Wednesday, June 7, 2017

NOW, FAITH IS, Part 2: "DIVINE ENCOUNTERS - TRANSFORMED LIVES"

"For by it the men of old gained approval" (Hebrews 11:2)
The title of this series on Hebrews Chapter 11 is “Now Faith Is….”. Apart from the theological definition of Faith in verse 1, Faith is also keeping Faith with the Holy One of Israel. By that, we mean that we glorify our heavenly Father and the King Who sacrificed for us – Jesus Christ – by the way we live our daily lives.  Contrary to the world’s beliefs, the devil is never in the details. God is. 

God is the Author of everything. He is the Pioneer of Perfection and the Purest of them all. He is the High Priest of Heaven and the King of the Universe. There is no daylight between Him and the One of  kind (“Only Begotten”) Son. They, who created everything, every cell in the human body, even atom in the air and every head of cattle on a 1000 hills, deserve our respect, awe, worship and complete Trust, in obedience.

So knowing the incredible, incomparable, inerrant God Who swears by His own Right Arm, since there is no one greater by whom He can swear, it behooves His Elect – the men, women and children called by the Name of Christ (aka Christians) – to live up to and glorify His Name. We do that by keeping our collective and individual noses clean as the Body of Christ.

Hebrews 11 talks about many honorable men and women throughout the Bible who are not named, in THIS chapter, as members of the Heroes Hall of Faith. We all know about Abraham, Moses and Daniel. But who are the someone lesser known ones whose impact changed the course of event and led to the fulfillment of God’s plan all along. There were men like Boaz (Ruth  ) whose honor and kindness towards two widows – one a pagan from Moab who decided to follow Yahweh and a bitter widow named Naomi, was symbolic of Christ like qualities.

Boaz is called a “Kinsman Redeemer”. This man enhanced the reputation of God – the most Holy, loving and kind God of Heaven. We read about it here in Ruth 3:9, "'Who are you?' he asked. 'I am your servant Ruth,' she said. 'Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.'" In the Bible, a Kinsman Redeemer is a male relative described in the Law of God, who is willing to deliver, rescue in time of danger and vindicates a person or relative as Boaz did for Ruth, the daughter in law of his relative Naomi. Who does this sound like? Jesus! He is our Kinsman Redeemer who did all of this and more!

There are other people who did not make the cut in the Hall of Faith later on in Hebrews 11. One of them is, of all people - the brutal Babylonian king and fearsome monarch Nebuchadnezzar! Even before God humbled this extremely proud man, who made others bow to a gold statue of him, Nebuchadnezzar had a fore-taste of what was coming his way. In Daniel 3:28-30. he suddenly proclaimed “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

He (the king) then said this in Daniel 4:1-2 "King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Not long after Nebuchadnezzar made this statement, he went back to his proud and egotistical ways! One day he was boasting about all that he had built and done in life to make Babylon the greatest city in the world, when the Lord struck him down and humbled him. God made this once proud king like an animal in the fields, for seven long years.  At the end of it, instead of becoming bitter and angry like most people today would, during long periods of testing and tribulation, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed the God of the Jews, Yahweh the One True God and said this in Daniel 4:34-35 "At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

This king's reputation was one of a brutal killer but when he turned his nation to Yahweh, he is forever remembered in time as one who turned his nation for a generation, to the God of Heaven. There were many more in Scripture. The rebel prophet Jonah, even though he kicked against the goads and whine endlessly, stayed outside Nineveh until he died. We know this because people from the terrorist state destroyed his tomb in Mosul two years ago! Jonah was revered by people of Islam apparently, as well.

In Romans 16: 13, we read this seemingly insignificant verse: "Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." Most people will fly right back that name - Rufus. But who is he really? Read Mark 15:21 here: "And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross." The son of the slave whom the Romans commanded to help Jesus carry His cross was now a huge evangelist alongside God's former rebel chosen one - the Apostle Paul. Simon of Cyrene had a close encounter with the Cross and Jesus Himself, Whose blood was all over that Cross, which Simon helped carry, and it changed Simon's life and his family's as well.

In all of this, we see evidence that “men of old gained approval” through their Faith in God.  While Rufus had a story book beginning as the son of the man whose dad is forever listed as he who help Jesus carry the Cross to Calvary,  others like Nebuchadnezzar had horrible beginnings and even terrible impact on their people, but found themselves humbled, forgiven and saved by the Grace, Love and Mercy of God. But examples of men saved by the Power of God, in both the New and Old Testaments, had to come to that point in their own lives – on their own. Judas is 100% proof that people of any age, can hang around the best preacher and minister and/or ministry in the world, and still be lost and go to eternal separation from God (Hell). God has no grandchildren, only children and disciples who follow Him. So it was it was with Rufus, who grew up in the church and Nebuchadnezzar, whose God was himself!

There is nothing new under the sun and what the men of old knew, and what has been true always are the following facts:
- Faith is a gift from God. Nebuchadnezzar saw this with his own eyes and then became the biggest evangelist in the Middle East with the prophet Daniel at his side.
- Faith is personal. The children who grew up in our churches still have to believe, repent and accept Jesus Christ as Lord, just like Rufus the son of  Simon the Cyrene.
- Faith is the key to all workmen and women, who serve the Kingdom of God (through Christ) in order to show ourselves approved before God and man.
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