enough faith to not let that sword touch you? They went along in sheep skins, goat skins, destitute, and persecuted. What is wrong with their faith? Could they not have enough faith in God to get rid of people like that? The world was not worthy of them. Yet men think, “We ought to have a parade so people can see how worthy we are?” Folks, do you see how ridiculous all this is?
You say what is wrong with these people? On the first half, I love this thing of escaping the sword. In the top half of these verses, they escaped the sword. In the bottom half, they were put to death by the sword. In some cases, they were weak and in other places they were strong. The same group of people, all of them, commended for their faith. How are you going to pull this together, folks? How are you going to pull all of this together, that all you have to do is have enough faith and you can get God to do anything you want to? And if you have enough faith, you will be wealthy, or if you have enough faith, you will never be injured, or never be hurt, and gain popularity. How do you pull that together by the book of Hebrews in their lineup of people of faith, in the academy rewards of faith? And when you see stuff like this and read things like that.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised
Verse 39 tells us that these were all commended for their faith. How in the world are they going to be commended by God for their faith when they did not have enough faith to quit being stoned, to quit getting sawed in two, to not be put to death by the sword? They did not even have enough faith to have nice clothes. They had sheep skins and goat skins. They did not have enough faith to be prosperous. They were destitute. How do you tie these things into a prosperity gospel? These people were commended, not by man, but commended by God for their faith when they lived destitute. How does that tie in to the “name it and claim it” teaching we hear today? How does that tie into that your godliness is a means to financial gain? I will tell you how it ties in. Timothy already addressed it.
1 Timothy 6:3-5
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
Anyone that teaches godliness is a means to financial gain is a man of corrupt mind. That is how you bring it together. It is not in the scripture. It is not there. People come up and say, “Paul is wealthy” or “Oh, Jesus is wealthy”. They made that up because when I read the scripture, Paul said he had often gone without food, like a man in the back of the procession. Jesus said he had no place to lay his head. Yet, these false teachers say everybody is wealthy. That is strange that Paul asked for his parchment and his cloak. It does not sound like to me he was a wealthy guy. Yet, that is what people teach.
In Hebrews, people commended for their faith lived destitute. That is they were poor. That is poverty stricken. That is living in goat skins. That was not the mink of the day. Sheep skin and goat skin is not a Cashmere sweater. What do you say about that? That there faith is bad? No. Did they not have enough faith? No. God did not say that. Verse 29 says God commended them for their faith. Read the scriptures, folks.
If we are going to walk by truth, we need to stop listening to all this television stuff. We have to get into the word of God, and ask what does the word of God have to say about this. The most miserable people are those sitting there in this false teaching, and sitting in frustration, because it is not true in their own lives. They think something is wrong with him. But God said all of these people were commended for their faith. Who was commended for their faith? People who were flogged, faced jeers, put in prison, stoned, sawed in two, walked about destitute, poor, with sheep skin and goat skin for clothes, persecuted and mistreated, those men were commended by God for their faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
How did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego function in the fiery furnace they were in? I think the same way as Abraham functioned, even though he was in his old age and Sarah herself was barren, he was able to become a father. It says in those verses that he considered Him faithful who made the promise. Do we consider Jesus faithful, the one who made the promise for me, that as a child of God, I have already given you everything you need for life and godliness? Am I going to sit there and say that I am going to add to that, or am I going to know something about Jesus that he is the one who made that promise, and he is faithful. I consider Him faithful who made the promise to me. He is going to be faithful even though I may not be. So my faith is in Him and His faithfulness, not mine. So when we see this lineup, we see that they were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. In other words, that finality of that forgiveness in Christ had not come yet. They have not entered into that yet.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
My friends, at the cross of Jesus Christ, is where he took away not only the sins forward to eternity but all the sins backward to Adam himself. So as Christ completed His work at the cross, we who come to Him by faith are made perfect and they who had come to the promise of Jesus by faith were also made perfect.
1 Corinthians 15:22
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
But until Christ, no one was perfect or complete. He completed everything at the cross. Their faith was in Jesus and their faith was in the promised Messiah. Their faith was in what God had told them. Even though stoned by man and sawed in two by man, God commended them for their faith. That is a far cry from what we hear what faith is today in much of our modern day teaching.
1 Timothy 1:15-17
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Now folks, Paul says here that there is something that deserves full acceptance. God is patient. That is what he is dealing with. Paul is saying, “I am an example of His unlimited patience to those who can come to Him by faith”. In other words, there is nothing that you have done or are doing that is too great to keep Him from saving you, if you turn to Him by faith. “Well, I have been rejecting him for 10 years”. He has been patient. You can go all through your life and put that in the light of how patient He has been patient with the Jews, and you have a lot of years to go.
But that is an example to us. We need to use those stories as to what they are. They are examples to me as to the patience of God and His patience with me as a child of God. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I bet God is finished with me this time. I did it again. Oh, Lord, please forgive me.‒ God says, “What for?” “What I just did.” “I already put that away what you did.” “Well, no it is the same thing I did yesterday.” “Did what yesterday? That is behind my back never to see it again.” Here we are trying to dig up God’s memory so He will remember what we are remembering. And He is saying to us, “I put that behind my back over 2000 years ago and My patience to you is unlimited.“
20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
Paul says he is the worst of sinners. He was the witness at Stephen’s death. He held his coat and gave approval to the death of Stephen. That is probably the least of what we know about Paul. He said he was the worst of them, yet he says God’s patience never gave up on me and led me to eternal life in His Son.
Now folks, if that is not encouraging, I do not know what that is. Some of you could be thinking you have gone too far. There is no such a thing as too far for Jesus. No such thing. If you have been living a life that you know is a life of destruction. Some of you listening today may be on drugs or alcohol, and some of you that only God knows what you have been in. You are thinking God would never accept me. Oh, yes He would. He not only would, He already did. He loved you so much that over 2000 years ago, He took away all of them, not just the ones you did yesterday or today, but any sin you will ever commit. But your problem is you are born dead.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of sin is death and the only solution to death is life. What you are doing is trying to function in a living world as a dead person. You have a dead spirit living in a spiritual world. So the only thing that you need is life and that life can only come to you through the person of Christ Jesus. This is not some kind of a narrow-minded religion, as some people think. I get letters from people. One guy wrote, “What is wrong with these others?” Others cannot bring life to you. Buddha is in his grave, folks. There is no way he can give you eternal life. He does not even have his own. How can Mohammad give you life? How can your church give you spiritual life? How anybody give you spiritual life? The only one who can give you spiritual life is the only one who was raised from the dead in order to give you resurrected life. You need resurrected life. Who do you know that has been resurrected who can take that resurrected life and give it to you?
It is not the case of being narrow-minded or being dogmatic. It is the case of being practical. There is only one life available to you. It is not narrow. God just did not provide a whole bunch of lives. He just gave His one and only Son. “What is wrong with Him? Why would you give me another one?” He would say, “What is wrong with the one I gave you? If you will not accept the one I gave you, why do you think you would accept another one if I gave you another one? If I gave you two, you would be looking for three. If I gave you three, you would be looking for four.” God says, “I know you and I know you from inside out”. Just like Jesus said to the Pharisees.
45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
So we get down and say that it is narrow. No, it is not narrow. God knows you. If He gave you two, you would want three. If He gave you three, you would want four.
He gave His only begotten Son for you and me and He gave that Son for the entire world. There is only one way to receive life and that is through the living one. This is not dogmatic or narrow-minded. It is the only one available. We have got understand that truth. We are to enter into that relationship by faith. It is never too late. Anyone listening out there who thinks it is too late, it is never too late. If you have been struggling, it is never too late. “But, I ran away from God”. He knows that. It is never too late. “But you do not know the wild life I lived”. I know I don’t and I don’t need to. It is never too late.
Do not let that voice tell you that you have gone over the mark. As long as you are alive, you are able to accept Jesus. You are not able to become religious. God does not want you to become religious. He wants you to have relationship with your creator. He wants you to see your condition of spiritual death. “There is something wrong with me. I bounce prayers off the ceiling, and I am rebellious against God and I do not even know who God is. I do not even know who I am rebelling against. I am just a rebel. I guess God is just as good a name as any”. But how can you rebel against someone you do not even know? So we need to face the facts and look at truth. You need to look at yourself and say “there is something missing inside of me. There is an emptiness inside of me that I do not know where it is coming from.”
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Until you understand that the reason you feel empty is because you are empty. What you are empty of is the life of God living in you. That is true whether you are sitting in a bar or sitting in a church. A church will not fill that void. There is nothing wrong with church. It just cannot give you life. There is nothing wrong with a law but it cannot give you life.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
There is nothing wrong with a lot of things that we do but it will give you life. Some people think going in and taking communion gives you life. That bread does not give you spiritual life. That is a piece of physical bread. Something physical cannot produce spiritual.
6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
We have to understand those truths. I do not care what you have been taught. The scriptures do not verify that. They do not validate that truth. The only thing the bible validates is the fact that Jesus Christ is the only living person who was raised from the dead so that you could be raised from the dead. That is why there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby you must be saved.
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is not because God is dogmatic. He did not see any purpose in sending two, three or four sons. He sent His one and only begotten Son. If you do not accept Him, you would not accept if He sent twenty of them. So, today, you can recognize ii is not too late, to look at God’s patience and love for you. Today, make a decision, “Lord Jesus, I am tired. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am ready to give my life to you so you an give your life to me. Thank Him for His forgiveness and invite Him to come into your heart this day as your Lord and Savior”. It is never too late, folks. You cannot outlive the patience of God.
We have talked about the fact it is never too late. You come to Christ and you allow Christ to live His life in and through you and you walk by faith. You have no idea where He is going to take you. But you know one thing and that is that He is the one who is taking you. I do not know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I do know the God of tomorrow. In my own life, there is only one thing I know about tomorrow. When I try to think about what is going to happen tomorrow, I am fantasizing. The problem with that is my dumb emotions do not know whether it is happening or whether fantasizing it is going to happen. So I am just making myself miserable today just thinking about what happens tomorrow.
But one thing I do know is that my Jesus, who is in my today, is in my tomorrow, and already there. That allows me to know something. So whatever is in my tomorrow, my Jesus is sufficient to handle what is in my tomorrow. So if I can trust Him for tomorrow, I can trust Him for today.
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Let us go to the next passage of scripture in 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
So the apostle Paul is stating at the end of his life, after serving Christ, in an unbelievable fashion. There is no man on the face of this earth we can look to apart from the apostle Paul. Apart from seeing Christ Jesus, when I depart to be with the Lord, I am going to be looking for Paul. I want to give him a big hug, for the tenacity God allowed to give you that enabled me to understand the grace of God as I understand the grace of God today.
Paul knew that his days were numbered. Paul is not boasting but just saying that he knows something, a promise that God gave Him. There is a crown of righteousness not only for Paul but also for us, if we finish the race, and keep walking in a trusting relationship with Christ. There will be a reward waiting for you. I look forward to that day for what God will reward me on that day. I cannot think of a greater reward than for Jesus to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
It is like God speaks to me during my life, “Bob, you fell on your face so many times. It is no wonder you do not look like a pug dog. But each time you got back up trusting Him to keep you on the path of trusting Him.” This life is not about being rich and wealthy or coming to Jesus to have all your problems go away. It is continuing to trust Christ in the midst of your problems.
1 Peter 2:20-25
But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[Isaiah 53:9]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” sup>25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[Isaiah 53:4-6] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Recall the example of the faith of Jesus, who endured the cross, scorning its shame. Why? To save us.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In this world you will have trials and tribulations. You are going to be insulted, injured, rejected, and unfortunately you are going to do the same to others. But in the midst of that you have an option, retaliate or trust the Lord. I do not know about you, I have tried both. Retaliation does not work. Trusting the Lord always does.
Recall that Jesus said that if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
1 John 5:3-5
3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This cloud of witness is that lineup of people we read about in Hebrews 11. That sin is that sin of unbelief in Jesus. Throw that off. We have the tendency to take our eyes off Jesus and rely on our provision. Let us not allow anything to interfere with faith in Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Abraham and Paul, and other people mentioned in the book of Hebrews, are considered great heroes of faith. Scripture says each of these people accomplished great things through their faith. But when we examine their lives, their stories is not about what they accomplished, but what God accomplished through them. Their faith was merely a deep conviction held in the heart of God that He was able to do exactly what He promised. God records the lives of these people to serve as an example of what it means to live by faith. We are not to try to be like them in imitating their actions but to imitate their attitude. Their lives encourage us to walk by faith in the midst of whatever circumstances that we may be facing in life. Like these people, we are to have a deep conviction that regardless of what this life brings, God is able to do exactly what He promised us. The same God who worked through these people is alive and working in the hearts of his people today. Keep your eyes on Him and live with utter certainty that He will complete the work He began in you.
Consider the faith of Abraham, that we may imitate his faith.
20 Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
When you face trials of all kinds, what attitude of heart should we have? Consider the word of encouragement from James, who was one of those heroes of the faith who was martyred.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Consider the example of the apostle Paul, formerly referred to himself as the worst of all sinners.
1 Corinthians 15:10
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Then consider his word of encouragement to us.
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
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