Labor Day marks the end of summer, Tuesday is back to school, and the fall schedule here will start soon. This means the end of our summer sermon series in Genesis-”It All Starts Here”. I know right?Are sad to see that one go?,We will put it on the shelf for a while there are still a lot of great chapters in Genesis, and if the Lord tarries we get back to them, but next week we will start a new series, Fan or Follower, and in that series we will look a little closer at what it means to be a follower of Jesus, not just a fan. This week the message is the hinge point between Genesis and that new series, so let me begin with prayer
If we take a minute to look at the structure of the Book of Genesis, we see that Genesis is two parts. Part 1 is from chapters 1 through to chapter 11. It follows mankind’s descent into sin. The creation, the fall Cain and Able, Noah and Babel. Part 2, begins with Chapter 12. It is a recording of the history of the patriarchs. Part two follows a family line beginning with Abraham. This family is the very beginning of God’s plan to rescue mankind out of the sin that they are in.
If you were here last week, we looked at Genesis Chapter 11, the Tower of Babel, and we saw how the people refused to spread out, and how they sought to make their own name great. We saw how God then intervened and scattered all the people of the earth. But now when we turn to chapter 12, out of all the scattered people of the earth God selects a single man and He calls him out of the world to be His.
Let me read Genesis chapter 12 verses 1-9.
Beginning at the first verse of Chapter 12.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
The Lord said to Abram, GO.Does that sound familiar. It seems lately I have been saying Go!. During the last week of July, during the VBS messages we had a message on the great commission Go and Make disciples, then last week as we looked at the tower of Babel, we learned how the idea of the great commission or how evangelism is actually rooted in the creation blessing, as we are to go and create Christ followers to reflect God’s glory, in the world.
Here in Genesis 12, God comes to Abram out of all those scattered peoples on the earth. This really is the beginning of the Lord selecting a whole nation out of the world for himself. This separating or setting apart is an important concept in the Bible, it is the root of Holiness. Holy means to be set apart, and it is distinguished from the common, or everything else. God, created the universe so he is apart or completely separate from it, He is holy. God takes one people group and sets them apart for himself, and throughout the Old Testament we see this struggle with the people being set apart or Holy. Ok back to our text.
Out of all the people that God has scattered he selects Abram. A son of an idol maker according to jewish tradition, from a place called Ur of the Chaldeans.
In 1940, in southern Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq a man named Sir Leonard Woolley discovered the ancient city of Ur. He discovered a ziggurat or an ancient step pyramid temple to a moon god. It was quite a ancient city, and many people believe that this city named Ur is where Abram was from. However, more recently, I think in the 1980’s, there has been another city similarly named Ur located north in Samaria. It was a much smaller city. Recently, archeologists have been discussing which is the Ur that Abram was from. From what I have read up until now,I am favoring the southern location, just know that if you hear or read people talking about a northern location those ideas are reasonable and worth examining, however either location does not really change what God has for us in the text.
Whatever location is accurate, Abram seems to come out of a place that does not worship the God who created the universe. Up until now the Bible has said very little about Abram’s personal faith, but the people around him, favor the moon god. It is is in that context that God comes to Abram and calls Him out.
God scattered the people of the earth for their disobedience, and pride. God then calls this man who has idolatry all around him, it is his fathers business, it is in the land, it is in the city. Abram is in the middle of that pagan worship- It is in that context that, Yahweh-the personal name of God- not one god of many-but God Almighty, personally comes to Abram.
This is different. This would have been something really world shaking. This is not the earth god or the moon god or the sun god, this is not the god of the land, or an impersonal force, or a higher power. This isn’t a group thing for all the people of the land. Yahweh, the personal name of God is coming to Abram uniquely and personally, and makes Himself known.
And when he does-He tells Abram to Go.
your father’s household.
to the land I will show you.
God gives Abram three distinct directives
1. Go From your country-That is-lose your identity as to your citizenship. Where you are from-who you were-. It is interesting, understand with the ancient people they believed that particular gods were associated with particular countries, and lands. As you moved from land to land it would be important to worship the god of that land. But for Abram, God says leave that and the gods.
2. Go from your people. That is your friends, relatives, your kinsmen. Abram, they are no longer important. Abram you are going to have to give up your family to follow me. Your family name was all important, it represented who you were, Abram you will no longer be son of Terah.
3. Go from your father’s household-all the stuff that he had, your future, your security, your satisfaction the hope of a future. Leave it behind, and Go.
People leave home all the time. People go to college, go out and find careers, but whenever they go, they know where they are going. Imagine for a second, not knowing where you are going just going, God says to Abram Go- to the land I will show you.
Did you take a vacation this summer, many of you did. Where did you go? We all leave with a sense of knowing where we are going. I am going to South Dakota, I am going up north?. Kids go to college to become a nurse or people leave home to join the army, or to be an actress. We all leave with a sense of knowing where we are going or who we want to become. We all leave with a reliance on ourselves and what we will do for ourselves to get there and to make ourselves into something.
People who are genuinely trying to follow after Jesus are desperately seeking God to answer-what is God’s will for my life. What does the future hold? Should I marry this person, or that person go to this school or that school, take this job or that. But when we ask those questions, at least we are somewhere, we rarely leave first. We sit where we are at and ask that question but for Abram-God says go leave first- take what you know and leave it behind, and then I will show you where you are going
But, God does give Abram, three distinct promises , that correspond to those things that he is asked to leave.
You will be a great nation.
I will make your name great.
I will bless you.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
You left your country Abram- Now God is starting a new country- God will make the country. God Almighty will make you into a great nation. God says HE will do it. How could Abram possibly see the outcome. This has to be so outside of what Abram knows because Sarai, his wife can’t have children.
Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
Then God says, HE will make Abram’s name great-Not like last week when the people of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves-Now God will make Abrams name great. The people His family name that was His, He will now get God’s family name and that name will be great.
And then God says-I will bless you. He doesn’t say specifically how, certainly in the ancient Old testament mind this meant materially but it also meant more than that. It meant to be walking with God, it meant that Abram was receiving good things from God, good life, joy, satisfaction, contentment.
What God is asking Abram to leave-God is saying that now He will provide. This walking with God, this receiving from God is not just in isolation just to benefit Abram and his little world-God does things to show himself to the world so the passage goes global.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
and you will be a blessing. Abram- following God will be a blessing. We when we follow Jesus-we are a blessing to people around us, this is that idea of last week- Abram as you travel through the world blessed by God- you will bring that blessing to others. Just as we travel through the world blessed by Jesus-we are bringing God’s reflection to the world.
This is important to understanding a a very key idea in Scripture. All the way back with Abram, God will begin his rescue plan that will continually unfold throughout all of Scripture and continue through history through us today. All the people of the earth are under this curse of sin, and it is God’s plan to save them through faith in Jesus Christ. Here in the book of Genesis is an announcement that he Gospel of Jesus Christ will not be restricted to one people, and one nation but the gospel will go out to all the world. The apostle Paul pointed this out in Galatians Chapter 3, verse 8.
Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
God told Abram to go, and leave behind his whole life, and God promised that Abram would now receive His new life from God. SO what does Abram do?
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
So Abram went. He went. Leave everything behind, Everything that He knew. his Country, his reputation, his security and he went. He didn’t know where, he did not know how God would work it out He just went. Abram has absolutely nothing else to go on except the word of the Lord. Abram follows God based on nothing he can see-Just the Word of God alone.
Abram’s faith resulted in action.
Then Abram, based on faith in the word of God alone-with no way to see the result- left and went.
This is how true faith works, it produces actions on the part of the believer. You have faith then it produces actions. When people are faced with this action/faith relationship they get it all confused, and honestly I think the confusion is authored by Satan to keep you from authentic faith in Jesus. People erroneously do one of two things.
Here is an example. Let’s say I give a dinner invitation for Friday night at 6:00 PM. You did not do anything to necessitate the invitation I simply extended to you out of generosity. Biblical faith like Abram means that because of who I am, you trust me and give up your evening meal and show up at my house knowing that I will provide a meal for you, even though you may not know what that meal is but you trust me, that I won’t poison you. That is when your faith produces action
One way people get this confused is they think that the key to getting the meal is just to show up at my house. They think that it is their action of coming to my house that produces the meal. Of course just showing up at my house does not produce a meal. I may not be home, I may not have food. This is around churches all the time. People try to win God’s favor by doing actions. They try to win God’s favor by showing up to church a certain number of times or by doing good things. But unless they respond to the invitation of the gospel by faith they end up being hungry. Unless God provides the meal they end up providing the meal themselves. They say things like I like to think God is generous and He doesn’t mind that I eat on my own.
Or the other way people mix this up is that they hear the invitation-but they do not trust in it.It is like they hear the invitation and say yep I believe he is fixing dinner, but instead of coming over they stay at their own house, and eat their own meal that they prepared.
Authentic faith produces the action that the faith requires.
The invitation is the Gospel-That Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, according to the scriptures, that he died and was buried and that he rose from the dead according to the scriptures-That is the word of God, and he was seen by many witnesses. That is like the invitation to dinner. But to receive that invitation you have to give up your life to go and get it. The invitation is for you to receive your new life from Jesus.
You turn from the world from your life TO a life provided Jesus.
The Promises that God provides for those that forsake the world for the Gospel are the same as those of Abram but with a heavenward focus.
We turn from this world toward God
1. God give us a new citizenship
2. we make His name great.
3. we have our satisfaction in Jesus.
We can forget our past where we came from is unimportant, whether we are American or Israeli, or Haiti or Ugandan, from Chicago or Faribault all of that is gone- because God promises us a NEW citizenship in heaven
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
God gives us a new family of believers as we become a new child of God, and as part of that new family we make the name of Jesus great by glorifying Him!
he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
And we find our new satisfaction in Jesus not in the things of this world.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
We are called brothers and sisters to give up our whole life for the gospel to follow Jesus by trusting in the word of God alone.
But in order to accept that invitation you have to leave. You have to give up your old life, with its idols, with it’s security and place you trust in Jesus Christ. That is hard. God does not provide the specifics about what job you will have or what people you will be with or what provisions he will provide and that is scary and that is hard, but when we trust in Him, we can trust in His wonderful promises and step out into the unknown. We don;t do it alone we have the Holy Spirit and we have the church family.
The word Ekklesia is the greek word for Church in New Testament. It means literally the called out ones. Authentic faith in Jesus Christ means that you are part of the called out ones leaving everything behind, country family stuff for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus.
The problem is some people think that they are part of the called out ones, yet they are not going. They are hearing the promises but they are not willing to leave this world behind. They are saying I believe God could take care of everything in my life, but right now there are things more important.
This is not a plea for volunteering more or giving more, although the Lord knows we need that. This is a plea to an authentic faith in Jesus Christ that leaves behind this world and the stuff in this world for faith in Jesus. This is a plea to be so radically transformed by the Gospel that we as as a church do not need pleas for more money or more volunteers, because when we are all authentically following Jesus Christ we are all giving everything we have to Him and His kingdom.
This fall we are prayerfully making opportunities for you to learn more about living this “called out” faith. Our new fall sermon series starting next week will be called “Fan or Follower” and will invite you to see what a follower of Jesus looks like. Rev Gordon Elliott is preparing his Sunday School lessons for this fall called Christian Character and that will look at what a Christian looks like.
If you have been hanging on to your old country and have not been living called out please prayerfully ask the Lord Jesus to lead you to help you by transforming you into an authentic Christ follower, and then seek out ways this fall to grow closer to Jesus.