Tuesday, 25 October 2016 10:59

True Faith Encouragement

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In this message, dear friends, with God’s Word from Hebrews 11 especially as our basis, our theme is, “True Faith Encouragement!”  Hebrews 11 gives many examples of men and women of true faith in Bible history, and the word “faith” is mentioned at least 24 times in this one chapter. In preaching now about this subject of true faith the intention is to call and encourage all people in the way of true Christian faith!  From our text passage will you consider with me then the five following points in promotion of true faith encouragement?

For our first point, let us realize the importance of true faith in God.  Surely Hebrews 11 brings out the importance of true faith. Not only is the word “faith” mentioned so many times, and we are given many examples of believers in the past who triumphed through faith, but notice too what is actually said in Hebrews 11:6. What do we read there? “But without faith it is impossible to please him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is not that faith itself saves anyone. No, but true faith is the means, the instrument, by which we embrace the Saviour of sinners, calling on Him to be our Saviour, your and my Saviour, to save us also from all our sins and sinfulness. Throughout the chapter we see how believers of the past triumphed by faith or through faith or in faith. 

When vs.6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God”, it is stating most strongly and emphatically that being saved and a true Christian means living in humble hearty reliance on the LORD and His gospel word. If there is no faith in God and His word, you can’t be saved and won’t be saved.  It is by the means of faith that we are linked together with, or connected with, or joined in union with God in Christ and all His gospel promises.  Not believing is like not having the plug in the outlet and being left without power, or leaving the hose unattached to the tap and just keeping the tap closed instead of open. 

What Hebrews 11 teaches and especially also vs.6 about the importance of faith is what is asserted most clearly too in the faithful, Bible-based Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 7.  After teaching from Scripture in the previous six Lord’s Days lessons about the only comfort in life and death, of belonging to Christ, and showing how deep and serious is our fall and depravity in sin, and how Jesus Christ alone is the only Saviour for sinners like us, what does the Catechism bring out?  It brings out the absolute necessity of true faith in Him to be saved.  So Q&A 20 states: Are all men then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ? Answer: No, only those who are ingrafted into Him, and, receive all His benefits, by a true faith.  You hear and see right away with this how important true faith in Christ is.  Without true faith worked by God’s Spirit through the gospel word, Christ never becomes part of you really, and you are not ingrafted into Him as a branch of the Living Vine with Jesus as your only Saviour and Lord.  People without true faith stay in their sins and if you or anyone lives on and dies never having true faith, you perish in your sin, and you die unsaved, and you won’t go to heaven but to hell. 

How relevant to say this today still. In our times increasingly you will hear voices and teaching that suggests everyone will go to a better place when they die, and God would never send anyone to hell.  There are those too who teach and preach Jesus died for all people, and in the end just because Jesus suffered and died on the cross for sinners, we all are better off now. The gospel message with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, people say, is simply this. The once angry God is appeased now and at peace with all mankind, and out of His pity and love, all will be saved, regardless what a person believes or how a person lives and dies. But all these ideas are false, and not according to the Bible.

Dear friends, the importance of true faith in Christ cannot be stressed enough as essential to salvation.  Jesus said in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth [remains] on him.” One of the proof texts for the emphatic teaching of Q&A20 of the Catechism is also Hebrews 10:39. There the Holy Spirit-inspired author of Hebrews writes to Christians living by true faith, “But we are not of them that draw back [in unbelief he means] unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

So the importance of true faith is indisputable and unquestionable, and non-negotiable. It drives home the earnest question too: Do you have true faith? Are you living day by day in the way of true faith in God?  This is a question not just for us when we get older, but also when younger since it is the case that “…Without faith it is impossible to please him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Are you living in true faith, even today? 

Do you see how this message is not meant just to teach facts about true faith but to promote true faith, and indeed give now true faith encouragements?  We learn this not just from our first point about the importance of true faith, but consider our second point which follows from the first really, and that is: What are the ingredients of true faith? If true faith is so important, what is true faith?  And again, looking at our text chapter, does it not bring out true faith involves knowing something of the true God, and relying on Him as He has revealed Himself to us?  True faith is knowledge of God and trust in God and following after God as revealed to us in His Word. 

All the examples of people living by true faith that Hebrews 11 mentions were those who learned about God from His revelation to them, and then they depended on what God taught them about Himself and His will and His promises and acted accordingly.  This is what led Abel to offer a God-honoring sacrifice to the LORD, something Cain did not do. So Noah built the ark and did not listen to the voices of people all around him in the wicked world of his times, but he listened rather to God and acted in faith in what the LORD said would happen. We could go through all the examples in this way, but think just yet of Moses in Egypt. Moses though raised as a prince in the palace of Pharaoh, nevertheless followed after the Lord and would be identified with the people of Israel.  He would rather suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season because in true faith he knew what the God of Israel had said and promised. Moses, by grace through faith, had confidence in God and His promises, choosing thus to follow the LORD and not the world of his time. 

True faith is not just knowing something about God without trusting and following the LORD. Neither is true faith trusting God without knowing of Him and about Him.  True faith is not at all just a blind leap in the dark as some want to tell us, but it is confiding in and giving yourself over to the one true God of whom you know from Scripture great and glorious gospel truths. Because God is gracious and forgiving and faithful and true to all His gospel promises, trusting and relying on Him is something most reasonable and wise, for sure. In fact, when knowing about the one true God as revealed in the Bible and in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, of Whom the whole Bible speaks from cover to cover, and still not trusting in Him with true faith, is the greatest mistake anyone can ever make! 

Trusting Jesus Christ as He is declared and made known to us in the Holy Bible is not a risky matter whatsoever, but a most reliable matter, now and forevermore! Knowing and trusting the gospel message is being given by God’s grace to live not by sight but by faith, and having in your possession in your minds and hearts the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. Abraham could offer up Isaac, his long promised son and heir, because he knew in faith God would take care to fulfill His promises, even if it meant raising Isaac again from the dead. True faith always involves knowing God is so trustworthy to all His word and promises and therefore wholly trusting in Him then too!

Clearly too, in true faith the object of trust is in particular God as He has revealed Him in Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen Saviour of sinners. Do you know why this is the case? For two reasons at least. For one, our true knowledge of God is most revealed in and with Christ the Saviour. Paul says thus in Colossians 1:15 &19 that in and with Christ we have the image of the invisible God, and that “it pleased the Father that in him [Christ Jesus] should all fullness dwell.”  Jesus Himself said, “I and my Father are one” [John 10:30] “and he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” [John 14:9-11]. And in Hebrews 1:3 it is explicitly stated that in and with Jesus the Saviour we are shown the “brightness of his [God’s] glory.”

But then secondly, the Bible makes so clear that in and with Christ and Him crucified and raised the third day as triumphant Saviour of sinners, we see the perfect fulfillment of all God’s promises and the infinite reliability of Him as only Saviour and LORD.  If you want to know how trustworthy the LORD is, look to Christ and Him crucified on Golgotha. Behold in and with Christ crucified and risen again how God Triune is so true to His gospel promises. Through Christ’s suffering and perfect sacrifice for sin in the sinner’s place, now all the salvation of God is freely offered and guaranteed for all who repent of sin and trust and follow Him. As Paul states in II Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him, Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Our text passage from Hebrews 11 and into chapter 12 brings out also how true faith focuses in particular and ultimately on the Saviour calling us ever to look to Jesus Who so gave Himself to save undeserving sinners like us.  “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is [now] set down at the right hand of God.” 

The ingredients of true faith are knowledge of God in Christ Jesus and humble, repentant, hearty, thankful reliance upon this only Saviour and Lord.  This is what guided the numberless cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in true faith, and it is what leads Christians onward now in true faith. So here again considering this all, are you living in true faith and does it show especially also in personal awareness and appreciation and appetite for the ingredients of true faith? Do you know of that true knowledge of God and hearty confidence in Him and His Word, and following after Christ Jesus then as only Saviour and Lord?

Here it is good to repeat the Bible-based instruction on true faith as laid out in Q&A 21: What is true faith?  That is the all-important question there. And the Bible-based faithful answer says: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits. What a true and beautiful description of true faith this is, so good to know and seek to live by too.

Again, I ask you in Jesus’ Name now: Is this something you can speak of for yourself as well?  Is knowledge of God and reliance on Him, and humble dependency on Christ and hearty following after the Saviour something real and in exercise also in your life?  Our text chapters and Catechism lesson would say this is what describes the true Christian and the real pilgrims to the eternal city. We read thus in Hebrews 11:13, speaking of the believing patriarchs, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

Hebrews 11 also mentions over against the true believers, people without true faith like Cain and the vast majority in Noah’s day, like Esau and the Egyptians, and so many more who, living and dying in unbelief, perished in their sins and without hope and help in the last judgment day and reserved for everlasting darkness.  But the call of this faith chapter now is not to so live and die. No, but to live and die in true faith and to run the race ever looking to Jesus.  Is this what you are doing, and pray to do day by day? Don’t deceive yourself in assuming you have true faith when the ingredients of true faith are not something you accept and approve.  If I would give you the recipe for making a chocolate cake but you don’t use the ingredients recommended, you won’t get the chocolate cake the recipe promises. Likewise, but in a far higher sense, with true faith, if we desire it and will live in true faith, let us take the ingredients described just now to heart and we will not be put to shame!

Yes, coming to our third point in promotion of true faith encouragement, notice next the impact of true faith. Clearly from the text chapter we learn how living in true faith really impacts life and how a person lives.  When you live in true faith you believe God created this whole world as described in Genesis 1&2, and you don’t go by what people say or like to believe but by what God’s Word says.  Living in true faith, you don’t go by appearances and what you may think about anything, but God and His Word is your guide and authority in life. Isn’t this what led Noah to build the ark though waiting 120 years before the rains came?  Isn’t this what guided Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their pilgrimage in life? Sarah didn’t go by her old age and worn out body when told she would have a child yet, but she acted and lived in faith in God’s promises, and wasn’t put to shame. Living in faith helped believers set their priorities right, and be willing to stand alone, and be willing to suffer and even die for the faith, for they knew God would be true to His promises regardless of appearances and obstacles.

Living by true faith has, by God’s grace and Spirit, practical everyday impact, showing itself in loving God above all and loving our neighbor.  Faith without works is dead, James says in James 2:17, and Paul says likewise in Galatians5:6 that true faith works by love. Hebrews 11 records for us how the heroes of faith endured so much and persevered so triumphantly as pilgrims and strangers here on earth, living all out for God and good, regardless the cost, “not accepting deliverance [in the way of sin and self and unbelief and this world], that they might obtain a better resurrection” as stated in vs.35. These true faith heroes cast not away their confidence in God as mentioned in Hebrews 10:35, always keeping in mind and heart rather the “recompense of the reward” promised by God, all of grace through faith alone in God as revealed in Christ, the Saviour of sinners. 

The Hebrews 11 faith chapter makes so clear that when you have and live in true faith it can’t help but be noticed in the life you live.  A true Christian living in true faith doesn’t remain someone anonymous, but it becomes noticeable in all kinds of ways, especially in the way of a humble attitude before God and others. You have a loving mindset before God and others and an adherence and respect for God and His Word and His glory and honor above all in your life.  You know then and show then this world is not your home and you look for and live for a better country, and for that eternal city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God, and then you esteem with Moses the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.

Does the life of true faith so impact you too, living today in our 21st century world? Do you glory in Christ and rejoice in company with His people and treasure the worship of God as greatest highlights in this life every week again? Does your free time reflect living in true faith, and what about your budget, and your television viewing and your choice of friends and places to go and not to go?  Do your convictions and viewpoints in life reflect not the spirit of this ungodly world but the truth of God’s Word and the honor of His truth and grace and glory in and through Christ Jesus?  How we should be alarmed if we say we have true faith but we pack that away in living our lives throughout each week.  True faith has holy and sanctifying impact by God’s Spirit and Word, and where that is not so, should it not bring us to true repentance? Is not the life of true faith and hearty and repeated ever deepening repentance from sin also most intimately linked together?  You don’t have true faith if it doesn’t also result in fighting the good fight of faith as Paul speaks of that in II Timothy 4.  In the life of true faith, you and I are in daily battle against sinful self by nature, and Satan, our relentless enemy ever opposed to true faith, and this ungodly world always aiming to distract us and lead us astray from the way of true faith.  When we live in true faith we believe with heart and soul and in all our life what God’s Word says and teaches us and that has holy impact in all we think and say and do then. 

Saying all this, again in true faith encouragement, isn’t it good to examine ourselves asking: Do I have true faith and am I living in true faith as described and modelled in Hebrews 11 and as taught in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7? Paul exhorts in II Corinthians 13:5 saying, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves.” And such self-examination wonderfully is never meant to be done in a vacuum or in self-despair, but in the way of true faith itself. In other words, it is never negative to ask whether you are living in true faith because it is in the context of the gospel message that God will so lead us truly and increasingly, even as we ever look to Him and call out to Him.

Here we come also to our fourth point in regards to true faith encouragement. We have considered the importance of true faith, the ingredients of true faith, and the impact of true faith. Notice next the Initiator and Preserver of true faith. Would you not agree with me that the whole of Hebrews 11 and 12 is like a grand, gracious, earnest call of the LORD to look to God for true faith initially and continually?  Faith is a gift of God and not something of ourselves, Paul tells us emphatically in Ephesians 2. This means it is not something we can ever work up from within ourselves and by ourselves. And the good news is no one has to do so either! No, for the good news of the gospel is that God works faith by His Holy Spirit through His gospel word. And He freely also gives this gift of true faith and growing faith and strong faith, and steadfast faith in Him and His Word and all His salvation provision for us in and through Christ Jesus.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” says Paul in Romans 10:17.  So now, as you run the race of life, the call is ever to look to the Saviour God for the beginnings of true faith and for the increase in true faith and the perseverance in true faith till journey’s end. If you desire true faith, ask God for it, and read His Word to learn the way of true faith and as you pray, God will hear.  The sincere desire for true faith is of the LORD by His Spirit and Word, and such prayer, in Jesus’ Name, the LORD will surely hear!

Indeed, coming to our fifth and last point, we have the ongoing invitation from the Lord ever to look to God in all the challenges and struggles of life, also in the life of faith, and God, in Jesus’ name, will take care of us. He will keep you and me in His gospel way and lead us onward, forward, upward, and heavenward in His grace and mercy and everlasting faithfulness to His people.  We may draw from Christ the Saviour ceaselessly, and there is endless supply of His divine Spirit and His divine strength, and His divine salvation, and His divine promises to have us live and die triumphantly in the way of true faith. 


True faith encouragements. We have considered the importance of true faith, the ingredients of true faith, the impact of true faith, the initiator of true faith, and the invitation of true faith. If you have not yet ever truly believed the gospel of Jesus Christ in true faith, why not ask to be led in true faith today? Indeed, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses with all those examples of true faith in Hebrews, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience [endurance], the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” [Hebrews 12:1b] Even so, may God bless this His gospel word to each one hearing this gospel message now, and to God be the glory. Amen.      

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor


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