Abraham, I'm going to make you a father of nations. Did Abraham comprehend that? No. Abraham, all of the world will be blessed by your seed. Did he fully comprehend the gospel of the coming Messiah?
No. Maybe the reason there aren't more Christians imitating Abraham in faith and obedience is because too many of us are waiting for more information. The Church of Jesus Christ just might be filled with mediocre Christians because we will not surrender our lives to God unless He explains what He plans to do with us. Have you ever heard the phrase, like father, like son? We use it to describe the similarities people have with their parents. There's a man in the Bible we refer to as Father Abraham. Since there's a sense in which Abraham is our father, that means that there are some ways we should resemble him. A moment ago, Stephen commented on Abraham's faith.
Even though Jesus had not yet come and there was much about the gospel Abraham couldn't understand, his faith in God was absolute. That's one of the ways we should resemble him. There's more and Stephen Davey will explore that right now here on Wisdom for the Heart. After observing the American culture for a number of years, one author wrote these rather piercing, convicting words.
He wrote, I am confused as to why so many people live so badly. There is little to admire and less to imitate in the people who are prominent in our culture. We have celebrities. We do not have saints. Neither the adventure of goodness nor the pursuit of righteousness gets headlines.
If on the other hand, we look around for what it means to be a mature person, we don't find much. Holy people aren't easy to pick out. No journalist will ever interview them. No talk show will ever feature them. They're not admired. They're not looked up to. They do not set trends. There isn't any cash value at them. At the end of the year when magazines are compiling the list for the 10 best dressed celebrities, the 10 most beautiful women, the 10 most eligible men, at year's end, no one ever compiles a list of the 10 best lived lives. The truth is our society is devoid of models.
The pedestals are empty. He's right. You look around on the campus. You look among the faculty. You look throughout the corporate hallways.
You look through the stands at a game or in the local grocery store. And it is true, you will find little to admire and even less to imitate. Is there anything about our actions or our words that are worth imitating, that are worth repeating? Jesus Christ commanded his disciples, be a light and shine before men that they may see your good works. You could say that they may see your holy lives and glorify my Father who is in heaven. I like the way Paul Gilbert put it in his famous little poem. He said, you are writing a gospel, a chapter every day by the deeds that you do, by the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true. Say, what is the gospel according to you? Another anonymous poet put the same idea a little differently when he wrote, I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day. Obviously he wasn't a preacher.
I'd rather one would walk with me than merely show the way. The eye is a better pupil and much sharper than the ear. Fine counsel might confuse me, but examples always clear. The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true, but I'd rather get my lesson by observing what you do. We have been observing Father Abraham now through several studies in Romans chapter four, and for the first time we're specifically told that what was written for him was written for us to imitate. And as we have watched Father Abraham through the video lens of scripture, we have seen so many things. Well, I want to give you, as we just remember together, seven things that I hope will encourage you.
Seven things that were not only to learn, but to imitate and to believe. The first lesson learned from Father Abraham is this, salvation does not depend on who you are, it depends on who you know. We are not only to be like Abraham, we are to believe like Abraham. We are to follow his example and perhaps the most important issue of all, the issue of personal redemption. And we have been taught very clearly by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter four that salvation is not based on who you are, it is based on who you know, that is Jesus Christ. It is not based upon what you do, it is based upon what that one has done for you.
Would you go back to the latter part of this chapter? Let's start with verse 22. Therefore, Paul writes, also it was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was reckoned or credited to him, but for our sake also to whom it will be reckoned as those who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He who was delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification. In other words, salvation is not based on who you are, it is based on who you know. This living Lord who was delivered up for our transgressions, who was raised from the dead for our justification. If you go back in the same chapter to verse five, he speaks even clearer to that point. But to the one who does not work but believes in him, who justifies the ungodly. His faith is reckoned as righteousness, it's credited as righteousness, not by works then but by what you believe. Just as verse six, David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works.
Salvation is based upon belief in this one that we know as our living Lord. I came across an illustration delivered by Gary Tolbert, a pastor who told the story about a boy who'd come with his parents to see the sites and monuments of Washington, D.C. and it made me remember doing the same with our family. If you've ever been there, you've seen the sites, the memorials, it's an incredible visit. Well, when they were there, the little boy was taking it all in and they got to the Washington monument and he just stood there gazing at this magnificent architectural reminder of our great history and that forefather George Washington. He was just mesmerized and he looked at it a long time and then he noticed a guard standing down near the base of it and he walked up to the guard and he said rather confidently to the guard, I'd like to buy that. And the guard leaned down, he said, excuse me? And the little boy kind of puffed his chest out.
He said, motioning toward the Washington monument, I'd like to buy that. And the guard said, well, how much money do you have? The little boy was ready for this. The little negotiator pulled out a quarter and he said, 25 cents. The guard said, I'm sorry, son, that's not enough. And the boy said, I thought you'd say that. And he reached into his other pocket and he pulled that nine pennies and it was all that he owned, 34 cents. And he held it up to the guard and the guard wisely squatted down, looked the little boy in the eyes and he said, son, there are some things you need to understand.
First of all, you don't have enough money to buy this thing. 34 cents, $34 million wouldn't be enough to buy the Washington monument. But you need to also know, son, that the monument is not for sale anyway, but you also need to know that if you're a citizen of the United States of America, son, the Washington monument already belongs to you. You know what we can learn from Father Abraham? Justification, forgiveness, eternal life with God in heaven cannot be purchased.
But when you come to faith in the one who is perfect, you discover by placing your faith in him that these things are yours, all of them. So the first lesson and arguably the most important lesson we can learn from Romans 4 and the life of Abraham is salvation doesn't depend upon who you are but upon who you know. Lesson number two, you can believe God's promises even if they seem too good to be true. I imagine heading through the Arabian desert, heading southwest to his new home where he'd never been, never seen it, just the word of God. He must have scratched his head in the middle of the desert thinking, what in the world is God up to? The point was then and the point is still today, God happens to know what he is up to.
Lesson number three, you should obey God's commands even without a good explanation. Abraham, God said in Genesis chapter 12, I'm gonna make you a father of nations. Did Abraham comprehend that? No. Abraham, all of the world will be blessed by your seed. Did he fully comprehend the gospel of the coming Messiah?
No. Maybe the reason there aren't more Christians imitating Abraham in faith and obedience is because too many of us are waiting for more information. We're waiting for a better explanation.
Some are waiting perhaps for a little better condition, for following him. The Church of Jesus Christ just might be filled with mediocre Christians because we will not surrender our lives to God unless he explains what he plans to do with us. That's why I think we ought to learn the lesson again that we obey God's commands even without a good explanation. Not only does the Lord not give us much of an explanation about what he's gonna do in the lives of others, so also God doesn't fully explain his plans regarding our lives either.
He says to us simply you follow me. Here's another lesson. People of great faith aren't perfect. Aren't you glad we've never been told to imitate perfection? Even the great apostle Paul and we would say without hesitation that this was a man of faith. Even Paul once wrote to believers these encouraging words in Philippians 3, not that I have arrived or have already become perfect, but I press on.
I love that. Not that I've arrived. Don't ever come up to that conclusion, that wrong conclusion. Not that I am perfect. Evidently the rumor was that Paul had arrived, that Paul was perfect, that nobody could ever experience intimacy with God like Paul could because Paul had arrived.
He was there. So Paul in an attempt to squelch the rumor says, oh, listen, don't think I've arrived. I'm not perfect, but I am pressing on. I am progressing. Being a man or woman of faith is on the job training.
It's more of a goal than it is a destination. You don't learn obedience tucked away in a classroom. You don't learn faith in an auditorium.
You learn it by living it out there. I want you to know that learning to walk physically is a lot easier than walking spiritually, isn't it? Why do you think the apostle Paul and Peter, John and James and all of them, Jude, all stressed, keeping on? Paul would urge, walk in the Spirit.
Why? Because they weren't. Because it's easy not to. Walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. What believer ever learned to walk in the Spirit by staying down after the hundredth try and saying this thing about walking in the Spirit, I'm going to give it three more times and if I don't get it, that's it. Those who get up and go again by the grace of God are learning that wonderful truth by their gracious and patient spirit teacher that failure in the Christian life is never fatal.
Lesson number five, and I've got to throw this one in. Stepping out in faith will probably mean the start of real problems. We just have to be realistic here today, okay? You want to live a life of faith?
I want to tell you it's going to be the start of real problems. While submitting to the sovereignty of God is the only life where true fulfillment is found at the same time you step out in faith and wham, you be prepared for the challenges of life like never before. The Christian life is this challenge of deep and low and long valleys and there are periodic, joyful, exhilarating mountaintops and sometimes the two can be distanced by only a matter of minutes.
Consider the account of Jesus Christ. He is following the will of his Father. He's being announced in his public ministry and he is being baptized by the Old Testament prophet John as an act of allegiance to the Old Testament message of John. And as he's being immersed in the water by John the baptizer, you remember the story tells us that a dove came from heaven. It was the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and then there was this voice and it was heard. It was the Father's voice saying, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. The amazing thing is that right after that incredible description of the triune God working in the same scene at the same time in human history, Jesus is immediately led from there where? Into the wilderness for a time of celebration.
No, for a time of testing. You would think and I would too that if I heard a voice from heaven it was the Father saying, I'm really proud of you and I love you that that would mean life got a little easier. It meant for him life got a lot harder. Abraham obeyed God and left his home and everything related to it. And you would think that God because he was faithful to do that would smooth it all out.
But wham famine in the land. We learn from watching Abraham that initial obedience to God is the starting point. It is not the final destination. We have the misconception that deciding to live for Christ is the beginning and the ending. The truth is once you're on it, you discover the path of faith is certainly not a descending hill upon which you can coast. That's not faith, that's fantasy. It is an ascending hill and it is a struggle and a challenge where God works in the character of the believer's life, the muscle and the ligament of faith. So you need to be ready. When you say, Lord, I want you to develop in my life patience, that is not the end of it.
Irritating things begin to happen. And God says, I'm going to answer your prayer and develop in your life patience. So you say, Lord, I want to be a man or a woman of faith.
What do you think that means? Difficult situations will be used to develop those muscles of faith in your life. I have been reading the New Testament epistles of Paul from the paraphrase by Eugene Peterson. It's called The Message. I've been reading along the letters to two young pastors, Timothy and Titus. And I came to one particular text this week and it just jarred my thinking. And I wanted to insert it here in 2 Timothy 3. He paraphrases this verse very vividly. He paraphrases it this way. Anybody who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble.
Isn't that great? There is no getting around it. By the way, this is an accurate paraphrase of the original text in 2 Timothy 3, 12. Anybody who wants to live a godly life will suffer persecution.
Here it is. Anybody who lives all out for Jesus Christ is in for a lot of trouble. You're not going to find that verse on a poster with eagles flying over snow-capped mountains put on somebody's office for motivation. That verse is not hanging in anybody's kitchen. Anybody who lives all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble.
But you're probably like me. You're thinking, that's my theme verse. I like that verse. And isn't it encouraging that when you do live all out for Jesus Christ, you discover that he promised trouble, challenge, difficulty, stretching times. It's a great verse. Like Abraham, when you live all out for God, just know that may be the start of some real problems. Lesson number six. The life of faithfulness is not one decision, but many.
It comes closely on the heels of what we've already talked about. Living a life of faith for God would be easy and all of us would do it and all of us would live that way if it was just related to one decision. We'd make it today, wouldn't we?
But it isn't. It's the kind of decision you make every day. Who are you going to live for? Who are you going to walk with? Who are you going to please? Whose life will you imitate? Who will you emulate? Fred Craddock told a story and insightful parable on the Christian life and I shared it a number of years ago and came across it again as I was studying this week. And I thought it applied here to this particular lesson.
He wrote these interesting words. To give our life for Christ appears glorious. To pour ourselves out for others, to pay the ultimate price of sacrifice, I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. The problem is we think that giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $10,000 bill and laying it on the altar and saying, OK, Lord, here's everything I've got.
Take it all and use it. But the Lord hands us back that $10,000 bill and he says, I want you to go to the bank and I want you to exchange it for quarters. And therein lies the faithfulness of the Christian life. As you walk with God, you put out 25 cents here and 25 cents there, sharing the gospel, forgiving an enemy, giving food to someone hungry, pulling some weeds, painting the house of a widow, parking cars on Sunday. I added those words. And these, greeting newcomers, listening to teenagers, putting out chairs, teaching children stories and songs, rocking little ones in the nursery, making phone calls for ministries, stuffing inserts in the communiques, manning the lights during the services and on and on.
I'll stop my words and go back to his. Usually giving our life to Christ is not a glorious thing. It is done in glorious acts, 25 cents at a time. The life of faithfulness is not summed up in one heroic act, but by many simple, ordinary, maybe even mundane acts of obedience and character in faith.
Lesson number seven. The last thing I have observed from the life of Father Abraham is this. Being remembered as a person of faith, obedience and courage will require moments of faith, obedience and courage. How many of us would love to be listed in the hall of faith? Hebrews 11. We would all love to die as faithful men and women.
Will we live as faithful men and women? Here's what the writer of Hebrews 11, verse eight says, by faith, Abraham, when he was called, he obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. And he went out not knowing where he was going. That's how you become known as Abraham was known, willing to risk and change and being willing to serve, being willing to follow after God. And don't forget, according to his biography in the book of Genesis, Abraham was asked to leave his society. He was asked to leave his stability. He was asked to leave his security and he left it all.
How could he do that? By sheer faith in the promise of God's word that God would provide. You have the same promise too. May I remind you that you've actually done something similar to Abraham many times over. You've exercised faith in somebody's word. When you purchase that car, you exercise faith in the word of the salesman that it would get you out of the parking lot at home, right?
When you purchase that home, you exercise courage and faith in the word of those that everything worked, from the electrical outlets to the fact the roof was sealed and there wasn't anything strange in the basement. You placed faith in their promise. You know, that's what Abraham did. He altered his life around the promise of God, sheer faith. You want to be known as a person of faith, obedience and courage. You want to imitate Abraham. Do you want people to say, you remind me of Abraham.
Wouldn't that be great? You're like father, like son. You want to be a person of faith, obedience and courage. You have to, at some point in your life, exhibit faith and exhibit courage and exhibit obedience.
He went out not knowing where he was going, but God was leading and that was enough for him. Sam Kemelson, who is the vice president of a missions organization, told the story of a 70 year old lady who'd come to faith in Christ. New believer, 70 years of age, had been reached by the church in her community. She had started coming, trusted Christ. She came up to her new pastor one day and she said, pastor, I believe God's calling me into the ministry. I believe he has something for me to do.
What should I do about it? And he said, well, I think you ought to go home and pray about it, which is what pastors say when they don't know an answer. They just go home and you pray about it and see what happens.
It's actually good advice. She did. She went home and began to pray.
It seemed that God was impressing on her heart to do a particular thing. She went down to the drug store. She bought a batch of three by five cards and she wrote on every one of those cards, these words, homesick, come to my home for tea at four. She lived in Melbourne near the University of Melbourne. And then she took those cards after she had written on all of them. And she went around the university posting them on bulletin boards and in dormitory hallways on bulletin boards and all over. She finished. She went home.
Those cards were all over that campus. Homesick, come to my home for tea at four. The next day, four o'clock rolled around. Nobody came. She had prepared tea. The second day, nobody came. The third, no one came. She prepared tea. The fifth day, the seventh, the 10th, 11th, 12th, no one came. The 14th day, she prepared tea.
The 15th day, an Indonesian student was standing on her porch. She invited him in. He was ready to talk and she was ready to listen and she served him tea.
Afterward, he went back to the campus and he told everybody, you know, he said, I've met somebody just like my grandmother. You got to see her. And God opened the ministry door for her where she shared the gospel and many of them trusted Christ as savior over tea. For 10 years, she did that and the Lord took her home.
And this pastor tells the story that when she died, there were no less than 70 pallbearers, Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, Pakistani international students who'd come to her home and found the Lord as she served them tea and told them the gospel. Here was a lady who was willing to live like Abraham, imitating his faith, being willing to be used. And in that particular chapter of her life, all she could do really, and that's what God holds us accountable to.
What can you do? All she could do was make some tea and listen and point people to Jesus Christ. She replicated his obedience. She shared passion for the one that Paul concludes this great chapter with saying, this is the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. This is the one who was delivered up so we could be forgiven of our transgressions. This was the one who was raised from the dead so we could be saved. We could be redeemed. We could be forgiven.
We could be justified so that we could be sons and daughters, not just of Abraham, but sons and daughters of God through faith in this one who was all worthy to be obeyed, to be followed, to be loved, to be adored. That was Stephen Davey with today's Bible message here on Wisdom for the Heart. This message is called Like Father, Like Son, and it comes from the series entitled Father Abraham. This was actually the ninth and final lesson in the series, and if you missed any of the previous eight messages, we have them available for you to listen to free of charge on our website. Go to wisdomonline.org. The Wisdom International app is also free of charge, and Stephen's Bible teaching archive is there as well. If you'd like the Father Abraham series as a set of compact discs, we've packaged it together in one binder, and we'd be happy to make it available to you. Call us at 866-48-BIBLE.
We can give you the information that you need. Take your order over the phone and get that set out to you. That number once again is 866-48-BIBLE or 866-482-4253. You can write to us if you address your card or letter to Wisdom for the Heart, PO Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27627. On tomorrow's broadcast, Stephen begins a series called Unwrapping the Perfect Gifts. Learn about the gifts God gives you tomorrow, here on Wisdom for the Heart. We'll be right back.
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