Ancient Faith

Hebrews 11:4-7

Traditional around Memorial Day to make annual pilgrimage to various local cemeteries; happens at other times as well. Sometimes take flowers or plants, expend effort to clean up marker and beautify area around it. Is ideal opportunity to do something else, especially if more than one generation of family members are buried there. Often think of cemetery as place of death: angel asked ladies that first Easter morning, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Yet even place of death has powerful reminders of life, is often what comes to mind when we visit cemetery.

Is a suitable time to refresh memory, be reminded once again of connections and achievements. Look at the names, this one is related to that one; here is individual, father, grandfather, great-grandfather…. Consider the dates, patterns of longevity and indicators of hardship or disaster. Then the inscriptions:

Here lies buried the Body of Deacon Thomas Marshall
Zealous and Constant in the Christian faith, and Carefully Discharged the duties of a Civil and Religious life, used the office of a Deacon well 38 years, purchased to himself a good Degree and Great Boldness in the Faith that is in Christ Jesus

Some of those buried have elaborate monuments recording great achievements; others have simple markers with only a name. From simplest to most detailed, each brings to mind some aspect of the life they lived and our connection with it. Is not this portion of chapter 11 like a visit to our family cemetery? Monuments of varying sizes that put into clear perspective what some achieved through faith. Smaller markers that declare by their simplicity that saving faith alone is sufficient to signify a place in God’s roll call.

Ultimately, record of individuals contained in present chapter centers on faith in Christ. But, you say, how could these folks all of whom lived hundreds of years before Jesus’ first coming into the world have faith in him? Had confidence in God and the one he promised within days of creation – Gen 3:15 “I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Didn’t know his name, didn’t know his time, did know his mission – somehow in God’s way and time, one God would send would deal with the Serpent.

Record here starts before the Flood – ancient faith – with 2nd generation. Not that Adam and Eve did not have faith that pleased God, they did. But… easy to say of course Adam & Eve possessed it, look how they were made! Same not true for succeeding generations. Came into the world as sinners, never having experienced fellowship with God as Adam and Eve had. For sure could not look at their early history and use that as basis for faith. Like us, their only hope was if God granted them repentance and faith.

James makes clear – person who has genuine saving faith will demonstrate it outwardly. Here have record from God’s vantage point of what faith from God looks like in daily life. In example of Abel, see faith in worship; Enoch demonstrated the walk of faith; given instruction on welcome faith guarantees; finally, Noah displaying faith in work.

A. faith in worship – Abel v.4

Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice”

faith demonstrated through action evidence of Abel’s hope – true Redeemer of whom firstborn of flock only a picture

Cain demonstrated faith also… in his own ability to determine what should be acceptable to God; anger when God didn’t agree

Abel’s faith essential to acceptance with God; because had right faith, chose right way to exercise it, God was pleased

didn’t take attitude “God is God of love, has to accept me and what I bring even if I do it my way”

was not his claim to faith that gained Abel commendation – was demonstration of his obedience to God in faith

many who claim belief in God, expect that will be sufficient to guarantee slot in heaven, can live however they please

most of time, choose particular way of life because they prefer being comfortable to being faithful; value happiness over holiness

put right worship first, left legacy that continues long after death – still speaks to countless fellow-believers in 21st century

practicing your faith, worshiping God as he expects comes at a cost, maybe your liberty, your resources, even your life

you think world now is way worse than at beginning; true in many ways… but remember – first child ever born murdered his brother… because of his devotion to God

consider how encouraging Abel and his testimony is to brothers and sisters in other countries – he was commended by God as righteous, God showed his commendation by accepting Abel’s offerings

those who suffer for their faith in Christ can look at Abel, be spurred on in faithfulness by his example

so what is legacy that you will leave? one that will speak to future generations of your faith in God and his promises?

remember what was said of Jesus when began teaching ministry: Luke 4:16 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”

in home town, where everyone knew him and his habits, everyone knew it was his custom to be in church on Lord’s Day – first priority to worship his Father in way his Father established

B. walk of faith – Enoch v.5

2x – “Enoch walked with God” – Gen. 5:22, 24; thoughts go immediately to Psa. 1:1-2

to walk with someone: must be attentive to where / how they are walking, maintain course accordingly; don’t argue with their choices; do in their presence what they would find pleasing, perhaps copy their example; pursue conversation and fellowship

had a reputation – 300 years on the road: 65 when first son was born, then walked with God until death

cultural trends already in place, mankind becoming increasingly evil – 550 years after Enoch’s death, command to his great-grandson: build an ark (Enoch’s son, Methusaleh still alive, maybe died in flood)

Enoch could have given in to cultural pressures: inclined to evil in their thinking and acting, increasing immorality – time of giants and dragons and superheroes and self-reliance, no thought for God

instead… before he was taken he had this testimony [reputation], that he pleased God” – stood out as increasingly bright light in darkening world of evil

his reward: he escaped experience of death, and in such a way that all knew God was responsible for his disappearance

not reward for his works, not for his faithful witness, not even for size and quality of his faith; Enoch had right faith in right thing – God

was his faith showed in devotion to God, commitment to following his ways, walking same road together that pleased God

what is reputation you have… and with which God would agree?

by God’s grace and in strength he provides, anyone can please God no matter age, maturity, knowledge; only takes saving faith shown by devotion to / dependence on God

C. welcome faith guarantees v.6

if you are going to please God, must exercise faith he gives – “whoever would draw near to God must believe”

belief in person of God and promises of God are essential prerequisite to reward from God – not a suggestion, not an enhancement, is an absolute requirement

this is not faith in faith: how do you know this, why do you expect that, I have faith – wrong answer! right answer, because God says….; God promised… and; the Bible says….so

he exists – must believe God is real: faith pleasing to God is confident that he exists, that he is real, that he sent Son to be Savior

can’t be some generic higher power that may or may not exist out there or in here, whoever or whatever or wherever it may be

he rewards – iow, he keeps his promises: if you can’t / don’t have confidence in God’s promises, don’t have real confidence in him

may say: I believe he can do this, this, this, not sure about that; get a bigger God! otherwise, if God really is who revealed to be in Bible, be confident in all his promises about all things

he expects diligent seekers – God hiding in plain sight: is near, may be found, but not by casual inquirer

one who has confidence in reality of God, confidence in his promises – efforts to draw close to God, know God more will be rewarded; can’t be a spiritual couch potato and expect a reward

D. faith in work – Noah v.7

“Noah …in reverent fear constructed”

respected God more than man; took God’s word for what he needed to do, not neighbor’s opinion

didn’t depend on visible evidence for encouragement – no sign of rain for 120 years but he and family persevered in building

was target of well-meaning persuasion, not so well-meaning ridicule from at least 2 generations of elders including father (Lamech) and grandfather (Methusaleh), contemporary of Adam 250+ years

Noah by faith enabled to faithfully lead his family in spite of opposition – like Enoch, he walked with God, was considered by God to be righteous and blameless (Gen. 6:9)

did the most spiritual and important thing he possibly could – work/vocation God assigned him

might say: “I couldn’t do what Noah did”; rejoice! God hasn’t called you to build an ark! he has called you to something, though

lots of wrong ideas in the church today: some vocations more spiritual than others, will earn you bigger mansion, wider driveway, better lifestyle in eternity

need to go to Bible school seminary; ought to become youth leader, worship pastor, missionary – then will make more points with God

or another approach: “the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011.” Camping hundreds quit jobs, sold everything, sat down to wait

Noah took assignment God gave, worked out logistics for acquiring materials, manufacture and assembly, got to work

demonstrated faith by faithful obedience – didn’t hurry thru, build leaky boat so could pass out gospel tracts in the park

not anything wrong with theological education, ministry leadership, personal evangelism – but… wasn’t God’s assignment for Noah; was told to build an ark

example of godly obedience condemned the world – faithfully carried out task God gave him, received God’s commendation and shamed world in process

what work has God assigned you: firefighter, delivery driver, homemaker, carpenter, secretary, teacher, pipefitter, engineer – do it as unto the Lord, in faithful dependence on him

Can you worship in way that is pleasing to God… with small weak faith? How about with large strong faith? Can you walk in way that is pleasing to God… with small weak faith? How about with large strong faith? Can you work in way that is pleasing to God… with small weak faith? How about with large strong faith? And where do you worship and walk and work? Wherever God directs you as you trust him, rely on him for strength and wisdom. It may be right where you are now, may be somewhere else. Follow example of these three ancients and God will reward you far beyond your expectations.

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