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How to Live the Abundant Christian Life Correctly - Genesis Part 49

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
June 21, 2022 7:00 am

How to Live the Abundant Christian Life Correctly - Genesis Part 49

So What? / Lon Solomon

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Now, what exactly does it mean to be a Christian? Well, the Bible says that it means six primary things. Number one, it means we've been born again by the Spirit of God. It means, number two, that Almighty God has forgiven our sin. Number three, it means that we have the absolute assurance of eternal life. Number four, it means we have a personal relationship with God. Number five, it means that God the Holy Spirit indwells us. And finally, number six, it means that we live a transformed earthly life. And it's number six that I want us to talk about today. In the Gospel of John chapter 10 verse 10, Jesus said, I came that they, that is Christians, might have life and that they might have it abundantly. So, as Christians, if Jesus came to give us life abundantly, then why do so many of us live defeated and powerless Christian lives? Well, this is what we want to talk about today as we continue our verse-by-verse study in the book of Genesis.

So, are we ready to talk about this? All right, we're in Genesis chapter 21, but we have a little bit of background to do. In Genesis 18, if you remember, the Lord Jesus appeared to Abraham in human form and promised him that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son within the next 12 months.

But, there were a couple of obstacles. Not only was Sarah childless up to this point, but also, remember, she was 90 years old. And as Romans 4 19 says, her womb was dead. There was a second obstacle and that is Romans 4 19, Abraham's body was also as good as dead since he was a hundred years old. And yet, despite all of this, God promised them a son. So, with that little bit of background, let's pick up now in Genesis 21 and see what happened. Here we go, verse 1. Now the Lord took note of Sarah just as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah just as he had promised.

So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the appointed time that God had promised him. Man, don't you love this, huh? Don't you love this? No matter how impossible it may look and no matter how big the obstacles may be, when God makes us a promise, God has the power to keep it. Amen?

How awesome is that? Well, verse 3. And Abraham called the name of his son, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. And when Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded. Now Abraham was a hundred years old when Isaac was born to him, and Sarah said, God has brought laughter. That's what the word Isaac means. God has brought laughter to me, for everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. For who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children, yet I have borne him a son in his old age? Okay, so far, so good, right? Yeah, but there's trouble a-brewing.

Watch. Verse 8. And the child, Isaac, grew and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on that day. But Sarah saw Hagar's son, Ishmael, who was now 16 years old, mocking Isaac.

Now let's go back and be sure we've got the context here. Back in chapter 16, the Bible says Sarah had an Egyptian maidservant, a slave, whose name was Hagar. So Sarah said to Abraham, the Lord has kept me from having children, so please go sleep with my handmaiden, Hagar, perhaps I can obtain children through her. So Abraham slept with Hagar, and she conceived and had a son named Ishmael. And that's the young man who was mocking Isaac.

All right, back to Genesis 21, verse 10. So Sarah said to Abraham, throw this bond woman and her son out, for the son of this bond woman shall never share in the inheritance with my son, Isaac. Poor Abraham.

I mean, all the man was trying to do was have a nice party, and suddenly he's got a civil war on his hands. Well, verse 11, and this matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son, Ishmael. Certainly part of the reason Abraham was distressed was because he had grown to love Ishmael.

Over 16 years, but there's a lot more here than just that. You see, what Sarah was asking Abraham to do was illegal. We have recovered many thousands of tablets from a city named Newsy. It's a city in northern Mesopotamia, and from these tablets, we learn what the laws were that were enforced at the time of Abraham and Sarah. In fact, this area around Newsy is the area that Sarah and Abraham originally came from before they emigrated to the promised land. And what these tablets tell us is that it was legal for a barren wife like Sarah to give her a bond servant, her slave like Hagar, to her husband for the purpose of having children.

However, if the wife later went on to have natural children of her own, it was illegal for her to disenfranchise the handmaiden's son and throw him out. But this was exactly what Sarah was asking Abraham to do. Merrill Unger, who wrote the book Archaeology in the Old Testament, said, and I quote, It is clear in light of the data from Newsy why Abraham was reluctant to agree to Sarah's demand, it was breaking the law. And there's no doubt that Abraham would have refused to do it had not God commanded him to.

End of quote. Verse 12, But God said to Abraham, Do not be distressed about the boy and the bond woman. Listen to what Sarah tells you, because it will be through Isaac that your descendants will be called. Now we just need to stop here for a moment and make sure we understand what God is saying here to Abraham. God is telling Abraham that he is limiting the Jewish people, the people from whom the Messiah will come, the people to whom God will fulfill all the promises he made to Abraham, to whom God will give the promised land that he's limiting this group of people to only Abraham's descendants through Isaac. This is very important for us to get actually, if you read the Bible, you'll find Abraham had a total of eight sons before it was all over, not just Ishmael and Isaac. And yet, even out of those eight sons, God said, I'm limiting only to the descendants of Isaac, my promises to the Jewish people. Does everybody understand that?

You got it. Here's where God does that. Everybody understand that?

Okay, good. Verse 13, God says, Yet I will make the son of the bondwoman, that is Ishmael, into a great nation too, because he also is your offspring. So Abraham rose early the next morning and took bread and a skin of water and put it on Hagar's shoulder. Then he sent her away with the boy. So she went on her way and wandered in the desert around Beersheba.

This is even farther south, more in the desert from where they were living in Gerar. And when all the water was used up, Hagar put Ishmael under some shrubs. Then she went and sat down nearby about a bowshot away, for she said, I cannot bear to watch the boy die. And she began to sob. And God heard the boy crying, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, What's ailing you, Hagar?

Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, and I will make him into a great nation. Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.

So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with Ishmael as he grew up, and he lived in the desert and became an archer, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. And as we all know, Ishmael became the father of the hundreds of millions of Arab peoples in our world today. So did God keep His word to Abraham that He was going to make Ishmael into a great nation?

Well of course He did. Yeah. All right. That's the end of our passage, and normally we would just move right on, except that the New Testament tells us there is a deeper spiritual lesson here in Genesis 21 than is obvious at first glance. And the apostle Paul explains that deeper lesson to us in the New Testament in the book of Galatians chapter 4. So let's go there and let's look, and you're going to have to put your thinking caps on with me now, all right? And let's follow what Paul says.

So here we go. To understand Paul's letter to the Galatians, we have to first understand what the problem was, what the issue was. The issue is that the Christians there in Galatia were relying on human works not to get saved but to live the Christian life once they were saved. You see, false teachers were telling the Galatian Christians, yes, you get saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone completely apart from human works, but once we are saved, these false teachers were telling them, living the abundant Christian life is based on doing religious human works, and some of these are actually mentioned in the Bible, keeping kosher, celebrating the Sabbath, celebrating other Jewish holidays, being circumcised, and a whole host of other religious activities. In other words, what they were teaching was we get saved by faith but we live the Christian life by works, religious works but by works. So Paul writes the book of Galatians to tell the people there that this approach to the Christian life is totally bogus.

Look what he says. Galatians 4 verse 9. Paul says, now that you've come to know God by faith, you've gotten saved.

You've been born again. How is it, Paul says, that you're turning back to those weak and worthless things that is human works to which you were once enslaved? Paul says trying to please God by human effort and human works is slavery.

It's bondage. Verse 10, you observe special days, the Sabbath, and special weeks, Jewish feasts, and months and years. I fear for you lest I have labored over you in vain for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value when it comes to living the abundant Christian life. I might add, neither does keeping kosher or saying the rosary or singing in the choir or putting money in the offering plate or being baptized or fasting for Lent or church membership or teaching Sunday school. Now there's nothing wrong with any of these things but they are human works and human works cannot and do not produce the abundant Christian life that Jesus was talking about in John 10-10. Paul says the only thing that counts in that regard is faith. Paul says what produces the abundant Christian life is living by faith. That is relying on God the Holy Spirit's power and not our own power. And Paul says in Galatians 4, I told you guys this when I was there. You were running well when I left, Paul says. Who has hindered you from obeying the truth? And I love this.

This is key. So Paul says because this approach to Christian living, doing it by works, did not come from him who called you. That is, he did not come from God. Now to reinforce this point, the apostle Paul now refers us back to the events of Genesis 21 that we just studied.

Watch. Galatians 4, 22. For it is written, Paul says, where is this written? Genesis 21. We just studied that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman Hagar and one by the free woman Sarah. Abraham's son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, was born as a result of human works, Paul says. But his son by the free woman, Sarah, was born in accordance with God's promise. In other words, Isaac's birth was born by Abraham and Sarah trusting the promise of God by faith instead of by human works. Verse 24.

Now these things, Genesis 21, contain an allegory. For the two women, Hagar and Sarah, represent God's two covenants. Hagar and Ishmael stand for the mosaic covenant given at Mount Sinai, a covenant solely based on human performance and human works. If we perform correctly under the mosaic covenant, we earn our way into heaven. If we perform incorrectly under the mosaic covenant, we miss heaven, and since no one can possibly perform correctly as a sinner, therefore this covenant is a covenant of slavery and bondage.

It is a death trap. Sarah and Isaac, on the other hand, Paul says, stand for the covenant that Jesus established for us on the cross, a covenant that is not based on human works but on our relying on God by faith. It's a covenant of freedom. Listen to what Paul said, Romans 8, 3, for what the mosaic law could not do because it was based on human effort, God did. By sending his own son, he, that is the Lord Jesus, made me free from the mosaic law of sin and death, Galatians 4.30. And what does the scripture say?

Paul says in Genesis 21, it says, cast out the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will not share in the inheritance of the free woman's son. Cast out the covenant of works and religious effort, Paul says, and live in the covenant of freedom and faith in God and in His promises. You understand what Paul is saying here?

You with me? The point is God rejects all human works systems. This is why he had Hagar and Ishmael cast out. God only accepts systems that rely on God by faith. Now we understand that when it comes to salvation. We understand that you can only come to Christ in salvation by relying on the work of Christ on the cross, not by human works. But don't miss this. What God is teaching us in Galatians chapter 4 is that not only has He rejected human works as the way to be saved, He has also rejected it as the way we're to live once we are saved.

To summarize, human works has no place whatsoever in God's spiritual operating system and casting Hagar out in Genesis 21 is meant allegorically, symbolically, to make sure that we understand this. Okay. All right.

That's a fairly complicated argument. You got it, right? You followed me through it. Yes? Okay, good.

Then you know what time it is now? You say, yes, time to go home. No. Not yet.

Not quite. And now it's time for us to ask our most important question. So are you ready? All right. All right. All you guys at Loudon and all you guys at Prince William and everybody out of Bethesda, everybody's ready on the Internet. Here we go.

Nice and loud. On three. One. Two. Three. Two.

One. Right. You say, wow, Lon. That's, yeah, whew.

That was pretty intense there. But I don't, yeah, so what? Well, friends, you know, it's my observation that most people feel that their Christian life is pretty much of a failure. That most Christians experience very little of the peace, the joy, the power over sin, the spiritual victory, the abundant Christian living that Jesus said He came to give us. And after many years of trying and struggling and failing, a lot of us simply throw up our hands and give up assuming that something's wrong with us.

We look around at other people at church and they seem to be doing fine and got a big smile on their face and they always come in going praise the Lord. And we go, wow, it's working for them. It's not working for them. It must be something wrong with me where what you don't know is they're looking at you and saying it must be working for you. And it's all just a façade. It's not working for most Christians I meet.

And let me tell you what the problem is. The problem is in most cases not us. The problem in most cases is that we were taught to live the Christian life incorrectly, to try and live it by religious human works just like the Galatians were trying to do. You know, if I just study the Bible enough, if I just pray enough, if I just fellowship enough, if I just witness enough, if I just teach Sunday school enough, if I just sing in the choir enough, if I just lead a small group enough, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, it'll produce in me abundant Christian living.

But that's not right. Listen, folks, the Christian life lived correctly is a supernatural life and it cannot be produced by natural human effort, even religious natural human effort. I got a fan here and this is a great illustration of how we live the Christian life incorrectly. We say, okay, ready? Bible study, prayer, witnessing, fellowship, teaching Sunday school, put money in the offering plate, being in a small group. What else can I think of? Being baptized, around we go.

Church attendance, church membership, around we go, around we go. And you see what happens. Ah, but then when we turn on the electricity, ooh, look at this. Look at this.

It's beautiful. What am I doing? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. All I'm doing is keeping the electricity going to the thing.

That's all I'm doing, nothing. Now this is all about how you live the Christian life. You say, with electricity? No, no, not with electricity, no. The electricity stands for, represents the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through that fan.

That's what drives that fan, not you standing there turning the blades in your own human effort. That doesn't work. And it doesn't work in the Christian life either, my friends. You understand what I'm saying? Now let me put it another way to you that maybe will help. Think about it now. The Christian life begins by relying on God to do for us what we can't do for ourselves.

True? We say, Lord Jesus, please save me from my sins and forgive me and make me your child. I can't do it myself with my own effort. You got to do it for me.

Okay? Now let's move to the end of the Christian life. The Christian life ends with me relying on God to do for me what I can't do for myself. Lord, I don't know where heaven is, and even if I knew where it was, I couldn't get there by myself anyway. If I'm going to get to heaven, Lord, you're going to have to take me there.

Yeah? Okay. So if the Christian life begins and if the Christian life ends with God doing for us what we can't do for ourselves as we trust Him to do that, why would God change systems in the middle? Well the answer is He doesn't. Folks, God has to do it all for us in salvation. He has to do it all for us in going to heaven, and God has to do it all for us in living the abundant Christian life every day. The abundant Christian life is lived by letting the Holy Spirit live His life through us, by letting the electricity of the fan go through us. Our only job is not to grieve the Holy Spirit so the electricity can keep flowing. Now you say, I don't know, Lon, can you put some handles on this for me so I can make it real practical?

I can. This means walking out of your house every day saying, Lord, the patience I need today, the self-control I need today, the power to forgive people on the beltway I need today, the peace of mind I need today in my troubles, the love for other people I need today, the contentment I need today, the victory over sensuality I need today, the boldness to share Christ I need today, Lord, I don't have it. So I'm walking out of my house relying on you to be the electricity for me today, to produce these things supernaturally in me today and run the fan of my life today. And even if you turn to the Lord 50 times a day and say, Lord, I need to renew that trust, you need to do this, Lord, you need to do this, I need your help again to do this, so what?

That's fine. Turn to Him 50 times a day and depend on His power to give us victory in our life and not our own. Now for some of us, this is an entirely new approach to Christian living, an entirely new concept, but it's a biblical concept. It's a biblical approach to Christian living, and it will set you free from your imprisonment to living a stale, insipid, powerless Christian life.

You know, you say, I don't know, Lon. It all sounds too easy to me. I mean, it just sounds too simple. Friends, why would God want to make living the Christian life hard? He wants to make it so easy a little child can do it.

A little child gets his principle. Why can't you? Don't be educated beyond your intelligence. Come on.

This is easy, and let me tell you something else. The beauty of living the Christian life by faith like this is that your Bible study and your prayer and your witnessing and your fellowship and your serving the Lord, it will all take on an exciting new energy and an exciting new effervescence because it will now become the overflow of a Spirit-empowered life instead of a futile attempt on your part to produce the Spirit-empowered life in your heart. You're living the Spirit-empowered life because you're relying on the Spirit to live it. Man, you're going to study the Bible because you want to and because it's exciting. And when you pray, the Lord will be real to you.

It will change your whole Christian experience, I'm telling you. So I have a suggestion as we close. My suggestion is, this week, take one specific area of your Christian life where you struggle.

You say, well, Lon, I got a lot of them. Okay, pick one. Pick one and stop trying this week to go out every morning and gut it out and beat it in your own human energy and flesh. You know, walking out the house going, I will not look, I will not eat, I will not, I will not.

Don't do that. That's how we go down every day. Walk out of your house plugged into the electricity instead. Walk out of your house and just say, Lord, I will do all those things I'm not supposed to do, but I won't if you are energizing and empowering me and giving me the self-control. And that's where I'm going to depend on you this week, today, in my life.

You with me? So when that woman walks by, you just need to say, oh, help me, Jesus. Help me, Jesus.

Not to look at her, not to think about that, Lord, just overcome that in my life. When they pass the eclairs around after lunch, oh, you just need to say, help me, Lord. Help me, Lord.

No, you know I don't know, Lord. Just give me the self-control to say no. When all your co-workers are standing around a water cooler gossiping and ripping people up, you just need to say, oh, help me, Jesus. Walk right by that conversation and just, I know I want to get in it, but Lord, I don't belong in it. Help me walk right by it. When all the little people in your house have exhausted your patience and you're just ready to absolutely lose your mind. Help me, Lord. Give me the patience I need, Lord Jesus. Do you understand how we live this life? Do you understand? And I'm not asking you to eat the whole elephant in one week.

Just start with one area and then I promise you, you'll see such a difference if you do this that you'll say, oh, man, this is something. And then we expand it to a second area and a third area and a fourth area until it becomes the habitual way we live. Now listen to me carefully. The abundant Christian life is possible. If it weren't, Jesus wouldn't have said it is.

It's possible. So don't you dare give up on trying to get there. Just give up on trying to get there the wrong way. Human effort has never been honored by God. It is not what runs Christian living even if it's religious. Don't do it.

The Galatians tried and Paul rebuked them for it and said, no, this did not come from God. This is not how you do it. And we shouldn't try to do it that way today. Let's, hey, what do you say?

Every day when we turn on the electricity, we say fan runs a whole lot better, doesn't it? Amen. Amen. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, thanks for talking to us today about real life.

And you know that there are so many of us here. Our heart is right, Lord. We're trying hard to live the way you told us to. We want the abundant Christian life. But the way we're going at it, like the Galatians, is simply never going to work.

Human effort, natural effort cannot produce a supernatural life. Only the supernatural Spirit can do that. So help us learn to live based on His power, depending on His power, relying on His power each and every day in our lives, moment by moment, 50 times a day if we have to renew it.

It doesn't matter. And make us men and women who have the joy of experiencing life abundantly in Christ. Lord, thanks for talking to us today. Change the very way we live, because we were here and we sat under the teaching of the Word of God. And we pray this in Jesus' name. What do God's people say? Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-30 18:11:34 / 2023-03-30 18:22:43 / 11

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