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All-In

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. I'm one of the pastors here at Mosaic, along with Pastor Shane and Pastor Andy. If you're new or if you're visiting, we'd love to connect with you. We do that through the connection card, either virtually in the app or on the website, or the physical one you can pick up in the back.

With that said, would you please pray with me over the preaching of God's Holy Word? Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are a God who loves with a covenantal love, that when you choose to pour out your love on a people, on a person, you love with an unending, unyielding, unconditional love. And we thank you for the sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, who loved us to the very end as the scriptures say.

To the last drop of his blood, he loved us, in order to redeem us from all the times we were unfaithful, in word, in thought, in deed, sins of commission, sins of omission. Lord, we thank you for the gift of repentance, and we thank you Holy Spirit, when you give us that gift, you also call us to a life that is worthy of being forgiven, of being reconciled with God, of being a child of God.

Lord, show us today from the holy scriptures that there is no place in our life, no sphere in our life, no crevice in our lives that is off limits to you, that you are God, you are Lord of every single square inch of our existence. I pray you make us a people who'd love that, who love that you get to be God, that you get to be Lord, knowing that you are a loving God, that you aren't a God who keeps us from having fun and enjoying ourselves, but you are a God that keeps us from heartache, heartbreak, and the consequences of sin both in our bodies and those around us.

Bless us as we spend time in the Holy scriptures, and show us in our lives where there are places that need to be circumcised, so to speak. Circumcision of the heart, places of hardness, places where we've been desensitized to you, places where we have idolatrous desires, taking good things and making them God things, and then they're bad things. Bless our time in the Holy Word now. We pray all this in Christ's holy name. Amen.

Can we talk about Starbucks straws for just a little bit? My go to at Starbucks is a Trenta iced coffee. Sometimes I switch it up with a cold brew, no syrup, light ice. They put way too much ice. I want to get more bang for my buck. I like the plastic straw. It's consistent. From the first draw to the second sip, to the third, it's consistent. You know what you're getting. The pull is the same. Then Starbucks recently, they switched things up, they got the paper straw. The paper straw is fine. It's fine for the first minute, two minutes, and then it starts getting soggy, and then it just ruins the whole experience.

Well, that right there, the plastic straw, that's like our faith. That's like the faith of Abraham. What we see with the story of Abraham, we're in a series that we're calling Jesus in Genesis, and we're looking at how Jesus Christ comes to redeem a people for himself, and he starts with a man named Abraham, an idolater. Abraham, who doesn't have Christian parents, he lives in Ur of the Chaldeans, happy to be an idolater, happy to be worshiping idols and following the desires of his flesh.

He's happy to be doing that. God calls him, God saves him, and we see in Abraham, we see a desire to honor God. He answers the call of God. God says, "Follow me. Walk before me. Be blameless before me." But he only goes halfway in the very beginning. Chapter 11 says he went halfway, from Ur of the Chaldeans, God calls him to Canaan, he stops in Haran. God comes to him a second time and calls him again. In chapter 12, we see Abraham's faith on fire. He comes, he moves his family, he leaves all his relatives, and he sets up a shop, sets his tents up in Canaan, the Promised Land. Famine comes, and we see his faith waiver.

Again, he goes to Egypt, commits sin against his wife there. You can read up on it. Chapter 13, now things start getting better. In chapter 14, he's a warrior. We see unflinching faith of this man, courage, bravery. Chapter 15, God makes a covenant with him. Chapter 16, 11 years have lapsed since God called him at age 75. He's 86 years old, he still doesn't have a son, a son of the promise as God said, and he decides to take matters into his own hands. He couldn't have a child with Sarah, so he gets a girlfriend named Hagar, which was a second wife at that time, because their culture accepted to have multiple wives, but it was against God's will.

We see that the text, it comes in with a commentary of strife in the family, and strife with Hagar, etc, and the sin, and there's consequences. Then chapter 17, that's where we find ourselves. We see a God who comes in and says, "Abraham, I'm going to continue working on your faith, I'm going to continue to restoring you, I'm going to continue sculpting you into the image of Christ, deepening your faith, deepening your desires and affection for God." What God is saying is, Abraham, I love you with a love that is all in. I'm all in on this relationship with you, and I expect a response commensurate to my love, a love that is commensurate to mine.

Abraham now is 99 years old. It's been 24 years since the first promise. Abraham is called father, as was named, is called father, which is bitterly ironical in that people would ask him all the time, hey, does your name mean Abraham? Does it mean father? How many children do you have? For 11 years, he couldn't say anything. I have zero. I've zero children. Finally, he has Ishmael, he has one child. We finished chapter 16 last week. it's been 13 years between chapter 16 and chapter 17. For 13 years, we suspect years that were filled with unhappiness, unrest. The presence of Ishmael in the home ... The son of Abraham by Hagar, we expect endless contempt, bitterness, envy, weariness.

For 13 years, what God is doing is sculpting Abraham, deepening his faith, getting him to a point of desperation to cry out to God. Today, we find ourselves in Genesis 17. What I usually do if you're new, what I usually do, it's kind of cliche already by this point. But what I usually do is I just read the text and I say, this is the inerrant, infallible, authoritative word of God, may he write these eternal truths on our hearts, and I say, here's the three points of the sermon to frame up our time together. We're going to switch things up today. Sounds good? All right. Okay.

Of course, it's okay. I say it's okay so it's okay. This is what we're gonna do, one point, we're doing one point today. The point is that God loves us with a love when he goes all in and he expects a response that is commensurate. This chapter is God working on Abraham's heart, working on polishing it off. Look at a text within Genesis 17:1-2. "When Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abraham." He appears to him. There's a theophany." "He said to him, "I am God almighty." He comes in with a Hebrew name, "I am El Shaddai, I'm the God who can do the impossible." Why does he say that? He confirms to Abraham, your faith has been wavering. You look at the circumstances, all you see is the impossibility that your wife is in menopause. She was probably 90 at this point. He's 99.

When God shows up, he says, I am God, El Shaddai, God of all sufficiency. Jim Boice, theologian, he talks about the Chinese evangelist, Leland Wang, who had a letter, had every time he sent out a letter for ministry letter, he had a letterhead that said the following three verses, Joshua 10:13, "The sun stood still." 2 Kings 6:6, "The iron did swim." Then Psalm 48:14, "This God is our God." Abraham needed the reminder that God is all powerful. If God is all powerful, and if he is true, then he can do the impossible in fulfilling his promises.

God says, I love you. I am the God of the impossible. Now, two things, be blameless and walk before me. Be blameless and walk before me. Walk before me and be loyal. Live every day as if you understand that God is here, he's present, that God sees. Orient your entire life to God's presence under his eye, his presence, his promises, his commandments. Live that every single step of your life is conscious to reference of God. He says, "Be blameless." It doesn't mean be sinless. No one is, but it means that we fight our sin, that we do everything we possibly can to mortify sin and vivify affections for God or refers to integrity with God, a wholehearted commitment to God.

A recognition that there is no place in our lives that is off limits to God. The Latin phrase, Coram Deo is used by theologians, to live before the face of God, under the eyes of God. He's saying Abraham, don't be double-minded as you have been. Don't be half-hearted as you have been. Don't be hypocritical as you have been. This is a chapter about circumcision. That's what we're going to talk about today. I know you woke up this morning and you're like, oh, I can't wait to hear about circumcision. I haven't heard a sermon on that in a while. That's what we're going to talk about.

But before we get to that physical sign, which is a sign of a spiritual reality, before we get there, God says, Abraham, is your heart fully mine? Are there places in your life that you are holding back, holding me back from? That's what God is saying. Are there areas in your life where you are holding God, stiff-arming God, holding him at a distance. That's where God starts. Verse 3, "Then Abraham fell on his face." It's a bodily response that he knows he's in the presence of God, in theophany, is before him. He worships God with his whole body. "God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I've made you the father of a multitude of nations."

God shows up, says, I'm going to rename you because you have a brand new identity, a new character, a new purpose, a new destiny. All Abraham could do is fall on his face, worshiping God. It's a physical response. If we haven't met, I come from a Russian background. My parents immigrated in 1989 and I grew up in a Russian church. If you know anything about Russians, they're not very outwardly emotional. There was a Russian church in New England. If you know anything about New Englanders, they're not outwardly emotional. So, you've got Russians living in New England, so our church was the frozen chosen.

You come in, you're told to love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul strength, and mind, but you can't show it. You just got to be stoic the whole time. You have to look like you're not having fun the whole time. That's the way they do church. I've had to grow in expressing my desire of my love for God, and particular just in worship, in worship at church. I remember for the longest time, it seemed so foreign to me to raise my hand. I used to tell people, I don't raise my hands because they're really heavy, like 30 seconds of raised hands, these are really heavy hands.

But I think with COVID, something happened where I missed church so much, I missed worshiping God with God's people so much. Now, I can't but express my love for God emotionally. I get into work. That's why I stand in the back because it's a little distracting. So, it's to say, it's okay to express our love to God physically. We do that at Red Sox games, we sing at Red Sox games. We get into it. We do that when we go see a Pats game, everyone's on their feet, everyone's cheering everyone. It's all to say, heart, soul strength and mind, it's a holistic love for God, and we see that with Abraham. God calls him to a holistic love.

He falls on his face in humility, worshiping God, renaming process. The name Abraham meant exalted father. Abraham means father of multitudes. This became true biologically in that the Israelites came from him. The Ishmaelites, the Edomites, the Midianites, and they became true spiritually, in that, everyone that believes in Jesus Christ is a child of Abraham spiritually speaking. Then also, the Muslims look back to Abraham as their father. So, you look at half the human race alive today, in some way, points back to a relationship with this single man. Verse 6, "I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make you into nations and Kings shall come from you."

Kings did come from him. The great Kings of Israel, king David and Solomon, and ultimately the greatest king of all Kings, the Lord of Lords, the king of Kings, Jesus Christ. Verse 7, "I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you." I'm going to be God to you, I'm going to be your God. This is how God explained salvation and eternal life. The greatest thing about heaven is that we get God and we get God's presence. The greatest blessing we can experience is his blessing.

I'm going to be God to you, but not just to you. I'm going to be God to you and to your offspring. Six times in this text, we get that phrase. Whenever a phrase is repeated multiple times in one text, you got to ask, why? Because it's that important. I'm going to be God to you and to your offspring. We live in a society that's paper individualistic. A lot of us we think that my spirituality is mine, my faith is mine, so who am I to tell other people what to believe? Scripture talks about the fact that we are to share our faith and to teach our faith to other people. This is called evangelism. Other people, including our neighbors and our colleagues, et cetera, but then also, our closest neighbors who are our children, if you have children.

God is saying, parents have a responsibility to share our faith with our children, to train up our children in the faith. God wants you parents to believe in God and to honor God, love God, follow God, and also to train up your children to believe him and love him. We have that responsibility, parents. This is a very important word to parents, because we live in a culture that pushes back against this. No, you've got to let your child choose what they're going to believe. You got to let your child choose their gender.

You got to let your child choose their sexuality. This is absurd. We don't let our kids eat whatever they want, but we'll let our kids choose their gender or sexuality. These are demonic lies, and Satan wants to do everything he can to rip children from the arms of God, the father, to not have parents shaped children spiritually, but leave that to public education, or leave that to mainstream media, or Hollywood. No, we have this responsibility. We have a generation of parents who are more concerned with their children getting into Harvard than getting to heaven.

We have this job. We have a responsibility, parents. This is why, at Mosaic, we love children. We invest heavily into our kids' ministry, Mini-Mosaic. Many of you are volunteers in our ministry, and God bless you in that ministry. Thank you for your service. But parents, you need to know that you can't just outsource the spiritual formation of your children to the church. We do everything we possibly can, but we only get kids for a couple hours on a Sunday, a couple of hours a week. At home, we are to be reading scripture to children, praying with children, singing with children.

I can't tell you how many VeggieTales songs I've memorized. I have four daughters. This is what we do. We sing VeggieTales songs, worship songs by Bob the tomato in my car. This is what we do. We talk about God all the time, and consciousness is a natural rhythm of life. This is our job. This theme is repeated in scripture, that fathers and mothers, you were to think about your faith in terms of generations, to leave a legacy of faith.

I'm a fourth generation believer and I've seen the blessing, what it means to have a father and a mother who loved the Lord and raise us in the faith. I won't do the same. I've got four daughters and we're raising them up in the faith. Scriptures are all the time talking about this theme, versus like, from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord's love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children's children. "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the Lord, "my spirit, who is on you, and my words that I've put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth or from the mouths of your children or from the mouths of their descendants, from this time on and forever."

"Let the little children come to me," said, Jesus, "do not hinder them for the kingdom of God, belongs to such as these." The promise is to you and to your children. Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you will be saved you your household. In the context of God saying, I am making this covenant with you and your offspring, in that context, God's going to bring in circumcision as a sign of that. It's all interconnected, that our devotion to God starts from the heart, we believe in the heart, we love him from the heart, and then that changes everything that we do in life, including our sexuality in our worship, including what we do with our marriage and our children, etc.

That's the context. Verse eight, "And I will give you, and to your offspring after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, from an everlasting possession, and I will be their God." He repeats the same, as in chapter 15:9, and God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout your generation." Abraham, I chose you. I poured out my love upon you. I initiated this relationship. Now, you have an obligation to keep the covenant, to be faithful to the covenant. In one respect, we can't prevent God from fulfilling his promise and his word. On the other hand, we have to prove faithful to God's covenant to enjoy his blessings fully.

Then we get the covenant of the circumcision, the sign of the covenant. This is verse 10. "This is my covenant, which you shall keep between me, and you, and your offspring after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised, and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your four skins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised, so shall my covenant in your flesh be an everlasting covenant."

My wife, when I met her, she was working in a dental office as a dental assistant. She would evangelize the people that were her colleagues. She invited her, the dentist that she worked with, she invited him to church. "Hey, you should come to church. There's a community, great timing to hear the gospel, etc." He's like, "No, I'm never going to church." She's like, "Why not?" He's like, "Because they're going to try to circumcise me." No, no, not of the flesh, not of the flesh, not of the flesh. Circumcision was given as a sign, an outward sign of an inner reality. For us, we have the New Testament. I thank God the sign of the covenant change. When you become a Christian, you become a Christian on the inside.

By grace, through faith, you recognize that you have sinned against God, you recognize that Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin, that repentance is the way that we can be reconciled with God. God forgives us on the inside. We are now circumcised from selfishness, from sin, from a lifestyle that was against God, and that heart transformation, the spiritual heart transplant, so to speak. On other texts, it talks about heart of stone taken out and replaced with a heart of flesh, a heart that beats toward God and lives for God.

Now, the sign of that covenant is baptism. Baptism is a sign that we have died to our former life, have been raised with Christ. It's just a sign. We see signs of the covenant all the time when Noah comes out from the Ark and then God gives them a sign of the covenant. What was the sign of that covenant? The rainbow. The rainbow. Noah got a rainbow, and Abraham, at this point, he was like, hey, God, could we have another rainbow instead of circumcision? Unfortunately, no. Why? Why the sign of circumcision? Why is this the thing?

In order to interpret that, you need to keep two things in mind. Number one, the context. Chapter 16, Abraham commits adultery against his wife, Sarah, even though it was her recommendation, but he committed adultery. From the perspective of God, he sinned. Now he's bearing the consequences. That happened, and then chapter 16, God comes at him with circumcision as a sign. Then you bring in Acts 15. Acts 15, this is the New Testament church first century believers, a lot of whom were Jewish. A lot of the Jewish believers, they understood that Jesus was the Messiah, but they clung on to some of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, including circumcision.

What they were saying is, in the early church, if you follow Jesus Christ, you're saved by grace through faith, but the outward sign of that is circumcision. These people were called the circumcision party, which is the worst party ever. No one wants to go to that party. That's what's happening. Then Saint Paul comes in, and after preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, and he said, "No, if a person was a Gentile and they come into the faith with not having been circumcised, they don't need to get circumcised."

Because that was an outward sign. The new outward sign is baptism, but he says, but two things, make sure, two things, that you, the Gentile believers who aren't circumcised, but two things make sure they don't commit idolatry and make sure they keep from sexual morality. For Saint Paul, the circumcision, the outward sign was connected with idolatry and sexual morality. That's partially why this was what God chose. He chooses a man who used to be an idolater, who came from a culture where people worshiped sex, came from a culture where people worshiped with the reproductive organ, because that's the thing they lived for, because that's what worship is.

God, when he redeems this man, he redeems a man, and then he says, "I own all of you and I'm going to demarcate in you a mark that you are mine, assign the seal that you are mine, and that all of you belongs to me." Every single square inch of your body belongs to God. That's what God is saying with this sign of the circumcision. He points to an inner reality that says, we belong wholly, holistically to God, and he goes to this place for the sign, because this is a place, that the male reproductive organ, this has the power for tremendous good and a power for tremendous evil.

Tremendous good in that, when a man commits to a woman and is faithful to her, marries her, commits to her for a lifetime, doesn't fornicate, doesn't commit adultery, that tremendous power for good, both for the marriage, and then children, tremendous power for good. Now you have generational faithfulness and blessing. On the flip side, it has potential. It has the potential for tremendous evil, fornication, broken relationships, broken families, broken children. Children being raised without fathers or without mothers.

There's incredible power for both good and evil, and that's why God chooses this sign in particular, to show that either you belong to the Lord or you don't at all that. When we come to God, he gets to be God over everything, and you can't hold them at a distance. This is the God that demands ultimate intimacy. Every day, Abraham would be reminded, to whom do I belong? Oh, I belong to God. I've got to follow his commandments in every single aspect of life. This was also a foreshadowing of Jesus' coming.

There was a bloody sacrament. The blood speaks itself of the pollution of sin. Then Saint Paul talks about the theology of this. Do you need to be circumcised to go to heaven? No, of course not. We have verses like 1 Corinthians 7:18, "Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision." Or in Galatians 5:5-6, "For through the spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness, for in Christ, Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."

There isn't any outward thing that you can do to make yourself righteous before God. It's only repentance of sin by God's grace. Galatians 6:15-16, "For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation, and as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God." Philippians 3:2-3, Saint Paul says, "Look out for the dogs," that's the people who demanded circumcision for Gentiles, "Look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh, for we are the circumcision who worship by the spirit of God in glory, in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh."

What he's saying is the sign doesn't mean anything apart from the faith. The sign doesn't mean anything apart from a relationship, and that's what he was saying to a lot of the people who grew up in the Old Testament faith, they start going through the motions. Perhaps you grew up Catholic or Russian Orthodox, or Episcopalian, where you know that there's this routine that you go through. You have to go through these particular motions, and you go through the signs, but signs without faith is just routine.

We believe in signs that are rituals, so to speak, well, like Lord's supper, baptism. These are signs that start with faith. Starts with faith, and then that faith is evidenced by the sign. What Saint Paul is getting at in all these texts is, getting circumcised on the flesh without loving God in the heart, circumcision in the heart, is like wearing a wedding ring without being faithful in a relationship, in a marriage. That's what he's getting at. Deuteronomy 10:12-6, this idea of circumcision of the heart, it's not just from the New Testament, it was all over the Old Testament.

"Now, Israel, what does the Lord, your God require of you, but the fear of the Lord, your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of statues of Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good. Behold, to the Lord, your God belong heaven, and the heaven of heavens, and the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart and love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them. You above all peoples, as you are this day, circumcise therefore the four skin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn."

That's what he's getting at, is the stubbornness. This will that isn't yielded to God. God, I know your will, I know what you want me to do, but I won't because I love something more than you. That's the idolatry. Circumcision of the heart, the way that you do that is on a daily basis, you recognize where in my life am I stubborn? Where I know what God's will is, and yet, I stubbornly definitely rebel against it. God, forgive me. God, please forgive me. God, take the scalpel of your Holy Spirit and circumcise this part of my life. Help me cut off this part of my life. Scripture talks about in very graphic terms that we are to mortify the sins in our life, places where we are rebellious against God.

We do that by God's grace, by his Spirit. Deuteronomy 36, "And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring so that you will love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul so that you may live." Jeremiah 4:4, "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskin of your hearts. All men of Judah and habitants of Jerusalem, lest my wrath go forth like a fire and burn with none to quench it because of the evil of your deeds." This is something that every single one of us needs to wrestle with on a daily basis.

Where are those areas of my life that I need God's surgery, that I need to respond to God's call and seek transformation on a daily basis? Genesis 17:14, "Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant." We see the seriousness of this obligation that it's underlined by the threatened punishment. Anyone who doesn't keep the covenant, breaks the covenant in disobedience will be cut off from the covenant. Now, the question here is, is God sovereign over saving Abraham, or is Abraham responsible for his salvation?

Is God's sovereign in our salvation or are we responsible for our salvation? Scripture emphatically says, yes. God is sovereign over our salvation, and we are responsible to respond faith that is obedient to God. Fascinating, Saint Paul, in Romans, and Jesus' younger brother, James, his half-brother, in the book of James, they point to Abraham as the example for both sides. You see Saint Paul in Romans, he says, Abraham believed, and it was counted to him as righteousness. So, Abraham was saved by grace through faith. Then James writes and he says, look at Abraham, look at his works.

His faith wasn't empty, faith without works is dead. He responds to God's covenant and he does what God calls him to do. The answer is yes, if God calls you, justifies you, saves you, we do have a responsibility to then work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to not use his gifts in vain. You see with the story of Abraham, God says, "I will confirm my covenant with you. I will make you exceeding fruitful. I will establish my covenant with you and with your offspring." Then Abraham does respond with faith and with obedience.

Genesis 17:15, "And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah will be her name." God changes the identity of Abraham. He changed the identity of Sarah. Gives them new identity, new name, and this a fascinating scripture because Sarah is the only in the Bible whose name is changed by God. Meaning that she too has grown in her faith with the Lord, devotion to the Lord. Verse 16, "I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and she will become nations. Kings of peoples shall come from her. Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is 90-years-old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "O, that Ishmael might live before you."

The first time Abraham falls on his face in humility and reverence before God. Now, he falls on his face because the ridiculousness of this whole situation had caught up with him. I'm a hundred, my wife's 90. We're not going to have a kid. We've been waiting 24 years, and he just starts laughing at the absurdity, because all he can see is his circumstances. God comes, God appears, God speaks, and all he sees is circumstances, and tries to steer God to a more reasonable path, and that's the path of Ishmael, and God says, "No, no, no, no." God deals gently with Abraham. In verse 19, "God said, "No, but Sarah, your wife, shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name, Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him."

God says call your son, Isaac. He will come. There's a due date. Call him, his name, Isaac, his name in the Hebrew means he laughs. God says, I'm going to give you a perpetual reminder of the fact that you laughed that one time, and then Sarah laughed, and every time you call your son, it's he laughs, just a reminder that God who does the impossible always gets the last laugh. Verse 20. "As for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I've blessed him and I will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father 12 princes, and I'll make him into a great nation, but I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year." That's the due day. It's fascinating as Abraham says, "God, take Ishmael. Take Ishmael and make a covenant with him." And God says, "No. I'm going to make my covenant with Isaac."

Showing that God is the one who has ultimate say with whom he makes the covenant. The practical application here is a lot of people would just put off repenting of sins, repenting of rebellion against God, put off a relationship with God, put off a commitment to God. They keep putting it off thinking, I'm just going to have a little more fun. I'm going to enjoy myself in, and then later on in life, then I'll come to God and I'll ask forgiveness, etc. Well, scripture does teach us pattern, that if God woos you and God calls you, today's the day of repentance, and at any moment, God can stop seeking you.

He has the ultimate say. So, you don't get saved when you decide to get saved. You get saved when God says I'm making a covenant with you, your mind. Our responsibility is, if God is calling you to himself today, calling you to repent of sin today, do not put it off. Today's the day of repentance. God was generous with Ishmael, but he didn't make a covenant with him. Genesis 17:22-27, "When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham, and Abraham took Ishmael, his son, and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their four skins that very day as God had said to him. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his four skins, and Ishmael, his son, was 13 years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin."

That very day, Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. Then all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner were circumcised with him that very day. The emphasis is put on that, God you're calling me to do what? Falls on his face, wrestles with this, wrestles with God, and God says you're doing it. Abraham, this is probably his greatest act of faith ever. At 99 years old, he takes a flint knife and he circumcised himself. Then he has 318 trained men in his household. I don't know, I wish Abraham wrote a book on leadership.

How in the world do you go to train soldiers like, hey man, I got a word from God. All right, what's the word? Circumcision. He just led by example. He's like, God said this, I believe, and so he does it, and this is what is really emphasized, is the fact that he obeys God despite his doubts. The point of this whole text, and this isn't the point of Abraham, the point of all of this is salvation is impossible. That, apart from God's miraculous work, salvation is impossible. The chasm between us and God is so wide salvation is impossible.

Forgiveness of sin is impossible. When we human beings sin against the holy God, there's a holy chasm between us. The only way to bridge that, if that God of impossibility, if he acts on our behalf. That's what happens in the story of Abraham. God chooses Abraham and says, "I'm going to bless you and I'm going to give you a great name, and through you, I'm going to bless all the nations, through your offspring." He's not talking about Isaac. He's talking about Isaac's ... He's talking about Jesus Christ, who will come through the line of Abraham. God gave Abraham a son, Isaac, and Abraham raised him up in the faith, and Isaac raised up Jacob in the faith, and it just kept going, and finally, Jesus Christ was born.

The God of impossibility sends his son, the son of God, son of man, fully God, fully man, he's the only one who could bridge the chasm between a holy God and sinful people. Jesus Christ comes, he lives a perfect life, the life we were supposed to live, but didn't, willfully did not, and Jesus Christ goes to the cross to bear the penalty for the sin that we committed. He bears the wrath of God in himself, impossible. In the same way that the birth of Isaac was impossible from the dead, the deadness of the womb of Sarah, and the same way it was impossible of Jesus Christ to come back from the deadness of the tomb.

That what's highlighted in all of this, that it took a miracle of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, through this whole lineage of Abraham to get to Jesus, it took that to save us, and then on top of that, we need the holy spirit to regenerate our hearts. That's how impossible our sin is. A lot of us, we have a hard time understanding the gravity of the good news because we don't understand the gravity of the bad news of how sinful we are. C. S. Lewis, I really appreciate his quote that he writes in the Letters to Malcolm.

He says, "I've been reading Alexander White. He was a Presbyterian divine in the last century whom I'd never heard of, very well worth reading, and strangely, broad-minded Dante, Pascal, and even Newman, are among his heroes. But I mention him at the moment for a different reason, he brought me violently face to face with a characteristic of puritanism, which I had almost forgotten. For him, one essential symptoms of the regenerate life," that's the life of a Christian, "is a permanent and permanently horrified perception of one's natural, and it seems unalterable corruption. The true Christians nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool."

What a line. Inner nostril, nostril inner cesspool. This is what he's getting at is, when you become a Christian, you realize just how sinful you are. Abraham, you need to realize how sinful you are. What's it going to take to save you, Abraham? It's going to take a blood sacrifice from a male, from the offspring that will come from you. That's what's going on here. We need to understand the ferocity, the tenacity, the abomination, the ugliness of sin, which leads us to this tenacious consecration of Jesus Christ as the only possible savior of sinners like ourselves.

At Mosaic, Mosaic, Boston is one of the only places in the whole city that you can go to on a weekly basis, and someone will stand up here and just tell you how much of a freaking loser you are. You're a loser, spiritually speaking, morally speaking, you are bankrupt. You've broken every single one commandments multiple times over. That's my job. You are so wicked that you are on way to spend eternity apart from God. That's my job. And yet you're so loved that Jesus Christ was willing to take the penalty upon himself. If you turn to Christ, all of your sins are forgiven, your identity is changed.

You get a new name. Now you're a Christian, you're a child of God, and your eternity is secure, but it all starts with recognizing, it's your fault. A lot of people are like, anywhere outside of this, you're told, you're a good person. If there's anything bad in you, it's not your fault. It's a public school, it's your neighborhood, it's your family. It's someone else. It's the other political party, it's not your fault. No, it is your fault. You're a mess and it's your fault. You're a sinner and it's your fault. You need to repent, every single one of us. Trump, sinner. Biden, sinner. Republicans, sinners. Democrats, sinners. Maskers, sinners. Anti-maskers, sinners. Double maskers, double sinners.

Kidding, kidding. But if you drive in your car with double mask, yeah, you are. Vaxxers, sinners. Anti-vaxxers, sinners. Vax ambivalent, sinners. Americans, sinners. Canadians, definitely. Russians, the worst, can't believe I'm saved. Every single one of us, we're all sinners and we need Jesus. I'll close with this. If you've ever been to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, I went when I was five. I don't remember anything, but I've got pictures. I was there. I was there. As you enter the church, on the right side in a small chapel of St. Peter's Basilica, there is Michelangelo Pieta, which means the pity, and it's beautiful.

It's the only work that Michelangelo signed with his name. That's how proud he was of it. It's a marble work that depicts Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding her dead son, draped over her after his crucifixion. Astonishing performance. It's a masterpiece, a performance of true genius. It's lifelike, and you see emotion in Mary's face. You see her right hand holding Jesus up. You see his wounds as a rib cage, his feet hanging midair. It's the marble that comes to life. That's what's going on. Marble has become cloth and flesh. If you go there now, you can see it, but you can't see clearly, why?

Because in May 21st, 1972 on Pentecost, Sunday, a mentally disturbed geologists, Laszlo Toth walked into the chapel and attacked the sculpture with a geologists hammer, banging it 15 times, removing Mary's arm at the elbow, and knocking off a chunk of her nose and chipping off her eyelids. There was an American sculptor there, an artist from St. Louis, who was the first guy to grab this gentleman, and he said, "I leaped up, grabbed the guy by the beard, and we both fell into the crowd of screaming Italians. It was something of a scene."

Onlookers grabbed the pieces of marble, and many of them didn't return it, because they knew it was valuable, including Mary's nose wasn't found, and so they had to reconstruct this beautiful sculpture with a block cut out of her back. After the attack, the work was painstakingly restored returned to its place where it's now protected with Bulletproof glass. From the outside, it looks like nothing happened, no obvious evidence of restoration, but you come closer and you see the cracks, that this beautiful work of incalculable beauty was cracked, then it was restored. This is a beautiful picture of what happens with the human life, that God made everything, and he made everything perfect.

Then sin enters the world and sin takes this hammer and just sledges the beautiful image of God and every single one of us. When we continue down the path of sin, we continue to hammer ourselves and the image of God in us and do the same to other people. This is why we need Jesus Christ. This is why we need forgiveness, and we need his restoration, that Jesus Christ went to the cross and his hands and his feet were nailed at the hammer over and over and over, and he did that so that the image of God in us could be restored by his grace.

When we looked at Jesus, who is the greater Michelangelo, he sits, he rebuilds, he was doing this with Abraham, rebuilding, restoring, and he starts with the heart, circumcision of the heart, a spiritual surgery of the heart, and he does that to each one of us. The question to each one of us is, God goes all in, in his love and relationship with us, will we respond with a commensurate love? Well, are we all in with Christ?

Let us pray, Lord Jesus, we thank you for the holy scriptures. We thank you for this example of Abraham, and we thank you for calling him. We thank you for the honesty of the scriptures, in which we see the vacillation of his faith, ebbs and flows. We thank you that you kept pursuing him, that you kept pouring out your grace upon him, kept deepening his desire and affection and love for you. We thank you that you are a God who does the impossible. If there's areas in our life, where there is a sin, a sin that has taken root and has taken control, God, you're the God of the impossible. Please come in, perform spiritual surgery of circumcision and make us a people who love you with a whole heart, holistic love, of people who are blameless before you and walk before your face, and we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.


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