Believing Against Hope
Manage episode 327185512 series 3038820
Heavenly father, we glorify you. We focus our full attention upon you right now. Help us remove any distractions, any worries, any anxiety and help us focus only on you. We glorify you often in our lives. You're just too small because we aren't glorifying you. We're glorifying things ourselves. We pray, remove all of that and help us focus on Jesus Christ on his life, his death, his burial, his resurrection. And because of all of everything he's done, we have access to the presence of God with a righteousness that is not our own. That's the prerequisite to be in the family of God to have a righteousness that is perfect.
We thank you that when we repent of sin, believe in you, Jesus, you give us that righteousness as a gift. And we thank you, Holy Spirit that you are with us today. And I pray Holy Spirit, minister to us, minister to our souls. If there's any heartache or heartbreak, I pray today. Send healing and help us revel in this truth and help us go deeper into it. What does it mean that I'm justified by grace through faith? Holy Spirit ignite our hearts to then live out this incredible, incredible calling and identity. And we pray, all this in Christ holy name. Amen.
So I'm walking down the street today on the way to church and I'm in the zone. If you know me, when I'm in the zone, I don't really notice anything else. I'm in the zone. And then these two ladies are walking in my direction and one of the ladies points at me and says, "That guy is definitely going to church."
I broke lots of categories. I've seen the nice lady from the park. My wife knows her and she knows our daughters. And then she's with her friend. She's like, "That guy is a priest." And says, "You're a priest. Right?" And I was like, "Close enough. Priest, rabbi, pastor, whatever." I'm just telling people about God. And then her friend goes, "Where's your church?" And I said, "Mosaic Boston, right there on Beacon Street." She said, "Can I come?" I was like, "Of course you can come."
And then I realized a lot of people don't go to church because no one's invited them. So it's just a reminder that we should be inviting people into the house of prayer. Today, the title of sermon is believing against hope in Romans 4:13 through 25. How are we saved by grace through faith? That's the only way we're saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
But often we put too much of emphasis on our own faith because faith is how you grow in knowledge of God. We want our faith strength about how do you strengthen your faith? That's the question before us. Especially when everything is hopeless. I'll start with the quote by BB Warfield, tremendous theologian. He says, "The saving power of faith, resides thus not in itself, but in the almighty savior on whom it rests. It is not strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but that Christ saves through faith." Christ saves through faith.
Faith is the instrument by which God saves us and by which we enter into a saving relationship with him. But faith is not our own. Saving faith is not our own. Saving faith is a gift from God. You can't muster saving faith. You can only ask. And when you ask, receive it with humility and exercise that faith. If we could muster our faith, if we're going to even muster an ounce of faith on our own, then we would still get credit a little bit for our salvation.
But this is the beauty of Christianity. There is nothing. There is nothing that you can take credit for when it comes to being safe. Salvation is all grace. 100%. You can do absolutely nothing to save yourself. So that gets us into a position of incredible helplessness and hopelessness. I can't do a thing to save myself. And now we have ears to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. We can hear about grace.
The context Paul has made clear, whenever any anyone got saved, or get saved, or will get saved, it's only by justification through faith. And he points to the example of Abraham. We talked about that last week. That Abraham, before he offered up Isaac on the altar, even before he obeyed God with circumcision, before all of that, God made him a promise that you will be blessed and I will send you a son.
God made that promise. And Abraham believed the promise. And Genesis 15 says, "God counted righteousness to Abraham. Mercy did not eclipse justice. God saves us by satisfying his divine justice on the cross." So the today we're Romans 4:13 through 25. Would you look at the text with me. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherence of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law, there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring. Not only to the adherent of the law, but also to one who shares the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all. As it is written, I've made you the father of many nations. And the presence of the God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
In hope, he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations as he had been told, "So shall you offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the bareness of Sarah's womb. No distress made him waiver earning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.
But the words, it was counted to him were not written for his sake alone, but four ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him, who raised from the dead, Jesus, our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
This is the reading of God's holy inerrant, infallible, authoritative word may write these eternal truths upon our hearts. And usually at this point in the sermon, I say those three points, the frame of our time together are one, two, three. I have no points today. The reason why I do the points is number one. So you don't think I'm making stuff up on the fly. That actually did work during the week, which I do because I met a guy this week. He's like, "Oh, you're a pastor. So you only work one day a week." I said, "Actually, only 45 minutes. That's it." And he laughed, I laughed. We all laughed. I went home and cried.
And then also I do the points, so you can track in your mind how much more do I need to pay attention? Like how much more brain energy. Just follow the verses. We're going to frame up our time with the verses, versus 13 through 25. Verse 13, would you look at the text. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
So God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the heir of the world, and that promise wasn't just given to him, it was given to his progeny, his heirs, everyone that came after him. And earlier in the text, he said, "Everyone who believes Abraham is our father." He continues that same stream of thought here. So God goes to Abraham and he promises, "You're going to be the heir of the world." Heir of what? Heir of everything.
What is an heir. An heir is someone who inherits something incredible. So if your grandfather, great uncle died and he was wealthy and he was generous, he includes you in the will. And then you get inheritance. I come from a family of immigrants. My parents came here with $700 in their pocket. My grandfather, who was the only grandparent I had when we immigrated, he came here with nothing. So he saved up over the course of years. And when he died, he had $6,000 in his bank and he wrote out a will. And he is like, "This is what I want you to do with the $6,000. I want you to make an album with pictures of me and my family. And I want you to give one of those albums to every single member of the family."
That's a treasured inheritance I got from my grandfather. But if you grew up here and your family has been here for generations, perhaps there's inheritance coming. And that's exciting. We get excited about inheritance. But God promises Abraham and not just money. He promised him that you will inherit or your heirs will inherit everything. Obviously, the only true and proper heir of God the father is God the son. Jesus alone is worthy to inherit the kingdom that God has promised. But through the gift of faith, the righteousness that is imputed by faith, the righteousness of Christ, we're adopted into the family of God. And because we're adopted into the family of God, we're now sons and daughters of God the father with Jesus Christ as our older brother.
So thanks to this adoption. Apart from this adoption, we're spiritual orphans. And not just spiritual orphans, we're not children of God, the father. Apart from Jesus Christ, you need to know this is important. Apart from Jesus Christ, you're not a child of God. Jesus makes it clear in the gospel of John that apart from faith in Christ, you are a child of Satan. So we need to believe in Jesus Christ, get the prerequisite righteousness to be adopted into the family of God the father. And when we are adopted, we become co-heirs of the world with Christ.
Verse 5 of Matthew 5, this is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. With the coming of the Messiah, the promise of a land in Canaan, God promised to Abraham, "You're going to get land in Canaan. That's the promised land." Jesus Christ comes and he said, "The meek shall inherit the earth.Canaan So the promise has been universalized to the entire earth and thus, the notion held by contemporary dispensationalist.
Do you know what those are? Any Christian that has a lot of charts that loves charts, probably dispensationalist. Just out of nowhere they get a chart and they can timeline, and they can tell you when Jesus is coming back, et cetera, et cetera. The contemporary dispensation, they believe that Israel, because modern day Israel was established that that is the fulfillment of the promise that God gave to Abraham which isn't true.
As we shall see, when we get to Romans 9 through 11, the return of the Jews to their Homeland, while in amazing act of God's providence, and perhaps it's related to the conversion that will come of Israel before the end of the age. But the land promise has nothing to do whatsoever with the promise given to Abraham when God made a covenant with him.
So Paul follows the lead of the prophets. He follows the lead of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and he universalizes the promise to extend to the ends of the earth. Way, way beyond the original boundaries of the promised land, the Nile and Euphrates.
So what does it mean that Christians, followers of God will inherit the earth. And here we want details. We want all the details, Lord. Give me some details. What kind of land am I getting an inheritance? Lord, can I have some waterfront property, in a very warm location? If you don't like the ocean, Lord, can I have some mountains? I've been living in the city for 13 years. I'm like, Lord, can I just have a parking spot?
And when I inherit, whatever, can I just get a park? But we don't get details. It should be enough that God promises that when you believe in Jesus is great, you will live forever in the presence of God and you will inherit the world.
My daughters when they were younger, I'd say, "Get in the car. We're going on a trip." And no questions, no questions ever, they're like, "Let's go. Let's go." And now that they're older, they're like, "I need a detailed itinerary. I need to know if this trip is worth it." This past week, our family got invited to go... My friend is a minister at Brown University, Athletes in Action, and they were doing a senior sendoff where he's like, "Can you come give them a charge?" And I gave them a charge. I said, "You're going to need to tremble before God's word." It was tremendous.
I brought my daughters. I was like, "Little ladies, let's go. I want you to meet these college athlete, men and women. They're scholars. They're athletes. They're Christians. They work hard. They love the Lord. They've got a tremendous pain tolerance. They're doing great." And then my girls are like, "Well, who's going to be there? What kind of food are we going to have? Will there be any children? "And Milana is like, "Will there be any toys?" Because apparently when you're four and you go to someone else's house, all the toys are brand new. They're all brand new.
And that's what we want. I'm like, "We're going to have fun. We're going to be together. We're going to make it..." And it was good. Details don't matter as much with the Lord. I promised you eternal life. I promised you an inheritance. The more important question isn't the details of the inheritance, the more important question is can I lose my inheritance or can I get more of the inheritance?
Well, first, no, you can't lose the inheritance because the inheritance doesn't depend on your performance. The inheritance that God is offering isn't based on your perfection., It's based on the direction of your life. Are you following Jesus Christ? The moment you repent of your sins and you turn to Jesus Christ, you're justified by grace through faith.
Now you are son, a daughter of God. You will get an inheritance. You can't lose that inheritance, but you can get more of that inheritance. And this is 1 Corinthians 3, one of the classic sermons ever preached at Mosaic. It's in the app. Pastor Andy Davis preached a sermon called how much heaven do you want? I go back to that sermon all the time. One of the most powerful. He's like, how much do you want? How much heaven do you want to inherit? And he talks about the capacity to experience the presence of God. That's expanded here in this life and the next life.
Once that capacity expands, you get to experience more of God. So yes, it's only by faith that we're save. It's only by faith that we get an inheritance, but that faith needs to be authenticated with obedience or else it's not true faith. I say the direction of life, because I think of Christianity like this because Jesus Christ talked about this in the Sermon of the Mount. He said, "Look, the way that leads to destruction is broad, and there's a lot of people going down that path. But the way that leads to life is narrow. It's straight and narrow."
So it's like you're going through life, going through life, going from broadened path. And the God just stops you. He stops you. He elects you. He saves you. He gives you the gift of faith, gift of repentance. All of a sudden you're sealed with the Holy Spirit and he turns you around. And that's what repentance is, a change of mind, change of heart, change of direction. And then he puts you on the straight and narrow and he says, "Follow me."
He locks you into this path. Another way to think about it is I think about it like a rollercoaster. Like you were on a roller coaster going to hell. You were on that. And then God takes you off that ride. It's terrible. It feels like fun, but you're on hell. And then he puts you on the ride going straight to heaven. You sit down. He locks you in with grace. You can't get out. The teaching of grace and salvation. You can't get out.
And if you want to get out, you should tell me, and then I'll point you to Hebrew 6 and Hebrews 10, which is like, "No, no, you don't want to get out." It locks you in. And on the rollercoaster, sometimes there are highs and you're like, "Christianity is the best. Jesus is coming back soon. People are getting saved. And then sometimes, the rollercoaster goes down and you're like, "Jesus, could you please come back? Got it ready. Ready to go." It's up and down. But the obedience needs to authenticate the faith.
So Abraham gets saved by grace through faith. That's Genesis 15 and then comes the sign of the covenant, the sign of circumcision. And then in Genesis 22, he calls Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar. We talked about that last week and then the angel of the Lord stops him and he says, "Now, I know that you fear the Lord." And then the angel continues the verse 15 of Genesis 22. And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, "By myself, I have sworn." Why? Because there's nothing higher by which God can swear than by himself.
"By myself I have sworn," declares the Lord, "because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son. I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that's in the seashore, and your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice." I thought it was by grace through faith? Yeah, it is by grace. That's how it starts. That's how you get justified. But then begins the hard work of sanctification of following God on a daily basis. And then God said, "Okay, you believed it was grace and now your faith is authenticated with your obedience." And Paul will elaborate more on this later in the letter. But for now, he wants to emphasize the heirs of Abraham and his seed do not receive the promise inheritance through the law. It's not through performance, but through faith. And it's not through performance because Abraham lived.
God made that promise 430 years before the 10 commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Galatians 3:17 through 18. This is what I mean, the law, which came 430 years afterward does not know a covenant previously ratified by God. So as to make the promise void for if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise, but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. God promises Abraham and inheritance before the law. So it was all by faith. Abraham believes that he was justified by faith.
And Paul's point is of course he wasn't justified by works. There was no law yet. In Galatians 2:16, yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. So we also have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law because by works of the law, no one will be justified. He continues in verse 14 for if it is the adherence of the law who are to be the heirs, plural, faith is null. And the promise is void.
The way you're saying is you can't earn your inheritance by keeping the law. That's not how inheritance works. Why do you get inheritance from anybody? You didn't earn the inheritance. Someone else worked for years to get whatever the stuff that you're inheriting. You're only gifted it because you're part of the family or you were treated like family. So how do you become part of the family of God to make sure that you get this inheritance by keeping the law? No, of course not.
Only by grasping onto the promise. God, you promised. God, you promised me that when I repented my sins and I believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior, you promise me that all my sins are forgiven. I'm filled with the Holy Spirit. I will live for eternity in the presence of God, and I get an inheritance. And God has given us this promise. All we have to do is believe in the promise.
You mean there's nothing I can do to make myself righteous before God? No. Even if today you got this incredible resolve and you say, "You know what? I have sinned. I've sinned. And I feel a weight of my sin. All right, from here on out, the church inspired me today. From here on out, I will live a sinless life. No more sin. I will love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind. I will love my neighbor as myself. I will do it."
See, the loving God part, it's easy because he is perfect. But then you go home and you're like, "I got to love God. I Got to love my neighbor. Got to love God. Got to love my neighbor." And then all of a sudden you realize, "Yeah, I have neighbors on every single side of me." And then they turn on their music and you're like, "I got to keep loving them." And then they start cooking and you're, "What's that smell?" And then you open the window because of the cooking, and then a smell of skunk begins to waft in. My daughter think it's a skunk because that's why I keep telling her. I was like, "That's skunk. There's a lot of skunks in Boston." They're just stories full of skunks all around us.
You just got to keep low. You got to keep low then after you're like, "Yeah, I'll start tomorrow. I'll start tomorrow." Every good diet starts on a Monday. Every righteous path starts tomorrow. No, you can't. Even if you try, you can't, you can't, you can't. Why? Because the law brings wrath. That's verse 15. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law, there is no transgression. The law brings wrath. What does it mean? He means that the law does not affect salvation.
It can't save you. It does not affect justification or forgiveness. If you trust in your keeping of the law in your performance, all you're doing is keeping up wrath for the day of judgment. But there is a law and we've all transgressed that law. If God didn't tell us how to live, we could live anywhere we want. We'd be autonomous. We'd be absolutely independent. We can define reality as we want to define reality. And that's how most Americans live. And that's why the wrath of God is being poured out.
Even on this country, we're not free. There is a law. People think we're free. Dostoevsky said, "If there is no God, then all things are permissible." That's how most people live. I'm a law to myself. I'm a God of my own life. I'm lure to myself until things get hard, and then people start crying out to God. And once you start thinking about God, you're like, "Oh, maybe he does have obligations upon me that are written on my heart."
There's no way. There's nothing we can do to justify for our sins. One of the things I've been noticing now that I'm a soccer dad, we have three practices and three games every week. It's a 20-hour commitment by the way. But my girls are tremendous at it. One of my girls scored three goals yesterday. She wasn't even trying. She wasn't even trying. Coach called her secret weapon. He said, "Protect the secret weapon." But one of the things I noticed with the parents, they're really good parents. They're really nice people. Really nice.
I love meeting them. Really nice people. Just tremendous, tremendous people. And I invited this one guy to church and then he's like, "You're a pastor?" Oh, that's the guy that said, "You only work a day a week." So I invited him to church and he's like, "They let you be a pastor?" I was like, "For now. You should come." Such a good dad. Just a good dad. Had a little birthday party for his daughters and he invited all the kids cup. Just good. How can I tell this guy he's on his way to hell?
I realized be being a good parent is not virtuous. That doesn't add any virtue. You're just doing the bare minimum. It's just expected of you that you're going to be a good parent. Just because you're human, it's not virtuous to be a good parent. No, the standard is so much higher. The standard is perfection. The standard is absolute untainted love. There is a law and we've transgressed that law. We've transgressed it with sins of commission. That's doing bad things. And sins of omission. That's not doing the good things that we know we're supposed to do. We failed to do them.
We have debts accruing against us in God's economy. So we do pray to forgive us our debts. "Lord, forgive us our trespass and our transgressions. Lord, please forgive me because I know I deserve your wrath." And the wrath he's talking as punitive wrath. It's not corrective wrath. There's a difference. In Hebrews 12, there is a corrective wrath. God the father loves his children and when his children disobey, he does discipline us. That's Hebrews 12. And here he's talking about punitive wrath that God takes our law breaking personally.
Because God is the law giver. When we sin, we're not sinning against some abstract norm or piece of legislation some people somewhere. Now, we're sitting against the law giver himself who is good and loving. And that's why you gave the law, and he wrote the law on our hearts. It's for our good. It's for human universal flourishing. So when we break that law, we break God's heart. And when we break God's heart, what we deserve in response is wrath. It's a personal affront against God every time we sin. That's why sin is so egregious. It's a personal attack against a great God, a holy God. A God who's been nothing but good and loving to us.
And then the only time that he became a human, we mocked him and ridiculed him, scorned him and crucified him instead of glorifying him. Romans 4:16. That is why it depends on faith in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring. Not only to the adherent of the law, but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all.
He says, "That's why it depends on faith." In the reformation there's the five solas. Sola fide, that's one of them. That's only by faith we're saved. Sola gratia, only by grace. Solus Christus, only by the work of Christ. Our justification is by grace through faith only because of Christ. But why is it by justification by faith? Because it rests on the promise of grace. Since you didn't earn it, your salvation, you can't lose it.
That's why he uses the word guarantee. Guaranteed to all his offspring. So if God saves you, that's a gift. And if you didn't earn it, if you receive the gift, you can't lose it. When God adopt someone into his family, you're adopted forever. God is a good father who never loses a child. Once saved, always saved because you're always persevering. You're always following. And look, this is what scripture teaches. And I grew up in a church that did not teach this. They were very Armenian.
In that, they're like, "You know what? You never know." You ask anyone and they're like, "Hey, are you going to heaven today if you die?" And they're like, "I hope so." And that was kind of like the culture of the church where it's like... Before communion Sunday, I used to dread communion Sunday, because they're like, "If you sin this week, you don't take part in communion."
I was like, "Sin this week? I sin this morning. I sin on the way to church. I love everyone like 100%. No, they're sin, they're sin, they're sin." That's the sanctification part. No, but the justification part, that's all the work of Christ. Therefore, we're saved for all eternity. The doctrine of assurance, of salvation, you can be sure. So this is a very important question. Today, are you sure that you are going to spend eternity with God? Are you sure? Do you have that assurance right now?
Are you 100% sure? And if there any hesitation in your mind, you need to go back to the doctor and justification by grace through faith. I am not saved because of my performance. I'm saved because of Christ's performance. I believe in Christ therefore I'm justified by grace through faith. You can be sure. You should be sure.
And then of course we're called to make our election sure, but our salvation doesn't depend on our obedience of the law. Because our righteousness depends on faith, rest on grace is guaranteed to everyone who follows in the footsteps of faith of Abraham. Everyone who shares in this faith that righteousness, alien righteous, not ours can be imputed, gifted to us because of Christ.
Verse 17, "As it is written, I've made you the father of many nations in the presence of the God in whom he believed. Who gives life to the dead and calls into existence to things that do not exist." Abraham here is called the father of many nation. So he is not just the father of Isaac. He's not just the father of his progeny. He's not just the father of the Jews. Abraham here is considered the father of anyone who trusts in the same promise that he embraced that there's a righteousness that can be counted to us from God.
We're the seed of Abraham by faith in Christ. Abraham believed God. Abraham believed God and he got God's presence. That's what it says in verse 17. And the presence of God in whom he believed. So he got a promise from God and he got the presence of God. And that's the only thing he had to sustain him for 25 years. 25 years, from the day God promised him, "Hey, I'm going to give you a son." For 25 years he woke up, nothing. Woke up, nothing. God reaffirmed a few times. Nothing, nothing, nothing. But he believed, and he believed that God is a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
God is a creator. He's the only creator. He's the creator who creates ex nihilo, something out of nothing. No one else can do that. Not even Satan. Satan can't create a thing. Satan counterfeits and he ruins everything else that God creates. So it's convenient that God can create something out of nothing, life out of death because of verse 18. In hope, he believed against hope. In hope, Abraham believed against hope that he should be the father of many nations as he had been told, so shall your offspring be.
So there's two hopes here and then there's a faith. In hope, he believed against hope. What's the hope that he's believing against? That's just normal hope. This is what normal people feel like that you wake up and you're like, "I could be negative or I could be positive. All right, I should be positive. I could be a pessimist or I could be an optimist. I want to be a glass half full kind of person, so I'm going to be an optimist today."
It's natural. You muster it up, this hope and you... People say this all the time. I trust everything will work out. I think everything will work out for the good. And usually they say that because they look past at their track record in their life and they're like, "You know what, things have always kind of worked out, so I think they kind of work out." But if you study investment, you know that past results don't guarantee future performance.
Everything could be great and everything could have been working out, and then you just die. Oh, it didn't work out. So there's normal hope and then there's a hope that goes beyond, a transcended hope. That's hope and faith together in hope he believed. And he believed against all of the evidence. All of the evidence that he is accruing about his circumstances. This point to the fact that God lied.
And then he goes back to the promise of God, and he looks beyond his circumstances. This is why in prayer, it's so helpful to close your eyes. And by the way, in worship, it's so helpful to close your eyes. That's why you should memorize the worship songs. Every newsletter I sent out at the bottom of the newsletter is a list of all of the worship songs for Sunday. I'm telling you, worship could be so much more powerful if everyone just closed their eyes and sang the song as memorized.
By the way, you can anytime just sing and you just glorify God. You can close your eyes. You can't see your circumstances. You just focus on God and then all of a sudden you're like, "My circumstances, aren't that important? My circumstances are not sovereign." God is sovereign. "My circumstances even when they're hopeless, even when they're helpless, they're not God."
And I trust in the God for whom nothing is impossible. Do you believe that? Do you believe that for God, nothing is impossible. Nothing. And if you do, that changes everything. What is the hope that Abraham was beyond? He was beyond that humanly speaking, God's promise could have. If God came to Abraham when Abraham was in his 20s and like, "Hey man, you're going to have a kid." He's like, "You know what? I could see that. I could see that, Sarah. Yeah, we're still young." God comes to Abraham when he's 75. He's like, "You're going to have a kid." He's like, "Are you sure?" And he goes and tells his wife, Sarah, she's like, "I'm 65. We're going to have a kid?"
And they believed, and then God waits another 25 years. So then Sarah is 90. Abraham is 100 and God is like, "Yep, you're going to have a kid". And then Abraham and Sarah hears... And Sarah, all she can do is she just laughs because the absurdity of it. She's like, "I'm 90. I'm going to have a kid at 90? That's crazy." She's like, "Abraham, you're in a wheelchair. What are you going to have a stroller? This is nuts. This is crazy. We're not going to..." Circumstances, no reason for hope. He's hopeless. He's helpless. But he continues to trust in God when humanly speaking hope had reached a limit. It hope he believed against hope. And this is the true faith, vibrant faith. A faith that saves.
And the same way that Abraham was helpless, and the same way that his wife's womb, there was no life in it. And that same way, our souls are in need of resurrection. Our hearts are in need of resurrection. This is what the connection between Paul and Abraham. So what is true hope? What is this true faith? Well, it consists of three parts. First, you need the information. If you are going to get saved by grace through faith, what's the information about God that I need to know? You learn the information. God is holy. We have transgressed his law. There's a chasm between us. We are on our way to hell.
Jesus Christ, the son of God, second person of the Trinity comes lives a perfect life, no sin, and then takes that moral record to the cross, pays our debt, absorbs the wrath of God for our transgression. He absorbs the curse that we deserve to extend to us the blessing that he earned. And then he dies. And because of resurrection from the dead, everything that he did and everything he taught is obviously true. God accepts his sacrifice. Now by grace through faith, we can be saved. That's the info.
After the info, you need to ask, is it true? Is this true? Is it verifiable? And it is verifiable. These are all historic things that happened. Jesus Christ's historical figure. He had disciples. People knew him. 500 people saw the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It transformed world history like no event. We literally stopped time and all of a sudden started recounting. Your birthday is measured from his birthday. Obviously it's true. Now the question is, info is it true? Do I commit?
Do I commit? Can I entrust myself to Jesus Christ? We're justified by faith and trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. Abraham didn't just believe in God. Even Satan believes in God. No, he entrusted himself to God. He knew the person of God. He knew that God doesn't lie. Faith isn't blind. It's just a different kind of sight. And he saw that this was true with the eyes of a soul.
Faith isn't absurd. It's not foolishness. It's not baseless. Faith is ultimately trusting what is preeminently trustworthy and that's God in hope he believed against hope. Is it reasonable to believe in situations like this? No. Look at your situation. That's not reasonable to believe. You ever feel like that in your Christian walk? Is it reasonable to keep following Jesus? Especially when things get hard, especially when you suffer. Is it reasonable?
For all intents and purposes Abraham's body was as good as dead. That's what it says in verse 19. He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead since he was about 100 years old or when he considered the bareness of Sarah's womb. Looked at himself, looked at his wife. All he saw was hopeless and he had to close his eyes and looked beyond. How could I possibly believe even the promise? Well, because of the promise giver. The promise giver is the promise keeper. Because he's God and God can't lie. It's against his nature.
The only hopeless thing is the idea that the promise would not come to pass. And in Romans 4:20, I love this verse so much. No unbelief made him waiver. Concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. Fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. When doubt came, Abraham fought off the doubt with the promises of God. And not just with the promises of God, but the presence of God. How did he do that? How did he strengthen his faith?
Tremendous question. How do you strengthen your faith? Through Bible study, helpful and necessary. Studying theology, helpful and necessary. Time and prayer, helpful and necessary. Worshiping God on your own, helpful and necessary. That's not what it says. He did not strengthen his faith by focusing on his faith because when you're focusing on your faith, you're focusing on yourself. And when you're focusing on yourself...
That could be discouraging, especially when life is hard. No, that's not what he did. He didn't do any of that. When he felt most hopeless and most helpless, it says that he gave glory to God. He gave glory to God. "God, I glorify you for everything that you are and everything that you have done in the past and everything you will do in the future. God, I glorify you."
You know what that means? That means you recognize God for who he is. He's the great God of the universe. You glorify him. And also the word assumes that there is a magnification that happens, where as you're glorifying God, he gets so much bigger. Your problems get so much smaller and that's why your faith grows. Glorify God when you're happy, but also glorify God when you're sad. That's what really grows faith. It's easy to glorify God when everything's tremendous. Isn't it? That's why I think in these churches where the pastors have their own airplanes, it's just kind of easier to believe and it's easier to preach because the guy is like, "Of course God loves me. Look at my plane. Does it anyone want to go for a trip. I'm going to Cancun on a mission trip this weekend." Of course, God loves me. Why wouldn't you want to become a Christian? You can be tremendous like me. Look at me. Look at my plane.
That doesn't grow my faith. I mean, God gave me a plane. You know what grows my faith, when everything is terrible. Like humanly speaking. And when you're suffering. And when there is a despondent, a sadness of the soul and you can still say, "Praise be to God. Glory to God." That right there will grow your faith like nothing else. And this is absolutely biblical. This is a story of Job. He had nothing because he lost everything. God allows Satan to take his children and to take his wealth and to take his health.
In Job 1:20 through 21, then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked, I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return?" The Lord gave. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Does your theology allow for a verse like this? It has to. We all experience seasons like this. If not, you will. And then finally, he still had his health and then he lost his children, lost his wealth and then Satan is like, "Can I take his health?" And God is like, "Okay."
And Job 2:9 through 10. Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." But he said to her, "You speak as one of foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God? And shall we not receive evil?" In all this, Job did not sin with his lips. Can you say, "God, I glorify you" when you're experiencing evil? Well, that's the only way to have a faith that really saves and to exercise that faith.
Romans 8:26 through 30, "Likewise the spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought. But the spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Have you ever prayed like that? Where you're in prayer and you're praying, and you're praying, you're out of words, but you know prayer isn't over. And all you can do is just groan. And you say to Holy Spirit, "Pray for me. Jesus, pray for me." As the Holy Spirit just begins to groan with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. For those who are called according to his purpose, for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son in order that he might be the first born among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called. And those whom he called he also justified. And those whom he justified, he also glorified in the past tense. It's all in the past tense.
He justified, that's past tense. Sanctifies us. And then he's like glorification, this is in heaven. When we get the new body, completely no sin, no imperfections, just absolutely healthy. He's like, "Your glorification is so sure it's in the past tense." Faith grows just like Jesus said it would. If you have faith as tiny as the grain of a mustard seed, you can move mountains because it's not about the faith. It's about the object of your faith.
That's why St. Paul wants to move. Yes, you're saved by grace through faith. You have faith in Christ, in Christ. All the focus is on Christ. And then with that faith, he exercised and Abraham believed and he obeyed, and he was strengthened in his faith, and he gave glory to God.
Isaiah 46:38 says, "A voice says cry and I said, 'What shall I cry?' All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it. Surely the people are grass. The grass Withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. God has given us his promises. We can trust in them. And he also offers us his presence and his presence by the power of the spirit is what in encourages and edifies, helps us persevere.
Romans 4:22 through 25. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness. But the words, it was counted to him were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus, our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. There's so much in what he said. Jesus died for our trespasses, but he was raised for our justification.
Because Christ was raised, he conquered this triumphal sign that Christ's death removes the curse of sin because his resurrection undoes the final consequences of sin, which is death. Christ's resurrection marks the dawn of the new creation because his resurrection reverses the curse.
Yeah, we still die, but not really as Christians because it's just a transition. We will live forever with Christ. Abraham, by the way, didn't have the resurrection. He didn't have the Bible. He didn't have the Torah. He didn't have the Old testament. He didn't have the Hebrew scripture. He didn't have the prophets. He didn't have anything. And he also didn't have Christ. He didn't have the teaching of Christ. The life of Christ, the eyewitnesses who saw Christ. And he didn't know that Christ came back from the dead.
All he had was faith in the God who imputed righteousness. But he did believe intuitively in the resurrection. Hebrews 11:17 through 19. "By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son of whom it was said through Isaac shall your offing be named. He considered that God was able to raise him from the dead from which figuratively speaking he did receive him back." He's like, "Even if I make the ultimate sacrifice of sacrificing my son because God told me to, God can always raise him from the day he believed in a God who has that power."
Last week, I did this thought experiment to talk about the scandal of grace. Justification of my grace through faith. The moment you believe in Christ, repent in your sin, and you're saved. And I asked the question, I said, "Who is the most evil man in the world that if we just sniped this guy, everything would get better." And most everyone agreed it was Putin. And then I was like, "What if Putin repents of his sin and trust in Jesus Christ? And it's true, it's genuine repentance. Could you call him brother?"
A brother sent me a real example of something similar. So in 1946, there was a pastor from Missouri named, Henry Gerecke of the Lutheran Synod. He was an army chaplain. He served in the army. One of his sons died. Another one of his sons was injured. And then afterwards, after fighting, he was transitioned to army chaplain. He was sent to minister in the Nuremberg prisons during the trials. And he asked the army, "Hey, can I write about this?" And the army told him, "You got to wait five years." And then he wrote about this in an article called, "I Walked to the Gallows with Nazi Chiefs".
It appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in September 1st, 1951. He says, "It was the duty of the chaplain of Nuremberg prison to offer Christian comfort to Hitler's gang. Now, after five years under a bond of silence, I can tell my story of how many repented before the hangman's trap fell." In the beginning, he kind of explains what he wants to say and then he tells a story. He says, "I particularly want to emphasize that when stripped of all they had held important."
So this is Nazi brass. This is the SS, like the top of the top he's ministering to. He said, "I particularly want to emphasize that when stripped of all that they had held important, and when offered the eternal verities, most of the 21 defendants were able to come to their moral senses and repent." This is what happened in Nuremberg prison. More than half of the Nazis there before going to the gallows or their long imprisonment and spawned out, ask God for forgiveness of their sins against him and against humanity.
They did so in a spirit that convinced me that their repentance was genuine. I've had many years of experience as a prison chaplain do not believe I'm easily diluted by phony reformations at the 11th hour. And then he talks about when he was sent there, he had excuses. The Nazis took one of his sons. And then he finally said the following. He said, "The next few days, I prayed harder than I've ever had in my life. And slowly the men at Nuremberg became to me, just lost souls, whom I was being asked to help. If, as never before, I could hate the sin, but love the sinner, I'll go," he said.
Early in the morning on October 16th, 1946, an hour past midnight, the first Nazi war criminal to be hanged at Nuremberg began his final walk to the scaffold. Accompanying him was the US Army chaplain who had been his spiritual counselor for the past year. After the prisoner climbed the steps and stood on the trap door, he was asked for his last words. I placed all my confidence in the lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul. And then turning to the chaplain, he added, "I'll see you again."
With that, a hood was pulled over his face. The rope fixed around his neck and he dropped through the trap door into eternity. The prisoner was Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler's foreign minister in one of the highest profile Nazis to stand trial before the International Military Tribunal. That's all it takes to cry out, "Lord have mercy on my soul." Have mercy on my soul. If you're not yet a Christian, you're welcome today. We plead with you.
Don't put it off. Today, pray this prayer. Cry out to God to save your soul. Put your trust in Jesus Christ. And the gift of faith will be given to you. The gift of repentance, the gift of justification, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of a guaranteed inheritance in heaven. It's a scandal of grace. Believe it and receive it.
That said we're going to transition to holy communion. We celebrate holy communion once a month at Mosaic for whom is holy communion for repentant Christians, repentant children of God. If you are not a Christian, you're not sure where you are in your faith, we ask that you refrain from this part of the service instead meditate on the gospel of Jesus Christ. But if you do repent and trust in Jesus today, you're welcome to partake.
And if you are a Christian, this is for repentant Christians. If there's any sin in your life that you haven't yet repented of, we welcome you to do that. And if you don't refrain, if you do, you're welcome to partake. If you haven't receive the bread and the cup, the elements, please raise your hand. And one of the ushers will give you one as I pray.
Heavenly father, we thank you for grace. Jesus, we thank you for procuring salvation for us. You've suffered, Lord and today we remember your suffering. Holy Spirit, I pray that you prepare our hearts now and focus our attention on the cross of Jesus Christ dying for us. I pray this in Christ's name. Amen.
Take off the top layer. Take the bread. And then the second layer. On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus Christ took the bread and after breaking it, he said, "This is my body broken for you. Take, eat and do this in remembrance of me."
Then proceed to take the cup. He said, "This cup is the cup of the new covenant of my blood, which is poured out for the sins of many. Take, drink, and do this in remembrance of me."
Lord God, we glorify you. And Holy Spirit, lead us in glorifying God. Help us as we sing now as we worship. Help us cast off all our burdens, all our anxiety, all of our stress, cast it off from us to you and help us focus on you, on your greatness, on your majesty, on your preeminence, on your holiness, on your righteousness, on the perfection of your plans and your sovereignty.
Now, help us sing with everything we got because you are worthy of all worship, of all praise, of all glory. And we pray all this in the name of the father, of the son, of the Holy Spirit. Amen.