Monday, February 13, 2017

Examples of Continuing Faith

Examples of Continuing Faith
How, and with what, we worship God is an expression of our faith.  Worship is particularly an expression of what we believe about salvation and about God.  Worship without devotion to Who and What is God is nothing more than illusive self-deception in false Pietism.  False beliefs regarding the Person of God (His defining attributes and character) will always end in false worship.
As believers grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, worship is purified of everything and anything that is worldly.  As a believer’s faith, what he believes, is purified of everything unscriptural, his worship is purified of everything unscriptural.  This process of purification is what defines personal holiness.  Personal holiness is the purest form of worship in that the believer who pursues holiness is pursuing to restore the image of God in his life.  To pursue holiness is to pursue godliness. 

The greatest form of honor we can give another is to seek to be like that person.  When being godly is that pursuit, such pursuit is worship.  When being like another person becomes our goal in life, that person has become an idol.  We must be careful even in following the spiritual leadership of men lest we make of them some form of idol worship.  Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

Ignorance of God breeds corrupted worship of God.  To understand that God is perfectly holy is to understand that anything worldly that is used to worship Him corrupts that worship.  From the beginning of time, professing believers have been integrating the work of their hands into the worship of Jehovah.  Since God was invisible to them after the curse, men began to make images of God to aid them in visualizing Him and worshiping Him. 

The earliest form of approved worship was the sacrifice of a lamb upon a stone altar upon which the sacrificial lamb was slain and upon which the blood was poured.  The altar had to be a natural, unhewn rock or stone (Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5).  The first form of corrupted worship was in what could be offered to God corrupted by the idea that the offering was food for God.  The next form of corrupted worship was in the corruption of the altar made with hewn stones, later exalted by steps, and then upon hilltops (High Places in the Bible).  The work of man’s hands can never correct the condemnation caused by the sin of man’s hands.  The nature of the sacrifice of a lamb as a form of worship is pure in its representation of two things. 

1. Mankind’s guilt of sin that brought death and the curse into the world through sin. 
2. Death of an innocent One was the only way eternal separation from God (death) could be removed from the curse upon humanity as descendants of Adam. 

We can see the early development of corrupted worship in Cain’s offering to God.  We can also surmise how Cain’s corrupted view of worship could evolved into seeing such a sacrifice as food for God and how this corruption could lead to Pantheism and paganism in idolatry where hewn rock altars began to be given shapes representing a visualization of God’s presence.  These corrupted gifts of food sacrifices believed God’s wrath was appeased giving the worshiper a sense, or feeling, of momentary security from fear of God.  All these forms of visualization and feelings centered worship have morphed into all the corrupted forms of worship of modern day Christianity.  Worship has become more about the worshiper that the One worshiped. 

Faith is more than just what we believe – right doctrine or orthodoxy.  Faith defines a relationship with God.  Therefore, faith is more than just dutifully doing what God commands because we fear God.  Faith is doing what God commands because we love God and want to please Him as loving children want to please and find the approval of their parents.  Moral duty just dissolves away into devotion with this kind of faith.  This is true orthopraxy.  Herein lays the real difference between the faiths of Cain and Abel.  Cain’s faith was corrupted before his worship was corrupted. 

4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Anchor5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Anchor6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:4-6).

Abel’s continuing testimony of faith was that he maintained pure worship per God’s ordained pattern (Hebrews 11:4).  We are told in Genesis 4:2 that “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”  God had already established that man’s approachability to Him must be preceded by faith in the death of a substitute.  Abel maintained purity of this faith/belief and worship by strictly following this pattern directed by God.  This pattern has never changed.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

          Cain on the other hand abandoned this idea.  Cain tried to approach God with the fruit of the cursed ground and the produce of his cursed hands.  Why was Abel’s offering “more excellent”?  It was “more excellent” because it was offered based upon continuing faith through a strict application of God’s instruction regarding the nature of the typical offering of an innocent substitute and the satisfaction of wrath by the typical offering of innocent blood to propitiate God’s judgment.  The typology reflected a faith understanding reflected in worship through the offering of the typical Substitute. 

This is the continual warning of Hebrews; “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3).  Abel is the positive example of continuing faith.  Cain is the negative example of reprobation in abandonment of God’s ordained way thereby exemplifying falling away from true faith.  Would Cain have ever offered the sacrifice he offered if he ever really understood the typology of the offering of the innocent Lamb? 

The warning of Hebrews chapter six is addressed to those that are thinking of abandoning faith in the finished sacrifice of Christ by returning to the continual offerings of the Mosaic Covenant and the Mosaic priesthood.  To do so was to “fall away” from faith in Christ’s finished sacrifice revealing that they had no real grasp on the reality of that accomplished and “once for” sacrifice of Christ.  Would anyone return to offering continual sacrifices if he understood the once for all (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14, and 18) nature of the sacrifice of Christ?  This is a hypothetical situation presented in the warning of Hebrews chapter six. 

“If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6). 

Abel’s continuation in the practice of “the faith” was manifested by the appropriate sacrifice he continually offered.  Right worship and right faith existed in Abel’s head in the form of right doctrine regarding the gift of salvation before it ever came forth in worship from his heart.  Approved worship always comes forth from a right head through a right heart directed in praise to God.  Therefore, an important point in worship approved by God is that such worship ALWAYS reflects orthodoxy regarding the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (John 4:24).  By Abel’s orthodoxy regarding the doctrine of salvation, Abel obtained witness (God’s testimony) “that he was righteous” in the substitute typically portrayed by his offering (Hebrews 11:4).

There was no difference between Abel and Cain as far as each being sinners before God (Romans 3:22-23).  The difference was in their faith.  Either Cain was never taught the Gospel in the Substitute Sacrifice (Genesis 3:15), he did not understand it, or he rejected it in unbelief.  Whatever happened, Cain’s faith was corrupted with false beliefs which then generated corrupted, false worship.  Real faith is anchored to the revelation of God’s Word and never gives up on the promises of God.  Real faith sees those promises as certainty (Hebrews 11:1). 

The word “testifying” in Hebrews 11:4 is from the Greek word martureo (mar-too-reh’-o).  The interesting thing about this word is that it is in the present tense.  In other words, God is still giving witness to the superiority of the sacrifices (“gifts”) of Abel, and by that continuing witness of God, Abel, though now dead, continues to speak to us as well (Hebrews 11:4).  Abel was righteous, not based on his character, but based on his gifts of sacrifices manifesting the object of his faith – the coming Messiah.  God keeps this kind of testimony alive, even though the original testifier has died. 

“And by it” (Abel’s continuing faith) Abel continues to bear witness after his death to the “certainty of God’s promises” (Hebrews 11:1).  Had Abel quit at any time in his life as did Cain, Abel would have manifested a false faith.  Cain, after God rejected his offering, “went out from the presence of the Lord” (Genesis 4:16).  Cain’s offering reflected an abandonment of God’s way “by grace through faith.”  The conclusion must be that Cain never truly understood the Gospel represented in the Lamb sacrifice, so he was never really saved.  If Abel had done that, He would bear no continuing witness.  The idea of the text continues the emphasis that the only way to approach God is found in and through Jesus Christ as the substitute sin bearer (propitiation) and the imputation of God-kind righteousness (justification). 

Abel is our example of continuing faith in the purity of worship of God.  Common, worldly, or unsanctified things must never be used to worship God.  Genuine salvation is the first prerequisite to any one’s worship being acceptable to God.  Genuine sanctity is the second prerequisite. 

16 Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. 17 I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: 19 But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me” (Psalm 66:18).

Enoch is God’s chosen biblical example of continuing faith in the purity of walk (sanctification) in fellowship with God (Hebrews 11:5-6).  No other person in the Bible history had this testimony (except perhaps John the Baptist).  God gives no record of any failure in Enoch’s life.  Sanctification is not about a sinless life.  Sanctification is about a continual consciousness about the reality of our sinfulness before God and a constant humble attitude of remorse and repentance.  To be able to cultivate that kind of attitude about sin is no small accomplishment. 

Enoch walked with God for three-hundred and sixty-five years of his life and God took him home without death.  Why did God bless Enoch with a blessing no one else in history has ever been blessed with?  The answer is because he “pleased God” (Hebrews 11:4) by maintaining perfect fellowship with God, he “walked with God.”  This is the testimony that God gives about Enoch. 

We often speak of giving testimony for God.  Telling people about Who God is and what He is doing is what people of faith do about the God we love and serve.   Yet, how often do we consider the fact that God bears testimony about us; glory!  Within the constant barrage of Satanic obfuscation of truth and the corruption of the faith of men, God brags on His faithful children.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God {angels} came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. 7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it {causing trouble, sowing seeds of discord, and corrupting the faith of men}. 8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (Job 1:6-8)?

The book of Job is a whole book, forty-two chapters long, about God bragging on one of His children.  God reveals more about Himself in the book of Job in His personal conversations with Job than anywhere else in the Bible.  Nowhere else in the Bible do we have a record of God having this kind of long, intimate, personal conversation with one of His children.  God chose His best to fight against Satan’s accusation that all men have fickle-faith; that if God does not bless them, they will not worship Him.  God believed in Job! 

Job lived in the land of Uz (or Huz).  Huz was the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor.  Lot was the son of Abraham’s brother Haran.  Therefore, Job live around the same time of history as Abraham and Lot or shortly thereafter.  Yet Job has his own unique historical record apart from Abraham.  This is important because Job’s faithful historical testimony of faith in God is different from anyone’s.  Job’s record is that of a man chosen by God to fight against the onslaught of Satan to establish that there are men who will maintain the integrity of their faith in God regardless of what happens to them in this life.  Like Enoch, these types of people are an extreme rarity.  There are not many people God can trust with these kinds of temptations and testing of their faith.
Hebrews 11:6 continues to exemplify the faith of Enoch with the all-encompassing, time transcending statement, “But without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Was Enoch sinless (Romans 3:23, 5:12)?  If not, what about Enoch then made him different?  God says Enoch’s faith made him different.  Enoch continued where he began for all his life.  Enoch, like all after him that wanted to please God, “came to God.”  He believed God was Who He said He was.  By faith, Enoch believed God would reward those “that diligently seek him.”  There is no record that God ever appeared to Enoch.

There is no record that God ever spoke with Enoch.  Enoch was remarkable because he believed simply by the testimony of others about God.  That simple faith moved him to pursue a relationship with the God in which his faith rested.  The example then is in the answer to the question, what do you suppose Enoch (a man of faith) did as the result of that belief?  Enoch diligently sought God until God was so pleased with him that God just translated him to heaven from off the face of the earth.  Enoch’s one desire was to walk and talk with God and God gave Enoch the desire of his heart.  Enoch’s desire should be the consuming desire of the faith of every believer.

The words “diligently seek” are from the Greek word ekzeteo (ek-zay-the’-o).  The word means Enoch had an insatiable craving to know God.  Enoch’s life was consumed with a desire to intimately know God and live and walk in fellowship with Him.  This is how God defines the kind of faith that pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

Quite frankly, we should not be concerned how anyone else defines the kind of faith that pleases God other than God.  Perhaps this definition is why only one man in the history of the world has the testimony that Enoch had.  Genesis 5:22 and 24 tells us that “Enoch walked with God.”  Hebrews 11:5 tells us that because “Enoch walked with God,” Enoch “pleased God.”  In other words, Enoch had the kind of faith that wanted to know God, be with God, talk with God, and live for God.  This “pleased God.” 

5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is {exists}, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).

God provides a juxtaposition between the faith of Abel and Enoch.  Cain murdered Abel because Cain was jealous of Abel’s favor with God.  Abel was murdered by Cain for his faithfulness, but nonetheless ended up in heaven with God bearing an eternal testimony to all generations after him; “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:5).  Abel did not live long, but as long as Abel lived, he continued to hope in God’s promised as manifested by the fact he continued to offer the appropriate worship sacrifices.  Both Abel and Enoch have wonderful testimonies of faithfulness.  They both ended up in heaven!

Enoch’s life might be described as a life of faith consumed with God.  However, when a person’s life is consumed with knowing and serving God, uniquely this person’s life is not consumed.  Instead, such a person’s life is expanded exponentially to its fullest, possible extent.  Enoch’s physical life was expanded to such a degree that for him to have more of God than he had in this life, God had to take him into eternity.  Enoch had an insatiable desire to know God and live with Him in perfect fellowship.  God blessed that desire by rewarding Enoch’s faith by just taking Enoch home to Heaven to live with Him. 

Noah is our example of continuing faith in the purity of work or service (Hebrews 11:7).  God continues to maintain the testimony of people of real faith.  Sometimes the work God asks us to do can be tiresome and thankless.  For the unbelieving world, serving God and preaching the Gospel seems foolish and is deemed ridiculous.  In Genesis 5:29, God says of Noah, “And he {Lamech} called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.”  The word “Noah” means rest or comfort

7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).

Satan’s greatest deception has been to convince the clear majority of people that he does not exist while convincing the same people that God is to be blamed for everything Satan has done and is doing. 

In Genesis 6:9, God says of Noah, “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”  Like Enoch, Noah “walked with God.”  In Genesis 6:22, God says of Noah, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”

According to Hebrews 11:7, God tells us that Noah was “moved with fear” of God and did what God told him to do.  Why was Noah’s service of faith so great an example of continuation in service?  In Genesis 7:4 God said to Noah, “I will cause it to rain upon the earth.”  That does not seem like such a remarkable statement to us today.  What makes it remarkable is to understand that, according to Genesis 2:5, it had never rained before.  Here you have a man building a giant ark for floating a zoo and preaching that God was going to destroy mankind with something called rain.

5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:5-6).

Can you imagine the ridicule Noah receive from those to whom he preached and warned during the one-hundred years he spent building this giant floating zoo?  Yet he did not quit “according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Genesis 6:22).  Notice also that Noah did not argue with God about the size of the ark he was instructed to build.  Logic and pragmatism would argue that the ark was going to take a long time to build and eventually thousands of people would heed the warning and need accommodations inside the ark.  Noah built according to God’s omniscient vision of the need in the size of the ark.  God understands the wickedness and unbelief in the hardness of the hearts of apostates.  Although God in grace preaches to them through Noah, He also knows none of them will repent and believe.  The test was of Noah’s faithfulness!
     Abraham is our example of continuing testimony of faith in the purity of witness (Hebrews 11:8-19).  God had given Abraham the promise of a land and a people (nation).  Can you imagine stopping Abraham after he had left his home and family at Haran and being able to ask him a few questions?  “Where are you going Abram?” Abraham answers, “I don’t know, I am going someplace where I will receive an inheritance.”  We ask, “Who told you that and how will you find it if you don’t know where it is?”  Abraham answers, “God told me! He will show me!”  We ask, “Which God do you worship Abram?”  Abraham answers, “I worship my God!”  God spoke and Abram obeyed.

          The point is that Abraham knew very little of the specifics about what God told him.  Abraham just moved by faith per God’s instruction believing God would lead him.  Abraham did so all his life.  This is Abraham’s testimony.  We need not understand everything God asks us to do.  There is an aspect of faith that will not understand what God asks of us until these things are finally realized in glory.  We just need to do what God asks us to do in the way God directs us to do it. 

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off {through the eyes of faith}, and were persuaded of them {convinced in their hearts they were real}, and embraced them, and confessed {testified to others} that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth {Heaven was their real home}. 14 For they that {including all faithful believers} say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore {because of their faithfulness in their vison of their future existence} God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead {this is what Abraham believed manifesting the reality of his faith in God and the reality of his justification before God}; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:8-19).

The world would shake their heads in amazement over a man wondering around in the desert looking for a land of which he know nothing of its destination, believing in an unknown God.  Yet Abram continued looking (Hebrews 11:9).  Why did Abraham continue?  Abraham continued because faith saw certainty in the promise of God (Hebrews 11:10). 

Abraham’s continuing testimony of faith in his purity of his witness is twofold:  land and people (Hebrews 11:11-12).  Did Abraham quit believing God for the son he was promised?  He waned in his belief, but never quit.  He was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was ninety years old when Isaac was born.  Jacob would not be Isaac’s son until sixty years later.  By faith, the land of promise was his possession (Hebrews 11:9), although Abraham never possessed it except by faith. 

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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