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

Photo Credit: Baptist and Reflector
https://baptistandreflector.org/2016-resolutions-you-need-a-tipping-point/climb-mountain-rock-victory-top-determination/

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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Photo credit: The Preaching Club
https://www.preachingclub.com/jesus-chose-humiliation-over-glory-good-friday-sermon/

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.

To a Mature Man: Closing Remarks

To a Mature Man:

The Ten Stages of the Christian Walk

# Stage Do Acquire Avoid
1 Birth Meet a Christian Exposure to Christ False Religion/ False gods
2 Temple Listen to God’s Word Blessing/ Understanding Traditionalism/ Formalism
3 Baptism Repent and Obey Holy Spirit’s filling License to Sin
4 Wilderness Depend/ Trust/ Devote/ follow him Confirmed power of Spirit Compromise
5 Community Testify/ serve/ seek Mission announced Man’s approval
6 Service Meet physical and spiritual needs Power’s achievement Worldly concern
7 Justice Stand against evil man for God Refute and remain

disentangled

Appeasement/ Cowering
8 Persecution Endure; forgive The Cross’ victory Apostasy
9 Resurrection Stand and give thanks To see His face Deception/ Disobedience
10 Ascension Rule Heaven & Earth A good world Pride

Insights:

  • You may notice that the beginning stages of walk with Jesus are quite individual, but the middle stages are communal. This is not by accident, nor intentionally. I think it is discovered design. It is because the life of a Christian is a life in conjunction with other believers. God will need to have his time alone with you, but you will need to be with the body of Christ if He is to use you to the fullest.
  • It may seem superfluous to write about the last two stages, since beyond the grave, we will have fewer cares and concerns. But I see that when they are all laid out, certain patterns and relationships emerge.

Example.

  • Humility–Stage 1 and Stage 10 are both largely concerned with Humility and avoiding Pride in exaltation.
    • Truth–Stage 2 and Stage 9 are both concerned with Heeding God’s word and not being deceived by anything less than him.
      • The Cross–Stage 3 and Stage 8 are the initial death to the world at Baptism, and the world’s fulfillment of that death in Persecution.
    • Battle–Stage 4 and stage 7 are the initial testing before God, and then the fulfillment of that testing before man as one stands against the people who are controlled by the Evil one who was faced already in the wilderness.
  • Love–Stage 5 and 6 are the community living together and fully operating in the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the world what community and love really look like.

So is the first Chiasmic pattern recognizable in these stages. In it, the emphasis on Humility, the Cross, and Love are emphasized as the beginning middle and End of the Christian life.

  • Another insight, looking back on the stages: you may notice the ordering of the stages from inner-most circle to outermost circle. Once a believer is baptized, he grows in the innermost circle of relating with God, then he grows outward to the next circle of inter-relating with believers, then the next circle out is relating to the world, and then the outer circle of standing against the forces of evil. Our ministry does indeed spread outward from this central locus of being with God, and extends outward to offense against the enemy.
  • This insight lends itself to another: This, for all believers is the order of ministry, and let it never be forgotten, as some tragically have forgotten, and have lost all power, life, and effectiveness, and courage for their ministries.
  1. Stage 4: Our first ministry is to the Lord
  2. Stage 5: Our second ministry is to the Church
  3. Stage 6: Our third ministry is to the World
  4. Stage 7: Our fourth ministry is to the Powers

Dear Brother, no matter where you go, never forget this principle! Minister to Him first, then give first consideration to the Church, then the world, then go against the powers of the enemy. This will render you fruitful in your ministry, and abundantly so.

  • I also hope that it has become obvious through these writings, how important it is for a believer to be set apart from the world to God. The Holy Spirit is what distinguishes a Christian from a non-believer. In stage 3: Baptism there is a clean break, in stage 4: Wilderness there is no compromise, in stage 5: Community there is a casting off man’s approval, in stage 6: Service there is an avoidance of worldly concerns, and in stage 7: Justice there is a disentanglement that must be kept. The reason for the separation at all of these stages is stage 8: Persecution. It is the most profound and most defined manifestation of the Gospel, and few are they who will endure to the end. This is the Cross the Christian must carry, and the world will seek to pull the believer back into its clutches from the day he says he will follow Jesus. And the world needs the cross every generation, in every place for the reminder of God’s love living in his followers.
  • Another word: some who read these stages may say, “This isn’t Christianity. This is SUPER-Christianity.” I would like to reply to such a person that any Christianity that does not measure itself by the standard of Christ isn’t Christianity at all. Therefore, there is no real Christianity without the Holy Spirit. Any Christianity that is assured in itself apart from the measure of Christ and leads others into the same folly is nominal and misguided at best and at worst blasphemous and diabolical.
  • Finally, there may be some who say, “What do I do if I have fallen into one of these pitfalls along the way? What do I do, if I am stuck?” One word: REPENT! Run straight into the arms of God, and out of the world’s (and thereby the devil’s) clutches. Just as Jesus told Peter who was opposing him when he said,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

No matter what pitfall you are in, this is how we get back on the path with Jesus: by putting off the old life, embracing His new life, and following Him to maturity.

Closing

Ephesians 4:11-13

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

It has been my hope, dear brother, to equip you for the work of service, and to build you up with the body of Christ until we all attain unity of faith. The knowledge of the Son of God in these posts, will, I hope, grow you to a mature man, according to the measure of the fullness of Christ’s stature.

May you rise to the occasion of these posts and press onward to the prize of what awaits in the New Heaven and Earth for all who love His appearing. My heart is opened to you, and I trust that God will raise you up so that you will be able to soar with Him on wings of eagles as you trust in Him.

I look forward to walking with you for as much longer as the Lord will have us together. God’s grace and peace go with you, my friend.

Your older brother