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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Derek Prince » Derek Prince - The Result of Trusting in Our Own Efforts

Derek Prince - The Result of Trusting in Our Own Efforts

Derek Prince - The Result of Trusting in Our Own Efforts
TOPICS: Hebrews Bible Study, Self-Righteousness

In our previous session of these studies in Hebrews I had just got into the beginning of Hebrews 11. I had actually read the first six verses but only commented fully on the first two verses. Now we're going to go on at verse 3 which is a tremendously important verse. I pointed out in my previous study that chapter 10 ends with the statement that "we are not of those who draw back, but those who continue to believe to the saving of our souls". The emphasis there is on the essential nature of faith in the Christian life. Because of that ending in chapter 10, chapter 11 logically begins by expounding on the nature of faith and then illustrating faith by many examples taken from the Old Testament.

As I pointed out previously, but it's worth saying again, the first verse of Hebrews defines faith. It's one of the few biblical concepts that is actually defined in the Bible. We could look at it again to refresh our memories and move on from there. Faith is the substance of things that are hoped for, a sure conviction [or a proof] of things that are not seen. That tells us certain important facts about faith. First of all, faith is so real that it's a substance. It's not something you imagine, it's not something illusory, it's not hard to relate to; but it's a substance, a spiritual substance. It's the underlying basis of things that we hope for. Only those hopes which are built on genuine faith are valid. Other hopes are really just wishful thinking. They may come true but there's no guarantee. I point out these two principles and I should add that the letter P capitalized is short for principle. Also, the letter E is short for example.

In this chapter we'll be looking at a great many different examples and principles which they illustrate. The first two principles that we see are in relationship to verse 1. Faith is present, hope is future. We have to make that distinction otherwise we become confused. Without faith hope has no solid basis. The second principle is that faith relates to the unseen. It's a sure conviction concerning things that are not seen. When we see, we don't need to believe. But in God's order, believing comes first and seeing follows. When Martha stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and Jesus was about to raise him from the tomb He said to Martha, "Did I not say unto thee that if thou would believe thou should see the glory of God"?

Notice, believing comes first; it leads to seeing. Many people with carnal minds say, "I'll believe when I see". But then, you don't need to believe because you see. Believing precedes seeing. Believing relates us to the unseen. It's always difficult for the human mind to relate to the unseen. Time and time again throughout the Scriptures, we find that people couldn't hold on in the Spirit to the unseen so they came back to the material and the visible. In so doing, they lost out spiritually. Verse 2, I'll simply read my comment and move on. "Faith was the key to the victories of the Old Testament saints". The same applies to God's successful servants in all ages. Faith is the key to victory and to successful service, no matter what the type of service may be. We are called to many, many different types of service but the same underlying principle applies to all of them, faith is the key to success.

Now we come to verse 3. By faith we understand that the ages were fitted together by a spoken word of God, so that that which is seen did not come into being out of things which appear. That's a pretty literal translation. Notice again the emphasis on "that which is not seen". By faith we understand that the ages were fitted together by a spoken word of God. The word for word there is the one that's so popular today in Charismatic circles, rhema. Not logos. And rhema means primarily, not always, a spoken word. When God spoke, the universe came into being. I pointed out also, but I'll say it again, that where it says the world the Greek says literally "the ages". The word is used primarily of time, secondarily of space.

One of the very interesting features about this is that the Bible, and specifically this passage, in a sense, anticipates the modern Theory of Relativity of which the essence is you cannot specify space without time or time without space. They use the phrase the "space/time continuum". Really, the writers of the Bible were there long before modern physicists. Even before Albert Einstein! As a matter of fact, it's worth noting that when God sanctified something, the first thing He sanctified was not a place but a time. He sanctified the seventh day. We tend to think in terms of places being sanctified but the first thing sanctified in our earthly existence was a time, the seventh day.

I read a work by a Jewish rabbi who is a very scholarly writer in which he spoke about a cathedral built of time, not of space. We won't go into that, but there's so many interesting possibilities that come out of that statement. The statement that the ages, or the world, or the universe was brought into being by God's spoken word agrees with various passages elsewhere. We'll look just at one which is not referred to in your outline. It's Psalm 33:6 and 9. Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. And again in the same context, verse 9. For He [God] spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. So the ultimate reality behind all reality is the spoken word of God. Many of you know that I was at one time a professional philosopher.

One of the great questions in fact, the initial question of European philosophy going back in Greece to about 6 BC was "What is the ultimate reality"? The first theories were somewhat naive like "It's water," "It's fire," "It's earth" and so on. One philosopher said, "The thing that out of which everything is made is water". Another said fire and another said earth. But they were groping, for what is behind everything. The philosophic phrase for that is "What is the first cause"? Well, the Bible answers that question very clearly. The first cause of everything is the spoken word of God. God spoke the universe into being. So, behind the visible is the invisible.

Again, this is in remarkable agreement, to a certain extent, with modern physics. If you were to ask a physicist to explain the pulpit that I'm speaking from he would speak in terms of atoms and protons and electrons and other things. All of which are invisible. No human eye has ever seen them; no human eye ever will see them. If you would ask him to make a statement, it would be in the form of some kind of equation. That's very, very close to the biblical revelation that behind everything in the physical universe is a word of God. That's the explanation. When we believe that, it lifts us onto a totally different level of faith because we're dealing with a God who can speak things into being, or can speak things out of being. We can look at the material universe and say, "How could certain conditions be changed? How could a broken arm be changed"? The answer is, "By the spoken word of God".

When we face some mountain of a situation that seems impossible and blocks the will of God in our lives, how can it be changed? The answer is by a spoken word of God. Furthermore, Jesus indicates that God might allow you or me to speak that word with the faith of God, and it would be just as effective as if God spoke it Himself. So you see how important it is to understand what's behind everything. We ought to be infinitely grateful to God that we have received this revelation in the Bible because millions of people have groped through philosophy, through science, through religion to find the answer and never found it. We're going on now to verse 4. Now we come to the first of a whole series of examples given more or less in chronological order from the Old Testament, beginning with the book of Genesis.

This is my translation. By faith Abel offered to God a superior sacrifice to that of Cain, through which he was attested that he was righteous, God Himself bearing witness to his gifts [or to his offerings], and through it [through faith] though he died, he still speaks. That refers, of course, to the incident at the beginning of Genesis 4. I'm not going to turn to all these Old Testament passages because it would take too long. Most of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the story of the first sacrifice man ever offered in human history. There were two brothers, Cain the elder brother and Abel the younger. By revelation, I take it, they knew that to approach God they needed a sacrifice or a gift.

You see, nobody is ever to approach God empty handed. The elder brother Cain, who was a farmer, brought the fruit of the earth. The younger brother Abel, and I believe by revelation... Brought the best of his flocks and slaughtered them or slaughtered a sacrifice. We have there the beginnings of all religion throughout human history. Personally, I believe there are only two kinds of religion that anybody can ever have. One is the religion of Abel, the other is the religion of Cain. Abel offered a sacrifice which included the shedding of blood, speaking of a life laid down as a propitiation for sin. God apparently bore supernatural testimony to his sacrifice. We're not told how. Some Bible commentators believe that the fire of the Lord descended on the altar and consumed the sacrifice. Anyhow, there was some manifest response from God to Abel's sacrifice which indicated that He had accepted it. It was acceptable in His sight. For Cain's sacrifice there was no such response from God because Cain offered merely the fruit of his own labor from the earth.

In the previous chapter of Genesis the Lord had already cursed the earth and so what Cain was offering was something that was under the curse of God. It was not accepted. Basically, Bible commentators teach Cain represents man's own efforts and good works, but it's efforts and good works that are under a divine curse. Abel represents by faith the recognition of the need for a propitiatory sacrifice with shed blood indicating a life laid down. Thus, Abel's sacrifice recognized the fact of sin and the need for its propitiation. The consequences are extremely interesting and rather frightening. Abel's religion produced a martyr, he died for it. Cain's religion produced a murderer, he killed his brother. I venture to suggest to you that this is a principle that goes all through human history. The religion of works ultimately produces murderers. The religion of faith and revelation produces martyrs, or witnesses.

If you analyze God's problems in dealing with the human race all through the Old Testament and on into the New, His biggest problems have always been with religious people. Right through history, religion without the grace of God produces murderers. They murdered God's witnesses in the Old Testament and they murdered God's Son in the New Testament. And also, perhaps all of the apostles. That's no accident. You see, when man trusts in his own efforts he's trusting in his own carnal, fallen, rebellious nature. Even though his motives ostensibly are maybe very good. But that nature is corrupt and when we give it reign by trusting in it, it manifests what it really is. It's a rebel and it's a murderer. I think this is important because I think the same tends to happen among many professing Christians. I don't want to be negative, but seldom is anybody more unkind to another person than Christians are to one another.

In the history of the church they have freely murdered one another with the best motives and in the name of the Lord and of religion. I'm not attacking such people, I'm simply pointing out that once we descend from the realm of faith revelation and obedience to their revelation to the realm of human effort, we've let loose a murderer. Some murder with the tongue, some murder with the stake, some murder with the sword of the civil authority. But, one way or another the end result of manmade religion is a disaster. There's a very interesting statement in Revelation 18:24. If you want to turn there, speaking about mystery Babylon, this end-time religious system which is identified with witchcraft. It says of this city which is this religious system: "In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth".

Isn't that an amazing statement? Both right at the beginning of the Bible and right at the end it traces murder to religion. I've been long enough in this thing to have some experience. When I see the behavior of some religious people, I say to myself at times, "God, keep me from religion". Actually, most people think religion is very respectable. And indeed, it can be. But the Bible has very little to say about religion. In fact, as far as I know, you have to get as far as the epistle of James before it's mentioned for the first time. The Bible has a tremendous amount to say about salvation. Religion almost comes in as an afterthought. The Bible also defines religion and it says this: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless, and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world".

Again, that's a very different definition of religion from that current in most Christian churches where visiting the fatherless and the widows is very low on the list of priorities and, in some cases, it's dropped right off the bottom. In other words, the Bible is a revolutionary book. If you can read the Bible without being shocked by it, you haven't been really reading it. A lot of people read the Bible to make it mean what they think it ought to say. But that's not reading the Bible. I'll guarantee if you honestly read the Bible every day for a month you'll find something shocking and startling in the course of that month.

So, let me say that again. If you've never been startled by the Bible or shocked by it, you've never really read it. Let's just look at the outline and look at E.1 and the result. In each case where we have an example of faith I've sought to single out the result of that faith so that at the end of the chapter we'll have a picture of tremendous variety of different results all produced by faith. One reason for doing that is we get such a stereotyped picture of faith that it consists of sitting in church, and singing hymns or praying for the sick or something like that. Faith produces results which are far more varied and exciting than that. Example number 1 of faith in action: Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice. We've analyzed that.

Now let's look at the result, it's stated. Though he is dead, he continues to speak. I believe that's true of a life lived in faith. The life may end but the message goes on. I'd have to say by way of a comment that it was certainly true of my first wife Lydia. She is dead but she continues to speak. And the book that records her calling and her journey to Jerusalem is selling more now than it ever sold all over the world and has been translated into a number of modern languages. That's just a little up-to-date example of the working of faith. Your life really never ends when it's a life lived in faith. There are ongoing consequences which affect people that come after you. We'll look at verse 5, the next example of faith. By faith Enoch was... I prefer the word translated. I think some of these say "he was taken up," but it doesn't so much mean "up" as "from one setting to another". He was transferred.

I believe the same word or a similar word is used where it says in Colossians 1 we're to give thanks to the Father who has "delivered us from the domain of darkness and transplanted us to the kingdom of the Son of His love". It speaks about a total moving over from one realm to another. Of the two men that were translated in the record of Scripture, Enoch and Elijah, both of them went entire. Their spirits were not just translated but they were totally taken over. They left nothing behind except Elijah left his mantle for his successor. How was it that Enoch was translated, transferred, carried over? By faith. that he did not see death; and he was not found because God carried him over [translated him, took him away]; for before his translation he received testimony [he was attested] that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him...

We'll go with verse 6 in a moment. Just look at Enoch. What was the example of his faith? He walked with God, pleased God. What was the result? He was translated without dying. That makes it exciting, doesn't it? Who knows what could happen? I heard a preacher, I forget who it was... Say Enoch walked with the Lord, for 300 years or so and one day they got so engrossed in one another's company that Enoch forgot where he was and then the Lord said to him, "Enoch, we're nearer to My place than yours now. Why don't you come on home with Me"? That was the end of Enoch. We could look for a moment at this very simple statement in Genesis 5:21–24. And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Let me point out something interesting about the generations that preceded the flood in the time of Noah. We have the record of three men who, in one way or another, escape the flood. Methuselah died the year before the flood. Enoch was taken a considerable while before the flood and Noah went through the flood in the ark. I've always felt instinctively, without having a theory, that those indicate the three possibilities for God's people. Some will be taken, some will be taken by death and some will go through in the ark, whatever it is, that lies ahead. That's just an instinct of mine. I just feel the Bible is telling us that. I don't have an eschatology to fit it all into. Maybe you say, "Praise the Lord"! Let me point out something that to me is a blessing. Right at the beginning of human history when man related to God, their relationship was so simple. It wasn't a lot of religion and paraphernalia. Enoch just walked with God.

And then we go on further into the great father of the faith, Abraham, and his most honorable title was "he was a friend of God". They just enjoyed one another's company. I sometimes long to get away from all the theology and all the religious formalities, and just have a relationship of being God's friend and walking with Him, enjoying His company. I really believe God loves to be enjoyed by His people. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with methods and theology and doctrine that God gets lost in the middle of it all. You get into the middle of the forest, and all you can see is trees. You can't see the whole picture. Then you have to back out of the forest, and take a fresh look and maybe adjust your priorities.

Example number two, right at the bottom of Page 11/1, Enoch walked with God and pleased him. The result was he was translated without dying. That makes the walk of faith very exciting, doesn't it? Who knows what could happen to you or me? I did hear about a lady who was a very saintly woman. She went out of a meeting once, and nobody ever saw her again. Nobody knew what happened to her. Who knows whether she experienced the same fate as Enoch? Just never was seen again, she just disappeared. 11:6, now we come to one of the most important statements in the Bible, in my opinion. But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God, understood], for the one who comes to God [approaches God] must believe that He is [that He exists], and that He is a rewarder of those who wholeheartedly seek Him. Or seek Him earnestly or diligently.

There's a preposition at the front of the verb which makes it a strong verb: to seek God earnestly, persistently, wholeheartedly. So, we can never emphasize this too much. Without faith it is impossible to please God, no matter what you do. If it's done not in faith, it is not acceptable to God. We can never overemphasize the importance of faith provided we rightly understand what faith is. He that comes to God must believe two things: First of all, he must believe. He must exercise faith. There is no other approach to God. The door is closed if you don't come in faith. You must believe that God exists, but that's not enough. Most of the world believes that God exists. Some people say they don't, but I question whether they're really sincere. I think most people actually do believe there is a God. That's not enough. As James said, "the devils believe and tremble".

You've got to believe the second thing, that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly or diligently seek Him. You've got to believe that God will respond to you if you seek Him aright. God insists on that. He offers no alternative. I want to tell you on the basis of personal experience, I believe it's true not merely because the Bible says it, but because I've proved it. I have never sought God earnestly and sincerely without being rewarded. However, quite a number of times the reward wasn't what I was expecting. You can't dictate to God what the reward will be unless He's committed Himself. But you can be sure that He will reward you. We have then this third P, or principle and this fourth. The third principle is faith is essential to please God. We must approach God with the expectation that He will reward us. The fourth principle is our approach to God determines His response.

That, again, is tremendously important. Some people get wonderful results from God, others apparently get nothing. The people who get nothing are prone to blame God. The Scripture reveals the fault is with those people. The way we approach God, our attitude in approaching Him, determines how God responds to us. This is stated very vividly by David in Psalm 18:25–26. David is speaking to God. With the kind Thou dost show Thyself kind; with the blameless [or the sincere, upright or perfect] Thou dost show Thyself sincere [upright, perfect]; with the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure; but with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself astute. The NIV says shrewd.

Whatever way we approach God determines the way God responds to us. If we come to Him out of kindness, He's kind to us. If we come to Him out of sincerity and openness, He's equally open with us. If we come to Him out of purity, He's pure with us. But if we try to be smart and deceive God, David says God is a lot smarter than we are. Don't try it, it doesn't work. Scripture says God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap. That's the same principle here. If we sow kindness, we reap kindness. If we sow sincerity, we reap sincerity. So, in a certain sense, the key is in your hand. If you want God to respond to you a certain way, approach God that way, and that will determine His response.

We'll go on now to verse 7, the next example of faith, example number three. By faith Noah, being warned by God... It's a word that's used in classical Greek of an oracle. Do you know what an oracle is? You go to a certain shrine, or a certain prophetess or priestess and you get what you believe is an answer from God. It's a supernatural communication. It can be from the devil, or it can be from God. But, it's not on the natural level. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning things that were not yet seen [and notice again faith relates to the unseen], moved with fear [or with reverent fear] built an ark for the salvation of his household, through which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. There again is the particular example. This man built a boat, a large boat. He built it on dry land, it had never rained, it was the craziest thing to do. But he did it by faith. Why did he do it? Because he had a warning from God that there was going to be a flood.

And I want you to observe two things. First of all, if he'd waited till the flood came, it would have been too late. Secondly, only eight persons entered that ark. Noah and seven members of his family. All the people that entered the ark were people who had worked on it, because Noah never built that ark by himself. Those of you that are familiar with the Middle East, you'll know when the Arabs built a house, the whole family builds it. Noah built an ark, the whole family built it. There's an important principle. The only people admitted to the ark were people who had worked on it. That's faith and works. Noah's wife could have stood back with her arms folded and said, "I really believe there's coming a flood". But if she'd done nothing about it, it would have been faith without works and she would have been left out of the ark. It's interesting also that Noah's family got in on the basis of his faith. Have you ever noticed that?

Turn for a moment to Genesis 7:1. The flood is now about to come and the Lord says this to Noah: "Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time". The translators have put in "alone" but I think it's probably legitimate. I don't know whether you ever noticed that. It was Noah's righteousness that got his family in. That's a great encouragement to parents, isn't it? If you're having a struggle with your children, just be sure your own relationship with God is such that it will commend your family to Him. That's what we call "imputed righteousness". God is so merciful. He doesn't want a father to find salvation apart from his family.

So, when he saw Noah's righteousness He said, "Your righteousness will get your family in". I find that God deals that way. In Acts 16 when the Philippian jailer said, "What must I do to be saved"? Paul answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved..." Some evangelicals put a period there. But Paul said something more. "And thy household". Paul promised salvation to the jailer and his household on the basis of the jailer's faith. You see, there's a whole area of our inheritance that many of us let go unclaimed. We have a right on the basis of genuine faith to claim not merely our own individual salvation but the salvation of those whom God has given to us. Many of us need a larger heart. We need more compassion. I believe compassion leads to faith many times. When we're really exercised about people's salvation, we'll take the steps that will bring us the faith that will bring their salvation.
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