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.