Reverend Anthony R. Locke September 12th, 2010 www.FirstPresTucker.org at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
This sermon was preached on the one year anniversary of the passing of the previous minister Reverend John Little as a tribute to His life and ministry.
Hebrews 11:1 – 12:3 Communion of Faith English Standard Version
We are united together into Jesus Christ by a common faith. We share in the sufferings and the victories of the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is now glorified at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
Faith in Christ unites us into this brotherhood, or sisterhood, better yet the family of God. And the inner witness by the Spirit that our faith in Christ is rightly placed is more convincing than an archeologist who finds biblical places or a scientist who proves the Divine design within the Creation. Our faith is so real in our souls that it is the evidence of things unseen.
And if you witness publicly to this faith and allow your life to be transformed by the life of Jesus, then you will find yourself at odds with a world that is hostile to the claims of Christ.
As the passage in Hebrews explains, people who bear witness to the message of Jesus will not be embraced by the world, but they will be embraced by God and fellow believers.
Furthermore, God takes notice of those who with word and deed proclaim Jesus in this world. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32 that, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.
Professing Jesus before the world is a mark of being a true believer. We should be nervous if we don’t confess Jesus before the world. Maybe our faith isn’t genuine. Too many people stay silent about their faith. They shield themselves from the wrath of the world by keeping their mouth shut at inconvenient moments, but do they shield themselves from God’s wrath?
It reminds me of the Columbine shooter who asked Cassie Bernall if she was a Christian. She answered, “Yes, I believe.” She died for her ill timed confession of faith.
How did she find the strength to stand for Christ in that moment? She considered him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that she did not grow weary or fainthearted. Jesus is our inspiration. Plus, eternal rewards await the believer who is willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake. Hebrews 11:2 says that there are commendations from God the Father Almighty if we give a faithful witness.
What witness does God expect? Simple things. Like verse 3. Now don’t blame ministers for making a big deal about this. This is not a rightwing conspiracy. God emphasizes this aspect of our confession. God knows it is hard to profess verse 3. It is hard for any generation to tell a secular world that there is a God at the center of all things. God places this truth at the front of His list.
A faithful witnesses for God will profess to a hostile world that God created all things.
God expects believers to profess that He made the whole creation out of nothing. There was nothing . . . God spoke . . . and there was something. Many Christians are not willing to suffer for their faith and confess that God started the sciences by designing and creating all things.
Let me be clear. We cannot claim to be believers and also claim to believe in evolution. God made Adam and Eve just like He said. God knows that saying this out loud as part of our confession will mark us as fools in the eyes of the world. We have to make a decision. Do we want a commendation from the world or God? Previous generations of believers chose to have their commendation from God. They suffered in this world because of their witness. We need to be willing to do the same.
This is the first lesson of faith that we need to learn. A faithful witness speaks God’s truth.
Second, we need to learn from Abel how to rightly approach God. Abel didn’t offer the fruit of his own works as an offering. Abel submitted to God’s design for worship and trusted in the substitutionary death of another to wash away his sins. He worshipped in holy reverence and fear. He trusted God, not himself.
Cain exposed his heart as hostile to God’s commands. Cain offered the fruit of his own hands. Cain trusted himself when approaching God. God rejected Cain’s worship.
Cain hated Abel for testifying that there is only one right way to approach God. The world feels the same toward us. Abel’s obedience testified that we can only approach God through faith in Christ’s vicarious death. We would say that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.”
And here’s the lesson we need to know, if we tell the world that there is only one right way to approach God, then the world will hate us. Our witness to the exclusivity of the Gospel message will not be appreciated. We will be called intolerant, bigoted, and stupid fundamentalists. Our testimony to the unique saving power of Jesus will be considered arrogant. Our words will be considered incendiary. The world will label our faith as a faith of hate because we don’t respect the other religions in the world. And we will be persecuted for being so dogmatic.
Abel was killed by his own brother. Abel’s righteous blood still speaks and reminds us that the world hates those who bear faithful witness that Jesus is the only path to God. But don’t feel sad for Abel. He entered into the sufferings of the Messiah and Abel will be commended by God.
The next lesson of faith comes from Enoch. He lived out of sync with the world, but in daily fellowship with God. The world didn’t embrace him, but God commended him even before he died. He drew near to God and God drew near to Him. If we will live in fellowship with God then God will bring us to Himself. We need to maintain daily fellowship with the Lord.
The next lesson of faith comes from Noah. He knew that he had to give an account to God. The people in Noah’s time didn’t live in fear of God. For 100 years Noah preached that they needed to get ready because God’s judgment was coming. The world treated Noah just like the world will treat us. They treated him like a lunatic and mocked his warnings. We will suffer the same fate if we tell the world that one day we must all give an account before the Lord.
There is a second lesson from Noah. You and God make a majority. Side with God. You will be happy you did in the end.
The next lesson of faith comes from Abraham. He obeyed God when it made him the laughing stock of his community. Abraham claimed he heard a voice tell him to do some radical things. He listened to that voice. He left his family, his home and his friends. He trusted God to bless him.
Abraham lived like a wandering homeless person. His decisions also affected his family. The life of Isaac and Jacob were significantly unsettled due to Abraham’s obedience.
And to make matters worse, they never saw the fulfillment of the promises. Abraham lived for something he never obtained. Living by faith will make you look foolish. You will become unsettled like an illegal alien. You will never feel at home. You will never quite belong.
His wife Sarah also looked foolish in her faith. God said she would have a child when she was way past menopause. Her response to this revelation was laughter. But even in the face of impossible circumstances, she trusted God.
Verse 11, by faith Sarah received the power to conceive since she considered God faithful to keep his promises. Our God does the impossible. That’s the lesson.
Abram believed the impossible was possible with God. God told Abraham to kill his only son in worship. Abraham figured that even if he obeyed and killed Isaac, that God would raise him from the dead so that the two of them could return back home after worshipping. These are the kinds of lessons the heroes of the faith can teach us.
Abraham and Sarah are our parents in the faith. We are their faith descendants. Noah is in our family tree. Enoch and Abel are our brothers in the Lord.
And without consideration to the consequences, they lived for God. They laid up treasures in heaven. They looked to Jesus. They took up their cross and followed Jesus.
Therefore, verses 16, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. We must not act ashamed to tell the world that we believe in the God of the Bible.
God is calling us to be like Moses who would rather be identified with the suffering people of God than live triumphant in the splendor of this world. Verse 24-26, By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
God is calling each one of us to rise up and be counted for Jesus. We must stand shoulder to shoulder within the communion of saints and give a faithful witness for the Lord, even when it makes the world angry.
Don’t be surprised. This world is hostile to the claims of Jesus. When we profess the faith of our fathers the world will hate us for it. When we live for heaven the world feels convicted for being so earthly minded. Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah and Moses all felt this hostility.
We also will suffer for the name of Jesus if we live godly lives. Don’t be fearful of it. By our sufferings we enter into the sufferings of Christ. It is a great privilege. The saints in heaven would call us heroes.
And the saints of old are surrounding us even now. Saints from this church family and your immediate family watch God’s work with great interest. We are still connected even after death.
One year ago this week the Reverend John Little passed. He is one of our heroes in the faith. There are lessons still to be learned by his example. His influence is still felt in this congregation. Don’t feel disconnected. The saints are not lost to God. It is a temporary separation.
It is like God said, we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Brothers and Sisters in the family of God. Let’s join hands and shake the gates of Hell with our prayers, with our witness and with our work. Let’s walk were the saints have trod. Jesus is coming soon and His reward is with Him. Let’s be ready for His soon return. Amen.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.