“Father, we praise you that you are a good God - that your will is the safest place to be. We acknowledge that faith always means risk and with risk comes fear, and so we pray in the name of your Son that you would give us a clear and accurate picture of your kindness, your love, your sovereignty and your justice. Please open our minds and hearts to your word, in Jesus name, Amen.”
Great to have you on the r12 journey. We are talking about what it means to be truly spiritual. It begins with an accurate picture of God - based on the principle of relationship. He’s your father and he wants a relationship with you.
Many people – sometime pray a prayer like this - “God, if you exist, what do you want from me?” Most Christians think that keeping the rules, especially the 10 Commandments is what God wants the most. Interesting - because no one can keep the rules. True spirituality is built on the principle of relationship, not rules. Others Christians think that faithful church attendance, Bible reading and tithing is what God most. Is God a cosmic scorekeeper that you perform for and are all those activities really a means of grace to draw near to your Father?
“What does God really want from me?” What would you say? If you looked in your own heart and life, if you looked at your behaviour, if you looked at how you spend your time, if you looked at how you see God right now, what would you write?
I want to help you understand how to give God what he wants the most. We’re going to look at Abraham’s journey. Abraham is called the Father of our Faith.
1. Abraham’s Journey Reveals what God Wants Most from Each of Us.
Open your Bibles Genesis 12 and I’m going to take you all the way to Chapter 22. I want to give you enough of his life so you can see it’s a journey. He’s not this stained glass person who does everything right. God takes him on a journey and he gives him a number of tests and the tests are going to be the very same tests that you and I get. It opens up with a call to follow God. Genesis 12: 1 – 3 - that’s a pretty big promise.
Abraham is 75 years old – v. 4a. God asks Abraham, “Will you trust me with your future?” He’s living in one of the greatest cities of his day, his family is there, his house is there, his land is there. God says, “I want you to leave, I want you to take a step of faith, I want you to follow me and leave the security of home. I want you to leave the familiar and I want you to follow me. By the way, I’m not telling you the destination.” The same is true for us. We know the ultimate destination - but along the way there are a series of tests –
Test #1 – Famine - God is asking Abraham “Will you trust me to protect you?” - v. 10. Abraham is approaching Egypt and turns to his very beautiful wife - “Sarah, we’re going down to Egypt. You’re very beautiful and they’re going to want you. If they want you they’re going to kill me. So here’s the plan, let’s tell them that you’re my sister so that they’ll not kill me.”
When Pharaoh sees his wife, he takes her into his harem. Before he has the opportunity to sleep with her God intervenes and lets Pharaoh know, “You are in big trouble because of this!” Pharoah - “I didn’t even know!” Says to Abraham - “You know what, man, what are you trying to do to me, dude? Why didn’t you tell me? Here’s some extra sheep and cows. Now just get out of here.” So Abraham fails this first test. He steps out but when it gets shaky, he doesn’t think God will come through.
Test #2 – Greed – “Will you trust me to provide for your needs?” 13: 1, 2 - Abraham had a decision to make. Abraham does something unusual - beginning to trust God - says, “Lot, there’s not enough room for all your servants and animals and mine. You choose. If you want that land down there, I’ll take this land. If you want this land I’ll take that land.” Basically - “I’m going to let God direct my steps.” Lot looks - “This looks better -there’s a valley and there’s water.” There’s also Sodom and Gomorrah - lot of bad things there as well. Lot takes the best of the land. 13: 14 – 17 - So in round 1 he fails. In round 2 with the issue of possessions and greed, he says, “God, I’m going to trust you.” God comes back and says, “I’ve got bigger blessings for you than you can imagine.”
Test #3 – Prosperity - “Will you trust me with your possessions?” It’s one thing to have greed and want something. It’s something else to actually have a lot. Most people, when they get a lot, they lose sight of God. That’s just the way life is. The more stuff we have, the more preoccupied we tend to get with it.
Chapter 14 - 5 kings get together and they take out the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot is there, and Lot gets taken away with his family. Abraham hears what happened, he gathers his men - go during the night and attack. They take out the bad guys and then come back with everything. Everybody has returned safely, and now he’s got more camels, more sheep and more gold than you can imagine. He not only gets all their stuff back but he defeats these kings and he takes their stuff. 14: 18 – 20 - there’s no law yet, there’s no tithing yet. Abraham makes this huge statement – 14: 22, 23 - My dependency is on God and God alone.” So he passed this test with flying colours.
Test #4 – Courage – “Will you trust me to fulfil my promises?” Here you see a pattern develop. Each time he passes a test, each time he surrenders, the Lord speaks to Abraham in a vision. 15: 1 – Abraham -“God, you’re making all these great promises - I don’t even have a son. God, I need to see it.” God is delighted – 15: 5, 6. Abraham boldly asks, “God, is this really true or not? You made some promises, I’m walking with you in integrity. I want to collect on these things. I need to know that you’re going to come through.” It delights the heart of God. Abraham takes this step of courage and he passes it with flying colours.
Test #5 – Timing - “Will you trust me by patiently enduring?” Ch. 16 - Sarah’s wife is beautiful but her biological clock is ticking. God promises, but his timetable is often different than ours. While you’re waiting he’s doing a deep work in you, in your character and in your heart. Sarah says, “Abraham, I have an idea, I think God’s really going to fulfil his promise but let’s help him. I’ve got this maidservant. Why don’t you have sex with her and then she’ll have a baby and that baby can be ours. We can make this work.” Abraham - “Well I don’t think that’s the way God said we’re supposed to do it but it sounds like a pretty decent idea.”
So he does and we get Ishmael and we’ve had problems ever since. So Abraham fails this test. I want you to see that these bible characters are not squeaky clean and never make a mistake. That’s not how life works with God and that’s not how your life is. In your life and mine, you make good steps and then you blow it, and then you make some forward steps and then you blow it. So Abraham fails a pretty big one here but God doesn’t say, “Okay, Gabriel, this Abraham project’s not working very well, let’s see if we can find someone else.” He doesn’t do that and he doesn’t do that with you. He knows that we’re people of flesh.
Test #6 – Obedience - “Will you trust me when what it doesn’t make sense?”Ch. 17 -“Abraham.” “Yes, Lord?” “I want you to circumcise yourself and your son as an everlasting covenant and mark from here on.” “You want me to what? Circumcise? Do you realize how old I am?” “Yes.” I don’t want to get too graphic here but this is painful, unpleasant and makes no sense. What’s this got to do with following God? When’s the last time you were absolutely sure God wanted you to do something but it didn’t make any sense? Would you trust him? God, you want me to give money to help this person when I’m struggling? That doesn’t make sense. God, you want me to forgive this person and do something kind after what they did to me. We’ve talked about protection, provision, promises, courage, patiently enduring when you don’t understand. What is God’s agenda so far? What’s the one thing he’s trying to teach this guy? “Will you trust me?”
Test #7 – The Final Exam – “Will you trust me with everything and everyone in your life?” Ch. 22. God says, “Here’s an outrageous request, Abraham, I want you to take your son, your only son whom you love who is 13 years old now and I want you take him to a mountain that I’m going to show you and I want you to sacrifice him to me.” Early in the morning he got up – obedient response - when God speaks to you, the longer you wait the higher the probability you’ll bail out. They have a long walk – 3 day journey. I think God gave him a lot of time to think, “Abraham, I don’t want a knee-jerk little reaction. I want this to be deliberate obedience.” Then there was the moment of truth. He takes his son, he builds an altar – 22: 10 – 17a – the great reward. Notice with this final step of surrender God’s heart and desire. I will bless you richly. Surrender is the first step on the journey to true spirituality. What did Abraham learn during all these tests that we need to learn?
2. Abraham’s Confidence in God’s Promises and God’s Character were the Secret to His Surrender and Reward.
We think he was a super-Christian and that he wasn’t like us at all. He had all the fears, all the struggles and really messed up a number of times. But he got to the point where he said “I’m going to believe in God and in his character. He is trustworthy. I can give him my future. I can give him my family. I can surrender my singleness to him. I can give him my money. I can give him my dreams because his character and his promises will lead me to surrender and to receive his reward.” “Abraham staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. Being fully persuaded that what he promised he was able also to perform.”Romans 4: 20, 21.
“And without it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He exists and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”Hebrews 11: 6. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. It’s not about rules, it’s about relationship. It’s not about performance it’s about God being your father. There are certain rules you’ll follow and there are certain activities you’ll do but you will do them out of faith and love.
So how did Abraham’s life turn out? He became a man of honour, wealth, influence -we all want what Abraham had. We want the product without the process and the process was that of learning to trust God to protect him, to provide for him, to hold his possessions with an open hand, to wait on God, “God, I’ll do this even though it doesn’t make sense.” Do you think those are maybe the exact same lessons that God wants for you and me?
3. Abraham’s Life Reveals that Surrender is the Channel through which God’s Biggest and Best Blessings Flow.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.”Romans 12: 1
What God really wants is not your money because you can give your money without your heart. He’s not after your religious activity or keeping rules. He wants you. “Father I want you to know I surrender.”Surrender is the key to experiencing true spirituality.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”John 2: 24, 25
For some of you, you’re hanging on to your stuff and your future and your money and it’s got your heart. God never wanted Isaac to be sacrificed. God wanted Abraham’s heart and he wants you to say, “It’s yours, I trust you.” God will call you to make some very hard decisions. But in time you’ll experience God’s power, you’ll experience his grace and he’ll do something in you that is significant.
“What does God want from you and me?”
1. He wants all I am and all I have.
2. He wants me by faith to say, “Lord, I’m all in!”
3. God wants me to sign the blank cheque of my life.
You have a blank cheque in your notes. For many of you here, you could say to God, “Lord, I’m all in,” and with some fear and trepidation you could go ahead and sign your name and this would be a very visual specific reminder to say, “God, today 19 February 2012, I’m all in.” For some of you it would be a lie to put your name down there and I have no desire, nor does God, to have anyone do this under pressure. Ask yourself - Am I going to trust Him or am I going to trust me? You’ll live your life with the consequences of that decision forever.
God didn’t leave this as some hypothetical theory. At the cross Jesus gave his all in total surrender. He said to the Father, “I’m all in to pay for the price for sin.” Jesus is saying to you, “I gave my all for you and my reward was the joy set before me.” The Father’s reward was that for all eternity we could have relationship with Him.
Life is made up of taking calculated risks, isn’t it? You never know for sure whether that person you marry is going to work out. Take a risk. You never know for sure whether moving across the country and taking that job is going to work out. Take a risk. The greatest joys in all of our lives are taking the wise, calculated risks that mean faith in aligning our life with God. An all-knowing God said, “You’re going to trust something or someone.” If you don’t trust God, you’ll trust the economy or something else. Jesus said, “I want you to know you can trust me. I lived a perfect life, I died upon a cross, and I was raised from the dead. I gave my all so you could know you could give yours.”
I’d like you to fill in your name. But I only want you to do this, if in integrity, you are ready to do this. Remember we’re on a journey. It might be week or two. Then go back and sign it.
“Lord, we give ourselves to you as a living sacrifice. In Jesus Name, Amen.”