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Convinced: Enough to Walk

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)

You can read the whole biography of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. It’s basically this: He walked with God for 300 years and then “God took him away.” Today’s verse makes sure we know that’s not just polite funeral talk. God was so pleased with Enoch that he let the man skip death.

convinced_350Why? Enoch walked with God. It says so twice in his bio there in Genesis.

That phrase has become so cliché in modern Christian circles that it has lost almost all of its meaning. Here’s how it makes sense to me:

I walk with God when I believe in his presence with me enough to actively include him in what is happening with me right now, in this moment. I think the strength of our faith can be measured in how many of those moments we can string together. Perfect faith would be a life in which those moments are never interrupted by faithless ones.

Think: What percentage of your waking hours would you say include an awareness that God is with you and that you are his?

Pray: Ask God to help you to walk with him more and more as you grow in your ability to trust him.

Do: Notice how this idea of endurance in “walking with God” fits into what James wrote in James 1:2-4. Wonder if Enoch faced a lot of trials that helped him trust God with so much endurance.

Convinced: Enough to Sacrifice

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4)

So what does faith look like in the real world? That’s the question Hebrews 11 answers by pointing to real-world people who made choices based on faith in what they could not see.

convinced_350I’m not sure Abel is the most encouraging example to kick things off with. After all, he died for his act of faith, killed by his jealous and apparently faithless brother. But we see three big things about faith choices from his story.

1) Faithful sacrifice doesn’t always lead to a “good” outcome on this side of heaven. In fact, it might get you killed.

2) God honors those who trust him with their actions. What is it worth to be “lifted up” by God?

3) Our acts of faithfulness may outlive us. Abel’s example is still echoing off the walls of history and contributing to the glory of God long after he and his brother and everyone he knew at the time have died. What else can you do that will matter (in a good way) a hundred, a thousand, or a million years from now?

Think: Has acting on your faith in the invisible God ever cost you anything? Has it ever gained you anything? How can you know?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be willing to act based on your faith in him even if it may cost you something valuable.

Do: Make a quick list of three choices you made this week because you believe God.

Convinced: From What He Has Made

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)

However you think about the creation/evolution debate in your own head and heart, the final question always comes down to faith: Do you believe the universe was formed by God’s command out of invisible stuff? Are you convinced he made it?

convinced_350I can respect honest disbelief in the creator God, but there is no way to have the God of the Bible if he is not also the God who made the universe. The stakes are high for those who refuse to see him in what he has made. Romans 1:20 says they are “without excuse.”

God means to be recognized—by faith—through the “plain” evidence (v. 19) of a world so teeming with life and color and scale and light that it must have required His “eternal power and divine nature” to exist at all. (v. 20)

The debates will rage on, but everyone will understand by faith—or not—for themselves eventually. Are you convinced?

Think: Do you think it makes any logical sense to believe in Jesus as the Son of God who died for your sin without also believing that God created the universe? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God for using his eternal power and divine nature to form the universe at his command out of what is not seen.

Do: Read Romans 1:18-23 – and then continue reading verses 24-32 to see what follows for a society that rejects God as creator.

Convinced: Faith Defined

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

I believe all kinds of things I could never hope to prove to you absolutely and scientifically. Honestly, I could not prove them all to myself. Still, somehow, I am convinced. I’m not rolling the dice. I’m not making an educated guess. I’m not wishing on star just because I have to believe in something.

convinced_350I’m certain that God exists, that he is personal and active and emotional. I am sure, in fact, that he hates sin, that he forgives sinners who trust in Jesus, and that he loves me as a son.

Is my faith in him courageous and wise or foolish and tragic? That depends on whether he is as the Bible describes him. I’ve staked my life on the belief that he is. Maybe you have, too.

Now what? Come back this week to think about what the convinced should do about it.

Think: Can you truthfully describe yourself as convinced in the reality of the God of the Bible? If so, what would you tell someone who asked you “why”?

Pray: If you’re a Christian, thank God for the faith to be sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.

Do: Check out some other definitions of faith by typing “define:faith” into your Google.

Check Yourself: Ambitious?

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

This isn’t the way I usually think of ambition. If I’m feeling ambitious to live for God, at all, I want to do BIG things: Witness to thousands. Build an orphanage with my bare hands. Memorize the New Testament in the original Greek.

check_350But Paul wants us to think of a long-term strategy to help unbelievers to notice Christ in the way we live every day – not just in the BIG things we do to “change the world.”

Lead a well-rested life (not a silent one). Pay more attention to how you’re living than how everyone else is living. Get a job and do good work so you can be a giver and not a taker.

Doing the opposite may lead people to think following Jesus leaves us exhausted, judgmental, lazy, foolish, and broke.

Think: What’s your plan for your life? Will it help you to lead a restful, wise, and working life that will be respectable to those who don’t know Jesus?

Pray: Ask God to help you to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands in a way that earns him the respect of outsiders.

Do: Make a quick list of 3-4 Christians you respect. Notice how these qualities do (or don’t) fit into their lives.

Check Yourself: Loving Your Siblings?

“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10)

Enough about sex; let’s talk about love. On second thought, let’s not, Paul said to these mostly newish Christians. You don’t need it. You’re already awesome at it because God already showed you how to do give yourself away to your brothers and sisters in Christ.

check_350Sexual purity is not the most important thing. Not by far. Paul repeatedly wrote to Christians around the world that the greatest virtue is love – the kind of love God showed when he sent his Son to die for his enemies. (Us.) Sexual purity matters because it’s one way we obey God. Love is essential because it’s how we imitate Him.

I’m sad to say I’ve known churches exactly the opposite of these Thessalonians – groups of Christians excellent at not having sex outside of marriage but not so great at loving each other (or even liking each other much, really).

Think: Which do you think is valued more in your church – sexual purity or Christlike love for other Christians? How are the two related?

Pray: Ask God to keep teaching you how to love as he does and to help you do so more and more.

Do: Why not read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 again?

Check Yourself: Hearing the Call?

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

“Christians are so hung up on sex. They need to let it go, already. What I do behind closed doors is my business and nobody else’s.”

check_350You get the idea that Paul had heard that one before. He answers it in two ways here. For one, God calls “us,” believers in Jesus, to avoid sexual impurity and live a holy life. If you’re not a Christian, why worry about how God tells Christians to live? Sexual purity without faith in Jesus won’t save anyone.

Second, God is the one doing the calling, not Paul and not the church. Honestly, most Christians I know would rather not talk about sex, at all, and won’t ask if you don’t tell. If anything, we tend to be a little timid about the whole topic, especially in person – often because we’re still struggling to trust God enough to live holy lives every day ourselves.

Rejecting sexual purity is to reject God’s instructions, Paul writes, not those of some judgmental-sounding pastor or TV talking head. If you’re a Christian, that knocking sound you’re hearing is coming from inside the house – and the Holy Spirit is the only one who can give you the power to obey God in this area of life.

Think: When you feel like getting involved in sexual immorality, does it feel like rebellion against God? Should it? What are the consequences for a believer who rebels against God’s teaching?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be sexually pure and to answer his call to live a holy life every day.

Do: Listen this week for examples of people who mock Christians or God or the church for what we believe about sexual purity.