Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 5
Here's what the Oxford Dictionary said about "pride". "It's an overwhelming opinion of one's own quality". All merits, and my beloved friends, pride is something we all have to deal with all the time. Pride causes self-centeredness. It produces a demanding spirit. It gives us an air of superiority, psychasm, a critical attitude of others, self-importance, and unteachable spirit, and one of the ways to recognize pride, if you are constantly in a state of self-pity.
Now, I'm not saying occasional discouragements. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about constantly "Woe, me," "Poor me," and constantly in a state of self-pity. Pride is a disease that everyone around is aware of except the person who has it, and the last message from Romans 2 and 3, we saw the apostle Paul telling the self-righteous, the religionists of his day, that relying on their physical descendants from Abraham, relying on the mere knowledge of the law, and relying on anyone or anything for salvation other than the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ on the cross will only lead to a false sense of security.
Now, here today, in chapter 3, beginning at verse 19, all the way to 4:25, he continues this abusing them of their false sense of security. He continues in that theme, but Paul said there's actually, and here it comes, there is actually good kind of pride. Did you hear me right? There is good pride. There is actually the right way to brag, and it's okay to do that. There's a healthy way to be braggadocious. No, it is not about your accomplishment. It's not about your achievement. It's not about what you have done or have not done. It is not about going through certain rites and certain rituals. No, and certainly it is not about who your ancestors are.
And here the apostle Paul gives us four ways to rightly brag, four ways to rightly be proud of, four ways about our salvation for which we can express absolute pride. In verses 21 to 31, of chapter 3, he said you can brag about God, who gave you salvation as a free gift. In verses 1 to 8, of chapter 4, he said you can brag about God's faith, not yours. And, thirdly, in verses 9 to 17, of chapter 4, he said you can brag about God's grace, not your works. And, finally, verses 18 to 25, of chapter 4, he said you can brag about God's power, and you can brag about what God has done for you. Look at, with me, please, verses 21, all the way to 31, of chapter 3: "For all", can you say, "all"? "Have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious ideal". For all have sinned, and because it is God who gives us the gift of salvation, because it is God who reaches down and lifts us up, you cannot brag about how high you can jump.
In Romans 3:24, he tells us that God's gift of salvation is totally undeserved. It is totally undeserved. You did not do anything to deserve it. I cannot do anything in ten lifetimes to earn it, and that is why I cannot brag about it. How can you brag about something that is given to you? You had nothing to do with it. How can you brag about it? How can you brag about something that was handed to you? All you did is stretched your hand and took, and said "Oh, I have deep pride in the fact that I put my hands out. Isn't it wonderful the way I put my hand out there? And isn't it wonderful that I took that gift"? No. When it comes to our salvation from sin and judgment, boasting is unthinkable. Why? Because God did it all.
Say it with me: Because... On the cross, the King pardoned my crime. On the cross, the King adopted me, who was spiritually homeless. On the cross, the King gave us his name. On the cross, the King gave us his power. On the cross, the King gave us his wealth. On the cross, the King not only paid my debt, but he gave me untold and unlimited line of credit. People ask this question for many, many years. The question is "How do I know that I'm saved"? I wanna give you a do-it-yourself test you should be asking yourself if you're not sure about your salvation. "Do I love Jesus with all my heart"? "Do I hate sin and I'm revolted by it? And I'm talkin' about sin in my life, not in somebody else's, and I cannot rest until I confess it and repent of it". "Do I take credit for my salvation or boast only in the cross of Christ"? "Do I have a genuine longing to spend time with the Father"? "Do I love serving him by serving his people and his church"? "Am I growing in my intimacy with Jesus"? "Do I love to obey the Word of God"?
The right pride is bragging about Jesus. I was thinking about this all week. I said, "Lord, whatever years you've got left for me on this earth, I want to spend them bragging about Jesus. I want to spend them bragging about Jesus more than ever before in my life". Secondly, the right way to brag is about his faith, not yours. There are some people within the evangelical tradition, some evangelical churches, when you hear them talk about faith, you're left with the impression that they're making faith look like works. It's something you did. When you listen carefully to them, it sounds like works. Faith, beloved, is not something you whip up, "I've got to have faith. I've got to have faith. I've got to have faith". But you see that. No, because faith is a gift from God.
When you ask for it, he'll give it to you. In fact, the entire fourth chapter of Romans, Paul uses Abraham as an illustration of salvation by faith alone, not works. To be sure, in verses 6, 7, and 8, of Romans 4, he throws in David here, for good measure, as a person who really said, "Bless the man whose sins are forgiven and not counted against him". But it is Abraham that Paul is focusing on like a laser beam. Why? Because in the Jewish literature in the time of Paul, it was filled with how righteous and how wonderful and how good and how faith-filled Abraham was. Most of this literature defined Abraham's faithfulness as a form of good works, that God looked down, and he saw Abraham, how wonderful he is, and then he chose him, and Paul wants to disabuse him of this.
Most of this literature gives all of the credit to Abraham, not to God, and that is why Paul is focusing really hard on Abraham. What does it mean? The Jews in the first century believed that Abraham was justified because he was good. Are you with me? You can understand why he's focusing on this thing and hammering away at it again and again and again. He immediately faces this heretical, this erroneous thinking, erroneous teaching, right head-on, especially since it wasn't Abraham's perfection that was credited to him. In fact, his faith was about as far from perfect as you get. In Genesis 15:6, it tells us "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him". It was reckoned to him. It's not something that he earned, but it's something given to him as a gift, a credit as righteousness. He was justified by faith before he did any work, good or bad, and so it is with you, and so it is with me.
All that Abraham did, he's trusted God. All Abraham did, he took God at his word, and don't ever forget, don't forget that Abraham bungled and fumbled and stumbled. Don't ever forget that he lied and he schemed and he tried to help God out and made a mess of things. Don't forget that. God gets all the credit, not Abraham. But God kept on allowing his grace to cover the shortfalls. God kept allowing his grace to cover the shortfalls. Yeah, some evangelicals today, as the Jews in the first century, they're doing the same thing about faith: "My faith did this," "My faith accomplished that," "My faith healed..." "My faith did..." "My faith..." "My faith protected me from..." If it's all your faith, who needs the Lord, right? Who needs him if your faith did it? Are you with me?
Beloved, that is the wrong application of what faith is all about. Abraham had nothing to brag about, for he was saved by grace alone through trusting of God, which was gifted to him from God. Verses 6 and 8, as I said, Paul said, "David, too, were justified before God by God's faith". You can brag about what God has done. You can brag about God's faith. Verses 9 to 17 of chapter 4, you can brag about God's grace. You see, during Old Testament times, many rabbis would take something that is meant to be symbolic, that God intended for it to be a symbol, a reminder, a sign. In fact, that's what the word "sacrament" is. The word "sacrament" means "a sign". There's nothing sacred about a sign. The sign says, "Go this way".
And so, many things in the Bible, in the Old Testament, God intended for it to be only symbolic, but they twisted it, and they made it to be necessary for salvation, just like the Medieval church. The Medieval church was trying to concentrate the power in the hand of the church and in the hand of the priests, so what did they come up with? They said the priest has the power to actually take the symbolic wine and the symbolic bread, and he actually can turn it into the real flesh and blood of Jesus. They took something that is symbolic, and they turned it into something necessary for salvation, and they say you can't be saved without going to mass.
What did they mean by this? Why did they load people with a list of dos and don'ts and this and that and the other thing? There was 600-plus items that they had to deal with, and that's why Jesus became angry with them for twisting the Word of God. Things were meant and intended by God to be symbolic, to be a reminder, to be a sign. They turned it into something that is absolutely a burden and necessary for salvation. Look at Romans 4, verses 9 to 17. Paul said Abraham was truly justified in the sight of God, years before the symbol of circumcision, years. He was justified before circumcision, and that's why he draws this... He said, you know, all the real descendant of Abraham, who are saved by faith like Abraham, not just the physical descendants of Abraham.
Circumcision was only meant as an outward symbol. It's a reminder of God's calling for his people. It's a reminder for their privilege of being given the opportunity to know the one true God, the God of heaven and earth. Not only that Abraham were justified before circumcision, but he was justified 600 years before the law was given by Moses, 600 years. He was not justified by the law. He was justified by grace. My beloved friends, the power of salvation is in God's grace alone, not in man's reaching out and receiving that grace. But many people would love to give the credit to themselves. They really do, and the whole denomination teach, "You the one that did it". No. All I did is I stretched my hand and received the gift.
But there's more: Abraham's faith in itself did not make him right with God. It was reckoned to him. It was credited to him. It was deposited in his account. What does that mean? That Abraham did not earn his salvation. It is God who credited to him. If you work on a job, then that's the argument Paul makes. And you get a check every month or every week or whatever the system you have. You earned that. You worked for that. That's your wages, but when it is given to you completely free, then it is just credited to you without you having to do anything about it. I've heard it from evangelical preachers, "God did his part, and I did my part". Really? You mean you're equating what you did with what God did?
Beloved, that is an error, and that is what's keeping the church from being absolutely revived. I'm gonna come to say more about this in a minute. Because Abraham valued that unspeakable gift, because he valued this incredible grace of God, this unearned merits and favor of God, because he valued it so much that, when God said to him, "Offer Isaac," the son of promise, he went ahead and ready to do it. He was willing to do it. See, God did not let him go through with it, but he was willing to do it. That's all God looking for is willingness. He was willing to offer Isaac. I'm sure Abraham said, "Wow, this is incredible. I'm gonna watch the first resurrection in history that God is gonna raise Isaac from the dead. He's gonna have a resurrection".
I don't know what or who your Isaac may be. You do. I do. Question is this: Can you truly trust God who gave you the greatest gift of all? That's a gift that cannot even be compared with anything in this whole world. Can you trust the God, who gave you the gift of salvation, so that you are willing to offer whatever your Isaac may be on the altar? You notice I said "willing"? God doesn't want it. God gave it to you. God gave you everything. Are you willing to place whatever it is that you're holding onto, that you're cherishing so much, on the altar? I keep saying it: "willing".
My ardent prayer, that we in this place begin to truly value that gift of salvation, that unearned credit, that undeserved grace, more than we value our Isaacs, as we study through the book of Romans, that we begin to move and trust God to move in our midst so that he may get all of the glory, not part of it. This is the only way, I believe with all my heart, that we're gonna experience the untold blessings, brag about what God has done, brag about God's faith, brag about God's grace.
Fourthly, you can brag about God's power, not yours. Look at verses 18 to 25. I already told you that it wasn't his weak faith that saved Abraham. No, no, no, no. It's God's faith that he gave to Abraham, which sustained him. See, Abraham knew that "'It's not by power, nor by might, but my Spirit,' says the Lord". He was hitting 100, and Sarah was hitting 90. They were ready for a nursing home, not a nursery, but he kept on trusting. He kept on trusting.
And remember this: He did not have a Bible. He did not have a Bible study group to go to. He did not have a home group to go to. He did not have a Bible preacher and a Bible teacher. He had none of that, but Abraham knew enough about God that he gave him that gift of salvation. He gave him that gift of faith that he will keep his word. He'll keep his word as if to say, "I can trust him. I can trust in his power. I have seen his power. He brought me out of Haran. He took me into Bethel. He saved me in Egypt. He strengthened me to take on four kings with their armies. He will not let me down. He will work his purposes out. He will not slumber nor sleep. He will never forsake me nor forget me. He is the God of all the earth. He's the God of justice, and he will vindicate me and vindicate his truth in me".
No wonder Jesus said, in John chapter 8, verse 56, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and he was glad". What God did, he privileged Abraham just as he did with John the Revelator, later on. He privileged Abraham to peer into the annals of history, down the future. Two thousand years from that time, he allowed him to see the future and to see the Messiah coming, fulfilling the promises of God, and he rejoiced in seeing the day, and by faith, he looked forward to it. Listen to me. I'm getting ready to close. The God who has freely given you the gift of salvation, the God who has freely given you the gift of faith, he wants you to trust him fully with all of the Isaacs that he has placed in your hands. Can you truly say, "I fully trust him"?