The Father of Faith
May 6, 2018
In these verses, we meet Abram later known as Abraham, one of the most famous people in the history of the world. Of course, it's so foundational to understand he is called the friend of God and he's called the father of faith. In fact, the Scripture says that anyone who believes and has faith is called a son of Abraham. In fact, I remember when I was young, even in our children's ministry we taught a song that is very much like that. Father Abraham had many sons. Remember the song? Anybody remember the song? Many sons had father Abraham and I am one of them and so are you so let's just praise the Lord and you start singing the melody. The kids just come home from church and they just don't want to stop. Father Abraham had many sons. I don't want to stop either.
Anyway, it's just a great reminder of the fact that those who have faith because he's the father of faith. It really is that theme of faith that runs through the Scriptures. Now, though he's called the father of faith, one of the things we need to understand as we look at his story, is that he grows in his faith. He doesn't start out as a spiritual giant. In fact, it's interesting because it seems that God makes a point of showing us his failures. I think He does that so that we can relate, so that we can understand our own journey of faith. We are growing in our faith.
I think a lot of people are like that man who came to Jesus. He brought his demon-possessed boy, and he said to Jesus, "If you can help him please have pity on us." Jesus said, "If you can. All things are possible to Him who believes." The man responded, "I believe but help my unbelief." I think that many people are like that. I believe but help my unbelief. I need to grow more in my belief, in my faith. We're all like that. We need to grow in our faith.
Abraham, the story of his life and his faith is a great lesson for us spiritually. It tells us that Abraham was living in the city of Ur, there were several so it's designated Ur of the Chaldeans, when God called him. It was actually a large metropolitan city. It was near the mouth of the Euphrates and it would be like Southern Mesopotamia area, great wealth. For its time, modern city. A lot of architectural development, but they worship the moon god amongst others. The main god of their Pantheon was the moon god Naana or Sin was another name. No doubt Abraham's father, Terah, worshiped this moon god.
God called him to leave that place. The name Abram actually means-- Its meaning is exalted father. The full name is exalted father. Now one of the problems here is that Abram is not a father at all and Sarai his wife, later she'll be known as Sarah. She’s barren. In fact, in that day for a woman to be barren was thought to be a curse by the gods.
It's interesting, the story of Abram. All of these promises are given to Abram are based upon his descendants and yet he has no son. There's going to be a lot of faith that we're going to see through the story of Abram thus Abraham. In fact, it's interesting. We would not have known about Abraham if it were not for his faith. Otherwise, he is like anyone else in this generation, but because of his faith we know Abraham. He stands out in his generation because of his faith. In fact, the people Ur, of course, followed these idols. Abraham was different. He believed God the Scripture says and it was counted to him as righteousness.
All right. We're going to look at chapter 12:1-7 and of course we look at the surrounding verses on Wednesday. Let's just read starting in verse 1, Now the Lord Jehovah, that's Jehovah, said to Abram, "Go forth, leave this country and your relatives and from your father’s house to the land which I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and so you will be a blessing." Like I'm going to bless you and then you're going to be a blessing. "I will bless those--" Here's that famous verse. "I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse and in you--" Listen to these promise here. "In you, all the families of the earth are going to be blessed." Now that is a magnanimous, amazing promise. We're going to look at that.
Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him and Lot went with him. Now Abraham was 75 years old when he departed from Haran because the story gives us a little bit more out of chapter 11, where we understand that God called him when he was in Ur, but when they journeyed they journeyed north. They followed the Fertile Crescent which is normal. 1,000-mile journey total to get to the area of the Canaanites. Now we know it is the Land of Israel. They went north to follow that fertile plain and they stopped about 600 miles in this place called Haran. There they stayed. Then God called again, "Come out." Then he went forth leaving after his father died. He went forth to the promised land that God had given to him.
I. God Calls Us Also
Let's look at this because it's really a lot of spiritual insight for our lives as we read the story of Abram and thus Abraham. One of the things we got to see is that God calls us also, right? There's some so much to learn. God called him out of Ur to this land that He's going to give to him. In many ways Ur, that city, that metropolitan city, and all the false gods, and all the materialism, and all this stuff and all the things, in many ways is like a picture of the world. It was filled with unfaithfulness and people had no heart toward God.
God called Abram out. Like, "Come out of that." To a land that he had not known, and then gave him all of these promises, a blessing upon blessing, and it tells us Abram believed God. He took Him at His Word. That's the thing of faith. It's believing God, taking God at His Word. It's believing that God is going to fulfill what He promised. In fact, you read that right out of Romans chapter 4 because in several different places, Abraham is highlighted because of his faith.
Romans chapter 4 is one of those foundational understandings of what faith is. It tells us this in Romans 4:20-22.
Now with respect to the promise of God, Abraham did not waver in unbelief, but he grew strong in faith, giving glory to God and being assured that what He had promised He was able to do, able to perform. Therefore, it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Those who believe follow after the example of Abraham.
A. God pursues us as well
You see the lesson. God calls us to come out of the world. It's also important to see that God was pursuing. He's the one who came to Abraham to pursue him. I think that's an important lesson for us because God pursues us as well. He called Abraham out of that land and bring him to a place that He would show him. God is taking the initiative.
In fact, one of the great Scriptures we love that says that so well it's 1 John 4:19, "We love Him because He first loved us." Our response to Him is because He pursued us, He reached out to us when we were in the world. Otherwise, we would still be in our sins, we would still be in our mess. God took us out of that and set our feet on a rock and God saved us. How many people would say, "If God had not saved me, I might well have been dead?" Many people would say that, "If God had not saved me I might well have been dead because the course of my life was going in such a direction that God intervened. He reached out to me. If it were not that way I would still be in my sins."
In fact, it says this in Ephesians 2:12-13, He says, "Remember that you were at that time you were separate from Christ. He's going back. Do you remember? You were separate from Christ.
You were excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel. You were strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, but now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. How thankful we are for that? We have been brought near. God drew us near. He pursued us that we might be drawn near.
In fact, Revelation 3:20, that famous verse that we were just studying in Revelation, "I stand at the door and knock." That's that picture of Jesus pursuing. When He knocks on the door He's pursuing. I stand at the door and knock if anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in, I will dine with him and he with me.
See, God has many ways of getting our attention. Have you noticed that? God has many ways of getting our attention, all kinds of different ways of knocking on the door, getting our attention.
Have you ever read or heard the testimony of Pastor Ron Reese? You've got to read. Actually, there was a movie made of his life. This testimony is just powerful because it's a story of radical transformation. He was raised like many people in a home that was dysfunctional. His father was angry, his father was abusive, his father was an alcoholic. I can relate to many parts of that. It made him a very angry person who got into a lot of trouble in high school.
In fact, when he turned 18 he got arrested, and basically the judge said, "You can go to prison, or you can go to the military." This was the days of Vietnam and so he says, "I'll go to the military." Listen to his fury. He says, "I'll go to the military because it's a license to kill." He goes to Vietnam, gets even more messed up, comes back out, gets injured, shot twice. Comes back out of Vietnam and his life is just messed up. Although he had a girlfriend, Sharon, who was a Christian, but he wasn't. He was getting further and further and deeper and deeper into trouble. He was angry, fury filled, angry filled person.
Finally, he became that person that he had sworn that he would never become. He'd be like his father and he became like his father. He became abusive to his wife. Finally, his wife came to the point where she says, "I can't do this." and so she said, "I'm leaving." He became so furious. He came home one day, and he saw her bags were packed. He'd made the decision that he was going to get his rifle and when she came home he was going to kill her, and the children and himself.
He got his rifle and while he's waiting he's destroying the house. He's just ripping everything off the wall, just smashing everything, and at one point he hits the TV with the butt of his rifle and it comes on. Pastor Chuck Smith was teaching about Jesus and the hope that is found in Him. At first, when he heard him he was angry, angry at these words coming out at him.
He says, "I wanted to shoot the TV, but something drew me." He said, "I slipped down to my knees, compelled to listen to this man. He said, "Something happened because the Holy Spirit just spoke through me, through those words, and took hold of my life and I just started calling out, crying out to God. God if there's a God in heaven save me, save me, help me." He's just crying. He decides that he needs to go down to the church because his wife had gone to church. He needed to go to church, find his wife.
He goes down to the church, Calvary Chapel, and he can't find his wife, but he comes in just as they're giving the invitation. He responds, he comes to receive Christ and they pray for him, and they talk to him. When he comes home the door was locked. He knocked on the door and he heard her bolt, the chain thing and open the door and she says, "What do you want?" He said, "I've accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior." She slammed the door. She didn't believe him.
In fact, it took her a year and a half to believe because he was such an angry person that she just had to know for a fact that it was and he became so radically changed. He went down to the high school where he had been such a troublemaker. He asked the principal if he could speak to the kids [laughs] and they took him off the campus with the police.
Later he says, "Lord I want to tell people about what happened." He felt the Lord saying, "Go back to the school." He goes back to the school and he says, "I really wanted to talk to the kids." They let him this time. He goes out there, and he stands up on his table, and he starts speaking to the kids and it's like-- You have to know Rory. He's like really this kind of rough around the edges. He's better now. He just stood up and gave the gospel and said, "You'd come to Jesus right now if you've got the guts to come forward." Hundreds of kids started coming forward. He started going from high school to high school to high school, and just seeing hundreds and hundreds of kids being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
B. Don’t be a half-way believer
The point of bringing that story up is that God has a way of getting our attention, of knocking on the door of our heart. The point that I want to draw out of Genesis chapter 12 is this, don't be a halfway believer. You see I love the story of Rory because of the radical aspect of the transformation. Don't be a halfway believer. I say that because he's called out of Ur and then he and his family, they stay in Haran. That's halfway. That's not what God said, "Leave and come to this land, this place, leave it all behind."
Ur is like a picture of the world. We're called to leave everything in the world behind us. Don't be halfway. It's what I call the miserable middle, right? The miserable middle. You've got just enough of the Lord to make the world less enticing, but you've got enough of the world that you're not really the Lord's. The miserable middle.
I love that song, speaking of older songs, we used to sing. I have decided to follow Jesus. Remember that song? No turning back, no turning back. In fact, one of the verses, the cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back. See, don't be a halfway believer. The cross before me. That's the direction I'm walking, that's the direction of my life, no turning back, no halfway, no turning back.
This is a spiritual application. We got to make sure we're not overstepping our bounds of interpretation. God is giving literal promises to Abraham and He's giving spiritual promises and spiritual principles to us. Leaving the city of Ur and going to the land of promise is like leaving behind the things of the world and believing in the promises that God gives us. The promises of forgiveness of sin, of eternal life, of relationship with God and that He'll never leave us. That's a promise. That he'll never forsake us. That's a promise. You take hold of these promises and you take God at His Word. It's like living in that place of blessing because He's called us to that in Jesus Christ.
In that culture, in that day when you left a city, you truly left that city behind because they didn't have methods of communication like we have today. There is no mail. Back in those days, there was no mail, there was no phone, there was no internet, there was no Facebook, there was no instant messaging, there was not even messaging pigeons. When you left you were gone.
Today, I can call somebody on video with anybody that's got an internet connection anywhere in the world. You can be in touch with Africa, talk to our missionaries and our pastors anytime. You see that's the point. It's too easy to stay connected to the world. It's too easy to stay connected to the old life, the old ways, and you get drawn back.
2 Corinthians 6:17, "Come out." He says, "Come out from their midst and be separate." says the Lord. That's a great word for us. Don’t be halfway. "Come out." 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creature, old things passed away. New things have come." It's like don’t be half way. The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back. It’s like I'm all in. That a phrase that captures it, I'm all in. No half heart. I'm all in. Anybody else? I'm all in, Lord. Can you say that? I'm all in.
See, this is important because Haran is a picture of those who make the decision to come out of Ur, but then stop short of taking God at His word and fully believing in God's promises. See, in other words, there’s no blessing for Abraham in Haran, halfway. There’s no blessing there halfway. See, this is part of growing in faith, doing what God wants us to do. Abraham wasn’t quite there. He's 75 years old before he truly leaves Haran and heads for the land of promise. Here's the point. Here's what we see when we look at his life. It’s all about faith. This whole story. It’s all about faith.
II. It’s All About Faith
The promises of God were not found in Haran, and so it’s important to recognize that Abraham did believe, and it was counted to him as righteousness. He believed God's promise and he did as God asked. He left. Now, here's the question. What was counted as righteousness? What was counted as righteousness? Was it the fact that he finally left Haran or was it the fact that he believed God? I suggest that what was counted to him as righteousness was the fact that he believed God. My point is, is that he left Haran and he left Ur because of his faith.
My point is this, the more you believe the more you move. The more you believe the more you respond to it. The more you believe the more it becomes a reality in your life. What we need to see for our lives is this, that God's promises are found in Jesus. For us, the promises of God are contained and found in Jesus Christ.
A. God’s promises are found in Jesus
It's very interesting because you look at these promises that He gives in Chapter 12. One of those promises was that all of the families of the earth are going to be blessed through Abraham. He’s 75 years old when he leaves Haran, he’s got no son, and this was a promise that’s going to require great faith.
That promise was literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ who was a Son of Abraham and in Him the fullness of God dwells. All the nations of the earth, all the families of the earth are blessed today because of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus.
In fact, let me give you this great Scripture out of Ephesians 1:3, 7-8. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Now that is a big statement right there. "Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places in Christ." In Him we have redemption through His blood, forgiveness of trespasses. He says, "According to the riches of His Grace." Listen to this, "Which He lavished upon us."
Don't you love the word lavished? See lavished is the word when someone is super generous. It’s like you're having some ice-cream, and someone says, "Would you like some chocolate sauce with that?" You say, "Yes, I would like some chocolate sauce." Then they lavishly give you chocolate. You know what that means exactly, don’t you? It means that they lavishly give you. Say, "Would you like some whipped cream on that?" You say, "I could use some whipped cream." Then they lavishly give you the whipped cream. What does that mean? It means that they fill the thing up with the whipped cream. That is the lavishness of -- pictures lavishness of God.
See my point is that God's desire to bless is far more than people can even imagine. If people would just understand what God's intent is, then they would take Him on His word. Ephesians 3:14,18-20. This is a prayer, and Paul says, "I bow my knees in praying that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, the breadth, the length, the height and the depth, to know the love of Christ." If you could just know the height, the width, the breadth, the length, know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up.
Listen to this, "That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." What would happen in your life if you were filled up with all the fullness of God in your life? What would happen in your life? What would happen spiritually to your soul? I suggest to you that your spirit would be alive. That your life would have meaning, and purpose, and significance, and your soul would be alive. Then he adds this phrase, "Now unto him." It’s like a doxology. Like he wants it almost like worship. "Now unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think." That’s a famous verse right there.
"Now unto Him who is able to do abundantly beyond all that we ask or even think." It’s like you have no idea. So many people are missing out. See, that’s my point. So many people are missing out, which reminds me of a funny story. I want to just read this because it’s actually in a book by Tim Irwin. I'm just going to read it to you because it’s a really great story.
"A few years ago, a group invited me to speak at their leadership conference in Europe, and they included my family on the trip. So, a month or so before our departure my wife, Ann, told me about this lifelong dream that she had to visit Portugal and wondered if we could stop in Lisbon on the way to the meeting. Our travel agent told her air fare would change only slightly, so I said somewhat distractedly, "Fine with me." Ann made the hotel arrangements and I moved the departure date up on my calendar.
Just a few days before our trip, the hotel confirmation arrived. I went into shock when I saw the exorbitant charge for our hotel in Portugal. I asked Ann, with visible irritation, "How can we afford this? There's no way we have enough money to stay in that hotel." Ann calmly explained that she was upset too, but it was the only hotel that had space and she then shared her plan to save money by bringing food with us, and she brought down the old blue suitcase in the attic and she filled it with food for our four days in Portugal. At this point it’s too late to change our flights without significant penalty, so we move ahead with this plan.
After flying all night, Ann, our two sons and I, checked into the beautiful Hotel Estoril del Sol, magnificent beachfront property in Lisbon and we ate our first breakfast from the food that Ann had packed in the blue suitcase. I opened a miniature box of cereal with my Swiss army knife and I squirted it with the room temperature milk from a small carton that needed no refrigeration.
My father always described his grandsons as appetites with skin stretched over them, so you could tell from their faces of our two sons that this blue suitcase plan was not getting off to a good start. The view of the Atlantic ocean was beautiful, but the breakfast was dreadful. Ann noted our grumpy moods and suggested we change clothes and begin our tour of Lisbon.
On the way down, our elevator stopped on the mezzanine level. As the doors parted, we looked straight into the hotel dining room that looked like a spectacular movie set. Backdrop of the bluest ocean I've ever seen, linen draped tables were laden with magnificent food. Large iced swans and flowers decorated the tables as pleasant servers attentively bustled around. What I noticed most however, was how happy everyone in the dining room seemed to be. Now I knew the reason they were happy, because they were eating breakfast in that beautiful dining room. Sensing trouble, Ann pulled my arm and led us down the stairs, out into the bright Portuguese sunshine.
After several hours of sight-seeing, we stopped for lunch in a park with a shady bench overlooking the magnificent bay. Ann handed me a can of tuna fish with a pull top ring and some saltine crackers. This was to be our lunch. Now I felt grateful for her resourcefulness, but these types of meals were not for four days. Our boys, bordered on hostility and aggression after being denied their normal caloric intake for that long. They were in pre-adolescent growth phase when they eat constantly and only grow taller.
Well, the night before our departure, I stopped to check our bill with the front desk clerk. As I turned to leave the clerk said pleasantly, "Mr. Irwin, may I make your breakfast reservation in the hotel dining room tomorrow morning before you leave for the airport?" Not understanding that comment, I turned and asked her to explain. "Well, of course, all your meals are included in the room fee." In a millisecond it all became clear. The reason the hotel was so expensive was because our meals were included in the price of the room.
We had just spent four days eating the most awful food that I can remember when we could have been eating in that beautiful hotel dining room with all the other happy guests. The bitter irony was that we had to leave for the airport the next morning early and we even missed the one meal that we still had coming.
B. In Christ is a more excellent way
To me as a great story because in many ways reminds me of how many people miss out in life because they don't believe, they don't believe, they don't take God at His Word. Because what He's showing us is the blessings that flow and for us the blessings are in Christ. In fact, what He's showing us is that in Christ is a more excellent way.
God promised to make Abraham a great nation. He promises to increase our spiritual capacity. The promise to Abraham was literally fulfilled in the nation of Israel, but in us God promises those to be fulfilled abundantly in Christ. See John 10:10 "The thief, "Jesus said "comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.
God promised to make Abraham's name great and this is seen today. One of the most famous people in history recognized. The roots of Judaism and Islam and Christianity are trace back to Abraham. His name is surely great, but this is fulfilled in us spiritually. See, we know that a good name is highly desirable. Proverbs 22:1, "a good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold." It's a great lesson. It's important to us.
A person who loves God, who cares about others, who serves and loves those around them will in fact have a good name, be highly respected. God would give you a good name. When you follow God's ways, and God's principles, and God's wisdom, and God's character, you'll have a great name, to be respected and honored.
What we need to see is that God is transforming our ways, God is-- There's a more excellent way. He's showing us a more excellent way. What does it say in Isaiah 55:8-9? "My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." He wants to show us His way because it's better. There's a better way to live. He wants to show us His thoughts because there's a better way to think. There's a more excellent way. There's a more excellent way. God's ways are more excellent.
Have you ever been doing something in life and then someone says, "You know there's a better way to do that." You are, "Really?" You've been doing it that way wrong or whatever all that time and then you come to realize, oh there's a better way. Reminds me of when my wife and I we were first married we took an adventure and we went crabbing. Rented a little boat and got the crab rings and got several crab. We decided to stop on the way at her parents to cook them up there and to give them some of this, and I'd never cooked crab before, and I didn't know how you do it.
We had a big pot there of hot water, poured the salt in there. I don't know what you do. You take the crab and you put it in hot water. The thing is the crab doesn't want to go in the hot water. I'm putting the crab in the pot and he grabbed hold of the sides.
We are having this little wrestling match. You get in there, you get in there, and you put him in the pot and I close the lid only to hear him [sound]. Then you take him out he looks like this. That's not the way it's supposed to look. I was still like telling somebody and I said, well. He said, “There's a better way to do that."
I said, really. Yes, you put him in upside down and then you put him in upside down and then they die right away which is merciful and then when they come up they look like this.
There’s a better way to do that. The point being is, of course, is that there's a better way to do a lot of things in life. There's a better way to speak to your wife. There's a better way to speak to your husband. There's a better way to parent. There's a better way to do business. There's a better way to have character. 1 Corinthians 12:31, "I will show you a more excellent way," Paul says. I want to show you.
Let’s see, who is he writing to 1 Corinthians, he's writing to the church in Corinth. Now if you know Corinth and the story of the church of the Corinth, you know that was kind of a messed-up church. There's all kinds of conflicts and there were jealousies, and things that were happening, and there was a spiritual braggadocio going on, and some people thought they were better than others, and on and on the conflicts and the issues. Then Paul writes and says, "I'm going to show you a better way. There's a better way."
C. Be a blessing
Then he goes on to 1 Corinthians 13, love is patient. There's a better way to love. Love is patient, love is kind on and on. There's a better way. See, the promises are found and contained in Christ. I will show you a better way. The promises of God come to us when we follow after the Lord, we follow after the Lord and then I love this where it says, "I will bless you and then he says and then you will be a blessing." To me that's a great thing for us you will be a blessing.
This is important because so many people the focus of their life is what they are going to get. You describe for me how God's going to bless me and I'll think this was a great message. He says, no, no I'm not done there. I want to show you now when you move in the blessings of God that you're going to be a blessing to other people. You can be a blessing to your spouse, you be a blessing to your kids, you be a blessing to the people around you. When we were raising our five kids-- Because now we’re raising Avia, our granddaughter. We are just back to parenting, but it's just one, right? There's not a lot of conflict between the kids because there's like one, but when we had five sometimes they would have conflicts between them and one of the phrases we would say was, be a blessing.
Have this thought in your mind, be a blessing to the people around you. This is actually something God is saying to him. God's promises fulfilled in Christ. Every nation on the earth is blessed, but what a wonderful joy when you can then because you're blessed is to make a difference in someone else's life. How sweet that smells? How beautiful are the feet of those who give good news? 2 Corinthians 2:14, "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us. The sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."
Do you think that because of Christ's blessing and because of Christ's transformation that the result should be that people would say, "You bless me. You bless. There's something sweet about you. You bless me." The Spirit makes that possible, where we begin to understand that we have an opportunity to make a difference in this world. We can make a difference in this world. You want meaning, you want purpose, make a difference. Make a difference in somebody else because of the blessings that flow through you, in you. The Spirit will be given and it will well up in you like a spring of fresh living water that will refresh the people around you.