Failing Faith – Victorious Faith
Thursday, January 5, 2012
“Game on!” That’s how a come-from-behind Pennsylvania senator describes his almost winning the Republican Iowa presidential primary. An evangelical, Rich Santorum hopes now to take New Hampshire.
It is full-steam ahead now in a back and forth struggle for the Republican nomination for president and finding someone to take on incumbent Barach Obama. Evangelical Christian Michelle Bauchman, serving in Congress from Minnesota could never find enough traction and is bowing out of the race. Aren’t you glad that God is still sovereign and in control of not just the universe, but a race for president in 2012? Whose in control of your life and who are you serving as a new year begins? Welcome to HT, I’m CM sharing the GS that’s all about Jesus and a program called “Failing Faith, Victorious Faith”. We’re starting this new year and I’m inviting you to join me in reading the Bible in 90 days. If you believe there is a God. If you believe God speaks to you through his word, the Bible, why don’t you join me and make a commitment to read it cover to cover in less than 90 days. I’m doing it again and you can’t do it again or maybe … like most people … for the very first time. Why not visit our website haventoday.org. That’s haventoday.org to get a copy of the large-print NIV Bible which tells you where to start and stop every 12 pages. Or if you want to use another version, download the schedule at haventoday.org. You can also call us and make your gift to the ministry and get a copy of The Bible in 90 Days. Our phone number after the program is 1-800-654-2836. That’s 1-800-65-HAVEN.
In the next few minutes, we will return to the life of Abraham, a person encountered on day one and day two in reading the Bible in 90 days. As we consider the life of Abraham, we must never forget his crucial role in the Old Testament. One way of looking at the 39 books of the Old Testament is to see them as God’s continuous preparation of his people for the coming Messiah first promised in Genesis 3. With the fall of mankind into sin and the subsequent tyranny of the devil over humanity, the one ray of light among the curses which God pronounces is that the woman's offspring will crush the serpent's head. As God begins to prepare the way for the eventual victory of Christ in the cross and resurrection, he is resisted at every stage by the most devious satanic strategies. Nowhere is the devil more successful than in the human clay of God's people which he is able so often to distract and subvert from the Living God. He makes feeble attempts to prevent the divine promise from being fulfilled. Even the greatest men and women of God are not immune from these attacks. You only have to think of the impatience of Moses, David's adultery, Elijah's depression and in a story we will share today, Abrahams faithlessness. It is so often at the point where we seem to be most strong that our weakness is most easily exposed. In Genesis 20 and our story today, this man of faith is found to be faithless, and with the birth of the promised son only a matter of months away, Abraham seems ready to risk losing everything in order to secure his own safety. HT opens with a song by:
OPEN SONG –
Abraham shows up more than any other person in the Old Testament – chapters 12 to 25 in the book of Genesis. He shows up in the portrait gallery of faith in the New Testament. In fact, more words are spoken of Abraham in Hebrews 11 than of anyone else. In Romans, in Galatians, in James we hear again about him and the scriptures say, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” But that’s not all. Abraham was faithful, but he was also unfaithful and that’s where we can identify with the key figure who received a promise from God that he would become the father of all nations. In one story of his life we pick up first the unfaithfulness and then we see the faith. I’m reminded of my life and you can be reminded of your life. He pulls a fast one on a king, similar to what he did before when he was unfaithful in going to Egypt. Listen to God’s word from Genesis 20:
1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 But God came to King Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”
8 Early the next morning King Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”
14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”
16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels[a] of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
God’s Word, Genesis 20 verses 1 to 18 found in day two of reading the Bible in 90 days.
If you are reading the Bible through in 90 days with me, you have heard a similar story before. It’s a replica of Abraham's earlier encounter in Egypt, when he maintained that Sarah was his sister and forgot to add the truth that she was his wife. But unlike Egypt, nothing is said about Sarah’s beauty. Abimelech’s motives seem more concerned with Abraham's wealth and the alliance he imagined he might make with this prosperous nomadic chief. He’s seems thinking of his own advantage, by marrying the sister. Abraham had assured Abimelech that this was his relationship to Sarah. Some critical scholars have suggested that the two accounts are different tellings of the same story. They argue that nobody would make the same mistake twice. I disagree. Based on our own spiritual experience, we can recall how easily we fall repeatedly to the same temptations and weaknesses. In verse 3 of Genesis 20 we are reminded that ”God came to Abimelech”. The Lord intervenes to rescue Sarah, not because she or Abraham deserve it! She was party to the conspiracy. But even the faithlessness of the covenant man Abraham, God shows his faithfulness in keeping covenant and fulfilling his promises. We learn quickly that this king did not seek to be adulterous. God prevented Abimelech from having a relation with Sarah and even warned him in a dream. He must restore Sarah to Abraham immediately, or he and his dependents would die. What irony in the contrast between the prayer that God will require Abraham to pray for Abimelech's deliverance and the open fellowship that characterized a different Abraham who interceded for Sodom. Everything depends on our faithfulness to God and our practical trust in him. At the first light of dawn Abimelech is up, explaining his dream to his terrified household and summoning Abraham to account for his actions. The question of “why” is foremost. “Why have you brought us into such danger?” Clearly Abraham had not thought beyond his self-centeredness. The reason he had deceived Abimelech was to save his own skin. He was afraid that these pagans would kill him in order to take his wife, because, “there is surely no fear of God in this place”.
He could not have been more wrong, as Abimelech's behavior illustrates. The pagan king certainly feared God as he responded to the dream. This reminds us that we are always wrong to judge from outward appearances, whether or not God will reveal himself to someone else. There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man and woman created in God’s image. But not only was Abraham's assessment of Abimelech wrong. He had totally miscalculated what would happen if he chose to tell a lie rather than trust in the Lord. He was relying again on his own wisdom rather than doing what he knew was right. Morally and spiritually, he did not have a leg to stand on. The fact that he could have relied on God to keep his word and so preserve his life seems to have escaped him entirely. His only thought had been, “how can I get myself out of this mess?” Abraham's second reason is equally lame. Abraham and Sarah had earlier made an arrangement that wherever they went they would assume the relationship of brother and sister. If it became known that Abraham was her husband, then his wife would become a target for any local chieftain who decided he wanted to add Sarah to his collection of wives. The fiction was based on the fact that Sarah was actually Abraham's half-sister. She was beautiful. And although it was the product of cowardice, it seemed to be the best way to guarantee Abraham's safety. After all, he thinks, it wasn’t untrue. What we have here is Adam-like blame-shifting and his thinking God makes me live in a tent and I’m always having to wander aimlessly. How untrue! There had always been a direction, always a purpose. Abimelech's response seems not to be conditioned by the quality of Abraham's self-defense. That was negligible. No, it seems to be an exaggerated respect for wealth and status. He gave lavishly to the man whose shame he had exposed because he did not want this man as his enemy. So as well as human slaves, sheep, and cattle, Abimelech makes a gift of a thousand silver shekels. The Hebrew literally says “to cover” or “to atone” for the offense. This is the same Hebrew verb which later will be used throughout the Old Testament to express the action of atonement, by which sin is covered through the blood of the sacrifice. The guilt was covered and Abraham was free to live forever he chose in Abimelech's territory.
Abraham's fall into temptation contains warning notes which we would do well to heed as we begin another year. His fall came immediately in the wake of a special experience of God's presence and providence. Who would've thought that Abraham's communion with God as he interceded for Sodom, when he prayed and prayed and prayed, he could've fallen so quickly back into faithlessness? But that's precisely what happened and does happen to us. Just a few hours after the Last Supper, Simon Peter was denying that he had ever seen or known Jesus. The devil knows when to strike. He knows when we are spiritually prone to forget, to relax, to imagine that because of some special mark of God's grace we don't need to watch and pray quite as much as we did. We rely on the experience of God we have had … rather than exercising faith now, in a personal way, in God as we face new challenges. It is also important that Sarah was put in danger by Abraham’s ruse at the very point where the promise of God giving them a son is about to occur. The devil knows where to strike and so often his greatest successes are in the area of unresolved conflicts, where past defeats or half victories come back to to haunt us. It was probably nearly 30 years since Abraham had fallen into the same trap in Egypt. During those 30 years his relationship with God had grown rich. He had become the friend of God, a man of great faith. But whoever we are and whatever our spiritual privileges, we must never forget that in this world we are always open to temptation. However long we have experienced victory over sin, the moment we move outside of God's will or cease to abide in Christ and trust his grace, we are immediately prone to danger and attack. Every Christian has areas of weakness in which a moment’s compromise can mean playing with fire. Temptation often stirs old conflicts. That pact Abraham had agreed upon with Sarah should've been canceled long ago. It was a pact of faithlessness. Surely over the years he had learned that he didn’t need that, that they didn’t need to be living a lie when their lives were in the hands of the living God who would defend and keep them? But it seems as though that part of their lives was never really dealt with, and so it returned to plague Abraham again. We need to know our weaknesses, remember where we have fallen in the past and to be ruthless and radical in dealing with those areas of past defeat. We need to run to Jesus for his strengthening power and victorious grace whenever we face testings, where the devil comes back and uses them again to make us fall. In such situations, the most dangerous thing to do is to rationalize and excuse our compromise. Abraham's words, “she really is my sister,” conveyed a false impression and that is the essence of the lie. The most important dimension of this whole story is the attack on the character of God. God's promises and Sarah’s safety both paled into insignificance alongside Abraham's selfishness. He decided to follow his own wisdom rather than to trust in the Lord, and that course of action is always dishonoring to the living God. The disasters that overtake us are often of our own making, because we've chosen to walk by sight rather than live by faith. Abraham's faith was no doubt well known among the pagan tribes and certainly Abimelech knew who this God was. He knew who Abraham's Lord was, but what was he to think of Yahweh if Abraham’s standards were lower than those of the pagan king himself? One of the chief ways in which the devil still attacks the honor and glory of God is by the moral inconsistencies of sin tolerated in the lives of those who profess to be Christ’s servants. None of us is strong enough to stand for a moment apart from the grace of God through the Holy Spirit in our lives. That is why we need to lean hard on God's resources every day, especially as we begin the new year. Let's never forget that this God never lets us down, even though we let him down. Abraham was given special honor by God but he was still an ordinary man. So when we look at ourselves as ordinary, very raw material, we wonder why on earth God should go on bothering with us, we are only being realistic. We are the most unpromising people. But God loves to demonstrate his creative power and sheer ingenuity by taking people who lets him down and who deserve nothing of his grace, to show what he can do with the most resistant life that is prepared to let God be God. He doesn't need our assistance. He doesn't call for assistance. He has no favorites. But what he does for others – like Abraham – he will do for each of us. If he can make a man like Abraham his friend, with all his weaknesses and failures, then he can remake you and me into the image of Jesus Christ, sons and daughters, reflecting a family likeness. All he asks us to do is to trust and obey. Then we can get back to the life of faith and faithfully follow the will of a holy God.
SONG – I Will Follow – Chris Tomlin
Amy Gross clip
The Bible in 90 Days
For a gift of any amount
Just 12 pages a day … ...
[Get It Now]