Audio Worship 3/24/2024, "Living Faithfully" Hebrews 11.1-3; 12.1-3

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1630

March 24, 2024

Hebrews 11.1-3; 12.1-3   Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Living Faithfully”


11.1-3 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.


12.1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


  • Along the Way


Today is Palm Sunday when we reflect on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem prior to Holy Week and Easter. Today will will focus on what drew people to line up along the road to sing praises to Jesus and to gather palm branches and to entertain the notion that whether they understood it or not, they became a part of Psalm 118.26-27, “26Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. 27The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!”

I want to make the case that those folks who blessed Jesus on Palm Sunday, are like those who are listed in Hebrews 11. Luke 19 tells of the story. 37As [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19.37-38). You may recall that Hebrews 11 is a long list of people who displayed faith, the tradition of the faithful, like the big time names Noah, Abraham, Moses, as well as some we might not recall like Enoch, Barak, or Jephthah. Hebrews 11 lists them with the opening phrase, “by faith”. By faith Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cane. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. By faith this one and that one all obeyed God in one way or another to do as God required. Today we look to a group of people who, by faith began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice - “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

What was it that drew these disciples to come along the way to praise as they did? Luke says specifically that it was for all the mighty works that they had seen. I suspect that to make the connection between seeing mighty works and praising God is what we call faith. They were drawing upon faith. So, today, rather than looking at the text just on the triumphal entry, we are looking to their faith, and to our own.


  • Assurance and Conviction


Hebrews 11 defines faith as the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. There was on the day of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem an assurance and conviction for those willing to welcome Jesus with songs of praise, waving branches, and proclaiming Him King. Jesus was the one they had hoped for. He formed in them a conviction of belief that had certainly not been seen before Him. By faith they came and worshiped because of what had been revealed to them. What would it have been like to stand among the faithful, branch in hand, praising Jesus? Acts that arise out of faith are not always seen as rational by the world, and maybe even by ourselves. We put our faith in a God we cannot see. We follow a Savior we do not fully know. We trust a purpose not completely revealed. We do this by faith, not by sight, not by complete proof in a scientific sense, but by faith, the assurance of what we hope for and the conviction of what we have yet to see.

In that way, faith is more like art than anything else. Art is not something that seeks to give us information like a computer, not even to make something already known that much clearer, but to reveal that which is hidden. Faith gives vision to the invisible. Faith reveals something inside God’s kingdom.

We have been watching one of those make over shows, Maine Cabin Masters, where they take a run down lake cabin and turn into something no one else could imagine. Sometimes they hire an artist to carve out an eagle or bear out of a log. You’ve seen those guys who take a chainsaw and look at a log and an hour later, out comes a bear. The wood carver looks at a log standing before him and sees a sculpture even before he has begun to chisel or saw. He sees something revealed in the log. We might say that by faith, he cuts away the first chip of wood and begins a journey of faith. Most of us see the log and that's all. At best we might see firewood, chopped and split. But the artist sees a hidden beauty - a shape - a form which is hidden in the wood.

Art is a wonderful illustration of faith in the sense of the woodcarver, or the painter, or the writer, for faith is artistic. Faith is living a life of beauty and grace carved on our souls. To live by faith is to live a life God may look upon and say, "It is good." It is not just about morality, that is important, but also aesthetically, like a graceful dance with a chainsaw that carves out a figure not seen before. What if we looked at our lives this way, as artists of faith? And what if we sought to live a beautiful artistic life? By faith, we carve out a life that sees the unknown, that reveals the invisible. We do this by: sharing God's word that reveals truth, by loving one another as Christ has loved us, by giving cheerfully out of the abundance of God's gifts, and by doing the impossible like loving our enemies.

Faith - the assurance of things hoped for. Faith - the conviction of things not seen. Faith - trusting that this is the way life is to be lived. Living by faith makes little sense in our world. The world says you've got to make preparations, you've got to secure your future, you've got to decide only by the facts and the rules and the laws that govern the way of the world. Seventy-five year old men like Abraham are crazy to leave home and security in Haran to journey out in the desert toward an unknown destination. People following Jesus are crazy to gather palm branches and sing of the coming King. But they were faithful because of an assurance in their hearts and a conviction that compelled them to live by faith and not sight. They saw something more than what is seen. They decided to live like artists who sees what is hidden in the log.

I think this is one of the reasons the arts are less important to some who run education programs. Art and music and the poetic word go against the grain of social structures and western ways. So faith does not matter to them. The Word of God does not matter to them. The world only believes in things that we can comfortably see and touch and prove. But that is not wholly true either, for some also want to create a false narrative that robs us and our children of the truth of faith in Christ. Faith has no holding power in the sense of physically grasping it, no possession in the sense of ownership, no empirical data, no objective absoluteness. And yet we are certain of it, totally convinced of God's love and grace and existence. In the world if it is not rational, it is not valid. So faith, by that standard, is considered irrational. Therefore, much of what we are and what we do will not be rational, but it will be faithful. We do not intentionally seek to be irrational and then call that faith, but faith may give the appearance of irrational behavior, much like the work of an artist or poet whose work appeared useless to a productive materialistic society.

We live by faith, by an assurance of hope not seen by the world, a conviction of Jesus Christ not seen by the world. So, by faith, we come to worship God. By faith, we contemplate God’s Word. By faith, we live in joyous obedience to Jesus Christ. By faith, we risk ourselves for the gospel. By faith, we cannot see the kingdom of God and yet we can. By faith, we know something hoped for and unseen. By faith, we will eat, rest, sleep, drive, play, search, question, answer, hope...By faith, we live all of life. The art of living this way is seeing the impossible, seeing the promised land just over the next sand dune, seeing the images evoked in a poem, seeing the will of God working in one another, seeing Christ as King and singing His praises along the way. From time to time the art of living by faith reveals a portion of the kingdom of God and we are blessed by faith. We are further assured and convicted.


  • Looking to Jesus


Hebrews 12 takes us further into faithful living. Hebrews 12 begins, “therefore, since we are surrounded...” Therefore connects it to the cloud of witnesses in the previous chapter, Hebrews 11. Those witnesses - people like Noah and Abraham, and for us today those people who stood along the way waving branches on Palm Sunday. The author of Hebrews tells us to look to all those who have gone before us in faithful living, and then he narrows the field even more calling us to look to the One to whom all these people were faithful. In essence Hebrews 12 tells us how to strengthen faith.

First, lay aside every weight and sin. Repent. Rid ourselves of the things that would block our participation in the kingdom of God. Set aside anything that prevents us from following Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul, and body. Confess our sins, turn away from them and turn to Jesus by faith. The Holy Spirit helps us in this matter. The Word of God helps us lay aside that which would diminish faithful living. Get sin out of the way!

Second, run with endurance the race set before us. Our race, training, self-control is mostly about an endurance race. There is an art to the race as well. Any athlete knows they have to be able to persist in a discipline, foster a vision, much like an artist. We are not sprinters, but marathon runners and the race that is set before us is one that has an assurance and conviction because Jesus runs with us.

Third, look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Focus on Jesus. A runner is focused on the finish line, the artist on the vision of beauty. We are focused on Jesus who also could see beyond the cross, beyond the tomb, beyond the day He triumphantly entered Jerusalem.

Living faithfully in praise and obedience, in gratitude and hope, in love and grace. This is what faith looks like, setting aside the weight, running the race, and looking to Jesus.



  • Living Faithfully


Today is Palm Sunday and we are looking to this week, Holy Week, as we imagine what it was like for Jesus and the disciples and the people along the way. Just as those along the way praised Jesus and spread their branches, so too are we to give praise. We offer that praise, not with palm branches, but with our words and actions. We offer praise in our attitude of faith and hope, service and self-denial. We offer praise and thanks along our way looking to Jesus. We are now the people of Hebrews 11 and those of Luke 19 who sang songs of praise. We are the ones assured of things hoped for and with the conviction of things not seen. We do not see Jesus. We do not see the kingdom of God, but we are convinced Jesus is with us and convinced that the kingdom is here now and the kingdom will one day come on earth as it is in heaven. And now we offer branches of hope in the gospel. We wave branches of love through acts of service. We lay down branches of salvation and grace, of mercy and truth. We also worship God with branches of prayer and praise, gratitude and faith. We are now living faithfully, artistically, gracefully, to glorify Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior - the One who entered Jerusalem knowing and seeing His mission to the cross to save His own. Let us respond by living faithfully assured in hope and convicted in vision. Amen.