Abraham: What Does It Mean To Have Faith
David Marvin | 11.12.19
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is ”What does it mean to trust God?”. Trusting God and having faith takes practice, which doesn’t always come naturally. As we look at the life of Abraham in Genesis 12 through 22, we see what it means to have true faith and how to trust God with everything, even what we want most.
Abraham: What Does It Mean To Have Faith
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is ”What does it mean to trust God?”. Trusting God and having faith takes practice, which doesn’t always come naturally. As we look at the life of Abraham in Genesis 12 through 22, we see what it means to have true faith and how to trust God with everything, even what we want most.
Genesis 15:1-6, 17:5-6, 22:1-14
Welcome, friends in the room, in Fort Worth, Austin, El Paso, Phoenix, Houston, Philly, Cedar Rapids, any of the 16 other Porch.Live locations. We are continuing this series Bloodline. I'm going to start by telling a story. My son is about to be 4 years old, and he is in this stage of life where he is constantly singing about everything.
Sometimes he just makes up songs. Other times he has these little kid CDs. They're constantly singing. We drive in the car, constantly singing. It's like High School Musical is our life at all times, to the point where my wife will take little videos of him singing stuff, and then he'll ask questions about different things. In fact, here's a video of one time recently in the past week where he's just belting it out in the car, doesn't even know exactly what he's singing.
Crew Marvin (singing): Oh, how I love Jesus because he first loved me. Oh, how I love Jesus…
[End of video]
Here's what's funny about that. He has no idea what he's singing. Most of the songs he sings he has no idea. One thing is for certain: he does not love Jesus yet. He is not a Christian yet. He's a little sinner living in our home. His little sister is for sure a sinner living in our home. Hopefully, one day he does, but he'll sing these songs. Kids will pick it up, and whatever is playing, they'll sing the songs.
He was listening to a song recently when we were driving in the car. It's not one anyone would recognize in here, but it said something about trusting God. So he asked a question, as he'll do often, just because he's like, "I don't even know what I'm singing right now. I just like to sing." He asked, "What does it mean to trust God?" As a father, you begin to think, "How do you answer a 3-year-old on what the word trust means and what that actually explains?"
I began to try to put it into words and give him, like, "It means we live according to what he says. We listen and obey." This was either a great parenting moment or a terrible one. "Oh, listen and obey, like Kanye's Chick-fil-A song." I was like, "Yeah, kind of like Kanye's Chick-fil-A song," and I began to explain what it means to trust God.
I gave a couple of answers, and as I thought about that question… I don't know that there's going to ever be a moment in his life where he asks a more significant question than that. I don't know that anyone in this room could ask a more important question than that. What does it look like and what does it mean to trust God?
All throughout the Bible, the Bible indicates that if you can't answer that question correctly, it's going to have significant implications in this life and in eternity, yet it's one of those phrases…you know, trusting in God or having faith or believing…we'll throw out there, and people will use it in different ways, and often they'll use it in ways that don't exactly align with the Bible, where people are like, "Hey, dude, 2019 has been terrible. I'm telling you, 2020…it's coming. I'm just believing and having faith for great things. It's going to be amazing."
That is not necessarily a bad thing, but that would be closer to hoping for great things. When the Bible talks about faith, it talks about different aspects. As believers, you and I are called, if we're going to experience a relationship with God, to walk by faith. So what does it mean to walk by faith or to trust God? What does that actually look like? So tonight, I want to explore, as we continue this series Bloodline, looking at the father of faith, where we learn inside of his life (his name was Abraham) what it looks like to trust God.
True faith and trusting God are synonymous with one another biblically. To trust is to have faith. Like I said, this question is at the heart of whether or not you will spend eternity with God. How you answer this question, whether or not you get this answer right, will impact whether or not you spend eternity and has significant implications for how you experience life in this world…how you sleep at night, the peace you experience, the type of marriage you're going to have, all of which hinge on having true faith.
So tonight, we're going to look at the father of faith and explore as we continue this series Bloodline. If you are just joining us or you missed last week, here's what we kicked off. We are tracing the bloodline of Jesus through the Old Testament. For the next four weeks, we are looking at the main message of the Old Testament. If you've ever wondered what the big-picture story of the Bible is, you are about to get it as we trace through the Old Testament.
Last week, we kicked off with Adam and his girl Eve. They were in the garden, everything perfect. That lasted five minutes. They sinned against God. Everything broken. From there, they had kids, they had kids, they had kids, and really, things didn't get worse. The sin that entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed was passed on to their kids and passed on to their kids, passed on to their kids, and the storyline continues. We're going to pick it up with Abraham.
What has happened in between is humanity has continued to fill up the earth. There was Noah and the flood. That was a pretty crazy deal. That took place. In Genesis, chapters 12-22, we are introduced to Abraham. It's as though God says, "Just like I promised after Adam and Eve fell and sin entered the world, I'm going to enact a rescue mission to save humanity." Tonight, we're going to look at the next sequence or the next part in that rescue mission through the story of Abraham.
Here's what you have to know about Abe: Abe gets 10 chapters in the book of Genesis. The story of creation gets two. The story of sin entering the world gets one. Noah essentially gets two and a half. For somebody to get 10 chapters was a really big deal. Abraham and the Jewish faith… "Father Abraham had many sons," and Father Abraham was a significant deal. There probably is no greater or more significant figure for those of the Jewish faith today.
We're going to look at his story, because God, in his relationship with Abraham, gives us an indication of the rescue plan he has unleashed for all of us. He gives us also the answer of what true faith looks like. We're going to be in chapter 15 of Genesis. We'll start in verse 1 as we look at three marks of true faith. Let me set up what has happened from chapters 12 to 15. God chose Abraham.
He basically says, "Hey, Abe, I'm starting something with you. I need you to pick up, and I want you to move your family. I'm going to take you to a promised land that I have for you. I'm going to make you into a great nation." He's about 75 years old when that happens. About a decade goes by, and he is not a great nation. He doesn't even have a kid, and God shows up and says this: "After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram…" He's about to have a name change in two chapters, and I'll explain what that means, but it's the same dude…Abram, Abraham.
"…in a vision: 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.' But Abram said, 'Sovereign ** Lord **, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?' And Abram said, 'You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.' Then the word of the **** Lord ** came to him: 'This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.' He took him outside and said, 'Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'"**
He takes Abraham outside and says, "Look up at the stars." This wasn't like stars in Dallas where you're like, "Oh man. Is that one star right there? No, that's a plane." This was like if you've ever been out in places where there's no smog or industry or any of that. You look up, and it's like Bam! Lights everywhere. God says, "Those are going to be the descendants you have."
I was even told this week that there are more stars in the galaxy they've accounted for than there are grains of sand on the planet. I don't know if that's true, but that's crazy. Either way, it's clearly God communicating, "I am going to make your descendants more vast than you can even understand."
"Abram [in response to that, looking up at the night sky] believed the Lord , and he credited it to him as righteousness." Abraham heard the promise of God, as an 80-plus-year-old man, that he's going to have a son, and he believed that what God said would happen. In that moment, God credited to him righteousness. What's righteousness? It's a really churchy word. It's just a word that means having a right relationship with God.
Think about this. This is what would set apart Abraham and, really, the Christian faith from every other worldview and world religion there is. In a moment, he believed what God said and what God promised would happen, and in that moment he was declared righteous. You have a right relationship for all time now, Abraham, because of you believing God and believing the promise he made.
1 . True faith trusts in the promises of God. As it relates to the Bible, there are a lot of promises God makes, and someone who has true faith is someone who looks at the promises God has made and says, "I'm believing that God said that's true." Abraham looked up and in a moment was declared righteous. Three times in the New Testament, this verse right here. It's a significant verse. Paul would be like, "This is a game changer. This is Christianity."
At the heart of Christianity is the message that it is not your behavior that gives you right standing or right relationship with God; it is your belief. Your belief always impacts your behavior. The heart of the New Testament and the message of Christianity is not "Good people go to heaven. Bad people go to hell. Just really work on being a good person." It is that forgiven people go to heaven, and there's only one way to get forgiveness: by believing and putting your trust in Jesus as the payment for your sin.
Jesus showed up. He gave his life, dying on the cross, and rose from the grave to pay for your sin. In the moment that you, like Abraham believed God and the promise he made, believe God's promise to you that you can have eternal life, not by being a good person or trying to earn your way to heaven but by putting your faith in or trusting not in how good of a person you are but in Jesus and what he did on the cross, you, like Abraham, in a moment are declared righteous, unlike any other worldview out there.
You don't earn your way to God. This was initiated with Abraham, the father of faith. John picked up the idea of the promise God has made to you, and anyone in this room who in a moment believes it, you are declared righteous. He said this in John 3:16-17, verses you've probably heard before:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
There is only one way to have a relationship with God. Just like Abraham in a moment looked at the night sky, believed God, and was declared righteous, so with you and me, true faith trusts in the promise of God that in the moment you put your faith not in how good of a person you are but in what God did, everything changes. What's crazy is we live in a world that communicates anything other than this.
Constantly, people are like, "Dude, if you want to have a right relationship with God, you need to earn your way. You need to be a good person. You need to show up at church. You probably need to pay a tithe. Pay your taxes every now and then, don't kill anybody, and you're probably good." It's one of the most widely spread beliefs there is. The God who's out there… "As long as I'm relatively good…I'm not Hitler…I'm probably going to heaven." It is nuts.
The Bible communicates something very different. It communicates that good works don't work, and good works will never work to get you in a relationship with God. Some of you guys are listening to me right now, and it's not even settling in on you. This was your first time in church in a while, and you're like, "Dude, did he just say good…? Like, God isn't out there for me to just change my behavior?" No. God didn't come to make bad people good; he came to bring dead people alive.
The only way that happens, the only way you get eternal life, is by putting your trust not in how good of a person you are but in what Jesus did on the cross, because good works don't work. It's like this. A couple of weeks ago, I got sick, and I went to the doctor. I thought it was the flu. You go in, and you get all the swabs and all the tests, and you're just hoping for some relief.
She does the tests, runs them, and she's like, "We'll let you know. Here's a prescription for a Z-Pak, and here's a steroid, and here are some other antibiotics. We'll let you know in a couple of days if this is bacterial or viral. If it is bacterial, Z-Pak is an antibiotic, so that'll take it down and you'll be all good, but if it's viral, it has to run its course."
There's nothing man-made that can cure a virus, which is kind of crazy, honestly. It feels like we should double down in the medical field on that. There's nothing man-made that can cure a virus, but there is something man-made that can cure bacterial illnesses. When sin entered the world, it was like a virus that is more deadly and more pervasive and spread wider and faster and farther and more deeply than any other virus that has ever existed.
Just like, as it relates to your health, there is no antibiotic or no man-made thing that can cure a medical virus, so there is no man-made action that can cure the virus of sin. It has to be outside of this world. Anything you do is not going to earn you into a relationship with God…through your behavior, through you not having sex, through abstaining from sex, through having a good past, through you trying to tithe to the church to make up for whatever mistakes you have in your present or in your past.
The Bible says there is only one way to have right standing with God. Some of you, tragically, do not believe me, and with all of my heart, I am pleading you to understand you will spend eternity in hell if you do not put your faith in Jesus. Not if you try to be good for him; if you do not put your faith solely…
"God, I'm not a good person. You alone are the only reason I can have a relationship with you, and if I'm going to spend eternity with you, it's not because I earned it. Despite all of the different ways I try to live in line with what you want, I do not deserve it, yet you gave your life for me, so I accept the free gift you offered me."
That alone gives anyone a right relationship or the righteousness God says, and in that moment you're like, "I'm totally dependent on you; I believe you," you are declared righteous forever. True faith always involves trusting in the promises of God. It is not perfection. Here's what's crazy. We look at Abraham, and I don't know what you know about Abraham, but a lot of times you can read these Bible stories and be like, "Oh man! This guy is just amazing. He's a hero of the faith."
Abraham did some awesome things, but he also didn't have the perfect past. If you read the story of Abraham (we don't have time to go into it), at two different points, he finds himself in the exact same scenario, where there's this foreign king. They enter into his town. He's walking up, and he's there with his wife, and he's like, "Oh dang! My wife is fine, and these guys are going to try to kill me so they can get with my wife. Hey, Sarah, here's what we're going to do. Let's just tell them you're my sister. That'll be cool. They won't kill me, and that's always a win. It'll be great."
So they go into the town. The first guy is the Pharaoh. Pharaoh is like, "Oh, dude. That Sarah girl is fine," which is crazy, because she's also 75. Pharaoh, you do you. He goes up, and he's like, "Oh, man. She's your sister. Dude, let's have them over. Sarah, I'd love to get to know you. You know what I'm saying? I'm into older ladies, and this is my thing," and they spend time together. Then it says God shows up to Pharaoh, and he's like, "Hey, because you've taken another man's wife, I'm going to kill you."
Pharaoh is like, "What? Why, Abe, did you lie to me?" So Pharaoh basically is like, "Hey, you guys need to get out of here and leave." The same thing, three chapters later, happens again with another guy. This is just his thing. Abe goes in, tells his wife, "I think they're going to kill me, so let's do the whole sister act thing again." It happens again. I think all of us would agree the ideal husband does not pimp out his wife twice, let alone one time.
If that wasn't enough, there's another place in the storyline of Abraham's faith where he's not sure how God is going to show up and move, and God has promised him, "I'm going to give you a son." He's only getting older and older, and Sarah is only getting older and older. Sarah says, "Hey, God is going to give us a son. You know what? I don't think it's going to be through me. You should sleep with the maid." Dude, you should read your Bible. This is in the Bible.
She says to her husband, "Hey, you should sleep with the maid, Hagar." Abraham is like, "I guess I'll take one for the team." He goes and sleeps with this woman, commits adultery, yet God didn't give up on him. It was only by grace or undeserved favor and him believing and trusting in the promise of God. It wasn't because he had a perfect past or was a perfect person. It is because he trusted.
If you have a right relationship with God, it won't be because you have a perfect past or present. It will be because you trust in Jesus and his promise that anyone who believes in him and his payment for their sin will have eternal life. So the first mark of true faith is that it trusts in the promises of God. As Christians, it is the promise that only through Christ we can have eternal life.
The second mark we get in chapter 17 of Abraham's story. Several things have gone by. There are so many things, so many rich parts of his story. Basically, God shows up again. Abraham is 99 years old, still doesn't have any kids. His wife is like 10 years younger. Just think about that. God is like, "Hey, I promise through you and her, your 90-year-old wife, you are going to have a baby," and God shows up and says this.
Chapter 17, verse 5 (God speaking): "No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you." Abraham is a word that means father of many nations.
God shows up and says, "Hey, dude. Good to see you again. I have another thing I'd like you to do. I want you to change your name. I want you to change it from Abram, which means exalted dad, to Father of Many Nations, despite the fact that you don't have any kids." He's not done, and then he says this:
"God also said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.'" Which means mother of many nations. "I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."
Think about this interaction. You have a 99-year-old dude. You have a 90-year-old woman. Abraham is hanging out, doing whatever you did back then. He's riding his camel around, hanging out. God shows up. He's like, "Hey, we've got to meet again. I promised you 24 years ago that you're going to have a son, and you were old then. You were 75. Now you're 99. You're still waiting. Here's what I want you to do. I have something for you." Abe has to be thinking, "Is it a son?"
"No. I have a name change I'd like you to do. From now on, you're not going by Abram anymore. I want you to go by, essentially, 'Big Papa.'" That's essentially what it is. Imagine that. You're 99 years old, and God is like, "Hey, I know we're pretty late in the game here, but I'd love to suggest a name change." And Sarah is going to be "Big Mama." So you have Big Papa, Big Mama. What did that conversation look like at the dinner table that night with Sarah?
They're sitting down, and he's like, "God showed up to me today." She's like, "Well, we've been waiting 25 years." "Yeah. We didn't get the son, but he did have a message. He would like you to go by 'Big Mama' from now on." Think about that. Before he ever had a son, God said, "I want you to change your name. That's how much of a reality the fact that you're going to be the father of many nations is. Take it to the bank. Change your name, Abraham."
How did his interactions with his neighbors go? Bill is coming over asking to borrow the lawn mower, or whatever exchange they had. They're like, "Abram, hey, I'd love to borrow that thing," and he's like, "Actually, from now on, I will be Abraham. 'Father of Many Nations' is what I should be called." All of those things happened. He's having to tell people, "From now on, guys, I would like to go by 'Father of Many Nations.'"
"But, Abraham, you don't have a son. You don't have any children."
"I still would like to go by 'Big Papa,' and I love it when you call me that." It's true. What does that have to do with true faith?
2 . True faith involves embracing God's identity for you. True faith involves embracing who God says you are. Abram means exalted father. It was basically a word that was synonymous with… "Great Dad" would be another way of saying it. So his dad named his son "Great Dad," whether it was about him being a great dad or his son, "I hope Abram is a great dad." All about the past (his dad) or the present.
Abraham is all about the future, all about who God says you are even if you don't feel like it. Even if you can't see it, this is who you are and who you will be for all time. In the same way, God has given identities to you and to me, if you're a follower of Christ. You may not always feel like it, and it takes walking by faith today and not trusting in how you feel or what you did or what you think but trusting in who God says you are, even when you don't see it.
Abraham had to trust, "I'm the father of many nations, even though I don't have any kids." They were coming. God has called you. You are righteous. If you are in Christ, there have been titles and things that have switched, and your identity has changed. You are righteous and pure. No matter what you did today, no matter what your sexual purity looks like… Listen to me. This is nuts. If you're a Christian, you are as white as snow, the Psalms say.
God has taken your sin, and it was like scarlet. He has washed it as white as snow. Whatever you've done, you're as pure as Jesus is. Think about that. I'm talking to you. If you've trusted in Christ and today you looked at pornography, Jesus says you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). If you're living in a way that you know is wrong and you're a follower of Jesus, if you have believed and put your faith only in him, you have the righteousness of Jesus. You are a child of God. Your identity is so wrapped up in that.
Do you know what takes faith? Just like it took Abraham faith to believe, "God, I'm the father of many nations?" To believe that what God says about you is what is most true about you. You are holy. You are his. You are sealed. You're secure. Listen to me. If you're a believer in Jesus…only believers…nothing, no sin, nothing can separate you from Jesus. Every addiction in this room, for anyone who has put their faith in Christ, will fall. Eventually, it'll all pass away, because Jesus has won the victory. You are his.
Today, we, like Abraham, walk by faith, trusting that "Who God says I am is who I am, even when I don't feel like it." When my wife and I got married, something happened. We got married, came together, and there was a name change. Her maiden name was Vines. We got married. She became Calli Marvin. There was a name change. Her identity shifted, and that came with all different types of ramifications from this new covenant and new relationship forming. We began to live together. We became one. Our decisions were impacted with one another.
Here's the deal. Do you think there's ever a moment in marriage where it's possible…? I'm just talking about any marriage. Where somebody could wake up and not feel married? Yes, of course. Someone could wake up and be like, "You know what? I feel just like I did a month before we got married. I don't know that I feel anything different." Yet through a new covenant, something clearly has changed.
In the same way, when you became a believer in Christ, your identity, like Abram's, switched and shifted. Today, part of faith is not relying on how you feel, whatever lies of the Enemy you may believe, whatever shame or guilt; not allowing your past to define you; not even allowing your present to define you, but allowing what God says about you to be the characteristics and the qualities and the truth about who you are.
This is why this matters so much. I'm just going to put up some of these for you guys to hold on to. Next to what you believe about God, I don't know that there's a more significant thing that's going to shape your life than what you believe about yourself, who you see when you look in the mirror, how you think about yourself. I don't know that there's a more significant thing that's going to shape who you become, how you handle your work, where you find your value.
Let me just be honest with some of you girls. The reason you tolerate such dysfunctional men is because you have a really low view of yourself. You put up with it, and you're like, "This guy cheats on me, but he keeps being nice, and I'm okay with it, and we get back together." That, heartbreakingly, is because you have a low view of yourself.
You don't have the correct view and lens on you that God has on you, that you are a daughter of the King and that there's a God in heaven who says, "You are mine. You are pure. You are not damaged goods. I don't care if there's an abortion in your past. I don't care what sexual sin is in your past. I don't care what sexual sin is in your present. You're mine, and he has no claim over you."
The reason you keep going back, like a dog to its vomit, to that messed-up, broken relationship with that guy you know is no good for you is because you have a low view of yourself. The degree to which you're going to tolerate dysfunctional, not-God-honoring men is related to what you think about yourself, what you believe and how you see.
Same thing with guys. The reason so many of us can be tempted to be like, "I'm going to give myself to corporate America, because I think my worth, my value comes from what I do, how much I make, the job I have, how fast I can climb the corporate ladder. I'll put up with whatever they ask of me at work as long as it keeps increasing my paycheck, as long as I keep getting higher," because you are so obsessed with what everyone else thinks of you.
You find your identity and value in how much you make in your bank account, because you have not actually believed and trusted "Who Jesus says I am is infinitely more valuable. I don't serve my boss in order to hopefully get some raise or promotion; I serve him because he's a human and God has put me on this planet to love and to serve and to work for my boss, whoever they are, as though I'm working for the Lord. I'm going to leverage any opportunity I can to hopefully someday share the gospel with this dude."
Your identity is too wrapped up in… Candidly, I hear it all the time…guys being like, "Dude, I'm just afraid if I share the gospel or share my faith at work it's going to cost me or I won't get the promotion." You have bought lies about what matters, about who you are. Walking by faith involves trusting that what God says about me is the thing that is most true about me.
You have to have a death grip on who you are. This will define and shape how you see yourself, how you see life, who you date, who you tolerate. You have to know, "I'm a child of God. I'm a member of his church. I'm a citizen of heaven above anything else. I am a piece of God's workmanship or poetry that he has spun, his creation. I'm a new creation, a minister of God, justified, righteous," and there are so many others.
I'm secure in his hand, and nothing can separate me from him. I don't have to wonder, and I don't have to walk insecurely. When shame and guilt come, I let that drive me back to the reason I trusted Jesus, because I am a sinner. Walking by faith involves trusting in who God says you are.
The third idea comes from Genesis, chapters 21 and 22. Chapter 21:5: "Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him." So, Abraham is 100 years old. They waited 25 years. His wife is 90. Imagine that day. God finally fulfills his promise. As a 90-year-old woman, let alone how astounding that must have been. Do you know any 90-year-old women? They have this baby. They've been waiting years and decades and decades.
I mean, how many family get-togethers had they had together. She's 90. Do you know how many kids have sat on her lap who were her own? None. Every single time they get together and there's another baby, another person in the family, they sit there, and they're always holding other people's kids, thinking, "Man, I would love to have one of these." Then God promises, and for 25 years, all they hold is other people's kids, holding onto, "God promised this would happen."
Then it happens. In verse 1 of chapter 22, after Isaac has had a little bit of time where he has grown up (Isaac is the name of the son), it says, "Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, 'Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah.'" That is an area today right outside of Jerusalem. "'Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.' Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey."
He has to be going, "Where are you going with this, God? You promised Isaac would be the one you would continue the bloodline through, that you would continue your promise, you would keep your covenant with him. You promised not just any son, but you promised through Isaac (in chapter 17). You want me to kill him?"
What I think had happened is, over time, Abraham had gone from the guy who was afraid for his life so he basically sold out his wife and told her to be his sister… Then he sees his wife give birth to a baby at 90 years old, and that has to strengthen his faith. He sees God come through again and again, and it strengthens his faith.
So I don't know what emotions were going through. I'm sure as a father he's going, "What are you asking me? But, God, I'm learning and I have learned to trust you. I'm not sure what you're doing, but we'll go. If you're asking me to sacrifice my son, I'm not sure where this is going, but I'll trust you."
"He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance." God said, "I'm going to tell you exactly where to go," and it ends up being a place right outside of modern-day Jerusalem: Moriah. He gets there with his boy and two servants. It took three days.
"He said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.'" Wait a second. What? "Stay here, servants. I'm going to go over there with the boy, and we will worship God, and then we will come back over here." Abraham, God told you to sacrifice your son. Why are you saying, "We will come back over here"? Abraham knew that even in the midst of God asking him to sacrifice…
We're told in the book of Hebrews that he believed even if God was asking him, God could even raise him from the dead. "I don't know what this is going to look like, but I know that even if it requires him dying and being brought back to life, God can do it." "Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac…" He has Isaac carry the wood that he would be sacrificed on up the mountain.
"…and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.' And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!' 'Here I am,' he replied. 'Do not lay a hand on the boy,' he said.
'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.' Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'"
So Abraham gets ready. He's about to kill his son. God calls from heaven and says, "Don't do it," and God miraculously provided a ram in the midst of the thicket. He goes over, and he sacrifices. Abraham renames the mountain "The Lord Will Provide." I'm going to come back to that in a second.
3 . True faith involves surrendering to God even what we value most. For Abraham, I don't know that there was a thing in his life he valued more than his son. I've talked about it before. As a dad, it is hard for me to communicate how much I love my son. I'll wake up in the middle of the night sad about ever not being around or being apart from my child. As a dad, he has waited 100 years, and now God is saying, "I want you to sacrifice him to me. I want you to trust me. Do you trust me?"
At some point, as the journey of faith happens for all of us, it begs the question…Do we trust him with what we value most in life? I don't know what you value most in life. It's probably different for all of us. There are probably some that run through the room, but think about that. Is it marriage? You may not say, "Yeah, of course. At the end of the day, the thing I value most is marriage," but it would be at least in the category of that's a really big deal to you.
If it came down to never getting married because of following God's way or you can do whatever the world says and get married, if you were like, "Yeah, I'll probably just go with what the world says and get married. I mean, there's forgiveness, right?" you would know that is something you value tremendously. Whatever that line that you'd come up to and be like, "If God asked me to get rid of this or to not do this, I'm not doing that" reflects something that you're like, "I value that so tremendously."
As Abraham journeyed along that, he was forced to reckon with "Do I trust God not just with my eternity, with my sin, with everything, but with this, with everything in my life?" Maybe for you it's job. Maybe for you it's health. Maybe it's just your plans, what you hope to happen. If God ever began to mess with those and say, "You know what? I don't want you to make a million by 35. I want you to work a job. You're going to make 40 grand for the rest of your life, and I want you to be faithful right there," and you're like, "Nope! Not doing that."
You would be exposed to the fact that he would be asking you to trust him with something that is of incredible value to you. He's saying, "You can trust me. It will always work in your favor. If you don't, you will forfeit the ability to see God work. I don't know what that is, but a question you should leave here asking is, "What are the things I value most?" What are the things that maybe you woke up this morning thinking about, that you're going to go to bed thinking about, where you would be tempted to go, "I don't know that it's worth it"?
Abraham saw God show up. Here's what I think is amazing. Like I said earlier, his faith grew. He got stronger. As he journeyed through life, he clearly got stronger and stronger, because here's what faith is. Faith is a muscle. This is huge. This is why some of you don't have faith and it's really hard for you to get back into it. You had it in youth group and high school, but you're like, "Dude, I haven't picked this thing up since high school."
It might as well be like a letter jacket you haven't picked up. It doesn't fit right anymore, and you're like, "I'm trying to get back into faith." Faith is like a muscle. If you don't use it, you will lose it. I don't mean eternal security, because once you are sealed, you are eternally secure, but your confidence that "I can follow God. He's going to show up. He's going to provide. I can trust him. His way is always best."
The reason that is so hard for you as it relates to dating, as it relates to your job, as it relates to money is because you have not flexed that muscle in a long time. It's like weights. I don't want to brag, but these are 15-pound weights, and I can do curls with them. Thank you, gentlemen. That's because I've done relatively enough weight to be able to lift up what is not even the size of a small child. These are 35-pound weights, a little bit harder, but I can pull them a little bit. Yeah. No big deal. I'm going to stop there.
These are 70-pound weights, and I can barely pick them up. I can't even come close. Okay. Do you know why? Because I haven't flexed the bicep muscle enough and used it enough to strengthen me to be able to do that. There's a guy on our tech team who did it backstage earlier, which was very painful for my man card. It's because I haven't gone through the sequence of "Man, I can do that." I could get there if over time I flexed that muscle and flexed that muscle and flexed that muscle, but because I haven't, there's no way I can lift that.
Abraham, over his life journey, began to trust God and trust God and trust God, and his faith grew, and it grew stronger. Romans, chapter 4, tells us that his faith grew in God as he journeyed through life. Faith is like a muscle, and if you don't use it, it's going to atrophy, and it's going to go away. That's why you look at some people and you're like, "Dude, you have cancer. You're dying of stage IV cancer, and you are like, 'God is good. I can't wait to go home. I want him more than anything else in this life. He's all that I want.'"
And you're over there, and you're so ticked that you're not able to have the first-floor apartment. You're like, "Where is God in the midst of all this?" Then you see people who suffer incredibly hard things, and they're able to walk through it, not because they love hard, challenging things but because they trust God in the midst of this, because they flex that muscle. Some of you haven't flexed that muscle in years, and the way you begin to strengthen that again is you take step-by-step.
"Today, God, I'm going to do what you say. If your Word calls me to it, I'm just going to take that step, even if I don't want to. And do you know what I'm going to do when I don't want to? I'm going to say, 'God, I do not want to do this. I do not want to leave this relationship. I don't want to get in community.
I don't want to join church, and I really don't want to leave my job and have to look for something different because they want me to work 100 hours a week or 80 hours a week, which means I can't actually follow you. You tell me I need to be in community and small group and things like that, so I'm at least going to tell you I don't want to do that. Will you help me to have trust in you to do that?'"
You just flex that muscle, and you take that step, and you see God come through. When you don't, you forfeit seeing God show up. Abraham, had he not been willing to follow and be obedient to God, would have forfeited seeing God show up and miraculously provide a ram for him. Some of you… It breaks my heart. You're dating guys or you're dating girls, and you know God has told you, "This is not for you. This is not the type of relationship."
There's dysfunction all over it. The dude is not even following Jesus or maybe she's not following Jesus, and you need to break up and get healthy. You're like, "Yeah, but I feel like I'm just too invested. I don't want to start over. This may be the only shot I have. Better to have one here than none."
When you do that, you forfeit who God could have brought along. You forfeit seeing the plan and story he wanted to write or would have written. I'm not saying it always ends with you at the altar, guaranteed. I'm saying you forfeit seeing God show up in a way that is better than you could have imagined.
Same thing at work. When you see people you work with who are crossing lines morally, ethically, and they're telling you, "This is what you do; you go to strip clubs," and you're not like, "Well, this is not what people who follow Jesus do. I don't go to strip clubs, so I'm not doing it, and if it costs me my job, it costs me my job…" When you're basically going, "I'm just going to go to a strip club; it's not that big of a deal," versus standing up and saying, "I'm not going to do that," you forfeit seeing what God could have done and his provision and him showing up.
Ultimately, the story is an incredible parallel to Jesus. I don't know if you saw it all throughout the pages and all throughout the story. It echoes at every turn. This thing was pointing to something so much more than Abraham, something so much more than Isaac. Even in the idea of he looked up, and what did he see? He saw a ram.
There's also something else we're told that he saw. In Genesis, chapter 22, it says Abraham looked up, and he raised his eyes at the last minute, and there in the thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Jesus would say, 2,000 years later, that is not the only thing Abraham saw. He says this in John 8:56. He's talking to this crowd who is this bunch of Jewish leaders.
Jesus shows up, and he's total savage Jesus, and he's like, "Hey, dude, you guys are not children of Abraham. You're not actually descendants of him by faith." They're like, "Yeah, we are. We love God. Yes, we do. We love God. How about you?" and he's like, "No, you're not. Abraham looked to me. He saw my day coming, and he longed to see it."
This is what it says: "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day…" Listen to the next few words. "…he saw it and was glad." That's a funny thing to say. Jesus, what are you saying? All throughout the Bible there are times where Jesus would be like, "Hey, those guys would have loved to have seen me. I'm Jesus. This is awesome. People in the past would have loved to have seen it."
He says something really different here. He says, "Abraham would have loved to have seen my day, and he saw it, and he was glad." It's as though in the midst of looking up in that thicket and seeing the ram that he saw much more than a ram, but he would see in some way that God doesn't tell us. God connected the dots. "Can you see it, Abraham? It's not just a ram there."
In a way, he would have been seeing the Lamb of God, not caught in a thicket with his horns but caught there with a crown of thorns on his head, that one day all of this was pointing to Jesus. On that mountain, in that moment, he says, "Don't kill your son, because one day I'm going to kill mine." Isaac carried the wood up the mountain for his sacrifice. Jesus, we're told, carried the wooden cross up his mountain to be sacrificed for you and for me.
Every turn showcases this was so much bigger than Isaac in that moment of faith. It was about you. It was about me. It was about Jesus. We're told that Jesus was sacrificed on a mountain named Calvary. Do you know what that mountain also was called? Mount Moriah. The same mountain Jesus died on. That's where they're standing. I don't mean metaphorically, like it was a mountain, and you're like, "Well, he raised…" I mean, the same dirt.
They're standing in the very same place where 2,000 years later God would send his Son to die on that cross to provide the sacrifice, not just for Abraham and his bloodline but for you and for me, for every person. It was all pointing to Jesus. The whole storyline points to Jesus, because there was a sickness in the bloodline. He entered into human form in order for you and me to have access to God, not through being a good person.
Abraham looked up, and he's there with his son, and we're told by Jesus he saw it. He saw everything was about Jesus. He saw the Messiah was coming. He saw the plan of God. We're not told all of the details and ins and outs, but we're told that he saw Jesus coming and he was glad. I don't know what you're walking through tonight, but I know this with all of my heart: everything you've experienced today, this week, in your life has been an attempt from the God of the universe to get you to see Jesus.
In the same way that in that moment he looked up and saw his day coming and he was glad, everything you've experienced… Listen to me very closely. Every heartbreak, every challenge, every sickness in your family, every struggle at work, everything broken about our world is a chance where God is trying to get you to look to see the Savior, for you to see what Abraham saw: the Lamb who would come, who would give his life, who all darkness bows to, who defeated death that day, and when he rose…
Here's what you have to know: he put sin on an expiration date, and it has no power, it has no hold, and if you are in Christ, you are righteous. You are part of that covenant. There is nothing that can separate you from the bloodline because of the one who gave his blood.
Some of you are still trusting not in Jesus in faith in him but in what you do. Tonight is your night where God is saying, "It will never work." All of your life he's trying to get you to see Jesus, that even the brokenness would point you to the need for a Savior and the solution that God sent his Son. Let me pray.
Father, I pray for anyone in this room right now, and there are many, who have never trusted in Jesus. I pray for the men and women at the 16 other Porch.Live locations who are hearing my voice who right now are bowing their heads, and they know they are far from you, they know they have not lived in line with you, they know they are not deserving of a relationship with you; that you would protect them from buying the Enemy's lie that good things and good works and good deeds could possibly earn them the right.
Father, thank you for the incredible truth that you loved us so much you gave your life for us. You're still at work. Darkness is bowing to you, and it will bow to you. Every addiction, every sickness, everything that sin brought into this world is breaking away, and you're reversing the curse. I pray, God, you would right now stretch your hand out and open eyes for people to trust in you who have never done that. We love you, amen.