Faith provides the ability to perceive what the eye cannot see (cf. 2:8)

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1 SERMON NOTES: Hebrews 11:1 12:3 Question: What does it mean to live by faith? FAITH DEFINED HEBREWS 11:1 3 (NIV84) 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 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. Faith is our response, internally and externally, to God s promises Faith provides the ability to perceive what the eye cannot see (cf. 2:8) FAIITH DEMONSTRATED HEBREWS 11:4 40 (NIV84) 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Faith pleases God and He makes us righteous (cf. 11:6; Ro. 3:21-26) HEBREWS 11: 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. 9 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. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

2 11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was barren was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 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 the sand on the seashore. 13 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. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 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. Faith is anchored to obedient action HEBREWS 11: 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, 18 even though God had said to him, It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. 23 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. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 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. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 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. Faith, tested and tried, keeps its eye on the promise. Therefore, faith is never denied its prize. HEBREWS 11: 29-38

3 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 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 armies. 35 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. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 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 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Faith made them righteous, obedient and victorious A CALL TO ACTION HEBREWS 11:39-12:2 (NIV84) 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Live your life with a desire to please God first! Determine to finish your leg of the race Keep your eye on the Jesus and you will gain the prize

4 CONNECT GROUP DISCUSSION GUIDE: Hebrews 11:1 12:2 OPENING As you gather to discuss today s passage, discuss some of the most inspirational movies you can remember. What made the hero/heroine stand out? What motivated their actions? Did they always have clarity? (Leader s note: not much needs to be added here. This is a great opening question to orient people to the idea that heroes are born out of a sense of hope and faith in something they cannot see at the moment. They are motivated by something that has yet to materialize so they act faithfully because they believe in something greater. Here s an opportunity for a shameless plug on my favorite movie: It s a Wonderful Life. This Christmas movie is not only a classic, but also, I think, a tale of incredible heroism told in every day life circumstances. Main character, George Bailey, is continually caught between his ideal, dream life, and the welfare of his own hometown, which is threatened by a greedy miser intent on owning everything and increasing the gap between his riches and the people s poverty. George s heroism is not in his pursuit of the ideal life, but rather in his dedication to see the quality of everyone else s life raised, even at great personal sacrifice. Though he often doubted his choices, and wished for more for himself, his functional faith was to see people cared for, loved, and grow up in a town where opportunity thrived and family safety was cultivated. His faith required perseverance, conviction, personal sacrifice, a willingness to wade into mystery, and loving action. The same could be said of Frodo Baggins, of Lord of the Rings, who sacrificed everything in his life to destroy the Ring and defeat the evil running wild in Middle Earth. Ever seen Amazing Grace, featuring the story of William Wilberforce? Wilberforce, after an encounter with Jesus Christ, gave his life for the abolition of slavery and the reformation of manners, meaning all sorts of incredibly needed social reforms to improve life in England at all levels. His was not a life for the faint of heart, as he faced sickness, opposition, threats, and years of fighting against all odds only to find victory towards the end of his life. The life we re called to live by faith in Christ is nothing short of these stories, as it requires much of the same conviction, action, and perseverance in the face of much opposition, as chapter 11 in Hebrews reveals.) (Leader s question and guidance: Feel free to ask lots of follow up questions regarding what motivated the action of the leaders and whether or not they had clarity. This is really important, because life is full of uncertainty. Ask questions about motivation like Why did they do what they did? What were they hoping to accomplish? What made them heroes in the process? ) GOING DEEPER Hebrews 11:1-3 provides a working definition of faith. What two qualities are mentioned in this text? How would you define what we hope for? What are we to see with certainty? (Remember all that has been shared regarding the work and ministry of Jesus in the previous chapters) (Leader s note: Bruce s notes describe it this way: 1) Faith is our response, internally and externally (at head and heart level, and at an action level), to God s promises, and 2)

5 Faith provides the ability to perceive what the eye cannot see. Why does it give us the ability to perceive what we cannot see? This is absolutely huge. Social commentary on faith: most people think faith is a blind leap into the dark, simply believing without any sort of rational thought at all. Why would it be faith if there is any fact, reason, or logic to it some might ask. However, if faith really is a blind leap into the dark, then what separates Christian faith from all other faiths? Why not believe as some believe that all faiths are equally legitimate and equally valid ways of approaching God? The question is really this, What separates your faith in Jesus above any other faith? The answer is found not a blind leap, but in a concrete reality that literally happened 2,000 years ago. We don t hope in a future that is merely told to us, but in a future that was demonstrated with blood, sweat, and tears when the God of the universe stepped into human history as a human being, died a physical death on the cross, and rose with a physical body from the grave. Apart from this reality there is nothing that truly substantiates our faith. Some might argue, Well, I feel Him in my heart. While that might be true, and very much is true for all true believers in Jesus, this claim is no more powerful than anyone who claims to feel any other spiritual force in other religions. Our only and true hope in life, which substantiates our faith completely, is in the physical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who now lives and intercedes for us on the throne at God the Father s right hand. He has given us His Holy Spirit to testify to this reality and to help us live now in light of that reality. Now the writer of Hebrews brings up examples from the Old Testament who were before Jesus, so one might say, Does that make their faith illegitimate? The answer is a firm NO! because they had the promise made throughout the Old Testament of one who would ultimately redeem Israel, and they believed that God would ultimately send redemption as He saw fit through this person see Genesis 3:15, 12:1-3, 15:1-5, 17:7, Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, 2 Samuel 7, Isaiah chapters 40-55, particularly 53, and many others etc. Just look at Matthew s Gospel to see how often he quotes from the Old Testament to point to Jesus fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, let alone how often the book of Hebrews itself quotes from the Old Testament.) (Leader s question: you might follow these first two questions with questions like, What makes your faith more legitimate than anyone else s? Why is Christian faith more valid and why should it be more urgently embraced as opposed to others faiths? in order to point people to the incredible hope found in Jesus physical death and resurrection.) Hebrews 11:4-40 cites numerous examples of men and women who lived lives of faith. Pastor Bruce mentioned that God saw them as righteous; they obeyed to God s call; they endured times of testing because of their confidence in God s promise. However, many of these were imperfect examples: Noah got drunk; Abraham lied; Jacob was a deceiver; Moses had a temper; Gideon doubted; Samson was unrestrained; David was an adulterer. How do you reconcile the writer using them as examples? (Leader s note: Bottom line you don t have to be perfect to have faith. Faith, in fact, always has an object in which one places one s hope. For us, this object is Jesus Christ Himself and His perfection. We cannot place any hope in ourselves, our ability or moral

6 standing, because apart from Christ and His sacrifice, we are all lost in sin. However, because of what Jesus has done in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 3:23) we have hope to have faith in spite of our imperfections and our imperfect pasts. Does this mean that we can keep on sinning and have faith? I heard a pastor say once, God loves us so much that anyone is welcome to the table of grace, but He also loves us too much to keep us there, rightly pointing out that Christ saved us, but He also called us to follow Him. He does not expect us to follow perfectly (hence the reason He died), but He does expect us to follow humbly and obediently to demonstrate our true faith, knowing that true faith is demonstrated in obedience.) (Leader s question: you might ask, Were each of these examples perfect? anticipating a no, and then follow this up with well, then what made them such amazing examples, even heroes, of faith of which the writer says, the world was not worthy of them? The reason is their hope in God and their obedient action to follow Him as a result of His mercy and grace, and despite their imperfection.) CHALLENGE Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to take action. We are called to enter the race of faith, as those who went before us. The text mentions three things to encourage us to run. Discuss what concrete steps you can take in your life of faith? What are some things you can start to do? What are some things you should stop doing? (Leader s note: 1) throw off everything that hinders (including sin), 2) there s a race marked out for us, and 3) we do not run alone we have the author and perfecter of our faith with us who gave us our faith and is in the process of perfecting it. Bruce s notes comment that we are to 1) live your life with a desire to please God first, 2) determine to finish our leg of the race, and 3) the prize awaits those who are fixed on Jesus.) (Leader s guidance: Harp on these last questions Bruce asks these are where the rubber meets the road. Feel free to lead out in your own life first on areas you need to stop doing and others where you need to pick up. This is not a guilt fest, meaning we don t want to guilt people into thinking about changing their behavior, but create an environment that can empower people to start thinking about making positive changes in keeping with the examples they ve read about in Hebrews 11.)

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