Good morning and welcome to Alpine Bible Church. I know it’s de ja vu, ’cause I just said that. But it’s so good to be here and I’m usually hanging out with your teenagers, teaching them and hanging out with them which for some reason I just been blessed with the ability to enjoy that. Unlike many other people, I just don’t get it. They’re just so much fun. I just don’t get it. Anyways. I am really excited to teach what God has been laying on my heart and I really hope that we have a productive dialogue and really get to the question of faith, and what means for our lives and for those that we love and just how much faith has an impact on us.
So, before we begin, before we dive into the verses I wanna ask you a question. The question might be a little uncomfortable and maybe get you to think a little bit. That question, before I go to too long into explaining what it is. The question is what distinguishes you as a follower of Christ from someone who does not? What is the difference between you and someone who has no concept of faith in Christ. And if you’re a 10 and 11 year old you can leave, I’m sorry. I usually lead that class so I always forget when it’s happening. It just happens. So, sorry. You guys can go.
Anyways, what’s the difference? I think there are many answers that you can give that are equally valid. You can give a bunch of answers of why you’re different from someone that doesn’t follow Christ. But what I think truly separates the believer from the unbeliever is exactly that, it’s belief. It’s belief that separates it and belief is the most fundamental value of a follower of Christ. The reason why I say that is because without faith, without belief, there would be no ground or nothing to stand upon why you follow Christ. Faith has always been the foundation of a relationship with God.
Actually Paul, in the book of Romans goes into this. In chapter four, there we go, we got it on screen. So Paul is writing to the believers in Rome and he writes, four verse three, so he says, “For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now righteousness is not really a term we use unless we live on the beach and surf all our lives. We usually don’t use it. Right? So what does righteousness mean? And righteousness, a very simple definition of it, a biblical definition of righteousness is having a right standing before God. Being in a right relationship with God. That’s what righteousness is, and that’s really incredible that Abraham has this right standing, this right relationship with God.
What’s crazy is that Paul after this, says that that wasn’t just for Abraham. It was now not for his sake only, it was written that it was credited to him but for our sake also to whom it will be credited. As those who believe in him, who raised Jesus, our Lord from the dead, he who is delivered over because of our transgressions. And was raised because of our justification. Faith is the most foundational element of a relationship with God, whether that be 4,000 years ago in the time of Abraham or 2,000 years ago in the believers in Rome or today. Faith is the foundation. Today we are going at a book in a chapter that really dives into this and maybe some of you won’t be thrilled but we’re going back to the book of Hebrews.
Just feels like we got out of that but we’ll be in Hebrews, chapter 11. Hebrews chapter 11 has a very well-known title. Maybe we even used it when we were there or maybe you know it. It’s usually called the? Oh, I heard someone say it. Yes. It’s called the Hall of Faith. Usually I ask for audience participation in youth group and I just get nothing. So it’s awesome, someone said it. So it’s usually called the Hall of Faith. What it sounds like, we have halls of fame celebrating the best football, basketball players, musicians, and it’s like you go into these places and you look and you’re like, “Oh man, these people did such amazing things. They were able to, I don’t know, score 300 touchdowns or I don’t know. Catch whatever, Jerry Rice, I don’t know. I actually have never been to a Hall of Fame.
I had the chance to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I turned it down. Which I don’t know why I just told you that but it did happen. But Hebrews, the Hall of Fame is like it sounds, it’s people who put their faith in God in truly dire circumstances. Circumstances that didn’t look like they were going to play out. And God rewarded them with their faith, with seeing his promises come to fruition. We celebrate these people, we look at them and if you could open your bibles to Hebrews chapter 11. We will be looking at the faith that they had. Because if faith is the most foundational element, the most foundational value of our relationship with God, and if these people are in the Hall of Faith, I think we want to emulate their faith in God.
Just like I don’t know, when I was growing up, I loved football. And I was like, Brett Favre is the greatest, I wanna be like Brett Favre. So I tried to throw like him. Not nearly as talented or as good so it didn’t really work out in the end. But we look at these people. The definition, Hebrews 1 opens up with the definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The writer of Hebrews gives us a very clear definition of what faith is and what faith isn’t is a, I hope it is sunny tomorrow, so I can grill. Or not die in a snow storm on my way to work. It’s not like this thing that you hope to be true or a thing that you don’t know is going to happen. Faith is an assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen.
It’s holding on to a complete certainty because you know it to be true. Even though you cannot perceive it. Even though you have not seen it or it doesn’t look likely. And the verse after says, “For by it, the men of faith before by it, the men of old gained approval.” So by faith men of old gained approval from God. That’s for instance the story of Abraham. God credited his righteousness to him because of his faith. I always thought this was interesting. Why does God do that with faith? I mean personally when I am looking for people to be on my team, I don’t look for people who necessarily trust me. I look for people who are strong, fast, tall. Can dunk. Those are usually the people I look for first. Or brave, or ambitious or successful. Or intelligent.
Believe it or not, that isn’t the thing that God looks for. God doesn’t look for the strong, the successful, the ambitious, the talented. And Hebrews 11 is testimony of that. Hebrews 11 is full of cowards, sinful, unintelligent and sometimes just lazy people. Which personally gives me great hope. Makes me feel a little better about myself and say, “Maybe I can be in that Hall of Faith some day.” Hebrews 11:8-12 recounts the story of Abraham. If you’re unfamiliar with Abraham, he’s the father of the Jewish nation. He lived about 4,000 years ago. He was who we were talking about earlier. When we start reading this book, God calls him to this land that God is going to give him.
Abraham is 75 at the time. His wife is 65. And it says that he’s leaving home for the first time. Now you guys thought 30 year olds in basements were bad. Abraham’s been living with his parents for 75 years. Just let that sink in, all right. But Abraham leaves with Sarah after God tells them of this promise. And there’s two problems. Abraham has no idea where he’s going and Abraham and Sarah don’t have a child. God promises him a land and a family and if I was Abraham I’d go, you know what? I’m past my prime. My wife, she’s a little past her prime. I don’t know if we’re necessarily gonna be able to make a baby, but God promises him and he leaves. When they reach the Promise land, things don’t exactly go according to plan. Or at least according to Abraham’s plan. There’s a famine in the land and he ends up having to leave and he goes to Egypt and he lies about his wife.
He goes, “Oh, she’s not my wife.” Then this plague happens on the Egyptians and the Pharaoh is like why did you deceive us? So they end up going back to the land and then a bunch of kings go, “We don’t want Abraham and his camp here,” so they start trying to kick ’em out and they send this army. And Abraham ends up defeating them. All these things happen, another famine. These things keep going wrong for Abraham. It’s been over a decade and he still doesn’t have a son. At this point in the story, if I was Abraham, I would be like, “God. I left everything for this Promise land, for this family that you promised to me. Why isn’t it happening?” I mean 10 years. Over 10 years of him doing this and not only just 10 years of milk and honey but 10 years of hardship.
In Genesis 15:1-6, we get what this interchange between God and Abraham, Abraham says, Abraham’s doubting and it says, “After these things, the Word of the Lord came to Abraham or Abram,” ’cause that’s what he used to be called, “in a vision saying, ‘Do not fear Abram, I’m a shield to you. Your reward shall be very great.’ “Abram said, ‘Oh Lord, God. What will you give me since I’m childless. And the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus.’ “And Abram said, ‘Since you have given no offspring to me, no one born in my house is my heir.’ “Then behold the Word of the Lord came to him saying, ‘This man will not be your heir but one who will come forth from your own body and he shall be your heir.”
And he took him outside and said, “Now look towards the heavens and count the stars. If you are able to count them,” he said to him, “so shall your descendants be. Then he believed in the Lord, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” So out of everything purity, love, charity, grace, temperance, patience, mercy. God chooses to reward Abraham for no other virtue than the virtue of faith. That’s what it says. It’s interesting but I believe the answer is simple. That God rewards Abraham for his faith, for his belief because God desires above all things for us to trust him. And it makes sense, if you look back at the first sin, you see that Adam and Eve are in the garden. And God tells them, “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They’re like, “Okay, that sounds like a sweet deal, we can eat all the other fruit and do all the other things. It’s a good deal, we agree.”
Then a serpent comes and goes, “Did God really say? It looks so good, you’re gonna become wise. You’re gonna be like God if you eat that.” And it says that, “Eve looked at the fruit and saw that it was good for” you know, it looked delicious and that it was good for acquiring wisdom “and she ate it.” What they did in that moment was they decided not to trust what God had told them. They decided instead to trust what they saw as good. And what is committing sin but a lack of faith in God and a mistake in trust in what you see to be good. That is sin, it is a lack of faith and a mistake in trust in what you see to be good. So it makes sense that unrighteousness comes through unbelief and unrighteousness comes through belief. That’s why the New Testament is so focused on faith and the righteousness that comes through belief in Christ.
Ephesians 2:8 & 9 says, “For by grace you have been saved. Through faith and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one may boast.” Romans 1:17 says, “For it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith this is written. But the righteous man shall live by faith.” For God gives us clear instructions in John 3:16 that the only requirement for a relationship with God is faith in his son. Not that we who believe don’t have sin, but we have faith that God has forgiven our sin through Christ Jesus on the cross. And we understand that faith has always been the requirement for righteousness, not being in right relationship with God whether that be 4,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, or today.
Faith is like a foundation. It is only as strong as what it is built on. A foundation on sand doesn’t really work or a foundation on a swamp doesn’t really work because they’re shaky, they’re unsustaining, they’re not strong. But faith placed on something that’s strong, that has a foundation, faith placed on the author of the universe. Faith placed on the Lord that has created all things, who died and rose again. Faith placed on Christ, the unchangeable Christ, is a faith that will last forever because the foundation is strong. This is what I believe the Hall of Faith is all about. I don’t really think it’s about the people and their faith. But it’s a demonstration of the quality of the foundation, meaning it’s a demonstration of the faithfulness of God. Not the demonstration of the faith of the people in the Hall of Faith.
Because the stories are testifying, not about the amazing amount of belief that they had but they prove over and over again despite the odds repeatedly, that God is faithful to his promises no matter what the situation looks like. In fact I kind of look at the Hall of Faith as a reference. You know, like when you apply for a job and you get references. All these people are putting signatures next to their lives like, yeah, he proved himself faithful. God is who he says he is. He completes his promises. And all these people’s lives testify to the fact that God is faithful. In fact the writer of Hebrews 12:1 will designate them as a great cloud of witnesses. Witnesses to the faithfulness of God. Hebrews 11:30-35 talks about some of the ways that God comes through. It says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down and after they had been circled for seven days. By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”
“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jephthah and of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions. Quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword. From weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to fight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, not accepting their release so that they might obtain a better resurrection.” The crazy thing is that this God who did all these things is the same God that we worship today. The same God we worship and serve and we sing songs to, and we pray to is the same God who did all of these things.
His Hall of Faith, this Hall of Faith is a testimony to his faithfulness to accomplishes the promises that he gives. We can view belief as a one time thing. As a fire insurance but I don’t really think that’s what faith is supposed to be. Like Romans says, “The just shall live by faith.” Live by faith. The story of Abraham talks about it in Hebrews 11:8-12. It says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for inheritance and he went out. Not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land. Dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob. Fellow heirs of the same promise. For he was looking for the city which has foundations who architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive. Even beyond the proper time of life.”
“Since she considered him faithful who had promised therefore there was born even of one man and him as good as dead as that. As many descendants as the stars of heaven, in number and in numerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” When reading the account of Abraham in Genesis, it’s easy to see that it was an ongoing process. Abraham kept believing in God. Kept trusting in him. Did he fail? Absolutely. It’s obvious that he failed. He lied a bunch. He doubted God. But he kept believing. When reading the account, it’s obvious that that’s true but … Just a second. Oh yeah. What’s crazy is on this list, these people who are in the Hall of Faith, why I also think it’s a Hall of God’s Faithfulness. Faithfulness, not a Hall of Faith is that on the list we find Abraham, who’s a liar. But we also find a prostitute, murderer, adulterers.
These people who were not perfect by any means. I mean Sampson is in the Hall of Faith. You guys remember Sampson? His life was like … He was pathetic. I don’t even know how he just … He let Delilah, like kept, just manipulate him. For so long but anyway, all these people. I believe if they were here today, they wouldn’t say, “Yeah, look at me. I had great faith. Look at the faith that I had.” But instead they would tell us that it was never about how good they were or how much faith they had, but it was the faithfulness of God to come through on its promises. That God prevailed even when their faith waned.
We are as I said earlier, we are believers. Not those who have believed. We are believers. Which means it’s an ongoing faith to trust God rather than our eyes. And what we learned from Abraham and all these witnesses is that God is faithful to his promises even when we cannot comprehend how it’s going to work out. Abraham had every reason to doubt what God had promised him from his perspective. He was way too old. There was famine, there was war, there was all these things. But God delivered every single one of his promises. Even after Abraham was dead. You might be thinking that why are we talking about Abraham, why does that apply to me. Well it absolutely does because Abraham was promised things by God and we also have promises made by God.
God has made us so many promises and he promises that he will fulfill them. Colossians 2:6 says, “So as you receive Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to walk in him.” How do you receive Christ? By faith. How do you walk in Christ? By faith. These promises that Christ gives us are … There’s so many and they’re so amazing. Just one chapter, the book of Romans, chapter 8, has these amazing promises in them. So … Do I have them? No, I don’t have them. All right. Anyways, I’m just gonna read you some of these promises. One of them is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. Romans 8:1. There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ, meaning there is nothing that can come against you, that he’s justified you, that you are clean.
Another one is that God works all things for the good of those who love him, who’ve been called according to his purpose. Another one that nothing shall separate us from the love of God of which is in Jesus Christ. That’s one chapter. Of the New Testament. And those promises are just as valid as for you, as for me, as for you because we are believers in Christ. There is an abundance of promise that God makes to us. And our response to that is to believe, to trust, to hold on and remember who God is. We know who God is because of this Hall of his faithfulness. This hall of this great faithfulness as well as our own lives.
If you do not know the promises of God, look ’em up. We got a great book for that. If you do know them, remember them. Remember them because as is demonstrated he will fulfill them. In time. It might not be exactly how you see it working at the moment. Might not be how you view it as it going to work out but they will come to pass. So while we go through trials or different things in that happen in our lives that derail us, we can understand that God’s plan is greater than the suffering that this life throws at us because he has given us a new home, a new life and will never abandon us. No one sums it better than the writer of Hebrews when drawing the application of the Hall of God’s great faithfulness. As the writer of Hebrews at the end in Hebrews 12:1.
It says, “Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us. And let us run with the endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who endured such hostility by sinners against him so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”