betterAnd all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11:39-40

As we have worked our way through Hebrews 11 and studied all these men and women, some named, some not, we have seen this common thread. All these by faith obtained a good testimony through faith. All of them. Every one of them mentioned here and hundreds and thousands of others. Hebrews 12 begins by telling us:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

And these are those witnesses. It is a great cloud, an innumerable congregation, those who have believed in Jesus Christ. Do we read the Old Testament with a view toward the fact that many that we read about are object lessons for us of faith?

Think about it. As we read through the Old Testament these familiar stories and accounts of heroism, faithfulness, courage, and even of weakness, sin, and failure – they all teach us about faith. The Old Testament is so applicable to us today not just as we discuss the law, but as we search the Scriptures to know and love Jesus more and more.

These passages and all these faithful show us how to stand firm in our faith in the midst of great joy and triumph and in the midst of great pain and sorrow. They show us people who had incredible longings fulfilled by God and others who depended upon Him for their very food and water, oil and flour, for their very lives.

We see how to stand up under temptation, how to handle grief and loss, how to work through impossible circumstances and how to see God’s hand in every dark providence. All these show us how, by faith.

We see that for all our doctrine often we simply need to know and love and trust Jesus. Now to be sure, doctrine is important. I would never belittle doctrine. But at the same time we have a plague in some churches today in that we emphasize knowing doctrine but have little accountability to do what we hear. We agree that the Word of God is “profitable for doctrine” but we forget about the fact that the Scriptures are also good and profitable for “reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.” There is more to studying the Bible than doctrine, and an overemphasis on knowledge only puffs us up in our pride. By faith we can remain humble and use that doctrine to impact the way we and our families live.

All these testify, they witness to us about the strength of faith and the power of God to both give and sustain that faith, even in the most difficult of times. Faith. Taking God at His Word. Believing Jesus Christ. All these tell us that it is worth it. All these also remind us that we are never alone. Never. All these say, “Have faith in God.”

A Good Testimony

All these, we are told, obtained a good testimony through faith. Their trust in Christ worked its way out in the way that they lived. This is expressed by some as orthopraxy. While orthodoxy refers to the quality of the doctrine to which we hold (being orthodox means we are believing sound doctrine), orthopraxy refers to the way we live what we believe. As we have discussed several times, what we believe works its way out in how we live. So if we really and truly are trusting Christ and holding to sound doctrine then we will live accordingly.

 What is a good testimony? It is the living of sound doctrine. For when we are obedient to Christ, even while the world hates us for it, they will give testimony themselves of how we live. Too many “Christians’ today are Christian in name only and do not live any differently at all than the world.

We are told not to love the world or the things in the world. We are told not to be conformed to the world. We are to avoid worldly “wisdom,” worldly doctrine, and worldly cares. We are told throughout the Scripture that we are not of this world. And yet so many in the church look, sound, and act just like the world. Why is that?

 To boil this all down and make it as simple as possible we have to understand a plain truth. If we claim something with our mouths – even if we are fully convinced of it in our own minds – and then we live in a manner contrary to that “profession,” then we are hypocrites. The Bible is clear here, all these obtained a good testimony by faith. We cannot gain a good testimony without faith.

Can people fool and deceive us? For a while, yes. But ultimately Jesus tells us that we will know them by their fruit. Bad trees cannot bear good fruit. It may seem good but it is counterfeit.

So can Christians sin and fail and fall? Surely. Until we are glorified we are living in a war zone. The battle between our spirit and our fallen flesh is a battle to the death. But the test is found in seeing how we respond to sin. Do we harbor it, hide it, enjoy it, make a habit of it, and defend it? Or do we loath it, hate it, repent of it, and detest it? What is our attitude toward sin?

To obtain a good testimony is as simple as having our lives and mouths work together – speaking and living what we believe. These that we have studied lived their faith, even to the death. Their faith made a difference in who they were and how they were perceived.

If we do not look, talk, and act differently than the world then something is wrong. A good testimony involves the way we talk, the way we play, the way we pray, the way we interact with the Bible and other believers, and it affects how we make decisions and what stands we take and what battle we are willing to fight.

Too often the sad truth is that the church looks, sounds, and acts just like the world. If that is true, then the church is not really the church! It is a false gospel and dangerous doctrine that allows us to look like what we should be exposing as error. We are light, the world darkness. We are salt, the world dead and tasteless. We are full of living water, the world is dying of thirst. We are different than the world. So let’s act like it.

What is a good testimony? It is being like Jesus. It is being holy. It is counting the cost. It is faithful obedience to the Scripture. It is humility. It is the denial of self while we love God with all we are and our neighbor as ourselves. The church must be holy, for her Savior is holy. Are you holy?

(next: The Promise)