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Experiencing the Resurrection

Hebrews 11:8-19

Jim Davis

The Hebrew writer indicates that Abraham believed in the resurrection although it is obvious that he knew nothing of the resurrection of Christ. "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death" (Hebrews 11:17-19 NIV). How could this be? Abraham actually believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead. This was at least 2,000 years before Christ set foot on earth.

We may think that Abraham was at a great disadvantage, but God was as real as life to him. Abraham’s faith did not come from an historical argument about church doctrine rather it came from his practical experiences in life. What Abraham had experienced in his walk with God thoroughly convinced him that God could and would raise Isaac from the dead.

Hebrews 11:8-12
"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

"By faith Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore" (NIV).

What God had done and was doing in Abraham’s life convinced Abraham of the possibility of the resurrection. Sarai and Abram were well beyond childbearing years when God gave them a son. Their ability to physically reproduce offspring had long gone. Abraham and Sarah were thoroughly convinced of this fact. Sure there were times that even Abraham had difficulty believing.

Genesis 17:15-18
"God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."

"Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" (NIV).

This is not a laughter of joy over the fact that he has been told that Sarah is going to have a son—it is a cynical laugh of disbelief. However, by the time God asks Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice he truly believes that God can give Isaac back from the dead. WHY?

Why shouldn’t Abraham believe God could raise Isaac from the dead? God had given him Isaac when it was impossible for him and his wife to conceive a child. They were as good as dead when Isaac was conceived. The following verses from Genesis reveal Abraham believed that Isaac would return from the sacrifice with him.

Genesis 22:3-5
"Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you" (NIV).

Abraham’s faith in God was great enough to believe that nothing was impossible for God. It was faith in a God that could raise the dead that empowered every step taken as he sojourned in the promised land looking for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker was God.

The Practical Value of A Resurrection Faith

Faith in God’s resurrection power is absolutely essential if we are seeking to commit our lives to Christ in hope. It takes a resurrection faith to survive as a Christian—by this I mean something more than just believing the doctrinal facts about Christ’s resurrection. You must believe that the resurrection power of God is available for you in the present. If you don’t believe this—the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of little practical value to you.

Ephesians 1:15-23
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (NIV ).

Do you believe this power is available for you today? Do you believe it is at work in the Christian’s life? It is! May God help us to become enlightened to the powerful hope he has given us?

Faith in Christ’s resurrection gives reason to hope against all hope. It fully persuades us to commit our lives to Christ.

Romans 4:18-22
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (NIV)

These promises were not only true for Abraham, " . . .but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Romans 4:24-25 NIV).

It requires a resurrection faith to lose your life so that you might find it. There are some of you in this audience this morning that are afraid to lose your life for Christ sake. Do you know why you are afraid? Because you are having difficulty believing that Christ can give you a better life in this world than what you already have. That’s why you are afraid to give up your worldly ways.

At times Abraham had those same cynical doubts. His cynical laugh is indicative of the fact that he didn’t believe that something better awaited him. He was like many of us; he was more than willing to settle for what he already possessed. Can you even begin to imagine how that would have limited his potential?

How can I develop a resurrection faith? You must first be willing to open your eyes to see God’s power to salvage your life. Enough spiritual power is going to waste in the church to put Niagara Falls to shame.

Without exception the work of God upon the soul is always represented in the Bible as one of power. The true kingdom of God has to do with power God wields in our lives.

We must depend upon God’s power to empower our faithful works. Knowledge of God’s power only becomes real when it is turned on in our lives.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith" (NIV).

God’s power comes into play when we act upon our faith. Do you see the important part of this verse? It says that God’s power fulfills "every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith."

Planting a seed is an act of faith in the resurrection power of God. You can’t plant a seed in the ground without faith. When you allow God to plant the seed of the kingdom—which is his word—in your heart—why shouldn’t you believe in his resurrection power. If he has power to make a flower seed come to life—he has the power to make his word fruitful through your faithful response to it.

To succeed is not our goal. The results of our faithful actions lie in the hands of God. God doesn’t call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful. A powerful faith does not demand miracles, but it often accomplishes them.

Where It all Begins

Abraham’s resurrection faith began with hearing God’s voice. Initially, God asked Abraham to leave his country, his kindred to go into an unknown land. He was told in doing so he would become a blessing to all nations.

At times, Abraham and Sarah were tempted to be a little cynical about God’s promises. They were very much like each of us—there were times they had difficulty hearing God’s voice over the shouts of the world. Both laughed when they were told they would have a son when they were well past their childbearing years. In times of trouble they often resorted to their own plans to accomplish God’s purpose. Their doubts arose because of their inability to see what God saw for them.

Having a resurrection hope in the promises of God comes when we put our faith to work when doubting would be much easier. Hearing the call of God is the most difficult thing in the world, but it is not impossible to hear. Someday even the dead will hear the trumpet and the shouts of angels. Lazarus had been dead four days but he heard the voice of God.

John 11:43-44
"Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face" (NIV).

John 11:25-26
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (NIV).

A resurrection faith begins with a desire to believe in the voice of God. Paul tells us, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). There was something strange about Abraham and Sarah—they wanted to believe God. They wanted to believe but earthly realities often blinded them to the promises of God.

There were times in their lives that they wanted God’s guidance but sought to bring about God’s promises on their own terms. They tried to have the promised son on their terms through a servant girl. There were numerous times when they were seeking to trust God for his protection, but they resorted to lying about Sarah being Abraham’s sister for protection.

Fear tends to produce the very thing it is afraid of. In a study of their lives you discover that often their fear drove them into the very things they were afraid of—however God’s resurrection power always salvaged their lives from the mess they made. How many times have we run from our fears and ended up facing the very thing we were running from?

Faith in God is the only thing that can conquer our fears.

You don’t have to have a mountain moving faith, but you do have to have a faith that is willing to climb the mountain when you hear God’s call. Discovering God’s power begins with asking God to help us overcome our unbelief. However, we must be honest enough to admit our unbelief.

You don’t have to know where the trail will end, but you must be willing to follow your faithful guide. I took my daughter and her friend hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range when she was in the eighth grade. We ascended the mountain to about 9500 feet. I could see our destination when we got out of the car to begin our hike. I had been there before. I knew that it was a long way, but I never told them where it was. When they ask me how much farther it was, I never pointed to the place we were going. I knew that they were tired. I was afraid that they would want to go back home before we reached our destination. On our descent, they realized what I had done. They knew why I had done it. God’s plans are much like that—they are taken one step at a time in faith.

A man brought his son who was possessed by a demon to Jesus. He said to Jesus, "But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." Jesus said, "If you can believe? Everything is possible for him who believes." The man responded to Jesus saying, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:17-24). That’s where it begins with some. It begins with the cry to God—PLEASE HELP ME OVERCOME MY UNBELIEF!

Abraham and Sarah made this cry many times from the weakness of their personal faith. Abraham sought the blessings of God through Ishmael, but God told him that Sarah would have a son. He took his doubts to God. God sought to renew and deepen his faith. If you are having difficulty believing you must ask God for help. Then you will see God’s power perfected in your weakness.

Resurrection power comes to our lives when we relinquish our hold on our fears and embrace God’s ways through repentance. The power of God begins when we overcome our fears and answer the call of God personally. The disciples began living under God’s power the moment they answered Christ’s call to become fishers of men. It began with their personal response. They had to quit fishing; that wasn’t easy. That meant giving up their means of livelihood. They went back to fishing after Christ died on the cross.

How many of us seek to solve our problems by forgetting them and going fishing? If we choose to go fishing the truth will become even stranger. You must face the truth—you must listen to it—you must obey it—you may not know much of it but obey what you know.

Peter penned the following verses after he had given up on the messianic hope of Christ and gone back to fishing. It was after Jesus had met them on the shore on their return from that fishing trip after his resurrection. It was the resurrection that empowered Peter to pen these verses.

1 Peter 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, NIV

God’s power begins when we relinquish our hold on this world to follow Christ. Jesus told the rich young ruler, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21-22). That’s where it must begin with many of us. This young man went away sad, because he had great wealth.

God’s power comes into play when we act upon our faith. There is something different about our worship than with most worship services. We sing without the accompaniment of musical instruments. The reason we worship with vocal music is because it places the responsibility of worship on the shoulders of the audience. It is your response to God that makes this worship service valid. That’s what faith is—it is your personal response to God. It is your personal response that makes the difference in your life. It is not something that the church can do for you; it is something you must do for yourself.

Every facet of our worship service is designed for your personal expression of faith—regardless of how feeble you may think it is. There are some whose faith is not strong enough to bring them to church services, but they expect it to take them to heaven. The church isn’t an institution that can save us; the church is saved as it expresses its faith in God.

Our salvation has been provided in Jesus Christ, but salvation is an ongoing process as God’s power salvages our lives step-by-step, moment-by-moment as we surrender our hearts and minds to his will. It doesn’t begin with an overwhelming faith. Sometimes all of would like to go back to fishing when we become discouraged. It takes faith to keep going—it’s okay if it begins weak—that’s where true faith begins. I believe it can become overwhelming, but it begins with your first step.

Conclusion:

Abraham believed in God because he knew that God was faithful to keep his promises . . . "and so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore" (Hebrews 11:12).

Today God can "do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us" (Ephesians 3:20). This is the resurrection power of the gospel. It comes to us through faith in God’s promises of salvation.

Baptism is an expression of faith in the resurrection. Our new life in Christ that begins at baptism is an expression of faith in the resurrection power of God. A resurrection faith begins the moment that you decide to die to you yourself to begin your walk with Christ (Romans 6:3-4). In baptism we turn from the power of Satan’s death grip on our lives to the power of God to salvage our lives from Satan’s grip.
 
 

 

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