The Abraham Factor


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This sermon is by Jeff Strite and can be found at:

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The Abraham Factor

  1. 1. <ul><li>Jeff Strite </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>The Abraham Factor
  2. 2. <ul><li>A third grader once wrote a homework assignment where he was supposed to &quot;Explain God.&quot; &quot;One of God’s main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>He doesn’t make grown-ups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way, He doesn’t have to take up His valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere, which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn’t go wasting His time by going over your mom and dad’s head asking for something they said you couldn’t have. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>You should always go to Church on Sunday because it makes God happy and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God. Don’t skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong! And, besides, the sun doesn’t come out at the beach until noon anyway. </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>If you don’t believe in God - besides being an atheist - you will be very lonely because your parents can’t go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It is good to know He’s around you when you’re scared in the dark or when you can’t swim very good and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>But you shouldn’t just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and He can take me back anytime He pleases. And that’s why I believe in God.“ </li></ul><ul><li>(source: Brian Mavis, quoting Danny Dutton, </li></ul><ul><li>age 8, from Chula Vista, California) </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>There were several other parts of this 3rd grader’s paper that I didn’t read to you, but the one thing that came through this boy’s explanation of who God was, </li></ul><ul><li>was this: </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>This little boy believed in </li></ul><ul><li>a personal God. His God makes people. And He listens to them. His God is nearby when you’re frightened or lonely. This is God who cares for you. </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Dr. Rubel Shelley, a well-known leader in the Church of Christ, once quoted a Gallup poll about the way Americans visualize God. · Some people saw an angry, critical God who was waiting to punish people (about half of those interviewed) · Others visualized Him as a distant deity, not really interested in what happened to them. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>· But about 1/4th of Americans thought about God as a benevolent, caring Father who wants a relationship with them. </li></ul><ul><li>(Based on “Values and Beliefs of the American Public.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>A survey done on behalf of Baylor University by the Gallup Organization.) </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>That last group believed </li></ul><ul><li>in a God who </li></ul><ul><li>listened to them, </li></ul><ul><li>cared about them, </li></ul><ul><li>who was nearby when they were frightened or lonely. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>And THAT’S the kind of God the Bible tells us about. In the 12th chapter of Genesis, we read about one of the most dramatic relationships any man has ever had with God. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>A little over a fourth of Genesis is dedicated to telling Abraham’s story. And much of the rest of the Old Testament testifies to his importance (it’s always Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). And the reason Abraham is so important to the people of Old Testament is because God began His covenant with Israel thru him. </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Now, this relationship that God had with Abraham was very unique because Abraham wasn’t what you and I would call a “great man”. He didn’t really deserve all this attention from God. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>· Abraham didn’t have any followers or disciples. </li></ul><ul><li>· He didn’t write any books that we know of. </li></ul><ul><li>· He wasn’t a great teacher or politician or warrior. </li></ul><ul><li>· He didn’t even technically begin a “religion”. </li></ul><ul><li>In fact, the only real claim to fame Abraham really had was that God chose him… and made special promises to him in Genesis 12. </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Genesis 12:1 NET Now the LORD said to Abram, &quot;Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you. 2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>3 I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.&quot; 4 So Abram left, just as the LORD had told him to do, and Lot went with him. (Now Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran.) </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>5 And Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they left for the land of Canaan. They entered the land of Canaan. </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the oak tree of Moreh at Shechem. (At that time the Canaanites were in the land.) 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, &quot;To your descendants I will give this land.&quot; So Abram built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>What were those promises? </li></ul><ul><li>1. I will make you into a great nation. </li></ul><ul><li>2. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. </li></ul><ul><li>3. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse. </li></ul><ul><li>4. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. </li></ul><ul><li>5. And - To your offspring I will give this land. </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>What God was telling Abraham was: I want a relationship with you. I want to be there for you. To listen to you. I want to walk beside you. I want to be there when life gets lonely and frightening. </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>And – more than that – God was promising to make Abraham such a great man that he would even effect the lives of his children, his grandchildren - even the entire world. To this day, each of the great Western Religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - all trace their roots to this one man. </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>So, the first question that came into my mind was this: Why? Why pick out a fairly obscure man like Abraham to give all these blessings to? </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>Like I said earlier, he wasn’t a man of great accomplishments. He wasn’t a man of renown and power. As far as we can tell, he was probably an older, moderately successful herdsman that may have lived with his dad! </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>Why on earth would God choose THIS man? There were probably other men – younger, more skilled and influential. Why choose Abraham? </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>The only reason that makes any sense is that God saw what was in Abraham’s heart. God knew his potential. As God later told the prophet Samuel: 1 Samuel 16:7b NET People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.&quot; </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Last week, we talked about how God has &quot;also set eternity in the hearts of men;.&quot; ( Eccl. 3:11 ) God placed inside of each of our hearts a “God shaped” hole that only He could fill. He placed inside of people a hunger that only He could satisfy. </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>And that emptiness, that hunger, is one of the main reasons that so many people are dissatisfied with the lives they live and the world they live in. </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>And this passage about Abram </li></ul><ul><li>in Genesis 12 is meant to </li></ul><ul><li>teach us that, </li></ul><ul><li>that dissatisfaction with life – </li></ul><ul><li>that hunger within us – </li></ul><ul><li>can only be satisfied when we have a relationship with God. </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Isaiah 55:1 NIV Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>An everlasting covenant - That everlasting covenant of grace and peace which I made with Abraham, and his seed. </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>Of David - Even that covenant which was made first with Abraham, and then with David, concerning those glorious and sure blessings which God hath promised to his people, one and the chief of which was giving Christ to die for their sins. David here seems to be put for the son of David. (Wesley) </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>Come to God. Listen to Him. Do this and He can give you that which will satisfy and fill your soul. If you do this, He’ll make a covenant with you– He’ll establish a relationship with you. </li></ul>
  36. 36. <ul><li>That’s what happened with Abraham. There was a hunger within him that only God could fulfill. There was a need for a relationship that only God could supply. Thus, when God approached him, Abraham was ready to make a decision to follow God wherever God wanted to lead him. </li></ul>
  37. 37. <ul><li>When God said to him: &quot;Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you…” Abraham simply packed up his tent… and he left. There’s no discussion. There’s no argument. There’s no excuses. When God says go… Abraham leaves. </li></ul>
  38. 38. <ul><li>Now, contrast that with how another great man in Scripture dealt with a similar offer from God. In the book of Exodus God appears to Moses in a burning bush. God speaks to him and says: I want you to go down to Egypt and lead my people out of slavery. </li></ul>
  39. 39. <ul><li>How does Moses respond? He makes excuses: He asks “Who am I to do this? “What if they don’t listen to me?” “I can’t talk well enough” </li></ul>
  40. 40. <ul><li>God answers every question Moses asks, and every objection he raises. Finally, Moses gives up the pretense and comes right out and says Exodus 4:13 NET But Moses said, &quot;O my Lord, please send anyone else whom you wish to send!&quot; That was how Moses responded to God. </li></ul>
  41. 41. <ul><li>BUT NOT Abraham. Abraham didn’t argue. He didn’t offer excuses. And he didn’t do those things, because inside of him - in Abraham’s heart - there was a hunger only God could satisfy. And so… when God offered, Abraham jumped at the chance. </li></ul>
  42. 42. <ul><li>Now, God had had close relationships with other people before Abraham came along. </li></ul><ul><li>There was Adam and Eve. God gave them a wonderful place. He cared for them, and listened to them, and walked with them in the Garden. </li></ul><ul><li>Then there was Enoch. He walked closely with God for 300 years… </li></ul><ul><li>And, of course, there was Noah whom God entrusted with building the Ark. </li></ul>
  43. 43. <ul><li>But if you took all the verses in Genesis that were dedicated to those folks – to Adam & Eve and Enoch and Noah - and put them all together… you wouldn’t have ½ the amount of attention spent on them as was on Abraham. Why would that be? </li></ul>
  44. 44. <ul><li>I believe God spent so much time telling us about Abraham because He wanted to showcase something with THIS man. </li></ul><ul><li>With Abraham, God was beginning to do something new. </li></ul>
  45. 45. <ul><li>He was making a covenant (a contract) with this man. A covenant that was to be the foundation of everything else God intended to do… including His ultimate sending of Jesus to pay the price for our sins. </li></ul>
  46. 46. <ul><li>God was beginning a religion – right here in Gen. 12 – with Abraham as the cornerstone Now, many of the world’s religions have often begun by great teachers: Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius etc. But those are religions that were based on the teachings of mere mortals. </li></ul>
  47. 47. <ul><li>When God began His religion He didn’t center it on some great body of doctrine or on a great teacher. Abraham was never noted for being a prophet or a preacher or teacher. Abraham’s only claim to fame was that he walked with God. </li></ul>
  48. 48. <ul><li>And you see that’s what God wanted us to understand. His “religion” (that He was starting with Abraham) was a religion based upon a “relationship”. And if we look real close at this relationship that God established with Abram we can better understand what God wants to do with us. </li></ul>
  49. 49. <ul><li>SO, what does God want us to see in this story of Abraham? 1st – He wants us to see what kind of relationship He wants with us. He wants to bless us. You and I are valuable to Him. We have value - not because we’re accomplished, the rich or successful - but because we are made in His image. </li></ul>
  50. 50. <ul><li>Families have a refrigerator in their home. But you can’t hardly see the door on that refrigerator because it’s covered with pictures of kids. You could try to solve that problem by painting the walls of the kitchen with metallic paint so that those pictures can be put there… but that won’t work. </li></ul>
  51. 51. <ul><li>The door will still be covered with pictures of children. There’s no picture of Mom & Dad there– just the kids. Those pictures are there because those children are valuable to us. Those kids are made in your image and you love them. </li></ul>
  52. 52. <ul><li>Now, imagine – if you will – a humungous refrigerator sitting up there in heaven. And if you’re a Christian – your picture is on that refrigerator someplace. Your picture is there BECAUSE you are valuable to God. He loves you. You’re made in His image. </li></ul>
  53. 53. <ul><li>In fact, God is so serious about blessing you that He gets a little upset when others don’t bless you. God tells Abraham: Genesis 12:3 NET I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.&quot; </li></ul>
  54. 54. <ul><li>Someone once said that this promise was only for Abraham. That person tried to argue that only Abraham had been promised that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who would curse him would be cursed. </li></ul>
  55. 55. <ul><li>That offended one man because he was certain that this promise was for him, just as it had been for the man who argued that point. So he set out to prove that he was right. And he did. </li></ul>
  56. 56. <ul><li>Jesus said: Matthew 10:42 GW I can guarantee this truth: Whoever gives any of my humble followers a cup of cold water because that person is my disciple will certainly never lose his reward.“ </li></ul><ul><li>In other words: God promises to bless those who bless you. </li></ul>
  57. 57. <ul><li>Then Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica: </li></ul><ul><li>2 Thessalonians 1:6 CEV It is only right for God to punish everyone who is causing you trouble, </li></ul><ul><li>What’s he saying? God will curse those who curse you. </li></ul>
  58. 58. <ul><li>Now I find great comfort in that. I am pleased that God is that focused on my needs. He cares so much for you and I that He will reward people who watch out for us… and He will deal harshly with folks that hurt us. </li></ul>
  59. 59. <ul><li>God wants us blessed. In fact He goes so far as to say: Romans 8:32 NET Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? </li></ul>
  60. 60. <ul><li>But it doesn’t stop there. Just as God told Abraham that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed thru him - so also, God intends everyone you meet to be blessed thru you. God wants to bless your children, your grandchildren, your </li></ul><ul><li>co-workers, your neighbors… </li></ul>
  61. 61. <ul><li>They all should be effected by the relationship you have with God to the point where everything you DO should make them think about God. </li></ul>
  62. 62. <ul><li>Jesus said: Matthew 5:16 NET In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. </li></ul>
  63. 63. <ul><li>And if - by your love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, etc (by the fruit that God’s Spirit develops in your life) - if by this fruit, these folks begin looking to God it will ultimately lead to their wanting God for their Father as well. GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU. </li></ul><ul><li>And He wants to bless others thru you. </li></ul>
  64. 64. <ul><li>The 2nd thing God wanted us to see in this relationship with Abraham was this: He wants a response from us. It’s not enough for us to merely “have eternity in our hearts” and WANT God in our lives. It’s not enough for us to see the blessings God offers and WANT those blessings for our lives. It’s not enough! </li></ul>
  65. 65. <ul><li>Before Abraham could lay hold of those blessings, he had to make a decision. Genesis 12:1 NET Now the LORD said to Abram, &quot;Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you. </li></ul>
  66. 66. <ul><li>THEN He told him about the blessings. Make a choice Abram! I can give you your heart’s desire - but you’ve got to make a choice. You’ve got to make up your mind to leave who you’ve been. You’ve got to leave where you’ve been. You’ve got to leave how you’ve lived. </li></ul>
  67. 67. <ul><li>You’ve got to make up your mind to go where I want you to go. To live where I want you to live To live how I want you to live. But you’ve got to leave the old life behind. </li></ul>
  68. 68. <ul><li>I hear there’s a toll booth at the Golden Gate Bridge. Every once in a while, people get to that booth and they don’t have any money. They can’t turn around and they can’t go ahead. There are cars lined up behind them and they’ve got to make a choice. </li></ul>
  69. 69. <ul><li>The toll booth operators there have a policy: If you don’t have any money, you can still cross the bridge - as long as you leave behind something that has a value which exceeds the price of the toll. </li></ul>
  70. 70. <ul><li>Drivers have left such items as · a can of motor oil, · a frying pan, · a set of silverware, · a new book, · cassettes and CDs. </li></ul>
  71. 71. <ul><li>· Wedding bands are often left at the tollbooth - mostly by men. · One elderly gentleman left his dentures and returned the next day to redeem them. · The owner of a diamond wristwatch valued at $7000 left it for the toll but never returned to claim it. </li></ul>
  72. 72. <ul><li>In order to get to the other side, they had to leave something behind. And God tells us the same thing is true of salvation. </li></ul>
  73. 73. <ul><li>In order to get to other side, we’ve got leave EVERYTHING of all our old life behind. As Jesus said: Mark 8:36 NET For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life? </li></ul>
  74. 74. <ul><li>Luke 18:18 NET Now a certain ruler asked him, &quot;Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?&quot; 19 Jesus said to him, &quot;Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ' Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother .' &quot; </li></ul>
  75. 75. <ul><li>21 The man replied, &quot;I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth.&quot; 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, &quot;One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.&quot; </li></ul>
  76. 76. <ul><li>23 But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was extremely wealthy. 24 When Jesus noticed this, he said, &quot;How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.&quot; </li></ul>
  77. 77. <ul><li>26 Those who heard this said, &quot;Then who can be saved?&quot; 27 He replied, &quot;What is impossible for mere humans is possible for God.&quot; 28 And Peter said, &quot;Look, we have left everything we own to follow you!&quot; </li></ul>
  78. 78. <ul><li>29 Then Jesus said to them, &quot;I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of God's kingdom 30 who will not receive many times more in this age — and in the age to come, eternal life.&quot; </li></ul>
  79. 79. <ul><li>What is it we are holding on to? Is there some part of your life, maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but you haven’t let go so it can be replaced with service to The Lord? Remember how he condemned the church at Laodicea? </li></ul>
  80. 80. <ul><li>Revelation 3:15 NET 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! </li></ul><ul><li>Jesus demands </li></ul><ul><li>ALL or NOTHING!! </li></ul>