Bethel Evangelical Lutheran worshiping Jesus at 8th and N. East Ave. in York, NE.402-363-0022

August 13, 2017 Sermon

Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page.

Genesis 15:6

Dear Friends in Christ,

A lot of things had happened in Abraham’s life since God first promised him that he would give his descendants the land of Canaan, make him a great nation, and bless every nation on earth through him. The flocks of both Abraham and Lot had grown so large that they could not stay in the same area. Abraham graciously let Lot choose first where he would go, and Lot chose what seemed to be the best area near Sodom. A number of years later the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and neighboring areas were involved in a war. They lost. Lot and all he had was taken captive along with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, with just 318 men, rescued Lot and his family and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah from the forces of the four kings who had captured them. It was after these events that God appeared to Abraham again. He told Abraham, do not be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward. “Look what I have done for you. I have blessed you even though Lot took the better land. I enabled you to defeat four kings who had been victorious over five kings even though you had an army of only 318 men. I have proven to you that I am your shield; that you have nothing to fear.”

But, Abraham had something on his mind. He was thankful for all God had done for him, but he wondered what good these things would be if he had no children. Who would inherit all these blessings? And more importantly, how would the Savior come so that all nations would be blessed?

Abraham offered the only solution he could think of. His head servant, Eliezer would have to become his heir. Abraham would treat him as his son.

God’s answer was a clear “No.” There would be no need for Abraham to adopt Eliezer as his son because a son coming from your own body will be your heir.

Now, you know the challenge this set before Abraham. Paul describes it well in Romans. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. The challenge was that neither he, nor Sarah, were physically able to have children when God made his promise.

Abraham is held up for us as an example of what it means to have faith. What does it mean to have faith like Abraham?

One of the most important things you can learn about faith is that the phrase “I believe” is not a complete sentence. It doesn’t tell you anything. It has no object. Saying “I believe” might mean “I have hope that something good will happen.” It might mean “If I really concentrate and work had at something I can do anything.” It might mean “I think there must be some kind of higher power out there and whoever, or whatever it is, it must be good.” Or the one that you hear a lot, but makes no sense at all, “I believe I’ll be in heaven because I believe.” It begs the question. What do you believe? Do you believe you’ll be in heaven because you believe you are good? Do you believe you’ll be in heaven because you try hard to do what’s right? Do you believe you’ll be in heaven because you eat the right foods, or rescue animals, or do all you can to save the planet? When we say “I believe” we need to complete the sentence. How we complete the sentence makes all the difference. It tells us what it is you believe in, and there is only One object, One in whom we believe, that saves.

What does the Bible tells us about Abraham’s faith? How did he complete the sentence “I believe?” It says, Abram believed the LORD. Literally, he said AMEN to the Lord and what he had just promised him. The object of his faith was not himself or anything he had done or would do. The object of his faith was the Lord and his promise. As Paul pointed out, he considered who was making this promise that was humanly speaking impossible and he trusted that God not only could, but would, do what he promised.

If we have faith like Abraham’s we will complete the sentence “I believe” the same way Abraham did. The object of our faith, the One in whom we trust, is the Lord. I believe in the Lord, the one and only true God who has revealed himself to me in his word. I believe not only that he can do everything that he has promised in his word, but that he will do exactly what he has promised, even if it seems humanly impossible. As we heard from Hebrews this morning, that includes believing that God created all that exists, just as he says he did. It includes believing that Jesus is the one God promised to Abraham and that all the nations of the earth are blessed through him because he paid for the sins of the world by his perfect life and his innocent death. It means believing that Jesus rose from the dead, just as he said he would, and because he did, we too will be raised when he comes again in glory. It means believing that even though he ascended with his body to the right hand of the Father, he is still today giving us his body and blood together with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins.

If we have a faith like Abraham’s, a faith that is held up for us as an example of what faith is to be, like Abraham we confess, “I believe the Lord and all his promises, no matter how unbelievable they may seem.”

Abraham believed the Lord, and he (the Lord) credited it to him as righteousness. Or it could be translated, “The Lord imputed to him righteousness.

Sometimes we might forget that Abraham needed righteousness. He is held up for us as an example of faith, but he was not righteous on his own. He had a child with his wife’s servant. He lied to Pharaoh and to Abimelech saying that Sarah was his sister and not his wife because he was afraid they might kill him to have her. He was a sinful person just like us. When God says there is no one who is righteous, not even one that includes Abraham, and you and me. If you sin even just once you are no longer righteous, or right, in God’s eyes. And all of us have sinned a lot more than just once. Abraham needed righteousness. We need righteousness. And there is only one way for sinful people to be righteous before God. Righteousness has to be imputed. It has to be given to us as a gift.

God credited righteousness to Abraham through faith. That’s the way it has always been and always will be. God credited righteousness to Adam and Eve through faith. He promised that one of their children, a seed of the woman, would crush the serpent’s head. Their joy at the birth of a son showed that they believed God’s promise. Though they were sinners, God considered them righteous through faith. And Paul says, the words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness– for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

God began his conversation with Abraham by saying, Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward. He reminded Abraham that because he was his Lord and Savior, he had nothing to fear. Because he was his Lord and Savior he had a reward that was greater than anything on earth. He was willing to share heaven with him.

Jesus reminded us in the Gospel today that because he is our Lord and Savior, the descendant of Abraham in whom we and all nations are blessed, we have no reason to worry or fear. The almighty and eternal God has sacrificed his only perfect Son to pay for all our sins. By doing so, he has proven his love for us. Surely, if he has done such a great thing, such an unheard of thing, how could we ever doubt that he would take care of the little things we face in life? If he takes care of the birds and the flowers who are worth much less to him than we are who he made the crown of his creation, how can we ever doubt that he will take care of us? In him we have a very great reward, we have treasure in heaven, something permanent, something that can’t be stolen or destroyed. How can we fail to make that the focus of our attention and the desire of our heart?

How often we fail to believe the Lord! How often we choose to believe in ourselves, or in the boasting of human wisdom or so called science. How often don’t we worry and become fearful. How unrighteous we are! How deserving we are of God’s punishment! But how gracious he is! In spite of Abraham’s sins; in spite of the hatred and faithlessness of the world; he still kept his promise and send the descendant of Abraham through whom the world is blessed. In spite of our sins and faithlessness he still comes to us in his word, and in bread and wine and says, I am your shield, your very great reward. He still sends his Holy Spirit to enable us to be like Abraham, to believe the Lord, to trust his promises, even when they seem impossible, so that, like Abraham, the righteousness of Jesus is credited to us.