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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Father Abraham

Craig Smith - Father Abraham


Craig Smith - Father Abraham
TOPICS: Explicit, Grace, Abraham

The life of Abraham, A New Home. Abraham loved God, so did his wife, Sarah. One day God told Abraham to move to a new land. So, along with their helpers, Abraham and Sarah packed up and went. Abraham’s nephew was Lot. Lot and all his helpers went with him too. The helpers began to fight. There was not enough grass for all the animals. So Abraham said to Lot, “You pick your own land to live on.” So, Lot chose the best land. It had the most green grass and the most water for his animals. Lot moved to his new home. Then God gave Abraham a blessing. God said, “All the land you see here will be yours forever. Also, you and Sarah will be blessed with many children.” God led Abraham and Sarah to a place called Hebron. It was beautiful.

One hot day, Abraham was resting near his tent. He heard footsteps. Three men were standing nearby. Abraham went out to greet them. “Would you like to rest in the shade? We have plenty of cool water to drink. Can I get you something to eat?” Abraham told Sarah about the visitors. He asked her to make a tasty meal. While they were eating, the three visitors shared some exciting news, they said, “Your wife is going to have a son.” Sarah heard what they said and she laughed thinking, “I am too old.” God asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Anything is possible with the Lord.” Sure enough, the next year, Sarah had a baby boy, and they named him, Isaac.


Oh, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, wherever you are in the world. We’re so glad that you’re with us today. Super excited, we’re launching a new series this weekend called “Explicit”, unfiltered stories of God’s grace.” Just a little assurance for all the parents out there, we know that because of our current circumstances, there’s a good chance you got small children in the room with you, you might be freaking out a little bit about hearing that the title of this series is called “Explicit,” don’t worry, I promise we will not use a lot of explicit language or a lot of lurid details. We’re gonna keep it tasteful, but what we’re not gonna do is we’re not gonna edit out all the uncomfortable parts of some really powerful stories in the Bible, because honestly, I believe it’s from those uncomfortable parts that many of us find real encouragement. Okay?

Listen, I don’t know about you, but the story of Abraham that I just heard, by the way, that came from a very popular kid’s Bible, and it is a very cleaned up and I would say watered-down version. And I’m not knocking and my understanding why they did that, given that their audience was small children but listen, that version of Abraham’s life is a little hard to relate to. I feel that way, maybe you feel that way, right? Maybe your life, like mine, isn’t quite that perfect. You read that story and you’re like, “Man, God called, he answered, right, you know, God made promises, he believed. He was kind-hearted, he was generous. I mean, he just seems like he had it all together.”

And maybe, that you listen to story like that and you go, “If that’s what it takes to be part of God’s story, then I don’t think I got a chance because my life’s a little more messed up than that.” Well, good news, so was Abraham’s. The truth of matter is, that version of the story has taken out the real explicit parts, which actually, when we understand, provide incredible encouragement, and I’m super excited to be able to dig into that. Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Genesis 12, where we’re gonna look at the unedited or at least less edited life of Abraham as God speaks it to us.

Now, if you’re new to the Bible, three things you might wanna know about the Book of Genesis, number one, it’s the first book in the Bible, so, super easy to find. Number two, it was written by a man named Moses. You might know that name, right? Moses is the guy that parted the Red Sea, he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Third thing you might know about the Book of Genesis is Genesis was written so that the people of God could learn how to be the people of God, how to live as people who wanna follow God and honor him. Okay? That’s what the stories are all about. Now, the stories are historical, meaning they’re all true, but the point of all the stories is to learn principles that help us to follow God faithfully. Okay? Now, sometimes the way we learn those lessons is by being given examples that we should imitate, and sometimes the way we learn how to follow God is by being given examples that we should not imitate. And honestly, most of Abraham’s life falls into that second category. Let me show you what I mean.

We’re gonna be in Genesis 12, starting in verse 1, check this out, it says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.” Okay? So God shows up and he tells Abraham three things. He says, “Go from your place, which is your country, leave your place,” and then he says, “Go from your people and your father’s household.” And both of those terms basically boil down to relatives. Okay? So, he basically says, “Leave your place and leave your relatives.” And it’s interesting that he says it twice, twice he says, “Leave your relatives.” It’s almost like, he’s like, “Hey, I’m not sure you heard me the first time, really need to pay attention to this Abram, “Leave all your relatives behind, okay?”

Now, we don’t know why he was told to do that. Okay? And there’s nothing in this particular story that tells us why he was told to do this hard thing, to leave his place and his people. If I had to guess, I would guess that what’s happening here is a principle that we see throughout the Bible, we see it throughout God’s Word. And the principle is basically this, sometimes we have to leave behind what will keep us from moving forward, sometimes we have to leave behind what will keep us from moving forward. And as some of you are listening this and maybe you’re pretty new to following Jesus and, you know, you’ve got big dreams of honoring God with your life, and following Jesus, and being on mission with him, but you keep stumbling, you keep falling, and it just feels like you can’t seem to make any progress.

And for some people, the reason is because you’re still holding on to something or someone that’s actually holding you back, you’re holding on to someone or something that’s actually having more of a negative impact on you than you’re having on them. And so sometimes we actually have to kind of make a clean break, right? Sometimes we have to leave behind the things that are keeping us from moving forward. I’m not saying we have to leave behind every non-Christian friend. In fact, you know, Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and join in my mission. It’s pretty hard to be on mission extending God’s influence into the lives of people if we don’t know any people that don’t know God, right?

So having non-Christian friends is great, but when those friendships become things that keep us from becoming like Jesus and following him, sometimes we have to leave them behind so that we can continue to move forward. Okay? So, I think that’s probably what’s happening here. God says, “You gotta do this.” And then verse 2 says this, he says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. And I’ll make your name great, and you will be a blessing. And I’ll bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Now, I love that. We talk about this pretty frequently here at Mission Hill, so I won’t spend a lot of time on but I wanna make sure that we understand the twice in that statement that God made to Abram, he said the same thing. He basically said, “I’m gonna bless you so that you can be a blessing.”

This is such an important principle, church. Our blessings are never just for our benefit, our blessings are never just for our benefit, God blesses us partly because he loves us, but largely because he expects us to pass those blessings on into the lives of others. Okay? Now, I just gotta say this, Mission Hills, you have been putting this principle into practice in an incredible way recently. In a season where so many churches are having to cut staff or cut hours for staff or cut programs, you have been so on mission with your finances, the blessing of your finances, that we haven’t had to do that. And not only have we not had to lay off staff or cut hours, we’ve been able to call local businesses around our Littleton campus and say, “Hey, do you have employees that have been particularly hard hit by this crisis?”

And we’ve been able to help them out when they’re in a desperate situation. We’ve actually been able to help other churches that are struggling financially. We’ve been able to actually send money and food to some of our partners around the world who are using that to take care of people who are in truly desperate circumstances. And if it weren’t for your generosity, some of them would be starving right now, but they’re not because you looked at your blessings and used your finances, and you said, “It’s a blessing, and I’m gonna use it to bless others.” Okay? That’s what blessings are for and you’ve done an incredible job. Listen, it’s not just finances, here’s what we have to do. Don’t just count your blessings, that’s always a good thing to do, but don’t just count your blessings, invest them, use them to bless others.

That’s what God says he’s gonna do for Abram. He says this, now, so Abram went, as the Lord have told him, and Lot went with him. Pay attention to that, it’s kinda interesting. Abram was 75 years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew, Lot, twice, as mentioned, right, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan and they arrived there. It’s so interesting. You remember, God told Abram twice, “Leave your relatives”. And now twice we’re told that Abraham took his nephew Lot with him. Now, I don’t know about you, the last time I checked, a nephew is a relative, am I right? I’m pretty sure I am. Right? So, what’s going on here? Well, what’s going on here is a compromise.

Abram is compromising, he did most of what God said, right? He did leave the place and he left most of his people, he left most of his relatives, he left all of his friends, but he compromised just a little bit and then he took Lot. And he probably didn’t think it was a big deal. We never do think that our compromises are big deals, right? We think they’re small. What could it possibly hurt? Right? Maybe he went, you know, “It’s not like, you know, he’s a super close relative, he’s a nephew right?” Or maybe, you know, Lot’s dad, Abram’s brother had died at this point. So maybe Abram thought, “Well, he’s really more like a son to me, so he probably counts really, as part of my household.” Or maybe, you know, it’s interesting, we’re told that Abram was 75 years old when God called him to do this, and he hasn’t had any kids yet, he and his wife Sarai are barren. Okay?

And so maybe he’s like, “Hey, that’s a great promise God, but there’s no way that it’s gonna happen, right? We’re not gonna be having kids. That ship has sailed,” right? And so maybe he’s thinking, “Well, you know, maybe I should just kind of adopt Lot as a son base. He can be like a surrogate son, and maybe that’s what God will use to really fulfill this promise.” I don’t know exactly what his thinking was. Honestly, maybe he just didn’t know God all that well yet. Maybe he didn’t know God well enough to know that our circumstances are not a problem for his promises, he doesn’t need our help. Okay? For whatever reason, though, he makes a small compromise.

And here’s the thing about compromises. Small compromises create big problems. Small compromises create big problems. Those little compromises we make end up creating huge problems down the road. We’ve all seen it, we’ve all experienced it, right? We know it’s not good to buy things on credit, so we should avoid that whenever possible, right? We know how to stay out of debt as much as we possibly can. But, you know, Amazon’s got some really cool stuff, and they got a great credit card with a great rate and promotional deal going on, so maybe I’ll just buy that thing I’ve been eyeing on Amazon during COVID and buy it on credit. And hey, you know, it turns out Amazon has all of the stuff and they can get it to your house tomorrow, right? And then there’s a lot of room on that credit card they gave me, so I’ll just buy some more of that stuff.” And then bam, what happens, right, you’ve got a monthly payment that you don’t have the financial margin to be making right?

Or, you know, and how about this. I struggle this one all the time. We know that we’re supposed to obey government officials, right, as long as they’re not telling us to do something that goes against God, we’re supposed to obey government officials. But you know what? The speed limit on that road is stupid low. It’s stupid low. I don’t know why they set it there. And I’m in a hurry, right? So what’s the big deal? I’ll just go over the speed limit a little bit, and then bam, you know, there’s the lights in the mirror, and there’s the sinking feeling in the chest, and then there’s an expensive ticket, and then your insurance rates go up. And it’s a much bigger problem than you thought would happen because of that really small compromise.

We know we’re not supposed to have anything to do with porn, right? Porn is poison. We gotta stay away from it. But the show isn’t porn. It’s not, right? It’s not porn. It’s racy. Let’s just call it that. It’s just a little bit racy, right? But then you watch that, and then Amazon and Netflix are like, “Well, if you like that, you might like this.” And you’re like, “Well, maybe I would.” And before you know it, right, you’re down a rabbit hole and you’re in a place where you’re addicted to something, and it’s destroying your relationships, and it’s killing your ability to give and receive love because of a small compromise, but now you got a big problem. You know, you’re not supposed to get married to someone who doesn’t share your relationship with Jesus. It’s a bad thing to do.

It’s a terrible idea. It’s wrong. But it’s just one date. It’s just one date, right? And then it’s just two dates, and then we’re in love, and then we’re married. And now we got kids, and you wanna teach your kids to follow Jesus, but the other most important person in their life has no interest in following Jesus and things are a mess. Listen to me, small compromises, create big problems. As followers of Jesus, it may very well be that the small compromises we make today are the things that take us off our mission with Jesus tomorrow, and so we gotta identify them, we gotta reject them. We gotta identify those small compromises we’re tempted to make, and we’ve got to refuse to make them because we know that they have a much bigger price than they appear. Okay?

Abram makes a small compromise, we’re gonna see it creates all kinds of problems for him. Check this out. This is verse 6, chapter 12 verse 6. Abram traveled through the land as far as the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. Okay, so he’s in the land that God’s called him to. This is ultimately gonna be the Nation of Israel. Now at that time, the Canaanites and other tribe were living in the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram and he said this, “To your offspring, “ I love this, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” And so he built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. I love that. But there’s that word offspring. What God has basically said is, “Hey, Abram, I’m gonna give this place to your kids, okay? Hey, your circumstances are not a problem for me, okay? I don’t need you to come up with another plan to work things out. Okay?

Here’s what he’s trying to make sure Abram and we understand. Our circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises. No matter what circumstances you might find yourself in, and as hard as it might be to believe that in those circumstances that you’re in right now, that God’s promises to you will still come true, our circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises. They’re not. That’s what God’s trying to tell him. Okay? Now check this out. This is chapter 12 verse 10, now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. It’s so interesting, right? So God led Abram to a place and he gave him a tremendous promise, and then a problem arose, right, some difficult circumstances arose and what did Abram do? He packed up and he left. I don’t think that’s what he was supposed to do. Okay? That’s not what the people of God do. When we have experienced God’s provision, listen, we don’t abandon God’s provision just because things get difficult, right? That’s what we do. As the people of God, we refuse, we refuse to abandon their provision. You don’t abandon the provision just because things have got difficult. That’s the moment as the people of God when we lean in to trusting the One who is provided. We trust the One who’s provided can take care of the problems that might arise. But that’s not what Abram does. He packs it up and he leaves, right? And here’s the interesting thing. Well, check this out. Sometimes when we abandon God’s provision, we also leave the safety of his protection.

And Abram seems to feel that almost immediately, check this out. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they’ll say, “This is his wife,” and then they’ll kill me, but they’ll let you live.” So, he’s afraid. He’s afraid. He realizes he’s in a dangerous place now. So, he says, “Say that you’re my sister.” That’s interesting, right? “Just say you’re my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake, and my life will be spared because of you.” Right? Can we just acknowledge that Abram is a man with a plan? This man’s got a plan for every problem that he sees for God’s promises, doesn’t he? Right? He says, you know, “Oh, you’re gonna make me a great nation guy, that sounds great, but I don’t have any kids, and I don’t see that happening, so I’ll just pull Lot along with me, right, and… Hey, you gave me this land here, and you made a great promise, that’s awesome but, you know, there’s some difficult circumstances here, so I know a better place, I’ll just head down there, right, until this problem passes over, right? Oh, now that I’m down here, I’m a little afraid that I may not have your protection and people might attack me, they might kill me, my wife’s pretty hot, right? I could definitely see that this could be an issue. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Hey girl, you’re gonna say that you’re just my sister, right?” And here’s the interesting thing. He’s got a plan for every problem, but what we’re gonna see is that his plans are the problem. The plans he keeps making, they are the problem, they create things that are so much worse than the circumstances he was facing to start with. Right?

So that’s what he does. Let me summarize. Okay? So, he says to everybody, you know, “Oh, yeah, yeah, she’s good looking but she’s my sister. Okay, so some of the Pharaoh’s official see that she’s hot, they take her back to Pharaoh’s palace. Now, there’s no details given what happens here. But I think we can probably fill in the blanks about what happened there. Now, they don’t leave Abram empty-handed, they actually pay him a bunch of stuff for his sister, right? They give them a bunch of animals and products, things like that. And I’m sorry, this is probably the most explicit thing that I’m gonna say here, so if you need to beat this out for your kids, right now, go ahead and do it. It kind of sounds like Abram pimped out his wife, am I right? It kind of sounds like it.

Somehow or other, they figure out in Egypt, they figure out in the Pharaoh’s house they made a mistake. What we’re told is that some diseases begin to come on them and they go looking for the source of the problem and we’re not told exactly how they figured it out, but they eventually figured out that this woman in Pharaoh’s house, maybe also in his bed, not that man’s sister, it’s his wife. And so they send her back, they kick both of them out. Right? And here’s what’s interesting. They do let him keep his stuff, okay? But now there’s bad blood between Abram and his family, and the Egyptians. And if you know anything about Israelite history, there’s still bad blood. That bad blood continues to be an issue throughout the Bible, and really throughout the rest of history, okay? It all started right here. There are long-term consequences for the decisions that we make.

Speaking of that, remember, the first bad decision he made? He took Lot with him when he probably wasn’t supposed to do that. Check this out. This is Genesis chapter 13, verse 5, “Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, but the land could not support them while they stayed together because their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. Okay? So Lot, who wasn’t supposed to be along for the ride anyways, there and now, you know what’s happened is there’s bad blood between Abram and this kid that he brought along with him right? His herders and his people, they’re arguing with each other and it’s become all this drama, all this conflict, and so finally Abram just goes, “Oh my gosh, okay hey, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re not gonna do that, okay? We’re not gonna do that.”

So he says, “Lot, hey, what you do, just look around you, you pick whatever part of the land you want and you head there. Okay? Lot, of course, looks around, he finds the best part of the land, and that’s where he goes. Great. Okay? Abram has been selfless. That’s awesome. The problem is, Lot picked the best part of the land and other people know that’s the best part of the land and there’s, like, constant battling going on for possession of that territory, and some kings are kind of fighting over it. Lot ends up getting kidnapped in the midst of this, and so Abram has to go to war against that king to get back his nephew who shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Right?

That’s what has to happen. And he does that. And it’s interesting that it’s immediately after that battle as they’re probably licking their wounds and tending to their wounded and burying their dead, God shows up. And he has another conversation with Abram. And what he says to him basically amounts to what I think is an “I told you so.” Check this out. This is Genesis 15:1, “After this, the Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward. Do not be afraid. You may know, you may not.” That is the most common repeated command in the whole Bible. God actually says, some form of do not be afraid, literally hundreds of times and that’s the very first one. The very first time God said to his people, “Do not be afraid,” it was to this man Abram.

And why did he say it? Because Abram is consistently a man who is driven by fear. He’s constantly looking at his circumstances and going, “These are a problem.” And he’s coming up with his plans and his plans are the problem. Things just go from bad to worse when he does it, but he’s driven by fear. We’ve already seen it, God has seen it. And so, he comes to Abram and he says, “Do not be afraid.” Listen to me, church. Our circumstances aren’t a problem for God’s promises, but our fear is, our fear is because our fear drives us to sin. Our fear drives us away from God’s provision. Our fear leads us into much bigger messes than the ones that we ran from because of it. Our circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises. Your circumstances, whatever they are, no matter how hard they may seem to you, your circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises for you. But your fear is, we gotta get a handle on it.

God comes and he says, “Do not be afraid. But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, well, what can you give me since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus. Abram’s said, “You have given me no children, and so a servant in my household will be my heir.” It’s so interesting, right? That’s another plan. He’s still the man with the plan. He’s like, “Well, I’m not getting kids and this thing would Lot didn’t work out, so I guess I’m gonna have to designate one of my servants to do this thing.” He’s still got all these plans for all these problems that he sees. Check this out. And then the Word of the Lord came to him. “This man, your servant, will not be your heir but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” God says, “Come on, Abram. Your circumstances is not a problem for me. Your fear is a problem but your circumstances are not. I got this, I got you. You got to start trusting me.” But it’s hard, right? It’s hard to trust. Abram struggles with it, so does his wife. Check this out.

This is Genesis 16:1, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had born him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar. And so she said to Abram, the Lord has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my slave. Perhaps I can build a family through her.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said. I just bet he did. Right? Can you imagine what that conversation would have been like? “So let me get this straight, honey, you want me to sleep with your hot young maid? You think this is a good idea? Huh? Yeah, honestly, I don’t know that I could say I’ve ever noticed her but yeah, I could see… This might be what God meant. Yeah. Okay. Hey, you know what? Anything for you sweetheart. Anything for you.”

So, he sleeps with her. She gets pregnant. When she gets pregnant, she begins to look down on Sarai who can’t get pregnant. That was a big deal on those days. And so now there’s drama between these two women. Okay? It gets pretty bad and eventually 16:5 is what Sarai says, “Then Sarai said to Abram, you are responsible for the wrongs that I’m suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now she knows that she’s pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me,” which is kind of a code for, “You better do something about this dude. Yeah, I know. Yeah, yes, yes, yes, yes, it might have been my idea, but you’re the one who did it. Okay? You’re not the one having to deal with the problem that I’m having to deal with, so you better do something about it, buster.” And what he ends up having to do is such a mess. He sends Hagar away, and she has a child, his name is Ishmael.

Ishmael ultimately becomes the father of tribes that are still fighting with Abraham’s descendants today. The father of the faith, of Islam, the father of Islam, man named Mohammed, you may have heard the name, he claims that he’s a direct descendant of Ishmael. Okay? And we know how the Muslims and the Jews get along today, right? Listen, trying to solve God’s problems for him, just creates problems for us. You hear me, church. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands because we think our circumstances, they’re too difficult or we don’t think God’s moving fast enough. And so we go, “I’ll take care of this for you, God.” Listen, trying to solve God’s problems just creates problems for us, bigger problems than we could even imagine.

And, you know, Abraham or Abram is about to be Abraham, is ninety-nine years old. God comes to him and he speaks, Genesis chapter 7, verse 5, says this, “No longer will you be called Abram. Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” Abram means something like his father is exalted. Abraham means father of nations. So God says, “I’ve got a new name for you. If you’ll just trust me, I’m gonna do something you would never think possible. I will make you very fruitful. I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. And it’s not just Abram, who’s now Abraham, it’s also his wife. Verse 15 says, “God also said to Abraham, as for Sarai, your wife, you will no longer to call her Sarai, her name will be Sarah.

That was a little bit trickier. Sarai and Sarah both mean princess. Best guess is that Sarah, it adds a letter into the name and it’s a letter that’s part of the name for God in Hebrew, which is Yahweh. It adds in a letter from Yahweh into her name, so maybe something like princess of God. Okay? But the point is that for both of these people, God says, “If you just trust me, if you just let me fight the battles that need to be fought, if you just let me deal with the problems that need to be solved, I’m gonna do things for you that you could never even imagine. I’m gonna make you father of great nations. You’re not just a princess anymore, you’re the princess of God.” And I wonder sometimes if God doesn’t have a name for each one of us, that if he whispered it to us right now in the midst of our fear and our struggling, we would go, “How can that possibly be true?” And he would say, “By trusting me. By trusting me.”

He said, “I will bless her your wife, I’ll bless her, and I will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations, kings of people will come from her.” And Abraham fell facedown, and he laughed, and he said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And I love that. He says, “He fell down and he laughed.” Now normally to fall down is an act of worship, but when you fall down and laugh, that’s not worship. In fact, I actually wonder if maybe what Moses is saying here is literally, he fell down laughing. This was so hilarious. This was so hard for him to imagine his fear, and maybe even his bitterness at this point was so great that he laughed in the face of God. I just can’t buy it. I can’t. A little while later, some angels came to Abram. They came as men, but they came bearing a message from God and they said, “Hey, by this time next year, it’s all gonna be true. Okay? By this time next year, it’s all gonna be in motion. By this time next year, Sarah will have born you a child”.

And it’s interesting. Sarah was listening. Chapter 18, verse 12 records her response, “And so Sarah laughter herself as she thought, “After I’m worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” And then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I have a child? Will I really have a child now that I’m old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son. Now Sarah was afraid, see Abram’s not the only one, Sarah was also afraid. And I think sometimes our fear is infectious.

Sarah was afraid and so she lied. See, fear leads to sin, it leads to mistakes, it leads to bad decisions. And she said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh. Yes, you did. And then the angels tell Abram that they’re going down. There’s a couple of cities nearby called Sodom and Gomorrah, and they’re terribly wicked places, and God is gonna wipe them off the face of the earth. The problem is that Lot, you remember Lot, the person that we’re told twice, Abram brought along even though he was twice told, “Don’t bring your relatives?” He’s already rescued him once and now he’s gotta rescue him twice because Lot is living in Sodom. And so, Abram begs for mercy to have Lot be saved and there’s kind of a deal struck, and the angels go in, and when they get into the town, things don’t go well. Okay?

Let me keep this super PG. All right? The men of the city see the angels thinking that they’re men and they want to get, let’s call it overly friendly with them. Lot refuses and he says, “Here, take my daughters instead.” And that is messed up. That is so messed up I don’t even know where to start with it. Okay? That’s what he tries to do. That doesn’t work. And so the angels basically say, “You guys gotta run. Okay?” God begins to destroy the city but as Lot and his family run, they were told not to look back, but Lot’s wife looks back, she turns into a pillar of salt. It’s a crazy story, you can read it. Lot ends up living in a cave. And in that cave, his daughters get him drunk and they do unspeakable things. It’s messed up. And then you’re not even gonna believe this.

You’re not gonna believe this, then Abraham does it again. He gets afraid that somebody is going to kill him to get to his wife, and so he does it again. He says, “No, no, no, just say that you’re my sister.” And this man doesn’t do things with Abraham’s wife. But the Lord somehow communicates to him that he’s got another man’s wife in his home. And so he confronts Abraham, and this is Abraham’s response, this is chapter 20, verse 11, “Abraham replied, “I said to myself, there’s surely no fear of God in this place and they’ll kill me because of my wife, but besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father, though not of my mother and she became my wife.” Okay, first, eww. And second, I’m not even sure it’s true. We’re given a pretty detailed genealogy of Abraham’s family and there’s nothing about this mention, so I have a pretty strong suspicion, he made it up, he flat out lied.

And here’s the thing. Five other times in the Bible, God explicitly says, “Do not do that kind of thing with your half-sister. It’s wrong. Don’t do it.” So even if it’s true, it’s still wrong. And, like, this is a messed up a man. Am I right? This is a crazy story. It’s got everything. It feels like a cheesy soap opera, almost. Maybe you listen to the story and you ask what I naturally asked, which is, “Why is he in here? Why is he in this story? Why is he in the Bible? Why is he the father of the Jewish people?” I mean, you might go, “Well, that’s why he’s in the Bible because he is the father of the Jewish people,” right? He is the man through whom ultimately, God did give him a son, his name is Isaac. And through Isaac, there were more children.

Eventually, through the family line of Abraham, we got Jesus, the Lamb of God who died on the cross to take away our sins, who rose from the dead to offer us salvation by faith. I mean, that’s why he’s in the Bible. My question is, why him? Right? Why him? Why this messed up man? Why this jacked-up Jew? In the midst of all the mess that he created; God came to him. He came to him one night, this is back in chapter 15, we skipped over before we have to see it now. God came home one night, and he woke him up, and he took him out of his tent under the sky and he said, “Look, you see all those stars, he said, count them if you can.” And he said, “Abraham, I’m gonna give you more descendants than the stars that you can’t even count.” Then we have this. “Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Abraham believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

That’s why Abraham’s in the Bible. It’s not because of how he behaved. He behaved pretty terribly, it’s because of who he believed. See, if it was a question of how he behaved, he’s not a righteous man. None of us are, we’ve all sinned, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve all done it. And Abraham, no different than the rest of us, although his sins might be different, if it was about Abraham’s behavior, he couldn’t be righteous. But God wasn’t counting his behavior, he’s paying attention to his belief, his trust, his faith. Listen, God counted him righteous because of who he believed not how he behaved. That’s the foundation of this thing we call the Gospel, that we don’t earn our way into God’s good grace.

If we could do that, we wouldn’t need his good grace. We need his good grace because we’re not good. But there’s a famous verse. And, you know, even if you’re new to church, you might know this one. And I want you to understand that this famous verse spoken by and about Jesus Christ, it’s rooted in Abraham’s belief right here. This is the famous verse I’m talking about, “For God’s so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that,” say it with me church, “whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Not to the one who behaves good enough because none of us are good enough, but to the one who believes that Jesus lived the perfect life, that he died on the cross, that he rose from the dead, and that he offers us forgiveness by faith.

That’s why Abraham’s in the story because he believed God and God counted him as righteous, not his behavior, but his belief. And that may seem hard to imagine, but think about this way, right? You left home, it was a perfect home, but you struck out on your own. You built yourself a boat and you set out, and you got 1,000 miles away from home, and you realized you’d made a terrible mistake. You had no business being out here and the wind and the waves have destroyed the boat, and you’re about to drown, and you’re 1,000 miles from shore, and there’s no way you can swim home. Someone followed you. A boat comes up and the captain of the boat says, “Get on board, I’ll take you home.” You gotta decide, do you trust him or not? You can say, “No, I don’t trust him,” and you can keep trying to get back to shore on your efforts, but you’re not gonna make it.

There’s no chance, or you can trust him and he’ll take you to the home you never should have left. That’s the Gospel God sent his only Son, that whoever believes, trust, has faith, will not perish but have eternal life. Listen to me, I’m not saying that our behavior doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter for our salvation, right? This is the truth, we gotta understand this. Salvation for Abraham, for all of us, salvation depends on who we believe, not how we behave. Okay? I’m not saying our behavior is utterly irrelevant, because listen, if you’re a follower of Jesus, we have to hold on this truth is that how we behave reflects on who we believe. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We’re on mission with him, extending God’s influence, and how we behave, reflects on who we believe. What people think about the God that we believe in, depends in large measure on how we behave.

And listen, I know this crisis has been hard on all of us, our tempers are hot. We’re frustrated and we’re stressed, and it’s coming out in the way we talk to each other. It’s coming out on the way we talk to our families, it’s coming out on social media, it’s coming out in the way that we talk about other people. It’s coming out in racism and prejudice. It’s coming out in the riots and the violence that’s erupting all around us. And the followers of Jesus have to speak against it. We have to decry, we have to denounce racism and prejudice, and we also have to treat one another with love, and grace, and mercy, and kindness because how we behave reflects on who we believe.

But at the end of the day, salvation depends on who we believe, not how we behave. And that’s very good news. Would you pray with me? God as the followers of Jesus and behalf of the followers of Jesus, we come to you and we confess, our behavior is not good enough, we know it. And even in just recent days or weeks, we’ve behaved poorly. We know it hasn’t reflected well on you and whom we believe, and so we confess our sin, and we ask for your forgiveness. But for some of us, the sin is not even a sin of commission, it’s one of omission. We haven’t spoken up against wrong things that are being done. And in that way, Lord, maybe we fail to hold back the dam, the flood of hatred and violence. And Lord, give us the courage to pave well, so that it reflects well on who we believe. But Lord, we’re so grateful that it doesn’t depend on how we behave, it depends on who we believe.

Hey, listen, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something? Would you start praying right now for the people around the world listening to this, who thought that they had to behave their way into God’s love? And if that’s you, I just wanna speak to you for a moment. Please hear the truth. You don’t. That’s not the Gospel. That’s not Christianity. It is who you believe, not how you behave. Jesus died for your sins, he rose from the dead. Those are facts of history. And if you will put your trust in him, you will be forgiven, and you’ll be a part of his family forever. And if you’ve never done that, now’s the time. Wherever you are, this is the conversation you’re gonna have with God, right? Right now just say this God, say:

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I know that I can’t behave well enough to earn salvation. Jesus thank you for dying because of your love for me. Thank you for paying the price of my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead. I do. So, Lord, I put my faith in you right now. I put my trust in you. I’m investing my belief in you. Come into my life, I’m yours. Amen.

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