WDS 2022: Living Sacrifices

Amen. Our God is awesome. I got an extra dose of that this morning on the way here. Something had never happened to me before. I think God really wanted to encourage me. I was driving down Curry Ford at a good Christian speed in my Toyota Corolla and all of a sudden I’m just going along and there’s this man on the sidewalk and he starts cheering me on. He’s like, yeah. Go, go, go!

I’ve had that happen cycling before and jogging before, never before in my car. So I was like, yeah, my car is pretty cool, huh? It’s not even a convertible. Man, this is hard work right here. Thank you. Thank you for the encouragement. He gave me what I needed. I was like, God is awesome here. That was a great way to start the day. I do want to thank for everyone that was here in the last service that are still laughing at the same jokes, I appreciate you as well. I don’t have new material. I will say one week from today, just 15 miles from here, the World Discipleship Summit will begin. Yes. In Old Testament times, all of God’s people, they would save up. They would put their lives on hold for weeks. They would travel hundreds of miles by land and sea for their own conferences. These were international religious festivals such as Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles and Pentecost, just to name a few. These were not just two hour Sunday services. These were week long gatherings, not including the travel. A feast of fellowship to celebrate together and most of all, to remember together their extraordinary identity as God’s treasured possession.

In the same way, 15,000 disciples from around the world will travel to Orlando for one week. Your brothers and sisters in Christ will flood our city from far away places such as South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia. Disciples will find a way to get here from war torn countries in the Middle East and the Ukraine. They will step off the plane at the Orlando International Airport full of joy, with a huge smile on their faces because they’re excited to see you. For one special moment in time we are Jerusalem. We’re the host city. We’re the host church for thousands of God’s people. And it’s not an exaggeration to say you and I are in the middle of a historic moment. Don’t get distracted. Don’t blink. You could miss it. One week from tonight, it officially begins. I think this begs the question of all of us, what’s the best way to prepare now for the World Discipleship Summit? Let’s search for answers together in Romans chapter twelve. What’s the best way to prepare? It’s almost here. Romans chapter twelve. And I know many of you have prepared for this for years. You’ve saved your money.

You’ve asked for time off. Many of you have downloaded the app already and you started picking your classes. You can’t wait. You know when early check in is at the hotel. You’re ready to go. Your heart is there. Your heart is ready. Some of you started serving the WDS long ago. You’ve been praying for this event since long before we even knew that covid 19 was a thing before it even existed. You signed up to volunteer for hours at the conference. So many were here yesterday for the workshop that we had in the morning. Some of you, I know, have even secretly donated hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars so that people you don’t even know can experience this conference. Your heart is ready. I know some of you are new to the church or you’ve recently joined the church. This is new for you. But I commend you. I’ve seen so many of you just hey, what is this? Okay, how do I get on board? And you’ve been able to get on board and make every effort to participate in the summit. And I thank you for that. Then I’m sure there’s a handful of us, you’ve heard the announcements the last seven years, but for whatever reason, you’re not prepared. You mean single tickets cost money? The expectation to serve, to give, or even to pay for anything, including parking, comes as a complete surprise. And I get it. I’m the same way. When I’m distracted and the worries of life and other things come right in front of me, my heart can drift to a funky place too. But no matter where you’re at this morning, today is a new day. From this moment forward, what’s the best way to prepare your heart for the WDS? Let’s read. Romans, chapter twelve, verse one. This will help us with the conference and really so much more. Romans twelve, verse one. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual or rational act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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. So, chapter twelve starts verse one with therefore.

So what’s it there for? Well, in the first eleven chapters, paul writes this masterpiece on God’s mercy given to broken sinners just like us. The death of Jesus on the cross. This proves that God is a mercy millionaire and that’s the motivation for the Christian life. That’s why we’re here today. God’s mercy in Jesus, that’s the engine of gratitude that propels us to do what we do. In view of God’s mercy, God’s word then commands us to do two things here. Number one, offer your body as a living sacrifice. On the heels of our Hebrew study, you’ll notice this is temple terminology. Back in the day for public worship at the temple, you would never, ever dare to show up empty handed. You would come with a burnt offering. That was the expectation from God, the best, most expensive animal from your flock. And what this would do, this would demonstrate that all you had, your very best was completely at God’s disposal. Then you fast forward to us as followers of Jesus today. Our bodies have now become the new sacrifice. Instead of an animal, we now bring to God the very best of ourselves.

And to be a sacrifice means, like the animal, we’re now fully at God’s disposal, and we would not show up to anything empty handed. In view of God’s mercy, we now offer our bodies to God and everything that we do. Not only that, we’re a living sacrifice, a living killing, if you will, a paradox. This means our sacrifice is an ongoing thing. This is what is holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. The literal translation here is logical. This is only logical. This is the only logical way to worship, the only reasonable way to worship in view of God’s mercy. It means you’re thinking clearly, not just emotionally. In other words, once you grasp God’s mercy in your life, anything less than a total sacrifice of yourself to God is completely irrational. Would the people that know you best, describe your life as a living sacrifice. And sometimes we can ask such and such, is this person still a Christian? Are they a Christian? I think they’ve been baptized. Okay, that’s a great start. But here’s how you truly know. Is this person a living sacrifice? That’s it. Number two, in view of God’s mercy, god’s word also commands us, do not conform, but instead be transformed.

So when it comes to being a living sacrifice, this is where the rubber meets the road. And we’re given two patterns here: the way our culture thinks and the way God thinks. And transform here in the Greek, is the same word we use in science for metamorphosis, right? You may remember that back in the day, okay, it’s the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. That’s metamorphosis. That’s the word here. That’s the miracle that’s happening. So in view of God’s mercy, the way we think must undergo a metamorphosis, a metamorphosis of how we respond to our circumstances and our suffering. It’s a metamorphosis in how we navigate our relationships in this world. It’s how we respond to what triggers us in our culture, on social media and in the news. Your body belongs to you. No one can tell you what to do with your body. And that’s absolutely true if you conform to the pattern of this world. But the transformed mind says this as for me and my body, it belongs to God as a living sacrifice. So, in the context of our sexual desires, do you not know that your body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. That’s one, corinthians 6:19 and 20. Guard your itching years. Do not conform to the pattern of our culture, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So what does this all have to do with the summit? I don’t really know. Okay, we’ll get there. We’ll get there. We’ll get there. We’re going somewhere, but let’s keep reading. Here, in verse three here, we find practical instructions on how to be a living sacrifice. Romans twelve, verse three. 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 measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same function, so in Christ we who are many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let him or her use it in proportion to their faith.

If it is serving, let him or her serve. If it’s teaching, let that person teach. If it’s encouraging, let him or her encourage. If it’s contributing to the needs of others, let them give generously. If it’s leadership, let that person govern diligently. If it’s showing mercy, let him or her do it cheerfully. Verse three. It tells us to be a living sacrifice. We must have a sober judgment of ourselves. Let’s face it, you and I are not naturally self aware. If that’s news to you, I just prove the point. It’s much easier for me to judge someone else and get it right 95% of the time than to correctly judge myself. So in context here in this scripture, to be sober about yourself, it means you’re not too high on all the different skills that you bring to the table. But it also means that you’re not too low on your skill set either, right? It’s a balance. It’s sobriety. Right? So you’re in touch with reality about your talents, not to serve yourself, but to serve others and to build the church. So if you ever played this game, would you rather? Who’s played this game before?

All right. Shame on you. It’s terrible. It’s a fun game. It’s a good game. Let’s play now for just a moment. Would you rather Gil Hidalgo take pictures at your wedding or me? I’ve got a great or Gabriel. I could ask Gabriel as well. Would you rather have Gabriel or Gil take pictures at your wedding, or would you rather have me take pictures at your wedding? I have a newer iPhone. It will do the job. Yeah. I still say things like, I got to get my pictures developed. Where’s Eckers. On Sundays, and be careful how you answer this. I am very sensitive. On Sundays, would you rather have me preach, or would you rather me be in charge of the baby’s class? Or have me in charge of security? I’ve been working out. I’m huge.

All right? Would you rather right. Here we go. All right. And the next one, I’ll do it again. Would you rather have Jessica Jolly as one of your lead singers up here on stage or would you rather have me? Why are you so quick to say yes? Give me a chance, man. I’m not very sober right now. I’m saying Jessica or me. Right. As a singer, I felt like in the last service, my audition was not very good. I feel like I need a second chance. A second chance before you just say yes, jessica, give me a shot here.

Thanks, I mean, there’s an open spot with Chandler moving away, so I was going to go for it, right?

All right. So if I’m sober minded, really my ceiling is maybe I could lead a song at a small baptism that’s probably I have been redeemed that’s all I can do but that’s sobriety and not being so sober. But to summarize verses four and five, we’re all in the same standing with the gospel all the same at the foot of the cross. But God has gifted each one of us with distinct personalities, experiences and abilities to serve. Not serve ourselves, but to serve one another. So we see in verses six through eight a sampling of these gifts that God has given to our church. Now, keep in mind as we look through some of these, your role, your mindset is this summit is about to start. I’m just going to highlight a few of these. Verse seven starts with serving. Now, we’re all supposed to serve. Many of these you see on this list, we all can do. But God has gifted us for those reasons I mentioned, personality, experiences, abilities to really be able to serve the church in a great way in these areas. Now, here it starts with serving of verse seven.

In the Greek, this is narrowing it down to practical service. This person is very good at practical tasks. This is what you would call the ultimate team player. They bring that chemistry to the team. And this is the person that actually does not need the spotlight and kind of does better in the background to make things happen. We all need to aspire to that. But that’s really a God given gift as well. In verse eight, it highlights the gifts of encouragement and giving. This Greek word for encouragement literally means to come alongside someone. That’s encouragement. You’re coming alongside someone. And some of you are incredibly gifted in this area. You make other people feel around you that you’re right there with them. And we need people like that. I need people like that. You’re invaluable because you serve the people around you as a supporter, a greeter or welcomer. And then if you have the special talent of giving, of course, again, we’re all supposed to give. But this specialized talent here, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to be wealthy. Amen. But rather, you’re wise and you’re considerate in your generosity. You’re anticipating needs several bounces down the road ahead of the rest of us, right?

And I think about last Saturday when we had Don Mcgillips memorial. All the different people that shared who not all of them really knew each other that well. And they were somewhere from different cities. They all were telling stories about how Don had contributed to their needs, specifically and even anticipated needs well in advance. And he took care of people with food, with money, with encouragement, with time. That was Don, right? So that’s a special talent of giving. And all these build up the church. We all need this. So this takes me back to the original question. What’s the best way to prepare myself for the WDS? Here’s the mindset. This is it, right here. Here’s how we prepare our hearts. The World Discipleship Summit is worship. All of it. Not just the singing. All of it. And it’s already started. The worship has already begun. It’s been going on for years. All of it is worship. The preparation you saving your pennies to go, giving your time, your resources, that’s worship. That’s what the Bible defines as worship. We just read it. The keynotes, the classes, the music, the singing, all of it. All of it is worship.

A life giving conversation over lunch, hugging someone that you just met in the elevator, that’s worship. It’s giving of yourself. It’s standing on the corner directing traffic, volunteering with kindness and a smile on your face. All of it. That is worship. Meeting needs in the moment, paying the parking fee for the car behind you, slipping a $20 bill in the pocket of a missionary, that’s a living sacrifice. That’s your worship. And at the WDS, we have this unique opportunity to see this on display with 15,000 people and their collective gifts. All of it is worship. The World Discipleship Summit will be worship.

So maybe you’re late to the party with this conference, and I would just appeal to you please don’t be the older brother in the prodigal son story. Please don’t be grumpy now and refuse to come. Join the party. Some way, somehow, get involved, find a way to serve. It’s not too late. Don’t miss your opportunity to worship. In view of God’s mercy, the logical response, the rational response to this conference is this you and I must offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. It’s a golden opportunity for us to love our brothers and sisters from around the world, to show them the love of the Orlando Church of Christ.

Look at verse nine. It tells us about love. It says, Love must be sincere, hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted, be committed, be all in for one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Many other translations say it this way outdo one another and showing them honor. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need and practice hospitality. Bottom line love one another as if you were related by blood, which of course you are in Christ. And Paul challenges us here. Honor one another above yourselves. And that’s my appeal to us. Next week, let’s outdo one another and showing honor to our guests. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Do whatever it takes. That’s a living sacrifice. Sacrifice your time, your resources, your own needs and emotions, all to provide for someone else in need. Do whatever it takes. That’s a living sacrifice. That’s how the Bible defines true worship. I do think you need to start visualizing it. Imagine the victory if we all do this.

Just imagine that. Imagine what it will feel like. 15,000 souls together in one place for one week. One moment in time as a living sacrifice. A few weeks ago, your sister in Christ, Brenda Hale, painted a vivid picture of this scene for us, and I’m going to borrow it today. This comes from a Facebook thread on how to be thrifty at the summit. Very good thread. There is some good stuff on Facebook occasionally. One in 1000, especially if it comes from Brenda. But she painted a vivid picture of the scene and she’s speaking on how to really be able to use your money and your resources wisely at the conference. And Brenda writes: great ideas I read. The conference has been in the plans for over five years, seven, giving us plenty of time to put some money aside. But I also know unexpected things happen along the way that can take a toll on many financially. With all respect to my fellow brothers and sisters, we have spent money on vacations or other things, but in my eyes, this time together will be the greatest vacation of all. It is a treasure, a kingdom banquet on earth, where angels and the spiritual presence of God will be among his children.

I’m not asking us to be unwise, but sacrificial. We should have been preparing for this, like the virgins in Matthew 25 and their oil, and they have plenty of it. Right now, it’s all about our hearts and what we value and what we treasure. Our children will get to experience a piece of heaven on earth. They will get to see God’s work and the unity of believers, which is of great value. God will do amazing things as we come together. He will strengthen us, encourage us, increase our faith, give us dreams and visions, and a greater passion for his mission and the hope we have in Jesus Christ. I and my family look forward to being there with you all. I am thankful for this opportunity the Lord has blessed us with and we will make the best of each day. On another note, we are bringing our own snacks, we are bringing our NutriBullet for smoothies, bringing our own water. And we’ve been saving our money so we can have a meal with other disciples once every day. Be encouraged. You’re going to be filled in ways that words can’t even describe. The Lord smiles from heaven and when he sees his children gather, he smiles on us.

Hasta la vista, baby. My fellow warriors, stay faithful. Brenda Hale. Thank you so much for Brenda. I think she was at our first service. But that really captures the spirit and paints the vivid picture of what we’re talking about. Brothers and sisters, you and I are in the middle of a historic moment. Don’t get distracted by the worries of life. Don’t blink or you could miss it. One week from tonight, the World Discipleship Summit officially begins. In view of God’s mercy, let’s offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Please now join me in prayer as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus and the mercy of God on each one of our souls. Let’s pray. Father in heaven, words fall short and expressing our gratitude to you. Father, help us to be living sacrifices in view of Your mercy and view of Your plan to give up and watch your son suffer and die for us, that the Creator would die for his creation, that the Judge would take the judgment that should come on us. Thank you God, so much for Your incredible mercy. Thank you so much for Jesus. I pray that you just work on our hearts.

Take us to a new level of gratitude. Help us, God, just to just be those living sacrifices that our body is willing and able to serve you and to serve others and use the gifts you’ve given to us. We do pray for the upcoming weeks that your spirit will move in a powerful way and we can look back on this time and say God was truly with us. Thank you for Jesus. We thank you for the cup that we take now that we remember the blood and what he gave up for us. We take the bread and remember his body as well. Thank you God. We don’t deserve this, but You’ve given it to us. Help us to respond in gratitude and celebration and as living sacrifices. We love you and we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Two Mountains

All right, let’s go ahead and get ready for our lesson this morning. It’s good to see everyone. Happy Father’s Day. I’m very thankful to be a dad today. Grateful I can share these pictures with you. I didn’t even check with my kids. Usually I always check with them before I include them on a slide, but I think I’m going to just take the right of Father’s Day and put these pictures up there. But that’s me and my son Nate. Very thankful for him. Grateful to be his dad. I love him a ton. And of course, these are my girls, my beautiful women, in addition to my wife, of course. But these are my daughters from a recent picture from last week of some time we were able to spend together at the beach. Love, Ella. Love, Charlotte. Such a privilege to be a father and looking back, extremely grateful for my own dad for 28 years before he passed away. And if my mom’s watching this online, I love you, mom. Love you and dad. So thankful that you have been my parents. Feel very blessed and grateful for you. Happy Father’s Day to everyone. I know it elicits different feelings for different people, but it’s just good to be together as the family of God.

Today, we’re going to dive into the word. Ladies and gentlemen. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached the final four in Hebrews. What I mean is we’re down to the final four sermons in our series. You know the theme, Jesus is better and the preacher of Hebrews is unknown. He or she definitely an old Testament gunslinger. We see that in every single lesson, every text we look at. The original audience, we have Christians that are drifting away from Jesus, and it’s a very real danger for us today, for us this year, for several reasons. The scattering of the church because of the pandemic, the worries and busyness that can chip away at our faith, and really our culture just constantly telling us that life is better if we live our own truth. And that’s what we face. So with this in mind, today we continue in Hebrews, chapter twelve. Eddie Francis will cover the topic of discipline next week in verses five through 17. We’re going to skip ahead today. By the way, Eddie and Lapadik are in Oviedo today at their Park Service. That’s where they’re at. So we’re missing them, but we’re happy that they’re in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Oviedo.

Eddie will be back next week preaching on verses five through 17 of Hebrews, chapter twelve. But this morning again, we skip down to verse 18, and our sermon title is this: Two Mountains. Let’s look at Hebrews twelve, verse 18. This is the crescendo of the original sermon. Verse 18. For you have not come to what may be touched. A blazing fire, and darkness and gloom, and a tempest, the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. Verse 20. For they could not endure the order that was given. If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned. Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, I tremble with fear. So again, the writer takes us back to the old days, the old covenant, and these words would have just clicked immediately with the original audience. And I think for us, maybe not so much. What the Hebrew writer has just described was the holiest event in Jewish history. It’s when Moses received the Ten Commandments as they camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. The author sets the scene here at Mount Sinai and it’s terrifying.

This is a picture of what historians believe is modern day Mount Sinai, very imposing mountain. In verses 18 through 21, this is a flashback to the Jews in their first encounter with the Almighty God. And from the beginning of this relationship, God establishes a holy distance between himself and his people for their own safety. Let’s read the backstory of this scary event. Exodus 19:10. The Lord said to Moses, you go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Let them wash their garments. In other words, make sure that people clean and purify themselves for their first meeting with God. Verse eleven. And be ready for the third day. For the third day, the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the site of all the people, and you shall set limits or build this fence for the people all around saying, take care not to go up into the mountain or even touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch that person, but he shall be stoned or shot with an arrow. Whether beast or man, he shall not live. When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.

So, soon after these instructions, that third day comes. Moses goes up to Mount Sinai while all the people watch from a safe distance. God then comes down and fire and smoke and lightning, and even then through angels, okay, God meets with Moses and he gives him the Ten Commandments. Is this a casual, fun day in the park for God’s people? Do you envision just God’s people singing Elevation worship and hill song and getting their praise and Sunday worship on here? No, this is frightening, horrifying. And if you disobeyed in the presence of God, you died. That’s it. Let’s read some more. Exodus 20, verse 18. Now, when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off. And get this, they said to Moses, you speak to us, Moses, and we will listen. But please do not let God speak to us lest we die. Moses said to the people, do not fear. Easier said than done, right? Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of God may be before you, that you may not sin.

The people stood far off while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. So this is a scene on Mount Sinai that the writer describes in Hebrews Twelve, verses 18 through 21. He’s telling his audience, he’s telling us today, if you follow Jesus, mount Sinai is not your mountain anymore. Now, let’s be clear. God has not changed. But because of Jesus, your relationship with God has now changed. So if you were able to get the handout here, we’ll take a look at that. And for those watching online, AV crew, if you can go full screen on this one for those watching at home, you see it on the left side of your handout and you see it on the slide. Mount Sinai is an earthly mountain. There’s fire, there’s smoke, there’s darkness, gloom and doom when you encounter God. And when God speaks through the angels, even Moses trembles with fear. And if you touch Mount Sinai, you die. No excuses, no sentimentality. That’s it. You can only approach God’s mountain if you’re completely clean physically. Why? Because God is holy and you’re not. We’re far, far from it. In fact, we’re stained by evil.

So again, this is a vital part of who God is. Notice the present tense I’m using. This is who God is. And this is very cringe for us. I mean, most of the new Christian songs we sing don’t really emphasize God’s fierce holiness. If you were raised in recent American Christianity, which I think most of us were, or the Church of Christ, most of the time we only view God as our friend and as our Father, rather than fearing God as this all consuming fire of holy judgment. Now, of course, God is all three: friend, father, and consuming fire. Check out the picture here. To this day, many Orthodox Jews, they won’t even write out the full name of God. Many won’t even say the name Yahweh out loud. They simply refer to him as the Name. That’s because they were raised with this holy fear of the Almighty God. It’s the song that we sang at the very beginning. Stand in awe with trembling and fear. As a culture, we don’t like this part of God, right? We don’t get it. God’s holiness, God’s wrath. It’s not fun to talk about. Many times we’re unwilling to see Him this way, and you start to think, we put God on the hot seat.

Why is God so intolerant and God seems so judgemental? And why the distance? Why can’t God just get over it and be with me with all my flaws? We think this, we go there, these are good questions. And then we, well, what about God’s love and God’s grace? How do we reconcile these things? God is holy. And the word holy has very negative connotations in English, unfortunately, lost in the translation. Who wants to be known as holy? Look at him, he thinks he’s so holy. I think also we often define holy strictly as the moral behavior of religious people. But you see, with God and biblical holiness, it’s so much more than that. When we say God is holy, some of that, or some of what that means is God is unique. God is one of a kind. God is completely and utterly pure. God is set apart. God is other. God is just different. Holy means he’s the source, he’s the creator. God is the reality of all things. God has no beginning and God has no end. No one created God. Now, if you think about that for more than 30 seconds, mind blown. His power is holy. His power is completely other.

So when you come in contact with God’s holiness, let’s say you read a command in God’s word, you instantly realize how small, weak and broken you are. And it’s terrifying. When you encounter God’s holiness, you have no idea if you’ll even survive. When confronted by God’s holiness in Isaiah six, the prophet said, what? Whoa to me. I am undone. In other words, woe to me, I am so lost. Isaiah thought he was going to die. Over the years, my go to illustration on this is the sun. In our solar system, in a sense, the sun is holy. Here’s what I mean. For us, the sun is the source of all life. Without the sun, we all die. The sun sustains us. We completely depend on it. We take it for granted, right? It’s there. And there’s nothing that compares to the raw power and the energy of the sun. Nothing. And think on this we’re 93 million miles away from the sun. But what happens if you stare at it too long? It will blind you. Again, we take this for granted. It’s 93 million miles away and you can’t even stare at it. That’s the raw, unadulterated power of the sun.

That’s why we invented sunglasses. What if you just sit outside in the sun too long? You get burned. We need sunscreen for protection. What if you had a crazy idea to build a rocket and you wanted to fly too close to the sun? Maybe you have this great idea that I’m going to have a picnic on the sun. No, you’re toast. Literally. So is the sun an intolerant jerk when it hurts us? Is the sun judgemental? And is the sun mean because we can’t get too close to it? Is the sun your buddy? Is the sun a bad thing? No, the sun is completely good. But you must humbly, fear and respect the sun, right? Again. In the presence of this holy other power of the sun, our weaknesses are exposed. So I’d say in the same way, the message of God’s holiness is often scandalous and offensive because it exposes us. It exposes our weaknesses, our sin and all of that idolatry that’s hidden away in our hearts. Write this down, take a picture of this, wrestle with this statement. I believe this is the truth for all of us. Maybe the problem isn’t God’s intolerance after all.

The problem is us. When God’s holiness begins to press in on us and God has found something unclean in our lives, when God’s found a rebellious stronghold in our lives, often our gut instinct is to fight and scratch and claw, to hold onto that very thing. I know because I’ve done it. As a younger man, when God’s holy standard of absolute purity pressed in on me, I rebelled against it. God’s holy command of one man, one woman only in marriage exposed my idolatry. For years I fought God on this. I pursued sensual pleasure and happiness my own way and it nearly destroyed me and the people in my path. God’s holiness can offend us because it exposes us. And sex is just one example of this. There are many, many more, but to the point of sex, when confronted by God’s word, to deny immoral sexual attractions, sexual desires, impulses, what do we do? In our arrogance, humanity pushes back. We’re offended. We think we deserve sexual happiness whenever, however and with whomever we want. Love is love. As broken humans, that’s where we go. That’s our anything goes definition of love. Now think about it.

Love is love. We’re now defining a word by the same word. That’s the best we can do as broken humanity. Meanwhile, the timeless truth and the Bible is this: God is love. God created love. God defines the sexual boundaries of love. Then we just come along, we plagiarize what God created, and then we have the audacity to say, no, that’s real love. Our version is weak and powerless compared to the standard of God’s holy love. Love and sex. And that’s just one example of how God’s holiness could rub us the wrong way. Bottom line, I don’t know what it is for you today. Wrestle with this, will you humble yourself when God’s holiness triggers something in you. Because even the best of us here, we cannot get to the mountain of grace without first stopping at Mount Sinai to have our sin exposed by God’s fierce holiness. Speaking of, who would like to move to the second mountain? Let’s go to the second mountain in verse 22. This is where you want to live. Verse 22. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels and festal gathering, and to the assembly or the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.

And to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, verse 24. And to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Now, this mountain is very different than the first. If you follow Jesus, this is your mountain. This is where you want to live, Mount Zion. This is the mountain you and I must choose. And it is a choice. You don’t automatically just find yourself on this mountain, okay? It’s a choice. Choose Mount Zion. And on this mountain, get this, you encountered the same holy God as the first mountain, but this time there’s a party going on. This is a picture here of modern day mountain Zion in Jerusalem. It’s a real place. It’s the hill on which Jerusalem is built, and it’s a place of safety, God’s presence, celebration. But it always pointed to something more than just the earthly location. It’s the city of the living God. It’s our future home in heaven. And there are so many hymns about Mount Zion, and hopefully now it’ll start to make sense a little more why the writers would write so many songs about Mount Zion.

That’s because Zion symbolizes victory. So go back to this handout again. You see on the right hand side. You see on the right hand side Mount Zion. And if and when you follow Jesus, this is the mountain of the New Covenant. Instead of covering your ears and trembling as the angel spoke for God on this mountain, now you have angels, thousands upon thousands of angels actually throwing the party. On this mountain, you, the Church, becomes the firstborn, which means you have first born rights, which means the eternal inheritance of Jesus is now yours. As we said before, what’s true of Jesus is now true of you. This is the mountain, as Tyler taught us three weeks ago, where you are being made perfect. This is the mountain where the holy and awesome God is now completely approachable. And one incredible day, dare I say, the holy God will even be touchable and huggable. So how is this even possible? How can the same God who was so distant on Mount Sinai now becomes so welcoming and so close on Mount Zion? Jesus. Jesus is on Mount Zion. We see in verse 24, it tells us we’ve come to Mount Zion, where Jesus is now the mediator of the New Covenant into the sprinkled blood that Jesus speaks is a better word than the blood of Abel.

This here is the climax of all we’ve learned in Hebrews up to this point. Jesus is better and Jesus awaits you on the better mountain. Jesus is the mediator on Mount Zion. Jesus is our go between, our peacemaker, our indestructible high priest, the resurrected Jesus reigns victorious on Mount Zion. We can now approach the throne of the Almighty God because of Jesus with confidence. What is true of Jesus is now true of you on Mount Zion. Again, God has not changed. But because of Jesus, the dynamic of your relationship with God has changed. John Newton put it this way and John Newton wrote a small song called Amazing Grace. You may have heard that one. John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, one of his other songs, he articulates this concept this way, the blood of Jesus has hushed the laws loud thunder let that sink in. The blood of Jesus has hushed the laws loud thunder. Today is Juneteenth. It’s a new national holiday in the United States. And on June 19 every year, we now commemorate the freedom of enslaved African Americans. And there’s no sugarcoating this in our country. The institution of slavery vividly represents the injustice, the evil and the brokenness of our humanity as a people that were created originally in the image of God.

The blood of millions of African Americans cries out from the ground for generations of injustice. Slavery, it’s just one example of our broken humanity that’s exposed at the foot of Mount Sinai. It’s terrifying. But here’s the good news. We see the very best of humanity on Mount Zion. We see Jesus. Here’s the contrast: on Mount Zion, the blood of Jesus speaks a better word to us than the blood of Abel. Abel’s blood screams brokenness, injustice and murder. As we sang earlier, Abel’s blood for vengeance. But the blood of Jesus speaks to us the good news of redemption, of justice and freedom. So I ask you, with such a great salvation spoken by the blood of Jesus, how will you respond? The preacher of Hebrews shows us how in verse 25. Let’s read it. Verse 25. See to it that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven? At that time, referring to Mount Sinai, at that time, God’s voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, yet once more, I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens. This phrase yet once more indicates the removal of things that are shaken, that is, things that have been made in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, let us be grateful, grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken and thus less offered to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire. When God shook the earth and shook the Mount at Sinai, you think that was scary? You ain’t seen nothing yet. He quotes the prophet Haggai. He warns us that this cosmic earthquake is coming. Judgment Day is on the way, and this time God’s going to shake up both the heavens and the earth. And for some, this is going to be the greatest day of celebration. For those on Mount Zion, this is going to be an amazing time. Because when God shakes things up and burns away all the idols, burns away all the sin, burns away all the conflicts and the hurts and the pains and the tears, and all that remains is what is pure and what is of God. It’s going to be this incredible celebration. It’s what we want. But for others, this will be a time of terror, regret and condemnation. It is what it is, and that’s what it is. On Judgment Day, God will shake away all of our idols in this world.

All that has been exposed is unholy, will burn in the holiness of God’s consuming fire. Yeah, I admit that’s a scary message, but at the same time, it’s inspiring because this is how God works. This is how God gives us true life. He’s blowing that chaff away. He’s burning the chaff. He’s getting rid of all the wickedness. He shakes away and he burns away all that’s been exposed that has been hurting us. On the day of this cosmic earthquake, only the things that cannot be shaken will remain. So what is that? What is it that can never be shaken? What’s the only thing that will survive Judgment Day? Verse 28. The kingdom of Jesus can never, ever be shaken. And this should give us motivation. Do not pursue happiness in all the wrong things. Don’t chase after the wind. It’s going to burn. It’s going to die. It’s not going to last. Those things will burn on Judgment Day. Never give up your life for something that death can take away. Do not refuse the voice of Jesus. On Judgment Day, only the kingdom of Jesus will survive and thrive. And I encourage our fathers it’s Father’s Day. A word for the fathers. Let’s lead the way as leaders of our families. Let’s lead the way in building our family on the solid rock of the kingdom. Let’s build our families on true strength. The kingdom of God. Therefore, the author now makes it very clear how to respond to Jesus in verse 28. Therefore, number one, let us be grateful. Gratitude is the true mark of a disciple of Jesus. It’s not one of those things you kind of add in, like, oh, I’d be a better person if I was more grateful and I stopped complaining. No, check out the scriptures here. Write these scriptures down. Look at them. Gratitude is expected and commanded. If you claim to follow Jesus, it’s a decision. Check out every conversion we see in the Book of Acts. Everyone is grateful, every single baptism. Gratitude is the mark of someone who has been truly converted for the long haul in Jesus. Good news always remains really good news. So give some thought of this. A lot of times we hear this, I need to be more grateful, or you need to be more grateful, or Where’s my gratitude? Got to dig deeper on this.

When you’re grateful, what does it look like? What does it look like for you at work, at school, with your family? If you’re really grateful, what does it sound like in your speech? Your speech of gratitude should mark you as different and other wherever you go. How do you take care of something that you’re really grateful for? How much time and attention and energy do you give something that you’re really, truly grateful for? I think two of our greatest examples of gratitude in this church are our elders. I think Eddie and Lepatic Francis. I think of Barry and Debbie Mattox, been disciples for decades and leadership in front of us for many, many years. Yes, they have tremendous skills. They can solve problems. But if you think about it, they’re incredibly grateful people, and that’s why they’re built to last, and that’s why they’re out in front of us, leading the way. They’re solid because they’re grateful. And the good news remains good news to them. Not a coincidence that these men and women lead us. Gratitude, on the other hand, to be ungrateful is a sin against God. It’s not just a take it or leave it thing.

Second Timothy three teaches that religious people who are ungrateful have a form of Godliness, but deny its power. If you complain on the regular, if you complain about your life, if you complain about other people, if you’re complaining about the church I don’t know how to say it, but you are drifting, and gratitude is a sign of the unbeliever. Let’s be grateful. I’m trying to work on it. I’m not there yet, but I’m pressing forward because I know this is vital for me to be on Mount Zion, I must be grateful. Number two, worship God with reverence and awe for our gods and consuming fire. That’s the other response we’re called to here to Jesus. Worship God with reverence and awe. And this goes hand in hand with gratitude, right? It’s hard to worship if you’re constantly thinking about, well, I’m getting the short end of the stick here, right? It’s hard to worship when you feel sorry for yourself or you play the victim. It’s hard to worship God when there’s self worship going on. I do want to say this worship is so much more than singing in music here or at home.

It’s more than just singing in these church services. This is just an hour and a half. That’s why I hesitate to call our singers and musicians the worship team. I think that’s fine, but I just don’t always go there. The Hebrew word for worship is to prostrate oneself before God. Do you know what this is? This is literally laying face down on the ground, in the dirt, on the floor, getting down and dirty and talking to God and bowing before God. I did it this morning for the first time in a long time. I tell you what, it’s very humbling. It’s humiliating. It’s exactly what I needed. When was the last time you got on your knees at least? We get so casual in our relationship with God because Jesus has given us that freedom to approach the throne of grace with confidence. We must approach God and remember to do that with reverence in awe. Worship is 24/7. It’s living in the presence of God all the time. Paul defines worship this way in Romans twelve, verse one, present your body, present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.

Worship is countercultural. Worship means self denial. Worship means you put yourself on the cross every day and you choose Jesus over personal pleasure. Worship means you live in the holy fear of God. And you look back with sobriety to what it was like on Mount Sinai. When it comes to worship, these Sunday mornings are great. This is a weekly gourmet meal. But we all need a daily diet of private worship. So here it is. To summarize our response to Jesus, the living water challenges, I put these in the form of questions so we can wrestle with these. Wrestle yourself, get with other people. Let’s talk about these three questions. How will this passage change the way you worship? Number two how will you express gratitude this week for Mount Zion? How will you repent and become a grateful person? And we’ll end with number three. And this circles us back to the beginning. The question at number three is when God’s holiness exposes your sin, when God’s holiness exposes your brokenness and the idols that are down deep in your heart, which mountain will you choose? Today we’re a sunrise closer to the return of King Jesus.

You realize that? All of us have a choice. All of us can live on one of two mountains. If you’re stuck on Mount Sinai, God’s going to feel very distant. You see God’s holiness, you may be around some holy people you know God’s commands. You do know God’s expectations for your life, but for some reason, you just keep pushing back. Maybe you’re blaming God or you’re holding on to what God has exposed in you and you don’t like it. And because of that, your actions begin to demonstrate what you’re really saying is, no, I’m doing it my way. This is how I’ll find happiness and true life. I’m doing it my way. Deep down, I bet Judgment Day terrifies you because you’re camped at Mount Sinai. Old Christians, new Christians, not sure if you’re a Christian. Today I appeal to all of us. Let’s choose Mount Zion. When you feel God’s holiness pressing in on you, when God’s holiness and God’s word exposes your sin and your brokenness, when friends confront you on your sin, or family members confront you on your sin, don’t get offended. Don’t push back. Don’t go to Mount Sinai. Instead, humble yourself today.

Get with someone. Get with someone today. Get with someone this week. Open the Bible. Have a heart to heart talk. Admit who you are before it’s too late. And who are you? Who am I? A broken person with broken idols who desperately needs the saving blood of Jesus and the leadership of Jesus in my life. We’ll close with this. Therefore, in light of all that Jesus has done for you, therefore, let us be grateful. Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And thus let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Let’s now pray together as we celebrate the saving blood of Jesus.

Father in Heaven, thank you that we can take communion together at this time. Thank you, Father, that you’ve always given us a choice. And through Jesus, it’s always been your plan to make yourself completely approachable, lovable. Thank you, God, for your mercy, your grace, and your forgiveness. Thank you so much for the unshakeable kingdom that all of us have access to. I pray that you help us to share this with others. God, I also ask you this time that you increase our faith.

The world is all around us. It attacks us and it sounds so good and we get caught up in it. Father, increase our faith in Mount Zion. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his blood. That speaks a better word than anything in this world. Thank you for his blood. Thank you for his body. We celebrate our relationship with him at this time. Draw us near to you. We pray all these things in Jesus name. Amen.

What is Faith?

It’s good to be together this morning. The north and the east regions of the Orlando Church of Christ.

Sad that Brian and Michelle Santos are not here. They’ve been leading and serving in the north region for a long, long time. We’re missing them today. They are down in the Miami area proclaiming the Gospel of Caribbean missions, as well as the World Discipleship Summit. So we’re missing them today. I wish they were here, but it’s really good to be together. If you’re visiting with us, our Church has three geographic regions, formally in Orlando and also I might add in the last ten years, we’ve been able to branch off and start churches in Claremont, Space Coast, Lakeland. But the work is far from complete. As the population of central Florida grows, our vision is for the gospel to grow with it. Amen. Amen. And to spread the gospel and expand this Church together in the years ahead. It will take a generational passion for the mission of Jesus. It’s going to take extraordinary unity and trust in our relationships. And most of all, it’s going to take a faith that’s risky, radical and repetitive. And speaking of faith in the east, we’re diving into the Book of Hebrews this year. East region helped me out here with the theme of Hebrews.

Jesus is better. Amen. Amen. Today we’ve reached Hebrews chapter eleven. It’s the longest chapter of Hebrews. It’s the faith chapter we’re probably going to spend at least two weeks on it. Not verse by verse, but we’ll try to hit the major themes and concepts. And as we jump into chapter eleven today, here’s the context. In the first ten chapters of Hebrews, the author has given us a master class on the identity and the purpose of Jesus. The writer has proven Jesus is better from every angle you could possibly imagine. So now the door of Hebrews begins to swing on its hinge, and the author calls us to a decision. We’re encouraged, we’re challenged, we’re warned. Stop drifting and respond to Jesus. So let’s review that appeal the writer makes to us. This is where we picked off, we left off last week here at the end of chapter ten, verse 35. It reads, Therefore, in light of all that Jesus has done for you, therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised. For yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay, but my righteous one shall live by faith. And if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. Well Orlando Church, we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but we are of those who have faith and save their souls. So we look back to the Ministry of Jesus, the cross, the resurrection of Jesus, and we look forward to the return of Jesus. We see that here in verse 37, the coming one will come and he will not delay. That’s the return of Jesus. So here we are today. We’re in the present. It’s the in between time. The Bible calls this the last days. That’s what we’re in right now. So while you and I wait and wait some more for Jesus to come back, what exactly are we supposed to be doing? And we find the answer in verse 38. It’s a quote from the Prophet Habakkuk. My righteous ones will live by faith. So whatever faith means, that’s how we’re supposed to live until Jesus comes back. Whatever this word faith really means, that’s what we need to save our souls. So that begs the question, what is faith?

And that’s the topic of our lesson today. That’s really the topic of the entirety of Hebrews chapter eleven. I want to let you know several commentaries help me prepare this lesson. I do want to give special credit again to Tim Mackey’s exploring my strange Bible podcast. I’m borrowing some of his ideas today. So what is faith? And it’s confusing today, right? If we think about it, there’s so many ideas about this word, so many wrong ideas, I should say about faith in our Western culture. It’s just part of our even secular vocabulary. Such as, well, we can get the idea that faith is simply having some type of religious attitude about life. Or faith can often be defined as having a positive outlook on life, faith as being a positive thinker. Or perhaps most popular today, the world can tell us that faith means believing in yourself. But the biblical explanation of faith in Hebrews Eleven is radically different. So what we’re going to do right now, I’m going to ask Angie to come up. I’ve asked her in advance. She’s going to read for us the entirety of Hebrews eleven. It’s worth hearing out loud and taking it in.

So we’re going to take five minutes to do that. Listen to the word of God on the subject of faith, and please read along. Listen in. Hebrews Eleven specifically, it’s a retelling of the Old Testament story through the lens of faith. It’s called the hall of Fame of Faith. So please listen closely as Angie reads and once she’s done, I’ll come back and we’ll focus on two key concepts in faith. Angie.

Hebrews Eleven Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of 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. By faith, Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith, he was commended as a righteous man when God spoke well of his offerings and by faith, he still speaks even though he is dead. 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. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen in Holy fear, built an Ark to save his family. By faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

By faith he made his home in the promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise, for he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was Baron, was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful, who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as sand on the seashore. 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, and they admitted that they were aliens 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 the 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.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice, he who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s son and worshipped as he leaned on top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. By faith Moses parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw he was no ordinary child and they were not afraid of the King’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

By faith, he left Egypt not bearing the King’s anger. He persevered because he saw who is invisible. By faith, he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith, the people who passed through the Red Sea, the people passed through the Red Sea, as on dry land. But when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith, the walls of Jericho fell after the people had marched around them for seven days. By Faith the prostitute, Rahab because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barack, Samson, Jepthah, David, 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 enemies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released so that they might gain a better resurrection.

Some faced Jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned. They were sawed in two. They were put to death 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 and in caves and holes in the ground. They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

That is so inspiring. The world was not worthy of them. Love that line. What we’re going to do here is we’re going to start with verse one, and this is the classic definition of faith, verse one. And what I’m going to do is examine multiple translations of this verse. I’m going to kind of go Greek geek here for a minute. I know the NIV. Many of you believe the NIV is the Bible that Jesus spoke, but it is good to get and it used to be the King James. Now it’s the NIV, but it’s good to get a well rounded view of translations by the scholars from the Greek to English so it can make sense for us. But here, you see, when we’re talking about a definition of faith, according to the Hebrew author, in the NIV, again, the Bible, Jesus read the ESV and NET. We see faith here is an assurance. It’s a confidence. It’s an assurance of things you hope for. You get the feeling here that faith is this inner confidence that you have. Assurance to be sure of something. And then there’s a slight shift in these translations that I’ll share next of the new living, the Holman, and the King James Version, it says faith shows the reality of what we hope for.

Our faith is the reality of what is hoped for. Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. You may have noticed just a slight difference there at the beginning of the verse that faith is here more a substance of reality. The Greek word here is hypostasis, and it does mean insurance, assurance, but it also means substance or a pointer to the reality of something so similar to English. Some words in Greek, we would not be surprised, have multiple meanings, very rich meanings. And that’s the case here with this Greek word, hopostasis. So the point I’m getting at, I’m going somewhere with this is faith is the substance or ground or reality of things hoped for. Faith is something that’s underneath. Okay. When we’re looking at this translation here, which is also correct, I really think it adds more color to our definition. Faith is something that guarantees a future possession. With faith, it’s not only just this inner confidence that you have, but you can actually taste the future reality of your greatest hope. So maybe you’re with me. If not, I’ll do more to explain this and bring this to life because you think about it.

What does it mean to taste the thing you’re hoping for? All right. And the first example I would say is with our home. We bought a new home in Waterford Lakes in November, and I brought it with me. I’m glad I haven’t lost it because it’s very important. In this folder, we have the title deed to our home. It’s funny, I couldn’t find it yesterday and I was like, man, this lesson shot. Okay, I’ve lost all hope, but this is the title deed in here of our home. And of course, we owe years of mortgage on our house, but we do consider ourselves homeowners. So these documents point us to the reality, right. Long before the final bill is paid, we taste the experience of owning the house. All right. And so in the same way, Hebrews Eleven one defines faith as a title deed of sorts of things hoped for. Are you with me? So absolutely faith is something inside of you. It’s a confidence that you hope for. But faith is so much more than just hyping yourself up and saying, okay, I believe, I believe now, I believe. With faith, you can actually taste the reality of what you’re hoping for.

With faith, you can experience the evidence of a better future. I’ll give you another example of this. This is where we lived in Scotland. This is our house for three years. Speaking of title deeds? No, just kidding. This is another Castle in Scotland. They’re a dime a dozen. But I will say this January and Scotland are brutal. The trees look dead. You can see some of the trees here. The rain, the wind, the darkness. Sunrise, if you see the sun is at about 09:00 A.m. And sunset in January is around 02:30 p.m. So we’re walking our kids home from school in the dark. We’re taking them to school in the dark, and only the grass is green, sometimes. Lots of Brown and Gray. Scotland in January, really, all year, but mostly in January, Scotland is a black and white movie. So when we make the joke as we go through, January is a long year in Scotland. Then in March, something incredible happens, something beautiful and symbolic. These wild flowers begin to Bloom all over the place out of nowhere. All right. No human planted these flowers. They just happen. The wildflowers tell you that winter is passing and spring and summer must be coming.

It’s early March, all right. It’s still cold, it’s still dark, it’s still rainy, and it’s 50 something degrees outside. But some people start wearing short sleeve shirts, and this makes absolutely no sense. Why would they do such a crazy thing? Wear shorts, short sleeve shirts. They see the wildflowers. By faith and a taste of the past and experience by faith. They have a taste of the reality that they will fully experience when summer comes. So they have evidence here that winter is receding and spring and summer are on the way. Great quote I wanted to share with you. Faith is an experience you have when you obey and follow Jesus in a way that makes no sense in light of your current circumstances. It only makes sense in light of the future. And this is exactly what the ancients were commended for in Hebrews chapter eleven. This. When you read about these people, their choices make no sense in light of their surroundings and their culture. In fact, many of their decisions, as we just read and heard their decisions, led them into big trouble, horrible mistreatment, persecution, and often death. But all of them knew spring and summer were coming.

They could point to something as evidence that God would make good on his promises to them. Let’s look at a couple of examples of this in Hebrews eleven. We’ll start with the mother of faith, Sarah. Hebrews eleven, verse eleven. By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive even when she was past the age since she considered or she made up her mind and deemed him faithful, who had promised. So what’s Sarah’s Act of faith here? You see, when God first told Sarah she would have a baby, you remember what happened? She texted her friends. Lol God was on that text message accidentally. She laughed at God’s promise. But after initial unbelief and at least one horrible mistake, her faith finally wins out. Sarah’s act of faith is exercising her mind, and that’s what she’s commended for here. Sarah does the mental math. She considers the past. God had called them on this wild journey. They gave up everything. And God had been trustworthy every step of the way. So based on past experience, Sarah knows God had already proven himself to her. So it’s done. God will give me a baby in my old age. And this is how faith works.

You see, faith is not blind submission to religious tradition. Amen. Faith is not superstition. Faith is not checking your brains at the door. In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what Hebrews teaches about our heroes of faith. Faith always starts by engaging your mind. You search for the evidence that God has already provided you, and this gives you substance for a future reality. And here’s another classic example of this in verse 17. By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, Through Isaac, shall your offering be named? Verse 19, Abraham considered or the word is, he reasoned, or he counted, or he calculated that God was able even to raise Isaac from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. We’ve heard this so many times, many of us. But really, this was an impossible scenario for Abraham, okay? Because on the one hand, Abraham has this promise of God. He has Isaac, the offspring for a nation. And then on the other hand, God has this command. He commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, the son of promise.

So I have these two things going on. God, there’s a contradiction here. You see what God promises me and what God is asking of me, these two don’t go together at all. Do you ever feel like that? Of course you have. The author wants us to feel the dilemma that Abraham faced. Many times God will ask us to obey, even when it seems crazy, we don’t understand and it hurts. And when this happens, most of us need much more than okay, hype yourself up, bro. Get confident. Just believe. You and I do need to step back and reason. And for us today, we have to consider what happened 2000 years ago. Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. And because of that, I will trust God in this situation and obey. We must engage our minds in the gospel. The gospel, this was the primary message of the first century Church. It wasn’t just some religious experience of just believe and drumming up faith. Our faith is grounded in historical testimony. Our faith is grounded in the historical fact of the risen Christ. Jesus, the son of God, crucified. Jesus has risen from the dead.

And because of that, I will trust and obey God, even in painful, no win situations. So what’s Abraham’s Act of faith in this horrific test. Verse 19. He reasoned that his God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. So, just like Sarah, Abraham engages his mind. He rethinks his circumstances. Abraham calculates that somehow, some way, God will resolve this awful contradiction. And that’s the point the writer is trying to make here about faith. Faith is not the absence of thinking things through. Faith is not some blind leap into the dark. Rather, faith begins with engaging the mind, finding the evidence you already have to completely trust God, no matter your current circumstances. It’s looking for the wildflowers. The wildflowers that tell you winter is ending and summer is coming soon. And for us today, those wildflowers are the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the taste of our future reality now. Does Hebrews eleven describe a people only sitting around thinking and reading books? No. It describes how people live and how people make choices. Gut wrenching choices when they’re in dire Straits and they’re in distress. Faith starts with our minds getting engaged. But faith finishes with radical, risky and repetitive obedience.

For example, let’s learn from the Father of faith again, Abraham. Verse eight. By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going. By faith, he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. So you can imagine the conversation. Abraham. Who is this? This is God. Yes, Lord? I want you to leave everything right now and go. Cool. Where are we going? I’m not telling you yet. Just go and I may tell you later. Come on, Lord. No hints. This is insane. Abraham, just go. When are we coming back? Never. What if God asks the same of you today? You see, by faith, Abraham obeys. This is radical. This is risky. Abraham leaves behind generations of his family’s wealth. He moves to a foreign country, a place with different customs, different laws. He has no friends, no relatives to meet, no one to vouch for him.

He doesn’t even know where he’s going. This makes no sense. But God promised Abraham he would give him all this land he’s never seen. Does Abraham have any absolute proof in the present that God’s promise is true? No. This is radical. This is risky. And as the years go by, it has to be repetitive obedience. Abraham can only reason, year after year, living in those tents, dealing with his nephew lot again. Hey, I’ve always been able to trust God. Why stop now? I must keep obeying God, even though this is absolutely bonkers. And in verse ten, we find the key to Abraham’s obedience. And I think our own obedience as well. Today, verse ten. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith, Abraham obeyed not because he couldn’t wait to enjoy this new land, but like all the heroes of faith in Hebrews eleven, Abraham looked forward to God’s own city. In the Old Testament, they had this taste of heaven, but much less of a taste of heaven than we have today with Jesus. They had very little understanding of it, but they had something to go on.

But it was enough for these men and women to obey in ways that were crazy in the present for them, because they were looking forward to the reality of the future. That’s faith, their courageous example of faith encourages you and me to look forward. No turning back, but to look forward to the future reality of heaven. Are you with me? Amen. So to review faith means engaging your mind, considering the claims of the gospel. Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. Therefore, I will trust God in this situation. But it does not stop there. Faith leads to this radical, risky, repetitive obedience. It’s an obedience that makes no sense in your present surroundings or in your culture, but makes perfect sense in light of the future. More on that in a moment. But here are living water challenges. We do these on most of our sermons. Very clear takeaways, practicals of faith for you and me today. I’d say, if you’re not a Christian, if you’ve not made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life and baptism, I appeal to you today. Consider the claims of the gospel. Maybe you’ve drifted away from Jesus and his Church, either physically or in your heart.

I appeal to you. Engage your mind with the gospel. I think I can get an Amen on this. We’re not giving up hours of our Sunday for superstition, right? If that were the case, I would not be here. I’m here today because I believe in the gospel. I believe that resurrection is a historic fact. Truth is stranger than fiction, and I see things all around me that point to the truth of the resurrection. And you may be here today. You may struggle with doubts and questions about God, his character, who he is, Jesus, the Bible. That’s okay. Me too. But lean into those doubts and those questions. Get together and talk with people that can help. Read apologetics books. Be responsible. Don’t be lazy. Engage your mind. And I’ll skip to number three. We’ll come back to number two. Draw near to God. Hebrews Eleven Six Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and he rewards those who seek Him. That was our topic last week. It’s actually the fourth time we’ve seen this phrase in Hebrews, so it must be important.

Draw near. God’s begging us to draw near to Him. All of what Jesus did for us it does us no good if we only just come here and sit in the chairs. All right. Hebrews. The author here says you must draw near. You must keep moving in order to build your relationship with God. Again, I said it last week. Make a decision today. These are very simple, practical things. Read your Bible daily to listen to God. Pray often. Pray every day. Pray throughout the day. Talk to God. Build trust in that relationship. Invest in that relationship. The cross. This is the outstretched arms of God, inviting you to draw near to him. Let’s go back to number two. To check the pulse of your faith, ask yourself this question: in what specific way are you obedient to God that can only be explained by your belief that Jesus is coming back? Let’s face it, I’m speaking for myself, and I think I speak for you as well. When you’re hurting and you want to feel better, or when you’re scared or when you don’t understand, it’s so much easier to not obey God. And that’s when I put God on the hot seat.

Is it possible that God just wants to make my life miserable sometimes? If God really loves me, why does he expect obedience from me and try to suck all the fun out of my life? Why did God allow this to happen to me in my life where I am faced with these decisions? And I want us to think about that. We can go there, but understand it’s not that God is just giving us a bunch of rules. And then he waits and sits back to check them off as we do that and check off when we obey him. That’s a distortion of obedience. Rather, as we’ve learned in Hebrews, and this is important, we must remember God is taking this world somewhere. God has a plan to renew all things. The plan has long been in motion here. The resurrection points to all of this. Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus is coming back to set everything right and to renew all things. And if that’s really where the future is headed, it makes all the sense in the world to obey in the present. Obedience is all about living in the present as if the future has already arrived.

And that future is the second coming of Jesus. I mean, just think about the command to forgive. That’s an easy one. I mean, why even consider forgiving someone who’s hurt you deeply? Why forgive someone that’s damaged you in a way that you’ll never be the same? In our world today, it just makes so much more sense to seek your own justice or to cut someone out of your life if they’ve done this to you, or at best, just simply to avoid that person. Why even obey God and forgive? Well, if you’re living in the cold and dark winter, of course, it makes no sense to obey God and forgive but if you see the wildflowers and you know that summer is coming, it makes perfect sense to obey God no matter the circumstances. The reason we obey God, the reason we forgive is the resurrection. We obey. We forgive because Jesus is coming back. Jesus is going to make all things new. All wrongs will be made right. One day, Jesus will restore all relationships. And if that’s the direction God is taking our world, then it makes perfect sense to obey and forgive one another.

Amen. Because when you forgive what happens, you get a taste of the new creation. You begin to experience the hope of the future. In this world today, especially in the last few years, all hell is broken loose. But when we choose to obey God, all heaven breaks loose. Now by faith, that’s why we obey. That’s the motivation. That’s what should drive us for this radical, risky, repetitive obedience. Faiths is a taste of a future reality. It will turn your worldview upside down. It’s a game changer for obedience. Faith will change your view on forgiveness. Faith will change your relationships. Who you will pursue and who will you date? Who will you not pursue? Faith will influence that. Who you will marry. Who you will not marry. Your faithfulness to your marriage. Faith will change your view of sex, purity and controlling the cravings of your body. Faith even makes sense of submission to one another. Submission to your husband. Submission to your leaders. Submission to one another. And the list goes on and on and on. Hebrews eleven is a punch to the gut. It inspires us, but it challenges us. Ask yourself, in what specific way am I obedient to God that can only be explained by my belief that Jesus is coming back? You see, true obedient faith will reframe everything in your life. That’s because all of those things in our lives are a vital part of where God is taking this world in the future. He wants all heaven to break loose. Obedient faith is all about living in the present as if the future has already arrived. And that future is the second coming of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, we must not shrink back. The great reward is coming. Jesus is coming. We must live by faith because our best days as Christians are right in front of us. Amen. Thank you.