The Nature and Effects of Saving Faith (Hebrews Sermon 44 of 74)
October 23, 2011 | Andrew Davis
Faith, Assurance of Salvation
"Lord, Open His Eyes"
There's some moments, as I read in the Bible, that I would really love to have been there when that happened. Many of them, as a matter of fact, but I think in particular about one morning in the accounts given to us in 2 Kings, in which an army, an Aramean army, has surrounded the city where the prophet Elisha is. And they're there because they think to take the man of God and bring him back to the King of Aram because he's so enraged that Elisha's warning the King of Israel concerning his every actions, and he's tired of it and he wants to capture this man, so he sends this huge army to go get one man. And of course the servant goes out in the morning and says, "In effect, we're in deep trouble, we're in deep danger. We're going to be taking a trip to Aram very soon." And Elisha goes out and looks and he says, "Don’t’ be afraid…Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." "What are you talking about? We are vastly out-numbered." "No, we're not." And then he prays this simple prayer. "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see."
Now, clearly, he wasn't talking about his physical eyesight. Apparently nothing wrong with that. But there is an eyesight of the soul, by which invisible spiritual realities can stream into our hearts. I believe that is called faith. And I think a supernatural thing happened on that particular account, he was able to see what ordinarily we cannot see, invisible beings, chariots, horses of fire, the army of the host of heaven, mighty army surrounding that little town. I wonder if God opened our eyes to see, in an amazing way into the invisible spiritual realm, this morning, what we would see. What it would be like to see the angels, what it would be like to see the demons, the spiritual battle that goes on all the time. But even better for us to see God on His throne as recorded for us in the book of Revelation, God seated on His throne, 24 elders around the throne, four living creatures, 100 million angels ready to serve God.
To have our eyes opened, to see this invisible spiritual realm, that is something that can only come by faith. And so as we come to Hebrews 11, we come to one of the most famous, one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible. Hebrews 11, frequently called, you heard Joshua say earlier; The Hall of Faith. The idea is somehow like the Hall of Fame, where you're just walking through a grand, glorious museum of men and women of God who have gone before us and who have lived lives of faith, who have done great things in this world because of their faith. The Hall of Faith. And it begins with one verse and one verse is going to be all we'll get to today. I'll say it's straight out, we're just doing one verse today, Hebrews 11:1.
I. Hebrews 11 Set in Context
It begins with, it seems, a definition of faith right at the start, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." So I want to begin by setting this statement, this incredible statement in its context. It's in the Book of Hebrews, as we've said, the Book of Hebrews was written as a warning epistle to some Jewish people who had made an outward profession of faith in Christ, and had in some way testified to it, probably through water baptism, but were under great pressure to renounce their profession of faith in Christ, and to turn back to Old Covenant Judaism, just out of fear. To turn their backs on Jesus Christ. And the author's been unfolding the glories of Jesus Christ, the superiority of Jesus Christ to everything that they have known in the Old Covenant. This priority of Christ as our great high priest offering a once-for-all sacrifice, His own blood shed for us, infinitely superior to that which cannot take away our sins, the blood of bulls and goats. Offered in an eternal place not built by human hands but that heavenly tabernacle which God set up. So, in Hebrews 10, he's giving them a series of exaltations, since we have these glorious benefits of the New Covenant. Since we have all of these glorious things, how are we to live, what kind of lives are we to live, and how are we specifically to persevere?
So as we begin in Hebrews 11:1, "Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for," the word "now" implies that we might want to look back at least just one verse to see the context. You know that the original epistle was not written with any of these kind of sub-divisions that we find helpful in our Bible reading, chapters and verses, but they weren't there, and so there's just a flow right through. And so it's reasonable to go at least back one verse, where we're going to actually go step-by-step back, back, back, to understand the context.
Warning Against Shrinking Back
But let's just start with verse 39. "We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." "The righteous will live by faith," we are told. In Habakkuk, "The righteous will live by faith, and we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe to the saving of their souls." That's what the author is telling us.
So we've got this incredible doctrine of the justification of a sinner by faith in Jesus Christ. This is the center piece of the gospel. We are justified by faith in Jesus, not by works, but simply by faith, that if you believe in Jesus, the incarnate Son of God who lived a sinless life, who did all these miracles, who walked on water and fed the 5000, who raised the dead, and opened the eyes of the blind, this Jesus, Son of God, Son of man, this one, this perfect, sinless one who died on the cross for our sins, whose blood was shed as a substitute, as a payment for our sins. He died on the cross and He was buried, and on the third day, He was raised to life. And if you put your faith in Him, if you trust in Him, you will be forgiven. You will be righteous in God's sight, simply by faith. And by that, you will receive the gift of the salvation of your souls. Simply by faith, justification by faith, that's how Chapter 10 ends. "We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who believe to the saving of the soul."
So let me just pause and just address you directly. If you don't hear anything else, if you have come here today, in a Christ-less state, you're outside the fellowship of Heaven at this present time, you've never trusted in Jesus, you were invited here perhaps by a friend, wandered in here off the street, or even if you've been here many times before, but you are in a Christ-less state, the Holy Spirit is convicting you of sin, He's showing you that you have never trusted in Him, the central thing that you can do, "This is the work of God," said Jesus, "that you believe in the one that he has sent." Trust in Christ and your sins will be forgiven. This is the gospel. Now, what we have seen in Hebrews is that it's not enough to just have a momentary trusting in Jesus, a sensation of feeling of trusting, but there must be an entire life of faith that has lived here. There is, in Hebrews 12, a race to be run all the way to the finish line and it's a race of faith. And so therefore, we must have our faith nourished and strengthened as I've been praying.
And so, in order that we may continue to believe to the saving of our souls, the author gives us Hebrews 11. So that you can keep believing in Jesus right through to the end, he gives you this array of godly men and women who have done it before you, who become for us, I think, beautifully the cloud of witnesses that he talks about in Chapter 12. Who stand around us to some degree and cheer us on in this race of faith, teaching us that we must endure right to the end. That's why Hebrews 11 is here, so that we can believe right to the salvation of our souls. Go a step back in Hebrews 10. Back in 10:36, we are told we must have endurance in order to inherit. You need endurance, you need perseverance, the author tells us that. You've got to keep going, it's not enough to start. He who stands firm to the end will be saved, and so we've got to continue. You must have endurance if you're going to inherit what has been promised. And so, I would say, in order to give us endurance, so that we may inherit what has been promised. He gives us this glorious Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11.
Go a step further back, we talked about, in Hebrews 10:34, about some people who joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, joyfully, because they themselves knew that they had a better and lasting possession. And how it wonderful it is to be freed from earthly concerns, freed from earthly materialism, freed from concern of what people think about you, just unleashed on the world because you know that you have a better possession and a lasting one. In order to help you know that, the author's given us Hebrews 11. He gives his people who lived for a city that is to come later, whose builder and maker is God, who didn't receive the things promised in this life but only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. These ones who admitted that they were aliens and strangers in the world, who lived their lives like that. He gives us Hebrews 11, so that we can be like that too.
Warning Against Apostasy
Finally, one step further back from that. Before that, there's a terrifying warning of apostasy. It's a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This is the warning that he's given us if we deliberately keep on sinning after we've received a knowledge of the truth. No sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. This is what the author has in mind in verse 39, when he says, "We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe to the salvation of our souls," so that we will not fall into the hands of the living God as a judge, consuming fire but rather as a loving Father and Savior welcomed after our race of faith. That's why he's given us Hebrews 11.
Okay. So as we look at this, we see that in Hebrews 11, it's mostly made up of testimonials of individuals who have lived, we sang this beautiful song from the Gettys, "by faith, by faith, by faith." It's going to be this refrain in Hebrews 11, it's so incredible. Just a march of faith by faith, Abel did this. By faith, Enoch did that. By faith, Noah acted in a certain way. By faith, Abraham, by faith, Sarah. By faith, these individuals lived their lives.
The Power of Examples and Heroes
And so we have examples. And so the author is banking on the power of example. We are to have role models in this life of faith, both dead ones, and living ones, how's that? We should have dead role models and living role models. Abel is dead and yet he still speaks, right? He's a dead role model. We need both dead role models and living role models. Examples. We already saw this in Hebrew 6. There in verse 11 and 12, the author said, "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." You are to be an imitator of some people. You are supposed to imitate them. And so we already have the idea of role modeling back there in Chapter 6, we're going to get it at the end. The last chapter in Hebrews 13:7 there, it talks about living role models. "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith." So it's vital that we have men and women who are living the life of faith in front of us, and praise God for them.
Seriously, if you have found someone in your life who has been an example to you, a mentor, a role model, you should go to that man, you should go to that woman and say, "I see God's grace in you, and it has greatly encouraged me in my faith, thank you." We need that. Conversely, you get to a certain point in your Christian life where that's expected of you, and that you are called on to so openly, so conspicuously live your life of faith that others may follow your example. So we can say like the Apostle Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ." Oh, we need that. I think the boldest statement on earth that you'll ever find is made by the Apostle Paul, I love this, in Philippians 4. Can you imagine even saying this to somebody, "Whatever you've learned, or received, or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you." Can you imagine even saying that to someone? Just imitate my doctrine, imitate my life and everything will go well with you, God will be with you. But here's the thing, don't we need that? Haven't you already received the benefit of that?
And so we have these role models. He who walks with the wise grows wise, dear friends, but a companion of fools suffers harm. And so God has given us some wise men and women, both dead and living, that we can walk with by faith, and we can learn from their example. That's what Hebrews 11 is all about. And so we're going to have examples, we're going to find out that these examples extended before the flood. They certainly, all of them, extended before the time of Christ. We're going to find a tremendous unity across the covenants, Old Covenant, New Covenant, to this one thing, the life of faith. It's always been the same, these individuals were justified by faith. We're going to walk through it together and learn.
II. Faith is the Assurance of Things Hoped for (vs. 1)
Alright. That's a overview of Hebrews 11. Let's zero in on this one verse, it's going to take all our time. Let's try to understand what the author's saying, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Now, this is a very difficult verse to translate. You can tell that by looking at the major English translations and how different they are from one another, many of them. Let's take the most famous translation, the King James Version. King James Version gives us this. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The ESV, which you had read earlier, the NAS, and the RSV gives us, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Those three all agree on the translation. The NIV gives us, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see."
Okay. The key words to understand this verse, come down to the ones that the KJV translates, substance and evidence. That's where the difficulty lies. That's where they don't agree. All the translations say, in effect, "Now faith is the blank of things hoped for and the blank of things not seen." They all say about that, but we want to know what it is in connection with those things. So right away, all the verses tell us that faith has something to do with the invisible world, things not seen. Faith has to do with invisible things. We walk by faith, not by sight. "Because you have seen Me," Jesus said to Thomas, "You believe. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet they believe." 1 Peter, "Though we have not seen Jesus, we love Him." It's about invisible things. Faith has to do with invisible things. But how do we understand these two Greek words that are difficult, apparently difficult to translate because their translations are so different one from another.
How Faith is the Assurance of Things Hoped For
Well, first of all, the first half of the verse says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for." Okay. So we know that faith has to do with things you hope for. What does that mean, things that you hope for? Well, I think you only hope for good things and you only hope for future things. Does that make sense? Second half's easy because the Bible says it straight out, in Romans 8:24, we are told, "Who hopes for what He already has." Right? You don't need to hope for what you already have. And so hope has to do with things you don't yet have. So we are hoping for things that aren't ours, yet, we're waiting on them, we haven't received them yet. Faith is for future things. And just by logic, by language, we know we only use the word hope for positive things, good things, right?
You might dread something, you might be in anguish about something or fear it, but we don't hope for things we don't want to happen. We just don't use that language. Now, the word hope is a bit slippery in terms of our popular culture. We frequently will pit hopes against expectations, right? Like this one expression, "Hoping for the best, expecting the worst." The plight of a Red Sox fan, okay? "Hoping for the best, expecting the worst." We are back there again after some good years, back to that. And what does it mean? It means that in the calm and everyday world, frequently, a hope is something you want but it's actually a pale reflection of the biblical thing. You actually think probably it won't happen if you are a pessimist anyway. Look, that's not what we're talking about here, that is not biblical hope.
What is Biblical Hope?
What biblical hope is, is an expectation based on a promise that God has given, that he will most certainly keep that promise for that good thing. It's completely based on the promises of God. I'm going to look back at 10:23, Hebrews 10: 23. It says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Do you see that? That's a key verse in understanding biblical hope. It's based on the promise. And even more than that, it's based on the character of the one who promised. Does that make sense? He who promised is faithful, or he who promise cannot lie. He who promised will keep this promise, and therefore, it is absolutely certain. It just hasn't happened yet. It's going to come. So that's what we're talking about, things hoped for. So what are those things hoped for? They're good things in the future.
In Amazing Grace, John Newton put it in this way in one of the less familiar stanzas. "The Lord has promised good to me. His word, my hope secures." That's perfect. He's made a promise of something good in the future and because it's in His Word, I get hope out of it, and it secures my hope. That's it. That's spot on. And so, because God's made you some promises of good things in the future, hope springs up, wells up inside the heart. That's what we're looking at. What future good things has he promised? Well, how many are our blessings? Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, all the good things that are coming. There's a long list. You just go through the book of Hebrews, one after the other, and you see all of those things that the author to Hebrews is telling you. Just focus on Hebrews, and go through it. I did this through 12 chapters of Hebrews one after the other, just seeing all the good things that God's promised us.
For example, in Hebrews 2:5, it speaks about the world that is to come, about which we are speaking. There's a world that's coming. It says in Hebrews 10, it talks about personal glory and bringing many sons to glory. We are being brought to glory, so we will be glorious in that beautiful world. We will be free from death. Hebrews 2:15, that Jesus frees those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Jesus has liberated us from death, and from fear of death.
We have a heavenly calling, a promise toward a heavenly calling, that He is going to say, in some way, "Come up here." He's going to invite us to heaven and we will come and we will be there with Him. We have an eternal Sabbath rest, where we will finally be done with all of our labors and toils. We'll be done at last. There remains, therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God because anyone who enters God's rest, also rests from his own works, just as God gets from His. We're going to lay it all down, friends, all the strife and conflict, and weariness and labor and toil. We will be done.
It's a good thing that's yet to come in the future. Eternal salvation, the resurrection of the body. It talks about that in Hebrews 6:2. The powers of the coming age, there's a powerful coming age coming. What a mysterious phrase that is, but how glorious to consider. Rewards for helping God's people, God is not unjust. He's not going to forget your labors in your work, as you help God's people. He's going to reward you. Good things yet to come. Guaranteed salvation right to the end.
Jesus is able to save to the utter most, He is able to save to the end, those who put their trust in Him. That's a future thing that you haven't received yet, right? Your final salvation. It's in the future, but you have hopes in that, don't you? It's going to happen. Future salvation. It's going to keep on coming. God is going to keep you saved until at last, you will see Him face-to-face. Transformed hearts resulting in a whole different way of thinking. We have foretaste of this, but someday, our minds will be totally conformed to Jesus. Our heart, totally conformed to Jesus. We will love perfectly what He loves, and hate what He hates. We're looking forward to that. It's a future. We're going to be conformed to Him, perfect in every way.
The full knowledge of God, God will be with us and He will be our God and we will be His people, Hebrews 8:10. And we will know Him intimately from the least of us to the greatest. All of our sins forgiven on Judgment Day, not guilty, not guilty on Judgment Day. Judgment Day hasn't come yet. It's in the future. Are you going to be acquitted on Judgment Day? If you're a Christian, the answer is a resounding "Absolutely, yes." You will be acquitted on Judgment Day. It's a good thing and you have your hopes in that, don't you? That you will not be condemned, but acquitted on that day.
And you will come into an eternal inheritance. How about the second coming of Christ? That Jesus, Hebrews 9:28, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. We're waiting for the second coming. Is Jesus coming back? Do we have hopes in that? I do. He promised, He's coming back. And so I have hopes in the second coming of Christ, and perfect holiness at that point. Perfection in every way, and the heavenly Jerusalem, the unshakable kingdom, it's coming. He talked about that in chapter 12. You come to Mount Zion to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. Thousands upon thousands of angels and joyful assembly. You've come to the church of the first born whose names are written in heaven, and you've come to God.
What is the "Substance"?
That's all in the future. It's all in the future. Seeing all of that, experiencing all that, we get foretaste now through the Spirit, through the Word, but we get the reality later. And our hope wells up. Okay. So those are the things hoped for. Faith is the hupostasis of that. Okay. Does that help you? It doesn't help me. That's a Greek word. It's the hupostasis of that, or the substance of it, to the KJV. You know what they did? They bailed. Hey, I mean, all respect to the KJV translation. You know what they did? They took the Latin literalistic translation of hupostasis, which is substantia, and they just put substance over, and I don't... When I think of substances, I think of substance abuse or something like that, or a foreign substance in a ball, baseball, like Vaseline, that makes it do weird things. It's illegal, it's spit ball. Substance. What does that mean? The substance of things hoped for. Well, the word hupostasis is really... That's what the commentators debate on. And you can either look at it in terms of a subjective interpretation or an objective.
Faith is either looked at here in this verse by what it does to me or what it is, in and of itself. Does that make sense? So what it does to me is it gives me assurance. And this is how it works. By faith, those words, those ethereal things, that we cannot touch or see or handle now by five senses, become as real to me as the five sense world I live in. Does that makes sense? And so, right now, you're used to living by your eyesight, most of you. And you're living by what you can see, and so your sight tells you that you are at church now. I hope that's what it's telling you. You're at 414 Cleveland Street. You're looking forward, looking at me. My right arm is waving. Do you see it? Okay. And you have a sense of certainty about that. There's no doubt about that, okay?
The light is flowing into your eyes, and Jesus said, if your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. So by your eyesight, reality is flooding into your soul. Right? And so your eyes are good, and you're able to be filled with the light of this world and see the reality of it. I believe faith is the eyesight of the soul, by which, invisible spiritual things floods as vigorously into your soul as light into your mind, and tells you it is all true. It's real. It's as real as anything you can see with your eyes. And you just you have no doubt about it. Therefore, they translated assurance. You see, it brings about an assurance, a sense of the absolute certainty of invisible things, of things that you're hoping for. Does that makes sense?
Now, the objective translation, I have a hard time understanding, by which faith is the actual substance of it. It's kind of like faith is the pillar that stands under the thing hoped for, like a foundation of a building, something real and tangible, and faith is that. But the more I talk, after a while, it starts to float away from me and I end up with assurance anyway. And so, I think that's the best way to understand hupostasis, that basically, because of faith, by faith, the promises of God become substantially real to us. Does that makes sense? That's the best I can do with that.
The Beauty of Faith
And so, faith has a sweet attractive beautiful winsome positive side. It causes you to be constantly filled with hope, that your best things are yet to come, even when you get a dreaded cancer diagnosis, and you're told you have two to four months to live. Even when something like that can happen, still, you're filled with hope, and you can go through that right to the end and die filled with hope because of faith. And it's beautiful, it's beautiful. It's a beautiful way to live, and you need it. And so do I. And without it, we cannot serve Christ well in this world. You'll be a grim, negative, depressed, beaten down person without faith. Miserable, frankly.
But, by faith, instead, you are constantly saying, "God's promises are real. God is on His throne. God, who cannot lie, made those promises to me. God's purposes cannot be thwarted. We are going to a glorious world, infinitely better than anything I can see here. And nothing I go through in this world even remotely compares with the glory that will be revealed at that time. Praise God, thank you, thank you, thank you. And you just live your life like that. And you're going to be the best witness you could be for Jesus, if you live your life like that. People are going to ask to give you a reason for what the hope that's in you. I've just, I've never seen anyone live so filled with hope.
Why are you like this? Why are you able to just radiate hope all the time? It's by faith. So, faith has a sweet attractive, positive side.
III. Faith is the Conviction of Things Not Seen (vs. 1)
I would contend from the second half of the verse, it also has a maybe hard, difficult, painful side as well. This is what I'm arguing that the second half of the verse means. Not only is faith the assurance of things hoped for, but it's also the conviction of things not seen. Now, here we get to the second difficult word. What do we mean by conviction? The word is a elegkos. It's only used here in the entire Bible. And whenever you have a word that's only used one time in the Bible, you have problems. You're going to have difficulties.
Now, there are a couple of things that you can do. You can go to how the word is used, how scholars tell us the word was used back then in other writings that aren't the Bible. And you can go to, are there any, let's say, verbal parallels. This is a noun here. Are there any verbs that are related to it etymologically? And you do that. Both of those things tell me the same thing. Alright? There is a Greek lexicon. I'm not going to burden you with what it is, but basically, it goes through Herodotus, Thucydides, etcetera. And what that Greek lexicon tells us is that elegkos means a cross-examining or a testing for the purpose of disproof or refutation, as in a court room or a trial of law, or you could use it the evidence by which a prisoner is convicted of the crime. Now, this is where I think the KJV translators got their evidence idea. It's evidence laid out in front of a judge or jury so that the accused can be convicted of what they did and sentenced. But what ended up happening is, just in the flow of English translations, it ended up being a lot like the NIV. It's, His faith is being sure of what you'll hope for and certain of what you do not see. And it ends up saying the same thing twice. I don't think that's what elegkos means.
Now, let's go over to the verbal uses. This word actually is used 18 times in the New Testament, so it's not one or two times. We actually have a lot of them and every single time it's used, it's used in the same way, reproof or rebuke for sin, every time. Not once or twice, not 15 out of 18, every single time. Let me give you some examples. If your brother sins against you, just between the two of you, go re-prove him for his sin. What are you doing? What's happening in that encounter? You are laying out what happened, just probably verbally, but you're saying, "This is what happened, that... "
And then, your goal in the evidence is to bring your brother to what? Repentance. The goal is repentance, it's not punishment, it's not beating somebody. Your goal here is conviction for the purpose of repentance. Does that make sense? And that's what this is. Okay. Other examples of the word. It's used many, many times. Speaking of John the Baptist, he reproved Herod for marrying his brother Philip's wife. Same Greek word. He said it's wrong. What you did was wrong, it's against the law. Or in John 3:20. "Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." Okay, there it is. It's an exposure of evil. And people don't want that to happen so they shrink back from the light. Or Jesus Himself, standing in front of His enemies, John 8:46, saying, "Which of you can reprieve or prove me guilty of sin?" What a bold statement. He's saying there is no evidence that I have ever sinned, ever. Imagine saying that your enemies. Or John 16:8, very familiarly. "When the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment to come." It's the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. What does he do? He comes and shows you your fault.
Just in the very next chapter, in Hebrews 12. You can look there if you want, just flip over. In Hebrews 12, in Verse 5, talking about us as sinning children of God. When we sin, it says you've forgotten that word of encouragement and addresses you as sons. "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline and do not lose heart when he... " And here's the same Greek word, "rebukes you." Alright, so that's what the word, I think, means. Faith is the rebuke of things not seen, or the conviction, I guess is a good translation.
Basically, in effect, you know what faith does? Faith does what Nathan, the prophet did, when he stood in front of David, who was in denial about what he did with Bathsheba, and tells him a story. David's anger is kindled. You know the story, you know the whole thing. And then, he says, "The man who this deserves to die." And the Nathan points the finger and says, "You are the man." That's what faith does. Faith says you are not excused from this. Even day-by-day, moment by moment, the Holy Spirit comes and says, you just slandered somebody. You just shaded the truth. You just lusted after someone. You have sinned. Faith comes and gets in our business, gets in our face, points the finger and says, "You are the man. You have sinned."
You know what faith does? Faith brings us to that point that Isaiah was when he saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. And He heard that the seraphim crying out, Holy holy holy is the Lord Almighty, and He said, "Woe is me, I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." When I read that by faith, I'm convicted that I'm a sinner. See, I'm a sinner. And you say, "Wait a minute, we're justified. We're forgiven. Right?" That's true, it's true. Does that mean you're done being convicted? Are you done with that now? No. You know why? Because you still have Romans 7:17, a hideous thing, sin living in me. It's still there. It's still dangerous, you're in danger while you live. Someday you won't be in danger anymore. You won't need faith anymore. You will not need to be convicted in heaven. Amen, hallelujah. But while you live, you are in danger, and you must have this convicting work go on constantly. It's necessary. It's got to happen. You've got to have the Holy Spirit working in you constantly, a way of making you aware of your sins.
And so therefore, as I put Hebrews 11:1 together, I see the sweet, attractive, beautiful, positive side, assurance of things hoped for, plus the harder, more difficult, not favorite topic, other side of constantly convicted for sin, together as what's needed to get me through this world into heaven. Does that makes sense? I need both of them together to get me fruitfully, productively, in a way that glorifies God through, until I don't need faith anymore.
Need them both. Now, what is the thing not seen? "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Well, in order to understand that, I would go up a couple verses to Hebrews 11:7. So look at Hebrews 11:7, and there you have this interesting expression. "By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear, built an ark to save his family." So, that's Noah. We'll preach about that in due time, but you're just grabbing the phrase, "things not yet seen." You see, it's the same idea. Not the exact same Greek word, but the same concept.
Okay. What was Noah's thing not seen? Well, why did Noah build the ark? The flood's coming. He was warned by the Word of God that a flood was coming. He, in holy fear, took that warning seriously, and said, "If I don't build this ark, I am a rebel no different than any of these other sinners and I will deserve to perish with them. I must build the ark." By faith, he built the ark. Does that make sense? And so there is something coming, something bigger than a flood. Do you understand what's coming? It's called Judgment Day. And that could be a thing not seen, an invisible day that's coming, all the more as you see the day approaching, right? All the more as you see the day approaching. The day is coming. What's coming?
A day in which we will give God an account for every careless word we have spoken, a day is coming, in which, all of the nations are going to be gathered before Jesus and He's going to separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. A day is coming in which we are going to have to give to Jesus an account for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. Greatly underestimated verse in the Christian life. And I, as the apostle Paul put it on his trial in Acts 24, before Felix, he said, "I have the same hope in God as these men [the prophets], that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I always strive to keep my conscience clear before God and man." He lived in holy fear.
Is that appropriate for someone who believed in justification by faith alone, apart from works of the law? Do you think Paul believed in justification by faith alone, apart from works of what? He wrote Romans. He believed in it. But he strove always to keep his conscience clear before God and man. Why? Because a thing not seen is coming, Judgment Day. Tell him hold on, I'm almost done.
So what things not seen could there be? Anything that will serve to convict you of sin? It could be past things not seen. I am convicted by reading the account of David and Bathsheba. I'm convicted by it, because I know I have lust in my heart. And I don't want that lust to destroy my world the way it somewhat destroyed David's. I don't want that, so I fear, and I take steps to be holy.
I read about the warnings to the church, the Corinthian church, based on what happened in Israel, how their bodies are scattered in the desert. I take those warnings seriously. Anything that does it, in the past, past history, history of Israel's sins, David, Bathsheba, or something positive. Let's look at Daniel. Look at the way he lived, the way he was courageous, the way he stood by faith, three times a day, he prayed. Good solid walk with Jesus. I'm convicted by that if I'm not measuring up. Makes me want to do better. So it's not just negative, it's positive. I just want to be like Daniel. Does that make sense? So anything in the past.
How about present or the things not seen in the present that can convict you of sin? Well, we're going to get to that great cloud of witnesses. People get weirded out by that, like we're being watched all the time? People watching us? Yes. I have a little bit different take on the cloud of witnesses. We'll talk about that, but yes, you're being observed. The angels are watching you. They're living to serve you. They're there, but you know none of them matter anywhere near as much as the one who has holy eyes, eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze. Jesus is watching you right now, all the time. And you live your life before one who is unseen, Almighty God, the Holy One is watching you.
And that convicts you, doesn't it? It gets you serious about sin. It gets you serious, it's a present, thing present. So, things passed. It could be a thing not seen. Things present could be a thing not seen. Things future, like Judgment Day, thing not seen, but all of those things can produce or work in conviction of sin. And so, therefore, you as a godly man or woman, should expect to be regularly, consistently convicted of sin. You should expect it.
Now, if you are the one that God's going to use to bring that, be sure you go like Jesus said, gently like you're taking something out of someone's eye. And be sure you take the plank out of your first. You go gently. We're told in Galatians 6:1 that if you go to be a convicting agent, be sure you go gently, and be sure you go humbly, because you also have sin and you might get drawn up in it too. So that needs to happen, but it needs to happen very, very gently. In terms of the titration, mix 100 to one encouragement to that kind of conviction. That's about what I think we need, because we know we're rife with sin, and we just need that. It's not 50-50 or 70-30 friends. If you have to go take something out of someone's eye, do it, but do it gently.
But all I'm saying is on the other side, how do you receive it? Can you humble yourself? Can you say, "I'm sorry." Can you look for the words in the words of what the person's saying, and say, "Yeah, I did that wrong. I can do better. I want to do better. Please forgive me." Are you ready to be convicted? Alright. So, faith is both a sweet positive river of encouragement, a hope of all of those good things that God's going to give you, plus a consistent conviction of reality of how it's really going for you in your sanctification life, the sin that you're struggling with. Those two, together, will bring you to heaven. So what should you do? Feed your faith. Does that make sense? Feed it.
Read the Word of God, listen to good preaching, be around godly people who will speak God's word into your heart and your life. Pray this for each other. Pray for people's faith. I think we need to go through the phonebook, I hope you're still praying through the phonebook, but go through those names and just pray faith, pray faith, pray faith for people. "God, I pray that they would have the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen." I pray this for so and so, I pray this for so and so, I pray this for so and so. Just run through the whole book over the next month, and pray faith for people, that God would be building faith. Do that. And when you are... We tend to have a...
We tend to lean too much. Don't want to be optimistic or pessimistic here. Have a balance in these areas. Just know that you need both. You may have a tendency one direction or the other, but just need both. And know that Faith is temporary. Isn't that incredible? It's temporary. There'll come a day you don't need it anymore, when at last, you see Him face-to-face. Yearn for that day. Close with me in prayer.