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Faith That Pleases God

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:12
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As we begin our journey through the Great Hall of Faith, the author of Hebrews provides us with a definition of God pleasing faith.

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This weekend we are giving our commendation to the heroes of our nation who have fought to secure and defend our freedom. Yesterday, Lorna, Sybil and I drove to the Allegheny National Cemetery to pay our respect to Lorna’s father. Driving down the main road leading into the cemetery was very moving. The road was lined with American flags waving with a bright blue sky in the background. Beyond the flags, were row after row of white stones, marking the final resting place of some of America’s heroes. As we walked down the path leading to Wade’s grave, one could read name after name of these heroes.
It is this feeling of awe, respect and inspiration that the author Hebrews trying to create. Just as Lorna, Sybil and I were surrounded by a great cloud of white markers on the green hills of Allegheny National Cemetery, so we as believers are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” (Heb 12:1) As we walk through the hallowed ground of Hebrews 11:1-12:1, we can read the names of the Faith Heroes listed there—Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and finally Jesus.
Time does not permit us to walk the breadth of this Great Hall of Faith in just one Sunday. What I would like to do this Sunday is look at the nature of their faith. A faith that so pleased God that He award them His highest commendation! A commendation that we too can earn! The author defines the nature of heroic faith in Hebrews 11:1-3.
Hebrews 11:1–3 ESV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Then he adds in verse 6:
Hebrews 11:6 ESV
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
So, my topic today is Faith That Pleases God.
The first thing we learn about God Pleasing Faith is such...

Faith is “More Than a Feeling”

In the 1970’s one of the rock group Boston’s greatest hits was a song entitled “More Than a Feeling”. It was a song about a man’s abiding love for a long lost girl friend named Marianne. In the song, the man says his love for her is “More Than a Feeling,” it has a tangible reality to it.
This idea perfectly captures what the author of Hebrews is trying to teach us about God pleasing faith, it is more than a feeling, it has real substance to it. Let me read this verse again from the New King James version.
Hebrews 11:1 NKJV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The Greek word translated “assurance” in our ESV pew Bibles was used was used to speak of the essence or substance of something. For example, in Hebrews 1:3 the author uses the same word when he says of Jesus...
Hebrews 1:3 ESV
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
In a legal setting, this word was used for a title deed. A title deed has a reality far beyond the paper it is written on. Once you have a title deed in your possession the property named on that paper is yours, even if you have not seen it! This is what faith is!
Ever since the Enlightenment, secular humanists have tried to convince us that faith is nothing more than a feeling. Science and reason give us truth and reality, faith is nothing more than a “blind leap.”
Sadly, they have been successful in their attack on faith, most people, even in the church think of faith only in emotional terms. This is reflected in most of our modern translations.
I want you to look that Hebrews 11:1 again in the NKJV.
Hebrews 11:1 NKJV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
This time I want you to look at that word “evidence.” If you recall it was translated as “conviction” in the ESV. Again, the older translations did a better job of translating the meaning of this text. The Greek word used in the second half of verse 1 speaks of “evidence” or “proof” used in a law court. Think about how evidence is used in a law court. Even though the members of the jury have not personally witnessed the crime being committed, on the basis of strong evidence they may convict someone of the crime. This is what the author of Hebrews is saying God pleasing faith is like. The “evidence” faith trusts in is God’s Word...

Faith Trusts God’s Word More Than Sight

This truth is beautifully expressed in verse 3...
Hebrews 11:3 ESV
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
God pleasing faith trusts God’s Word, because it considers God trustworthy.
Think of your mind and heart as a courtroom, what evidence do you consider most trustworthy? The evidence brought by human reason or the evidence brought by God’s Word? Seen this way you can now see why the secular humanist have been so keen in attacking the reliability of God’s Word. If they can discredit God, they have won in the court of your heart and mind.
The dirty little secret the secular humanists don’t want you to know is that it takes faith to believe their word as well. Science and reason are presented as infallible sources of truth, but this is a gross oversimplification. We are not like God, we are not all knowing, there is just too many factors we don’t know or can’t account for. The “science” of meteorology is a perfect example. The reason forecasts are off is because there are too many factors to account for. In addition, human presuppositions and bias predetermine how a person gathers, reads and interprets data. Finally, the value of the results depends on the ethical behavior of the scientists themselves.
A good example of this can be found in biologist Jonathan Wells’ books “Icons of Evolution” and “Zombie Science”. In these books, Dr. Well’s highlights famous evolutionary “experiments such as German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s embryos draws which purportedly showed similarities between embryos of the same class. Darwin himself thought these drawings were the strongest evidence for his theory. The only problem is the drawings were faked! Yet 150 years later these drawings still appear in our children’s textbooks! This is not an isolated case. It begs the question, “If evolution is such ‘assured science,’ why must its supporters resort to using ‘fake science’ to support it?” The same type of use of “fake science” can be seen in gender studies and global warming. If human experience and history have taught us anything it is that you can’t trust the word of other men and women!
Please, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying human reason and science is bad, nor am I saying most scientist are unethical, but in the courtroom of your mind each and every one of us must decide whose word we have more faith in—God’s or man’s.
Before I leave this second point that God pleasing faith trust God’s Word more than sight, I want to address the topic of unanswered prayer. There have been a number of people out there recently who have made the statement that “Faith doesn’t work”. This saying has caught on so much that there have even been books written of it. When people say, “Faith doesn’t work,” what they mean is that God did not answer their prayers and intervene in their lives the way they desired. I bring this up because the author of Hebrews addresses this very issue in this great list of Faith Heroes.
In this list there are those who experience mighty miracles and there are those who don’t see miracles, but rather pain and even death, but God considers them all heroes. Moreover, the author makes clear that their most urgent prayer—the coming of the Promised Messiah—was a prayer each and every one of them died without seeing answered in this life. First, he writes:
Hebrews 11:13 ESV
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Then he adds:
Hebrews 11:39–40 ESV
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
What is going on here? It is this: God has a better agenda for our lives than we do! Faith is about trust in God, not about getting results! To say faith doesn’t work is like saying, love doesn’t work. True love doesn’t seek to get something from another person, it seeks to give something to another person.
Faith is not a tool which we use to pry open God’s treasure chest of miracles, it is the loving trust a child that trust his parent to give him or her the very best. This is why true...

Faith Earns God’s Highest Commendation

This truth is found in verse 2.
Hebrews 11:2 ESV
For by it the people of old received their commendation.
Here I have to say I really like the way the ESV translates this verse, it really captures the idea of the original Greek, it was a word used to speak of a king or ruler giving his highest approval and recondition to a person or city—it is what we would call a commendation.
As I wrote this sermon, I thought of the famous picture of General Eisenhower pinning metals on row after row of soldiers standing in attention. This is what God will do for all the Heroes of the Faith.
Just like those citizen soldiers Eisenhower honored were ordinary people, so these Faith Heroes are ordinary people as well. We look at them and see them as great, but it was their faith in God that made them great. Just as the “love of country” made the heroes of our nation great.
In his course of the book of Hebrews, George Guthrie, tells the story of a Chinese women he met while in China. She told him of her imprisonment when she was in her twenties. While in prison she prayed for other prisoners and there were mighty healings and expulsions of demons. So many became Christians that the whole prison was changed. So impressed was the prison warden that he transferred her to another prison, so she could do the same thing there. But here is the interesting part, in her own life she suffered the ordinary heartaches, problems and sicknesses of life. These she said took more faith to endure!
Dr. Guthrie closed by saying that she was for him a real hero of faith, not just because she had the faith to see miracles now, but because she had faith to “see them and greet them from afar.” (Heb 11:13) Finally he adds, “Extraordinary faith is found in ordinary people living ordinary lives.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the author of Hebrews was inspired by God to write this chapter so that you too will be numbered someday among those who God commends as a Faith Hero!
Let us pray.
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