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Activate Your Faith

Mosaic Boston

Religion & Spirituality

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This media has been made available by Mosaic Boston Church. If you'd like to check out more resources, learn about Mosaic Boston and our neighborhood churches, or donate to this ministry, please visit mosaicboston.com.

Good morning, welcome to Mosaic Church. My name is Jan, one of the pastors here at Mosaic. And if you're new or if you're visiting, I'm so glad you're here and we'd love to connect with you. We'll do that through the connection card, either a physical one or the worship guide in the back or the one in the app. Quick announcement for all the members or those becoming members today, we have a members meeting, quarterly members meeting today at 3:00 PM. So you can go have some brunch or lunch, take a nap and come back.

Tremendous planning in coming to the first service, very smart. With that said, would you please pray with me over the preaching of God's word? God, we thank you that you are a trustworthy God. Whatever you say, whatever you promise, you deliver upon. And we can build our lives upon this sheer foundation, upon this anchor for our souls. We thank you for the story of Abraham, we thank you for calling him. We thank you for making a covenant with him, showing us that you are a covenantal God, you are a God who promises to love and you make good on that promise no matter what.

And even when we fall, even when we are faithless, you still come, you pursue seeking to save the lost and make us a people who build our lives truly, practically, build our lives on the sure foundation of the gospel, that we can lean the whole weight of our existence upon this foundation, that we can practically make daily decisions based upon this truth, that you love us, we're called to be yours and that everything will work together for our good.

And remind us today that you are a God that doesn't just love us individually, you do, and you love us individually and personally, but you love us collectively, make us a people who are selfless, recognizing that God is patient and we are to endure evil and sin in this world because you were patient. You patiently wait, you are long suffering and waiting for all to repent.

Lord, bless our time in this holy word. We pray, encourage us where we need to be encouraged, convict us where we need to be convicted and do strengthen and activate our faith. And we pray this in Christ's holy name, amen. So we're going through a sermon series that we're calling Jesus in Genesis. It's season two, season one was 2016, you can find that online.

And what we're doing is we're looking at the first book, the book of beginnings and we are showing that Jesus Christ is on every single page, every single page, every single paragraph, every pericope, every single sentence is pointing to Jesus Christ. And the context of the story started with Genesis 12 where God calls a pagan, a Babylonian, Abraham from the Ur of the Chaldeans.

And he calls him to himself, starts a relationship with him, gives him the gift of faith because that's what faith is, it's a gift. And what we see is God is taking that gift, that dormant gift of faith and he is placing Abram in a position, Abram who then becomes Abraham, puts them in the position where he has to exercise his faith, he has to activate his faith.

Faith is kind of like a language, it's a way of articulating, communicating, understanding reality. If we haven't met, I'm originally from the Soviet Union. My family immigrated here in 1989. I was about six years old. So my first language, my native language is Russian. And I grew up speaking Russian at home. Well, if anyone that is an immigrant that comes here as a young age, what you know is your language is kitchen language.

It's what mom and dad speak in the kitchen, that's it. That's the level, that's the extent of your language. And all my education was in English, but I did have a love for Russian. So I did a study abroad when I was in my junior year in college, Study Abroad in Moscow. Now I'm thrown into Russia, I'm thrown into a place where I have to use my... I can't but use my... And Russia is very different from Europe.

In Europe, you go, you can get by on English, Russia wasn't like that back in 2004. Now on a daily basis, I'm in university level classes learning real Russian, using, forced to use my... And I remember coming home every single night and I remember being just brain dead, just absolutely exhausted because of just the using your brainpower all day. And by the end of the four months, I could truly hold my own where people didn't really understand that I didn't grow up in Russia.

Faith is kind of like that. Especially if you grew up in the faith, for many of us it's dormant. And what God does with Abraham, and he does the same thing with every single one of us. He puts us in a position where we can't but use our faith. We can't but activate our faith in order to understand all of reality. So in chapter 12, Abraham does leave everything and goes to Canaan, there's a famine.

He doesn't exercise his faith, doesn't stay there, instead goes to Egypt and then he's thrown into all kinds of temptation and goes into... He sins against his wife by basically prostituting her off in order to save his own skin. And then he repents, they come back and then chapter 13, we see his faith exercised where he looks at the land before them and he says to his nephew Lot, "Hey, there's too many of us. We're too rich. You go one way, I go the other."

Lot goes to Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham trusts God and he remains in the land of Canaan. Chapter 14, this is pastor Andy preached on this last week, we see that Lot is captured in war by four kings that come to war against the five kings, the coalition of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now we see Abraham's faith being exercised. He sees his nephew, his brother, in Hebrew words, kinsman, sees his brother being taken into captivity.

Does God tell him to act? God does not. But Abraham believed, God promised Abraham, "I'm going to give you a son, and through your son, I'm going to bless the nations." Abraham looked at himself, looked at his wife, doesn't have a son yet and he says, "Until I have a son, I am invincible. I am immortal. Saddle up your camels gentlemen," 318 trained men of war. And Abraham pulls a Liam Neeson where he makes a phone call.

And he says, "I have a set of certain skills I have accumulated over a very long career and it makes me a nightmare for anyone that comes against me and my family. I'm going to look for you, I'm going to find you, I'm going to kill you." Abraham does that, he acts upon his faith. And a lot of people look at scripture and they're like, "Oh, patriarchy. We got to dismantle the patriarchy."

We've got to dismantle the bad patriarchy, the sinful patriarchy, sinful masculinity, that which is toxic masculinity. There is a good masculinity, a godly masculinity that's consecrated to God that says, "I live for God and I live for legacy for generations." And that's what Abraham does. And God blesses him. He comes up with a strategy. He's going up against thousands of soldiers, waits until it's night and he divides his forces.

They come from two different sides at night, which is very disorienting to a military force and he wins. But the story doesn't end with Abraham being praised for his military IQ or for his courage, the story ends with Abraham professing faith in God, Melchizedek, a priest, a high priest, blessing God as well. And why is that important? It's because it wasn't Abraham. The power, the victory didn't come from Abraham, it came from God, but Abraham believed.

So we have this interplay from the beginning of scripture, that God is sovereign, God gives faith, but we have to work, we have to activate our faith. And it is a gamble. You're betting your life on the premise that God is, that his word is true and whatever he said will come true. And that's what Abraham does. And that's why he's called the father of the faithful and he exercise victorious faith in a hostile world.

Today, we're looking at Genesis chapter 15, and Genesis 15 is about this faith, but we see Abraham doubting. We see him vacillating, which usually happens after incredible spiritual victory. We see this all throughout scripture, incredible victory and then Satan comes to tempt. We see this with the prophets, we see this with Elijah where he has incredible victory over the profits of Baal. And then he doubts, he says, "God kill me. Why am I even alive?"

We see this with Jesus Christ. He gets baptized, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and then Jesus goes into the desert to be tempted by the evil. And so we see Satan coming to tempt Abraham away from God. This is one of the most important chapters in all of holy scripture. It's alluded to 14 times in the new testament. So would you look at the texts with me today? We are in Genesis chapter 15.

After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abraham in a vision, "Fear not, Abraham. I am your shield. Your reward shall be very great." But Abraham said, "Oh Lord God, what will you give me? For I continue childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus." And Abraham said, "Behold, you've given me no offspring and a member of my household will be my heir?"

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, "This man shall not be your heir. Your very own son shall be your heir." And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and number the stars if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess." But he said, "Oh Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?" And he said to him, "Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle dove and a young pigeon." And he brought him all these, cut them in half and laid each half over against the other but he did not cut the birds in half.

And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abraham drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abraham and behold dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there and they will be afflicted for 400 years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." And when the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed through these pieces. On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham saying, "To your offspring, I give this land, the river of Egypt to the great river to the river Euphrates the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaims, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."

This is the reading of God's holy, inerrant, infallible, authoritative word, may he write these eternal truths upon our hearts. Three points to frame of our time, a promise given, a promise believed and a promise guaranteed. First, a promise given. After Abraham comes back from war God meets him again in this place of exhaustion, a place of doubt, he's searching and God says, "Fear not for I am your shield, your reward shall be very great." That's verse one.

The word of the Lord comes to God again. Was Abraham asking for the word, was he searching for the word? We're not told, but this shows us the pattern that God uses in order to speak to people, in order to initiate relationship, that God is the God who forges relationship with the people. He's the one that takes initiative. Adam and Eve sin, do they go seeking God? They do not. God goes and he says, "Adam, where are you?"

Noah, did Noah know that a flood was coming? No, God comes and he says, "Noah, I'm going to use you as an agent to save, to save humanity." Did Abraham know that God existed? No, he's an idolater, he was happy to be so. And God meets him and God calls him to relationship with himself. It's no different. It was like that in the year 2000 BC. It's like that in the year 2021 AD in Boston, Massachusetts.

It doesn't matter if God speaks through a vision, it doesn't matter if he speaks through a sermon out of the pages of scripture, out of conversations with friends, the effect is always the same, that God is the one who initiates the relationship and what's required is for us to trust and obey. God initiates, we need to respond. The first thing that God says, which is good. If you meet God, if you hear the word of God, God's in front of you, oh boy, it could go one of two ways.

If God met you right now, I came up to a guy today and I was like, "Hey, I know what you did last night." Just for fun, just to see the fear in his eyes. How do you know? Oh I know. If God meets you and God knows you, all of your sin, everything you've done and God meets you, it could go one of two ways. And that's why God says, "Fear not, fear not. Fear not, I'm not here to judge, I'm here to bolster your faith."

He says, "I am your shield. I am your very great reward. You will get a reward." Two beautiful images, the word shield is the same word that Melchizedek uses in chapter 14, verse 20, where he says that God gave them up, the enemies, into your hand as deliverance, a shield. That God is the one that shielded you, protected you in battle in the same way God is your shield. How does that apply to us today?

Well, we're not physical war, we're a spiritual war. If you are to understand reality in 2021, you need to know we are in a spiritual war. There is God, there is Satan. There are angels, there are demons. There is good, there is evil. There is truth, there are lies. Scripture talks about the fact that we do not wage war against physical, but we do against Satan, the demons, the principalities.

Satan doesn't want us to trust God, he doesn't want us to obey God, to honor and worship God. So we need a defender against an enemy that is greater than us, and that defender is our God. He's our protector, he's our shield. We need to be underneath it. Are you underneath the shield of God? Is God your shield? Or do you trust in yourself? Do you trust in your finances? Do you trust in your accomplishments so your career, your education?

Is God your shield from enemies greater than you can handle? And God says, "I am your shield, Abraham, fear not." And God sees the Abraham was a faithful soldier of the Lord and God wants to reward his service. He says, "Your reward will be great." Why is this important? Because Abraham just gave up a massive plunder. He goes, he conquers four kings and takes the plunder that they stole from the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And at that point, Abraham has a decision to make, what do I make with this loop? What do I make with this money? What do I do with these people? He could have kept it all for himself to enrich himself, but he understands that this is unseemly gain, this is sinful money. This is blood money. And he understand that the politics involved with the king of Sodom and Gomorrah is not going to just allow him to keep everything he had.

King of Sodom and Gomorrah comes and he says, "Hey, keep all the money. Give me the people." Well, what's the mindset? This is geopolitical strategy going on. And he says, "I need people. I need my soldiers back. You can keep the money. You give me my soldiers and then when you're asleep, I'm going to come at you with my soldiers." And Abraham says, "No, thank you." He has the wisdom of God to say, "No, thank you," to this unseemly gain. You keep everything. I never want you to say that, "I made Abraham rich."

He trusts in God. He gives up this unseemly, sinful reward and God says, "You, because you've done this, because you've said no to temptation. You've said no to an attempt." That's part of growing in the faith, activating the faith, saying no to temptation, saying no to cutting corners. And I was meditating on it last night. This wasn't even part of the sermon. And it's always dangerous when I go here, but it's fun. So I was wondering how the forbidden fruit tasted, that's what I was meditating on.

I wonder what it tasted like. And you know what? I think every single one of us knows what it tasted like. It was entrancing, it was euphoric. There was a rush of adrenaline, eyes opening. We've been a place like this. And Abraham, he does not do what Adam and Eve did, he does not give into the temptation. He shows that he's activating, exercising his faith. And God comes to him and says, "I will give you a great reward." But Abraham looks at his life and says, "Where's my reward? Where's my reward?"

And God emphasizes to him by even coming to him again, "I am your reward. I'm the greatest reward that there is." He's offering a friendship. They're having a conversation. It's a friendship. Obviously it's not a conversation between equals, he's God and Abraham's human. There's a great gulf between the infinite God and the wisp of human beings but God's stoops down, they have a conversation. This is what makes Christianity utterly unique.

Christianity doesn't just teach people about God or tenets about God or commandments from God. Christianity says it's not just about knowing about God, it's about knowing God, that you are not alone in the universe, that there is a God who created you and knows you better than you know yourself, and that's what God is offering. He's offering a relationship of love, of communication, of loyalty, of prosperity. This isn't offered in Islam, it's not offered in Buddhism or any other religion or philosophy.

All the others say you need to serve, you need to do something for God in order for God to accept you. You need to ingratiate yourself into relationship with him. And God comes, initiates the relationship, has a conversation and talks to Abraham. And Abraham feels so loved that he feels comfortable enough to talk back. Now, whenever anybody talks back in scripture, that's usually a bad sign.

When I tell my kids to do something, the very first thing out of their mouth is not the word, "Yes, daddy." I know I'm going to have to deal with some drama with their eyes. Okay, fine. No, it wasn't me, it was my sister. I didn't... she should clean. And so I'm like.... What's fascinating is that God engages and allows Abraham to have a conversation. In verse two, the verse begins with the word but, but...

So God's like, "I'm your shield, I'm your reward." And Abraham's like, "But, God, but." But Abraham said, "Oh Lord God, what will you give me for I continue childless and the heir my house is Eliezer of Damascus." Abraham talks back, which is a sign that he is doubting. Now there's a difference between doubt and unbelief. There's a difference between doubt and unbelief. And the reason I say there's a difference is because how does he address God? Oh Lord God.

He doesn't just say Lord, he doesn't just say God, he says, "Oh Lord God." What he's saying is, "Oh, sovereign Lord, oh Lord Yahweh, you are preeminent. You are exalted. I know you're God and I know I'm not but I don't understand. I've got a question. You promised to bless me. I look at my life now, it doesn't look like blessing as I define it." Here's a difference between doubt and unbelief. Doubt wants resolution, doubt draws near to God, doubt wrestles with God like Jacob wrestled with God. That's doubt.

Got questions, I know you've got answers. I trust you, you're Lord God, I don't understand but I know that I will once you help me. Unbelief says this, "You haven't given me what I want, you haven't given me my son, I'm leaving. You haven't blessed me as I define blessing, as I define the blessed life, I am leaving." You turn your back and you walk away. Abraham here doesn't act out of unbelievable but out of doubt. He's doubting, "Oh Lord God, what will you give me? Thanks for being my shield, thanks for being my reward, thanks for the reminder. But can I trust you?"

It's been years, perhaps decades since the initial promise in Genesis 12. So Abraham is facing the facts of reality. He's older, his wife is older, his wife is barren. God promised a son, he promised a child through Sarah. He sees the facts of reality, he interprets the facts of reality, but he also knows there's another fact, also fact of reality, it's not seen, it's the fact of God. Now through the fact of God, he interprets physical reality, interprets circumstances.

Verse three, and Abraham said, "Behold, you've given me no offspring and a member of my household will be my heir." Scripture doesn't come to us with the emotion of the text. That's now the Holy Spirit needs to bring that up. But I want you to go in that moment. I want you to look at Abraham who's been following God for decades. God, you promised a son, you promised an heir. And this phrase, I don't know about you, but it hits me in a powerful way because I've been a moments in my life where I have not received what I thought God was promising.

And he says, "You have given me no son." You take the word son out of there and you fill it in with something else. And that's the emotion that Abraham wrestling. God, I love you. I know you love me, but you have given me no, what is that? What's that for you? You have given me no spouse, you've given me no house. You have given me no wealth, perhaps it's health issues, you have given me no. I'll tell you that right there, that right there, this area of life, whenever you have questions like this, Satan comes in and he just presses into that pain.

And you need to fight that. You need to fight that the same way Abraham did. That God, you are my shield and God, you are my great reward and I know that you are trustworthy and you haven't given me this yet, perhaps because you will give it to me later, perhaps because it's just not the time yet because I'm not in a place where I can handle that level of blessing.

And I love how God is just patient with Abraham and allows Abraham to ask these questions. And the promise is given, what does Abraham do? And this appoint two, there's promise believed. And God comes to him and reiterates the promise. In verse four, behold, the word of the Lord came to him that this man shall not be your heir. He's not going to be your heir. Your very owned son shall be your heir.

The word behold here looks and draws you into the narrative. The narrative's telling you this is really, really important. You will get your son, I promise you. Verse five, and he brought him outside. Abraham's probably in his tent, God brings him outside, "Let's go for a walk." He says, "Look toward heaven, look toward heaven. Number the stars if you were able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

Usually this is how God deals with our doubts, deals with our questions, deals with our pain, deals with our suffering. He wants to draw our attention away from ourselves. Navel gazing never helps. Yes, internal work, yes, it's important. But nowhere in scripture does it say, "Okay, you need to look in deep within yourself, that's where all the answers are." That's false.

Whenever I start looking into myself, deep down inside I'm like, "Ah, I don't want to see any of that." God says, "Look away from yourself. Look away from your sin. Look away from your struggles. Look to the sky, look to the sky." And God brings it to look at the sky, first of all, to wow him. Wow, God created all of that. I can't believe that God who created all that is talking to me. And second of all, what God is saying is, "I want you to realize Abraham, that your life is not just about you. I'm going to send you a son and you will have so many offspring from this son, it's going to be more than the stars of heaven."

Is that metaphorical? Most likely if your number stars of heaven. What he's saying is, "Abraham, it's not about you. It's not about your blessed life here. It's about through you I'm going to bless many people. And that's the greatest blessing that I can give you to be useful to me, to live for my glory." And that's not necessarily going to make it comfortable here in this life. But from the perspective of eternity, you're going to look back and say, "Praise God. God, thank you for that gift of suffering. Thank you for the gift of struggle. Thank you for that gift of the season of doubt."

God speaks, he gives this gift of faith, he bolsters the gift of faith and he promises that Abraham will have offspring that number more than stars in the heaven. He's not just talking about Jewish people. He's not just talking about Jewish people. This is really important. And people like, "I thought Abraham was Jewish." Was he? Was Abraham Jewish? He was not. He was a pagan from Babylon.

He becomes Jewish, we find out later through his greatest... I submit to you the greatest act of faith he ever committed, it was circumcising himself with a flint knife, greatest act ever. He becomes Jewish by faith. And this is how God actually from the beginning of Abraham, this is how God works in the world. By faith, we become children of God, not from our genealogy, not from our ethnicity, not from our parents' religion. We become children of God by believing in God, by trusting in God.

This is why Galatians 3:29 says, if you are Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise. And that's why I think it's so important to understand that's probably why God's sovereignly brought us into the temple of Beth Sholom, praise God, just to remind us that's where it all started. It all started with Abraham, but you've got to keep going. You've got to read the sequel.

I had a Jewish roommate who's like, "I believe in everything except not the sequel. I don't like the sequel." But I'm like, "The story continues, the sequel's so much better. It's so good." So it starts with Abraham, Abraham believes and God offers that entrance to the family through faith. God speaks, Abraham responds in verse six. And this is the most important verse, probably in the old testament because we see imputed righteousness, justification by grace, through faith in the old testament.

Saint Paul, we see this in Romans, we see this in Galatians at the most critical junctures of his theology of justification by grace through faith, he points to this verse. And he believed, Abraham believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness. He didn't just believe the word of God, he believed the God of the word. God, you speak, I believe. I believe not just in what you said, but I believe you. I believe you, I know you.

And it says he counted it to him as righteousness. He believes, he trusts him. He lives accordingly and he believes. A lot of people are trying to incorporate the philosophies of the world into our faith. For example, scientific rationalism says I don't believe until I see, I need to see then I'll believe. And this isn't how God works, God says you will see once you believe. First believe, first believe. This is the most important presupposition of our life. Is there a God and can I trust him? And Abraham says yes.

And God promises to him that you will be made righteous. This is what the phrase, he counted it to him as righteousness, he counted to him as righteousness. This is language of justification by grace through faith. Abraham, you're not righteous. You have sinned, you will continue to sin. But you trust in God. You are building your life on the foundation that is God, you are justified by grace through faith. This is second Corinthians 5:22.

It says he, Jesus Christ, who knew no sin became sin on the cross, when he took the penalty for our sin upon himself. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. God is saying, "Now you're mine, now you're covered by the righteousness of the one who is to come." The Lord made a promise to Abraham that you will have a son, not just a son, but a great host of descendants. Abraham believes this despite his old age, himself, his wife and the Lord considered him righteous because he believed, because he was willing to build his life on the foundation that is God.

I wrote this in my newsletter, but one of the most mind blowing things I've ever seen is I was walking down the street, visiting my parents in Jamestown, Rhode Island, walking down the street, I'm looking at this massive house, I'm looking at this huge house. And I look and I can see through the first floor, there was no basement, there was no foundation. The house was just lifted up, it was hoisted up.

And what they were doing, is they were replacing the old foundation that was crumbling and then they were rebuilding a brand new foundation, the hoist up the house, take out the old foundation and rebuild a new foundation. And that's what God is doing with Abraham. And Abraham and then from here begins to build his whole life on this new foundation. And we see this same language in Hebrews 11:8 through 16, by faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.

He went out not knowing where he was going. By faith, he went to live in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him, with the same promise for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. He says, "In this world, I'd rather live intense in this world on a foundation that is sure, sure in this world and sure in the next that God is a builder, that God is the designer."

Verse 11, by faith Sarah received power to conceive even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore, from one man and him as good as dead were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven, as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar and having knowledge that they were strangers and exiles on the earth for people who speak thus, make it clear that they're seeking a homeland.

If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God as he prepared for them a city. What he's saying here is that Abraham was saved and he's saying that we are today. Abraham believed and the old testament saints believed that God will send the Messiah who will die for their sins, atone for their sins as a physical bodily sacrifice, pouring out his blood to atone for the sins of everybody.

Abraham looks forward, we look back. Abraham waited for the first coming of Christ, we wait for the second coming of Christ and we have a decision to make every day. Will we, we know the promises of God in the holy scriptures, will we believe in the same way that Abraham believed? If not, what do you believe? If not, what are you building your life on? What is the foundation for your life? Who do you trust to tell you the truth about life? Who do you lean the fullness of your existence upon?

Is it God and his word or is it yourself? Or is it people? Those are the options. Is it God or is it myself or is it people? From people, authority, this person's in authority. This person must know more than I know. I need to take this person's word as truth, maybe. I believe in total pravity, I believe every single person that speaks whatever the words are is tainted with lies. I was talking to brother after church and he's like, "Great sermon." I'm like, "Well, all of God sermons great."

And he's like, "Yeah, I pay more attention to the word of God in your sermon than I do your words, no offense." And I was like, "That's right, that's the way to listen." What's God's word say? What's Pastor Jan say in the stuff he's thought of, thought through from his notes? And then when he goes off, it's fun, but you never know what you're going to get, shouldn't expect.

So other people, can I trust people? Kind of. Show me the evidence, show me the data. And the data is probably biased because who's paying your paycheck. So it's either God, either people or is it yourself? I'm going to trust in my reason, I'm going to trust in my faculties of reasoning. And this is why a lot of people don't believe in God's word as the inerrant word of God. Why do I believe that God's word is the inerrant word of God? Because God's word tells me it's the inerrant word of God.

And people are like, "That's circular reasoning." I was like, "How do you know that's circular reasoning?" And they're like, "My reason tells me that's circular reasoning." That's circular reasoning. It's either you believes... Either it's just you in your mind, circular reasoning, or you need a word from the outside. And is that word from the outside coming from people or is that word coming from God? Abraham trusted God.

And point three, a promise guarantee. And I love this part of the text, verse seven. And he said to him, "I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess." The Lord comes, he reminds him who I am and our relationship, what's he doing here? This is a typical language that begins in making ancient covenant. Let me remind you who you are, let me remind you of who I am.

And this is the same brief prologue that proceeds when God makes a covenant with his people on Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. What's God doing here? He's making a covenant with Abraham. And we think of God making covenant with his people and when we think of that, we think of God, Moses, Mount Sinai, the 10 commandments making the covenant, but that covenant just came to serve the original covenant, and the original covenant is this one.

Look at Exodus 2:23, 24. During those many days, the king of Egypt died and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God and God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel and God knew. So the Mosaic covenant, the covenant gave through Moses is just given to serve the original covenant.

Exodus 6: 2 through 4, it says the same thing. God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob as God almighty. But by my name, the Lord, I did not make myself known to them. I also establish my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, land in which they lived as sojourners again, bringing in Abraham." So the covenant Sinai isn't a different covenant, it's simply renewal. It's an elaboration, it's an amplification.

God then amplifies the covenant again by giving David a covenant. Second Samuel 7, where he says, "I will send a king who will sit on this throne, the Davidic throne forever." And Psalm 72 written by Solomon said that this is going to be the Messiah, all the nations will be blessed through him. So that original covenant, then we have it reiterated over and over and over finally fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So when Christ is born, we see the same language used in Zechariah's song, the Benedictus in Luke 1:72, 73, to show the mercy promise to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father, Abraham, to grant us.

Mary in the Magnificat says the same thing in verses 54, 55, Luke 1, he has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers to Abraham and to his offspring forever. And I bring all that to say this, that all of this is interconnected, that the whole history of scriptures, one meta-narrative, a meta-narrative is God created everything perfectly, we rebelled against him. God is a loving God who does not let us go, but provides for a way for his justice to be satisfied and for his love to be extended to us, and he does this through the gospel.

And where do we see the gospel? In verse eight. And he said, "Oh Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it or this land? How shall I know that you will fulfill your promise?" What he's saying, again we see the doubt. He's wrestling with God, "God, are you going to keep your word? God, can I trust you? And what happens if I screw up?" Abraham's absolutely honest. He knows he's a sinner. He knows sometimes when temptation comes, he wins, sometimes he loses. God, if we do make a covenant, if you'd make this promise, what if I screw up? What if I sin? What if I transgressed? What if I break it? What happens then?

So God continues, verse nine, and he said to him, "Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove and a young pigeon." And he brought him all these, cut them in half and laid each half over against the other. And he did not cut the birds in half and when the birds of prey came down the carcasses, Abraham drove them away. What's going on here?

Three animals that he slaughters, cuts them in half and the birds he didn't cut in half and most likely kills them as well. What's going on here? What we see is what happened from the very beginning. God said, "Adam and Eve, if you sin, on the day that you sin, you will die." Because that's the penalty for sinning against an eternal, infinite, glorious holy God, they sinned. Did they die?

In a sense, they died spiritually. But did they die physically? No, because God was gracious. In order to forego the wrath that they deserved to be poured out upon them for death, what does God do? God clothes them with what? With animal skins. Where'd he get the animal skins? Gods slaughters animals because the penalty for death is sin. And there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood as Hebrews 9 says, that's Adam and Eve.

And we see the same thing with Noah. Noah gets off the ark with the animals and what happens is God says time for sacrifice, time for a new covenant. And this is what Abraham does, is he prepares the animals properly, implying that he understood what's about to come. And then we see birds, what kind of birds? Predatory birds. We see vultures coming in and you say, "What's going on here?"

And he's knocking them off, they want to eat the carcasses. What's going on here? This is a symbol. Scripture says the birds, some birds in scripture are a sign of demonic activity. Jesus does this in the parable of the sower. The sower goes and sows seeds and then one of the seeds is eaten by the bird. So you see the animal striving, fighting against the covenant, fighting against the covenant even being made.

You see this is later on with the cross of Jesus Christ. We see the struggle. We see the enemy at work. We see the darkness in the world. A practical application here is whenever you make a covenant with God, there will always be temptation. There will always be a war. Tell us about anyone that gets baptized. This next week is going to be rough, I'm telling you. You just need to know this.

Anyone that gets married I tell them, "Look, you made a covenant with God and with one another. God wants to bless you and protect you. The enemy wants to do everything that he possibly can to break the covenant." And that's what's going on here and we see Abraham fighting. In verse 12, the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abraham and behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Now Abraham's going to sleep, this is reminiscent of God's way of bringing in Adam.

Adam, when God gives Adam a wife, he puts him to sleep in order to create Eve before the covenant of marriage. Verse 13, then the Lord said to Abraham, "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, will be servants there and they will be afflicted for 400 years, but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Abraham, you wanted to know the future? You wanted to know about your kids? Well, I'm going to tell you. You wanted to know, they're going to suffer, they're going to suffer for 400 years." Why did God tell him? Because he asked. And then God will lead them out, the promise is made, he will lead them out with gifts, great possessions, this is what the Egyptians loading them down with gifts just to get them out.

Verse 15, "As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace, you shall be buried in a good old age and they shall come back here in the fourth generation for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. Not yet Abraham. You're not going to get the land yet. There's people in this land and I love them too. And the crest of their sin has not yet come, the sin hasn't crested yet. The pinnacle isn't there yet, but I'm going to be patient with them, giving them opportunities to repent, giving them opportunities to turn to God."

And God's tolerating evil here, tolerating sin here. A lot of people ask if there's a good God in the world, why is there so much sin and evil? Because God is long suffering and he's patient. He wants people to repent and turn from sin. Because if they don't, what's the alternative? It's eternity apart from God in a place called hell. So God's waiting and he's waiting. He waited with the Amorites.

Same thing with Noah. He goes to Noah says, "Flood is coming, build an ark." How long does it take Noah to build the ark? 120 years. For 120 years, Noah with his life is proclaiming, "Repent or shall perish." Waiting and waiting and waiting. And the Amorites, if you study what they did, they were wicked, wicked people with all kinds of sexual deviancy, and didn't have abortion back then.

So what they did was they gave birth to the kids and then was sacrificed them to the red hot arms of Moloch. And God just waited, and he just waited, he just waited and until the time has come and he's waiting now, he's waiting now. A lot of people were like, "Where's God? I sinned and there's no punishment. I sin and there's no punishment." God's just waiting, he's waiting for you, repent, turn from sin to turn to him.

Verse 17, when the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot, and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. So just in your mind's eye, go here. He cuts these three animals in half, they're dead. He makes a little pathway in between, there's blood in the middle of the path soaked with blood. The vultures are here, he's knocking them all off. Then he falls asleep and it says a smoking fire pot, flaming torch passed through.

What's going on here? Back then, it wasn't a written culture so they didn't write contracts. So this is how they made contracts. So the contract, the memory of the contract is emblazoned on your mind because you were there, you saw it, it was gory and you smelled it and this is what's going on. You're making a colony, you're a making a contract with someone else. And you say, "May this, what happened to these animals, may this happen to me if I do not keep my end of the bargain."

And you walk through and the other person will do the same, "May this, may I be quartered like this, may I be slaughtered like this if I do not keep my end of the bargain." They would walk through. And what you're doing is it's a self curse. It's a self maledictory. It's an oath of self destruction. If I won't make good on my promise, kill me. And I will do everything to make good on the promise, even if it kills me.

And that's why in the Hebrew to make a covenant, the phrase is actually to cut a covenant. You're cutting through these animals. And that's a covenant with equals. Usually covenants were made when a conquering king would come into a people and he would not walk through animals. It was assumed that this king is going to keep his end of the bargain. He would make his people, the people that he had just conquered, walk through, walk through the blood, get blood on their sandals, smell everything just to remind them, "If you will be loyal to me, I'll be loyal to you. If you won't, I will slaughter you like we slaughtered these animals."

So what's going on? And we see the fire, the pot and the flaming torch walk through, and that's a sign of God's presence. And we see that in Hebrews 6 and Joshua 24 brings in the same interpretation. God walks through then Abraham follows. No he doesn't. Does Abraham follow? No, he doesn't. What's Abraham doing? Abraham is sleeping. What's going on here? This is one of the clearest pictures of the gospel in the old testament right there from the beginning.

God says, "I will be responsible for both sides of the covenant. If I commit a sin, if I'm not faithful to you, may this happen to me. May I die, may I be cursed. And if you don't keep your end of the bargain by believing and trusting in me, may I still be slaughtered. I'm taking the penalty that you deserve upon my self. I'll pay the penalty for your covenant breaking out, I'll pay the price that you were supposed to pay."

The animals are three years old, Jesus was crucified after a three-year long ministry. The animals are split in two so was the veil inside the temple as Jesus took his final breath. Abraham was in a deep sleep as every single one of us is in a deep, dreadful sleep of sin. When Jesus died, a dreadful darkness came upon the land, as Abraham's asleep, the same thing is happening. Why did Jesus have to die?

Did Jesus disobey the covenant? Did he not keep his end of the bargain? No, he was dying because we did not keep our end of the bargain. Every single one of us, every single one of us has sinned against God, rebelled against God. We're all idolaters, we're all law and commandment breakers. So Jesus Christ goes to the cross because God promised Abraham, "I made a covenant with you," and Jesus makes good on that covenant on the cross of Jesus Christ so that when anyone could... you just got to repent of your sin.

God forgive me for my... please forgive me. God, forgive me. And God does because Jesus has paid for your sin. All you need to do is ask God, please forgive me. I forgot my rings today, I usually wear my rings and my wife was mad at me this morning for forgetting my rings. And I texted her, "Can you bring my rings?" She doesn't like when I preach without my rings. She was on her way. So I forgot my rings.

So this is what I always do, whenever I'm home and take my rings off. I always do that because I type faster without my rings, I do everything around the house better. So I put my rings in the same spot every single week. My daughters play the violin and they got this little triangle thing, what's that called? The metronome, the metronome. We got the little metronome, it goes tick-tock, it's so annoying. That tick-tock, it's not as annoying as my kid's violin playing. No, I love it. It's a wonderful...

It goes tick-tock, tick-tock. And I'm going to look for my rings the other day and I only find one. I said, "Where's my other ring?" Searching the whole house. Oh, by the way, backstory, I wear two rings. The United States, you wear in your right hand, in Russia you wear in your left hand. I'm doubly married to one wife. So I'm looking at my second ring, I can't find my second ring. And then I my youngest daughter, "Did you see my second ring?" And she says, "No."

And I say, "Are you sure?" And my wife said, "I saw you..." Tremendous trick if you're a parent, "I saw you." And all of a sudden, she starts balling and she starts screaming out, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Please forgive me," in Russian, which is so much cuter. Please forgive me. Please forgive me. Friends, she took the ring and she put it in this little gap in the metronome and it fit right in perfectly.

And I go to the metronome and it's in there. I don't know how long we're going to get it out, but it's in there and we finally did get it out. But what hit me was... and I laughed at the whole... what hit me was the consecration of heart, just the contrition of heart. Please forgive me, please. I'm like, "Of course, of course." God is a good father and he's provided for a way for our sins to be forgiven. We just need to ask."

This is the beauty of the gospel, this is the beauty of God's word, this is the beauty of Christianity, you just need to ask. God has provided for everything. And it ends with Genesis 15:18 through 21. On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham saying, "To your offspring I give this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaims, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, the Jebusites."

And what's going on here is the land, the borders of this land are far greater than Israel ever possessed even under David and Solomon. And what God is saying is, "I'm giving the promised land, offering the promised land to everybody. Anybody who would just believe in Jesus Christ." Jesus offers us not just a relationship, but a friendship. James 2:23 said, and the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God and was counted to him as righteousness, and he was called a friend of God. That's what God is offering us, stays offering us forgiveness, blessing friendship, a relationship.

And today is the first Sunday of the month. And every single first Sunday of the month, what we do is celebrate Holy communion. And Holy communion is given to us as a gift to remind ourselves, to stir our memory of what God did. That God is a great God who created us, we fell, we sinned and he did everything that was necessary for us to be forgiven and he does that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

And Jesus on the cross, what did he do? He made a new covenant. And it wasn't the blood of animals that was spilled, it was his own blood. And before we go into Holy communion, I'll just read this text, Matthew 26:26 through 29 and look at the last supper. Now, as they were eating, God took bread and after blessing it, he broke it and he gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat, this is my body." And he took a cup and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, "Drink of it all of you for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my father's kingdom." Would you please pray with me over Holy communion? Heavenly father, we thank you that you are a loving God, a covenant keeping God, we thank you that you welcome us into this new covenant thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus, we thank you that you were slaughtered on the cross, quartered on the cross so that we would not have to be.

You did that for us in our place. We thank you that you never sinned, that you never rebelled against a Holy God and then you present your righteousness as a gift to us taking our sin upon yourself. I pray, Lord, if there's anyone who's not yet a Christian here today, call them to yourself, awaken them from the slumber in the same way that you awakened Abraham and welcome them into the fold.

Bless our time in the Holy communion. We repent of sin, we repent of self-reliance and of idolatry and we repent of faithlessness, of disbelief and we come to you. We bring to you our full heart, consecrated and contrite, and we pray this in Jesus' name, amen. For whom is Holy communion? It's for anyone who is repenting of sin and turns to God. So if you're not a Christian, if you have not repented of sin, if you have not humbled yourself before God, we ask that you refrain from this part of the service, instead, meditate on what you've heard.

If you are a Christian living in known sin, that you have not repented of, we also ask that you refrain from this part of this service. If you are repentant of sin and coming to God in humility, you're welcome to partake. The way that we do it is you open the top, grab the little piece of bread, then open the bottom tab and get the cup. And the night that Jesus Christ betrayed, he 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."

And proceeded to take the cup and he said, "This is the cup of the new covenant of my blood poured out for the sins of many. Take, drink and do this in remembrance of me." Jesus, we thank you for loving us so much that you gave yourself. Heavenly father, we thank you that you love us so much that you gave us your son. And Holy Spirit, we thank you that you love us so much that you've sealed our hearts with your presence. Pray you continue to use us, empower us and thank you for building this church, continue to build it even more. And we pray this in Jesus' name, amen.


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