faith

Running the Race

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nThe New Testament book of Hebrews was written to remind us that salvation comes by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, and that no works on our part are involved in securing our salvation. Hebrews makes the case that our salvation was secured completely by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In making this point, Hebrews points to the lives of the Old Testament heroes, like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Hebrews 11 chronicles how their lives were all driven by faith. By faith, Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. By faith, Noah moved with fear and prepared an ark to the saving of his house. By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac, accounting that God was able to raise him up again. By faith.

Whenever you see that phrase, “by faith,” it means that the one who performed the action did so because they trusted God completely. Their trust in God, their faith, motivated their action.

Faith is what gives you access to God’s salvation. It is what moves you from God’s wrath into His Kingdom. Faith is what saves. Actions, or “works” are merely an expression of that faith.

It is on that note that Hebrews 12 begins:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1 says we are compassed about (surrounded) by a cloud of witnesses. We are surrounded by the legacies of the Old Testament heroes listed in Hebrews 11. These were men and women who lived their entire lives by their faith in God… from Abel all the way down to Rahab, and then on to King David and the prophet Isaiah.

Because of their faith in God, they believed the impossible, stood against insurmountable odds and foes, and did great things, whereby we remember them today. Some of these heroes won earthly victories, some had to wait to enter eternity to receive their reward, but the end of Hebrews 11 is clear, one day those of us who know the Lord as our savior will be resurrected and glorified with those Old Testament heroes. We will all reap the reward of our faith.

So, with that in mind, Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to live up to our Christian heritage by living by faith. This involves laying aside every weight (things that come between us and God) and the sin that so easily besets us, and running with patience (endurance) the faith that is set before us.

Throughout the course of this week, we will explore what it means to run the race before us, and to live by faith. May God bless you this week.

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Who? Me? Dealing with doubt on “The Point.”

 

When we pray to God to work out situations in life, often we wish that He would just wave a magic wand and fix things for us. Sometimes He does. Other times, He calls us to be part of the solution. That’s when things get daunting, just as they were for Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Faith Accomplishes…

Faith is not something you possess, neither is it something you express. Faith is a deep-rooted trust or belief that drives you to action. Period.

Hebrews 11 explains faith by demonstrating how it propelled the Old Testament heroes, like Moses, to do great things.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:23-26

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

The life of Moses was driven by faith. It was driven by the faith of his mother, his own faith, and God rewarded that faith.

Exodus 2 shows us this faith in that it recorded how Moses’ mother was moved by faith to save his life, thus directly disobeying an evil law given by an unGodly king. Moses was moved by faith to identify with His people instead of enjoying the life of luxury in the King’s palace. And God rewarded that faith by using Moses to bring the Israelites out of slavery.

Hebrews 11:23 says, By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.”

Now obviously, Moses’ birth was not a demonstration of his faith. No, the faith that was demonstrated in Moses’ birth was on the part of his parents. They, by faith, rejected the king’s commandment to kill all the male babies born, and hid him as long as they could. Then, they expressed faith in placing him in a box in the reeds by the Nile, where he would be discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. Pharaoh’s daughter then hired Moses’ biological mother to nurse him, which gave her an additional five years with her son.

As Moses’ mother nursed him and raised him, it is very likely she taught him about the Lord and the promise that the Hebrews would be delivered by God out of Egypt. This must have happened, because when he was grown, he went down to check on the Hebrews. The only reason he would have done this would have been that his heart was with them. The only reason his heart would have been with them is that his mother and father would have taught them about the Lord.

As Moses went down to see the plight of the Hebrews, he observed an Egyptian assaulting a Hebrew man. Moses defended the Hebrew and killed the Egyptian. Hebrews 11:24-26 tell us when this happened, Moses made a big decision:

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Moses faith drove him to identify with the Hebrews, take up their cause, to turn his back on Pharaoh’s house, and ultimately to flee Egypt. He did this because he valued the things of God more than the things of man.

The rest of the story is captured in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

What we learn from Exodus 2 is simple. Our faith will be reflected in our actions. If we have faith, we will follow God’s word above man’s, we will value the things of God above the things of this world, and when push comes to shove, we will side with God.

Choosing God vs. the world is a daily choice. Every day, we choose whether we will follow God and represent Him, or whether we will pursue the pleasures of the flesh. Highlight that choice in your mind, then decide accordingly.

Wrestling with God

The last time Jacob saw Esau, Esau vowed to kill him. Now, Jacob is returning home, and he receives word that Esau was coming out to meet him with 400 men. Would God make good on His promise to bring Jacob safely home? Or would Jacob and his family be slaughtered by Esau?

As he struggled through the scenarios, Jacob wound up wrestling with God.

This can happen to us if we don’t trust the Lord, and if we focus on our problems instead of our blessings.

God loves you when no one else does

The Bible does not only record God’s law and promises, it gives us real-world examples of things that happened to people, some of which was very messed up. Mankind is sinful, and therefore we can make life into a total disaster, either for ourselves, or someone else.

Leah was a good woman, but she wasn’t the most attractive woman of her day, and the guys were not interested in her. Her father, Laban, feared that he would not be able to find her a husband, so he tricked Jacob into marrying her.

Jacob, for the record, was in love with Leah’s younger and more beautiful sister, Rachel.

So, her father basically pawned her off, her husband is in love with another woman (whom he eventually marries and makes her share the house with), and she is completely isolated, rejected and alone. I mean, this is one of the most devastating things a woman can go through.

The Bible tells us this story, not to legitimize it, but rather to show how God works through the disasters that man makes in life.

No one loved Leah but God, and God loved Leah in a way that no man could. He shows His compassion on her by giving her children, and He transforms her life from one of affliction and loneliness, to one of blessing and praise. By the time God finishes with her, she doesn’t need Jacob’s love, praise or affirmation. She has God’s, and that’s all she needs.

The same principles hold true for us. God loves us, even when no one else does. If we let Him, He will transform our lives from that of anger, depression and hopelessness to a life of praise and blessing in the midst of the storms. Will you trust God to do so?

The Life of Abraham

Abraham’s life was summed up in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.”

Many people regard Abraham as a righteous man, however, it was his faith that berthed his righteousness. God saw Abraham’s faith, and therefore regarded him as righteous.

Abraham’s faith guided his actions. It was his faith that motivated him to obey God, and to believe His promises.

So, to learn what we can from the life of Abraham, we first have to have a proper understanding of faith. Faith simply means a deep-rooted trust. You not only believe in God, but you believe God! You take Him at His word, and thus you obey Him.

That faith, that belief is what saves you. It’s what gives you hope for the return of Christ. It’s what you express when you give to God. And that’s what Abraham’s faith was all about. We explore those issues in this episode of The Point podcast.

The Tower of Babel

The world’s first tyrant to build an empire was Nimrod, an ambitious, valiant, yet rebellious warrior who built a kingdom by providing for his people in successful hunts, putting down opposition on the battle field, and by building influence around his Type-A personality. First in war, first in peace, first at the dinner table.

Nimrod’s downfall, however, came in his rebellion against God. He built a kingdom in modern day Iraq, and the people decided to build a tower to reach into Heavens. Essentially, they were trying to invade Heaven.

God’s response shows His patience and grace, while also showing that He will not tolerate sin and rebellion.

I’m fine! No, really, I am. Okay, I’m not.

How are you doing?

No really, How are you doing?

Nearly 100 percent of the time, when asked the first question, we say, “Fine.” Or, some of our more spiritually inclined brethren say, “I’m blessed.”

All too often, when we give those answers, we are not being truthful.

You see, we have been conditioned to think that any sign of distress, any sign of worry or stress is an indication that our faith is faltering. Somehow, by expressing heartbreak over the loss of a loved one, concern over a wayward child, fear over a pending financial disaster, uncertainty over the loss of a job, or anger over being mistreated, we are expressing a character flaw. We’ve “taken our eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves crashing all around us.” We’ve become Peter trying to walk on the water, but sinking because his faith failed.

Indeed, we don’t want to lose faith in the Lord, and we don’t want to be focused on our problems. However, in the real world, we do have problems. And those problems still exist when we enter the church doors. Therefore, there is no need for the church to become a fantasy world where problems don’t exist. They do. Therefore, one of the ministries of the church should be to help people through their problems.

This is not just a humanitarian position. It’s actually in scripture.

Galatians 6:2 says to “bear one another’s burdens.” While the greater context of that verse deals with restoring a brother who sins, it should be noted that sin is part of the lives of those who live in the real world. We all struggle. We all fail. We should be able to turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ for love, encouragement, and restoration as we repent from that sin.

The Bible also tells those who are afflicted to pray (James 5:13) and to confess our faults one to another (James 5:16). In fact, the church experience was designed so we could gain encouragement from each other while we walk this Christian life together. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, but should exhort one another. That means to encourage each other to stay strong in the faith and to do great things for the Lord.

We cannot be encouraged if we are unwilling to address the things that burden our hearts. We cannot be encouraged if we are not willing to face our problems, and seek help. We cannot help each other with our struggles if we pretend they don’t exist.

The Lord knows we have problems. He knew beforehand that we would. Hence, He gave us the church to help us through those problems. The problem is, the church doesn’t do this because we fear being judged if we admit we have problems.

The Lord understands problems. He had a few of his own. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Do you know what that means? It means that the Lord was tempted… not only to sin by Satan after Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness, but also by the same struggles in life that we face: Not enough money, shortage of food, fatigue, being rejected and betrayed by others, being homesick and missing family, physical pain, emotional pain, bereavement, etc.

Yet, the Lord experienced all of this without sin. Therefore, He was uniquely qualified to pay for our sins on the cross, rise again to conquer the grave, open the gates of Heaven and plead our cases before God every single day.

Furthermore, these verses tell us He is sympathetic to our cause, because He has been through the same struggles we have.

Therefore, you are more than welcome to approach the Lord in prayer regarding the struggles you face. You should also be able to lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ for comfort and encouragement. If that’s not possible, maybe you need to find some other brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Lord understands our struggles, because He’s been here. We should understand each others’ struggles as well, because we’re still here. Love, help and encourage each other. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of God.

The Rise of Civilizations

Two brothers, two sacrifices. One pleased God, the other didn’t.

Cain was wroth, angry that God did not honor his sacrifice of the fruits and grains that he had harvested. No doubt, Cain had labored hard for the harvest, and for God to reject his offering was equivalent to God rejecting Cain himself. This sent Cain into a self-destructive and homicidal rage cycle that led to him murdering Abel, his brother.

Abel sacrificed some of the firstlings of his flock. God respected that.

What was the difference between the two sacrifices? Faith (Hebrews 11:4). Obviously, both Cain and Abel believed God existed, but Abel looked to, and trusted God, whereas Cain just lived knowing He existed. The faith in Abel’s heart pleased God, so He was pleased with the sacrifice. Cain’s lack of faith, and minimal tolerance of God displeased Him, so He disregarded Cain’s sacrifice.

So, in a jealous rage one day, Cain kills Abel, and God drives him out, where he fathers an unGodly society that advances in sexual perversion (Gen. 4:19), agriculture (Gen. 4:20), culture and entertainment (Gen. 4:21) and technology, architecture and weaponry (Gen. 4:22).

Seth is born, and eventually fathers a culture that calls upon the name of God… and so we have the rise of the civilizations. One Godly, one unGodly. We’ll see how this turns out in the next few chapters, but for now, check out the impact that this has on us today by listening to this podcast.