By Faith: Having an Eternal Perspective

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Having an Eternal Perspective

October 23, 2016

Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

As we come to this part of our tour of the Hall of Fame of Faith, the writer of Hebrews takes a step back and adds some clarification to the stories of those inducted there. This portion of the story seems to be antithetical to what we have been teaching so far but in reality it is not. In a precursory reading of the passage we might be confused. It would seem that the writer of Hebrews is saying that on one hand we have Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah all being praised for their faith and the actions they took to see God fulfill His promises, but on the other hand, we find there were promises that were not fulfilled in the life time of the inductees. They died without seeing the fullness of what God promised. The amazing aspect of this story is that did not discourage them, it in fact inspired them to be more faithful and more committed to God’s plan and purpose. How could that be?

To understand this, we must grasp the fact that while those inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith were given great promises and that many of those promises were not fulfilled they had a greater vision of what could be. It was a vision that at its core was based in an eternal perspective. Their faith focused on an unmovable, unshakable, and totally faithful God. By their faith, they were able to trust God to do whatever He deemed best in their circumstance. They trusted God no matter what. They trusted God even if He did not do things the way they thought He should or could. Their faith was based in the foundational principle that God was Sovereign and He was in control.

Their eternal perspective kept them balanced and reminded them that this world is not their ultimate destination or home. An eternal perspective reminds us that the present and momentary trials we face are not to be compared to what is to come. It reminds us that when we do not see the total fulfillment of the promises of God, it does not mean that He has failed us. In fact, it is the opposite. When we weigh the issues of the moment against the backdrop of eternity suddenly our issues and problems do not seem to be such a problem at all.

Paul encapsulates this thought in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Paul reminds us that when the issues of life get us down we can be assured that what we face now is only temporary and will certainly pass. Our problems are temporary but the eternal glory of God is forever and that is what counts most. If you remember, Hebrews 11 begins with a definition of faith. Remember the writer stated that Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith pushes through the unseen and the unknown. It pushes through the unanswered prayers we face. Faith looks to the eternal which is unseen and unrealized on this side of life and in so doing our faith is built and our hope grows.

Throughout Scripture our journey here on earth has been classified as a pilgrimage and that we live as strangers here on earth. The fact is this is not our ultimate home. We have a heavenly destination promised to us. In the book of Revelation, we have a promise of a new city where we will live for eternity. John noted Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelations 21:1-2). This world is not our home, it is just a stopping off place where we get to experience life from a different perspective. We have a home that is being created by God the Father so that God the son can rule and reign forever.

As we look at this passage, we find many of those in the Old Testament had experienced some of the blessing that God had promised but the fullness of the blessing was yet to come. I am reminded that the Holy Spirit has become our down payment for what is to come. How do I know this? Listen to Ephesians 1:11-14. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Let me explain this in this way. When we experience the presence of God in a powerful way that is simply a downpayment for what is to come. There is coming a day when we will live in the glory of His presence every day. When we experience the healing hand of God, it is just a down payment for the day when there will be no more sickness. When God comes and dries our tears, it is just a reminder that one day we will no longer shed any tears. When we are comforted during times of deep sadness, we are reminded that in heaven there is no more sorrow and no more pain. Death will be destroyed forever. We could go on and on but I think you get the point. Whatever happens to us now through the work of the Holy Spirit is just a downpayment for what is to come and what has been promised by God even if we do not see everything clearly now.

In keeping with the idea of the eternal perspective, the writer of Hebrews also makes another statement that needs to be considered. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Do you get that? God is not ashamed to call them their God. How powerful a statement that is! There is no shame in following God. There is no shame in being obedient to God’s ways and His word. Even when we do not see the fulfillment of everything that God has promised, we do not have to be ashamed. There is no shame in recognizing that this is not our home, our home is with Christ in the new city being built for us.

The problem however is that shame causes us to reject God and causes us to hide from His presence. Too often we walk in shame because we believe that we are the reason that God has not fulfilled His promise to us. We walk in guilt and shame which binds us and keeps us from the truth. We struggle to have more faith and to walk a tighter rope but that only causes more shame and more guilt and that was never God’s intent.

John Piper reminds us that shame has plagued us since Adam and Eve bit into the fruit and realized they were naked. In Genesis 3:7-9 we find that Adam and Eve’s first instinct was to hide themselves from God and to cover their nakedness. Once they sinned, shame came rushing in and they had to cover themselves. Now instead of walking in the innocence in which they were created they now stand guilty before God. They are also vulnerable to each other and they are subject to the deception of Satan’s ways. Instead of innocence, they were now sinful, weak, damaged people living in a dangerous world. They now find themselves under God’s righteous judgment. They are exposed to the sinful judgment of God, the rejection of others, and they are wide-open to the condemning accusations of the evil one.

Piper continues by saying, because sin is alive in our bodies (Romans 7:23) and because we are beset with weakness (Hebrews 5:2), the kind of shame we often experience is a potent combination of failure and pride. We fail morally, we fail due to our limitations, and we fail because the creation is subject to futility and just does not work right (Romans 8:20). We also fail to live up to other people’s expectations. Because we are full of sinful pride, we are ashamed of our failures and weaknesses, and will go to almost any length to hide them from others. This means pride-fueled shame can wield great power over us. It controls significant parts of our lives and consumes precious energy and time in avoiding exposure.

What the writer of Hebrews is saying here is that although we may walk in shame God does not see us that way. He is not ashamed of us. Notice that even in the story of Adam and Eve God still came to them to walk with them. He had not rejected them. Their guilt and shame had caused them to close off from God. You see, when we have accepted Christ as our Savior, He sees us as being whole and complete in Him. How do we get rid of shame? Rather than running and hiding we draw near to Christ. We hide in the rock of salvation where we are covered by the power of grace and His love. We hide in the rock of salvation where we are accepted not because of what we have done but because of the acceptance of Christ. We expose our shame and bring it into the light. It begins with repentance and godly sorrow and then we are forgiven.

Remember the woman at the well (John 4:7-24). She was living in sin and she had five husbands and the person she was living with was not her husband but Christ did not cast shame upon her. Instead, He offered forgiveness and acceptance. He shared the message of hope and He gave her the living water that would satisfy her forever.

Remember David and his confrontation with Nathan (2 Samuel 12). Nathan uncovered David’s sin and obstinance in not seeking God’s forgiveness. David had been walking in the shame of his sin but God had a better plan. He drew David to a place of healing. In Psalms 51:11 David prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from him. What is David saying? He is saying I don’t want to be separated from God’s presence. That is what shame does. It separates us from God and causes our vision for a future hope to be darkened. It brings us into despair and hopelessness but that is not God’s will or purpose for us.

But here is the blessing. When we draw near to God, we find that He forgives (James 4:8). He forgave David. He forgave the woman at the well (John 4:7-24). He forgave the woman who was caught in adultery (John 8:2-11). He forgave all of those who had crucified him (Luke 23:34). The key is to receive His healing and allow Him to restore us. Through Christ, He does not look at us with shame but with hope, love, and grace. How powerful is that?

Today, you may be walking in shame. Your vision of a better day and a future hope may be blinded by a heart filled with shame. Because of what you are experiencing you may not have much of an eternal perspective but know this, God does not look upon you with shame. He accepts you and He loves you. The key is to confess your sin, confess your shame and repent and accept the love of God today. By repenting, we will have a change of heart and attitude which leads to a change of action. Instead of walking in shame, we can now walk in the freedom that is ours in Christ. A part of the shame we face is the acknowledgement that we need change. God can do that today if we will allow Him to.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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