Go

Mosaic Spokane

Father Abraham

Father Abraham

Freedom Series in Galatians

Galatians 3:7-9

June 21, 2015

 

Welcome to Father’s Day!  For some of us, it is an annual event that brings out the best of emotions.  For others, it may be a painful reminder of the big hole an absent father can leave, even under the best of circumstances. 

            Fathers play a very unique and irreplaceable role in the life of every human being.  Modern research is confirming over and over again what God’s Word has repeatedly modeled:  the impact a father has by his character, his presence or his absence is unique and critical.  God and other people can fill in the gaps at some deep levels, but they do not replace the unique role an engaged, righteous, loving and present father can have in his children’s lives.

            In a gathering like this today, there are more different experiences than people here with fathers, both good and not-so-good.  Some must deal with memories of abusive fathers, others with the pain of absent fathers. Some had unfaithful fathers, others unpredictable fathers.  Some had self-sacrificing dads while others had self-centered and self-serving dads.  The full spectrum of human emotions can be triggered just by the word, “DAD.” 

            God meant for fatherhood to be one of life’s best and deepest blessings to children and to fathers alike. I feel undeservidly blessed to have found that to be true both as a son and as a father.  In fact, it has surprised me a bit how my emotions connected with fatherhood are some of the deepest I’ve known in life.  As a son, I’m about 4 years past my own father’s death at a ripe old age of 97.  Yet I find that the older I get, the more I miss his presence. 

And certainly the emotions associated with being a father seem to grow more powerful the older our children become and the more experiences we are privileged to share with them. 

Somehow, all this emotion swirling around fatherhood for each of us, simply betrays that God has hard-wired fatherhood into our human condition.  The animal kingdom doesn’t have these kinds of bonds or disappointments with fathers. It is something God has uniquely designed into the human experience.  I believe that is because God the Father wants some aspects of human relationship with Him as Father to be as powerful if not more powerful than even this “thing” we have with earthly fathers. 

Regardless of what your father-experience has been to date, we are in a text today that points to another father…a father in the faith and a father of faith.   His name is well known.  So is his kind of faith.  So turn to Galatians 3:7-29. 

How many of you remember singing the little Sunday School song, Father AbrahamHow many sons did the old boy have, anyway??? J  (Start singing, “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham.  I am one of them and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord…RIGHT HAND, LEFT HAND…Father Abraham had…..”)  So how many did he really have, genetically speaking?

            Actually, he had 8 sons, at least the ones recorded by name.  Isaac was his only “begotten son” by Sarah.  He had Ishmael by Hagar, Sarah’s maid.  Then in Genesis 25:1-2 we have 6 other sons named by his second wife after Sarah’s death, Keturah

So let’s read Galatians 3:7-9.

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

So the Sunday School song is actually right on in its theology despite its questionable genetics math. J  It’s not the genetic Jews who are “sons of Abraham”; it is people who have come to exercise faith in what God says to them and invites them to experience through faith that are the true “sons of Abraham.”  God’s blessing is not about genetics; it’s about genuine faith.

            By way of review, just what is Paul writing to counter in this book of Galatians?   The false teaching of some folks who were saying that it wasn’t enough to embrace by faith the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth.  They  added to simple faith in Jesus a set of Jewish-bound laws God had given to Abraham and Moses to help the Jews learn they needed a Savior. 

            So Paul goes back to the beginningthe beginning of God creating the Jewish nation…the beginning of God singling out Abram from all others.  Interestingly enough, Paul first defines WHAT the Gospel given to Abraham was and then he will teach again, from Abraham’s life, HOW Abraham achieved that right relationship with God (and, for that matter, how anyone who wants relationship with God can). 

            That whole notion of an O.T. “gospel” strikes my ears as a bit strange.  I’m used to talking about the “Gospel” as something that only those of us post-incarnation and post-crucifixion of Christ know about.  What does Paul mean when he says God “preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham”?

            That term “gospel” really means “good news,” the ultimate Good News. So HOW was what God said to Abram way back in “Genesis 12 THE ultimate ‘Good News”?  How was that “the Gospel” of God? 

            Well, let’s come at that from a little different direction.  If you had to tell someone in one sentence what the Gospel of Christ is, what would you say?  Go ahead, give it a try.  I’m handing out free “A”s in class today for bravery, not for accuracy! J

[Solicit answers.]

ANSWER:  So could we say that the “Good News” of Christ is that God has made it possible through faith in Jesus Christ for anyone and everyone, regardless of race or past or family or anything, to be reconciled to God

Was that the same “gospel”, the same “Good News” God gave to Abram? 

For that answer, go back to Genesis 12.  The very brief back story here is that Abram’s father, Terah, had apparently heard some call of God to go to Canaan when both he and Abram were younger.  But for whatever reason, his level of faith-response to God’s call was only enough to get him out of Ur of the Chaldeans but not enough to get him into the Promised Land of Canaan.  He got sidetracked/distracted/waylaid in the city of Haran.  And there he died at the ripe old age of 205.  Not like God didn’t give him enough time to become the man of faith he could have been, right?! J

            So God issues the same invitation to Abram.  We have it in Genesis 12:1-3.  Part of these verses is what Paul is quoting in Galatians 3:8.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

            Again, what is the Gospel, the Good News, here?  It’s that little phrase in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  It’s not that Abram was such a great guy in his own right that he was mysteriously going to shower blessing like pixy dust over every generation of mankind. 

No, this is a promise that God was simply giving Abram an opportunity to become part of.  God was inviting Abram to begin a faith-walk with Him that would put Abram in the line of what God would do to bring the possibility of salvation/ reconciliation to every human being ever to live on this blue planet.  It would happen through the birth, sinless life, death for our sins on the cross, burial and resurrection of the Messiah, the One we know as Jesus Christ. Through Abram’s faith in God when he left Haran and set out for Canaan, Abram became the “father” or “family head” of ALL who put their faith in God. 

Listen again to Gal. 3:8ff--And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed. So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

Notice some interesting phrasing here:

  • “…the Scripture…preached the gospel…to Abraham, saying…”

Didn’t we just read in Genesis 12 that “the Lord said to Abram….”???  So here Paul is telling us what God has always told us:  the Scripture…God’s Word…this Word, the Bible…IS God preaching to us!  There is no separating the Word of God and the voice of God.  They are one in the same. 

            That is why the more people try to explain away or limit the application of the Word of God, the more they are saying “not interested” to God himself.  We cannot compromise our commitment to God’s Word and not lose our contact with the Living God

            I don’t mean to say that doing so is easy.  It’s not!  In fact, it’s sometimes terribly, life-threateningly hard.  Ask the millions of martyrs for Christ over the last 21 centuries and especially the last year.  Holding onto their profession of faith in Jesus Christ cost every one of them everything they had to give.  If they had just changed their understanding of Jesus a little…if they had just seen him as only a prophet, not God…if they had just agreed that the Bible was wrong when it spoke about Him being THE way, THE truth and THE life…their lives would have been spared. 

            Holding to the truth of this Book as the only sure truth will at some point in each of our lives be very difficult and very costly.  Because holding onto this as the very words of God will put you in opposition to those who choose NOT to accept that this IS the Word of God, the ultimate “Good News”! 

            So, do you understand clearly WHAT the ‘gospel’ for Abraham was?  It was that the whole Gentile world would be justified/made-right with God BY God and THROUGH faith.  Abraham’s faith would become that portal of God blessing the whole world through the eventual Savior of the world. 

            Remember something.  Abraham was NOT a JEW at this time.  I don’t know how else to say it.  He was just like any other Gentile.  He wasn’t circumcised.  He didn’t have the Law of Moses or the 10 Commandments.  He didn’t practice the Sabbath.  He was just like any other Gentile in the whole world except that he had faith.  God hadn’t made him the “father of many nations” yet.  He hadn’t made him the father of the Jewish nation yet.  In fact, he wasn’t the father of anyone!

            Here is Paul’s point (if I can state it somewhat bluntly):  everyone in this world is, in some real sense, a godless GentileAbraham was when God invited him to believe in Him and be made right with Him through faith.  And that’s just what Abraham did, and by doing that, he became the father of blessing for all nations and for every person who would ever live to exercise faith in God as he did—simply believing what God said and taking that first step towards reorienting your life around God’s call to be reconciled to Him. 

The clear application for any of us who choose to take God at his word is found in vs. 9--So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

  • God asked Abraham to follow Him into an unknown but Promised Land. Isn’t that what God has asked of every person ever to live by faith?
  • God asks every human being to put their faith in Him
  • God offers the same blessings in an even deeper way than he offered to Abraham. What part of his offer to Abraham doesn’t fit what God has promised all through history to His people:  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Do we grasp that the very power and expansive nature of the promise made to Abraham is made to us?

Do we really believe that the choices we make today and tomorrow and the next day about living believing what God has said to us will have as dramatic and huge effects as those our father Abraham did? 

Do we really believe the promise that “those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham…”???

Here it is.  If you remember nothing else today, remember this:  THE EXPANSIVE BLESSINGS OF GOD ARE BY LIVING FAITH IN THE LIVING GOD, PERIOD!  Yes, our faith will grow.  Yes it will be evidenced by our actions.  Yes, God’s blessings will grow right along with our growing faith. But they will start, come to us and grow by living, God believing faith ALONE. 

Listen to how the N.T. parallels this list of blessings given to Abraham in Genesis 12.

  • God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “And I will make of you a great nation….” Peter tells us in I Peter 2:9—“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

APP:  Living in a nation that seems to be hurtling towards its own demise and destruction, this is REALLY GOOD NEWS!  No matter what happens to any nation on earth, whether you are living in a destroyed and war-torn Sudan, a brutal and repressive North Korea or a morally corrupt and God-ignoring America, we are part of a “holy nation” that is growing greater, stronger, more prosperous and populous with every passing day. 

It is this reality that allows the martyrs of ISIS, be they in Nigeria or Kenya or Syria or Iraq or Egypt to know, in the face of beheadings and crucifixions and torture that they are dying for that ONE nation that is actually holy, that ONE nation that will actually endure—God’s eternal family.  And for America, imagine what might happen to the church if we put as much attention on the “holy nation” of being Christ-followers as we gave to the political arena today. 

God IS making us a truly “great nation” the likes of which no nation in the history of this world will be able to come close to.  Let’s determine to dream more, talk more, pray more, work more, give more, populate more and rejoice more about our “holy nation” than any nation we may ever inhabit in this life.   

Next, according to Genesis 12:2, God says “…and I will bless you and make your name great….”  While Abraham’s name has certainly been plucked from the trash heap of historical obscurity and made known virtually world-wide, how has or will our “name” be made great? 

The brother of Jesus, James, writes in James 2:7 about OUR new name by which we are now known in the world—Christians. While speaking of the rich who were being shown favoritism in the church despite the fact they were often the ones persecuting and maligning Christians, James says, Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”  We have been called by Jesus Christ himself.  And our name is now “Christ-ones” or Christians.  Has their ever been a greater name to be known by than the Son of God himself? 

APP:  Maybe it is time for us to get a bit more vocal and obvious about our new name.  We’re always introducing ourselves by our given and family names.  What might happen to the greatness of the name of Christ and Christians if we somehow identified ourselves to strangers and friends alike as being “Christ-followers”? 

  • What if we said, “Jesus bless you” instead of the generic “God bless you”?
  • What if we left a blessing with more people like, “May the peace of Jesus Christ be with you?”
  • What if we wore these little ribbons that raised people’s curiosity and gave us more opportunities to tell people, “I’m a follower of Jesus and I’m expressing my solidarity with other Christ-followers who are being killed daily by ISIS”?

God is in the business of making the name of Jesus Christ the greatest name ever known.  And he is doing it exclusively through His children who are known, loved and hated by the name “Christian”…Christ-ones. 

Finally, this is the blessing we can expect to BE in this world if we are true “sons of Abraham” by being people of a living, active faith in God.  God promised His blessing on those who live in faith as Abraham did.  Gen. 12:2ff—“and I will bless you … so that you will be a blessing. … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

            Lots of “blessing” going on here. And it is happening because Abraham chose faith over doubt, faith over the comfortable life, faith that moved him to a place he had never been so that God could make him a man he would never have become without faith. 

            This is what happens with every one of God’s children who put their faith in Jesus and live out that faith by responding to whatever God asks them to do.  Those kind of people become targets of God’s blessings and in turn the whole earth gets blessed by them. 

            Abraham didn’t see all that happen immediately.  It happened over a lifetime.  Some of it happened generations and centuries after he died.  But it happened because he was a man of lived-out faith in God and what God told him to do.   

APP:  And that is precisely what will happen as we are people who respond in faith when we hear God speak.  We may hear it when we read this Word.  We may hear it when someone gives us a godly challenge to change or grow.  We may hear the Spirit whisper something to us as we’re in prayer.  When we follow in the footsteps of father Abraham, we will become a people blessed by God who become a blessing to the whole earth. 

APP:  Where is God asking you to step out in faith? 

I don’t know where he is doing that personally.  But I know He has asked us in the past 6 months to take some new steps of faith as a church.

  • He asked us to step up our giving so we could relocate at some point in the near future. And we have seen nearly $150,000 given by faith, in response to what God spoke to many of us individually.  That is astounding coming from this congregation.
  • God has clearly told us to “leave” our comfortable place here at Second Space and “go to a place He will show us.” All God has shown us today is the next step—The Healing Rooms.  For whatever reasons He has, He has decided to keep us waiting for a more permanent place.  He has asked us to keep walking by faith in seeking to experience the heart of God in the heart of the city. 
  • As we bid farewell to people like the Bucks and the Wegners and Moody students and walk into an unknown future, we do so by faith. We do so because God has invited us to live and be blessed and change the world by faith. 
  • Dads—taking God at His word and living a life that constantly demonstrates faith in the living God is one of the best gifts we can give to the people who mean the most to us. Leaving a big estate can’t give that kind of blessing.  Leaving even fun memories of vacations or gifts or shared experiences doesn’t leave a blessing like being men of faith. 

Some of you know that by experience.  Some of you grew up or are growing up under fathers (and mothers) who are people who take steps of faith that the world says are crazy.  They make choices of faith that people without Christ will never make.  They live for a “holy nation” that will never end, fade, be conquered or die. 

I’ve been privileged to know fathers like that.  I’ll end today telling you about one such man I got to know who was a father of faith.  Barney McClain was his name.  For several decades he was the founder and President of a tool and dye company in Portland, OR.  He and his wife, Esther, parented 5 daughters.  When he was at the peak of his career, in a place where most people would have begun to throttle back and enjoy retirement, Barney kept walking by faith. 

He sold his business and started a second career…as a self-supported missionary to business and professional people in Manila, Philippines.  I got to know him the year I was in Manila right after graduating from Bible College.  Barney and his wife would invite me over to their home every Sunday night.  It was on my way home from working in another church in another part of Manila. 

Barney and his wife did in the affluent district of Green Hills in Manila what they had done all their lives:  leverage friendships with business and professional people for the Kingdom of God.  They led numerous upper-income Filipinos to Christ and discipled them there in Manila.  They left their four married daughters and untold grand-kids in the U.S. in order to step out in faith and become God’s blessing to people halfway around the world who they had never met but who today are in God’s family because they chose to live by faith.

Years later, when Sandy and I were ministering in Spain, we went back to Barney and Esther’s little home in Portland.  They were now easily in their 80’s.  Their health was failing.  We enjoyed a wonderful evening of fellowship and food. 

As we prepared to go, Barney took us to his prayer room.  It was a little office, as I remember it, almost a closet.  There he pulled out a rather large 3x5 card box.  In it were the prayer cards of dozens of missionaries.  Ours was there too.  And on the back of each card were the prayer requests we had sent out and the dates we had asked for prayer.  Every morning Barney would pray over the lives and needs and requests of several families scattered in far-flung parts of the world. 

In that moment, he became a father of faith to me.  He was showing me by his actions of faith how to spend the last years of your life.  He was modeling what faith looks like--a praying man, interceding for other people when your body is not able to work as you have for 80 years for others.

Barney was just one of many “fathers of faith”, many “children of Abraham” who I have been privileged to know, to watch, to be blessed by in my journey of faith. 

So how many of us will be true “children of Abraham” because we have chosen to be true people of faith?

Galatians 3:9-- So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

  • Dads and all men, let’s be men of faith.
  • Women, how about you be women of faith?
  • Mosaic, let’s be people “blessed along with Abraham” by being a church of faith the likes of which Spokane has not seen in a long time!

[Invitation to put your faith in Jesus Christ.]

 

MUSIC:  Use the next few minutes of music and Scripture passages on the screen to listen to God, to talk with Him, to reflect on the blessings He has in store for those who chose to live by faith. 

Read More