Scripture: Genesis 12:1–3, 15:4–6
Idea: Sin made a mess of things. God stepped in to begin a process to do something about it.
Introduction: The story of faith has a starting point as well.
All religious/faith systems have a story of some sort behind them (people, events).
Believe it or not, some of you have drifted away from your faith or your childhood faith collapses because you never got the whole story. The foundation of your faith was experience. When God didn’t show up, your faith evaporated.
The story is important, so I want to connect you back to the ancient story behind our faith. If you are considering a new starting point, this is something you need to know.
Interesting point: The three largest faith traditions claim the same starting point.
• All three believed there was a first man named Adam.
• They all agree sin entered the world through the behavior of people: Adam and Eve.
All three religions believe that God began to correct the problem of sin through a Man named Abraham
Today, we are going back to a conversation that God had with Abraham that is actually a tension that we all experience today. Where do I stand with God?
I. God’s Starting Point/God’s Dilemma
A. To understand the significance of Abraham’s story, you first have to understand something of the dilemma that God found himself in.
Illustration: Sea of Glass
B. Mankind was stranded in a sea of broken glass.
• God had a choice: move on or get involved.
• Because he cared, he chose to get involved, which meant he had to start somewhere. All three major religions believe that God choose to wade in and begin to clean up the mess, and God’s starting point was Abraham. He picked up the first piece of glass by the name of Abraham.
II. God’s starting over point was Abraham.
A. 1876 BC
• God interrupted humanity and choose Abraham as his starting point for fixing the mess humanity made on the planet.
B. Abraham wasn’t a perfect guy.
• God started with an idol-worshipping man who had no children and no prospect of children to launch a nation that would touch the world. Abraham was just a normal guy. Just a piece of glass but God had to start somewhere.
C. God comes to Abraham who wasn’t looking for God.
Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
• Abandon and leave your whole circle of influence, your safety, and your security, and after you go, I will tell you where you are going.
Then, he makes three promises, all of which came true.
1. I will make you into a great nation
• Which meant nothing in a world of nomadic clans.
• Israel says we are that great nation! Islam says no, we are that great nation.
• Here is something no one argues about is that many nations came from Abraham.
• This promise made 4,000 years ago came true.
• Nobody argues that this happened. The only argument is which nation.
2 . . . . and I will bless you; I will make your name great [famous]
• How many of you had heard of Abraham before today? Raise your hand. Isn’t that amazing?
• How about Zoar, King of Bela?
• How about Chedorlaomer (Cheder-‐lay-‐omer), King of Edom? A famous King. Can you find Edom on a map? In Abraham's day, everyone knew who he was, but no one knew Abraham, but God said I am going to make your name great.
• 4,000 years later in another land across an ocean with a different culture and a language that didn’t even exist then. After civilization has risen and fallen a 1,000 times, you know his name.
3 . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
• Everybody who lives? Every people group . . . will be blessed, better off because of you? Not just everybody in your up-and‐coming nation. Literally, every Jew, Muslim, and Christian, and everyone who is better off for their interaction with any of those three groups is a fulfillment of that promise. (practically speaking).
That’s the history part but now comes the personal part. But when it comes to your personal faith journey—your starting point— something else happens with Abraham that is even more important.
III. Through Abraham, God introduced a new relational equation.
A. One night, Abraham was praying, like we would pray if we were him. “Lord, you told me I would be a nation. I would be happy just to be a father. How about we have one child? Just one. If not, my servant Eliezer will inherit everything."
• God answers…
Genesis 15:4-5 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
B. And then, one of the most important statements in the entire Bible comes out of nowhere. It was almost meaningless in this context.
• This ancient statement is the first time that God states the relationship between God and man.
• In this statement, God defines the terms of the relationship between finite man and Almighty God.
• This statement would eventually be the thing that divided Christians from Jews, from Muslims, and even Catholics from Protestants.
• If you are going to wrestle with one theological concept, this is it. If you desire a relationship with God, if you are interested in knowing where you stand with God—assuming such a thing can be known—you have to factor this in:
Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
C. God said, Abraham you will be a great nation.
• Without a son, Abraham simply says, ok God I believe you.
• Because he believed God, his belief, his faith, his trust was credited to him as righteousness.
• In a single moment. In a single expression of your faith, I am giving you the gift of right standing with me.
Trusting God resulted in a right standing with God.
IV. Jews Muslims Christians
A. The Jews would eventually embrace a posture that says by being in Abraham’s lineage, one was guaranteed a relationship with God.
• You had to be Jewish. God’s called them to be his chosen people.
• When Jesus came 2,000 years ago, the Jews told him we are sons and daughters of Abraham and that's all we need.
B. Muslims would later create a system whereby one would earn his way into paradise through belief in God, God’s messengers, and good deeds.
• You can be right with Allah by doing what Allah thinks is good things, but you will never know what they are and never know till you die whether you got it right. Unless… You die in Jihad.
• It’s what you believe and what you do that counts
C. Christians would be divided over this from the first century through the Reformation.
• Ten minutes after Jesus left, the Christians started arguing about this.
• Some said you have keep the 10 commandments and believe. Some said you just have to believe, and all the way through the reformation they fought.
What is it? Is it Birth Behavior Belief or some combination of these? What we know is this… 4,000 years ago before there was a Jew, a Christian, or Muslim, God revealed to Abraham the secret to a relationship with Him. That almighty God would see us in our own sea of glass, a mess of our own making. The key is not behavior or who you’re related to. It's if you will trust me. Am I going to believe that what you say is true and that you will do what you promised to do?
Summary: This is hard. Everything in you and me says that a right standing with God is earned by doing the right things. Everything we learn from religion, school, athletics, and work indicates that. We struggle because it’s so simple. It doesn’t require anything from us. Why would a most high God have such low standards? I know it’s hard for you. Lets ask ourselves some questions.
• What if religion has made it more complicated than it was supposed to be?
• What if this is the pattern of relationship with God?
• What if all the struggle, the fear, the wondering has all been for nothing?
• What if a single expression of trust was enough?
• What if the starting point for a relationship with God is trust?