Spiritual Checks You Can Take to the Bank
The Certainty of God's Grace

Week of October 8-12, 2018

The Certainty of God's Grace, part 1

Monday, October 8, 2018


Last week we finished up a series of studies on the Life of Abraham, the father of faith. And with my upcoming trip to Ukraine, I thought it would be good to jump into a new, short series, one I preached a couple of years ago, which will enable me to get the devotionals setup and scheduled in advance, to be sent out while I am gone. Hopefully, they will just keep coming while I am busy in ministry and more often than not away from a good wi-fi signal. 

How many of you have ever bought something because of a TV commercial? Have you noticed that they have become really creative in making those 30 second commercials? Most of them used to be boring and predictable, but now some of them are quite exciting and effective. There are a few things that every infomercial seems to have in common: 

  • an amazing product or service to sell
  • an energetic/well-known host/hostess and an enthusiastic crowd
  • first-hand reports of people who have used the product and have found it to be amazing
  • a special limited-time offer – usually a discount on the normal price, and special bonuses (i.e.. if you buy now, you will also receive...). 

Now let me ask you this: What is it that really seems to lure you in / convince you to make the purchase?

  • Product is brand new/easy to use/proven effective by others
  • Remarkable claims made by the host/manufacturer
  • There is a little something inside of us saying “I just have to have that!”  

 

Now, if that is the case: Why is it that many, if not most, of us generally don’t buy things very often, from TV commercials?  Too expensive, trendy and or it just seems too good to be true? I’m guessing, that the greatest reason we don’t make these purchases is that all of us have been burned at one time or another. All of us have had the experience of buying a product (from a commercial or a store), and we’re really excited. But then we get it home and find that it really wasn’t as easy, effective, or as durable as they claimed it was.

 

How did that make you feel? Do you feel: Upset, frustrated, betrayed, disappointed? What would happen inside of you if this happened to you a lot? You would probably become cynical, lose faith in people, or not trust others easily. 

Unfortunately, I think that a lot of us have been disappointed too often by products and people and have become extremely cynical to the point that not only do we fear disappointment, we seem to expect it. As a result, many of us have learned not to trust: not to trust our neighbors, our government, our schools, institutions, etc. Unfortunately, a further result is that many people have become very cynical about GOD and spiritual things. They’re afraid to place their trust in the church and the Bible because they don’t want to be disappointed again, so they stay away and/or keep them at arm’s length.  

Truthfully, this affects us as Christ followers as well. Knowing that people are watching us, and judging Christ by what they see in us, many of us as followers of Jesus have become fearful of saying or doing anything for God in case we mess up and turn someone off. We seem to have lost confidence in ourselves and, at times, even in spiritual truths.  

Continued tomorrow

 

Spiritual Checks You Can Take to the Bank: 
The Certainty of God's Grace, part 2

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How do we change this? How can we rebuild our confidence as followers of Jesus? How can we earn the trust of others around us so that they will listen to us and not write us off as “too good to be true” or a “scam looking for its next victim?” 

I believe, that we, as followers of Jesus, need to become freshly convinced of the truth of God’s Word and the claims It makes for our lives. We need to find our confidence and security in God, so that we can boldly offer what we have found to others. We need to become the kind of people that others will believe. These are the same of the same challenges that Christians have faced for centuries. And the good news is that we can look to the same place for our answers: God’s Word. 

I’ve always been amazed by the Apostle Paul, the great evangelist and church planter. In the midst of his work of planting churches and holding evangelistic services, he was also a prolific writer. He wrote many letters to his followers, some to churches in various towns and cities; others to individuals, specifically leaders that he had developed, equipped, and placed in key ministry positions. These letters, in particular, have a different flavor – more personal in nature. They were written to encourage and help these leaders in the work that God had given to them; we call these the Pastoral Epistles. 

Five times in these letters, Paul used a phrase that set a specific principle or truth apart from the rest. “This is a TRUSTWORTHY saying...” By using this phrase, Paul declared to his readers: “What I have just said, or am about to say is an important truth; it is a principle you can count on.” Or as I have often heard it said, “You can take this to the bank!” 

Paul knew what it was like to have doubts from time to time, and how a follower of Christ (even a leader) can have moments when they question their own faith / ability to serve God. It was at that time when they needed something firm to stand on.  Five times, he said “This is TRUSTWORTHY” – “This you can believe. If nothing else seems true and dependable, you can count on these principles – so build your life on them.”

In these five statements, Paul gave us FOUR TRUTHS that we can count on – “Four Spiritual Checks, That We Can Take to the Bank” confidently, knowing that they are not going to bounce. This week, and for the next 3 weeks, we are going to look at these four truths – looking at some foundational principles that we can build our lives on, as disciples of Jesus.   

I Timothy 1:12 - 19 a “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience” NIV. 

Titus 3: 3 – 8 “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” NIV.  

 

Continued tomorrow

 

Spiritual Checks You Can Take to the Bank: 
The Certainty of God's Grace, part 3

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The first foundational truth that Paul shared with these two young leaders was THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S GRACE. This truth was so important that Paul emphasized it in two places. And if we are going to progress in our lives as followers of Jesus, and have anything to offer to our neighbors and families, we have to begin with a proper understanding of God’s Grace. In order for this to happen, we must...
 

UNDERSTAND WHAT WE WERE BEFORE CHRIST

In Titus 3:3, Paul left no room for misunderstanding in regards to our condition before receiving God’s grace. “At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” 

Paul didn’t mince words, did he? He was very direct in describing what all of us were before Christ. 

  • We were “FOOLISH” – lacked spiritual understanding and discernment; this speaks of our inner attitudes and motivations.
  • We were “DISOBEDIENT” – willfully disregarding authority, refusing to obey God’s law, and God’s desires.
  • We were “DECEIVED” – actively strayed from the true course by following false teachers, and false ideas.
  • We were “ENSLAVED” – by aligning our conduct with that which was false we became entangled and ensnared by passion and pleasure.

The RESULT?  We opposed God, and treated others with malice / hatred.

Why was Paul so direct and so negative? I believe that he fully understood that we have a strong inner tendency to deny or diminish our own sinfulness, by comparing it to others around us. We look at murderers, thieves, abusers, addicts, and the like, and we think “I’m not like them. I can’t be as bad as they are.” That leads to the next thought: “How could God treat me the same as ‘those people?’ I’m basically a good person, aren’t I?” 

That’s where the problem begins: when we puff ourselves up, we deny the gravity of our own sinful condition. When we do that, we begin (at least in our own minds) to lessen our need for God’s grace. 

In one broad stroke, Paul shattered those attitudes and assumptions, saying that “at one time, we too were just like they are.” Paul was echoing the same sentiment he wrote in Ephesians 2:1-3 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world... All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

He was saying, in no uncertain terms: “The lives of our non-Christian neighbors are just like each of us were before Christ – if not in action, then in attitude – inner nature.” And just to make sure that we knew he wasn’t excusing himself, Paul described himself to Timothy as “the worst of sinners.” Now that would shock some people because they knew him only as a Godly evangelist and teacher. But Paul knew the truth – he had once been a blasphemer, persecutor, a violent man. He knew and understood the gravity of his sinful condition before he received God’s grace. 

I’ve noticed that this tendency is found in those who are closest to the Lord. Some of the people whom I respect the most are those who humbly speak of who they were before God forgave them. And, by the way, they also are the ones who continue to recognize their deep need for God’s help to remain faithful.  

 

Continued tomorrow

Spiritual Checks You Can Take to the Bank

The Certainty of God's Grace, part 4

October 11, 2018

If we want to be certain of God’s grace, we must begin by really understanding who we were before Christ.  That leads us to the next step.

 

UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD DID FOR US

Notice again, Paul’s words in Titus 3:4 “But [isn’t that a beautiful word?] when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Add to that what he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:14-15: “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.”

While we were still in that helpless condition, God the Father sent His own Son, Jesus into the world  with one purpose: to save sinners. Knowing that we could do nothing to save ourselves, Jesus took the initiative, and He died to pay the penalty for our sin because of His mercy and His love. 

What was the result? (Titus 3:5) “He SAVED us through…”

  • the washing” Cleansing from the defilement of sin
  • of rebirth and renewal” Our lives were regenerated from the inside out, resulting in a change of attitude and nature.
  • “by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ.”

All of this is done by the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence with in us at the moment of our conversion

  • “so that, having been justified by His grace” When we receive Jesus, we are declared righteous, and given a standing of acceptance before God
  • “we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” As members of His family, we can look forward to spending eternity with God in heaven.

That’s what God’s grace is all about: that through Jesus, we can avoid what we did deserve (death), so that we might receive something we don’t deserve (forgiveness and eternal life).

 

As followers of Jesus, it is imperative that we truly understand what God has done for us – the foundation of our faith. We must be convinced in our heart that God did what we could not do ourselves, to make it possible for us to enjoy a relationship with Him – both now and for eternity. Why would He do that? Simply because He loved us. 
 

UNDERSTAND WHAT GOD DESIRES FROM US

What is an appropriate/expected response to God’s Grace? First of all, we must EXPERIENCE His Grace. Paul was writing this letter to a person / people who were already Christians; they had already received and accepted God’s love. That is the first and most essential step.

George Wilson was sentenced to hang after he was convicted of killing a guard while robbing a federal payroll from a train. Public sentiment against capital punishment led to an eventual pardon by President Andrew Jackson. Unbelievably, Wilson refused to accept the pardon.

Now the courts had never experienced this, and were naturally confused as to what should happen. Eventually the Supreme Court was called to make a ruling. Chief Justice John Marshall delivered the following verdict: “A pardon is a parchment whose only value must be determined by the receiver of the pardon. It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives it. George Wilson has refused to accept the pardon. We cannot conceive why he would do so, but he has. Therefore, George Wilson must die.” Consequently, Wilson was later hanged. 

The truth is that we stand in a similar position before God. Through Jesus, God offers us forgiveness and pardon from sin, but it is only effective if we accept it and make it our own / experience His grace personally in our lives.  

 

Continued tomorrow

 

Spiritual Checks You Can Take to the Bank: 
The Certainty of God's Grace, part 5

Friday, October 12, 2018

The next thing we must then do is to choose to EXERCISE God’s Grace through Godly living.

 

Titus 2:11 – 14 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” NIV. And then he wrote this in 3:8: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to DOING what is good.”  When we have received God’s grace, the next step is to live in obedience to God’s desires – to live a life of holiness and love. To do otherwise is to thumb our noses at God’s grace.

 

Moving further along, we must also EXTEND God’s Grace to others by becoming a grace-giver. Once Paul had received God’s grace, he immediately saw the importance of extending that grace to others. 1 Timothy 1:16 “For that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” How do you become a grace-giver? By openly talking about how God has forgiven you and changed you. By living in accordance with God’s will and desires. By treating others with grace and mercy and not with judgment and hostility.

 

Quite often as Christians, we tend to start to see things in black and white - especially in this crazy political climate - and then many feel empowered to express or opinions on  social media: “This is right and this is wrong. If you do what is right, I like you. If you do what is wrong, I condemn you.” How many of us react to someone doing wrong/hurting us by immediately jumping in and judging them? When someone hurts us or breaks a law, we want to have them be “tarred & feathered.” 

What it means to be a grace-giver is to see a person not as everyone else sees them, but as God sees them.  And to do so with a heart that remembers and appreciates what God has done for us, being willing to pass that grace on to others.

 

Then, finally we must EXPRESS APPRECIATION for God’s grace through worship. Notice with me, Paul’s closing words in 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” For Paul, it was a spontaneous expression of appreciation for God’s grace to bow down and give honor and glory to God. And I believe, that if we truly understand

Many of us have faced moments of doubt and disillusionment that have caused us to question our faith – in fact, I expect that some of you are facing one of those moments right now. It is during those moments of uncertainty that we need to hold on to something that is firm and unchanging. And my experience tells me the best way for this to happen, is to engage in worship, reminding yourself and God how worthy, and holy, and loving and, grace filled He is. 

The Apostle Paul has given us the first of four spiritual truths (four spiritual checks) that we can count on: the first of which is The Certainty of God’s Grace. I believe that before we move on to the next truth it is absolutely essential that we understand what God’s grace is all about.

 

Have you experienced God’s grace for yourself? Do you really understand what God has done for you and have you made it a part of your life? Are you exercising God’s grace in the way you live? Are you extending God’s grace to those around you? Have you recently expressed your appreciation to God for the grace that He has poured out in your life? END

 

The Life of Abraham: The Father of Faith

“Passing the Tests of Faith”

Monday - Friday, October 1-5, 2018

The Life of Abraham: The Father of Faith
Passing the Tests of Faith, part 1

Monday, October 1, 2018

 

This week we will be wrapping up our series on “The Life of Abraham, the Father of Faith,” finding out what we can learn from him; and at the same time, what we can learn about God as He interacts with Abraham.
 
We started out by looking at, discovering that, while we often know God as, “The Great I Am;” we can also understand Him to be “The Great I Will.” Then we discovered that God is “The God Who Uses My Mistakes,” meaning that God does not get angry at us when we make mistakes. He just wants us to learn and grow from them, with His help. In the third week the message was “All that Glitters is NOT Gold,” and we discovered that many times our “Stuff” gets in the way of our relationship with God and what God is trying to accomplish in our life. In the fourth message of the series, we saw God establishing a Covenant with Abram helping us to understand “He is a Covenant-making God” – who desires to be in a covenant relationship with each one of us. Last week we came to understand that sometimes we need to “Just Get Out of the Way” – understanding that God doesn’t need our help to accomplish His purposes or promises in our life and that we must choose to let Him be the pilot, not relegating Him to the co-pilot’s seat in our life.   

There was once a small boy who came home from school and went straight to his room to pray. His mother had never seen her son do this before, so she listened outside his door. She heard him praying softly and then saying, “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo,” loudly. She went into his room and asked what he was doing. He responded that he had taken a geography test that very day and was worried about one of his answers. He was praying to God asking the Lord to please make Tokyo, the capital of France!

The truth is that we all face various tests every day, but the most important one is the test of faith. In order to pass the test of faith we need to trust God implicitly, to trust God’s provision. And if we do, I can assure you that our trust will be rewarded exponentially.

 

Let’s take a look at our Bible passage for this week’s larger study (we will, again, be using the NLT for this study). Genesis 22:1-19 “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” 2 “Take your son, your only son — yes, Isaac, whom you love so much — and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” 

3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” 

6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.  “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. 

9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”  “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” 12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from Me even your son, your only son.” 

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh–Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” 

15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed Me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by My own Name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed — all because you have obeyed Me.” 19 Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live.”

Friends, in order to pass the test of faith we have to trust God completely. And I’ll be the first to tell you that can be much easier to say that, than it is to do – but we learn and grow in faith and trust as we go and grow in our knowledge and relationship with God.  

 

Continued tomorrow

 

The Life of Abraham: The Father of Faith
Passing the Tests of Faith, part 2

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Friends, in order to pass the test of faith we have to trust God completely.

 
In order to pass the test of faith we need to trust God implicitly, just as we see Abraham, do in verse 1-5. Can you imagine hearing those words, “Go and sacrifice him”? I’ll tell you very frankly at this point, trusting God implicitly, and doing so consistently, will be one of the toughest disciplines you will ever develop in your life.
 
We all know that there are a whole lot of tests in life: tests in school, driving tests, patience tests, and the worst of all (at least for me) color-blindness tests. The most important test, though, is the test of faith.

 

We can see this illustrated very clearly for us in the life of Abraham. Our Bible passage begins with by telling us, “Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” It was a test for Abraham to leave his homeland and live among the Canaanites. It was a test to separate from his nephew Lot. It was a test to wait 25 years for the birth of Isaac - but no test (up to this point) compared to this test of his faith. 

(The word translated, “only” in this passage – verse 2 – indicates the sense of something/someone unique, one-of-a-kind, and special. Isaac was the child of the promise and represented all of Abraham’s hopes and dreams.)

 

If you look at the text, Abraham had no idea that this was a “test,” and equally true is the fact that if he had known, it would have diminished the validity of the test. From Abraham’s perspective, God’s request was totally incomprehensible. Not only was God asking him to sacrifice a child, but He was asking him to sacrifice the child of the promise, the miracle child, the long awaited child.

 

I think that what makes this such a staggering test is that it appears, on the surface, to be totally contrary to God’s character and would completely destroy everything that God was doing. Notice what God says to Abraham. He says, “Take your son, your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much…” He makes it very clear to Abraham that He knows exactly what He is asking. He is asking Abraham to give up everything. Not just his son, but the son through whom all of God’s promises hinge.  

It is right here, in this very moment, that Abraham shows us what it really means to fully trust God. It says, “The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.” We need to pay special attention to how Abraham responds. The passage does not say a single word about how Abraham feels: it only describes what he does. He does not argue with nor does he question God; he simply obeys without delay. Abraham did not consult with anyone about this. He simply obeyed, trusting in God even if it seemed to make no sense.  

 

Friends, faith is not about intellect, emotion, or rationale.  Faith is about action! This is what we have been calling “Faithing” over the past month or so in our Sunday morning messages.  

 

Continued tomorrow

The Life of Abraham: The Father of Faith
Passing the Tests of Faith, part 3

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Abraham further demonstrates his faith when he says: “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” In this verse, Abraham makes an incredibly powerful statement of faith. He tells his servants that both he and Isaac would go ahead of them, worship the Lord, and the they both would return. Abraham knew full well that his task was to take Isaac and kill him there as part of his worship and trust in God. However, he says that they would both return. He believed in, and trusted, God so much that he knew in his heart that somehow, some way, God would work this all out. 

On many levels, Faith is complete trust. Oswald Chambers said this, “Faith is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams that He will not stand by us.” Faith means you trust God in everything. In fact that is what Proverbs 3:5 is trying to communicate to us when it says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” NLT.

  • It means you trust God when things are good and when they are bad.
  • It means you trust God when you have plenty and when you have lack.
  • It means you trust God when you understand and when you don’t have a clue.
  • It means you trust God for everything, everywhere, and in every circumstance.

To trust in anything other than God, is idolatry. And this is part of what the Bible says concerning idolatry – Leviticus 19:4 “Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the LORD your God” NLT. If you trust in your ability, it is an idol. If you trust in your wealth, it is an idol. If you trust in your possessions, they are an idol. If you trust in your job, it is an idol. If you trust in anything other than the Lord, it is an idol.

 

What are you trusting in today? We must choose to Trust God’s Provision even as we see Abraham do. God Will ALWAYS Provide: it may not be what you want or expect. It may not come when, or how, you think it should: but, God will always provide.  

Abraham and Isaac make preparations to head toward the mountain, and they take with them everything they will need to make a sacrifice to the Lord, except one vital thing! It was then, that Isaac turned to his father and said, “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.”   

Abraham answers his son’s question based equally on his faith in Yahweh’s ability to provide and on His character. God had never failed him before, and, he knew, with all confidence, that He would not fail him now. His statement is both simple and profound, “God will provide...” It was not only simple and profound, but it was also emphatic, “God WILL provide!”  

Abraham then demonstrates what real faith is all about. It says, “When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.” Notice that Abraham’s faith in God’s provision doesn’t detour him from obeying God command.  

In spite believing in God’s provision, he still goes through with what he was asked to do. He ties Isaac up and puts him on the altar. Then, he picks up a knife and gets ready to kill his son. He must have explained God’s command to Isaac; Isaac must have submitted with faith in God and confidence in his father. A near 20-year old man certainly could have resisted a 120 year old father if he wanted to. It was not only Abraham’s faith being tested, but Isaac’s as well.  

Have you ever heard the phrase, “in the nick of time?” Well, in the nick of time, “the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” 12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from Me even your son, your only son.” At the very moment, he was about to kill Isaac, the Bible says, The Angel of the Lord stopped him. Remember, from last week, who “the Angel of the Lord” is? It was Jesus Himself!  

The phrase, “now I know,” here is powerful. Normally, it was the expression of joy of someone who had experienced the effects of God’s action on their behalf. But here the joy is transferred to God, who is filled with joy, seeing Abraham pass the test of faith.  

 

Continued tomorrow

The Life of Abraham: The Father of Faith
Passing the Tests of Faith, part 4

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Now God knew that Abraham would hold nothing back from Him and that Abraham truly did fear God. (To “fear the Lord” means to reverence Him as Sovereign; to trust Him implicitly; and obey Him without protest.) The sacrifice that pleases God is a heart fully broken of self-will, surrendered to God, and offering its best to God.


Then, just as Abraham had believed would happen, he “looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh–Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that Name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Yahweh–Yireh, means: “The Lord will provide.”

 

That Abraham used this particular Holy Name for God in this instance shows that the patriarchs knew the Name, Yahweh, but did not yet recognize its full meaning. Later, the Israelites came to understand this passage as a lesson about their own worship in Jerusalem. Abraham’s sacrifice took place on the mountain of the Lord, later they would sacrifice to the Lord at location of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Three times a year, the people of Israel brought their best to God as a sacrifice, trusting that He would continue to provide for their needs. 

A young woman brought her fiancé home to meet her parents for thanksgiving dinner. After dinner, her mother told her father to find out about the young man. The father invited the fiancé to his study for a talk. “So what are your plans?” the father asked the young man. “I am a Biblical scholar,” he replied. “A Biblical scholar. Hmmm,” the father said. “Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in?” “I will study,” the young man replied, “and God will provide for us.” “And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” asked the father. “I will concentrate on my studies,” the young man replied, “God will provide for us.” “And children?” asked the father. “How will you support children?” “Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replied the fiancé. The conversation proceeded like this, and each time the father questioned, the young idealist insisted that God would provide. Later, the mother asked, “How did it go, Honey?” The father answered, “He has no job and no plans, and he thinks I’m God!”

Faith means trusting God to meet all your needs, which is a promise of the Bible, Look at Philippians 4:19 “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” NLT. It means trusting God to meet your physical needs. It means trusting God to meet your spiritual needs. It means trusting God to meet your financial needs. It means trusting God to meet your emotional needs. The Apostle Paul said, “I know that my God will meet all your needs!” I want to make sure here we see the word ALL in that verse and understand it does not say your financial needs, or your housing needs, or your dietary needs, or emotional; it says ALL your needs. 

Faith means trusting God’s provision even when we can’t see it. Which of course is exactly what Hebrews 11:1 is talking about as it says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” NLT. Faith means trusting God when you don’t know where it’s coming from. It means trusting God when you don’t know when it will happen. It means trusting God when you don’t know how it can happen. It means trusting God even when it makes absolutely no sense. It means trusting that God will make a way where there is no way!

 

I have to ask: Who are you trusting today? 

We can be sure that Trust Is Rewarded Exponentially. God says to Abraham, “Because you have obeyed Me…” One thing is true about faith: it will be rewarded. Now to be fair and offer full disclosure, it may not be immediate, and it may not be the way we expect, but it will be an exponential blessing from God. 

The reaction of Abraham’s faith was obedience. This can be seen in the Lord’s response to Abraham; “Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed Me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by My own Name that 17 I will certainly bless you…” The Angel of the Lord declares to Abraham that because he had not withheld his only son He would swear by His own Name that the all the promises He made, would be kept.  

 

Continued tomorrow

The Life of Abraham: The Father of Faith
Passing the Tests of Faith, part 5

Friday, October 5, 2018

God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants abundantly. He not only promises to prosper them but also to give them victories. They will conquer and possess their enemy’s cities. He would do all of this because Abraham had obeyed the Lord’s command.


The result of Abraham’s obedience is exponential blessing, The Lord tells him, “I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed — all because you have obeyed Me.” Abraham received abundant blessings because he obeyed God. In addition, God promised Abraham children and grandchildren who would in turn bless the whole earth. People’s lives would be changed as a result of knowing of the faith of Abraham and his descendants. We often think of blessings as gifts that we will enjoy, but when God blesses us, His blessings may also overflow to others — today and into eternity. 

C. S. LEWIS – said (Weight of Glory): “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

Let me remind us: God rewards those who obey Him. Listen to the Psalmist as he writes in Psalms 58:11 “Then at last everyone will say, “There truly is a reward for those who live for God; surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth” NLT. God will reward us for living by His Word. God will reward us for living by faith. God will reward us for trusting Him in all things. You may not see it today, you may not see it tomorrow, but the rewards of faith will ALWAYS come!

God will reward those who walk in faith. Listen to what the Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah – Jeremiah 17:10 “But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” NLT. Remember – Faith is action. He will reward us for believing when others doubt. He will reward us for moving when He tells us to move. He will reward us for trusting when we cannot see. He will reward us for following His commands. (Be sure to remember, though, that the potential rewards should not and cannot be our motive for following Him; however, they certainly are the result.)

We all face various tests every day. But the most important one is the test of faith. In order to pass the test of faith we need to Trust God Implicitly, Trust God’s Provision, and if we do, we can be sure, Trust will be rewarded exponentially.  Are you passing the test of faith?  END