By Faith… 2) The Focus of Faith
Main point: Abraham’s faith was centred (established) on this: that God has power to do what He has promised.
Please turn with me to Romans 4. [Read 4:18-25]
Last week we started a series entitled By Faith… Last week we spoke about the power of faith from Romans 3:21-22 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known…This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
We started last week by recognising that it is common to all humanity the knowledge that God is holy, we were but then we spoiled it with falling from God’s perfect standard, and that the only way to be with God again is to be righteous. Being righteous will earn you and me the pleasure and acceptance of our Creator.
In this life we are tempted to believe that we earn the pleasure and acceptance of our Creator by living by His standards – by living according to His law. If we keep it mostly, at least God can look and say that we tried, right?
But as we spoke last week, we found in God’s word that the Law that God gave us actually does not save us. It doesn’t matter how close we keep to His requirements; doesn’t matter how better we are than our neighbour, or our spouse; doesn’t matter how shiny we are on the outside – the Law of God doesn’t save us, it only condemns us.
But that’s why the gospel is so exciting! Because this righteousness that we so desperately need has been revealed to us. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus – that is all. Your and my eternity with God doesn’t count on how close we keep God’s requirements, but do we have faith in Jesus.
Are you still holding on, as I am so prone to do, to those labels, hoping beyond hope that maybe God might still justify you because of your successes in one area of life or other?
I want to read for you Romans 10:1-4. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
Romans 3:21-22 again: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known…This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
So righteousness comes through faith in Jesus. That is all.
But, how is that possible? Don’t you struggle with that? I don’t know about you, but I really, really do. In fact, after reading it I sent a message to a friend of mine just saying over and over again, ‘I don’t understand. I don’t get it. How can it be so simple? That’s all??’
If you don’t wrestle with the simplicity of the Gospel, then I’m not sure you understand it yet (jokingly). It’s beyond our comprehension. That we would be right with God – completely right, nothing left to fix – right with God – not because of anything we’ve done, or doing, or could do, but simply through faith in Jesus?
1. God’s Promise to You
But that is God’s promise! I want you to hear me tonight: That is God’s promise to you. That you will be saved through faith in Jesus – you don’t need to do anything else. Will you trust God’s promise? It’s here, in the Bible, for you to read, and accept with both hands.
Pastor William has been sharing in the mornings a series about God’s promises. I’ve enjoyed listening to those sermons again this week. One of the great statements that he shared is so simple, but also weighty: There is a difference between a promise and a command. A command is what you must do for God; a promise is what God will do for you.
I am saved not because of the promise I made to God, or by my obedience to His commands; but I am saved because of the promise God made to me.
Now, the fulfilment of this promise depends on God. The fulfilment of this promise depends on God. You don’t need to do anything else. Will you trust God’s promise?
Our passage tonight covers the story of one man who trusted the promise of God.
Abram lived in a place called Ur. Ur was a huge city, with lots of people, big houses, it could kind of be compared with Johannesburg today. And in Ur Abram had lots of family and friends, he also had lots of wealth. What a great life in the big city, hey?
What was one thing that Abram and his wife Sarai not have? The one thing that they didn’t have was a son.
Then, one day, God spoke to Abram and said to him, “Abram, I want you to leave your beautiful city, and your family, and I want you to head out. I’m going to give you a big land for your children. And I will always be with you.”
Can you imagine what Abram must have thought? “I’m comfortable here! God wants me to leave and go….I don’t even know where…to a land that he’s going to give to my children….I don’t even have children! But, if God promises it, I believe it will happen.”
So Abram packed up his stuff, took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, and started walking. They walked for ages. “God, are we there yet?” Finally, they came to a land called Canaan, and God said to Abram, “Okay, Abram, you can stop now. We’re here, this is the land I’m going to give to your children.”
When Abram looked around he must have thought, “It’s beautiful, but there are so many other people here. If this is land is for my children, how am I going to get them off? Wait…I don’t even have children! But, if God promises it, I believe it will happen.”
By this time Abram was quite old. He could have been a grandfather, but he wasn’t even yet a father. You see, Sarai couldn’t have children, she was barren. But Abram said, If God promises it, it will happen.
Finally, when Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord visited Abraham and Sarah and promised them a son. Can you imagine what must have gone through Abraham’s mind? “I know God’s promised a son before, but boy am I getting old! I wonder how God will pull this one off?? But if God promises it, it will happen”
Sarah just laughed. Could even God do such a thing?
The very next year, at the right time, Sarah had her first son, at the age of 90! She must have thought, ‘Okay, that’s one down….only 399 trillion, 999 billion, 999 million 999 thousand and 999 to go. Let’s do this!”
Abraham must have been thinking, “Okay, Lord. You promised a son, and it happened. Thank you. But now what about the land? I’ve been here 25 years and I still have no land, and my little boy won’t conquer the land himself. Lord, it seems impossible, but if You promise it, it will happen.”
There are three things that Abraham and Sarah must have struggled with as they faced the barely-believable promises that God had made to them. Is God able? Is God willing? And will He do it?
Now as we look at the barely-believable promises that God has made to us in His word, we face the same three questions. God has promised to save us by faith alone in Christ alone. Is God able? Is God willing? And will he do it?
I want to answer all three.
a. First of all. YES! GOD IS ABLE!
The God of all the universe is able to do what He chooses to do, anything that is in line with His character. God created the heavens and the earth; He covered the earth in a mighty flood but saved one righteous family; he delivered His people from Egypt with wonder upon wonder; He gave them their own land. God has cast down nations and lifted others up. But His eye has also been on the individuals; He has healed, supernaturally protected, miraculously provided; He has raised from the dead. Is there anything our God cannot do??
I love what one author has said, and I’ll quote it to you here:
Can God save such a sinner as I am?
Yes; let your sins be…
ever so numerous,
ever so aggravated,
ever so peculiar.
Maybe you think, surely God can save Abraham, David, my Christians friends, but can God save me? No one knows what I’ve done. Can God save me? I will say again:
Yes; let your sins be…
ever so numerous,
ever so aggravated,
ever so peculiar.
That author goes on to say, “The Lord Jesus Christ saved some of the greatest sinners, such sinners as the dying thief, and Saul of Tarsus, we could add David, Rahab, who else?? And he made an atonement for the sins of such sinners. And if all the sins of all who had ever lived, and all who ever shall live, had been committed by one person for whom Christ died, God could save that person with all possible ease, for ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.’”
Abraham had to ask the question, Is God able to keep His promise to me? And these verses give us insight into his answer: 4:18-21 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”
b. Secondly. YES! GOD IS WILLING!
The second question is: Is He willing? I understand that God can, if He wants to, but what if He doesn’t want to?
I want to say that God is willing – more than willing always to save us. Sometimes we think, perhaps God might be willing to keep His promise of salvation for others, but He must be so mad at me. I want you to know that at any time, at any time at all, God is willing and eager to draw you close.
How can we know this? Because the Bible is full of God’s crying out for people to believe it! Can you think that God will change his mind, and reject any person, after he has promised, “As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
As I’ve been reading through my Bible, I’ve also been so blown away how many times God emphasises His amazing compassion and eagerness to draw you and me close to Him. I love what it says in Joel 2:13 “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you.”
One of the best pictures of God’s willingness to keep His promise of salvation and blessing comes from Jesus in the story of the Prodigal Son. Oh, how that son broke his father’s heart in his rebellion, not only wasting his father’s money but worse than that, rejecting his father’s love. Boy, did the son expect a hiding and a rebuke when he got home. But what did he find? His father’s eager, open arms.
Abraham also wondered, and you might have asked the same question: Is God really willing to give me what He has promised? God is willing, as we see in our passage: (4:20-24) “Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness’. The words, ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
God is willing to keep His promises to you.
c. Thirdly. YES! GOD WILL DO IT!
Finally, the question is: Will He do it? Will God really keep His promises to you and me? That deals with the faithfulness of God.
Will God do what He has promised? Certainly! 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
Abraham faced all of these questions: Can God do what He has promised? Is He willing? Will He really do it? Maybe you’ve asked, or are asking the same questions. I want you to know tonight that what God has promised, He will do! I know that we live in a world that tries to discourage trust in God’s promises. But I have one last bit of encouragement to you tonight from God’s word: That in the end, Psalm 18:30 “This God – his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Whether you will live in the truth of it now, or only see it later, we will all come to see that the word of the LORD does prove true, every one of His promises will come to pass in His time.