True Faith Requires Death
“Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see, and the conviction of their reality [faith receiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” Hebrews 11:1 (amplified Bible)
“These (previously mentioned people of faith) all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it 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.” Hebrews 11: 13-16
In a previous blog post I wrote about the need for Christians to have a childlike faith, as Jesus commanded, and what that involves. I would recommend taking the time to revisit that post and refreshing yourself on that principle. Find the post here:
As was mentioned in that post, becoming “like a child” requires death to the old way of thinking. It involves a death to the acting “like an adult” in our approach to life, according to the way of this world and this world centered system.
In this post, I want to look at a different aspect of faith that is connected to our future hope, and also requires a “death” to our old ways of thinking.
Please don’t allow the word “death” to turn you off. Realize that it is only by death to our old ways that we can produce the fruit of new spiritual life.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain (fruit). He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24-25
True Biblical faith also involves a shifting of our hope from the promises that have been offered to us by the world, to the promises that have been offered to us by God through His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the day we were born, as we continued through our lives, we established in our hearts a purpose for living. We established a goal and a hope for our lives, or a dream and vision for our future. This future was offered and supported by this world system. It possibly involved success, prestige, fame, travel, retirement to a dream home or location, surrounded by family and friends, or a combination of these or many other similar ideas. For some of us our goal in life may have been less specific, or less of a concrete plan. We may have just wanted to experience some future happiness, or to continue in our current life of pleasure, whatever that entailed, possibly partying with friends involving some source of pleasure such as alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. For some of us this future hope may have changed during our lives as we realized that our initial goals were not attainable, or as our lives handed us circumstances that dashed our hopes and dreams.
For myself, I had a dream as a young teen of becoming successful in sports. My dreams were ended abruptly after breaking my leg on three separate occasions within the span of a few years, and the last break from an auto accident requiring surgery with a plate attached to my bone and one leg about an inch shorter than the other. The sports that I played required the use of the legs in a way that I knew I could never again perform. My dreams were ended, and I then had to search for a new meaning in life. Fortunately, it was shortly after this that God reached into my life and presented me with the hope and promise of eternal life.
At the time I saw these injuries and the loss of my dreams as a tremendous curse on my life, but it turns out that it was a great blessing because it caused me to be open to receive God’s promise. For many people who have realized a part of their dreams in this life, such as fame or success, it becomes very difficult for them to fully embrace the promise of eternal life through Jesus. This is why Jesus taught that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, because a man’s riches will most likely be the focus of his hopes and dreams, and will prevent him from setting his hope on heaven.
“Jesus said to him (the rich young man who asked Jesus what good thing he should do that he may have eternal life), ‘if you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 19:20-23
God requires that we focus our hopes on heaven. He requires that our present efforts be focused on accumulating riches in heaven and not on accumulating riches on earth (and you can’t do both). Our investments in this life need to be for the eternal, heavenly treasures, not for the earthly treasures.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Shifting the focus of our hope from the things of this world to the things of heaven requires faith. Or it could be said that true faith requires this shifting of our hope from this world to heaven. The Scriptures give us examples of this kind of faith, most notably, the example of Abraham, who is known as the father of all who have this faith. Abraham was chosen by God because of his faith, and is explicitly presented as the example of the type of faith that is accounted to us as righteousness, resulting in our acceptance by God and becoming the recipient of His grace leading to our salvation.
God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision to represent this faith that was accounted to him as righteousness:
“And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had…..that he might be the father of all those who believe…..that righteousness might be imputed (attributed or credited) to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are (physically) circumcised, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had…” Romans 4:11-12
Circumcision is a physical action that represents an internal event occurring in the heart and mind. The physical cutting away of the flesh represents an internal cutting away of the focus on the things of this world. Abraham fully embraced God’s promise to him; he placed his hopes fully on what God had presented to him as a future hope:
“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to Him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead…” Romans 4:20-24
It is interesting that God not only promised to Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age who would then produce a large family and eventually a great nation, but God had also revealed to Abraham the promise of heaven and eternal life. Consider this verse in Hebrews chapter 11:
“By faith he (Abraham) sojourned (lived as a temporary resident) in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11: 9-10
Obviously, Abraham had set his hopes fully on this heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, not allowing himself to become too much at home here in this world. And shortly after this verse in Hebrews, making also a reference to Abraham, is the verse I quoted at the start:
“These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it 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.”vs. 13 & 14
When we shift our hope from this world to heaven we become like “strangers and exiles on the earth” or like pilgrims passing through on our journey to our true homeland, i.e. heaven. True faith requires this approach to life.
“If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.”vs. 15
True faith also requires a severance from our previous hopes and dreams, so that we are not tempted to return to them.
“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.”vs. 16
We, like Abraham, have been given this same promise of eternal life in heaven. We too must circumcise our hearts from this world, shifting our focus to the hope we have in heaven. In the New Testament, this internal circumcision is represented by a similar external action, the sign of baptism, where we immerse ourselves in water, representing our being buried with Christ or considering ourselves dead to this world, and then raising up out of the water, representing our identification with the risen Christ, who was given an immortal eternal resurrected body, the same as what is promised to us.
“In Him (Jesus) also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11&12
“Therefore, having died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations…” Colossians 2:20
We Christians, like Abraham, are directed to consider ourselves as dead to this world, or as strangers and exiles on this earth, temporary residents, passing through on our way to our true homes. This view of our situation demands that we shift our hopes as Abraham did, fully embracing the promise of eternal life in Jesus. We need to put to death any hopes or dreams that we had established in the past, nailing them to the cross. This is true faith.
The 3rd chapter of Colossians is the most explicit Scriptural explanation of this principle of shifting our hopes to heavenly things and not focusing our affections on earthly things:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-5
Praise God! Let’s exercise our faith in this manner, waiting patiently for His return. Amen.