8/12/01, P10C

“The Behinder We Get
Hebrews 11: 1-16

hat are your fondest dreams? Perhaps you are hoping that our Atlanta Braves win the Eastern Division Championship again this year. In past years they were ahead so far that they seemed to have it locked up by early August, but it is a bit tighter this year. Those pesky Phillies and the surprising Marlins are nipping at our every slip up. Yet, we have hope of another National League Championship and by faith we even dare to dream of a World Championship.

One of the wonderful things about fantasy, in great literature and in baseball, is that it prepares us, trains our hearts, to hope for he highest and the best. Without hopes and dreams life could dovetail pretty fast. However, great stories in books, in motion pictures and in baseball can help renew our fondest dreams. Even when we are a certain loser we can remember that sometimes victory is snatched from the teeth of defeat.

Just last Sunday night the Cleveland Indians were trailing the Seattle Mariners by twelve runs in the seventh inning, but somehow came back and won fifteen to fourteen. Thus, the next time we feel like we are down twelve in the seventh, we can keep on keeping on.

Of course, these hopes and dreams for the highest and the best apply to our spiritual lives. The big difference is that in Christ we are given an assurance of victory. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV). Even though we now see glory from a distance, we like our Old Testament ancestors, desire a better country, we are wanderers seek a homeland; in Christ we have a guarantee that we will arrive.

In his book entitled Miracles, C.S. Lewis refers to Jesus' Resurrection as "The New Creation." He is saying that the Resurrection is an ongoing event that continues to happen when Saints experience death and resurrection, but that since our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, it begins to happen in us as we are converted and given an inward and spiritual New Creation, or New Life. Certainly, the earliest believers based the office of Apostle upon the experience of the Resurrected Christ. Just a few days after the Resurrection the candidates put forward to replace Judas were all witnesses of the physical and Resurrected person of Jesus Christ. Later, St. Paul based his claim to Apostleship upon his encounter with Jesus as he was traveling to Damascus. He saw the Resurrected Lord and was converted as he responded to Jesus. In like manner, our salvation is based on our own spiritual experience with Christ. Would you want a Pastor who did not feel called by Christ into His service? Likewise, would you be able to claim a relationship with Christ without knowing Him?

Just as our Old Testament forefathers: Abraham, Moses, King David, and the many others were saved by the faith experience of expectancy in looking forward to what God was going to do in the future to redeem His People, so are we saved by looking back on what God did in Christ from the manger through the tomb. Our ancestors died in the faith having not seen the actual shape of the Cross, but they believed that there would be "a better country, that is, a heavenly one." (v.16.) Thankfully, we have inherited such a positive hope that all of us can say has given us faith during the inevitable difficult times in our lives. Others might repeat the old southern idiomatic adage expressing a lack of hope, "The harder I try, the behinder I get!" However, we have an inheritance that keeps our hope alive even amid tragedy. Without a Biblical sense of hope my parents would have not been able to survive The Great Depression. It was not easy for them to make it during the economic disaster that negatively effected the entire world, but my parents, aunts and uncles, redoubled their faith in God and survived. They never allowed themselves to feel like victims. They did not blame anyone. They prayed and they made. Their example of faith amid adversity has enabled my family to likewise be survivors and to weather the storms of life unscathed. We experience God by looking back upon Christ's propitiation. By faith we have welcomed God's loving forgiveness.

The problem a lot of individuals have with the message of Christianity is related to acceptance of the concept of propitiation. When C.S. Lewis was struggling to embrace Christian faith. In a letter to his lifelong friend, Arthur Greeves, he admitted, "I have so often ridiculed 'propitiation,' 'sacrifice,' 'the blood of the Lamb' expressions which I could only interpret in senses that seemed to me either silly or shocking." Later, his fellow Oxford Fellows (professors) and dear friends, Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien showed him was that whenever he read an ancient Pagan story that involved sacrifice he was drawn to it. In fact, the three of them had often been inwardly moved by the mythical tales of gods and sacrifice. They further explained that the story of Christ's dying in our place is simply a true myth: a myth working on our hearts in the same was as other stories have, but with the tremendous difference that it really happened. Indeed, the Pagan stories helped to open their hearts to accept the Gospel. Later, Tolkien and Lewis wrote science fiction stories for adults, and mythical children's stories of talking animals and imaginary lands with a Christian message that has over the succeeding years softened many reader's hearts to believe the Good News about Jesus. A child that has read The Chronicles of Narnia and wept when Aslan the talking Lion King died in order to save his friends, will relate that mythical story to the true story of Jesus' sacrificial death whenever they hear the Biblical story. It at this point that Lewis' lifelong fascination with both logic and fantasy, which always seemed to contradict, made a happy union. (The Letters of C.S. Lewis, Oct.18, 1931). Later Lewis wrote. "The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (Resurrection) and a single historical doctrine (Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had." (The Screwtape Letters, XXIII, para.3.)

Resurrection and Redemption are the very real events of the Cross that were the objects of faith that Abraham's descendants looked for and longed for, by faith. Our advantage is that we look back on the Cross and are able to visualize it and understand it better. And, by faith we are able to embrace it and we have never been the same since.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

8/12/01, P10C