Thursday, July 23, 2015

In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 11:6-7


Last time we looked at this chapter I made the observation from verse 5 that we can actually give pleasure to the infinite Creator and Ruler of all reality by trusting (having faith) in him. Verse 6 takes it a step further and tells us that pleasing God is IMPOSSIBLE without faith!

To draw near to God in any meaningful way, we need to believe he exists, naturally. But we also need to believe that he rewards those who seek him. Through much of this book the author has associated reward with the obedience of believers, and this seems to be repeated here. We can have eternal life and still not please God. Instead, we give him pleasure by moment-to-moment trust in him and belief that he will reward us for "seeking" him. 

The Greek word for “seek” used here includes the ideas of : searching for, investigating, scrutinizing, begging and craving. Notice that there is both an intellectual AND an emotional aspect to this “seeking”. It's easy (maybe especially for geeks) to emphasize the emotional OR the intellectual in our relationship with God, but he desires both. God takes pleasure AND rewards us for our questions, our desperate pleas, our desires for him as a person and even our scrutinizing of him!

v. 7

Noah built the ark in response to God's command, but still did so by faith.

Faith is, most of the time, not an intellectual struggle, but a struggle of the will. We may have some legitimate intellectual questions and issues to resolve, but on average our doubts are about an unwillingness to believe, not an inability to believe. We may label our doubts as intellectual and cite a lack of proof, as many unbelievers do. But we tend to look for (and even manufacture) reasons to doubt so that we can keep from moving in the direction God wants us to go. The Israelites of the exodus did this constantly despite the numerous, “in their face” miracles of God they witnessed, and we do the same thing when we selectively doubt in order to avoid God's shaping of our lives and activities. When it comes to sexuality, forgiveness, our flaws, or the reliability of scripture itself, we can selectively dress up our selfish interpretations of data with references to scholars and experts. Or try to force a Greek or Hebrew word to mean something more or less specific than it really does. All because we don't WANT to believe that something is true.

Noah had plenty of motive to disbelieve God. We don't really know exactly how Noah heard the commands of God. But he undoubtedly faced a mental comparison between what God commanded and how the rest of the world was living. Even if the words of God were communicated with thundering clarity to Noah, he was surrounded by people who chose pleasure over obedience. So in order to be faithful, Noah had to trust that God's way, despite it involving prolonged, difficult work, was the best way. Despite not seeing a drop of rain, Noah trusted that what God was telling him to do was worth it.

That faith in Yahweh included faith in The Son, despite Noah possibly being unaware of God's triune existence. But even so, his faith was placed in God The Son, and he became an heir of the righteousness Jesus would place on the records of all who trust in him.
Noah's faith also produced a public witness and reminder to those around him, that God exists and is calling people to a different life than they naturally choose for themselves. In this way they were “condemned” by his faithful obedience.

So how could others have been "condemned" through Noah's obedience?

Have you ever met a Christian who, in some form, is living or making choices in a better way than you are, and your first mental reaction is to label them as “legalistic” or “out of touch with the world”? Those evaluations of them may be true in a given case. But I've seen in myself a tendency to have this reaction out of defensiveness.

While believers have no need to fear condemnation from God (Romans 8:1) my defensiveness springs from the Holy Spirit's condemnation of my actions and choices when compared to something that stands a little closer to the ideal God has for me. And that realization knocks me off my prideful podium and causes me to pursue God more deeply and with greater trust. Our faith, without saying a word, can do the same thing for those around us, whether believers or unbelievers.

I think Geeks may especially face “the choice of Noah” every day. Part of the way we define ourselves is based on our immense and unusual enjoyment of entertainment. On the whole, we are pretty used to giving in to our desires for pleasure. And pleasure in itself is not bad. It's restful, restorative and fuels our creativity. But prioritizing pleasure can be harmful to finances God would have us use more effectively. And harmful to relationships with him and with others that he wants us to engage in, in addition to other sin that entertainment can potentially encourage.

It's worth asking, before we sit down to binge-watch that show or immerse ourselves in Fallout, what purpose this time serves. Rest and restoration are legitimate purposes. But do we also go to entertainment as a default, when it isn't truly beneficial? I certainly do.

And yet if we take a moment before firing up that game or movie, before pulling out that comic or novel, we may find an opportunity to trust that God's way is better and invest in something with eternal value and reward.

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