2008-06-01pm LD 12 Q&A 32; Hebrews. 11:4-12:12 God the Son: We’re Christians
Now, I read that long passage of Scripture so that we can go through it verse by verse, this evening. I hope you’re calendars are free for the next 22 hours.
No, seriously, I read that passage so that we would be able to put ourselves into context. What does it mean that we’re Christians? What does it mean to share in Christ’s anointing? What can we learn from those who have gone before us? Why does the author of Hebrews produce this great cloud of witnesses for us? How does this knowledge impact our living today?
Now, the first thing we have to acknowledge is that we are far better off than any of those people listed in our passage today. Well sort of, seeing as how they are in heaven with Christ, now they are far, far better off than we are. No, what I mean to say is that presently, as we live, we have it much better than they did. They had a much harder struggle with faith than we do. Sure, we have our struggles, but there is one major difference between them and us.
They did not yet know Christ. They hoped for him, but they did not yet see him. They longed for something that was better, that was greater. Indeed, we must understand that though they looked forward to the Promised Land, that is, the land that became Israel, they also realised that it was nothing more than a shadow land. And they hoped for the one who would usher them into it, a true Joshua, a true Jesus who would bring His people into the Promised Land.
The true Promised Land is in heaven. That’s what they were living for.
Now, we have it much better. Why? Because we’ve seen Christ! We’ve seen the one who came from heaven. We’ve received the Holy Spirit, who is the promise of everlasting life. We have everlasting life coursing through our veins, even now.
Have you thought of, meditated on, the lives of these people? They trusted God. They believed in God’s promises. They believed and yet they had so much less to trust than we do!
Abraham is an outstanding example. It is astounding, really. God promises to make him the father of many nations, the blessing of many nations through his son Isaac, and then later, when the boy is but 12 years old, God demands Abraham sacrifice is one and only son. Can you imagine how heart-wrenching that must have been? Can you imagine the prayers, the questions, the distress, the sleepless nights? His own son, given to him at such an old age! Such a precious gift!
And so it goes for all of them. We have to understand that their faith was costly. It challenged them. It forced them to stand up, to do the difficult thing. And yet, they did it with less knowledge to go on! It is remarkable!
I’m going to pause here for just a moment. I want you to picture these people in your mind. Pick one of the examples. Think about what life was like for them. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Go on, it’s not weird, just do it.
Now, the reason why I asked you to do that is because you are in their shoes. We are in their shoes. We are anointed, we are Christians. We serve Christ, just as surely as they did. Yes, throughout their lives, they were living for Christ. Their righteousness came through Christ. The Holy Spirit worked in them through them, on Christ’s account.
And we share in that anointing. We confess Christ’s name. We present ourselves as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving. We work hard, with a good conscience against sin and the devil, in this life.
And that’s exactly what the ancients did. And that’s exactly what they, what the scriptures, what Christ calls us to do.
Since we have such a chorus of witnesses, let us run and run hard.
Those ancients ran hard. They trusted God. They had faith. Faith is action. It is standing up for what you believe!
How are you doing with your faith? Are you running hard? I ask myself that question all the time, and mostly I think I’m either standing still, sometimes going backwards, sometimes crawling.
We all need the strength of the Spirit who is already within us, to do the will of God, to be bold and courageous.
How are we bold and courageous? Is it when we make pithy little comments about our faith? Is it when we demonstrate our faith through a bold proclamation of God’s word?
Isn’t it when we faithfully do what God requires of us in our everyday lives? I mean, unless God is calling you to pack up all your belongings, load up the family, jump into the truck and trailer, or the motor home and head out to an unknown destination, how are we living sacrificial, courageous lives?
Isn’t it constantly trusting God in the face of opposition?
Opposition comes through difficulties in life. Difficulties are God’s means of disciplining us. And God disciplines us because He loves us. So, part of life, part of being a faithful Christian is trusting in God, believing that everything that happens to us, is actually for our benefit.
I’m so glad that this passage is full of reality. Discipline at the time seems painful. That’s putting it mildly. Discipline sucks. It hurts, it causes us to question. Questioning isn’t a bad thing. David was one of those guys holed up in a cave. He questioned God a lot. He continually asked God why? “Why do my enemies, your enemies prosper, God? Why haven’t you saved me? Why haven’t you delivered me? Why is Saul still trying to kill me when I’ve proven my faithfulness to him several times?” And yet, always, at the end of the questioning, always there is a statement of faith, an action of belief. “Still I will follow, still I will trust. For the Lord is God, faithful, holy and righteous. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, he watches over us. He will not let us fall. He watches over our coming and going.
So, being anointed in Christ isn’t merely a position, it is perspective. We operate our lives out of the reality of being united with Christ, suffering with Christ, faithful like Christ, serving like Christ.
When something bad happens, what is your default reaction? I know, for a lot of you, it is trust. You’re default reaction is, “This too is part of God’s plan.” Life is full of pain, and unexpected things. Satan would like nothing better than to have those things turn us from God. He thought it would work with Job, and he still thinks it will work with us.
But he is wrong, dead wrong. By faith, difficult things merely strengthen us. They produce righteousness in us! These difficult things are not fun, not by a long shot, but they will work out for our benefit, whether they draw us closer to God, or closer to one another, we can be certain of God’s faithfulness toward us.
The struggle against sin is a life-long battle. It is frustrating! Just when we find victory in one area, it seems like another area pops up!
But it is not as thought the cloud of witnesses is saying, “We did it, why can’t you?” No, what they’re saying is, “You can do it! You have the Power of the Holy Spirit within you! Keep it up, keep working hard!”
So, how do we do that? How do we strive against sin and the devil?
How do we stand up against oppression?
Well, we seek to do justice and show mercy. We speak for the weak and the downtrodden, those who do not have a voice.
One way a pastor was convicted in this call to action, was to be a pro-life advocate. He began to consider how many babies, beings created in God’s image were being murdered, scheduled for murder, murder by appointment, and he took up the stand to fight against it. He joined what became the pro-life movement back in the early 80’s. His name is C.J. Mahaney and you can find out more about his testimony at the Resurgence website. I’ve placed a link to it on the church’s website.
C.J. said that it called him to do a difficult task. God forced him to step out, to make changes to his life. He and his wife welcomed a pregnant teen into their home, to help her with the pregnancy. During the time she spent living there, she became a Christian and remains a very good friend of theirs to this day.
Now, C.J. simply happens to be a modern example of one of the clouds of witnesses. Other upstanding pastors, and congregation members, many in our own congregation serve as examples, encouragers for us.
This does not mean that to be faithful we have to do what they did. I would be very surprised if God called all of us to go out and welcome a pregnant teen into our homes.
No, instead, we ought to focus our lives on God, on the joy of everlasting life, which is set before and within us, and we ought to seek God’s favour. What does he want us to do with our lives?
How can we glorify him in our homes, in the instruction in the lord of our children, in the love and respect shown to our spouses, to our parents, to our children? How can be glorify Him in work, at school, at play?
We do it, simply by being honest, full of integrity, working hard; doing more than what is expected or required of us. Going the extra mile, doesn’t that phrase come out of scripture? Going two miles instead of just one?
How can we show faithfulness in the small stuff?
How are we preparing ourselves for kingdom activity? Are we spending time in prayer, in God’s Word? Are we seeking His kingdom first, His righteousness first, first thing in the morning?
What are we putting into our minds? In what ways are we guarding our hearts? How are we controlling what comes into our lives? Are we thinking critically when we learn new things? Are we thinking critically when we make decisions? Are we thinking or merely reacting?
How do you go through life? Do you search the scriptures for answers? Do you seek God’s will first? How do you view your life, your possessions?
What is your core value? Is it the reality that you are first a child of God? Is it the reality that, yes, though you don’t deserve God’s grace, that he’s given it to you anyway? That despite what you feel about yourself God loves you and no matter how young you are, or how old you are, God has a plan for you to do work for His glory and honour?
That God is so powerful, that He can even turn our mistakes into glory for Him? I love the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer, “what is the chief end of Man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever!”
Do you know that as an anointed person, as one who fulfils Christ’s anointing, as prophet, priest and king that we get to speak God’s truth to the world? Do you know that we get to act as priests, telling people about the free gift of God’s grace, of the free gift of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, the great high priest? Do you know that we will rule with Christ, and that we will even judge with Christ?
We must live up to up to those tasks. How are you preparing to run the race? What training method are you using? Well, you can be certain of this, being here, coming to church twice on Sunday is a great start! Not because this body of believers is all that, nor because of me, but because when we’re here, when we’re with one another, we’re with God, and God feeds us and we glorify God. And a sacrifice for God, God’s work is rest. Doing the Lord’s work is our food, no not just in coming to church, but in everything we do, living lives of integrity.
But like the people listed in Hebrews 11, we simply must go out there and do it. We can’t live lives of integrity by hiding, by shunning our responsibilities. We have to step out in faith, just as others have. We don’t know what the future will bring. There are many reasons for concern, and we might well come to the reality of resisting against our society to the point of shedding our blood. Right now it is happening in the courts, Christians brought before the Human Rights Tribunals. Persecution is happening, even here in Canada. Will we be prepared to follow Christ where He went? Are we prepared to take up our cross and follow him? In the Holy Spirit, we are! Amen.