The Faith Hall of Fame
Pentecost 12 (Proper 14) Trinity Lutheran Church
7 August 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
What is it that pleases God? The text answers it. This is what pleases God. It’s spelled: F-A-I-T-H! “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” And the faith that pleases God is faith that believes, trusts, or clings to the promise that Jesus died FOR YOU! That salvation is yours because of Jesus. His Good Friday death. His Easter resurrection. When you say, “I believe that Jesus died FOR ME,” that’s faith. If you don’t believe that Jesus pulled off a Good Friday FOR YOU, well, then … it will all end hellaciously for you.
Consequently, faith is the highest worship of God. It is! You thought the highest worship of God was something else. I’ve got news for you. As you are turned to God and open to receive His gifts FOR YOU for Jesus’ sake, you worship God in the highest and best way possible. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith clings — faith hangs on to God’s promises – knowing that God is absolutely and categorically true to His Word – that He does not lie! Even though you don’t see the outcome at the moment, faith is certain that God truly does what He says. Again, faith is trust in God’s promises so that faith receives the promise AS THE THING ITSELF!
Here’s an example. When a father promises to take his little boy to Kaufmann stadium to see a Royal’s game next weekend, the son totally trusts Dad’s word. All week long the son looks forward to the trip. He lives in the hope of watching the game. And when the end of the week comes around, the son looks his Dad in the eye and says: “It’s time to get in the SUV and head to Kansas City. You promised!” That’s faith.
Faith hangs on to the promise. Saving faith clings to God’s promise of salvation in Jesus. The promise of God creates the faith that hangs on to the promise. When we say “promise” we may as well say Jesus because He is the promise of God in the flesh. All of God’s promises find their “yes” and “amen” in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). Faith in the Bible means FAITH IN JESUS! All the Bible is about this! For faith alone in Jesus saves!
So, chapter 11 of Hebrews is the Faith-In-Jesus-Hall-Of-Fame. It’s all about what faith in Jesus looks like. It says: “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.” In other words, you have to take God at His Word when it comes to how everything in the universe came about. There are no experiments you can do to prove the beginnings of the universe. By faith you believe and confess that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, of absolutely everything visible and invisible. By faith you believe that God created everything out of nothing BY HIS WORD! He spoke, “Let there be light … Let there be this … Let there be that,” and it all came to be!
Only when you trust in Jesus as your Savior can you understand this point. So don’t try to convince an atheist that God created the world. First, God has to open a person’s heart to come into a trust relationship with Jesus as your Savior. Then you will understand that the same Word that created faith in your heart is the same Word through whom everything was made.
So, by faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice to God. The difference between Abel’s sacrifice and Cain’s is this: Abel trusted God’s promise to send the Savior Jesus. In other words, Abel believed in Jesus, that Jesus was Savior for him and so his sacrifice was God-pleasing.
By faith Enoch walked with God and did not die. It wasn’t that Enoch was less of a sinner than you, me or anybody else. It’s that he trusted God to be gracious and merciful to him for Jesus’ sake. This is why Enoch is commended for his faith – faith in the promise of salvation that would come in Good Friday Jesus.
Now I think you understand why the text says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
That goes for everything you do. Even coming to church doesn’t please God unless you believe that Jesus died for you and that for Jesus’ sake you are saved. If you don’t believe that Jesus died for you, then His Good Friday death and all the forgiveness that He won for you does you no good.
Jesus could have died a million times on the cross. However, if you don’t believe that He died FOR YOU, it does you no good. Similarly, without faith in Jesus’ word of promise, the Lord’s Supper is like glass in your belly. It doesn’t benefit you. It harms you. For the words “FOR YOU” require all hearts to believe. Bottom line: faith trusts God’s Word and therefore receives the benefits and blessings of God’s Word. That’s why Jesus constantly says to people in the New Testament: “As you believe so you have.” (Mt. 9:29; 15:28; Mk 7:29; etc.)
Because faith hangs on to God’s promises, faith is a living and active thing. When people trust God’s Word, things happen. Live are not the same. Look at Noah! By faith Noah sawed and hammered away for years in his backyard building an ark with no rain in sight. His neighbors laughed and mocked. How foolish! Noah, however, trusted God’s Word. When the flood waters came he was saved in the ark by God’s grace through faith for Jesus’ sake.
Here’s another example. By faith Abraham left his comfortable life and home in Ur of the Chaldeans. He wandered as a stranger in a foreign land. He lived only in tents. And more. His body was as good as dead. Sterile. However, Abraham trusted God’s promise that one day his descendants would inherit that land as their own. He trusted the most incredulous promise given to him one night by God that he would have more descendants than the stars in the sky. Senior citizen Abraham knew enough about biology that he and his barren wife Sarah were too old to have children. Having a child at their age was zero! Nada! Zilch! But God promised. God gave His Word. Despite biology, despite his age, Abraham believed. He believed more than his own reason and senses! Scripture teaches that such faith God “counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6) In other words, for salvation! Salvation before God is by faith alone! Again, the fundamental teaching of the Bible is that. And Abraham is a prime example.
When God promised Abraham, “Look … and number the stars … so shall your offspring be,” that was as good as if God would have miraculously given Abraham a million children right there on the spot. When God speaks, things happen. His Word does what it says. It is powerful, living and active.
Since faith clings to a divine Word of promise, faith is the certainty of what is NOT SEEN. Noah didn’t see a drop of rain when He took God at His Word and began constructing the ark. Abraham had no children. Couldn’t have any kids. Sarah was infertile. Yet He believed God’s promise that not only would he have children but one of them would be the Savior.
So let’s learn another very important teaching from the Bible today. When it comes to God’s Word of promise, seeing is not believing! You don’t have to see it to believe it! You live by faith not by sight!
You have yet to see with your eyes the eternal life and the heavenly city that is yours for Jesus’ sake. All the promises God made to you in your baptism – forgiveness, the gift of the Holy Spirit, salvation — are not seen with your eyes. At this point in time you can’t see the forgiveness of sins. You can’t see eternal life. You can’t see your body in the resurrection or the heavenly Jerusalem. All you see is just the opposite: sin, death, and Babylon! However, God gives you the promise that forgiveness, life and salvation are yours for Jesus’ sake. Faith clings to this promise and says: “This is the most real thing that I have. I wouldn’t trade it all for the riches in the world!”
Today Jesus speaks to your faith when He says: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is to your faith that Jesus says, “Sell your possessions, give to the needy, lay up treasures in heaven that do not fail.” Yes, heaven is yours! God’s kingdom is yours! Through faith in Jesus! You can’t see it. Not yet! You can’t feel it. You can only hear the Word, the promise of Jesus who died for you. The promise of Jesus who vows: “My Father has given you His kingdom.” So it is yours – by virtue of His Word – His promise!
I beg you brothers and sisters. Trust Jesus. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t deceive. Oh, I know you’ve experienced many broken promises in your life. People you dearly trusted have lied to you. Broken their promises. Betrayed you. And now you feel so foolish and weak because you took them at their word. And then there’s the other side of the coin. You have broken your promises. Or you’ve hurt others because you didn’t keep your word.
But I’ve been sent by the Lord to tell you that He never goes back on His Word! He hung on the cross to win your freedom and forgiveness. In your Baptism and in the Supper today He promises that you are forgiven and that heaven is yours by virtue of His Good Friday death FOR YOU.
That Word of His is the most certain Word you have. It is greater than the worst of your sin or the sin that others have committed against you. It is greater than your fears. Greater even than your death! This is the Word of the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up for you. He is trustworthy and true. You are so very precious to Him – worth His life’s blood shed on the cross. Jesus will not go back on His Word. He has staked His claim on you. He has given you His Word.
So I beg you one more time. Believe that Jesus died for you. He did! “For you” or “for me” is the way of faith. It is being sure of what you hope for. It is being certain of what you do not see at the moment. Even when God seems to have turned against you, even when He seems to turn a deaf ear to your prayers, even when He seems distant, faith says, “He will save me” despite what I see. He’s promised!
Don’t delay when it comes to faith. Now is the time of your salvation. Trust Jesus. Take Him at His Word. He credits it to you as righteousness.
In the Name of Jesus.