The Christian Faith
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 06, Feb 2018
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:1-10
‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.’
Hebrew 11 is called the faith chapter and here we learn that faith is a very practical thing. Well an average person does not think that faith is a very practical sort of thing. Because the word ‘faith’ in itself is already implying something we cannot see. Are you asking me to trust something that I cannot see? But we will learn in this message from the viewpoint of faith what it has done in the lives of men and women in all ages. In the early days of persecution they brought a humble Christian before the judges. He told them that nothing they could do could shake him because he believed that, if he was true to God, God would be true to him. ‘Do you really think,’ asked the judge, ‘that the like of you (people like you) will go to God and his glory?’ I do not think,’ said the man, ‘I know’. At one time John Bunyan was tortured by uncertainty. ‘Everyone doth think his own religion rightest (his own religion is right), he said, ‘Both Jews and Moors and Pagans; (today we have Islam, Buddhism, Zen, Sai Baba, Hinduism) and how if all our faith and Christ and Scriptures should be a ‘think so’ too?’ But when the light broke he ran out crying; ‘Now I know? I know? The Christian faith is a hope that turned to certainty. So what is the Christian Faith?
1. A belief
“By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. “BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE [the one justified by faith] SHALL LIVE BY FAITH [respecting man’s relationship to God and trusting Him]; AND IF HE DRAWS BACK [shrinking in fear], MY SOUL HAS NO DELIGHT IN HIM.”
HEBREWS 10:38 AMP
Faith is an inbuilt trust and a continuing confidence in the power, goodness and wisdom of God. There are so many things that can go wrong in our lives but faith believes in the goodness of God. Faith believes in the wisdom of God. Faith believes in the power of God. The righteous one is justified by faith. The righteous one shall live by faith. The righteous one respect man’s relationship to God. There is a lot of disrespect in man’s relationship to God today. Recently just in the month of January Franklin Graham, defended Donald Trump and talked about God and prayer. He said, ‘”I believe Donald Trump is a good man. He did everything wrong as a candidate and he won, and I don’t understand it. Other than I think God put him there.” The reaction was not very nice. Some just shouted out ‘don’t preach to me on this kind of God’s message.’ ‘Stop it. I just don’t want to hear it.’ But the righteous one trust God.
“Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality--faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].”
HEBREWS 11:1 AMP
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Faith is being assured of a home in heaven. When you have faith, that faith is the title deed. If I can turned faith into a paper, or more specifically a legal paper, that paper is the title deed. When I go to heaven and meet Peter at the pearly gate, I will show him that paper. That paper is my pass to heaven. Faith is the pass to heaven. When you have faith, it is the confirmation. And most assuredly, when you have faith, the things you hope for is divinely guaranteed. Faith is the conviction of the reality of things hoped for. Faith comprehends as facts what cannot be experienced; at least not yet. Our physical senses are the sight, hearing, smelling, touching and feeling. Our physical senses presumably give us the facts; which can be wrong at times. Faith comprehends as facts what cannot be experienced by the physical senses.
Faith gained the approval by God. Nothing pleases God like faith.
“By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”
HEBREWS 11:3 AMP
By faith I understand that the world is formed by God. Recently, I have been watching the COSMOS, an award winning documentary on the COSMOS from Netflix. I mean, I learn that we are located on our solar system that consists of the sun and the planets. These planets like earth revolve around the Sun. Then I also learned that there are thousands of other solar systems. All these Solar System makes up the Galaxy. Our Galaxy is called the Milky Way Galaxy. Again I learn that there are millions of Galaxies; not just the Milky Way galaxy. All these Galaxies make up the Universe. And the Universe is growing. And God said these galaxies were equipped for their intended purpose. There is a purpose why the universe is created. I learned that nothing can ever travel faster than the speed of light. And light travel in a straight line. You go to a dark room. With a piece of paper, you make a hole in that piece of paper and you shine the flash light through that hole. You will realize that light really travels in a straight line. I am told in the bible that God is light and God is straight (not untrue). Nothing has been able to travel faster than the speed of light. And when we can ever travel as fast as light one day, time stopped. It is so fast that time stopped. I am told that in heaven there is no such thing as time. It is amazing how the universe and even a man is intrinsically, and wonderfully created. Of course there are many things I don’t understand about the world. There is a lot of discussion about dinosaurs, theory of evolution; that the world is millions and millions of years old. But I have faith what the word of God says; that the worlds (universe) were framed and created and formed by God. They were put in order, and equipped with all the suns and planets for an intended purpose. The bible is so clear; what is seen is not made out of things that are visible. Can you see Atoms, neutron. But the universe is created by these invisible atoms and neutrons.
So how should mankind respond to this God? Believe. And what did the first men in history taught us?
The first born man Abel taught us belief. We are born again because we believe.
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which it was testified of him that he was righteous (upright, in right standing with God), and God testified by accepting his gifts. And though he died, yet through [this act of] faith he still speaks.”
HEBREWS 11:4 AMP
Abel recognized this God and subject himself to this God. Abel recognized that God is higher than him and paid tribute to this God. How does he do it? By faith.
Abel offering was done in faith. He had to kill an animal representing that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Maybe Cain felt it was cruel to kill an animal and therefore offer fruits. Cain represents the people of this world that cannot accept that Jesus is the way, the truth the life; no man can come to the father except through Jesus Christ. There must be some other ways; they thought. Christianity is not the only relgion; they presume. There are thousands of other religions. What makes you so sure Christianity is the only way? It cannot be the only way. Well, Abel obeyed in faith. And what happened to Abel? Abel was considered righteous; upright and in right standing with God. In return God testified of Abel. God accepted the gifts of Abel. You want to be righteous and in right standing with God. Believe.
2. A walk
“By faith [that pleased God] Enoch was caught up and taken to heaven so that he would not have a glimpse of death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD HAD TAKEN HIM; for even before he was taken [to heaven], he received the testimony [still on record] that he had walked with God and pleased Him.”
HEBREWS 11:5 AMP
Then another man taught us further on what will happen to us that have faith in God. Enoch was caught up. I like the word caught up. I think it is the closest to the truth of the rapture. It is found in the Amlifiied Version. The Amplified Version uses another word; taken to heaven. What will happened to us when we have faith in God. In the near future, if we believe in God, we will be raptured, taken to heaven.
Enoch did not die. Enoch was not found because God had taken him. What was the ingredient necessary for a person to be raptured. Walk with God. The Hebrew verb for ‘walk’ is ‘Hithpael.’ It denotes intimate relationship, almost to the connotation of ‘to live with’. It is very interesting that the only other person where this Hebrew verb is used is Noah. Enoch and Noah walked with God. Enoch because he walked with God, did not experience judgment because he was taken. Noah because he walked with God, though he went through the judgment did not die. To survive the 7 year tribulation, your walk must be like that of Enoch or Noah. Either you miss the 7 year tribulation or you came out of it alive. If you want to be raptured you need to walk with God. Enoch married and had a child at the age of 65 years old. The birth of the child had such an impact in his relationship with God. He was converted. I was converted at the age of 17. I heard an interesting testimony from Pastor Carlos about a certain member in the second service. His profession was a tricyle driver. Then he had a stroke or heart attack while he was driving the tricyle. They rushed him to the hospital. He survived. But because the nurses were concentrated on his stroke or heart attack, they didn’t know that he broke his leg because of the accident. After the accident he told his wife that he wants to be in church every Sunday. Now he comes to church with a cast in his leg. Nothing can stop him from coming to church. Something happened to him. Something happened to Enoch when his first child was born. And he started walking with God.
He walked with God for the next 300 years. His walk with God was long; very long. He pleased God with this walk. Before he was raptured, he had this testimony that he pleased God. The Old Testament did not elaborate on the circumstances that made him walk with God. Most likely he lived in a very difficult circumstances; a world filled with wickedness. Well God would not have destroyed the world that Enoch lived in if it was not wicked and evil. It is not your profession that pleases God. It is not that you are a pastor, a prophet, a member of a church, a missionary or whatever profession. The most important is whatever profession, are you walking with God? Enoch was not conformed to the world. Enoch was not controlled by the World. And Enoch was not condemned with the world. Rather he was ‘taken up’. The word ‘taken’ means, moved to another spot. This is the same word that is used to describe Elijah. This is not a resurrection. Jesus was resurrected. This is a translation like Elijah. There is a clear distinction in the Bible between people brought back to life; resuscitation, people taken to heaven without physical death; (translation) and people having a new body like Jesus (resurrection). Enoch was translated.
Let’s try to further understand about this relationship that this man has with God. Enoch walked with God. It was faith that causes this man to walk with God. Just as we need to have faith that this worlds were framed and created by God, just as we need to have faith that God is higher than us and we subject ourselves to this great God and knows that the only way to God is through Christ, like Abel. We also must have faith to walk with God. The bible says, ‘without faith it is impossible to please Him’. This is a key assertion for this literary unit. It is not just initial faith like Abel, but persevering faith like Enoch. 300 years of walking signifies persevering faith. It is persevering faith that pleases God. A lot of people has come to this church but are no more today. Not Enoch. Enoch has persevering faith. He is an example of a person that remained faithful to the end of life; no matter how that end of life came to him. There are many people in the bible that couldn’t survive this persevering faith. There are many in this church that will not survive this persevering faith. Paul and others describes them. Paul mentioned a fellow worker, Demas, having loved this world has deserted the faith. There are some that did not just leave but did a great deal of harm to the church like Alexander the coppersmith. Another was Diotrephes who spread malicious talk about the Apostle John. Then there are others like Mark who left because it was difficult to follow Christ but returned and became profitable again. Welcome to the real world. This church has seen the Demas, the Alexander, the Diotrephes and John Mark. Please note that names were specifically mentioned concerning these people. Their names are written and published because they have caused great harm to the church. People that caused harm to the church we must mentioned their names. I can never forget how God warned me about one of my staff, when Pastor Lily was in my room and for no reason I just stumbled and fell awkwardly and that staff was about to enter my room. Later that staff did really caused me to stumble and fell badly in my Christian walk. Then I have one that spread malicious talk about me continually. If you had faith in God once and you started to draw back, whatever the reasons are, God has no delight in a soul drawing back from faith. God has no pleasure, never had, nor never will have; but, on the contrary, they are abominable to him, and will lie under his sore displeasure, and feel the keen resentments of it. I don’t think Enoch and Elijah had such easy walk with God. But they have persevering faith.
Faith is the way that humans believe, receive, and accept the promises of God. Salvation and discipleship are both impossible without faith. You have to have faith in God’s actions in the past (his creation, revelation), faith in God’s presence in the present (persecution, suffering, even death); and faith in God’s promised actions in the future (salvation, heaven). Lately I have been thinking about my relationship with God, will I ever make it to heaven? And God knows my thoughts. That is the kind of God we have. He sees the deepest need in you and the deepest thought you are thinking and he comes to reveals to you. He just told me that I need to have faith in him, even for my future; what will happened to me once I leave planet earth. You know what he says; ‘I must believe’.
The word ‘believe’ is from the Greek word ‘pistis’. It is translated by three English terms: faith, believe and trust. The focus is not on cognitive (mental) facts alone, but a personal trust in God’s trustworthiness; faithing his faithfulness. It is not just an affirmation, like you say, I believe but a lifestyle. Enoch’s walk was a lifestyle. Enoch’s faith was a lifestyle. Enoch faith resulted in him no conforming to this world, not controlled by this world and not condemned with this world. This world is condemned. That is why we are told of the 7 year tribulations. Marco was asking me whether this earth will be destroyed, exploded and a new earth will be created by God. I said, ‘No’. But this world were be so messed up by fire in the 7 year tribulations that God has to almost practically recreate it. God goes on to say that we ‘must believe’. The term ‘must’ is a present active indicative which means ‘it is binding’, ‘it is necessary’, Faith is necessary.
3. An obedience
Then we come to the third person; after Abel and Enoch. “By faith Abraham, when he was called [by God], obeyed by going to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land, as in a strange land, living in tents [as nomads] with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. For he was [waiting expectantly and confidently] looking forward to the city which has foundations, [an eternal, heavenly city] whose architect and builder is God.” HEBREWS 11:8-10 AMP
By faith when I was called, I obeyed coming to the Philippines, which I am to receive as an inheritance. I came like Abraham, not knowing where I was going. I don’t claim to be Abraham. I am far, far away in comparison to Abraham. But the principle of faith is the same. By faith I lived as a stranger in this land, so far it has been 32 years. As a foreigner in my promised land. Philippines is definitely a strange land. Am I saying that Philippines is where I will die. No. Recently, I went back to my homeland without Pastor Lily because I have to be there to be a watchdog over my house that is being renovated by the government. I came back telling Pastor Lily that I was not happy in Singapore. I don’t feel I belong in Singapore. I stayed at home most of the time. Every morning from Monday to Saturday, I will open my door exactly at 8.00 a.m. to all the construction workers who were total strangers to me and by 6.00 p.m. I will lock the door. I don’t want to see anybody. The only time I am happy to go out is with Joy and Jan and of course to people I am familiar with like Mike. I was happy to pick him up at the airport, bring him to stay in my house for a night, bring him for breakfast, bring him to the dormitories where he will stay for the next 3 months and have a birthday celebration with Ben, Joy, Jan and Mike. Of course I was happy when I attended a church at the Salvation Army near my place. There God revealed to me that he has not forsaken me when he instructed me to go back to the Philippines four years ago. I felt his presence and was in tears. Besides that I am at home. I am not happy. Am I saying that I am only happy when I am back in the Philippines. No. this is also not true. Then I come to realize this is exactly how Abraham felt. He is looking forward to a city; an eternal city, a heavenly city. How true is this song; this world is not my home; I am just a passing by. I have a mansion somewhere beyond the blue. So what must I do? I said just now that God assured me that I will be found in heaven if I just believe. He also told me specifically that I have to obey the calling. What is my calling? The teaching and preaching of the Gospel and the ministry of God. Obey.
Now did this faith of obedience bring benefits to Abraham. He was given a promised land and God fulfilled it to this day. He was promised that his children would be like the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea shore. God fulfilled it. There are at least 14 million Jews in this world and then the spiritual Jews, like us runs in the hundreds of millions. When we obeyed we will see the fulfillment of our dreams. Whatever God promises, will surely come to pass. Before I step into the Philippines God told me that he would make me a commander. That is his promise to me. I did became a leader of the previous organization and planted quite a number of churches. God promises me that he would give me souls. I believe in the fulfillment of these promises.
But there is a danger to this walk of faith.
“See to it that no one falls short of God’s grace; that no root of resentment springs up and causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;”
HEBREWS 12:15 AMP
“and [see to it] that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.”
HEBREWS 12:16 AMP
You see, in this obedience of faith, there is the danger of becoming bitter. What are the causes? Persecution from without and within. Unbelief and taunts among friends that can affect you deeply. Doubts within leading to the thought of shrinking back. Let’s be honest. As a Christian you know you are not like the others. Sometimes there is taunts and cynical comments. Then there is betrayal among the closest of friends. Also there is the delayed answer to your dreams. Coupled with it we are tempted to immorality. We can if we are not careful because of a boy or a girl sell our Christian testimonies, just overnight. Coupled with all the trials in life, you can become bitter. The only way is to constantly hold on to your faith.
I want to tell you that you can be very honest with God. We are not superhuman. We are told that Jesus was of like passion as we are. He did made statement like, ‘My father, my father why have you forsaken me? When tested beyond his strength, he said, ‘Father if it be possible let this cup (of suffering) be passed from me. Then we have people who like Elijah can fall into depression and said, ‘I am the only one that truly serves you’. The bible says that Elijah was a man of like passion as we are. But Jesus and Elijah kept their faith. Hebrew 11 is a list of people in the bible who kept their faith in spite of all things.
Hebrews 11 is a series of OT examples of those who were faithful in difficult situations. These are meant to encourage readers and believers of every age to remain faithful no matter what physical circumstances may confront them. The true believers start in faith, continue in faith and die in faith.
I started this sermon by declaring that faith is a very practical thing. Well Dr. Stanley Jones has this to say about faith.
I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.