11. Closing Thoughts: Running the Race

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Therefore, we having around us this cloud of witnesses, every weight let us cast aside and easily ensnaring sin, with endurance let us run the “set-before us” race looking to the author and perfecter of our faith Jesus, who for the “set before him” joy endured the cross disregarding the shame, on the right hand of the throne of God has sat down. For consider the one enduring much hostility by sinners so that you may not grow fatigued in your soul giving out.
~Hebrews 12:1-3 (translation mine)

The Cloud

The heavenly company surrounding us now that we have seen their faith is numerous as the stars of heaven, just as God promised Abraham. The visible World made by the unseen word of the real God is based in an unseen reality. Abel knew it, and offered an acceptable offering to this God by giving the best of his life. Enoch knew it, and walked with the Unseen God who ruled it all. Noah knew it and obeyed God and condemned the world by his faith. Abraham knew it, and went into exile on earth so that God might give him the Unseen Promise. He also knew it when he obeyed God to offer up Isaac his son, trusting that God could even raise the dead. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph knew it and carried this promise in their hearts. Moses knew it when he forsook his earthly pomp for persecution with God’s people. The nation of Israel knew it as they revered the God who fought for them. The servants of God have known it in their exaltation and humiliation that there was a glory that awaited them at the revelation of their Beloved’s face.

The Cross

Jesus was the beginner and the finisher of this faith, having showed us the whole path of maturity in faith from humble Birth through Ascension to God’s right hand. (see “To a Mature Man”) While Christ lived the life of faith, he also died the death of faith. He endured the cross disregarding the shame because he was aiming for what was on the other side. He has shown us that there can be no life of faith for us except through the cross– through the principle and practice of dying to self and to the world, submitting under the just judgment of God, so that other’s may know His forgiveness and love through us.

Cast aside everything that holds us back.

The Cross is how we do this. By the cross the world is crucified to us, and us to the world. (Galatians 6:14) The weight of the world represents the cares and investments we make for any reason other than the pleasure and glory of God. They are snares to us, and they strengthen our unbelief against God. That unbelief is the achilles heel to any runner. We run because we know that we are going somewhere we cannot see, and it is not too far for us to reach. Let us keep Jesus in mind so that any difficulties we face from the world or within us may not cause our breath to give out. We must have endurance to finish strong, and there is something at the end of the race that we can have right now in the midst of the race to keep us going.

“Set before”

The author of Hebrews wrote in Greek the same world for “set before” us about the race and “set before” Jesus the Joy. The Master of this race has hidden in the fabric of the race itself this secret: The Race that is set before us, the same race Jesus ran, is the Race of Joy. This is the invitation of faith: Leave the fruitless pursuits of this age and pursue the eternal promise with God, and through that pursuit enter into the Joy of your salvation.

This is the Invitation set before you right here on this screen. Will you accept it?

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10. The Servants of God–The Visible Reality (32-40)

– – “And what yet will I say? For time will let me down to describe concerning Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the Prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong from weakness, became mighty in battle, put hostile camps to flight, women received their dead from resurrection.
– – “Others were tortured not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection, others received the experience of mocking and lashes, and in addition bonds and imprisonment, being stoned, sawn in two, in murder died by sword, wandering about in sheepskins, in goatskins, needy, oppressed, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy, wandering about in the wilderness, mountains, and caves, and holes in the ground.
– – “And all these bearing witness by faith did not receive the promise, God foresaw to something better for us, that they not be made complete without us.”
~ Hebrews 11:32-40 (translation mine)

The author of Hebrews makes one final point about faith with these examples. The visible reality is a two-sided coin: Victory and Martyrdom.

Victory

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When someone lives the life of exile, walking with God, pleasing God, and obedient under judgment they will find themselves in the midst of God’s miraculous works. The power available to the believer in faith is all of God’s miraculous power to heal, to conquer, to restore, to gain, and even to extinguish mighty powers. Faith strengthens the weak, and makes mighty in battle, and makes entire fortified camps flee. Here are a list of stories in which we see each of these things happening.

  • Conquered Kingdoms (Deuteronomy 2:24-36)
  • Performed acts of Righteousness (2 Samuel 8:15)
  • Obtained promises (Genesis 21:1-3)
  • Shut the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-27)
  • Extinguished the power of fire (Daniel 3)
  • Escaped the edge of the sword (Psalm 144:9-11)
  • Were made strong from weakness (1 Samuel 30:1-18
  • Became mighty in battle (2 Samuel 8:1-6)
  • Put fortified camps to flight (2 Kings 6:24-7:20)
  • Women received their dead by resurrection (2 Kings 4:8-37)

The power of faith is attested in ways the author of Hebrews could only begin to paint with broad strokes to describe here. But while these strokes may indicate a striped pattern, the next section shows that it is more plaid.

Martyrdom

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Faith is not just the victory that happens through our exaltation, but also the victory achieved by our humiliation. That humiliation would ever be considered a victory is the offense of the Cross. It smacks the face of all human decency and dignity by being utterly stripped of its glory.

Still, anybody can tell you that there is a glory associated with martyrdom. The church has long been nourished by the glory of God seen in the faith of those recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But Martyrdom is only effective when it is the final step in living for God faithfully. Consider these examples:

  • Tortured (2 Corinthians 11:23)
  • Mocking and lashes (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
  • Bonds and imprisonment (Genesis 39)
  • Being stoned (Acts 7)
  • Sawn in two (Isaiah according to Babylonian Talmud)
  • Murdered by sword (1 Kings 19:10)
  • Wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins (2 Kings 1:8)
  • Needy (Isaiah 20)
  • Oppressed (Exodus 2:23)
  • Mistreated (Jeremiah 38:1-6)

“Not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Truly “The world was not worthy of them.” They lived out of a different reality entirely: one based on eternity rather than the transient and passing plays for power by humanity. This reality, to the world’s way of doing things, was not worthy to be compared to the glory that was and is opposed by the evil one, and the glory still to come in full strength through faith.

Us

Faith is a reality of the eternal past and eternal future shaping the momentary present. We who live right now are on a cosmic strand of faith beneath the beads of the kingdoms of this world clashing together like so many pearls. And one day those pearls will fall off and a new more glorious value will replace it. And our goal is not to cast off this reality entirely, but rather to bring it into alignment with the past and the future eternity of God’s rule. So simple: live now according to the eternity of God forever! That is what it means to live by faith. For some in the past it meant conquering kingdoms; for others in the past it meant being utterly humbled.

For us today, we are part of something better. Jesus has finished the work, and now we are His fruit. We are a part of the promise that is being fully grown from the seed of Jesus Christ. Apart from us, these faithful witnesses of God are not made complete. Now the work of Christ is made real in the body of Christ in the world. The Servants of God, those who walk by faith for the glory of His Kingdom now represent the Invisible Reality of God in the world now made visible for those who are blind. In short, our faith gives others eyes to see the invisible reality of God’s eternal rule in us.

Application

  1. Internally take stock of your inner life: purpose, fulfillment, thoughts, emotions, cares, self-identity, and align all of it with the gospel of God’s love that has transformed you into one who is like Jesus.
  2. Close to you, set your life in order according to the Word of God. Relationships, possessions, goals– let nothing go to waste or be a mockery of the Kingdom of God, but rather let the invisible reality of God at work in your heart manifest itself close to you.
  3. Stand in the community of faith– as people who will not live according to the world’s rules, or compromising with the world’s values, but as those who either in humiliation or exaltation give glory to God as the True King.
  4. Show God’s love to the world by serving and meeting the needs of others.
  5. Show God’s sacrificial justice by taking a stand to fight for the rights of the poor and afflicted against those who refuse to acknowledge God’s rule over them.
  6. Give glory to God and thank Him for the victory by which we overcome the world: our faith.

9. Israel–Obedience under Judgement

“By Faith he kept the passover and the application of blood in order that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land, the Egyptians taking their try were drowned. By faith Rahab, the harlot, who welcomed the spies with peace was not destroyed along with the unfaithful.” ~Hebrews 11:38– (translation mine)

Photo Cred: posted on Nov 22, 2011 by adamsart. accessed:
https://bibleartwork.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/crossing-the-red-sea/

Judgment

Sin deserves judgment. Humanity, yea the world, is inextricably and implicitly bound up with it. The Justice of God demands that He be feared, respected, and obeyed. Faith sees this reality plus one more. Faith sees that the same God who is Judge is Savior. He is also working to rescue those who are under his judgment if they will look to Him for their deliverance.

All three stories are astounding in that God was bringing about horrific judgment upon the world–Egyptian people, Egyptian army, and the people of Jericho. The Judgment of God upon the world being created by Him and refusing to worship Him is just.

And here we see the people of God showing us what faith is, and why it is so important. As Enoch knew, without faith it is impossible to please God. But Israel was the poster child to show the world that without faith it is impossible to appease God. Indeed, it is through the final gate of God’s Judgment that faith alone can carry a person to eternal life.

Salvation

All three times in this passage, God has come down hard upon the peoples of the world. God is not cruel to punish Egypt, who had refused to let his people Israel go. He is not cruel to slay the army who presume upon the goodwill of his miracles to soundly slaughter those who would without his hinderance end his people’s lives. He is not cruel to save only the one who believed in him when destroying the first city of the land of Canaan who had long ceased walking with Him or worshipping Him. Even so, God will not be unjust, cruel, vindictive to destroy all those who do not obey and believe. In fact, one might say that His work to save His people is a proof that he will not be unjust to do so. (See Romans 3:21-26 for some food for thought about this.)

Look at Israel. In Egypt, they cried out to God to deliver them. God starts fighting for them. The final plague and final test was a warhead of the most deeply devastating magnitude. He in essence told Israel, “Build a bunker.” They obeyed. They survived. Off they go to the promised land while everyone else who did not fear God lost their first-born son.

(For any people who think God was not just in what he did, please read the whole book of Genesis through Exodus 15, and then talk with me if you still feel that way.)

And then comes the Red Sea. The archetypal representation for Baptism and Salvation itself. By the miraculous mediation of God’s messenger the people are delivered through the water. And when the world tried it, they were utterly destroyed. God had to pass his people through the waters of Judgment. (See To a Mature Man: Stage 3–Baptism) It was the obedience of Faith which said, “He will fight for me. I will do the impossible, and He will deliver me.”

And then coming into the promised land, what should happen to those who are outside Israel. Those who fear God and have that faith are delivered, but those who are not (the “un-faith-ful” [those without faith]) are destroyed. Faith is the only means of Salvation.

New Testament

More than this, my seminary professor taught me that Paul in his ministry wrote to the Roman church to show what he was going for in his whole ministry for Jesus Christ. It’s in the beginning and the ending of Romans. “The Obedience of Faith” for all nations. There is One Judge of all the earth. All are under His judgment from our sinful birth. But faith alone is the way to Salvation, and faith without obedience does not deliver from Judgment. Therefore, because of Judgment, faith without obedience is not saving faith. As James said, “What good, brethren, does it do if someone claims to have faith but no works [of obedience]. Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14)

No.

Application

  1. Flee. Bestir yourself that judgment is coming against the whole world, and you are a part of that world.
  2. Trust. The same God who justly judges this world, will also save all who call upon His name for deliverance.
  3. Call upon the name of the Lord, for Him to save you, and do as He tells you.
  4. Obey. If you believe in him as your King, your Judge, your Savior, do as He says. It is through listening under Him and obeying His commands that you will know His salvation through and through.

8. Moses–Identifying with God

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a handsome child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had become great, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather co-suffering evil-treatment with the people of God than enjoying the pleasures of sin bound to time. He considered greater riches than the treasures of Egypt the reproach of Christ; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Heb 11:23–27. NASB (italics my translation)

Victorious Faith–Hidden, Unbound, Fearless

Hidden

John wrote in his first letter that “This is our victory that overcomes the world. Our faith.” (1 John 5:4) The First work of a victorious faith is that it is hidden: protected, for the Lord, sacred and deeply rooted.

It is an act of faith to plant a seed. You are trusting that there is life in that dead seed that will sprout. But it has to stay hidden for it to sprout. A seed must be entombed if it is to have strong growth. Close enough to the soil, sun, and water for life to break the surface. Moses’ beginnings of faith was his being hidden, and indeed the work of faith is often begun in this humble way: the way of every living/life-giving plant.

From this tiny beginning, the child grew great, but his own deep-seeded hidden truth planted within his own heart of who he truly was came forth, and as he expanded, that central part of him never went away. The decision was already made, that no matter where his plant was grown, he would become a tree bearing fruit for God.

Unbound to Time

So, Moses had all the wealth of a glorious nation before him. That secret part of him which lived in light of the Unseen God could not abide by the here-and-now of His present situation. He saw something more valuable than the Seen world, He saw the Unseen Reality of the Reward of God, and that reward was suffering evil at the hands of his Seen World of Egypt.

The second work of a faith that is victorious is it is unbound to time. Moses looked and saw the riches of the treasure of Egypt within his grasp, but he saw something far more valuable, something that time could not touch: that eternal reward which belongs to all who suffer the reproach of faith.

Scholars will debate me on the significance of the phrase “of Christ” in this passage, but I believe the author meant the reproach that Christ suffered is the same reproach that Moses suffered, enduring evil treatment of God’s people. It is the price one pays for siding with God and identifying with him. And when Moses did this, he lost his whole share in the world. All who seek to enter into the victory of faith must not only be willing to lose their whole share in the world, but to embrace it along with the the reward of suffering reproach just as Christ did. Nothing of the world can compare with the inexpressible richness of knowing God in Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Not Fearing the King’s Wrath

When that time comes– when the tempter cannot snuff out the seed, when it cannot choke it out with thorny cares of this world, the evil one will have little recourse but to do battle against the irrepressible power of the seed of faith which overcomes the world. The third stage of victorious faith is no fear of the King’s wrath. One cannot be filled with fear, when one has nothing to lose in this world, and one is filled with the love and power of God. “No power of hell, no scheme of man,” as the song says, can destroy or stop such faith. All it can do then is try to destroy the man. This is why faith leads to the Cross. This is why identifying with God will ultimately end in death at the hands of sinners. Moses escaped and endured in only one way, “As seeing the Unseen One.” So must endure each one who seeks to walk the path of faith all the way to Him. This victory of faith belongs to God, for even as David said looking at a very see-able Giant, “The battle is the LORD’s” 1 Samuel. 17:47

God’s

Moses’ faith was seen in his refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Rather, he identified as being God’s. This another the fundamental distinction of faith: One cannot be the world’s and God’s. One must be one or the other. As Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters.” ~ Matthew 6:24. To whom do you belong? Who requires things of you? To whom do you owe anything? Are you bound by Possessions? Banks? Family? Money? Success? Control? Which of these do you serve? because you cannot be God’s servant and bound to any one of these things. When a servant of God is unbound by these things, and binds himself to God, then the rest of Matthew 6 can come true in his life. “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the nations eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things, But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:31–33.

Application:

  1. Hide your faith so deeply in your heart that it becomes the deepest part of you. Self-examination, prayer, and the will to act granted by the power of God is all you need.
  2. Unbind yourself from the things that are bound to this time. Bind yourself to the unseen God, and endure the shame and evil treatment that God’s people achieve. Instead of having the ambition to succeed in this temporal world, rather do what Paul told the Thessalonians and make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. (1 Thes. 4:11)
  3. Do not fear the powerful ones who rise up against you. The power within you is greater than the power of those who oppose you. (1 John 4:4)
  4. Consider yourself bound to God, belonging to him, and living for His service.

6. Abraham II: The Death of the Promise

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. ~ Hebrews 11:17–19.

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Faith cannot survive mortality. One of the truest signs of faith’s strength is its willingness to face even its own death. But Abraham has faced a test unlike any most people face. He was giving up his only son, in whom was his future, and all of the reasons he had followed God in the first place.

Or was it.

The Elephant in the Room

Many people can’t get past a father offering up his own son. Does allegiance to the God of all reality Seen and Unseen require child sacrifice? Of course if he truly is God, He is more important than anything else, even our own beloved family. Allegiance to God is one thing, but the murder of someone else seems like an insurmountable barrier to this kind of faith. Few English translations will show you what I will here, but the Rabbis who study the Torah will tell you that what I write coming up is true. Remember that we are talking about an extraordinary life because it is grappling with the Unseen Reality that is real. This may be challenge your own faith.

Please

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Genesis 22, the tale where Abraham offers Isaac, is a famous story in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic circles, though details are emphasized more some places than others. All three are largely in agreement that it was written by Moses, and also agree it was written in Hebrew. The text reveals something about God’s command which Abraham obeyed in offering up his son. The Hebrew word for “Now take your son . . . ” is better translated “Please take your son . . . ” The first thing any faith needs to acknowledge about God is the heart of a father; the heart of a friend. This faith of Abraham was based only on what God had revealed to him, and in Abraham, God found a friend with whom he could share one of his most intimate secrets. He already understands what it will cost Himself one day. He has already seen that it will be his own Son, whom He will be offering, but here, with the kindest of all invitations, He calls Abraham out of his entire past, present, and future to give up his one and only son whom he loved. Such is the friendship of God that He lets us experience alongside him the inexpressible joy of resurrection of an insurmountable promise undaunted by death itself. Such a faith and joy are given not in the harsh immediacy of command only, but also with the gentility of an inviting heart that says “Please.”

The Most Difficult Test of Faith

There is no room in real faith for “coming out ahead on the deal” with God. No self-gain, no added benefits that you can finagle or haggle or sneak past God. This is because Death is the gateway for everything in the new life. Only that which is for God and of God will last. Nothing for self or sin will be able to escape the penalty of Death. Death is therefore the truest test of something’s worth. Paul spoke of this a great deal in his epistles, though what he most often referred to it as was “the cross.” He closes the letter to the Galatians with these words.

“But as for me, may it never be that I should boast in anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified [as far as I’m concerned] and I [am crucified] to the world.” ~ (Galatians 6:14 translation mine)

There is no good thing that can pass from this world to the “new creation” spoken of in the next verse except that passes through the gate of the cross. Consider in Pilgrim’s Progress how Cristian the Pilgrim needed to cross the River of Death to reach the Celestial City. And God knows that because of sin’s all pervasive presence, the only way for the promise of faith to be fully realized, is for that very same promise to be laid down.

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One thought before Application: God really does know best how to realize the Promise. If Abraham had not had the faith to offer up his son, he would not have seen “day of his salvation” when the ram got caught in the thicket. (John 8:56) In this place where he laid down his very future on the altar, he came to know God by a new name. “Yahweh sees.” (Also known as Jehovah-Jireh– God will provide.) When your faith is tested, remember that even though You can’t see, in the Unseen Reality there is a God who sees and who is stronger than death.

Application:

  1. Let every good thing that you count dear to you be before the Lord on the Altar to live or let die. I am speaking figuratively primarily, because the sacrifice has been made for the Promise to be secured for all humanity. Still, even our family must come second to God. One thing this practically might look like is taking time away from your family to be with Him. We do it for work; why not do it for Him? The same one who demonstrated care for his family also showed us how to value time with just Him.
  2. Do not seek to get ahead on deals with God. It can only end in greater misery for yourself. If you have any selfish agenda for pursuing a walk with the Lord, abandon it now. Lay it down on the altar. Example: you may be following God because you want fame or prestige among God’s people. God will call you to do things which will be utterly frowned upon by the church so that you will be infamous and a shame in the midst of His people. His Joy is worth only the price or real faith, and the cost of real faith is the death of self. Surrender is the only way.
  3. Remember what Abraham remembered. “He considered that God is able to raise even from the dead . . .” Let it be God’s glory to vindicate the one who has trust in Him, and satisfy you with Himself, and in Him to give you all things.

3. Enoch: A Pleasing Walk with God.

Hebrews 11:5-6– By faith, Enoch was taken up not seeing death, and was not found because God took him, for before he was taken up he had been proven that he had been pleasing to God. Now without faith it is impossible to be pleasing, for the one coming after God must believe that He is, and He becomes the rewarder of those who seek Him out.

The notion that Faith can cause a person to escape death is not uncommon. Is it not the faith-healings which revive the terminally ill and set them on the path to wellness again? My father, a chaplain for Hospice has seen many a peaceful transition from this life to eternal life as people “fall asleep” when they die. The point of this post however is not faith’s power in the face of death, but rather what entails for the living.

Proven to be Pleasing

What kind of proof is this? We are not told, but we are given the application for what it means concerning faith in the life of the Believer. Without this faith it is impossible to be pleasing:

“The one coming after God must believe that He is and He becomes the rewarder of those who seek Him out.”

The 3 things in this phrase I want to note are:
1. Following God
2. Belief that God exists
3. The rewarder of those who seek Him out

Following God

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Jesus said, “Follow me.” and when he picked his twelve disciples he picked them “that they might be with him.” The awesome privilege of faith is first and foremost getting to be with God, to walk with him, to be in His presence, to know the pleasantness of His company. But He keeps moving, and so you must keep moving to go with him, and let no care of the world slow you down or keep you back.

“Enoch walked with God.” (Genesis 5) That means He kept step with God, and God was with him. Both were glad to be with one another. Enoch did not have anything written about him except he had a son named Methuselah, and he walked with God. This walking with God, is seen in the Greek verb “to come after, to come toward, to go after.” This is less intense than a pursuit, but it is as complete as a living relationship in the world. This is the life of faith.

The Belief that God Exists

The agnostic and the atheist are really alike in this respect: they lack faith in God’s existence. One may say that God doesn’t exist and they’re sure, the other just says they are not sure that God is. Both are the lack of faith of one who does not trust God enough to go after him. Usually, it is in response to the way their world has been presented, or things in their world that seem too big or unthinkable to believe that an Unseen God could exist, and many still more believe that the God who is presented by those who claim to know Him is not a God worth believing in.

Now, if even demons believe God exists, (James 2:19) then I won’t belabor God’s existence with those who doubt, but I will say that what we learn about faith here in Hebrews is not merely a superfluous qualifier that God has to exist in order for you to look for him. It’s something far more personal than that. Faith maintains the belief that God is real despite all evidence or 
difficulty the visible tangilbe reality entails. This takes such a trust, such a surrender of one’s own right to judge God, such a willingness to obey the Good King against whom all of Humanity has set its rebellion and hold visible reality with an open hand for God to make clear.

He is the Rewarder of those Seeking Him out.

I have spoken to some who have said “I’ve looked for God and not found him.” Or others, “I’ve tried Jesus, and he didn’t work for me.” There are two wrong beliefs behind a search for God that ends up fruitless. 1. You have not yet accepted the reality that God is real. Any search for God starts with this. 2. You doubt your capacity or your worthiness to be rewarded by God if you seek him out. This one is harder to shake, because it is usually based in what other people have said to you, or things you have said to yourself that you have accepted about yourself as truth. If you remain in a state where you will choose to listen to yourself or other human beings before you will listen to God, then your present faith will not save you. You have already made your choice to listen to someone else, and have settled for your cell in Satan’s dungeon.

Furthermore, keep in mind if you want to seek God out, you must know what it will cost you. No one going after God can get there with an eye to get human recognition or reward. In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, this is written about the concept of Reward as far as following Jesus is concerned.

“The distinctiveness of the divine reward is so radical, however, that if a man seeks human recognition and earthly gain for his acts he thereby forfeits the acceptance which God wills to grant him in the [reward].” ~TDNT p 699.

The path to finding God is a glory-less one as far as the eyes of man are concerned. The only way to live a life of faith is free from the sought rewards of man: fame, wealth, achievement, power, self-actualization. The reward is God Himself, friendship with Him is the sweetest reward that God gives to the one who walks with him.

Application

  1. Ask for the privilege to walk with God.
  2. Wait for Him
  3. Make it your ambition to please Him.~ (See 2 Corinthians 5:9)
  4. Believe He is right next to you working, and ask Him to show you what He’s doing
  5. Join Him in His work.

2. Abel: A Better Offering

Hebrews 11:4–By faith, a better offering Abel offered to God than Cain, through which he gained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Image result for cain and abel
Photo credit: ancient-hebrew.org

Two sons were born to our first parents: Cain the firstborn, and Abel the second. We are told that they gave offerings to the Lord of which the Lord liked Abel’s better than Cain, but we are not told why God liked Abel’s offering better than Cain’s. I do believe the limited detail of Genesis 4 does offer a clue as to why God regarded Abel’s offering.

Genesis 4:3 It happened at the end of days, that Cain brought to God from the fruit of the ground his offering, but Abel brought to God from the first born of his flocks and their fat portions.

Some principles from this text is that Abel’s offering was better because he gave God the best of the best, because he believed God was the best of the best. Cain offered from the fruit of the ground, a common gift, an earthy gift. But Abel sought to give the best of what he had, and the best part of that thing.

This particular offering communicated something about God. What did Abel communicate about God through his offering that Cain did NOT communicate in his? Simply this: God is the best of the best, and deserves the best of the best.

A gift that a man gives God is a visible description of the invisible God. And when a man gives a gift that worthy of God, then God is able to attest to all witnesses that his gift is a right gift. If he had regarded Cain’s offering, he would have accepted a low rank of a common soldier from the gift of a man who did not master the corruption that was within him, but He regarded Abel’s offering and thereby he attested to all witnesses that Abel was righteous.

What does this look like today? Many treat God as a common household trophy: a glorious symbol of somebody to depend on when you need to reference the supernatural, but never more important than yourself, or your family, or everything in your own life. Such a view of God, such a treatment of God like drivel is like unto Cain’s offering.

However, there are others who see that the very best of their lives is the only thing that is close to worthy of God. To give it to themselves or to another would be simply ludicrous, because God is the One who deserves it. And while God has given us all things to enjoy, it is not the truest good for us to enjoy the best, because we are merely images of God, rather than the one who is truly good.

This offering of what is truly Good to God, is the better offering: and it is only possible by faith. Faith recognizes:

God alone is worthy of our greatest gifts, and the life of faith is lived
 where God truly is the most important person in the relationship.

This is what the blood of Abel still speaks, and also what moves Cain to jealousy today. Those who live spiritually mediocre lives envy the favor of God upon the ones who are regarded by Him as righteous. And all the while the answer is found in what God says to Cain, “If you do what is good, will not your face be lifted up, but if not, sin seeks to have you, but you must master it.

O the glory of having God Himself attest to your righteousness– that you actually serve Him rightly. Such a testimony is only the acquisition of faith which sees God for who he really is before it actually lays eyes on Him.

Application:

  1. Today, take stock of the most important things in your life: requirements, and enjoyments, and find a way to give God the best of each simply because He is worthy of it. Example: If TV is your greatest enjoyment, converse with God about a way you can use your TV time to please him: whether by spending time doing something else, or by watching a particular TV show He lead you to, or by moving something else up in the value chain.
  2. Repent of the areas where you have given God the crumbs instead of the main course. Areas where your love of God grows cold in comparison to what it once was. Example: You go to church, and while you’re there, you are thinking about what else you could be doing right now.
  3. Spend time earnestly trying to figure out what is actually pleasing to him: Is He pleased when you sing? Is he pleased when you work with your hands? Is he pleased when you are still and silent? Is he pleased when you read the Bible? What do you do that makes you feel his pleasure?

1. Us: The World and the Word

Hebrews 11:3~ “By faith we understand that the ages of time were created by the proclamation of God, so that, from what was not visible, things that are seen came to be.” (Translation mine)

Related image
Photo credit: http://hopeworkscounseling.org

Faith accounts for the unseen reality which is the basis for the seen reality. Faith does not just think there is something to the Unseen, it simply understands that the Unseen is real. We have already discussed this, and now let us look at the nature of faith.

Principle: It sees the Visible in terms of the Invisible. How are we supposed to make sense of the world of time in which we live purely by observation of the visible world? Even if those who claimed to have done so actually could, they would negate so many concepts that are unseen yet obviously real: such as meaning, love, happiness, even words. There is an invisible dimension behind everything, and faith sees it.

The Bible teaches us how to see the Seen world in terms of the Unseen.

Faith recognizes the designer in the design, the creator in the creation, and his word behind the thing. It is easy to think of Words giving us access to understanding things: a bridge between us and the world around us. This is not untrue, but words can also give access to the Person behind the Words behind the thing referred to with the word that is formed in your mind and heart. As words give access to the Seen reality, so words also give us access to the Unseen reality. Just as Paul wrote in Romans 10:13 “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the proclamation of Christ.”

This is also why faith can be trained by learning the Words of God, which we have in the Bible. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God bringing us to Salvation, because the very Gospel of Christ is woven into the fabric of the way God made the world. Paul wrote also to the Romans 1:20 that, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Faith gives a person the ability to see the world through God’s eyes.

Application:

  1. Read the Scriptures, listen to them on audio, and let the word of God, the SAME word that created the whole world, be your access to seeing the Unseen realm, and also the world around you.
  2. Learn to see the world from the Word of God’s point of view. It’s like how Neo saw the Matrix. God’s Word in the Bible is the same Word for understanding all of the Seen world. By this I do not mean the “Bible Code” or DaVinci anything. I simply mean that a person’s words are a result of who they are, and God has revealed who He is in the words that He used to create the visible world.
Matrix as it is
Photo credit: scifi.stackexchange.com

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 2–The Man

So then what will it take to have this kind of intimacy with God? Abraham will be our subject of study, as he was for the Apostle Paul in Romans 4. I will examine them in my favorite fashion of Levels of Intimacy with God.

  1. Genesis 12: the Answering the Calling of God: God calls an individual to leave his home and his family behind so that he can become something else, something more than he could have been on his own. If there is obedience to this calling then “You’re off!” The reward for his obedience was the first level of Intimacy with God: God appeared to him. (vs. 7)
  2. Genesis 13: is the Casting off of Compromises: God called Abraham to leave everything behind, but still Lot went with him. It got to the point where they had to separate. If Abraham had stayed allied with Lot, he would not have been able to enjoy the blessing of God to the fullest. In our lives, compromises look like any decision we have made that falls short of God’s character of design for our lives. The reward for Abraham after he proved himself trustworthy in this was God said, “After Lot was separated from him, ‘Now lift your eyes in every direction . . . this land I will give to you and your descendants.’ The borders and the full extent of the promise was shown to him
    Recently, I thought it appropriate to mention another dimension of this idea of God trusting us. I recently read in Proverbs 3:32 about the upright, “He takes the upright into His confidence.” If any are unconvinced of God’s trust, the wisest of men shows us that it is available.
  3. Genesis 14-15: is the Denial of Worldly Reward. Abraham rescued the King of Sodom, and gave a Tithe to Melchizedek, and denied any compensation from the King of Sodom. The reward: God said he’d protect and provide for him. Furthermore, He reveals something about his character.  This is where God’s blessing and personal revelation REALLY gets special. God promises to carry his own word through to completion to His own detriment. Abraham who cut the animals in two pieces, could not keep the birds away, but God moved between the two pieces of the animals showing He would bear the weight of the breach of the Covenant. This God is so trustworthy, but he only entrusts such revelation to those who will prove this level of trustworthiness for this intimacy.
  4. Genesis 16-21: the Casting out of the Bondwoman, the easy, less-than-perfect life we have created for ourselves. Abram needed to send away Hagar because her son was to have no inheritance with the child of the promise. In our lives, this looks like getting rid of every fruitless and meaningless pursuit to which we have devoted ourselves and invested our lives, so that God can know that it is Him we want. By this point in the story, God gives Abraham a new name, and a son.
             Also, at this point, it is worth noting that Abraham was given personal insight into his plans and even giving him a voice in affecting them. When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, he said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?”
  5. Genesis 22 Fifth, the Sacrifice of the Promise. The final test of any believer (Trust-er) It was faith in God that enabled Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, not because he didn’t love Isaac, but because he did, and it says in Hebrews that he “trusted” that God could raise the dead. This faith is truly saving faith, but it did not presume on God, but waited for His call to give it up. His reward: insight into His secret plan to redeem the whole world, and a secure place in making it happen. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)

I have written of these things in brief, but they are worth deep seeking out in His Word. Abraham is the prototype for saving faith, and the more he trusted God, the more God entrusted Himself to him. This level of trust isn’t merely a calculating judgment for means-to-ends purposes. This is a personal revealing of one’s self and a bringing alongside of his friend. This is genuine friendship with God in the truest sense. This is how all nations can be blessed. More on that in the next article.

Encouragement: Pursue this intimacy with God. Abram messed up at the beginning and end of his walk with God and in the middle, but what remained was his trust in God. If you want insight on how to grow in Trust with God, I believe it is largely cultivated in the Fourth Stage of a believer’s life: Wilderness, so you can see my writings on the subject for more thought-food.

Here, I have provided spiritual guiding principles, but let the evil one evoke no condemnation in you. If it’s fear that makes you run from God, it is a lie of Satan. Still, this type of pursuit of God is not for everyone. Jesus knew this when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 1–The Word

One of the most special subjects, tender to my heart, is God’s decision to trust us. I realized the other day that God’s ability to trust me with anything has been the cornerstone to the formation of my conscience. There was a time when I was a little boy, I lied to my parents about cleaning my room, and I had promised God that I would tell them before I went to bed. I had gone to bed, but could not bear the simple thought of breaking a promise to God: not because I was scared God would do something to me, but just because it was fundamentally wrong. I said, “I made a promise to God, and I am NOT going to break that promise.”

But some people say, God trusting us? God shouldn’t trust us, we’re totally treacherous.” Yes, but if you read the Old Testament, God tested how much he could trust his blessing to his people, and use them by various ways to show that they were fully devoted to him: Abraham being the prototype. For example, why else would God have asked Abraham to make the sacrifice that He himself would one day make? (Genesis 22)

Plus, consider that every time God speaks to an individual, or gives a person a commandment, it is an act of trust: prove your worth to me, and my worth to you by your ability to follow this simple task. If a person obeys God’s voice, then they are proven to be trustworthy. And the Word of God will always do more than just test a man’s actions; “The Word of the Lord is living and active sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit and joints and marrow, and it discerns the thoughts of the mind and the intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Ultimately God’s Word reveals something about a person whenever it comes. If a person hears his word and obeys it, he is worthy of trust with more of His Word. But if he hears his word and does not do it, he has proven himself to be fruitless, defective, and useless to the Master.

This is plain to see in Parables of Jesus, but it still seems to deal on the level of “professional trustworthiness” if you will: Can Jesus trust me with greater tasks in his business? This of course, is a true Dimension to God’s trustworthiness. After all “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” But there’s another very, very sweet and for me a tearful realization that there is something more special kind of trust to have with God.

For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; But He is intimate with the upright.~Proverbs 3:23

Intimacy: a closeness of sharing one’s very self: this is a privilege for the upright. Trust in God’s economy is for those who walk without “deviation” who are whole-hearted, trustworthy, simply devoted–in a word– faithful. This trust in God’s economy is a currency often neglected in the Church. This is not just “I know God.” or “I have a relationship with Jesus.” kind of intimacy. This is a privilege of getting to “see God.” that is a blessing for the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Not all self-proclaimed Christians can claim this privilege. It takes a degree of sacrifice that nominal Christianity cannot afford. It takes, to use a Biblical type, Abram’s leaving his home and his family at the call of God, it takes Abram’s separation from Lot, it takes a denial of worldly reward, it takes a disowning of one’s own failed creations, it takes the total surrender of every preciously irreplaceable gift of God– it is the desire to know Him no matter how hard, or how good the cost. This progression brings about the reward of which the Prophet wrote in Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 9:23-24

Such a special gift of intimacy with God, of which one may humbly boast, comes by showing one’s trustworthiness, not just in obedience, but also in devoted affectionate love to the One who is truly worthy of it. Indeed, the warning is there for those who choose not to pursue this:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised—Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.” ~Jeremiah 9:25-26

My encouragement: pursue intimacy with God at any cost. No matter what you have done, if your heart within you is moved to pursue this closeness with God, it is His drawing you, and He will by no means cast you out.