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The Voice of Faith

Hebrews 11v6

I’ve written on the subject of faith in several previous blog posts, and faith cannot be underestimated in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ. The most well known chapter in the Bible on the subject of faith (in fact, it is actually about faith in action) is Hebrews 11, which starts out with these three verses:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Starting right out of the gate, if a person does not believe “that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible,” his faith is Jesus Christ is suspect, for God has clearly stated that it is so.

The remaining verses in Hebrews 11 (which contains a total of 40 verses), describe “faith in action” in the lives of many famous and obscure folks in the Old Testament, starting with Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham through to Rahab, the prostitute, and ending with innumerable unnamed folks in the final verses 32-40:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 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— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

That promise came true in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was and is the something better” that was planned “for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” And the fact that Jesus Christ has always existed with God even before he came to earth in human form is clearly stated in John 1:1-14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

One must believe all of the above if one is a true believer in Jesus Christ. It is the foundation on which a Christian places their faith. They must also believe what Jesus stated to a Pharisee named Nicodemus during their conversation in John 3:1-21:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

It is paramount that we understand and believe this if we claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ. Without this, any faith that we claim we have is faith in something or someone else.

While the people in the Old Testament did not experience Jesus Christ in the flesh, Jesus has always existed throughout the Old Testament (see article titled, Jesus in the Old Testament at this link), and that is why we find this statement at the end of Hebrews 11 in verses 39 and 40:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

The “us,” of course, is us (and always has been down through the ages since the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), and includes all true believers in Jesus Christ. And immediately following those two verses that end Hebrews 11 are the three verses that begin Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [the Old Testament folks we just read about in Hebrews 11], 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, 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

hebrews 12v1Notice in those verses what we are to do. We are to . . . .

  • Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us
  • Run with perseverance the race marked out for us
  • Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith
  • Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.

And what does it states about Jesus? It states:

  • Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of faith
  • For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it’s shame
  • And he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Christian life is not a cake walk, but a battleground, and the joy that was set before Jesus was not found on this earth but in Heaven. And he had to endure the cross and it’s shame to get there and pave the way for us to go there, too, through his sacrifice on the cross for us. For those of us who believe, he, indeed, “bore our sins” as stated in 1 Peter 2:24:

“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.”

However, he did not take away the opposition we will experience as his followers. In fact, Jesus clearly stated that we are to “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).” Got Questions.org gives a clear answer as to what that statement means to us as followers of Jesus (quote source here):

Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.

Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, Take up your cross and follow Me means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.

Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.

In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.

Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?

Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26). (Quote source here.)

Therefore, we should expect opposition in this life, and expect it right up until we take our last breath. The joy that Jesus stated that was set before him in Hebrews 12:1-3 was found in Heaven, not here on earth. This life we are living is preparation for the next life. And that’s not often a message we hear today, but it is the reality of what Jesus had to say to those of us who truly follow him.

Faith isn’t found in the things of this world–money, materialism, success, careers, people, appearances, reputations, etc. Those things are all a part of life, but our faith should not be placed in any of  them. It can all too easily vanish and if we have placed our faith in anything but Jesus, we will be crushed under the weight of the loss when it happens. We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus (not money, materialism, success, careers, people, appearances, reputations, etc.) who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (the NKJV states “author and finisher of our faith”).

Tucked away in Hebrews 11 is a verse often quoted by Christians (stated in the picture at the beginning of this post) that states (Hebrews 11:6):
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
It’s probably a sign of the times we live in here in America that often we think of God’s rewards as being given in the “here and now”–a better job, higher salary, financial prosperity, and any number of “things” we want, but that is not the reward that is spoken of in Hebrews 11:6. That God often and does bless us in this life with good things (and not just materially) is clearly stated throughout the Bible (click here for examples). However, rewards in the context of verse 6 can be understood by looking at the previous verse connected to it (verse 5). Here are those two verses (Hebrews 11:5-6):

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The rewards come when our race is done here on this earth. . . .

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 “. . . looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God.”
~Hebrews 12:2 NKJV

So where do we place our faith?

In who we are, what we do, what we have, or who we know?

Or in Jesus . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Faith: The Evidence of Things Not Seen

Faith . . . that word gets tossed around all over the place today. We say we have faith in this or faith in that, or that we have faith in God, but do we really know what we are talking about when it comes to faith?

Dictionary.com defines faith as follows:

1. Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. Belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. Belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. Belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. A system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. The obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. The observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath,allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles. (Quote source here.)
The biblical definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11. The first six verses state:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 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.

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. 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. But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Click here to read the rest of the chapter.)

Until the rubber meets the road,” it’s easy to say we have faith in something or someone, like God, but it’s in the midst of the really tough times that come to all of us at some point that we really find out where we have placed our faith and in what or whom we really believe in. And it usually boils down to either believing in ourselves and our own resources, or believing in someone else (as in God).

It’s easy to say we believe in God when everything in going along fine and nothing out of the ordinary is happening in our lives. However, it’s not nearly as easy when the bottom suddenly falls out and we lose our bearings and possibly a whole lot more. It is at that point that we either scramble to find our own way out of our situation–usually through our own connections and our own resources if we have them or have access to them–or we start learning that we have far less control then we ever imagined, and we either start learning to trust in a God we’ve always claimed we believed in, or we start sinking in an ocean of unbelief and/or despair when God doesn’t come through for us in the way and/or in the timing that we wanted Him to do it in.

The bottom fell out of my life when I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 that has left me unemployed now into my seventh year. Like many others around me at that time who had lost their jobs, I attended job networking groups where sometimes as many as 500+ unemployed people were looking for work and in attendance at the peak of the unemployment period caused by (1) the housing bubble that burst wide open in 2008 as well and (2) the biggest Wall Street crash in the history of the U.S. that occurred on September 29, 2008 (ironically, it was also my first day of work at that ill fated job in Houston that I lost seven months later). And the repercussions hit all areas of life in America with unemployment rates topping out at 12% or higher across many cities and states. Over the next several years many of those folks eventually found jobs, but there were still many who did not. I am one of those folks.

During these past six plus years since I lost that job in Houston I have been on my own journey through the alleys and side roads of faith. Like many others who lost their jobs at that time, I had the faith to believe that God could provide another job for me fairly soon (after all, I was my only means of financial support) and for the first couple of years I watched as one by one many of those unemployed folks that I was around in networking groups found jobs, but it didn’t happen for me. And when the last networking group I attended in 2011 disbanded and I still didn’t have a job, it was at that point that I was beginning to realize that perhaps that might not be the direction God wanted me to go in, and that I would, in fact, end up being tested beyond my own understanding and experiences and gain a mere fraction of a glimpse into what God meant in Isaiah 55:8-9 when He stated:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It’s not that I stopped looking for work (I didn’t), but as the years passed nothing seemed to work out no matter what I did to try and find work. And it was at that point that I started to become aware of a much bigger world going on out there in America and around the world besides the everyday world of work and daily life habits and routines that most of us get caught up in.

During these past several years since I lost that job in 2009, God has taken me through each day, week, month, and year, step by step–and now I’m well into my seventh year. And every day, the first thing before I even get out of bed, I have to keep laying my own desires on His altar every morning and let Him guide me through each and every day. And it’s been an adventure to say the least and probably one not many would pick (I’m not sure if I had known back in April 2009 what I would be going through during these past several years that I would have picked it, either). But in looking back over these years and all I have learned and experienced along the way, I wouldn’t trade it for anything today. And the adventure continues . . . .

So-Loved-The-WorldI feel very fortunate that I was raised from the time I came out of my mother’s womb to believe in Jesus Christ and in God by my mother (see blog post titled, “Incomparable,” published on July 25, 2012), who instilled in me at that very young age to trust Him in everything no matter what (which I did at the ripe old age of ten). My mother’s life, and even her death brought on by diabetes, wasn’t easy, but despite many setbacks in her life her utmost faith in God was always there. She wasn’t perfect (after all, nobody is), but her faith was unshakable. That is her legacy and my heritage. Unfortunately, in the years since her death (1983) the church has shifted towards the culture and the culture’s model of success (among other things) has become part of the Christian model of success–with all of it’s showmanship, prestige, glitter, and materialism. You won’t find stories like my mother’s story in the pages of many Christian books nowadays as the model of Christian success, yet it is the very people just like my mother who make up the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12. I wish we could get back to the days when it wasn’t all about “Celebrity” Christians and how to have or get all we want or can get in this life. The true Gospel of Jesus Christ has never been about any of that stuff.

I have no idea what the younger generation believes in today (besides the obvious–technology and social media). I keep reading where, more and more, the Millennials among us often choose “none” as their religious preference (see Pew Research article titled, Millennials increasingly are driving growth of ‘nones’” at this link). And I’ve been in enough churches over the past several decades to see how “Hollywood” in appearance and entertainment that the church has become. We even have Christian theme parks now, too. No wonder we are losing the younger generation. And I wonder how many people we’ve lost in the older generations, too, over the years. I honestly can’t imagine not believing in anything or anyone other then self or technology or our own resources (or God on a very superficial level that doesn’t penetrate what we do in our lives on a daily basis), but I guess there are many people who do just that. So what happens to them when the bottom falls out of their lives? It happens to all of us at some point in time (even though most who haven’t already experienced it might not think so or are convinced it will never happen to them). Where do they go if they don’t believe in anything except technology and social media and what they can do with it?

In answer to the question, What is the definition of faith? on GotQuestions?org, the author states:

The Bible contains a clear definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Simply put, the biblical definition of faith is “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair.

Understanding these two aspects of faith is crucial. Many people believe certain facts about Jesus Christ. Many people will intellectually agree with the facts the Bible declares about Jesus. But knowing those facts to be true is not what the Bible means by “faith.” The biblical definition of faith requires intellectual assent to the facts and trust in the facts.

Believing that Jesus is God incarnate who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected is not enough. Even the demons believe in God and in those facts (cf. James 2:19). We must personally and fully rely on the death of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We must “sit in the chair” of the salvation that Jesus Christ has provided. This is saving faith. The faith God requires of us for salvation is belief in what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what He accomplished and fully trusting in Jesus for that salvation (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance of sin (Matthew 21:32Mark 1:15).

The biblical definition of faith does not apply only to salvation. It is equally applicable to the rest of the Christian life. We are to believe what the Bible says, and we are to obey it. We are to believe the promises of God, and we are to live accordingly. We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word, and we are to allow ourselves to be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important? Why must trust accompany agreeing with facts? Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith, we cannot be saved (John 3:16). Without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10). (Quote source here.)

The other day I was in a bookstore and noticed a new book by Nancy Pearcey, who is Professor of Apologetics, Scholar in Residence, and Director of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture at Houston Baptist University. The book is titled, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (2015). I had mentioned a previous book authored by her titled, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity” (2004, 2005) in two previous blog posts written in February 2015, So Goes The Culture(February 19, 2015) and Idols of the Heart(February 24, 2015). Written on the inside front cover (and the Amazon.com page) of her latest book, Finding Truth,” is the following statement:

Don’t Think, Just Believe?
That’s the mantra in many circles today–whether the church, the classroom, the campus, or the voting booth.
 
Time for a Reality Check
Nancy Pearcey, bestselling and critically acclaimed author, offers fresh tools to break free from presumed certainties and test them against reality. In Finding Truth, she explains five powerful principles that penetrate to the core of any worldview–secular or religious–to uncover its deepest motivations and weigh its claims. 
 
A former agnostic, Pearcey demonstrates that a robust Christian worldview matches reality–that it is not only true but attractive, granting higher dignity to the human person than any alternative. 
 
Finding Truth displays Pearcey’s well-earned reputation for clear and cogent writing. She brings themes to life with personal stories and real-world examples. The book includes a study guide shaped by questions from readers, from teens to college professors. It is ideal for individual or group study. (Quote source here).

Pearcey’s new book, Finding Truth,” is about that search for truth–for a genuine faith in Jesus Christ from all of the confusion and competing worldviews that are so much a part of our world today. This book is a good starting point for anyone–young, old, and anyone in between–in gaining an understanding of these competing worldviews as compared with genuine Christianity. One of the reviewers of the book wrote the following endorsement:

“. . .When a third of young people are leaving church because of intellectual doubts, Pearcey shows how biblical truth is more convincing then competing worldviews, and also more appealing. The gospel is the highest love for human beings. The gospel is the key that fits the lock of the universe.” ~Kelly Monroe Kullberg, founder of The Veritas Forum, Founder and President of The America Conservancy.

Of course, the Number One source for anyone to go to first is the Bible, and a good place to start is by reading the Gospel of John.

Being “Christian” is not something we are automatically just by attending church on Sunday morning or being a part of Christian groups, anymore than it is connected to the culture at large when we say America is a Christian nation (which, in reality, it is not anymore). We don’t automatically become a Christian just because our parents were Christian, or we run around with other people who say they are Christians, or because we believe a set of Christian principles. We become a Christian when, as John 3:16-18 states:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus Christ] that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Being a Christian is about a living and vital relationship with Jesus Christ that transforms a person’s life from the inside out. Without that transformation, it is just a term we bounce around like everyone else who claims to be Christian yet there is no outward sign that it is even true. Anybody can act nice and look nice and learn the vocabulary that Christians use, but that doesn’t mean squat if there has been no transformation, no true belief in Jesus Christ as the One and Only Son of God and that it affects us at the very core of our being, and changes us, too.

I’ll end this post with these words from the Apostle Paul (who used to be Saul, the hater of Christians) from Romans 12:2-3:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Through the power of Jesus Christ . . .

You, too, can be transformed . . . .

YouTube Video: “From the Inside Out” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

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The Door Is Not Closed . . . Yet

Hebrews-11-1“Seeing is believing” is an idiom that we hear a lot. As defined by The Free Dictionary, it is something that you say which means you can only believe that something surprising or strange is true if you see it yourself; e.g., “I’d never have imagined my parents could dance, but seeing is believing” (quote source here). And it is diametrically opposed to faith. Faith, as defined in Hebrews 11: 1, 6, is as follows:

Now faith is confidence
in what we hope for

and assurance about
what we do not see . . .

And without faith
it is impossible to please God,

because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those
who earnestly seek him.

Too often,  we (the believers among us) don’t really believe what we cannot see or have not personally experienced, even though we may say otherwise. We may say we believe in God, but until some tragedy comes along to test that faith that we claim we have acquired, we may actually be believing in our own skills or paycheck or connections/contacts to get us by instead of God who operates way beyond anything we can see or do on our own, or accomplish on our own or with our connections. Way beyond . . . as in “out of the ballpark” beyond.

Hebrews 11 is filled with people who lived out their faith by believing in God and what He could (and can) do without seeing the results beforehand. That list includes Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Regarding them and others, verses 13-16 state:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

And Hebrews 11 continues with Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and the examples of their faith in action. And the last eight verses of the chapter, vv. 32-40, state:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 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—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Doesn’t sound too much like our “Success ‘n More” model of Christianity in many corners of our society today; however, God’s requirements have never changed and they certainly don’t change regardless of the surrounding culture with all of its temptations and excesses. Faith goes way beyond the obvious. Way beyond . . . .

In a blog post titled, The Door Is Not Closed,” by The Daily Way, the following statement is made:

Charles Spurgeon writes:

One person may say, “I cannot see how simply trusting Christ and believing God’s witness of Him would save my soul.” To which I would reply, “My dear man, are you never to believe anything but what you can see, and how are you to see this thing till you have tried it? You must believe the gospel on the evidence of God, and not otherwise, or have faith in the record God has given concerning His Son—a faith that takes God at His word. Believe, then, on the Lord Jesus Christ and you have believed God to be true; refuse to trust in Jesus Christ, unless you get some other evidence beyond the witness of God, and you have practically said that God’s testimony is not enough—that is to say, you have made God a liar.”

But God is not a liar. Within Him is all truth and justice.

Faith has it’s beginning with belief in God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That is (and He is) the foundation stone. And without faith, it is, indeed, impossible to please God. And faith requires action–“doing” what God wants us to do without question, regardless of what it looks like to others. The action part of the doing in on us, but the actual “doing” is totally on God. For example, Moses didn’t part the Red Sea in his own power, but it was his belief that God would do it that exercised his faith and God did it through him. The same can be said of Noah, who for over 100 years built an ark before any rain had ever touched the earth, much to the laughter and mocking of his generation, yet it was because of his faith in God that he built it despite of all the odds and jeering of his surrounding culture, and he and his family were saved from the disaster that fell on the rest of the earth at that time.

Rahab is yet another of many examples in the Bible. She believed in the God of the Hebrews she had heard about through her association with other men, and when two Hebrews spies showed up at her doorstep, she exercised her faith (against the odds of her culture and possible imprisonment and death) and kept them safe when the men of the city came looking for them. As a result, when the city was destroyed through an act of God, she and her family escaped, and she eventually married one of the spies and became the mother of Boaz, who was the great grandfather of King David and is in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ.

There_are_no_COINCIDENCES_by_JasonRashWe hear a lot about “coincidences” when a “remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection” takes place (quote source here), but in God’s economy, there are no such things as “coincidences.” Nothing happens by chance, and God uses everything–good and bad–to accomplish His purposes. As in the story of Job, whose life took a very sudden and tragic turn yet was used for his good in the end to bring about absolute and total dependence on God and His ways, we must remember that we have a powerful adversary at work in this world and in our own lives in ways we cannot imagine just as it was in the case of Job (see Job 1). It was not a question of what Job did wrong to bring about the tragedy that happened to him (as he had done nothing wrong). It was about bringing Job into total submission to the will of God, and his understanding of just how big and omnipotent God is, and how small he was in comparison (see Job 38-42). When Job realized this, he responded with the following words (Job 42:1-6):

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

God uses the person who is humbled–not haughty, or prideful, or full of him or herself. In Job 32:1-2, we discover that Job was righteous in his own eyes and justified himself instead of God. It was not a question of whether or not Job did anything wrong in the beginning that caused his tragedy as from the information given to us he did not do anything wrong before tragedy struck, but he did have a problem with self-righteousness (see article on Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility at this link). And God has His ways of bringing that to the attention of any of us who believe in Him but who try to justify ourselves instead of humbly submitting to God.

In Chapters 38-41 God speaks to Job, and at the beginning of Chapter 40 there is this brief dialogue between God and Job before God continues with his last statements to Job:

The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”

It is an enormously humbling experience to be humbled by God. We often don’t even realize how self-righteous we have become because it is so easy to hide it behind a veil of false humility (a lot of “churchiness” is a part of this veil). We can even fool ourselves into believing we are humble when we are not, and this was the case with Job. He had not done anything wrong before tragedy struck him, but God sees the heart, and He knew what was in Job’s heart that even Job was not aware of. And it was not good and needed to be dealt with in ways only God knows how to bring about. The response, of course, was up to Job (and up to us, too), and Job offered the right response when he realized his grave error and humbled himself before God.

The story does have a happy ending (see Chapter 42). After Job humbled himself before God, we are told what happened in Job 42:10-12:

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part . . . .

Once Job saw the truth about himself, he took the right path and humbled himself before God. In our world today and especially in America where we take pride in so much and often give the credit to others or ourselves instead of God, God is calling out to each of us to acknowledge Him and not to hide behind a self-righteousness of our own, no matter how “spiritual” it may look to others. God knows our heart, and he knows how to set in motion circumstances and events that must take place in order for us to be made aware of the fact that we have veered down the wrong path, no matter what we may look like or act like on the outside (e.g., pastor, lay person, missionary, Christian celebrity or successful business person, our careers, our families, etc., and all the other “trappings” in our society that point to us instead of to Him). We may go on for years without recognizing it for what it is, but just as suddenly as it happened to Job, circumstances can suddenly and dramatically change the course of our own lives in order to get our attention.

Nothing happens by chance. God is orchestrating our lives around His mission statement and timing as stated in 2 Peter 3:9-10:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

The door is still open for use to come to Him and repent of our self-righteous ways, but there will come a day when it will close forever. Second Corinthians 6:2 states:

For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

The last words of Jesus Christ stated in the New Testament are recorded in Revelation 22:12-21:

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Let’s examine ourselves to make sure we are right before God . . . .

Now is the time of God’s favor . . .

Now is the time of salvation . . . .

YouTube Video: “God is God” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

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