Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. When God makes a unilateral promise, you can take it to the bank. God told Abraham that all the earth would be blessed through his posterity, but he would only ever see that promise fulfilled through the eyes of faith.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, we're in Genesis chapter 12 today, learning about a great promise God made to a man, a promise that involved land. Dave, the answer is yes, God did give Abraham a covenant that does involve land.
Many of us believe that those promises have not yet been completely fulfilled, and they will be fulfilled someday in the future. As all of us know, Abraham is the father of faith. And as I like to emphasize that there are three religions that go back to Abraham. One of them, of course, is Judaism. That's obvious, but also we as Christians.
But Islam also claims that Abraham was the first Muslim. I've written a book entitled, The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. It discusses that question, but of course, many others, as it helps us to understand what Islam is doing around the world, particularly here in the United States. I think it will be informative.
It will be challenging. It will also encourage you to witness to Muslims. Here's what you do for a gift of any amount.
You can go to rtwoffer.com, rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. Now let us listen as we go to Genesis chapter 12. My friend, believe me when I tell you that there is no title deed to the land that is more impeccable. There is no title deed to the land that is more certain, that is more sure than the one that God gave to Abraham that day when he said to you, I will give this land.
God has spoken. And when God speaks, it happens that land and that promise belongs to Abraham. The Jews believe that.
The Muslims believe it too. In this series, we're going to study the conflict between Islam and the Jewish religion as it relates to the promises. And we will find out that the Quran speaks about Abraham. And we'll find out also that Muslim tradition says that it is really to Ishmael, who is the inheritor of the promise.
And so the conflict in the Middle East is set up. But God says to Abraham, I'm giving you the land. And it's going to be yours. And later on, he's going to say, I'm giving it to you for an everlasting possession.
And he's even going to give them the boundaries of it. And so Abraham has this experience of going into the land. He's received this word from God.
It is not an agreement among equals. The covenant that God made with Abraham is unconditional in the sense that God is saying, I'm taking full responsibility for it. I give you the revelation and then I give you the grace and the strength and the faith and the ability to obey so that it will be carried out. And the word of God is sure and will come to pass. What are some of the lessons that Abraham learned that you and I need to learn as well?
First of all, the lesson that God always calls us by his promises. God always calls us by his promises. Again and again, God is going to reiterate these promises to Abraham. God is going to assure him that the land is going to be his. But Abraham is going to struggle massively with these promises. For example, the promise regarding the seed, he is going to fall into disobedience trying to help God out to make sure that the promise happens because this is going to be on Abraham's mind all the time.
He's going to have to learn to live with delayed promises, delayed promises. He begins to see how the promise that he will have a seed will be fulfilled and it is fulfilled later on in Isaac. But as far as the promise of the land is concerned, he dies without it being fulfilled. The Bible says that he dies in faith not having seen the promises. You see, and God wants to teach Abraham faith by delaying the promises. God gives us promises in his word and those promises are not ours today yet.
We don't see them happen. But the invisible God invites us to believe him no matter what, whether those promises can be substantiated right in the here and now or not. God says, I will keep my word.
You have patience and you believe the promises will be fulfilled. God's word says that a time is coming when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as waters cover the sea. We're a long way from seeing that fulfilled, aren't we?
We see waters cover New Orleans, but we have no idea what that would be like to have the knowledge of the Lord cover the earth as waters cover the sea. God says it's going to happen. In fact, there's a passage in the book of Psalms that says that the time is coming when all the families are going to do obedience to Jesus Christ. There's a time coming when the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem and they shall beat their swords into plow shears and their spears into pruning hooks and nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Neither shall they learn war anymore. It's not been fulfilled. It's not going to be fulfilled by the United Nations. But God says in my word, I have made this promise. Whether you see it in this life or not, my word will not be broken.
I'm going to keep it. Keep believing and trusting. And Abraham is going to have to live with that. He's going to have to live with the struggle of a God whom he has come to know, whose promises he has believed, but whose promises he does not see being fulfilled. So he knows now that God has led him by his promises and we are led by the promises of God, not the promises that God gave to Abraham necessarily. When I was in Sunday school, we used to sing a little chorus that went every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line.
But that's not true, is it? When God says to Abraham, I'm going to make your name great and you're going to have the right seed. That's not a promise for us, but we have plenty of promises. The New Testament talks about exceeding great and precious promises that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature. And so God says, I always call you through my promises.
The promises that I will be with you, the promise that I have sent a redeemer, the promise that your sins can be forgiven. God calls us through his promises. Abraham learned that.
Second, Abraham learned that we are but pilgrims in this world. You'll notice it says in verse seven, then the Lord appeared to him and God made that promise. So he built there an altar to the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.
And there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. Wherever Abraham goes now, he's got a tent. He had a home in Ur.
In Ur they had houses. But God says, if you're going to be mine, you have to exchange your house for a tent. And the tent becomes symbolic of the fact that Abraham is a wanderer. He is a pilgrim. This world is not his home. I love that old song that many of us used to sing. This world is not my home.
I'm just a passing through. And so Abraham has to realize now that this is not permanent. This is only a very temporary place. And the scripture says that he looked for a city which have foundations whose builder and maker was God. Even in Jewish tradition today, the idea that the world is not our home is carried out. For example, Rothschild's house in London. There's a part of it that is unfinished and people used to come there and say, why can't this wealthy man finish his own house?
Well, the answer was deliberately left unfinished. Because there was a time in Jewish customs when houses were left unfinished as a reminder that in this life we are never finished. We are only passing through and we are going somewhere else. So God says to Abraham, I want you to know that this isn't the place where you put down deep roots.
There's that old story of the man who was using a tent and going from place to place with his friend. And as the man was pounding those pegs into the ground, his friends said to him, don't pound them in too deeply because we're leaving in the morning. Well, we are leaving in the morning. And every loss that we endure, every challenge that we face, every heartache, every health issue that God brings into our life, all of that is a reminder that this world is not where it is at. We are passing through and we have a country and we have a hope and we have a city to which we look forward to.
And it is beyond this present world. God says Abraham, you're only a pilgrim. You're not an owner.
You're not an owner. And he dies a pilgrim. My wife, whom I've had the privilege of marrying 36 years ago, and what a blessing she has been. She nevertheless has a peculiar habit. Can I tell you about it? When we're flying to Europe and that big jet takes off before it lands in a European capital, whether Frankfurt or London, I already have changed my wristwatch to local time. I want to know what time it is over there. She never changes her wristwatch to local time.
She always has it. Chicago time. Now she knows that when she's there, she knows what time it is locally because it's seven hours different and she constantly looks at her watch and she does the math. And so she knows exactly what time it is where she is, but it's always Chicago time.
And I've been troubled by that. I say, Rebecca, honey, why don't you change that wristwatch to local time? And she says, no, every time I look at my wristwatch, I want to be reminded of home and what my children and grandchildren are doing. You know, in this life, we never really do adjust our wristwatch, so to speak, our wristwatch to this life and to this environment. As Christians, we're on a different divine timetable.
We have different interests and we're always supposed to be reminded that we're not home yet. Like Morrison, I read the story yesterday, actually, and it is a true story about he and his wife doing mission work and then coming over and landing in New York on a ship, being on a ship and coming into the harbor of New York with Roosevelt, who also had been on the ship. And you have this huge delegation that meets them there in the harbor in New York that meets the president and his entourage. And Morrison beginning to think, you know, we served the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and there was nobody there at the harbor to meet us. We had to pick up our own suitcases and go our own way.
And he complained to the Lord about it and said, Lord, this isn't right. We come home, nobody there for us. The president comes home.
There's a delegation to meet him. And God says, Morrison, you're not home yet. You're not home yet. This world is not our home.
It's only a tent. Abraham learned that God calls by his promises. God now expects us only to be pilgrims. And third, there has to be an altar. You'll notice wherever Abraham goes when he's in fellowship with God, he has an altar. It says here, and there he built an altar to the Lord. It says that in the previous verse, he built an altar to the Lord.
I'm in verse eight now. And he called on the name of the Lord. What does the altar signify? The altar signifies sin. It signifies sacrifice, an animal dies so that you don't have to die.
Of course, you die physically, but you don't die spiritually if your sin is forgiven. The whole idea of substitution is found there in an altar. And he cries to the name of the Lord. These altars in the Old Testament prefigured the coming of Jesus Christ. Because when Jesus Christ would die on the cross, that in effect became the altar, and he died once for all for sinners. And he died in such a way that we who trust him as Savior discover that we have access to God, and we also can cry unto the Lord, even as Abraham did. And we will be heard if we come in the name of Jesus and based on what he has done.
And the completeness of his work is so astounding and so wonderful. None can ever be added to what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. And as a result, we here at the Moody Church today do not have an altar.
Did you know that? We do not have an altar. Some of you come from churches where they had altars.
The reason that they had altars is that they believed that the work that Jesus did on the cross was not yet totally complete and Jesus has to be re-offered or some kind of a sacrifice has to be made again. You say, well, Pastor Lutzer, you have a communion table here. Yes, we have a communion table. But the communion table is only a table. It is not an altar. We come to God through Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, who shed his blood, who died for sinners, and we come in such a way with confidence and with joy we draw near in faith, believing that the work was totally and completely accomplished. It is finished.
It is finished. But Abraham had an altar that became the means by which God graciously allowed him to understand redemption and to come to faith in what a gracious God would do. But today we have the cross and the cross is empty because Jesus rose from the dead.
I'm reminded of the story of the little boy who was lost and the police were trying to find out whether or not he knew where he lived and he did not know his address and he did not know his street. And then he said, but you know, we live close to that church with that great big cross. He said, if you take me to the cross, I'll find my way home. When it comes time for you and me to die, take us to the cross and we'll find our way home.
Let's pray. Our Father, we want to thank you today for the life of this remarkable man. Thank you that he becomes a model of faith despite his failures, which are all recorded in your holy word and we pray today that you might invigorate us by his example and to remember that we too are called to the book. We're called to the book and its promises.
We're called to the tent to be pilgrims and we're called to the altar of the cross. Teach us that today, Father, we pray and for those who are here who have never trusted Christ as Savior, we ask Father that in grace you will cause them to believe, help them to see the wonder and the beauty of Jesus and may they accept him as their very own. Now before I close this prayer, what is it that you need to tell God today?
As a Christian or as one who's never trusted Christ, you talk to God if God has talked to you. Hear our prayer today, O Lord God, for we are needy. In Jesus' name, amen, amen. My friend today, we're living in a day when there are two very important symbols, perhaps more than two, but these two are critical. One is the cross, the other is the crescent. One is Christianity, the other is Islam. I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. That title indicates that oftentimes Christians have had to live in Muslim lands.
It indicates also that Islam is working here in the United States in ways that you might not fully understand. I believe that this book will be very helpful to you. It's entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent and the subtitle is An Informed Response to Islam's War with Christianity. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours.
And let me explain that as you read the book, you'll understand how God always has a remnant of faithful Christians, even in the midst of an overwhelming presence of Islam or some other religion. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. For a gift of any amount, as I like to emphasize, this book can be yours. rtwoffer.com.
Or if you prefer, hope that you get an opportunity to write down this phone number, you can call 1-888-218-9337. The cross of Jesus Christ in the midst of Islam, the kind of insights that we need to help us to understand what Christianity is all about, but also against the backdrop of Islam. The cross in the shadow of the Crescent, let me mention once again, go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
And from my heart to yours, thank you so much for helping us. It is because of your ministry of prayer, your contributions, that we continue to share the gospel with so many. Time now for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. The sacrifice of Christ is the central element of the Christian faith. Bill listens to Running to Win and has this question about sacrifices for the people of Israel. Please explain to me how modern-day Jews, that is, those who don't accept Christ as Messiah, resolve the atonement issue.
If sacrifices are necessary for atonement, but there is no temple at which to perform them, how are they to make atonement for themselves? Bill, thanks so much for your question. It's a good one. In fact, I took the time to call a friend of mine. He is a Jewish man who came to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah, so he works with Jewish people, helping them to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
And I asked him your question. He said most contemporary Jews are quite secular, and because of that, they believe that no blood sacrifices are needed. But in the place of sacrifices, they have repentance, prayer, and good works, and that therefore is the substitute for the sacrifices. The whole problem that the Jewish people have of being away from the temple and no place to offer sacrifices is not really that unique.
If you remember back in Babylonian times, when they were in Babylon for seventy years, they had no temple. And so the idea came up that it is indeed their good works, their repentance, their prayers, their own personal lives that become the substitute for the sacrifices of the Old Testament. One problem. They do not have the assurance that their sacrifices are being accepted.
That's always a problem. All that they can do is to die hoping that indeed those sacrifices will meet God's requirements, but there's no way in this world to find out whether or not they will. That's why it's so necessary for us to try to help our Jewish friends to come to faith in Jesus Christ to realize that there is one sacrifice, one perfect sacrifice, that takes away sin. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 614. Life is not a bed of roses. The journey has rough spots. How believers pass through those spots is a test of their trust in God. Abraham was chosen by God to leave the comforts of Ur of the Chaldees and journey to a land he'd never seen. His nice house became a tent, and he came face to face with challenges he'd never expected. Next time on Running to Win, the great patriarch's faith wavers when he gets to the land of Egypt. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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