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In 1979 Dr. Larry Reynolds moved to Denton, Texas, to become the founding pastor of Southmont Baptist Church. During his twenty-eight year ministry at Southmont, the church grew to a membership of more than 1800. The church, which began in a small storefront, now meets on a campus that includes three educational buildings, a fellowship hall, an activities center, and sanctuary. After retiring as the Senior Pastor of Southmont in December, 2006, Pastor Reynolds has remained active in the Denton area conducting weddings, funerals, and leading Bible studies. He and his wife, Carol, have traveled extensively. In addition to five trips to Israel, they have visited Jordan, Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Peru, Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Hebrews 11:1-3


A Description of Faith

(Hebrews 11:1-3)



1.   In the book The Intrusive Word William Willimon tells of an interesting conversation he had with a college student...in the conversation Willimon asked the student if he had any religious convictions...the student responded by saying, "I used to."... Willimon asked "Could you explain what you mean by 'I used to?'"...here's what the student said:  "When I was a kid, I was taken to church.  But now ... I don't feel the need for religion anymore.  The way I see it, religion is like training wheels on a kid's bike.  It's fine, until you get your bearings, can think for yourself, stand on your own two feet.  Then, you don't need religion anymore."

2.   That student expressed very well a widely held belief among people in our culture...and that belief is that faith, religious faith, is for those who are too weak, too insecure to make it on their own...if a person claims to be a person of faith that is, on its own,  prima facia evidence of some kind of intellectual or emotional deficiency in that person's life...

3.   And the reason many people think that way is because of a complete lack of understanding of what genuine, biblical faith is...  most people outside the church think of faith in terms of--

--believing something you are not sure about...

--accepting what you cannot explain...

--clinging to what you hope against hope is true...

      and I suspect that many inside the church harbor those same misconceptions...

4.   Today, in our journey through the book of Hebrews, we have come to the greatest chapter about faith in the Scripture...Hebrews 11 has been variously called "The Faith Chapter" and "God's Roll Call of Faith" and "The Hall of Fame of Faith"...the chapter begins with a wonderful description of faith in vv.1-3 and then there is example after example of people who lived by faith in vv.4-40... today we're going to focus on the description of faith and in the weeks ahead we'll look in detail at some of the examples of faith found in this great chapter....look at Hebrews 11:1-3...(text)



T.S.-Faith may well be the most used and least understood word in the Christian vocabulary...I have two graduate degrees from a theological seminary and have been teaching and preaching the Bible for more than 30 years, but I'm not sure I can articulate a concise definition of faith which does justice the word...my favorite definition comes from Dr. Milton Fergueson, my teacher of religious philosophy...he was fond of saying that "faith is commitment based on available evidence"...but even that definition fails to capture the essence of the word...



In first part of Hebrews 11, the writer of Hebrews does not attempt to define faith...instead he uses two beautiful phrases to describe what faith is...want focus on those phrases this morning....



I. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for..."

      1.   To understand that phrase we must begin at the end of it...what does the writer mean by "things hoped for"?...does that phrase mean anything we desire?...are people like former TV preacher Robert Tilton right when they say that if you have faith you can have anything you want?...is faith the key to gaining material prosperity or physical health or beauty or power?...the answer to those questions is a resounding NO!...and people who teach that faith is some mystical power that we can conjure up to manipulate God into giving us whatever we desire are teaching heresy...

      2.   In book of Hebrews the word "hope" used in very specific sense..it's almost a synonym for salvation...so the statement "faith is the assurance of things hoped for..." can be paraphrased "faith is the assurance of our salvation..."

      3.   That is, the thing which makes us confident, assured of the reality of our salvation is our faith in God...one writer points out that faith on its most basic level operates quite simply...God speaks, we hear His Word, we believe His Word and act on it with the confidence God will do what He says He will do...

      4.   Message of the Bible is that God has spoken...He has said--

                  --all have sinned and fallen short of His ideal...I don't need to convince you of that...if take honest look at your life will have no trouble seeing your sin problem...

                  --wages/result of sin is death and separation from God... reason so many of us are unhappy, unfulfilled, empty is because we are separated from our Creator...

                  --Jesus came to our world for purpose of providing solution to our sin problem...He died on cross for our sins...paid the price we deserved to pay...cancelled our indebtedness...

                  --by accepting His sacrifice on our behalf we find forgiveness, salvation, and restored relationship with God...

            That's what God tells us in His Word...and we believe/have faith that God is trustworthy...that He will do what He has said He will do...as a result of that faith we are assured of our salvation...



      1.   The day began working on this study went to bank to make deposit...thought struck me that the principle being taught in phrase "faith is assurance of things hoped for" is at work in my relationship with the bank...gave the teller a check and deposit slip...was given receipt in return...left with the assurance the check had been deposited into my account and funds were available for me to use...

      2.   Why did I have that assurance?...had it because of my confidence in the bank and those who run the bank to do what they said they would do...I trusted them...

      3.   And just as I have the assurance of my checking account being credited with the deposit because of my faith in the trustworthiness of the bank, I have the assurance of my heavenly account being credited with salvation because of my faith in the trustworthiness of God...

      4.   Faith is the assurance of things hoped for...of salvation...



II. "Faith is the conviction of things not seen..."

      1.   There is a sense in which every person lives by faith...you've already made many faith decisions today...for example--

--when you flipped on the light switch, did so on faith that the light would come on...

--when took drink water from faucet, did so on faith that it is safe to drink...

--when took bite of food, did so on faith that it wasn't contaminated and wouldn't make you sick...

--when placed key in ignition of car and turned it over, did so on faith that the car would start...

            None of those things can we know for sure merely by looking with our eyes...they are among the hundreds of things we make faith assumptions about...everyday we operate by faith...the capacity to do so is built into us...

2.   What is true in the physical realm is also true in the spiritual realm...faith is the conviction that there are great realities of life that are unseen...that there is more to our existence than our brief time in this world...that there is a spiritual side to life that is just as real as the physical side...

3.   Want you to hear how one writer described this idea:  "[Faith] is the evidence, proof, or conviction which enables us to perceive unseen things just as if they were seen, to sense spiritual realities just as truly as we sense things by seeing and smelling, hearing and touching.  Faith claims the future in the present.  It gives things that are yet to come all the certainty of things that already are.  Through faith, unseen things take on substance, and future things take on present reality.  Faith transcends the time-space framework in which this present life has to be lived.  It transports its holders to the high places where eternity can be seen beyond all present boundaries and barriers." [Valentine, LBC, p.52]

4.   It's important to understand that faith does not create or make real the unseen spiritual realities of our universe...just the opposite is true...it's the existence of the unseen spiritual realities which gives justification to our faith...faith is the evidence of our belief in the reality of the spiritual dimension of life or in the words of Hebrews 11:1 "...faith is the conviction of things not seen..."



1.   Imagine a treasure chest filled with valuable gems...the chest is locked with a padlock which can be opened by a key...where is the value?...is it in the key or in the treasure?...obviously, it is not the key which gives value to the contents of the chest...it is the contents of the chest which gives value to the key...

2.   Using that analogy, faith is like the key and the spiritual dimension of life is like the treasure...it is the spiritual dimension of life which gives value to our faith and we cling to faith because of our conviction of the reality of the unseen spiritual world...



CONCLUSION



1.   When son small used play give with him which is good illustration of faith...know this sounds little weird, but he was always such a daredevil...would place him on top of refrigerator back up a step and he would jump off into my arms...his jumping was act of faith in me...wasn't blind faith...could see me standing there...could see my outstretched arms...knew I had never hurt him...so with good reason to believe I would catch him, he would jump into my arms...

2.   In effect what God asking us to do...standing toward us with outstretched arms and He's saying, "Come to Me."...and there's good reason to do so...He has left his fingerprints on the physical universe in which we live...He has implanted His image in our lives...and in moments of solitude and quietness, if you will be still and listen with our spiritual ears will hear Him saying, "I made you, I love you, I know what is best for you, trust your life to me."

3.   May we learn to live by faith...the kind of faith which is "the assurance of things hoped for" and "the conviction of things not seen"...