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A Lasting Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
May 12, 2022 1:00 am

A Lasting Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 12, 2022 1:00 am

When situations spiral into sin or anxiety, what really matters is our own trust and whether God is trustworthy. In Genesis 15, God makes an astounding promise. But Abraham is obsessed with the problem of the promise. In this message, we reflect on God’s three promises to Abraham. Do we trust God to protect and preserve us? 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. In Genesis 15, God promises Abraham many offspring and pledges to give them much of the Middle East.

Now that's something really big. Today, God's guarantee of a land and a people to bring forth the Redeemer. 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 learning about finding strength for the journey as Abraham had to do so long ago. Genesis 15 is a monumental chapter in this ongoing story. Dave, you're absolutely right. Genesis 15 is critical.

And let me explain why. In addition to giving Abraham a covenant, as you mentioned, and giving him boundaries to the land, something else is happening in that chapter. There's a lot of discussion about how people were saved in the Old Testament. Did the Old Testament sacrifices save them? What about those sacrifices without faith? How did they come to believe? Well, the answer is given there in Genesis chapter 15, where the Bible says Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. At the end of the day, Old Testament saints were saved because of their faith in God.

Not by works, lest any man should boast. I want to thank the many of you who are helping us get the gospel of Jesus Christ to more than 20 different countries in four different languages. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com.

When you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. And now to Genesis 15. Virtually every test that you and I encounter in the Christian life comes down to two questions. First of all, is God trustworthy? Can he be trusted?

It's the first question. And the second question is, can I trust him? It's always reduced to a matter of trust and whether or not God is trustworthy. You face a temptation and the temptation is to do your own thing and you ask yourself this question, is sin ever a good idea?

Is it a better idea than God's idea? It comes down to a matter of trust. Everything comes down to that.

Anxiety, the inability that we have to control consequences and control events that we give over to God. Can we trust him? That's the question. Abraham was told by God, I'm going to give you the land and I'm going to give it to you forever and to your offspring, it will be yours. The question now before us is, can Abraham trust him?

Can Abraham do and to live in such a way that he believes that God knows what he is doing and can be believed? The 15th chapter of the book of Genesis, which is our text for today, Genesis chapter 15, is one of the most important chapters in all the Bible. Genesis 15, every Bible open to this great and wonderful chapter. What God does in Genesis 15 is he gives Abraham three promises. We're going to look at those promises because Abraham in the 15th chapter really is having a dialogue with God and we get in on it and we get to listen in on what's happening between Abraham and God. The chapter opens in verse one, after these things, the word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision, fear not, first time that expression is used in the Bible, fear not Abraham, I am your shield, your reward shall be very great. Promise number one, I am your protection. I am your shield. Why did God say that to Abraham at this juncture?

Remember the context after these things, it says. Abraham had just routed four kings in the east. They had gone off with a whole bunch of loot, which Abraham recaptured, including lot as we noticed last time. He no doubt feared retaliation.

There he was in his tent. The kings could gang up on him and they could come and they could overwhelm him very, very easily and kill him. And then what would happen to the promises of God and the seed? God says, Abraham, I am your shield. I'll protect you and your reward shall be great. I know that you said no to the king of Sodom. The king of Sodom wanted you to keep all of the goods that you recaptured and you said no, lest the king of Sodom say that he made Abraham rich. And because of that, I'm going to bless you.

You're going to be rewarded. Everything is going to be okay, Abraham. God comes, says this lovely promise.

I am your shield and your reward shall be great. Abraham is obsessed with the problem of the promise though. You see, God had said that I'm going to give it to your seed.

He's getting older. Sarah, his wife is already beyond the place of being able to bear children. And so Abraham is trying to figure out how God's going to do it. Have you ever tried to figure out how God's going to do it?

Whenever I've done that, nine out of 10 times, I'm wrong. So Abraham says to God, verse two, Oh Lord God, what will you give me? I continue childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus. He says, you've not given me a child.

And in those days that was common. If you didn't have any children, the heir ship would be passed to one of your favorite servants or someone who was in your house whom you highly regarded. And so he says, are you going to do it through Eliezer? And God comes to Abraham and says, Abraham, no. He says expressly, he says, your very own son. Last part of verse five and verse six shall be your heir. This man shall not be your heir.

Your very own son is going to be your heir. And it leads Abraham to more puzzles about the will of God, which sometimes appears to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma. How is God going to do it? So Abraham says, Lord, how's it going to happen? And God says, Abraham, come out and look at the stars. Previously, God says, as many particles of dust as there are on the earth, that's the way your seed is going to be. Not that there are going to be as many people as dust, but you can't number the dust, God says, and you can't number your seed. And now God says, come out and look at the stars. Sometimes in the blackness of your experience when there's nothing you can look at, just look at the stars. Can you count them, Abraham?

No, I can't count them. So shall your seed be. God says, I'm your protection. I am also your provision.

It'll happen, Abraham. First promise, God says, I'm your protection. Second promise, a promise of righteousness. Verse six of chapter 15 is one of the most important verses of the Old Testament.

It's quoted three times in the New Testament. It says, and Abraham believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness. The gift of righteousness, the promise of righteousness. Three words in that little verse that you must understand if you intend to get to heaven.

Some of you intend to get to heaven. I hope that your intention will be realized and it's going to be realized on the basis of whether or not you understand this verse. The first word is the word believed. Abraham believed God. In the Hebrew, the word actually is amin, from which we get amen. It was translated into Greek as amen, and that's the way it appears in the New Testament. When Jesus said, verily, verily, I say unto you, the Greek says, amen, amen. I say to you, amen means I embrace and I heartily accept what God has said. If Abraham were German, he'd say, javel, javel.

That's the idea. Yes, I embrace it as mine. Abraham said amen to God, and it was counted as righteousness. Are you here today being willing to say amen, amen to God? That's what it means to believe. Thank you.

Thank you. Three of you are saying amen. You know, it's not fair that three people would say it. Let's all say it together. Let's all say amen, OK? Let's all say amen, amen to God. That's what Abraham did.

Now, second word, counted, reckoned. He wasn't righteous. He was a sinner. In fact, his sins are clear on the pages of scripture, but it was credited to him as righteousness. God says, I'm crediting to your account something you do not naturally have, and that is righteousness. In the New Testament, if we may jump there for a moment, it becomes very clear.

Theologians call this imputation. It was imputed to him. The Bible says that Jesus was counted a sinner. He was reckoned to be a sinner.

He wasn't personally, but he was reckoned as a sinner. And what happened when Jesus died is this. He got what he didn't deserve, namely our sins were credited to him, and we got what we didn't deserve, namely his righteousness is credited to us.

That's what imputation is. And when the Apostle Paul quotes this in the book of Romans, he quotes it because he wants to show that God's way of salvation always is faith and not works. That's the context in the book of Romans. And so God says today, Abraham, you don't have any righteousness, not the kind that I need, but I'm going to credit it to you as a free gift.

You say, well, how were people saved in the Old Testament times? The answer is this, that God saved people like Abraham on credit. We all know what it's like to buy something on credit, don't we?

We all have plastic in our pocket. And we go to some place and we say, yes, I want this article of furniture. And we put it on credit and we begin to enjoy it. And then at the end of the month, the statement comes and it has to be paid.

Remember, it has to be paid. God says, Abraham, I am going to save you on credit because I know that Jesus is coming and in your seed is going to be the redeemer who's going to be qualified to take away your sin. And already now I'm giving you the privilege of enjoying me and walking in righteousness, knowing that Christ is coming because nobody gets saved apart from the work of Jesus. You say, well, did Abraham actually believe in Jesus? He saw Jesus coming with some clarity, not much, but some. But he believed what God revealed and it was credited to him as righteousness.

The content of his faith was different than ours, but the end result was the same. Third righteousness. What is righteousness? It is the kind of righteousness that only God himself accepts. And the only righteousness that God accepts is his own. That's why we sing clothed in his righteousness alone. You understand that this has to be a free gift. God does not say, Abraham, now that you've done this, what you have to do is in order to get it, you need a sacrifice. Go offer a sacrifice. God doesn't say, Abraham, to get it, you have to give money. God doesn't say, Abraham, go off and be baptized.

No, it's a free gift. And the reason it has to be free is because this is a righteousness of which you and I have none. We can't contribute to it.

We can't make it better. We can't subtract from it. It is the righteousness of God, as Paul shows in the book of Romans. And that means that God can save big sinners as well as lesser ones, because ultimately salvation has to be a free gift.

Of course, it's better that you be a lesser sinner than a greater sinner, to be sure. But at the end of the day, God says, I can even save criminals if they stop trusting in themselves and trust in Jesus for their righteousness, for the gift God has given. This is the most precious gift God gave to Abraham. It's what he needed the most.

And he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Second promise. First promise is protection. The second is righteousness.

And now the third promise is that of a glorious future. And what an important passage this is. In order to understand what's going on here in the rest of the chapter, I need to tell you that in those days when you made a covenant with someone, and it was to be a blood covenant, very solemn, what you did is you took animals and you cut them in two. You killed them, you cut them in two, and you laid them in a half so that they were symmetrical.

And then the two of you walked through in between these pieces. And what you were saying in effect is, if I break my word, I deserve the same fate as these animals. Was the most solemn covenant that you could ever possibly make. So God says, Abraham, take some animals, take a heifer, take a goat, take a ram, and cut them in two and lay them out. Abraham does.

He finds he has to keep the birds of prey away from eating the exposed meat. And then the Bible says that a deep sleep came upon Abraham, verse 12, and behold, a dreadful darkness befell him. And in his sleep, God says to him, Abraham, know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in the land that is not theirs. I'm in the middle of verse 13, and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted 400 years.

But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace, and you shall be buried in a good old age, and they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. God says, Abraham, your seed is going to inherit the land, but that's not going to happen for 400 years. First of all, you have to have a child, and then there will be this family that will be created that will go into Egypt for 400 years, and then they're going to come back, and of course we know that that happened under Moses and Joshua, and then they're going to enter into the land.

Four hundred long years, but they'll be back because God is God, and time is not a limitation to him as it is to us. So Abraham receives this revelation, and then most startling, this is what happens. It says in verse 17, when the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham saying, to your offspring I give this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates, the land of the Kenizzites, and then all of these other Gershonites and Jebusites and Megabytes and all of the other folks that are in the land. What's with this flaming torch and this pot or this oven? That's God passing through the pieces, as becomes very clear both in this text and other passages of scripture. The furnace perhaps representing the furnace of affliction that the Israelites are going to go through, and the torch representing the light that they will eventually be to the world, both suffering and glory. God says, I am walking in between the pieces.

All right, now you've followed it this far, haven't you? Sixty-four dollar question, where is Abraham in this whole thing? The answer is, he's asleep. He's in another world. He's somewhere else. He does not walk with God between these pieces. God walks between the pieces alone. Because what God is saying is, I'm making this covenant with you, Abraham, but guess what? This isn't an agreement where you do your part and then I do my part. This is a covenant that I am making with you that I will accomplish and is not even dependent upon your faithfulness or your obedience, though God will bring that about because I am God and this is what I have decided to do, and it will happen and nothing, including even the human will, will stand in my way. Wow.

I don't know about you, my friend, but I absolutely love it. Abraham is asleep. God makes a covenant with him.

In effect, it says in the book of Hebrews that God was swearing by himself. God's will and God's purposes will be fulfilled. You know, I'm so glad for the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win, and perhaps you've heard us say before that we are in many countries in the Middle East.

Let me read this letter from Egypt. The Running to Win program is affecting my life tremendously. I wait for it daily and feel that things that I am learning are helping me in my life as a Christian. My questions are being answered.

The best part is that it is based on biblical teaching. God bless you. And I say to this person, God bless you. Let me ask you a question. Would you like to become a part of the Running to Win family, as I like to put it? Would you consider becoming an endurance partner, someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts?

Of course, the amount that you give is entirely up to you. Here's how you can find info. Go to rtwoffer.com.

That's rtwoffer.com, and when you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Many churches today are far different from those our parents knew.

This has Catherine concerned. She asks, what are your thoughts about contemplative or emergent churches? I'm very interested in your answer, so I hope you can respond.

Yes, I can respond, Catherine. The emergent church, what a topic. First of all, let me say that among emergent churches, there is great diversity. There are some that are quite evangelical.

There are others that are way out there, so to speak. So it's always a little dangerous for us to generalize, but sometimes we have to generalize and to make some comments that are applicable to a number of different churches. One of the things about emergent churches is they downplay doctrine. In fact, one of the founders, the one who originated the whole idea of the emergent church, he said that someday theology will be like the architecture of a medieval church—interesting to a few, but irrelevant.

That's a dangerous statement so far as I'm concerned. So theology oftentimes takes second place. Secondly, there's a great deal of emphasis on this life. They say that the whole emphasis on heaven and eternity is misplaced.

We need to know how to live here. And then, of course, in addition to that, you have a lot of emphasis on relationships, and that might be good, personal relationships, but unfortunately those relationships often take precedence over worship, over devotion, over diligent Bible study, and over theology. Bottom line, I'm concerned about the emergent church. Now, many churches that have gone that way, it may be too new to predict exactly where they will end up, but I would say that they are on a dangerous trajectory. Yes, there's much that we can learn from them, but at the end of the day, theology, corporate worship, the belief in absolute truth, all that must be dearly held by the church.

And so I need to say that as a word of caution that we must be very careful when we abandon these for a contemporary kind of worship and church service. Some wise words from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Just go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. In Genesis 15, God makes an unconditional covenant with Abraham. God says He will do what He promises, no matter what. Next time on Running to Win, why that covenant means that the work of Jesus is all that's needed for a believer to gain eternal life. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-19 22:45:16 / 2023-04-19 22:53:48 / 9

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