In this episode, we look at some characters in the Hall of Faith found in Hebrews eleven. What can we learn from these characters? What made them so noteworthy? What opportunity do we have to be faith superheroes? We are all given an inheritance. But it takes courage to possess it and wisdom to steward it. When we walk in the spirit we fulfill the law, discover the joys and benefits of obedience, and find there is great fulfillment in pleasing God.
Possess the Inheritance
Let’s look at Hebrews 12:16. “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau—” So we’ve got this Hall of Faith with Abel, who gave a better sacrifice. And his contrast is Esau, who was a profane person. Why was he a profane person? “—who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.”
We saw the heavenly Jerusalem where there were the firstborn. Esau was a firstborn. He sold his inheritance. He sold it for a bowl of food. Every one of us who’ve believed in the promise of God, every one of us who’ve believed and have benefited from the sacrifice of Jesus, the one sacrifice that takes away all sin, every one of us have been given the possession of being an inheritor. And it’s ours to keep or throw away.
Remember the children of Israel were given their inheritance, but they had to go and possess it.
Esau had his inheritance. All he had to do was possess it, but he sold it for a bowl of stew.
And everything that we do that will get our inheritance thrown away falls into the category of satisfying an appetite of some kind. Maybe it’s a sexual appetite. Maybe it’s an appetite for possessions. Maybe it’s an appetite for feelings or emotions.
But he says don’t be like Esau.
Verse 17. “For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing—” Many years later he decided, oh, well I want it now. “—he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance—”
We saw this in chapter six. When is the day to repent? Today. When we know that we need to turn back, there’s a window of repentance, and that window can shut. And when it shuts, the inheritance can be lost, the benefits can be lost, the consequences can be permanent.
“He found no place for repentance though he sought it diligently with tears.”
At the very least when we get to the judgment seat of Christ, there’s going to be wood, hay, stubble and gold, silver, precious stones. And there’s no indication that there’s a do-over. If we have wood, hay, and stubble, it’s going to burn up.
Let’s rewind a little bit more. 12:12. “Therefore, strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees—”
If you’ve ever coached basketball like I have, and you try to get people to play zone defense, you always tell them, “Get your hands up!” You play zone defense with your hands up. And after about 30 seconds, people will start bringing their hands down. You know why? It’s tiring to keep your hands up all the time. The first 10-15 seconds of a possession, they’ll really move; and then, pretty soon they’re just standing there with their hands down. It’s tiring.
So, this is probably as close to basketball terminology as you’re going to find in the Bible. I’m just going to claim it: that zone defense is a good thing. The Bible says so. “Strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees!”
Get strong and “make straight paths for your feet, so what’s lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people—”
That’s an interesting thing, right? He wants us to be sons. He wants us to be servant kings, servant queens. He wants us to live now as high priests, after the order of the Great High Priest. He wants us to live now by faith as servant kings. And the first thing he says is, “Pursue peace with all people—” This is harmony at work.
“—and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” You can’t see God if you’re immersed in the world. What you see is the world. You have to come out of the world, and then you can see God.
12:15 “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of grace of God.” God’s grace is so amazing. He’s given us so much: He’s given us the power to overcome sin in our daily lives, the indwelling Spirit. But if we harden our heart to the Spirit and insult the Spirit as we talked about in chapter 10, it does us no good. And we just fall short of it.
“—lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble—” You know, bitterness—in the tradition I grew up in was, it seemed to me, embraced. My mom was awesome. She treated me amazingly well. She was a student of the Bible. She talked to me like an adult. She was a great mom. But I saw this happen to her. A root of bitterness sprang up, and it isolated her from almost everybody.
“—and by this, many become defiled, lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau—” You’ve not come to the mountain that may be touched. You’ve come to Mount Zion, so listen to him who speaks.
What Paul tells us in Romans 8 is that when we walk in the Spirit, we fulfill the law. The law was given to bring peace and harmony. The problem was it wasn’t written in the right place. Where was the law written? On stones. And where does it need to be written in order to really change us? On our hearts.
And this is all the law is telling us to do is to bring peace and harmony. And he’s saying make that happen, guys. Take the law written on your heart. Take the word which you’ve heard. Believe it. Do it.
God is God
Let’s rewind a little more. Go back to Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Do you need proof that God’s going to do what you want him to do? You won’t find it, except through the eyes of faith. He’s giving us examples here, and he’s saying you’ve got plenty of examples to go by. Believe them. Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.
Verse 5. “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death—” Many people think that the two witnesses that are going to come back in Revelations are going to be Enoch and Elijah because both of them were translated up. They were beamed up.
“—and was not found—” Why? Because God had taken him. “For before he was taken, he had this testimony that he pleased God.”
11:6. “But without faith it’s impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe—” two things:
One: That he is. What did God tell Israel his name was? I am. I am that I am. I’m existence. I’m the definition of being. I’m who I say I am. We spend a lot of time in theology explaining God. And it’s fine to describe God, but we don’t explain God. Explaining God is putting him under our rational reasoning and within the bounds of our reasoning. He doesn’t fit within the bounds of our reasoning. He’s God. He’s who he says he is.
If you want to please God, the first thing you’ve got to believe is that he’s God.
This is Rudy theology. “Young man, I’ve been in theological work for 30 years and there are two things that I really know for sure: One is that there’s a God. And the other is that it’s not me.” Profound. God is God; we are not.
You have to believe that he is.
It is Worth It
And the second thing is that you have to believe is that if you do what he says, it will be worth it.
Now you will talk to people who will say that’s selfish. We shouldn’t need a reward. We should just do it for the right reason. What’s the right reason? Because we love God. OK. Sounds great. And why would you want to do that? Well, because it’s the right thing to do. Says who? Well, God. So do you care what God thinks? Well sure I care what God thinks. So that means you want to please him, right? Yes! And that’s a reward isn’t it? Uh, yeah, I guess it is.
See, it all comes back to we’re all going to try to please somebody. And really most of us want to please who? Who’s the number one person that most of us want to please? Ourselves. And that’s the spirit of our age. Self magazine and self everything. Self esteem. Self actualization. Narcissism is the spirit of our age. And what you find is that if you please yourself, you’re going to end up alone. That’s what you find.
If we have a whole world of people pleasing themselves, we’ll have a whole world of disconnected people.
I think C. S. Lewis captures this in The Great Divorce in a great way.
You have to believe that when you do what he says, it’ll be worth it.
When you do what God says, it brings a lot of pain in this world. You don’t get to take short cuts like other people do. Serving others is a lot of trouble. Most of the time, when you serve others, they won’t really appreciate it.
You serve your children, growing up, you discipline them, you withhold from them things that their friends are getting to do because you know it’s not in their best interests. Do they say, “I really appreciate your not letting me watch that movie like all my friends are! I know you know what’s best for me. That would probably pollute my mind, and there’s no telling what trouble I would have later in life.”
You have to believe that what he’s telling you is worthwhile, and that’s how you please God. You believe God’s God, and you believe that what he’s going to do is worth it, that what he tells you to do is worth it.
Noah. What did Noah do? He built an ark out in the middle of land.
Look at 11:8. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance—” Leave your home.
Verse 13. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off—” Evidence of things not seen. Substance of things hoped for. “—having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland—” A new earth. A better administration. A reformed earth. A saved earth.
And that’s what he’s wanting us to do. He’s wanting us to live now, the premises of God so we can benefit now, and that qualifies us for this better administration because we are by faith being the high priest function under the obedience of Jesus. We are by faith being servant kings or queens under the obedience of Christ.
Actually, you could argue that all of us are going to be queens. That’s another really good picture.
Verse 23. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents—”
Verse 24. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter—” He didn’t want to be a son of this world. He didn’t want to be a prince of Egypt. He wanted to be a better prince and a better son. “—choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.”
Is sin pleasurable? Sure. Absolutely. Is it lasting? No.
He understood that I want something permanent.
And it brings affliction in the front end. It does.
11:26. “Esteeming the reproach of Christ—” This is Moses. “—greater riches than the treasures in Egypt—” Why? He looked to the reward. Why? He wanted to please God. Because to please God you’ve got to believe two things. That he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
Chapter 12. This whole thing has been about Jesus. The whole thing has been about the better priest who was made a little lower than the angels but was lifted above the name of all names and seated at the right hand of God, the better Son who made the better sacrifice under the better law that’s written on our hearts. And the better king who is making a better administration.
The next time he speaks he’s going to blow up this world and put it in place with a better one. And he wants us to participate with him. He’s given us that as an inheritance and a possession. Are you going to throw it away like Esau did? Are you going to leave it in the desert like the children of Israel did? Or are you going to embrace it like Enoch and Moses did and become great?
I’ve been to Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame. I really like baseball. Not as much as Andy does, but I really like baseball. It was a real thrill to me to get to go. And I went through and looked at all the plaques. It was really cool. But I had no idea who most of those people were. Never heard of them! They’re legends. They’re in the baseball Hall of Fame, and I’d never heard of them! They’re already forgotten.
This group will never be forgotten. That’s what I’d like to be. I’d like to be a legend in God’s hall of fame. It’s worth shooting for.
12:1. “Therefore we also, since we’re surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses—” all these great heroes of faith who believed God, even without receiving the promise, and they looked ahead and said, “That reward, that will be worth it.”
“—let us weigh aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us—”
Is it easy to sin? You bet it is. It’s something worth laying aside. This is something like James’ terminology. Let’s “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your—” lives. It says souls, but remember that any time you see soul, you can substitute life. Psuche.
“—and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Paul likes the Olympics.
“—looking unto Jesus—” He already ran the race. “—the author and finisher of our faith.” He learned obedience, even to death on the cross. And because of his obedience, his name was lifted above every name. Run like that.
Despising the Shame
Did Jesus have to endure shame? Lots and lots of it.
Give me some of the people who shamed Jesus. Shame is when you’re rejected by someone because you’re not living up to their standard.
Peter. He was shamed by Peter. “Jesus, you’ve got to stop talking like this! You’re upsetting people! You’re not going to go and die. We all know that! Just get yourself straight right now.
Who else shamed Jesus?
The scribes and Pharisees. “You make yourself out to be God, and you’re just a lowly nobody.”
His mother and brothers.
The Roman soldiers.
Gosh, is there anybody left?
What does despise mean? It means you give it no value.
Well, shame hurts. But Jesus gave it no value. Why? Because he was comparing it with something.
12:2 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross—” If you’re up on a cross, you’re buck naked. That’s pretty shameful. If you’re up on a cross, you’re dying in full sight of everybody. That’s pretty shameful. He was beaten, bruised, bleeding. That’s pretty shameful. He was mocked. “You say you’re going to rebuild the temple in three days? You can’t even save yourself!”
But the joy set before him was to sit down. Who gets to sit down in the presence of the great king? Only one person: the prince. The queen even can’t sit down.
Remember, Esther? She went in uncalled for, and she was going to be killed if he hadn’t put his scepter out? He had to go out of his way to say I’m not killing you because it was automatic death to enter the presence without being invited.
If you’re invited to be in the presence of the king, you have to stand or fall on your face.
There’s a great Mark Twain book called The Prince and the Pauper. It’s about a prince who gets lost and switched with a guy who looks just like him. The pauper becomes the prince and the prince becomes the pauper.
And the real prince, who’s now a pauper, gets this guy who’s kind of a low-end knight who takes him under his wing, and he always makes him stand because you don’t sit in the presence of royalty. And the guy thinks he’s kind of out of his mind so he accommodates him.
And so he does something heroic for the prince, who’s now the pauper. And the prince says I’ll grant you a great wish. And he says, “I wish to be seated in the presence of the king.” Again, he thinks he’s out of his mind. He says, “You’re granted.” He says, “Oh, thank goodness, I can finally sit down.”
At the end of the book it comes to light that he really is the king, and this knight is brought up, and he realizes what’s going on, and he sits down, and everybody goes “Aaaah! He must be stoned! He must be killed!”
And the king said, “No. He’s got that right. He’s the only one.” Because you don’t sit in the presence of the king. But if you’re the king you can. He’s the Son. He sat down! His name was above every name.
Run like that! Be like that! Because he learned obedience. He was given a word. He mixed it with faith. He learned obedience. And he saw that the reward would be worth despising the shame.
This is a great heroic journey.
I don’t know if you’ve seen The Hobbit yet, but it’s an awesome hero movie. And Gandalf says, “A great evil is coming on the land. I can feel it. I’ve been saying that for some months. And Saruman believes it takes great power to hold back great evil. But what I’ve found is that it’s the little things that hold back evil. Acts of kindness and love.”
I was sitting there saying, “That’s my speech!” That’s it! There’s a great evil coming on our land, and it’s the small acts of kindness and love. We can hold it back, at least in our sphere. And when we do that, we’re running the race set before us, and we’re following the path that Jesus gave us.