January 8, 2023 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Transforming Faith
Topic: Expository Passage: Hebrews 11:24-26
I want to continue my annual tradition of beginning the year by introducing our new theme. As you can see on the screen, our 2023 theme is “Transforming Faith.”
So, I want you to consider, how does my faith transform the way I live? To put it another way, how would my life be different without my faith? The truth is that faith has radically transformed every genuine believer in this room. You’re at church rather than being in bed or at the beach. The daily rhythms of your life are very different because you strive to obey God vs. following your heart. You give a portion of your income to the church instead of spending it on yourself. It should be encouraging to consider how much of a difference faith has made.
But these questions should also create a holy discontentment because we walk by sight, not by faith far too often. We are slaves to fear, we love the world, and we pursue the approval of people over God’s approval. And the abundance we enjoy also challenges a life of faith. We have so much, and we are so secure in what we have, and in what we can achieve that there’s no room to truly rely on God.
Therefore, we all need a more transforming faith. I’d like to introduce the theme by going to the preeminent discussion of faith in Hebrews 11 and specifically, vv. 1, 24–26. It’s very important that we read Hebrews 11 in context. Specifically, it was written to a group of Jews who had suffered dearly for becoming Christians. Notice what the author says in 10:32–34.
Faith had transformed their lives. But recently they had grown weary of suffering, and they were considering abandoning Christ and returning to Judaism. As a result, the author encourages them to have an enduring faith (10:35–39). They must not be intimidated by the world’s hostility; instead, they must believe that God’s eternal reward will be worth every sacrifice. And with this confidence they must endure.
Chapter 11 follows by describing this kind of enduring faith through OT examples. It encourages the readers that they were not alone; instead, God’s people have always had to endure by faith in God’s future promises. And just like others have endured by faith, they can as well.
So can we. By God’s grace you can grow a transforming faith that leads to an exceedingly great reward. This morning, I want to consider the author’s description of faith in v. 1 and my favorite example of this faith in vv. 24–26. First, notice in v. 1…
I. Faith is transformative (v. 1).
Please note that this verse does not give an exhaustive definition of faith. Faith is more than this. Instead, this verse celebrates the impact of faith. It does so using two similar phrases to describe the nature of faith. Let’s talk first about…
The Arena of Faith: Where does faith operate? The first answer is in the realm of “things hoped for.” In context, this phrase specifically refers to the joys of heaven which God has promised to his people. The Bible teaches that God has unimaginably great blessings awaiting us in glory and that these promises are the driving force behind the Christian life. We endure, we sacrifice, and we serve because eternity will be worth it all.
But the obvious challenge is that we can’t experience these blessings immediately. They are not present realities but future ones. Verse 1 adds that they are presently “things not seen.” We can’t see heaven, and we can’t fully comprehend it. We’ve also never seen Jesus. We didn’t see his miracles, hear him teach, or see him resurrected from the dead.
I must be clear this does not mean that faith is merely wishful thinking or an escape from reality. There are plenty of historical and rational reasons to believe Scripture. Depravity, not evidence, keeps people from believing.
Rather, the point is simply that future promises drive our behavior today (v. 7). Noah’s faith was not irrational. God spoke to him. But he still had to believe in something “not yet seen” because no one had ever seen rain, much less a worldwide flood.
I’m sure it was hard for Noah to believe some days, just as it is for us. God asks a lot of us. We must give sacrificially. We must speak the truth and share the gospel in a hostile world. We must endure difficult relationships simply because it is right. On and on we could go. It’s a lot, and oftentimes there is no immediate blessing for obedience. So, why do Christians continue? The simple answer is transforming power of faith.
The Impact of Faith: Faith gives us assurance and conviction about the unseen. I must say that both Greek terms can have a range of meanings depending on the context. I prefer the alternate translations in the NASB footnotes, which say that these terms could also be translated as “substance” and “evidence.”
That’s because once again, biblical faith is more than a feeling. It’s not wishful thinking, an escape from reality, a blind leap in the dark, a mental crutch, or a burning in the bosom. No, creation declares God’s glory, Jesus rose from the dead, and the Bible is true. Therefore, biblical faith is reasonable. Our faith begins in the mind, not in our feelings.
But genuine faith doesn’t stop with the mind. It’s much more than mental assent to list of stale doctrines that make no practical difference in our lives. Rather, genuine, Spirit-empowered faith, first, gives life-transforming assurance or, better, substance to the promises of God.
Yes, we can’t physically see heaven and all that it offers, but that’s okay because faith takes the place of sight. It makes the invisible tangible. Therefore, it doesn’t just radically change our minds, it also changes our affections, our wills, and the entire direction of our lives.
Second, faith gives us conviction or evidence of things we have never seen. I like how William Lane puts it, “Faith demonstrates the existence of reality that cannot be perceived through objective sense perception…Faith confers upon what we do not see the full certainty of a proof or demonstration; it furnishes evidence concerning that which has not been seen.”
That’s good. For a person of strong faith, heaven is not a distant dream; it is a powerful reality that transforms everything. The gospel is not just a cute story; by faith it creates rest, hope, confidence, and love.
Do you live by that kind of faith? I’m not just asking if you profess to believe these things; I’m asking what difference does it make in your day-to-day life? Does the fear of man rule your life or the fear of God? What rules your bank account? Is it the Great Commission and love for people or fear and materialism? When you are faced with a scary trial or uncertainty about the future, do you panic and compromise your faith to solve it, or do you give it to the Lord and remain faithful? Every Christian must cultivate a life-transforming faith in the truths and promises of God.
But while this is God’s desire, he also understands that our faith is often weak, and we fall short of these ideals. He even inspired Hebrews for a group of believers with weak faith and for every other Christian whose faith is hanging by a thread.
And God doesn’t abandon them or berate them; instead, God graciously inspired the author of Hebrews to write a whole book filled with rational and biblical arguments as to why they should continue to believe. And he applies it with compassionate but urgent appeals to believe and endure.
If your faith is weak or nonexistent, don’t be discouraged or quit. Instead, run to God and to the means of grace that he has provided. Pray, meditate on his Word, and fellowship with the church.
Ask questions of godly people who can give good answers. We’ll listen and answer every question. And with the Spirit’s assistance, we’ll help you grow a strong, life-transforming, and satisfying faith. You can get there.
With the rest of our time, I’d like to consider an encouraging examples of this life-transforming faith. It’s a story that has strengthened my faith time after time and that I trust will encourage your heart as well. Verses 24–26 teach…
II. Faith is transforming (vv. 24–26).
These verses take us back to the story of Moses, whom the original Jewish readers surely revered. The author zeros in on a difficult choice that Moses had to make. We’re going to see that there were some important parallels between Moses’ choice and the struggle these Jewish readers were facing. Acts 7:21–25 provides some important context for this decision (read). Verse 24 begins by noting that…
Faith requires costly choices (v. 24). Remember that when Moses was born, Pharoah had decreed that every male Israelite baby must be killed upon birth. Therefore, Moses’s parents hid him and spared his life.
When they couldn’t hide him in their house anymore, they put him in a basket in the Nile River. In God’s providence, Pharoah’s daughter found Moses and raised him as her son in the royal family. Acts 7 says that this radically changed the course of Moses’ life. He went from being a condemned slave child to a prince in the most powerful court on earth. He enjoyed all the privileges of royalty including the best education, wealth, security, and incredible glory.
But Acts 7 indicates when Moses was about 40 years old God somehow revealed to Moses that he had called him to lead the Jews out of slavery. Moses had to make a choice. On one side were the privileges of royalty—wealth, power, glory, security, and pleasure—but also the cruel enslavement and benefit from the oppression of God’s people.
On the other side, was poverty, slavery, the constant threat of death, and utter humiliation but also the promise of being right with God and the hope of his deliverance.
The original audience faced a similar choice. Faithfulness to Christ meant potential imprisonment, poverty, and social ostracism, but if they abandoned him, they could escape all of that and enjoy a far simpler life.
Moses’ story came to a head when he decided to “visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.” He saw an Egyptian ruthlessly beating a Jewish slave. Moses knew that this slave was one of God’s people. He knew that God had called him to identify with these people. But he also knew that defending the slave would be an act of treason. Not only would he walk away from the privileges of royaly; he would potentially face the worst wrath of Pharoah.
Moses didn’t know exactly what would happen if he obeyed God, but he knew there was no going back. His life would never be the same.
But despite the incredible consequences of defending an Israelite slave, Moses stood for the Israelite and killed the Egyptian. When the Egyptians discovered what Moses had done, a glorious prince became a hated outlaw. A former prince now fled as a fugitive into the desert.
Just imagine the coffee shop conversation when Moses’ story hit the Egyptian newspapers. “What an idiot.” “He must be crazy.” “Is he insane?” “What could possibly be worth abandoning royalty for the life of a fugitive?”
Christian, you know the feeling. You’ve felt the stares when you decline to participate in a coworker’s sinful behavior. You’ve listened patiently while a coach lectures you about prioritizing church over a travel team that will surely yield a scholarship. You’ve watched friends talk behind your back about choosing to remain in a difficult marriage instead of getting divorced.
Unbelieves and, sadly, sometimes other Christians will often look at the choices of faith as absolutely absurd. So, why continue to make these choices? The simple answer is that…
Faith transforms our perspective. Verse 25, 26 both make incredible contrasts between the choices Moses had. He could choose “ill-treatment with the people of God” or “the passing pleasures of sin.” He could choose “the reproach of Christ” or “the treasures of Egypt.” Without faith, those choices are simple. Everyone is going to choose “B” not “A.” However, faith transformed Moses’ perspective, first, about…
Worldly Pleasure: Once again, most people dream of enjoying the life that Moses had. He was a prince in the most powerful nation in the world. He had power, glory, and wealth. He had the finest clothes, the best food, and the nicest home. Acts 7:22 adds that he “was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.” He was smart, articulate, and respected. From a worldly standpoint, life could not have been any better. He really was living the dream.
However, Moses’ faith transformed his perspective on it all. Because faith gave Moses a clear vision of God and his eternal glory, he could see that his so-called dream life was ultimately temporary and empty. Verse 25 describes it as “the passing pleasures of sin.”
The point is not that enjoying good things is necessarily sinful. 1 Timothy 4:4–5 state, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
Rather, Moses understood that remaining in the Egyptian court necessarily meant capitulating to and benefiting from Egypt’s oppression of Israel. So, while there was nothing inherently evil about his nice clothes, the way he obtained them was sinful. Every day he remained in the court was another day of betraying God and his people and of indulging in sin.
Similarly, anytime I love the world over and above loving God, I’m sinning regardless of the inherent morality of what I am doing.
And faith allowed Moses to see that none of it was worth it. It was all temporary, fading pleasure. Boy, do we need this reminder often. The world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly tugging on our senses and telling us how much we need this thing or that. We so easily are consumed with materialism, comfort, glory, and pleasure.
We must counter all of it by constantly maintain a vision of faith that sees all of it from an eternal perspective. It’s all passing away. None of it lasts, and none of it truly satisfies. You know that because you’ve experienced plenty of letdowns after a wonderful experience. The wealthiest most successful people are rarely the happiest. They are consumed with ambition, fear, and depression.
Young people, remember this verse as you plan for the future. All the stuff that the world dangles in front of you will not live up to what it promises. Don’t give your life to it. By faith, see that sin’s pleasures are passing. And from there, let faith transform your perspective on…
Eternal Rewards: We’re going to talk about eternal rewards, but let’s not forget that Moses’ path to these rewards was first a path of incredible risk and hardship. Verse 25 says he chose “to endure ill-treatment with the people of God.” Sure, we know that everything turned out pretty well for Moses in the end, but he didn’t know all that when he made his choice. All he knew for sure was that he was stepping into great hostility and suffering.
But his faith allowed him to see past his suffering and to clearly see the greater riches of God in Christ. Yes, Christ had not yet come, so Moses couldn’t knowingly identify with Christ’s suffering on the cross. However, the Bible consistently teaches that Christ identifies with the sufferings of his people. Remember what Jesus said to Paul on the Road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?...I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4–5). So, by joining in the suffering of God’s people, Moses joined in the sufferings of Christ.
Of course, the author is urging his readers to also identify with Christ to point of great suffering. And God wants us to be ready to the do the same. Suffering for Christ is very hard, but it also brings us into a unique relationship to the Savior. Paul’s ambition was, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:10). The road is hard, but knowing Christ is worth it.
And beyond the knowledge of Christ today, faith sees that Christ’s eternal rewards exceed anything this world can offer. When you get to heaven someday, you will not think, “Man, I wish I had been more selfish.” “I wish I had spent more on myself.” “Why did I invest so much in my family and the Great Commission?”
No, you will rejoice in the fruit of every sacrifice, and your only regret will be that you didn’t invest more in eternity.
I want to conclude by telling you the story of a more recent figure whose life parallels Moses. He lived about 100 years ago, and his name was William Borden. For the most part, he was an ordinary child except for one very big difference. William Borden was the heir to the Borden Dairy company, a huge company which is still in existence. William’s family was not just well off; they were millionaires at a time when a million dollars meant much more than it does today.
So, William was set to enjoy the best the world had to offer and probably set to gain even greater wealth since he was also unusually smart.
But when William graduated from high school, his parents sent him on a trip around the world (pretty good graduation present). While on this trip, he was deeply moved by the spiritual needs of the people he saw. He was so moved that he committed to become a missionary. While in college, he wrote in his Bible, “no reserves.” He was not going to hold anything back from God.
When he graduated from Yale, he was offered several lucrative jobs which could have added to his wealth, but he declined them all because he was committed to being a missionary. You can imagine the temptation he felt, but he stood firm, and at this time in his life that he added “no retreats” inside his Bible.
After he finished a grad degree at Princeton, William set sail for Egypt where he planned to learn from an experienced missionary before moving to a Muslim nation as a missionary. But while in Egypt, William contracted spinal meningitis. And within a few weeks, he was dead at the young age of 25.
He left behind a massive fortune and worldly potential. His death was known around the world and mourned as a great waste. But Borden did not see it as a waste, for he had written in his Bible underneath the statements “no reserves” and “no retreats” the statement, “no regrets.”
What a testimony! Despite everything that he had left behind and despite the hardships of being a missionary which ultimately killed him, he could still say in his final days, “no regrets” because honoring God and living for eternity are more precious than all the wealth in the world.
What will you say in your final days on earth and when you stand before the Lord? Will you be filled with regret over all the time and energy you wasted because you couldn’t see past the temporary pleasures of sin. Or will you cultivate a radically transformative faith so that you will be able to say with William Borden that you have no regrets because you walked by faith, not by sight? May God help us this year to grow truly transformative faith.
More in Transforming Faith
February 12, 2023Great Faith