We begin a new series focused on the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, commonly known as The Hall of Faith. These Biblical characters are an example of how to live our life in a healthy, productive, and faithful manner. We begin the series by exploring how The Bible defines faith. The ultimate joy of any human is to please God. And Scripture itself says that one pathway for pleasing God is to exercise our faith.
Hall of Faith
We’re starting a new series, the Hall of Faith, which is all about Hebrews 11. The Hall of Faith, what we’re going to do is get examples of how to live this life that we’ve learned about in the book of Hebrews– and this outline that there’s a better priest and a better king. We’ve got a better priest with a better sacrifice and a better covenant. And we’ve got a better king or a better son with a better administration in a better world.
And Jesus is inviting us to participate in these two better ministries: The better priest with the better sacrifice and a better covenant. By having the covenant written on our hearts, living this life from the inside out and actually entering the Holy of Holies that’s in heaven by faith to have our hearts sprinkled and having our conscience cleared so that we can do good works. And in doing so, have a priestly function as we live in the world in a way that shows God to the world.
And he’s invited us to begin our participation in this better administration in a better world by actually living kingdom principles and bringing Christ into the world through our lives. And in doing so, preparing ourselves to also get this reward of being sons.
And we’ve said that the way we participate in this better-priest-and-better-king administration and the way we accept this invitation is by the word mixed with faith. Hearing what God has to say and believing it and doing it. That’s the way we actually participate.
What does this look like? Well, that’s what chapter 11 is going to give us. It’s going to give us this Hall of Faith with examples from the scripture of what it looks like to live this Hebrews-type life.
Three Corners of a Triangle
If you think in terms of a triangle, and on one corner of the triangle, I have me; and another corner of the triangle, I have humanity; and another corner of the triangle, I have God. Then I think you can take this basic perspective to look at the three main points of Hebrews 11, which we’ll work with for now unless a better perspective arises as we go through.
First Corner: Me
So we’ve got me, humanity, and God. And I have my actions and the way I think about things for myself, what pleases me. All of us will, in all things, orient ourselves towards what pleases us. I occasionally will talk to people who claim they do not. I don’t believe that. I think we’re made that way, to focus on what pleases us. Even God says I take great pleasure in this or that, or I don’t take pleasure in this or that. It’s the way we operate.
The key thing is whether we have a true perspective and an eternal perspective or whether we have a very temporal perspective.
Second Corner: Humanity
We have humanity—I’ve got me on one corner—I’ve got humanity, I’ve got all the people around me, all of you and all the people I interact with on a daily basis. And you have a perspective about me. I have a perspective about you. And we influence one another. What I think about you or what you think about me, it matters. When someone expresses an opinion about you, it’s hard not to pay attention to that opinion, isn’t it?
Well, this is a part of our lives of whether we’re pleased or not, whether we’re pleased about our own behavior, we’ll be affected by what other people think about that.
Third Corner: God
And then we have God. And God is looking, and God is watching, and God has an opinion about all this as well. The question in Hebrews 11 is are we going to include God in our calculation of what pleases us, what pleases others, and what pleases God. Are we going to leave him out, or are we going to include him?
It turns out that the way we get our greatest pleasure is by pleasing God. The way we ultimately get the best opinion from others is to please God, even though on a temporal basis, it may not always seem that way.
The timeframe differential
The primary component of poverty is a timeframe. We’ve spent a lot of time in Africa, in the equatorial Africa, southeastern Africa. And the first time I visited Africa, I was absolutely astonished because I expected it to be a poor place. I’ve never seen such a wealthy place.
I was just flabbergasted. Volcanic soil. I visited—the guy who drove us around—I visited his home. And a fence, he had just taken these cane poles and just put them in the ground, and they started growing. I mean, they’re just like fishing pole-type stuff. He had a fence that was alive!
He had this 8-foot tall mango tree, and I said, “Wow! What a cool mango tree! How long ago did you plant it?”
He said, “Oh, about 18 months ago.”
It was unfathomable how productive this place was. Gold and minerals and oil and gas and these giant rivers that you could go transport on. They didn’t need air conditioning or heating. The weather is just about perfect year round.
It’s just darn near a paradise there!
But they don’t have any money, and there’s almost no development. And I came to start understanding why when they told me a story about the government. It was trying to encourage development and so they would buy people chickens and say let me buy you 30 chickens so you can start an egg-producing business. And they would come back to check on the egg-producing business, and inevitably they found that the business was closed because the people had eaten all the chickens. And the mentality is why have eggs tomorrow when we can eat the chickens today.
We see the same kind of things in payday loans. I’m sure there is, of course, the occasional emergency where people genuinely need cash. Based on my understanding—I’ve never actually had a payday loan, but based on my understanding, most people come into these payday loans, and it’s basically just I can have the money today instead of waiting until Friday.
It’s just a timeframe differential.
Drug addiction is kind of this way. I will enjoy this today. The effects tomorrow, I will worry about tomorrow.
Transcendent or Temporal?
Well, that’s a big part of what we’re going to talk about here. What kind of perspective are we going to have? Are we going to have a poverty perspective where we basically just look at today? Are we going to be payday-loan people, or do we want to be wealthy people? That’s a big part of what Hebrews 11 is about.
So, pleasing me, pleasing humanity, pleasing God. Are we going to live a transcendent life or a temporal life? And how are we going to live this better-king-better-priest sort of an existence.
What is Faith?
Well let’s look at Hebrews 11 now. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
We’re going to live this better-priest-better-king life with the word mixed with faith.
So, if we’re going to do that, we’ve got to understand what faith is.
Well, faith is the substance of things hoped for. Substance means you’ve got it. It’s in hand. It’s tangible.
Hoped for means you don’t have it. It’s something that’s yet to come.
So how can you have something in hand that’s yet to come?
You can believe it. This is what faith is. It’s having the substance even though it’s yet to come. That’s what faith is. It’s the evidence of things not seen.
The example I like to use is a courtroom where I bring out my paper and say, “I want to enter this into evidence as Exhibit A.” And the judge will say, “Enter it into evidence.”
Except in this case, I don’t have anything in my hands, and I say, “I would like to enter this into evidence.”
And what would the judge say? “You don’t have anything.”
“Well, yes, but this is evidence of things not seen.”
Now what’s he going to say? “You’re crazy!”
There’s a sense in which faith is kind of crazy because it’s not operating on things we can touch and see. That’s sort of the point.
You have to believe in things you can’t see. That’s going to come into play over and over again.
Verse 2, “For by it—” faith “—the elders—” that’s who we’re going to be talking about here, those who have gone on before us. “—obtained a good testimony.”
A Good Witness
We’ve gone through this briefly in a previous session, and I think this word testimony—we talked about—Does anybody remember what the Greek word is here? Martyreo. It’s this martyr word, the word from which we get martyr. And it means witness. A witness.
By faith the elders obtained a good witness. That’s how they came to be the kind of people that we want to emulate. It’s because of their faith.
So faith is things that are coming later, not today, not payday loan, but the reward in the future.
Faith is believing in things we cannot actually see.
Going back to our triangle, can we see me and my pleasures? Can I see those things? Are they tangible? Pretty tangible.
Can I see all of you and get direct effect of when you praise me or criticize me? It’s pretty tangible, right? I get a real emotional impact from that.
Can I see God? No. I cannot see God, right? You see the point here: If we’re going to have a focus on pleasing God, we have to have as tangible that which we cannot see.
If we’re going to have something focused on tangible evidence that we can’t see and a reward that we can’t yet hold as thought it’s substantive, we have to have faith. That’s where we get this good witness.
Now what kind of witness are we going to have? If we have a faith-walk witness, who will that witness be to? Who will see it? God will see it. Those around us will see it. We will see it. And there’s our triangle. I’ll see it; I’ll know it. You all will know it. God will know it.
You’ll make a judgment that may or may not be true about my witness. God will know because as we learned in chapter 4, he judges the intents of the heart.
So faith is the basis of a good testimony.
The Evidence of God
Verse 3. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
This is a really interesting comment here. We have to believe God who we can’t see, but is there ample evidence that God is there? It’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
This is an interesting precursor to atomic physics here that he’s talking about. The things that are made are made out of things we can’t see.
We’re told that we have more space in our bodies than we have tangible stuff. And we should be able to just walk right through each other based on how much space there is between all these atoms and stuff. That’s what we’re told.
Do they know? They don’t really know. Their models keep changing. What they said when I was in college is different from what they say now because they keep learning more. The more they learn, the less they know.
I saw a TED talk the other day, and it said that they now believe that 95 percent of what is, we can’t see. What we can see is only 5 percent of what is. That’s why they’re building these supercolliders. They’re looking for particles that will prove that what we can’t see is actually there. It’s kind of interesting, huh?
Supposedly, when I touch my wife Terri, I’m not actually touching her; it’s just that we have these particles of positive and negative charges that are interacting, but they don’t actually touch. At least that’s what the scientists say.
Well, there’s ample evidence that there’s real stuff here. I could say, “Well, because of that, I don’t really believe I’m here.” Or, “I don’t believe you’re here.” Sometimes we might wish that was true.
But there’s ample evidence that there’s stuff we can’t see in operation.
I can see Wally there. I’m pretty sure there’s something going on inside all of him, and there’s all these particles and stuff; but I can’t really see that. But I can see the evidence that Wally’s there.
There’s ample evidence that God is there, but we can’t actually see God. It still takes faith.
What’s visible is coming about because of something that’s invisible, and that’s how God has set things up.
So, if we’re going to participate in this greater priest and greater king with the word mixed with faith, we have to understand what faith is. And faith is when we act on that which we cannot see, and we respond on a reward basis to something that’s just as tangible as if we have it even though it’s far out in the distance.
Verse 4, our first example. “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness—” martyreo “—that he was righteous, and God testifying of his gifts—” what he brought to this sacrifice. “—and through it he being dead still speaks.” The witness speaks.
Who is Abel speaking to? He’s speaking to us. How is he speaking to us? Through the Word of God.
The triangle has a feedback loop, and we see this multiple places in scripture. We see a clause like, “I will confess you before my father.” To me, that would be one of the neatest things to happen. “I want to tell my dad all about what you did for me! Come on up here! I want to tell him all about it!”
Don’t you love it when somebody comes and says, “Come here, come here, I want to tell my friend all this great, neat stuff you did!” And here, you’ve got it before the King of the Universe.
Well, God likes to tell about people he likes. And he’s telling us about Abel, and it’s still witnessing to us. This is the way it works. We witness to other people; and when our witness pleases God, it has impact.
One of the rewards in Revelation is—I’ll put a pillar in the temple to commemorate your life.
Now you go to some famous place or whatever, a monument, and you see statues of people. You can walk through the capital of the United States. You know, each state just gets two statues. So there’s only a hundred people in the national capital representing all the states. For the most part you go through, and you have no idea who these people are. They’re the most famous two people from that state, and you don’t even know who they are.
Well, it’s not going to be that way in the new earth. We’re going to know who they are. We have an opportunity for God to testify. And the basis on which he’s going to do that is whether we lived this life of faith.