A chapter that impresses me. Talks about individuals who consistently lived their lives in devotion to God’s will and ways.Many were OT saints who had longed for the day when God’s will would ultimately come to fruition in eternity.Hebrews 11:13-16 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Faith’s Hall of Fame . Gallery of the Faithful.Early Christian writers called this the Galaxy of the Faithful. People who show what it means to live by faith.The pictures of faithful ones in this gallery show us something crucial about faith – faith is never static; it is always doing something.Faith that saves is faith that obeys. If faith does not obey, it is not biblical faith.Could spend months talking about the vignettes of faith from the lives of the characters here. Maybe we will in the future.
Today I want to tell you about a man I admire. Name is not recorded in Hebrews 11, but I’m not convinced that gallery has closed. Like the sports halls of fame, people keep being inducted. Only God knows who belongs in this gallery, but the man I want to talk about today certainly does. Next to Jesus, he is the most influential man in the history of the early church – more so than even any of Jesus’ original disciples – because he wrote just about half of our New Testament.He may not be my physical father, but he is a spiritual father to every godly man – and woman.
Comes from South Central Turkey - Tarsus. Saul, later known as Paul.
A brief biography. Enjoyed education. Not like many who run fromeducation - don’t want to learn anything else.Paul thirsted for knowledge. Wanted to learn more about God and God’s will.Family in Tarsus, but raised in Jerusalem. Wealthy family able to support him in Jerusalem where he was trained by the preeminent Rabbi of his Day – Gamaliel – known as RabbanGamaliel the Elder. He was the grandson of none other than Hillel. According to the Mishnah, “Since RabbanGamaliel, the Elder died, there has been no more reverence for the law, and purity and piety died out at the same time.” (m. Sotah 15:18).ζηλωτής = zealot for God – not a fan, as we use the term, but a fanatic.
Encounter Saul – but not in a favorable light. Stoning of Stephen – first Christian martyr.Stephen had been arrested and accused of “speaking against this holy place (temple) and against the law.” Similar to the charges brought against Christ (see Mt 26: 61). Stephen may have referred to Jesus’ words as recorded in Jn 2:19, and the words may have been purposely misinterpreted, as at the trial of Jesus.Luke gives more space to Stephen’s speech than to any other, so he considered it particularly important. Not a personal defense with the hope of conciliating Stephen’s accusers, but a history of Israel’s failures. It ends with a resounding denunciation of Stephen’s accusers. Stephen indicts Israel’s leaders for rejecting God’s prophets and now rejecting Jesus (v. 52)Saul egging on the crowd. Never forgot this incident. In fact, he led in persecuting others like Stephen. But in the back of his mind he had to be mulling over Stephen’s indictment of the Jewish history of failing God.
34 AD. Paul about 24 years old. Very zealous. Born about 10 AD. When I was 24 - preaching in Dimmitt - thought I knew a lot.Saul knew a lot – was going to set the world on fire for his God. Encounter on road to Damascus. 72 hours in Damascus waiting. What was going through his mind? Stephen’s indictment of Judaism? Other Christians, he had forced to blaspheme God so he could execute them?Acts 26:11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.Reluctant Ananias: Acts 22:14-16 Then he said: The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
Beheaded. Watch news casts today. Beheadings in Middle East not easy to watch. Gruesome. Hard to watch, even when the camera cuts away at the last moment.Served Jesus for 33 years – same as Jesus’ length of life.Reasons I can relate to, admire, want to be like Paul.Many would say “I want to be like Paul”. I’m not sure they know what they’re saying! But Paul would say – only to the extent that I spend my life being like Jesus.1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Imagine what Paul gave up to become a disciple. What he endured, what he surrendered.On the fast-track to being one of the most influential Jewish Rabbis the world would ever know. Hillel groomed Gamaliel. Gamaliel was grooming Saul.He was headed for fame, reknown. Good standing with religious leaders, fame.Willing to change to embrace a completely different lifestyle, all for the sake of Jesus.Saul became Paul. The old person wasn’t even there any more. New creation.When you preach week after week and see people’s obstinancy who refuse to change. Frustrating.Would you give it all up? When he realized what God wanted him to be, preach, teach, he changed.Gave up his family, friends, future.
Change is a big sacrifice. What if you realized you’d been taught wrong?What if you were Muslim? Jewish? Change may cost you your family, marriage, job, life?I was raised in the Churches of Christ. My father and uncles and grandparents were all raised in the church. It would be easy to be loyal to the church, because that is what I’ve known. But what if I became convinced that I could not remain faithful to the Lord and continue to maintain my relationship to the church? Would I have the courage to step away from tradition and embrace the truth?That is what Saul did. Turned his back on his family, his teacher, his whole belief system, when he became convinced that he was wrong.
“Rubbish” is “manure”Paul willing to change even if it costs him everything. How often do you and I spend our lives pursuing rubbish?I know God wants me to … but I’ve got things to do … education, fun, wealth,Like rich man building barns – Tonight you’re going to die.Luke 12:18-21 Then he said, This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And Ill say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. 20 But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? 21 This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.
We tend to preach tradition rather than truthChurch of Christ, rather than the Christ of the Church.Not hyphenated Christianity – just stick with Jesus.In my preaching, I hope to bring you into relationship with him, not to religion about him.On the final day, Jesus is going to say “Who are you people?”Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? 23 Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!They knew religion, but had no relationship.I don’t want to preach a church, but a savior who will add you to his church.
He talked about other things, but the central aspect of his message was Jesus – not what this group or another believes and practices.Here’s what he said about little splinter groups who aligned behind their favorite teachers and teachings;1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?1 Corinthians 3:5-9 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are Gods fellow workers; you are Gods field, Gods building.
His theological focus was grace/faith, not law/works.If you think you’re saved by what you do, you’re still preaching law. You can’t do enough, can’t be good enoughRomans 5:6-11 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Gods wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were Gods enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Grace is not God taking up the slack after you’ve done your best. Grace is you are lost and God saves you.
If I can save myself – do enough good that God is obligated to save me – then I have bragging rights. Not so.
A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity.Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor ofThe Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than twenty books and serves as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University.Despite the compelling historical evidence, many people grapple with serious concerns about faith in God. “If God is love, then what about all the suffering in our world?” “If Jesus is the door to heaven, then what about the millions who have never heard of him?” In The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel turns his tenacious investigative skills to the most persistent emotional objections to belief.In this segment, he talks about God’s grace – which is at the heart of Christianity – and which sets it apart from all the world’s religions.
Revelation 2:10 Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.Not “as long as you live”, but “even though it costs you your life”
That “unto death” has arrived for him.He could look back on 33 years and say “I’ve held the course.”
Crossroads.Every day the enemy asks us to divert from the path.^ Choose Jesus – Grace and Life^ Choose world – sadness & misery here & hereafter^ Jesus covers us in his blood. Washed in the blood.
Somebody wants to rescue you. Wants to pull you out of despair. Hand wants to lift you out of this.Love lifted me.Reflects the reality of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
I am a Jew, born in Tarsus
of Cilicia, but brought up in
this city. Under Gamaliel I
was thoroughly trained in
the law of our fathers and
was just as zealous for
God as any of you are
They dragged Stephen
out of the city and began
to stone him.
Meanwhile, the witnesses
laid their clothes at the
feet of a young man
Served faithfully for 33 years.
Beheaded in 67 A.D. by Nero
at the age of only 57
But whatever was to my profit I
now consider loss for the sake
of Christ. What is more, I
consider everything a loss
compared to the surpassing
greatness of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whose
sake I have lost all things.
I consider them rubbish, that I
may gain Christ and be found
in him, not having a
righteousness of my own that
comes from the law, but that
which is through faith in
that comes from God and is
I want to know Christ and the
power of his resurrection and
the fellowship of sharing in his
sufferings, becoming like him
in his death, and so,
somehow, to attain to the
resurrection from the dead.