Walking With God, Story of the Book # 10

September 6, 2015

Walking with God

Every once in a while I will hear
that someone has been elected to this hall of fame or that hall of fame.  Maybe the Country Music or Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame, and I will think “Seriously, what took them so long?”  I would have assumed that they would have
been there long ago.  But then again
nobody asked my opinion. And while I can’t speak to sports those of you who
follow hockey and baseball probably have had that feeling at one time or
another. 

The Bible has its own hall of fame, part
of it was read for you earlier.  It’s
found in Hebrews Chapter 11 and often it is referred to as the “Faith Hall of
Fame”.

And for the most part we understand
why those who are listed are listed.  It
starts with Abel, the younger son of Adam and Eve who offered a better
sacrifice than his brother Cain did.  And
then for thirty five verses example after example of faithful people are given.  Noah who built an ark, Abraham who became a
father in his old age, and then Abraham’s son, grand son and great great
grandson, that would be Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and then the author highlights
Moses and the faith that he had to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in
Egypt to the promised land.   And finally
we read Hebrews 11:32  How much more do I need to say? It would take
too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson,
Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.

This
is week ten of our Story of the Book series, this summer we have taken a
whirlwind tour of the bible.  Three weeks
ago we landed in the New Testament.

And
now we are in the section most often called the General Epistles, or General
Letters.  These are the letters in the
New Testament that weren’t written by Paul and they include. Hebrews, James, 1
and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John and the book of Jude. 

For
the most part it has been accepted that James the brother of Christ wrote the
book of James, Peter the apostle wrote 1 and 2 Peter, John the Apostle wrote 1,
2 and 3 John and Jude, another brother of Christ, was the author of Jude.  Jude of course is the diminutive of Judas and
was used  to avoid association with the
one who betrayed Christ.

Nobody
really knows who wrote the book of Hebrews, many would suggest that it was the
apostle Paul but there are enough differences between this letter and others
that he wrote in writing style and structure to cast at least a shadow of
doubt. 

Among
the suggestions of who the writer may have been Priscilla is gaining more and
more acceptance, and if that is the case she would be the only female writer of
the New Testament. The letters were written between 45 and 90 AD. 

The
earliest being written by James and the latest being written by John while he
has exiled on the Island of Patmos. 

And
so for this section we are landing in the book of Hebrews in one of my
favourite chapters.  In most of the
stories that are told in Hebrews 11 there are some really neat things
happening, nations begin, arks are built, and people are rescued.  But listen again to the scripture that was
read earlier  Hebrews
11:5
It was by faith that Enoch was taken up
to heaven without dying—”he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he
was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.

That
sounds like something out of x-files. 
“Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying.”  You might say “there he was and then there he
was, gone.”   

That
is so cool and it’s even cooler in the King James Version because it reads Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch
was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had
translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he
pleased God.  

Enoch
was translated.  I’ve had my words
translated, and we all know what that means. 
You speak using words from one language and they are repeated in a
different language.  One night on my
first trip to Africa my friend Nick Graham spoke in English, his words were
translated into a second language and then another person translated them into
a third language. 

 So we know that when you translate a language
the message remains the same but the words used are different.  In the original language the word used meant
“To change, or to turn”. Before H.C. Wilson returned to be our district
superintendent he gave oversight to the Wesleyan Church worldwide and I heard
him refer on some occasions to translators as “Word Turners”

So
Enoch was changed, he was turned from one thing into another thing, while the
essence of who he was remained the same. And we don’t know how, not at
all.  And if anyone tells you they know
how it happened they are bluffing. 

But
it is a neat concept.  When I was trying
to figure out what happened and how it happened this is what came to mind  (scene from Disney’s Cinderella).  The essence of who Cinderella was remained
the same but she had been changed and translated. 

Quite
a number of years ago now Joe Diffie had a
song called “Prop me up beside the Juke Box When I’m Gone.”    And that’s why I love country music. 

And
in the song there is a line that says “I’m not
afraid of dying it’s the thought of being dead.” 
But for most of us it is the opposite, we’re not afraid of being
dead it’s the thought of dying and not knowing what that will look like. 

And
I don’t think I’m alone in that, four hundred years ago Francis Bacon wrote “I do not believe
that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death.”  And forty years ago Woody Allen said virtually the same thing “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there
when it happens.”

And
probably if most of us were honest here today we would admit to the same
thing.  That we have the assurance of an
eternity with God, but we aren’t really looking forward to the journey. 

It’s
like travelling with Angela, she wants to be wherever it is we are going but
she hates to fly and doesn’t look forward to that part of the trip. 

If
we could be assured of the transition and that it would be peaceful, then
perhaps we could say with Samuel Butler “To die is
but to leave off dying and do the thing once for all.”  Or Joyce
Cary who said “I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it.
Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain.”

I
love the Meme that says “I want to die in my sleep
like my grandfather, not screaming like the passengers in his car.”

But
we don’t get that choice; most of us won’t get to pick how or when we are going
to go.   

So
what do we know about Enoch?  Not
much.  He is mentioned three times in the
New Testament. Here in Hebrews, in the book of Luke he is mentioned in the
genealogy of Christ and there is a brief and obscure reference to a prophecy of
his in the book of Jude. 

There
is almost as much written about him in Hebrews 11 as there was in the original
story where we read in Genesis 5:21-23 When Enoch
was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of
Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and
he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close
fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

Now
some of you have fixated on the fact that Enoch lived 365 years and you are
stuck there.  And you are thinking “365
years that is impossible, how can I believe the bible when it makes statements
like that?”  

You
know I don’t have a problem with that. 
Some people have said that it was just a different way of counting back
then.  I tried that different way of
counting when I was taking math in school, didn’t work out so good for me. 

But
you know I’m quite content to say “ok, he live 365 years, let’s move on.”
Because it wasn’t even that long in the big scheme of things back then, the
bible tells us that Enoch’s son Methuselah lived for 969 years.  Enoch was just middle aged when he was
translated. 

And
I wouldn’t worry too much about not living that long Mark
Twain got it right when he said “Methuselah
lived to be 969 years old . You boys and girls will see more in the next fifty
years than Methuselah saw in his whole lifetime.”  And if that was true over a hundred
years ago think of how more you will see today.

My
theory, if you are interested in it, is that when humanity was that close to
creation it wouldn’t have been unusual for people to live that long.  Have you ever made a copy of a copy of a
copy? Starts to get a little fuzzy doesn’t it?  
Every step away from the original means that the copy gets a little less
crisp and clear.  If we believe the bible
account then Enoch was only six copies from the original.  

But
really what does it matter to you?  You
probably won’t live to be 365 years old. 
If you are lucky you won’t have a child at 65 and you probably won’t be
translated. 

Although
in saying that you understand that we believe that Christ will return, that is
part of the promise that we are given in the bible, and here is another part of
that promise.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52 But let me
reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be
transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last
trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be
raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.   Sure sounds like what happened to
Enoch.  But that is a whole different
sermon.

But
ultimately we have very little control over when or how we will die, but what
we do have control over is how we will live, so today I want to focus on what
we can learn about living from Enoch.

If
we go back to where we started we read Hebrews 11:5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without
dying—”he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he
was known as a person who pleased God.” 

Enoch
is not on the list because he built an ark or fought a giant, he is on this
list for one reason only “He was known as a person who pleased God.”   Well that is
a given, I would suspect that each of the people on this list pleased God,
that’s how they got on the list.

But
in the other cases we are told how they pleased God, so let’s return to the original
story to see if we can find some clarity. 
Genesis 5:23-24 Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with
God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

So
Enoch pleased God by Walking with God, but what does that mean?  Especially for today.

In
the book of Deuteronomy we read Deuteronomy 26:17 You have declared today that the LORD is your God. And you have promised to walk in his ways,
and to obey his decrees, commands, and regulations, and to do everything he
tells you.   

Walking with God Requires a
Choice 

One
of the basic tenets of Christianity is the doctrine of “Original Sin” or “Inherent
Depravity”.  That is the belief that we
have been born sinful and with what some would call a bent toward sin.

There
are some who would debate this and lean the other way and talk about the
innocence of children and how people are inherently good.  I think I have mentioned that this summer I
had a chance to be on CBC radio on a panel speaking about communities of faith
and the environment. 

The
other speaker was from the Shamballa Community and he kept referring to the
inherent goodness of man and how if left to their own devices they would do the
right thing.  But in the same breath he
spoke about how the government needed to legislate this or that.  But if man is inherently good and will do the
right thing if left to their own devices then the government shouldn’t have to
legislate anything.   

The
bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and try as
we will we can never bridge the gulf between sinful man and a holy God, it is
just too great.  And the path that we
walk by default is a path that leads away from God and into an eternity devoid
of God and goodness and light and love. 
A destination the bible refers to as hell.

But
God sent his Son to provide a different path, a path that would lead to God and
goodness, to light and to love.  A
destination that the bible refers to as heaven. 

But
it requires a choice.  It was Robert Frost who wrote
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both.
And be one traveler, long I stood.
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”

Like
Robert Frost many of us come to that juncture and want to travel both, but the
reality is we can’t.  Walking with God
will require a choice.  And when we choose
to walk with God we will have the words in our heart that Frost finished his
poem with.

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference

It
wasn’t long after the story of Enoch that we read the story of Noah and it
begins with these words, Genesis 6:9  This
is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only
blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship
with God.

While
the rest of society walked a path of disobedience and rebellion Noah choose to
walk in close fellowship with God. 

If
you have never chosen to be a Christ Follower, then today is the day.  Paul wrote in 2
Corinthians 6:2
 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On
the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the
“right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

That
conscious act to walk with God begins when you acknowledge that you are a
sinner and need forgiveness and you turn from your sinful nature and turn to
God.  That is called repentance.  And the next step is accepting the reality
that your sins have been forgiven and your new life is about to begin.   Which leads us to the next point. 

The
Old Testament Prophet Amos asked in Amos 3:3  Can
two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?  That of course is a rhetorical question.   Walking with God Requires Direction
and Movement
If we are going to walk with God then we will need to walk in the same
direction as God is walking. 

Sometimes
we want to have our cake and eat it too. 
We want the end result of walking with God but we want to walk where we
want to walk and and how we want to walk. 
And that can’t happen. 

Jesus
told us in John 14:15  “If
you love me, obey my commandments.”  And in proverbs Solomon
tells us Proverbs 21:3  The
LORD is more pleased when we do
what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.

And
how do we know what is right and wrong?  Psalm
119:105
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and
a light for my path.

Too
often I meet Christians who know they are being disobedient but they are way
too eager to play the grace card.  “Well
I know it’s wrong, but I’ll ask God to forgive me and it will be all right.”  Seriously? 
That sound suspiciously like the question Paul asks in Romans
6:1
 Well then, should we keep on
sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?

The
thinking was that if we are saved by God’s grace and it is through grace that
we are forgiven, and God’s grace is a good thing, that the more we sin then the
more grace is evidenced.  Win, win. 

But
Paul answers his own question in the next verse when he writes Romans 6:2  Of course
not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  And I’m sure that under his breath he
muttered “Idiots”. 

And
it’s not just knowing what direction to go in but actually moving in that
direction.  Throughout the bible metaphors
for the Christian life usually include movement.  Whether it’s a walk, a race, a journey or
simply moving from childhood to maturity there is never an implication that it
is stationary.  As Will Rogers said, “Even
if you are on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

So
we have made a choice to follow God and to walk with him in the direction that
he chooses.  Now there is a fallacy that
says that if we are walking with God that there will never be problems or
challenges.  And that is a lie. 

When
we talked about choosing to follow God you are choosing not to follow Satan,
not to follow the ways of the world.  So
understand that    

Walking With God Requires
Commitment  
Somewhere some have bought
into the myth that the walk of the Godly is somehow a beautiful stroll in a beautiful
peaceful  park. 

Sometimes
we have problems just because we are people who live earth.  But there are other times that the evil one
is intent on messing with us. 

Jesus’
best friend wrote to the early church warning them, 1
Peter 5:8
 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He
prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Throughout the bible the Devil is referred
to as the enemy of the godly, as our adversary, as the accuser.  Tommy Douglas said
“We must never
underestimate our opponents; nor should we forget that the closer we come to
reaching our objectives, the more vicious and forthright will their opposition
become.”

If you are keeping score, that was a liberal quote
2 weeks ago, a conservative quote last week and a NDP quote this week.

But
while we need to acknowledge the opposition that comes from the Devil we need
to remember the promise of the word of God, we read in James
4:7
 So humble yourselves before
God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 

And
while Satan can tempt you to do wrong, and tempt you to turn from God he can’t
make you do it.  “The Devil made me do
it” is a cop out and a lie.  Remember 1
Corinthians 10:13
 The temptations in your life are no
different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow
the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will
show you a way out so that you can endure.

And
finally we need to understand that This Walk
Will Come to an End  
What happened
to Enoch will always be a mystery.  But
the reality is that unless the Lord returns during our life time each person
here will die. 

As
you know from the number of times I quote him I’m a big fan of William Barclay
who wrote the Daily Study Bible.  If I
have a problem with Barclay it’s that he’s constantly trying to explain away
the supernatural and offering alternate scenarios for miracles. 

The
case of Enoch is no exception, but I enjoy his explanation in this case, In a
wicked and corrupt generation Enoch walked with God and so when the end came to
him, there was no shock or interruption. Death merely took him into God’s
nearer presence. Because he walked with God when other men were walking away
from him, he daily came nearer to him and death was no more than the last step
that took him into the very presence of that God with whom he had always
walked.”

The
question for each one of us today has to be, where will your last step lead
you?