Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join to thank You for the gift of saving faith. How wonderful it is to be able to grasp hold of and live in the eternal reality that You have created for us. Teach us to value our faith above all else and to never succumb to the temptation to downplay it or to devalue it. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE LORD OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH!
TEXT: Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
DO YOU WANT TO LIVE IN A SAND CASTLE? I’m serious in asking that question. Most of us are aware of sand castles. Most of us have constructed them on the seashore when we were young. Some were elaborate. Some were rather pitiful. In every case, the ocean tide soon destroyed them. But, what about those grandiose sand castles they construct on Revere Beach each year? They are amazing, aren’t they? And I dare say, sometimes you can almost imagine living in one!
The modern world looks at Christian faith and calls it a sand castle. They brand Christians as fanciful fools who construct and base their faith on imaginary images of limited hopes and dreams. They tell us that our faith has nothing to do with the science god, so it’s all a delusion. They tell us that unless our beliefs fit their concepts of reality we’re simply living a sand castle, a fairy tale existence.
So, are we living in a sand castle? Well, our lesson says “No” rather emphatically, and I concur. Let me tell you why….
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the NT in Greek. Both languages are rather distinctive. Hebrew uses very concrete, very “see-touch-taste-hear-smell” imagery. To the ancient Hebrew the word for “earth” didn’t mean some generalized concept but literally the stuff you could stamp your feet upon. Meanwhile, the Greek language lends itself to mental gymnastics and cogitation. It lends itself to great thought concepts. For example, you have the word “ousia.” It means being, or substance, or essential reality—something that is not quantifiably verifiable, but nonetheless real. If a person is stripped of “ousia” they are nothing more than a robot. But, with it they are a real, live human being. Those concepts come into play in the beginning verses of our lesson where the author of this epistle defines Christian faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.”
Those words turn mere human logic on its head. They confound the modern human who bases his life on scientifically verifiable reality. For the modern world, “hope” is never real. It is just a vague concept fueled by inflamed emotions. They would say: “Hoping for $10 million dollars doesn’t make you wealthy. No, only when you have that amount of dollars in your hand and can see them is it real. Likewise, being “certain” of an afterlife in heaven, or of the reality of God, is unattainable because certainty is only achieved when the human senses are engaged. And since you haven’t actually seen God with your eyes, or smelled the aroma of heaven, or tasted its spring water, or heard angel choirs with your ears, it’s all a self-delusion, or a sand castle.”
Are such critics correct? No. You see, they limit all existence to their senses and to their limited understanding of human existence. Their limited brains cannot conceive of a whole universe outside of their understanding. But, the Christian faith truly is bigger than any human. God’s universe is bigger than our comprehension. Our ideas of what’s real and what isn’t, is just a very small sub-slice of this greater world. Think of a slice of pie. If you’ve never seen a whole pie, how could you ever know that a much larger whole is out there? And when told, it would make no sense to you because your experience with pie is limited only to the sliced variety. Well, that’s the case in this modern world when it comes to God’s world.
Another aspect of sand castle theology is this: the critics of our faith protest too much. In fact, they do so because they are the ones guilty of doing the exact things they accuse us of doing! That is, they define life by their own limited knowledge and experience, refusing to even contemplate that there might be something bigger out there. We call that subjectivism. So, until 1968 and a human walked upon the moon no one could really know it wasn’t made of green cheese. I say this, not to be silly, but to make this point: the goalposts for human ideas about reality constantly keep shifting and changing, don’t they? And they shift and change based upon an individual’s experience. But since we’re finite beings, how can we ever get a true grasp of the infinite?
Well, that’s exactly where faith comes into play. To us, faith is more real than human verification because faith is a gift from God. It is the link that transports us finite creatures into His infinite realm. Faith fills a void in all people. The void of inner longing that “something more is out there” that: “There has to be more to this life than just slogging through your three score and ten and then you die and then nothingness.”
God grounded our faith, not in mere human emotions, but in earthly reality. He didn’t just provide some vague promise about freedom from guilt and making us right with His perfect holiness; He delivered upon that promise in time and space. He sent His Son into our here and now to suffer for sins, to die on a cross to pay for those sins, and to rise from a real grave in order to confirm His promise of eternal life to us. Thus, Christian faith is really the most “real” thing there is! For it is the bridge linking the finite (us) with the infinite (God).
The ancient believers understood all this. They understood, by and through faith, that when God made a promise to them, He would always deliver upon it. Yes, sometimes that deliverance seemed to come rather slowly in human terms. Yes, sometimes it seemed rather impossible—such as when God told Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son when they were age 100 and 90 respectively. Yet, they held onto the reality of those promises by faith because: “they considered him faithful ( or worthy of trust) who had made the promise.”
Like all these ancient heroes of faith, we, too, shall all die. And let’s face it: death is concrete. It is the ultimate in realness. But, knowing of the resurrection from the dead through faith, and holding on to that future reality, our “one slice of pie lives” suddenly are enlarged into “whole pie” reality! Suddenly fear over our smallness, and anxiety over our uncertain futures is replaced with hope, joy, and certainty over our infinite worth to God Almighty. Worth made possible only through faith in Christ. Suddenly, the whole cosmos becomes ours. What we don’t yet know or understand holds no apprehension because of what we do know and understand.—Namely, that “God is not ashamed to be called our God, for He has prepared a city just for us in glory.”
So, are we living in a sand castle? No way! The shifting sands of human understanding are constantly washing away unbelief. But Christian faith resides safely upon the Rock of Jesus Christ. Amen