Next steps in Faith please God!
[An invitation to faith given on January 22, 2017 by Pastor Jerry Ingalls to the First Baptist Church in New Castle, Indiana, where we exist to see the transformation of stories through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.]
Last week we found the definition of faith in God’s Word. Hebrews 11:1-3 defines, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Faith is the beginning point of God transforming our story to tell His Big Story in us and then through us!
Remember, God loves to make something out of nothing! When we tell the stories of our something (that which we have done by our best efforts, the only one who gets glory for that is us), but when we tell the stories of how God took nothing and made it into something in our lives, then that, THAT, brings glory to God and amplifies FAITH! That proclaims the Gospel! That gives substance to that which is not visible! That gives the assurance that God can and will do that which God promises to do!
You and me taking our next steps in faith makes God smile!
With that said, I have invited you to journal in your “transforming stories journal” (available at the Resource Center after service) about the “in the beginning” experience of your faith encounter with God. The story of transformation begins with a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who transforms stories by the power of the Holy Spirit to the Glory of His Father!
Are you willing to share the “in the beginning” experience of faith in your story?
That’s what we are talking about when I say “transforming stories through the Gospel of Jesus Christ”! The Gospel changes things; it transforms the landscape of your heart, mind, soul, lifestyle, relationships… It starts working in you and then through you a better story!
As we tell the stories of the great people of faith who are named, starting in today’s lesson found in Hebrews 11:4-6, we will see that our names (yes, your name too!) can be mentioned alongside their names. We must begin to realize that each of our stories has the power to glorify God, proclaim the Name of Jesus Christ, and manifest the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our midst!
Hebrews 11:6 proclaims, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Do you want God to be pleased with your life?
Let’s learn together by looking at the first two heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11—Abel (verse 4) and Enoch (verse 5). Today, you are invited to have faith like Abel and Enoch, so that you can take next steps in faith and please God—let’s make God smile together!
Abel: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
Abel’s story is found in Genesis 4:1-10 (cut short, literally, by his older brother Cain). The story of God continues through Cain, but not without punishment for murdering his brother. Abel did nothing to deserve death, but being born the younger brother of Cain. From the first generation of children born to the seed of Adam, we see the curse of sin deeply rooted in the human condition, but we also find the choice to choose a different path—the path of faith that leads to righteousness.
Abel did nothing more than set apart the best and first fruits of his life for God—to be a living sacrifice as Paul calls each of us to in Romans 12:1—and for that Abel paid with his life. Cain, representing the world, was jealous and could not live with Abel in the world, so he killed him. Because the world has never accepted faith as an acceptable offering; only God does! The world and its powers crucified Jesus Christ, just like the world today will continue to crucify those who choose their next steps in faith. That is why Romans 12:2 calls us to not live according to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (work of the Spirit).
Abel’s story calls you to live differently; by faith and not by sight! The reward is greater than can be seen or experienced in this life! It appears that Abel was rewarded for his faith by being murdered, but there is more to the story…the story of those with faith lives on and continues to tell the better story of God, well beyond our story ends.
You are invited to be like Abel, a living sacrifice to God’s worthiness that allows your story to speak even when you feel like your story is being cut short by injury or injustice, heartache or hardships, disease or death.
Enoch: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God has taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5).
Enoch’s story is found in Genesis 5:18-24 (different from the Enoch of Genesis 4:17 for whom a city was named). We learn more about Enoch in this New Testament passage, then we do from the Genesis account. Genesis 5:25 states with finality, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” That’s it! There are many traditions built round Enoch and multiple books written in his name, but no authoritative knowledge about him beyond this.
We find only one historical parallel to Enoch’s story: the prophet Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11 who also went to be with the Lord without dying. Elijah, along with Moses, had the honor of being chosen to stand next to Jesus in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9).
But, we—born-again believers—are given the promise to be like Enoch with the 2nd coming of Christ when Jesus will rapture His Church—the true bride of Christ—to bring us home to Heaven without tasting of death. Listen to the promise of God to those who are in Christ Jesus, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
You are invited to be like Enoch, a wholehearted person to God’s promises whose trust in God allows you to trust God and choose life even when confronted with the evil in this world, including the ever-intimidating reality of death & dying. Praise God for Jesus Christ who has defeated this death and given us the assurance of resurrection—eternal life so that we may join with Enoch and the great men and women of faith who have come before us.
How is God inviting you today?
What next steps in faith will allow you to be a living sacrifice to God’s worthiness, like Abel?
What next steps of faith will allow you to be a wholehearted person to God’s promise, like Enoch?
With faith in the transforming power of the Gospel,