What is faith? The author of Hebrews could have given an abstract answer, but in Hebrews 11 he recounts a number of brief stories about Old Testament saints, whom he calls “the ancients,” showing how each of them walked by faith. Faith is not just a feeling, not just an intellectual exercise, not a simple act of the will, but a way of life. As he introduces the material, the first three verses of the chapter give you an idea of what he means by faith.
Be sure of what you hope for. Your hope is not seen. Hebrews 11 is an expansion of Hebrews 10:38,39. The examples given are practical ones. They were apt to be effective to readers with a Jewish background, and effective against those holding the works-salvation error of the Judiazers. The problem is that the heavenly realities are not visible. You cannot see: Christ’s exalted place, Hebrews 1:3, 4; Christ’s completed work, Hebrews 9:11–14; Christ’s heavenly intercession, Hebrews 7:24–27; yourself as Christ’s house, Hebrews 3:6. The invisibility of these realities was a problem for the original readers—and sometimes for us. You pray for healing from illness—and you don’t see medical improvement. You intercede for loved ones, and they continue to walk in darkness.
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“Promised to us is eternal life, but it is promised to the dead; we are assured of a happy resurrection, but we are as yet involved in corruption; we are pronounced just, as yet sin dwells in us; we hear that we are happy, but we are as yet in the midst of many miseries; an abundance of all good things is promised to us, but still we often hunger and thirst; God proclaims that he will come quickly, but he seems deaf when we cry to him. What would become of us were we not supported by hope, and did not our minds emerge out of the midst of darkness above the world through the light of God’s word and of his Spirit? Faith, then, is rightly said to be the subsistence or substance of things which are as yet the objects of hope and the evidence of things not seen.”
John Calvin on Hebrews 11:1
How does one go from being under God’s judgment to being a child of God, a member of the kingdom of heaven? Is it praying the sinner’s prayer? Is it making sure that you understand the doctrine of justification by faith alone? Lord’s Day 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism is part of the section that deals with our deliverance, what God does to bring us from death in sin to new life. We will be looking at some of the steps involved, some of the things that it are crucial to believe in. Those all are important. But don’t lose sight of the fact that your standing before God ultimately rests on your union with a person–the Lord Jesus Christ as 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells you.
You are in Christ. God calls the foolish to himself. The church at Corinth was divided by party spirit. The members compared some of the early leaders of the church. Behind that was the implication that followers of others than one’s favorite were lesser. God does not choose many who are wise by human standards, nor who are influential or noble. The early church had many slaves, many from the lower levels of society. Today the church still has relatively few who are wise or important by the world’s standards. “By human standards” (literally, “after the flesh”), focuses on the human self, sinful in itself. But the emphasis is on what you are apart from God’s call and gracious work. Yet there are a few of these wise, noble, etc., who are chosen. They tend to be exceptions. The church cannot boast or glory in itself. God chooses the “impossible.” He has selected the foolish, the weak, the lowly and despised things. The emphasis is on God’s choice. The climax of the series is reached in God’s choice of “the things that are not.” God’s choice confounds the flesh. He is sovereign in his choice. God uses the weak to accomplish his purpose. He uses the foolish to confound and shame the wise. The ultimate expression of God’s working through weakness is seen in the humiliation and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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Satisfaction! We think of it as a feeling. But the Bible describes satisfaction as something more than a feeling. It involves objectively meeting something against you and the changed situation that results.
There is no condemnation for you! Romans 8:1–4 could be described as the heart of Paul’s gospel. He draws a big picture of God, including the activity of the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He compactly summarizes what happened on the cross. He holds out the glorious, certain hope that there is no condemnation to you in Christ Jesus. Lord’s Day 5 of the Heidelberg Catechism refers to this verse as it tells you how God deals with the problem of your sin. Consider memorizing this summary of the good news! “Condemnation” involves not only the legal pronouncement of the sentence, but also includes the actual carrying out of it. A judge may declare a criminal guilty and then pronounce a sentence to be fulfilled. Condemnation involves both ideas. You are free from the guilt of sin, and you have also been liberated from its enslaving power. Christian, remember this passage when Satan tries to discourage you by focusing on your sins and failures. Take heart, and tell the Accuser (and your heart) that there is no condemnation for you. The wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23. You need deliverance from “the body of this death” Romans 7:24. The Holy Spirit is alive. He is the author of your life as a believer. He is life.
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“The Lord Jesus Christ became in himself the sacrifice for your sins. In other words, he was the sacrifice of sacrifices, the sacrifice toward which all the others pointed, the original sacrifice, next to which all other sacrifices were mere imitations.”
William F. Snodgrass, “He Offered Up Himself” in Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church
You’re driving at night along a rain-soaked coastal highway. From the hillside above you comes the sound of tree roots breaking, and suddenly the road ahead of you fills with mud and rock. There is devastating power in a flood or landslide. Nahum 1 shows you that God is both refuge and flood, judging his enemies and protecting those who trust him.
The Lord sweeps away his foes. The Lord overwhelms Nineveh with judgment. Nahum, c. 650 B.C., prophesied against Nineveh. Nineveh’s brutality richly deserved judgment. Assyria, with its capital, Nineveh, would fall to the Babylonian empire. The historic destruction of this empire anticipates the greater day of judgment that all of us face. The overwhelming flood that sweeps away the city of Nineveh is ultimately the triumph of the kingdom of God. He may use various empires and powers, but the Lord is building his kingdom.
Continue reading “The Character of Your God”