How to Obey: We are People of the Promise!
Hebrews 11:7-10 (ESV)
[An invitation to build your life on the promise of God given on February 19, 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.]
INTRODUCTION & OVERVIEW
The last 2 weeks, Pastor Ken and I introduced 2 of the life transforming stories of God from the ancient book of Genesis: Noah and Abraham.
Listen to Hebrews 11:7-10 highlight the importance of faith in both stories: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
We learned that the substance of Noah’s faith was “reverent fear,” or more simply stated, “reverence,” which we defined as a deep knowledge and understanding of who God is—His attributes. Nothing is more important than what you believe about God!
Our life’s actions and attitudes flow out of what we believe: What do you believe about God?
God is: holy from all; sovereign over all; worthy of all; faithful to all, right and just in all that He does; and is compassionate—slow to anger, abounding in love, ushering in new mercies with each sunrise. In His very essence God is love!
Ken then emphasized last week that for both Noah and Abraham there is one 4-letter word that characterized their lives of faith: OBEY! Their faith in who God is was made visible by their lives!
Jesus commented to His first followers, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). To keep Jesus’ commandments to love is to obey the God who is love!
Though their actions are what is visible, and often highlighted by teachers, the biblical emphasis is actually on their deep knowing of God (faith). Jesus says, “IF YOU LOVE ME.”
I want to move to application now. Today is about HOW TO DO THIS! If obedience was easy, everyone would be doing it…
BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE: THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE OURS BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST!
Let’s look at our Scripture lesson again: Hebrews 11:9 states, “By faith he went to live in the land of promise…” What is the land of promise? The promise of God is something more than land ownership: the land represents God’s providential provision and protection for His people, both for this life and in the life to come—God’s promise is a multigenerational eternal promise!
The Bible makes it clear that the Promises of God are dependent on only one thing: the blood line of FAITH! What started as the blood line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, then David, was eternally sealed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ! You are the people of the promise through the blood of Jesus Christ! And the Bible says that every promise of God has been answered “YES” in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Both Noah and Abraham were People of God’s Promise!
Noah heard this promise of God in Genesis 9:8-11: “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’”
Abraham heard this promise of God in Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
APPLICATION: WE ARE CALLED TO BE THE PEOPLE OF GOD’S PROMISE.
Let me give you a real life example of the biblical pattern of being a person of God’s promise; this is how we are to live as a person of promise. Turn to Philippians 1:
- Paul starts with “a promise to claim”: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
The Bible is filled with the promises of God; whereas, our minds are filled with half-truths and misconceptions. For example, you may think, “If I am not successful in this situation, then my life will fall apart.” The natural result of such catastrophic, slippery-slope thinking is anxiety and doubt. Replace that faulty logic with the promise of God, “Even if I am not successful in every situation, God who began a good work in me will bring me through this to completion.” This promise will decrease the anxiety-inducing, self-focused thinking, and keep our mind meditating on the power of God to fulfill the promises of God!
- Paul moves to “a prayer to pray”: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
The Bible is filled with prayers that are effective and in God’s will: pray these prayers! The Psalms were Jesus’ prayer book and the Bible has example after example of prayers God has already declared as prayers He will answer. Memorize them, practice them, so that in your 9-1-1 moments (emergencies/crises), your communion with God will be unbreakable by neither of the normal fleshly responses caused by your autonomic nervous system: adrenaline rush (fight) or detached retreat (flight). For example, Psalm 23 is my personal go-to prayer. I memorized it and I walk through my days with it for three reasons: it relaxes me; it reminds me of who God is; and it focuses me on God’s promises for my life and eternity!
- Paul then gives us “the right perspective on circumstances”: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
Our circumstances overwhelm us so often that we lose perspective on what is true and real in life from God’s reality. Yes, it is true that our perception shapes how we view what is real to us, but it is NOT true that my perception is true reality. Paul remembers God’s promises, Paul prays, and now Paul can give an accurate assessment of reality—God gives Paul his perspective: what has happened to me, though difficult, has served a greater purpose; my suffering has meaning! In life, we are going to suffer, but will our suffering have meaning, purpose, and hope attached to it. It is perspective on life that shapes our contentment and ability to rejoice in all circumstances!
- Paul finally gives us “a plan to execute”: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Finally, because his life was built on the promises of God, because he prayed effective prayers, and because he kept a right perspective, Paul was able to stay on plan for his life—“to live is for Christ and to die is gain.” No fear in life and no fear of death! No reason to give oneself over to anxiety or worry, because God is sovereign and bigger than our circumstances!
To take any potential confusion out of all of this, let me summarize God’s plan for each of us in one word: REJOICE! God’s will is for you to rejoice in Jesus Christ through the indwelling power and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. To rejoice means to claim God’s promises as you walk through your problems!
In life, all four of these elements are important: a promise to claim; a prayer to pray; the right perspective on circumstances; and a plan to execute. Without one of these you may find yourself overridden with an anxious or fearful heart, aimless in your life, and buried in your circumstances. It is my desire to help you choose the better way—the Way of the Promise through the Power of the Presence & Peace of the Holy Spirit!