Closing the Gap Week 2 Sermon Notes

By January 14, 2018 Sermon Notes

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In 1950, scientist Ancel Keys concluded that the risk of heart disease could be lowered by reducing the intake of dietary fat.

However 7 years later two other scientists demonstrated that Keys had manipulated his evidence by only using data that fit his hypothesis while ignoring the rest.

Then 4 years later a national health committee, with Keys as a member recommended that people should reduce their consumption of certain foods like eggs to lower their risk of heart disease.

Then in 1992 the USDA published the US’s first food Pyramid (Sweden published one in 1974) so after 42 years, a manipulated study and faulty theory had become public policy.

Finally in 2015 the US government called off its 50 year long war on eggs by announcing, “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

John Berandi, PhD nutritional bio-chemist…writes that Eggs were never bad for us, indeed whole eggs are now believed to being close to a perfect food.

So eat those eggs, or don’t…it depends on whether you trust the current science, the past science, or the future science.

It’s really hard to know where to place your confidence.

Who do you trust?

What do you trust?

You have to live your life…eat eggs or not eat eggs.

Can we be certain?

Sometimes certainty can be arrogance…but it is important that we have certainty in the essential things of our lives (things much bigger than eggs)

This winter (next 8 weeks) up to the Easter season we are going to focus on closing the gap in our confidence in God…faith in God.

Growing in certainty in the things we need to be certain about.

We are going to spend our time primarily in Hebrews chapters 11 and 12.

Read this with me please:

Heb. 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

Pray

Faith:

The writer said that “Faith is being sure”

“Being sure” is a single word in the Greek that means to “stand under”, it is a substructure.

Faith is the foundation for a believer’s entire life.

Of course everyone builds their lives on a faith foundation…everyone trusts someone or something…but what if what they are trusting is just not true.

Like some people who didn’t eat eggs for many years because of misplaced “faith”

But what if their misplaced faith is in regards to much more than what food to eat?

What if it is in regards to the very foundation for their life?

Jesus taught about well-placed faith and wrongly placed faith as the foundation for a life with serious and important outcomes.

Matt. 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a
wise man who built his house on the rock.25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

So both the wise and the foolish builder built on a foundation and put their confidence (their faith) in that foundation.

One had a well-placed faith…a rock foundation
One had a misplaced faith…a sand foundation.
The foundations were tested by a storm and only one withstood the test.
Everyone’s life is being built on a faith foundation…and every foundation will be tested by storm.

What about those who are believers who do not stand up in the storms?

1. Standing up in a storm doesn’t mean we are not battered by it. -The house on the rock stood, but I’m sure it was pretty beat up.

-The parable indicates a life that survives the storm, not a life that is untouched by it.

2. It is not mere believers in the truth who are building on rock, it is practitioners of the truth who are.

“Whoever hears my words AND puts them in to practice.”

Faith as a foundation for our lives shows up in how we live our lives.

A faith that is merely “facts” believed and not “facts” practiced is more like furniture than a foundation.

This passage speaks of faith as a foundation.

Some see faith as being in opposition to knowledge or facts.

But don’t be taken in by this line of reasoning…its just not true.

Everyone is living by faith in what they believe to be the facts.

I’m reading a book entitled “Zombie Science”

The theme of the book is how old, and debunked scientific theories…keep coming back from the dead…they refuse to die…thus the name for the book.

Why don’t they die?
It’s because of the enduring faith of some scientists.
The facts will not persuade them to give up their treasured beliefs.
Everyone believes, that what they believe, is true.
We can be confident of something that is factually true or of something that is factually false. But everyone has faith, all the time.
Faith is being sure (the word means with confidence) of what we hope for.
What do followers of Christ hope for…what is this that we are sure of?
Hope

We hope for certain kinds of weather, health, election outcomes, sports scores. We hope to marry, to be happy, to be healthy
These hopes are normal and part of being human.
But what do you ultimately hope for?

Everyone has a hope at the bottom of all the other hopes.

You can lose some of the hopes stacked on the bottom hope and become very discouraged.

But when the essential hope fails…it is devastating

What is the hope here in Heb 11?

It is not the hope that is most common for us…it a hope in the unseen.

The most common hope many of us hold is in the seen.

We sort of hope for heaven when we die.

We sort of hope for his will to be done, his kingdom to come.

But our essential hopes tend to be the lesser ones…most of our hopes are centered around physical health and physical pleasure.

Its not wrong to hope for certain things…but when our most essential hopes are other than God…we become desperate and foolish people.

The Psalmist understood this when he spoke to his own soul and challenged where he had put his hopes.

Psa. 42:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,

Why are you discouraged, Why so disturbed? Oh…your hopes are misplaced…Put them in God? Thomas a Kempis wrote

“Choose evermore rather to have less than more. Seek ever the lower place and to be under all. Desire ever to pray that the will of God be all and wholly done. So, such a one enters the land of peace and quiet.”

That doesn’t much describe the hopes and desires of our culture. It doesn’t often describe mine.

As I have sought to close the gap in my life…I have seen how often my hopes are in the “seen” not “unseen.”

2Cor. 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

Hoping (fixing our eyes) on what is unseen is essential to life resiliency…we do not lose heart…when our hopes are well placed.

What we hope for shapes who we are.

Its not wrong to hope WSU wins a basketball game, or that your candidate wins an election. Its okay to hope for a raise, or a date, or a good medical outcome.

But it is not good, not okay to allow any of these “light-weight” hopes to become the foundational hope for your life.

They are sand foundations.

It explains why sometimes when people get what they hoped for…they often become more desperate.

They set their hopes on something…they got it…and they are still unhappy, they are not satisfied.

Why the relentless search for hope?

Because humans run on meaning…because we were made by God.

We need air, water, food, sleep…these needs are physical and obvious.

But we need meaning…this need is spiritual and not as obvious…but every bit as real.

We want our lives to mean something, we want our efforts to matter, our love to matter, our suffering to have meaning.

This is universally true, even though some have given up on it…they have given up because they do not believe it will be true for them…not because they have ceased to desire it.
So, since all are on this quest, is there is any way to live with certainty regarding faith, hope, and meaning?

Yes, in fact it essential that we have certainty as to what are lives are to be all about. We must be certain that what we hope for it what we should hope for.
Certainty:
Hebrews 11:1 says that “Faith is being certain of what we do not see.”

There are many things that we have not seen with our physical eyes yet we are certain that they exist.

But certainty regarding things of faith is often regarded in our culture as arrogant, or even dangerous.

To be certain you are right about who God is, and how to know him and please him…and to be certain other ways are wrong…is considered arrogant at best and dangerous at worst.

But doesn’t everyone believe that what they believe, is true?

And therefore those who don’t believe what they believe, are wrong?

For instance many think “It doesn’t matter what you believe, only that you are sincere.”

-But if I say to them “I think it does matter what you believe.”

-If they tell me I am wrong…then they are refuting their own position and saying it does matter what you believe…otherwise how could I be wrong?

-if they tell me I’m right (because they believe all believes are true)…then are they are again refuting their own position…because my belief is that “not all beliefs are true.”

So, everyone believes something and they believe opposite views are not true or real.

It is important that we grow in our certainty of what we need to be certain about.

But we must not be arrogant and hard-headed about it.
Like James says…we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to be angry.

We should have a “happy certainty”

Not an angry or combative certainty.
We should have a certainty with a smile, not a smirk, or a frown.

We can be, and we should be certain…but certainty that is based on God’s grace and so it is certainty that has the look and feel of grace…not arrogance or anger.

It was said of George Muller, the man who based his life on faith and raised and feed thousands of orphans on that foundation of faith…that he had “Psalm 23 written into his face.”

He was a man of “happy, experiential certainty”

Certainty is essential, it is not arrogant…but how do we close the gap on certainty?

Billy Graham struggled early on with whether the Scriptures were completely true or not.

He finally determined after great struggle…that he had enough evidence to move forward in putting his faith in them.

He decided to live with certainty based on what he knew…and as he moved forward, his confidence, his certainty grew.

The Lord challenges to us in Psalm 34:8…Taste and see that I am good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in me

Taste and see…run to him for refuge and you will find him to be a secure place for your life

The night before I asked Christy to marry me I struggled to find 100% certainty…I could not find it…at least not before I acted on what I was largely certain of.

But I concluded more certain that I should ask her than I should not…then when I asked her, my certainty went to 100 and it has stayed there for 35 years.

That’s my story, that doesn’t have to be yours…but the point is…certainty can grow.

Do you have an unreasonable expectation for what God must show you before you will close the gap on certainty?

Before you will move in faith towards him?

Take stock of what he has shown you, what he has done…you have reason to believe…as you move towards him…you will grow.

How do you grow in certainty…either you are certain or you aren’t?

The word used for certain here is a word that means “test” or “proof”. Certainty is something you can grow in…continually proving the reality of God. You grow in certainty by moving into it…by living in it.

Our reason for believing we can close the gap on certainty is because we believe God exists…he does not want us to guess, he wants us to know…he desires that we be certain of certain things.

1John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

What is more essential in life, than knowing the purpose and the end of life?

God, in his mercy has made these things known…so that we can know them…we can have growing certainty.

Our certainty grows as we move into what God has made known in our lives…as we practice truth and see that it in fact does work.

This practice of life certainty is what the ancients were commended for.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Ancients here means those who have finished their lives of faith…and they were commended by God for the course they ran.

Star Wars: One thing I appreciated about the new Star Wars film was its depiction of the younger seeking the wisdom of the older.

*This is a shift from many films in the past couple of decades…where the young do better by disregarding the old and plotting their own course.

In this film, the younger were “up next” on life’s battlefield…and they were the key to the future…this is a depiction of what is true.

But the younger recognized their need for the “ancients” to understand how to move effectively into the future, how to win battles…this is also a true depiction.

Here in Heb 11…the ancients are those who have actually finished their race completely…they are dead. And they finished well and they received God’s “well done” commendation for their lives.

Since what matters most at the end matters most now, a great place to learn about what matters now is from those who have come to an end.

God commended the ancients for their faith. Their journey is finished, the final chapter written, and what did God write on their “tombstones”?

“Here lies the ancients, I commend them for their faith.”

So of all he could have said about them, “They worked hard”, “They endured much”, “They made an impact”, God commended them for their faith.

Why? It was their faith that led to all the other commendable aspects of their lives…particularly their endurance to the end.

Their work was prompted by faith, as was their endurance and their love.

They believed God and from that belief flowed acts of faith…into a life well-lived.

These examples don’t have to be dead…you can learn faith from live ones as well.

Heb. 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

What if you decided that “faith” was the most commendable quality you could have?

What if you made it your ambition to be a man or woman who actually “believed God” and acted consistently on that belief?

Faith is impressive to God, commendable to him…because it causes us to live as if he really exists.

APPLICATION: How do we close the gap on certainty?

The way we are actually living our lives is what we have decided we are “most certain about.”

Faith as the foundation for your life informs every aspect of your life.

So as you take stock of your life.

Your spending, your worrying, your talking, your thinking, your hoping, your treatment of others…how much and how often do those things resemble a life built on the reality of the gospel?

What does it mean to close the gap on your faith and how it shows up in your life? There are many applications and we will get to some of them in the weeks to come. But today let’s use the application given in this passage.
“This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Looking to the resource of “others” that God has given us.

Of course those who have finished their race well are great sources of help…we can read, listen to stories and think about their lives.

But lets consider those who are running the race with us as well.

I spent some time with a friend from Virginia last week…he has had the same, what he calls a “Spiritual director” for over 40 years.

My friend said to me “this man knows everything about me.”

“Spiritual director” doesn’t mean he tells my friend what to do…it means he helps him to see.

An application for this week is a question

“How much do you trust yourself?”

I said at the beginning that we often struggle to know who to trust.

We are told to not eat eggs, then eat them, and we are waiting to be told to not eat them again.

Most often what we do in this situations…is just trust ourselves…make a call and eat what we believe we should eat.

There are dozens of diets…some in contradiction to others…you cannot trust them all, so you choose…you trust yourself and go with what you believe.

That’s not always bad…sometimes its just neccesary…you have to decide, you don’t know who to trust…so you make your own decision.

But in regards to our own spiritual direction…closing the gap…it is not the best path. We are not good at seeing ourselves as we really are.
Many in our church are in trust relationships.
We have many adults leading youth in small groups.

We have dozens of small groups, with multi-generational relationships in many of them.

Then we have, I don’t know how many, one-to-one mentoring and mutual mentoring relationships in the church.

This is really good and is happening very widely…if you are not in these kinds of relationships you can be if you would like to be…but you must not wait for them to come to you.

But that point is not my application…my application is this.

You can have access to good relationships, and many of you do…but when you need to trust them, will you?

Here is my self-evaluation on this issue:

-I have a number of close friends…but I don’t let them in on everything in my life…at least not often enough. -I have several trusted advisors…but do I trust them if what they see in my life is not something I see?
How can I close the gap on faith, my certainty…which flows from my heart into my life…if…

1. I am often blind to what is really true about my life…I don’t know my own heart. and
2. I won’t let others in deep enough to see what is really true
and

3. When they do see…and I don’t agree with what they see…I trust myself more than them *I understand some have burnt.
*I am not saying you should let many in at this level
*I am not saying they are always right and you are wrong

I am saying that if in the end you trust yourself about yourself…especially when the issues are important, and require an honest look at your heart…you will have trouble closing the gap.

I have come to personally see this as a reason for my own slow progress in some key areas.

You can grow, without trusted friends and mentors…just not as fast and you will reach a point where you cannot outgrow your current position without outside help.

And if you stop growing…you will not stay the same…you will begin to move backwards. We will never be static…at least not for long.
Close the gap…choose to trust God by trusting others and not just yourself.

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