The Heroes of the Faith and Their Mighty Acts (Hebrews Sermon 59 of 74)

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The Heroes of the Faith and Their Mighty Acts (Hebrews Sermon 59 of 74)

March 04, 2012 | Andrew Davis
Hebrews 11:32-34
Faith, Walk by Faith, Good Works

I. Time Fails Us Now... It Won’t Fail Us in Heaven

What a gift is time, amen. This opportunity that we have week by week to come together for corporate worship, that we can join together with the body of Christ Sunday mornings, one day in seven. The gift of time, every minute, every hour, every day, every year is a gift from Jesus, amen, and we are called on in Scripture to redeem the time, to make the most of it. What a great gift of grace is the gift of time, and how much greater a gift is eternity, amen. We labor under the restrictions of time in this world. The time is never what we want it to be. It just flies by. I feel like it's accelerating. My grandmother warned me this, she told me when she was 95, she said, "The second half of my life, I hardly remember, it just flew by." And it's just accelerating to some degree. It's incredible how rapidly it goes. I don't regret it, though. Every day brings me closer to seeing Jesus face-to-face. I look forward to... I'm not trying to retard the process of aging or of what's coming to me, I'm looking forward to my inheritance in Christ.

But you know, it's funny how the author to Hebrews labored in reference to time, even in the verses that we're looking at. There's just a limited amount of time, we can't do everything we would like to do in this world, so we have to be wise in how we spend our time. And so in verse 32, the author comes to this point, he says, "What more shall I say, for time would fail me to tell" fully of each of these individuals. I don't have enough time to go into all the details I would like to go into. This is the rub of our earthly life. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Psalm 39:5, the psalmist there says, "You have made my days a mere handbreadth, the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath." Even the Apostle John, as he was finishing up his work in the Gospel of John, bumped into the same reality that the author to Hebrews is facing in verse 32, [chuckle] he said this in John 21:25, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose even the whole world would not have room for all the books that would be written."

Heavenly Leisure: Becoming Experts in Church History... and Theology

We can't tell all the stories we would like to tell. Well, that's our problem here on earth, we will not have that problem in heaven, amen. We will have leisure in heaven, to listen to all the stories in great detail. When we've been there 10,000 years, bright, shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first began. Now, I don't think it's just because I went to seminary that I think there's going to be seminary aspects up in heaven. And you'll be free to enjoy them, you actually will enjoy them. You'll look forward to getting a full lesson on church history up in heaven, and you're going to get full theology lessons up in heaven, you're going to study theology and church history in heaven. And you're thinking, "Oh, no, I thought I was done with all that studying." No, we're going to learn each other, we're going to learn our brothers and sisters in Christ, what God did in and through them. Amen.

We're going to study how God was gracious to each one. We belong to a royal lineage of brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us, 1 Peter 2:9 says, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God." Friends, that is your true genealogy, it's a spiritual one. We're part of an incredible family of God, brothers and sisters who've gone before us and acted with great valor by faith. And we're going to be able to sit at table, at banquet table, with these and talk to them and find out what God did in and through them for his glory by faith. And we won't be pressed for time as the author was in verse 32. We don't be pressed. It says in Matthew 8:11, Jesus said, "I tell you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast at the banquet table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."

We're going to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And there I extend it out to the heroes of the faith that go beyond the Scriptural time. We're going to be able to sit down with Martin Luther. No translator needed. And we're going to talk to him about what it was like to stand by faith at the Diet of Worms and defend justification by faith alone, apart from works of the law. On peril of his life, what it was like. Or with William Tyndale to say, "Brother, what was it like to translate the Scripture into English for generations and generations of people who followed, to read in that beautiful clear English, that's mostly captured in the KJV, the King James version, what was it like?" This is a man who paid for it with his life, burned at the stake for that translation. Be able to walk through the meadows and valleys of the new earth with an explorer missionary like David Livingston, just talk to him about his experiences when he went through the heart of Africa or to be with the blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby.

I've often wondered what was her quiet time like that led to her writing the words to Blessed Assurance. What happened, Fanny? I mean, were you just praying one day, and the heavens were opened, and you just saw angels descending, your heart was filled with his love. There were whispers of mercy. What were you seeing? Whatever it was she was seeing that day she sees it better now, amen. And be able to just share with her experiences of a life lived for the glory of God. To talk to Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ who lived through the communist crackdown during the Cultural Revolution, who stood with great courage for the faith. Or those that were persecuted back in the Roman days, like Polycarp, who stood at Smyrna, the Bishop of Smyrna, and said with great courage, "For 86 years, I've served him, he's never done me wrong. How can I deny him now?"

Or Perpetua and Felicitas, who stood for the glory of God, even at the risk of their lives. Perpetua willing to give up her status as a noblewoman, a Roman citizen, and die for Jesus. I want to talk to them. I want to share with them. And so, we come to this list in which the author basically says, "I wish I had more time, I just don't. I can't go into all the great details that I would." And there are mysteries of this list that he makes at this point.

II. The Mysteries of this List

There are some mysteries here. Why does he shorten the list? Well, he's kind of already told you that, he said, time would fail me. I have some other things to do. I need to write Hebrews 12 and 13, and if I don't move on then Andy Davis will never get out of Hebrews 11.  You'll be with it... In it for the next 20 years. And there's just more good things to say. So, I've got Hebrews 12 and 13 to write and I need to move on. But I've basically made my point. You need to live an other worldly life by faith, you need to know that you are an alien and a stranger here just passing through. You need to live for that new heaven and new earth that's coming, that kingdom, that glorious city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.

You need to live for that. You're just passing through, you need to effectively live in a tent, even if you don't physically live in one, in your heart you need to. And you need to be willing to live a life filled with faith for the glory of God, energetic, courageous, doing acts of valor. That's what you need. And so, I don't really need much more... Many more examples. Time would fail me if I went into great detail. So I think that's why the author shortened his list at this point. Why these particular heroes are chosen? I'm not sure. Some of them make more sense than others, but some of them, you know, seem like head-scratchers, like Jephthah, why was he chosen or not, for example, Jonathan? You know, why Barak chosen and not Deborah? Why was Samson chosen?  I mean, he seems to be a weak man beset by lusts. What about Gideon? Given the frailty, the flickering nature of his faith at the beginning of it all, why was he a chosen? We'll talk more about Gideon in a few moments.

But why no one beyond David? Why weren't some of the prophets listed out? For example, Elijah, who by faith courageously stood on Mount Carmel, against the prophets of Baal, or Elisha, who by faith saw the chariots of fire surrounding that were coming when the Arameans were coming to arrest him. Or Isaiah, who by faith saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple, and in my opinion, saw Jesus Christ more clearly than any Old Covenant saint and wrote of it in his incredible prophecies. Or Jeremiah, who by faith stood against the people of his own generation, and predicted very plainly the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and urged the people that the only way that they could survive is to go out and surrender, and therefore he was hated by the people of his own generation, and persecuted and yet, he said, "His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." it's Jeremiah. Incredible men and women of God that are not listed here. Why these?

Why These Heroes are Listed in This Order?

And why were these heroes listed in this particular order? For example, why was Gideon whose story is told in Judges 6-8 listed before Barak, whose story is told in Judges 2-4? My answer is, I don't know. There you go, there's the answer. I don't know why the order is given here, I don't know why. I know this, that the Holy Spirit does everything for a reason. And that this ordering and these words were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and he had his reasons. The real question in front of us is none of these mysteries. The real question is how do these heroes display faith? The same faith that we must have to run our race with endurance right to the finish line. That's the question in front of us, as it's been throughout this chapter. Remember at the end of Hebrews 10:38, the key verse that launched us into this whole meditation.

There it says, "My righteous one will live by faith." The justified are justified by faith and we live by faith. "My righteous one will live by faith and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." So those are the key verses that launched us into this meditation on examples of faith, heroes of faith.

How Did These Heroes Display Saving Faith?

And so, we're asking this question, "How do these heroes display the faith we must have to be saved?" The faith-filled life we must live that only that life leads to heaven. At the end of this, the beginning of the next chapter, we have mentioned this cloud of witnesses, therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. These are those that make up the cloud of witnesses in the author's mind and they are testifying to a life of faith.

Now, I'm going to divide the list of the triumphant... Of the heroes and their actions in two parts. We're going to look at one part of it this week. These are what I call the triumphant heroes. And that would be 32-35A, so half way through verse 35. And the next week, the suffering heroes, 35B-38, God willing, next week. So the triumphant heroes are those whose lives led to outward clear victories that people could joyfully celebrate in this world and see God's hand and rejoice in. And then the suffering heroes next week, those who were willing to die and to suffer persecution for Christ. And we'll talk about them next week. So, as I look at this list, as I look at this list of names, and I look at this quick list of actions of what they did, one particular phrase came out to me and I want to meditate on it with you. Now, I think many phrases could come out. There are lots of angles you could take toward this summary list, because there's so many things involved.

Frankly, I look at this list of names, and this list of actions similar to a big box of keepsakes that an elderly man or woman, let's say, toward the end of their life, could open up and then take out a photograph or a piece of jewelry, a family heirloom, or a family Bible tattered with little notes on it or a piece of artwork that they received decades ago from their toddler. And each one of these items pulls out with it a whole bunch of memories and relationship and all kinds of circumstances that bring up emotions, tears, joy, happiness, whatever. And I think that's in effect what's happening here. The Lord is saying, I know each of these people, I know all their lives. I can remember all of them.

That's what I do with the genealogy, it's also in 1 Chronicles. These names may mean nothing to you, but these people mean everything to me. And I remember what they did, but we just don't have time to go into the details.

III. The Central Lesson: Weakness Turned into Strength

But as I was looking over these verses, one phrase in particular came out to me and that's in verse 34, "whose weakness was turned into strength." I want to meditate on that phrase with you. Whose weakness was turned into strength.

Gideon

And it came out for me personally, first and foremost, from studying the case of Gideon. So I'm going to give undue attention to the phrase, "whose weakness was turned into strength," and undo attention to Gideon and not so much to any of the others. And that's how I'm going to preach this section.

But Gideon was a man who lived in a very bad time in Israel's history, the time of the judges. And as a matter of fact, most of these names cover the period of the judges. And I'll talk more about that period in a few moments, but there was a cycle of sin that was going on at that point, Israel having conquered the Promised Land, did not completely drive out all of the Canaanites, and they remained to be a torment to the people and to afflict them with temptations toward Baal worship and other things. And so, from time to time, as a matter of fact, regularly, the people of Israel would go in for idolatry and start worshipping and serving created things more than the Creator, who's forever praised, amen. They would give in to that Canaanite-ish idolatry, and God would have to judge them and he would judge them always the same way, by sending some invading Gentile power to afflict them and then they would cry out to the Lord in the midst of this affliction, and God would send them a deliverer who would throw off these invading Gentiles militarily and give Israel a time of peace and prosperity and fruitfulness through repentance.

That's the cycle of the Book of Judges, and then when that was over, another generation would come along who didn't remember the lessons and they'd go right back at it again. And in Gideon's era, the Gentile power that came in were the Midianites and the power of the Midianites, we're told, in Judges 6 is so oppressive that the people of Israel had to hide in caves and in cracks in the rocks and all that. These were vicious people who came in and basically took everything of value and left and murdered anyone they could find. And so they had to go flee up into mountain clefts and caves and strongholds. We're told Midian has so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help, and God sent them Gideon. Now, when we meet Gideon, he is threshing in a wine press, one of the odder moments. I did some threshing last summer in Nepal. And the basic idea is, you need at least somewhat of a breeze for it to work. You're supposed to kind of beat the thing with the flail and then take the threshing fork and throw it up. And then the lighter chaff blows away and then the grain falls down. You do that enough, and you have mostly grain after that process.

Well, he's doing it down in a wine press where there really can't be much of a breeze. I would think if there is a breeze that's going to swirl around in there, like some kind of a vortex. And so, the threshing in the wine press was a mark of both Gideon's and Israel's weakness, their frailty in the face of this overwhelming military power, the power of the Midianites. And so, the angel of the Lord comes and appears to Gideon while he's threshing in this wine press, and he says, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." What an odd greeting, kind of like Mary pondering over the greeting that Gabriel gave to her. He's saying this greeting doesn't make much sense at many levels.

Let's take them one at a time. First of all, "If the Lord is actually with us, then why has all this happened to us?" I don't get it, "The Lord is with you." "Where are all his wonders that our fathers told about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us in the hand of Midian." Well, the Lord answered very surprisingly at that point. "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"

And here's the second question that Gideon has. "'But, Lord,' Gideon asked, 'How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.'" That was his strength. What was his strength? He looked inward and did not see the resources there, and by faith turned that weakness up to Almighty God in prayer. There's your central lesson for today. Do you have the qualifying weakness? When you look inward, do you find inside yourself the resources you need to fight your battles? Yes or no? If your answer is yes, I don't know if you even know the Gospel, and I don't know if you really actually know the enemies that are arrayed against you. More on that later. But Gideon knew that he did not have the resources within him and so therefore, he knew he was weak. And so, Gideon's greatest strength was his sense of weakness, turned upward to God in faith. The Lord answered him at that point. "I will be with you and I will strike down, or you will strike down all the Midianites together."

And so, Gideon had faith. But as I mentioned a moment ago, Gideon's initial faith was a flickering thing. I think often of that passage in Matthew 5, quoting Isaiah, speaking of Jesus, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." Okay, that's a picture of Jesus' incredible gentleness in dealing with broken reeds like us. The bruised reeds like us and smoldering wicks.

 So we'll take the second image. Gideon's faith was a smoldering wick about to go out. It wasn't any mighty bonfire at this point. He asked for one sign after another. The first one is the whole offering thing. He wants to make an offering to the Angel of the Lord. And so, he asked the Angel of the Lord to wait, he goes and gets an offering, he comes back and the Angel of the Lord consumes the offering and goes up with it, disappears entirely. I think that's a pretty good sign, amen. Powerful sign, the Lord is with me. I've never seen anything like that, that's an awesome thing, but it wasn't enough for him. No, pretty soon he's doing the whole fleece thing. He wants to put out a fleece before the Lord. You know that story, don't you, Gideon's fleece? Maybe you even spread a fleece. Probably not a literal one. Do you know what a fleece is? It's a piece of cloth made of wool, I guess. And so, he wants to put out this towel or cloth before God on the ground, he put... He wants to put it out on the ground. And the idea here is, if the fleece the next morning is wet with dew, but all of the ground around it is dry, then what? Then you'll do what you're supposed to do? Then you'll obey, is that it? Well, we'll get to that. But then at least I'll have that sign. And so the next morning, he takes... He picks up that fleece, that cloth and just wrings it out and it is just saturated with water, but the whole ground is dry. God never does things half way. There's a huge amount of water.

Is that enough for him? No, he needs another sign. If, possibly, I think he's kind of a scientist, a sign giver here, he's going one way and the other. We're going to do an experiment. It's like a controlled experiment, and it just might be by chance. Okay, so we're going to do the opposite thing the next day. It's the beginning of the scientific method here, okay? So the next day, what I'd like to see is the ground wet and the fleece completely dry. One hymn says, stoop to our weakness, mighty as thou art. And doesn't God just stoop to his weakness at this point, and do for him what he asked? He doesn't have to do it. He could say, "Look, I've done enough for you already." But he doesn't, he does that, he gives the second fleece. And then, as if those weren't enough, then he gives them the whole barley loaf dream, where just as he's about to engage the Midianites, basically saying, "If you're still frail in your heart, why don't you go down and I've got something I want you to hear."

And so, he goes down into the camp of the Midianites and one of them is relating a story to another and says, last night I had a dream, and all of us were here arrayed in battle strength, and this huge barley loaf came rolling and knocked us all down. What an odd dream. And the answer is even odder. Well, this can be none other than Gideon, Gideon is the barley loaf. And Gideon's like, "Well, I've heard enough, that's good enough for me." I am the barley loaf, you know? And you remember the whole story of how God tells him, you have too many men, you have too many men, you have too many men, and he weeds his army down to 300 men who don't even have a sword in their hands, they have nothing, just a trumpet and then a lantern, and all that. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet and he summoned them and those 300 men conquered the Midianites without a sword in their hands, because they turned on themselves and like Satan's wicked kingdom imploding on itself he destroyed himself.

And so, the Midianites destroyed themselves and they're all dead and they didn't have to do anything, the Israelites, it was something God did. A picture of the cross, as we're told in Isaiah 9, as in the day of Midian’s defeat you have destroyed, O Jesus, you have destroyed our enemies, with his own sword you pierced his head, the sword of death. Jesus uses death to destroy him, who held the power of death. How beautiful is that? Now, this whole story is the story of weakness turned into strength. "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." There's your strength, bring your weakness to God in prayer. By faith say, "I can't do this, I can't finish the journey set in front of me, I can't. I don't know that I can run another step. I am so weak. My enemies are so strong."

I think about what the Apostle Paul gave to us in 2 Corinthians 12, when he had the thorn in the flesh, you remember? And three times he sought the Lord in prayer that the thorn be removed. Three times he asked that the thorn be removed from his flesh. And the answer is the same every time, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power or my strength is made perfect in weakness." What an incredible lesson that is. God's grace, his strength, is made perfect in our weakness, not in our strength. And therefore, Paul says, "Alright, this is my conclusion, I've learned my lesson."  "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. And that is why for Christ's sake I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, and persecutions and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Isn't the opposite true? When you are strong, then you are weak? Because when you are strong, it means you think you don't need Jesus anymore, and that will never be the case.

And so, God's power was made perfect in weakness, that was the strength that Gideon had, go in the strength you have, go in that weakness of yours and watch me deliver you. We must turn away from self-reliance, we are so addicted to it. And I believe every trial God brings in your life and mine, every trial, the central lesson is to teach us to no longer rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead, that's the lesson every time. Stop relying on yourself, trust in Christ. Trust in me.

IV. The Heroes Listed Quickly

And so, that's the lesson of Gideon. Other than that, we have these heroes listed quickly, one after the other. Book of Judges, a bewildering time. Frankly, as I've meditated on the Book of Judges I think that the central lesson there and the warning, and it's a very poignant warning for me, is what happens to the people of God when the word of God is no longer taught to them?

This is what happens, they become no better than pagans, no better than animals. Frankly, by the end of the Book of Judges, the Levites have so completely failed in their mission that the people of Israel are no better than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. There's an incredible parallel at the end of Judges with the whole Sodom and Gomorrah story. They're just the same, we're meant to think of them as the same. And the Levites show up, one Levite is there who ends up being a Levite for hire, and he's somebody's personal family priest for money. And then there's this other Levite with his concubine, and the whole thing is ugly and a mess, and at the beginning of the whole book, that generation, the next generation didn't remember all the mighty acts of God, and all of the great things that God had done. But the priests should have taught them.

Malachi 2:7, "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty." And so from his mouth should be the word of the living God. But the Levites didn't do their job. And so, there was a famine of hearing the word of God and so they drifted into wickedness. Because they didn't hear and they didn't believe the Word of God. Now, in the midst of all of that, God had a remnant, didn't he? In every generation God has a remnant. Gideon said, "Where are all those mighty acts we've heard about?" And so, he had heard and he had faith, because he had heard and believed the word of God. So we have in Romans 11, "I have reserved for myself 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. And so too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace." In every generation, there's some remnant of people who will hear God's word, God will get his word to them, they will hear and believe.

Barak

And so we have these heroes of faith teaching us these lessons. Gideon already mentioned Barak, who was a man who trusted God's word, spoken by a prophetess, by Deborah, but who needed his hand held to go into the battle. And so, he was deprived in some way of the glory of just a strong faith. But he's in the list. Then there is Samson, who did mighty acts of physical strength, but who seemed to be a very weak man when it came to women, in particular. He just could not curb his lusts, and so, he is very weak, and it ends up costing him huge in his life. This is a man who ripped a young lion to shreds with his bare hands. You know, I don't actually think that he was, if I can use the vernacular, ripped or cut, you know what I'm saying? I think every child art... Depiction of Samson shows him that way, but he did things that I don't care how big your biceps and triceps are, you can't do that. Like lifting up the city gates and throwing them over a hill.

Can I quote another Scripture to you from Zechariah 4:6, "Not by power, nor by might, but by my spirit says the Lord Almighty." Wouldn't it be cool if his arms were like pencils actually, wouldn't that be really cool?  It's like, I don't know what the secret of your great strength is. What could it be?  Look at you, you know? But it never says that, but she is wondering, I don't understand the secret of your great strength. But again and again in Judges we have this phrase, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon so and so." The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel in Judges 3:10. Or "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." That we've already mentioned in 6:34 and 11:29, "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah." "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson…" in 14:6, 14:19, and 15, 14 and 15. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him again and again, and he picks up the jaw bone of a donkey and kills a thousand men.

With the jaw bone of a donkey, because the Spirit of God came upon him. Only by faith and by the power of the Spirit can we win these kinds of victories.

Jephthah

Jephthah, I think the most surprising guy in the list. He's an odd guy. I don't fully understand his story, I know that the spirit of God came upon him, but a few verses later he's making a vow that if God will give him the victory, he will sacrifice as a burnt offering whatever comes across his threshold to greet him. That's odd. Turned out to be his virgin daughter. I don't think that Hebrews is celebrating Jephthah's vow, just Jephthah's faith. And I think that's probably why men like Samson and Jephthah are chosen, it's because they're not perfect people. They're not perfect, they just had faith. God justifies the wicked, he justifies the ungodly by faith. And then a genuine faith results in heroic acts of valor.

David and Samuel

David, Samuel, no surprise that these great men are in the list. But the author just wants you to know, whatever David did, he did by faith. Whatever he did, he did by faith. He faced Goliath by faith. He patiently waited on God for the promised kingdom by faith. He didn't kill Saul in the cave by faith. He dealt, he administered justice in his kingdom by faith when Ish-Bosheth's murderers came to him and told him that they had murdered him, and he now had the whole kingdom to himself, he executed them because they killed an innocent man in his bed. He administered justice by faith, because he wanted his kingdom established by righteousness and not by wickedness, by faith. You have to see his life that way. And the same thing, Samuel, who came before David, but is listed after him, but he heard God's word by faith, even as a little boy, God spoke to him and by faith, he learned to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening," and he never let any of God's words fall to the ground.

But he spoke them honestly, even if they caused pain to someone he loved, like Eli. And then the Prophets, as I said, mentioned a summary of them one after the other, by faith, Elijah, by faith, Elisha, by faith, Isaiah, by faith, Jeremiah. That's how you ought to see them, but they're not listed here, they're just understood. You can read their stories.

V. What Faith Has Achieved

And what had faith achieved? Verse 33-34, "Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies."  Now, you can play the game, a Bible trivia game and go through and say, "What does each one of these refer to?" And it's a joy to do that, but I'm not going to do that now. You know these stories, but it is by faith that these heroes of faith did these great things.

The Supremacy of Christ: Jesus Does it All

What I want to do is I want to apply this list now to you and I want to start by applying it first and foremost to Jesus. Let me tell you something, any attribute or great action done by any hero of the faith, Jesus did it better. He did it better, he was a greater hero than any of these. And so, if you look at this list, is it true that Jesus conquered a kingdom? Yeah, it is. Satan's kingdom was crushed by Jesus. Is it true that Jesus by the greatness of his reign administers justice? Oh, absolutely. All judgment has been entrusted to Jesus. Is it true that Jesus gained what was promised? Yes, in Jesus, all the promises of God are yes and amen. He gained what was promised for you. He went out and won the victories for you so that you could have the Promised Land. Promised eternal life. Did Jesus shut the mouth of a lion? If you see Satan as a lion, absolutely, he shut his mouth.

And he is likened to that, he is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who goes out between us and the lion and says, "You're not going to touch any of my sheep," and he is the mighty Good Shepherd who protects us from this lion. Quenched the fury of the flames? You tell me. Do you fear the flames of hell? It depends what you mean. Do you believe you're going there? I don't believe I'm going there. And when it comes to me, then, he has quenched the fury of the flames. Though I deserve to burn in hell, I will not, because Jesus died for me. Escaped the edge of the sword. Did Jesus escape? Well, he was resurrected, he wasn't killed by a sword. But I've been thinking about that sword. I think that Satan wields, metaphorically, a double-edged sword in our lives. I know that the word of God is a double-edged sword, but Satan wields this double-edged sword, cuts you both ways, temptation and accusation. Temptation and accusation. That's his double-edged sword.

He drags you and entices you and tricks you and deceives you to sin, and then he turns and accuses you of that sin before God. And Jesus answers it, by his atoning death, by shedding his blood on the cross, under the righteous judgment of God, he stands in the way, and he removes the written code against you by satisfying its demands. And now who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies, it's Jesus who died for them, who will condemn? Christ Jesus who died, more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us, whose weakness was turned into strength. Was Jesus weak? No one was ever weaker. I'm telling you, he was under the wrath of God, he was poured out on the cross, he was... Great drops of blood coming on the ground in Gethsemane, and out of his weakness or, as Michael Card put it, the frailty of the son, out of the frailty of Jesus, we have eternal life. Our strength is in his weakness that he was willing to die.

They thought because he's on the cross… "If you're the Son of God, come down off the cross." He's so weak, he can't save himself, he's weak, he's unable. No, no, no, that weakness was his power and his strength, but it's given to us. His weakness was turned into strength who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. You know something, he's been doing that now for 20 centuries through weak people like you and me. He has designed this whole thing to defeat little by little Satan's kingdom in this world through us. Now, what I want you to do, I've applied it to Jesus. What I want you to do is now apply it to you. I want you to see your own weakness turned into strength. Maybe you came here lost, you came here outside of Christ. Friend, the Scripture doesn't just call you weak, although it does. When we were powerless, Christ died for us. Okay. But it calls you dead.

But today you may live. If you can just hear the words of the Gospel, if you can just hear this word, this Gospel message and believe, you will have eternal life. You've heard everything you need. God sent his son, he died in our place; at the cross, an exchange was made, our sins laid on him, his righteousness given to us, we have eternal life. Trust in him. Let your weakness be turned into strength through faith in Christ. Now, if you're already a Christian, go to the cross again, go to Jesus again for your weakness to be turned into strength and for you to put foreign armies to flight. How do you do that? Well, you have an army arrayed against you. I was thinking about this this very day, it was a thought I'd never had before. Do you remember the story of Elisha? Do you remember how the Arameans are surrounding the city, and his servant goes out and he says, "We're done for, we're surrounded." And then Elisha said, "No, there's more on our side than on theirs."

Saw the physical army of the Arameans, they looked out on the... The servant looked out with natural eyes on this physical army, and was terrified by it. And then, Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes." By faith then he could see chariot, horsemen of fire, an angelic army surrounding. Well, I pushed it a little bit this morning. I was just thinking, you know what, most of us need to see the enemy army by faith. But we're not surrounded by physical soldiers, Arameans coming physically to arrest us, but we are in a war zone. Do you know it? Do you know that you have an enemy, the Devil? Do you know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms? Are you aware of that? Do you know you have an army arrayed against you that wants your destruction?

Do you know that the army that's fighting for you is infinitely more powerful than it is? But God wants you to know that you must put on your spiritual armor, that you must put on the belt of truth, that you must put on the helmet of salvation, the breast plate of righteousness, you must lift up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. You must fight this battle. There's so much military imagery in the Old Testament and very few of us are actually physical soldiers. But we are all at war and you have to see that warfare by faith, and see your triumph in it by faith as well. Because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. So I'm just urging you on the basis of these heroes, and all of their great achievements, to fight the good fight of faith until the day you die. Close with me in prayer.

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