Robert Jeffress - The Necessary Ingredient - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Life's problems have the potential to strengthen our relationship with God or destroy it. It all has to do with a single word, faith. Last time, we learned that faith is the assurance that God will do what he's promised to do and then acting accordingly. But today, we're going to look at biblical examples of faith in action and also learn two key requirements for having strengthening faith. My message is titled, "The Necessary Ingredient", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
God said to them, "I want you to bring a sacrifice to me," and he prescribed the kind of sacrifice he wanted. And Abel brought a sacrifice, he was a shepherd and so he brought one of his animals and offered a blood sacrifice to God. Cain decided that he would try to offer his own sacrifice to God and he brought some of the produce that he had raised. And the Bible says that God accepted Abel's offering but he rejected Cain's offering. And Cain was so despondent over the fact that God rejected him that he became enraged at his brother Abel and killed him, the first murder in the Bible.
Why is it that God accepted Abel's sacrifice but rejected Cain's offering? I've heard pastors speculate about that. I've read Bible commentators who said, "Well, it was in their attitude". Abel brought his sacrifice as an act of love but Cain brought his to satisfy a religious ritual and it was their attitude that made the difference. That sounds so good but it's so wrong. I mean, the fact is, the Bible tells us exactly why God accepted Abel sacrifice and rejected Cain. Look at verse 4. By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain. Apparently, in words we don't have recorded, God told both men exactly what he wanted. He prescribed a blood sacrifice, a blood offering of an innocent animal that would foretell the coming, many years later of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ who would take away the sins of the world.
And Abel, although he didn't understand why God said that, he couldn't see down the corridor of history to Jesus Christ, it made no sense to him to kill an innocent and good animal, he obeyed God. He believed what God said and acted accordingly but not Cain. He thought he could come to God any way he wanted to. In fact, did you know in the New Testament, Jude 11, the writer says, avoid the way of Cain. You know what the way of Cain is? It's trying to come to God on your own terms. And the world today is filled with people who say they can come to God any way they want to, don't matter what you believe, it's like you can approach God any way you want to, from any direction and still go up the same mountain of truth and approach the same God. God says, "No, you cannot come to me any way you choose, you must come in my way". And for us today, it means believing in Jesus Christ to be our Savior.
Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except by me". The way to God is not broad, it is narrow. There is one way. And that's what Abel and Cain illustrate too, I say it was by faith that Abel offered a better sacrifice. Let me stop here and just say, I have people ask me all the time, "Well, pastor, how could Abel be saved? How could anybody be saved before Jesus Christ gave his life on the cross for us"? Have you ever wondered that? How were the Old Testament saints saved?
I've heard people say, "Well, in the Old Testament, people were saved by works but in the New Testament, they're saved by Christ". Have you heard that before? No, God hasn't changed. Since the beginning of time, we've all been saved in the same way. In fact, I was studying this passage yesterday morning, just going over it and trying to think, "How can I best illustrate this"? And this little phrase came to me and I want you to write it down. If you ever wonder how it is we are saved, I want you to write this down, our forgiveness... Because that's what salvation is. It's the forgiveness of our sins. Our forgiveness is... And then underneath that, write these three things. Number one, based on God's grace. It's based on God's grace. Secondly, it's paid for by Christ's blood. And thirdly, it is received through our faith.
Our forgiveness and anybody's forgiveness in history is based on God's grace, it is paid for by Christ's blood and it is received through our faith. Remember, Ephesians 2:8-9? For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God not as a result of works, so that no man, no person may boast. All of us are saved by God's grace, never by works. It's always been by God's grace. That's what he says, he doesn't say for my faith you have been saved. He says by grace you have been saved. We are saved by God's grace. We receive that grace through our faith. Grace through faith.
Let me illustrate the difference for you this way, let's imagine you're walking downtown, you see a crowd gathered together by a building and fire trucks are there, everybody is pointing up to the same direction. They're pointing up to the sixth floor ledge where somebody is standing out on the ledge of a burning building. The firemen are below with a safety net and they're urging the person up there on that sixth floor ledge to jump before he's destroyed by the fire. And so that man is trying to decide, "Am I going to jump into that net or not"? Finally, he, in a leap of faith takes a leap of faith and he jumps from that building, he lands safely in the net and he is saved.
Now, if you witness that and somebody would ask you, "How is that man saved"? Would you say he was saved because he jumped? Was he saved through his jumping? No, there have been people who have jumped from buildings before and ended up splattering on the concrete below. Jumping isn't what saves you. That man was saved by the net the fireman had provided. But as long as that man was standing on the ledge, that net did him no good. The fireman offered him a provision for salvation but the way he took advantage of that provision was by faith, believing that that net would hold him. He was saved by the net that he accessed through jumping.
It's the same way for us, is not faith that saves us, we cannot conjure up enough faith to save us. Faith demands an object. It's believing that Jesus Christ died for our sins. And when we trust in what Jesus did, we are saved by God's grace which is paid for by Christ's blood and received through our faith. And that's what Abel did, Abel believed what God said, he was saved by God's grace which he received through his faith which was ultimately paid for by Christ's death on the cross. When people say, "Yeah, but that happened before Christ paid the debt". I tell people Abel was saved on credit. His faith was on credit as was all of the Old Testament. God isn't bound by time like you and I are. We see past, present and future, in God's mind it had already happened, the death of Christ. He was saved on credit but it was all by God's grace. That was Abel, he demonstrates a faith that saves. But you know what, faith is not only necessary for our salvation but also for our sanctification, for our becoming more like Christ.
Look at verse 5, that's demonstrated in the life of Enoch. By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death and he was not found because God took him up, for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up, he was pleasing to God. Underline that word pleasing. We find the story of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. The Bible says, Enoch lived 65 years and became the father of Methuselah. Remember Methuselah? The oldest man in the Bible, lived to be 969, well, Enoch was his father. Enoch lived 65 years and then he and his wife gave birth to Methuselah. And then Enoch walked with God 300 more years after he became the father of Methuselah.
Ain't that interesting? Enoch is known as a person that walked with God even though he spent the first 65 years of his life living apart from God. He made a change in his life. Perhaps it was the birth of his son that made him realize, "I need to start walking with God, I need to be an example to my child". I see that all the time. Maybe young adults have wandered away from God but when they have that first child, they see how important it is to be back in church and be rearing their children to know Christ. That was Enoch, he wasted the first 65 years of his life but isn't it good to know it's not how you start in life, it's how you finish that counts. Maybe you're living in the far country away from God or maybe you've just recently come back to God, God don't care about your past, he cares about your future. Not the direction you've been but the direction you're going in. That's what makes a difference to God. Enoch spent the rest of his life serving God. So, all the days of Enoch were 365 years.
Now, look at this, verse 44, Enoch walked with God, and he was not for God took him. Every other person in Genesis five it says and he died and he died and he died and he died, not Enoch. No, God just took him, he raptured him. Enoch is a picture, a type of a group of Christians in some future age, maybe this one, maybe another one in which they won't experience death, God will just rapture them, hoparts them to catch them up to meet him in the air. Why did God do that with Enoch? It's because he walked with God. That doesn't mean he and God took a stroll on Sunday afternoons together. To walk with God means to please God. In fact, that's what the Bible says. He was pleasing to God, Hebrews 11:5, he wanted to please God with all of his life. And what gave him that desire to please God? It was faith.
You see the relationship to faith and pleasing God beginning in verses 6 and 7. Look at this, verse 6. And without faith, it is impossible to please God. And stay with me on this, this is so important. Without faith, you cannot please God, you cannot walk with God, you cannot obey God without faith. And I want to tell you the way I used to hear people preach this passage and teacher it, I used to hear people say, "Now, you can read your Bible, tithe and go to church but if you do it without faith, it's not pleasing to God". You can stay sexually, morally pure but if you stay sexually, morally pure without faith, God don't care, it don't count for anything. You can witness other people, you can share your faith with other people but if you do it without faith, that's worthless in God's side.
And when I heard people say that I always say, "Well, how do you read your Bible and tithe and go to church without faith? What does it mean to read your Bible without faith? I don't get it". That's not what this passage is saying. The word faith and please God is a synonym for obey. He's saying without faith, it is impossible to obey God. In other words, you will never consistently read your Bible, tithe and go to church. You will never consistently stay morally, sexually pure. You will never consistently share your faith with other people without faith, without faith. You just won't do it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said one time, only those who believe are obedient and only those who are obedient truly believe. You will never be obedient to God without faith. That's what he's saying. Without faith, you can never continually please God for the person who comes to God... Look at this. Must believe two things. That he hears and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. You will never live a life that pleases God until a) you're convinced that God exists. That's kind of a no-grainer, isn't it? But secondly, you also have to be convinced that he rewards those who diligently follow after him.
Epicurus was a Philosopher, a Greek Philosopher who lived before Jesus and he developed this idea that our chief goal in life should be pleasure. And people today criticize that and say, "Oh, that's hedonism, eat, drink and be married because tomorrow we dine". They discount it but that's not really what Epicurus was saying. I read one commentator this week who pointed out what he was saying was, you ought to decide what you do by that which will give you the most long-term satisfaction. And actually, that's a good test. What is it that will provide the most long-term satisfaction? And it's obedience to God. You say you will never consistently walk with God, obey God until you're convinced it's in your best interest to do so. Until you're absolutely convinced that God will reward you, maybe not in the short-term but in the long-term for your obedience to him.
Now, he gives us one final example of that. In chapter 11:7, Noah. By faith, Noah being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence he prepared an ark for the salvation of his household by which he condemned the world and he became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Remember the story of Noah, Genesis 6? The world had become so evil that God decided to destroy it with a great flood but verse 8 says, Noah found favor in God's eyes for no reason other than God's own secret will, he chose Noah and he said to Noah, "Noah, I'm going to flood the world. I'm going to send rain for 40 days and 40 nights, destroy the world. I want you to build an ark for you and those I'll tell you to put in that ark". And Noah obeyed what God said.
But what's interesting about his obedience is this, it says, he obeyed God being warned of things not yet seen. You know what that means? Up to that point it had never rained on the earth before. The earth was watered by subterranean fountains that provided this mist. It had not yet rained on the earth according to Genesis 2:5. So, when God said to Noah, "Hey, it's going to rain for 40 days and 40 nights," that was like saying to Noah, "Hey, Noah, it's going to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious for 40 days and 40 nights". "Ah, Lord, would you say that again please"? He didn't know what rain was, never heard of rain. But he believed what God said. He acted accordingly by building that ark and the result was not only the temporary salvation of himself and his family but notice what it says here, he became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Noah is the first person in the Bible who was ever declared righteous. He is in a right standing with God, why? Because he believed what God said, he believed in a God of grace. He received that grace through faith. And one day, that faith would be paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. One of the thing you notice as you read through Hebrews 11 is this. All of the men and women we're going to look at in the days ahead had one thing in common. They obeyed God and they died without fully seeing and realizing the promises of God. Nevertheless, they kept on obeying God. And they found that as they did, as they exercised their faith, their faith became stronger. As they practiced obedience, it became easier to obey God. What is it that gave them the ability to keep on following God even when they weren't immediately rewarded for doing so? It was their faith. They believed that God exists and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently follow after him. Do you believe that? Do you really believe that?