The LORD took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and try to count the stars; you will have as many descendants as that”
Abram put his trust in the LORD, and because of this the LORD was pleased with him and accepted him.
And don’t think that you can escape punishment by saying that Abraham is your ancestor. I tell you that God can take these rocks and make descendants for Abraham!
You’re all set. Things are alright here with the Chaldeans. You’re daddy’s rich, and you’re all set to take over the family business. Next thing you know God Himself says go, Abram! Go away from your father’s house. I will make of you a great nation, and I’ll show you the land that your nation will possess. Why? Is it because you are the great Abram? No. It’s because God is the Great God! He speaks, and you believe, belief so strong that you leave everything to go where God says go. God calls that Righteousness! You trust in God, and therefore, God is pleased.
You’re too old, too sick, too tired. God says I will make your descendants more than the stars in the skies. You laugh. Your wife Sarah laughs. You’re kidding, right God? Not me; I’m too old! Too sick! Too tired! But you believe in God, and God calls it Righteousness! And He does what you believe He said he would do.
Maybe you’re like Moses. You messed up. You killed an Egyptian in anger, and you ran away. Next thing you know, there’s a burning bush. You argue with God. Don’t send me Lord, I stutter! Not me, Lord, I ain’t no preacher! I’ve messed up; don’t you know that, God? Yes, God knows it. But Moses believed enough to obey, and God credits it to him as righteousness!
What about us? You settle down in a sleepy little church, and God wakes it up. Next thing you know, you’re riding a whirlwind. It’s impossible to grow this tired little church, but God says it will grow. We laugh! We argue with God! But we hear God’s voice and we trust in Him. God is pleased, so he calls it Righteousness.
So are we Righteous? Are we accepted by God? Yes; not because of who we are, but because of who God is. Did we please God by being such great and talented people?
No. We pleased God by trusting in him, and he accepts us for it. He counts it to us as Righteousness!
Jesus worked with peasants, fishermen, sinners and tax collectors. His brothers and sisters called him crazy. All around, people say we don’t need you! We’re children of Abraham! But John the Baptist says so what? God can raise up children of Abraham from a pile of rocks! What Jesus, are you greater than Abraham? Jesus says before Abraham was, I AM.
The Jews say we are the children of Abraham, through the chosen son Isaac. The Moslems say we are the children of Abraham, through the firstborn son Ishmael. The Christians say we are children of Abraham, because we are heirs to the promise of faith. But John says God can raise children of Abraham from a pile of rocks!
We believe, but do we trust? We believe in God, and so do devils and demons. The question is, do we hear God NOW? Do we trust Him enough to obey Him?
Faith of our Fathers is a beautiful hymn. But you won’t be saved by your father’s faith. It has to be YOUR faith. It isn’t enough to say we are the children of Abraham. God will keep his promises — the covenant to Abraham, and the covenant to Jesus. But God can raise children to Abraham from a pile of rocks! And Jesus said that if we don’t praise him, the rocks and stones will praise Him.
Jesus had faith in God, not in Abraham. Before Abraham was, he said, I AM! Jesus put his trust in God the Father — and he told us to do the same thing.
We won’t get closer to God by trusting in our family history. It isn’t enough to go to an ole time church for that Ole Time Religion. This IS the God of Abraham, but that isn’t what makes us accepted by Him.
God has no grandchildren. If I am to be accepted by God, if I am to be Righteous, it won’t be by my heritage, my religion, my works or my family tree. My grandfather’s a preacher, but I don’t get righteousness from my grandfather, or my father. I trust in God; I hear him, and I obey him. And if that is true — if I really trust and obey God, even if I mess up — God counts that trust and obedience as Righteousness!
Abram was a liar. Everywhere he went, he said to his wife, tell them you’re my sister. If they think you’re my wife, they’ll kill me, but if they think I’m your brother, they’ll be nice to me. The Ten Commandments came a long time after Abraham. So he was NOT righteous, if it’s up to us to say who’s righteous.
Isaac lied like his father — saying to his wife, say you’re just my sister, and they’ll be nice to me.
Jacob stole his brother’s birthright. Later, he slept with a prostitute and played favorites with his sons. But Jacob believed in God, and became the father of the nation Israel.
Moses was a stuttering murderer, and a runaway. King David committed adultery and had a good man killed in battle. And yet, God used these men to bless a nation.
Now don’t get me wrong; sin is bad. Don’t go saying I said it was okay to sin. These great men of the Bible did suffer for their sins; they did get into trouble. Jesus was the only truly righteous man in the Bible, and he suffered for the sins of the world. Sin is bad. If we don’t pay the price for our sins, someone else will.
But like Paul, we have to forget what’s behind us and press forward to the prize. Like Jesus, we have to forgive the sins of others, yes, all of them, and just drop all that baggage to press on to our goal.
I woke up on the couch to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on The Late Show with David Letterman, and I wrote these notes. Before September 11, Springsteen was a washed up, fading rock star, and the E Street Band would never get back together. But there they were, blazing out a chorus that was even better than Born to Run. Music so fine it made me cry!
What’s that all about, Bruce? I don’t know if Springsteen heard from God. But I know he does trust that no matter who might think he’s all washed up, or that the race isn’t worth finishing, he certainly doesn’t think so. He believes that after the World Trade Center fell, he needed to be out there, making music, pumping up a generation to press on to the prize. Old man Springsteen rocks like kid rock Springsteen never could. He has trust in the future, and I say, man, that’s Righteous!
We, too, have to press on. We have to get psyched. We have to trust in God, and I mean in a BIG God, a God who calls us Righteous and sets us up to do big things. Abraham was too old, but God didn’t care. I was too old to start preaching, but God didn’t care. This church is too old to grow, but God doesn’t care. We can trust in God, we can obey God’s call, and he will accept us! He will count it as Righteousness.
In the book of Acts, some guys went around saying, in the name of the God of Jesus and Paul, we demand you demons be gone! Those demons said, “Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are you?” Yes, believe in Jesus, but don’t just say you love him. Do what he says do! Listen to God the Father. Trust in God. Obey the Father. God can raise children to Abraham and followers of Jesus from a pile of rocks! God has no grandchildren.
It isn’t enough to believe that our fathers were tight with God. We have to be tight with God. Believe in the great things Jesus did, but remember that God has great things for YOU to do. Even if you’re old. Even if you’re sick. Even if you have really messed up. Don’t just trust in the children of God. BE children of God.
Talk to your Father, and obey him. Believe in the Great things God has for you to do, and press on! And as with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David, and Jesus I assure you, he will count it to you as righteousness.
In the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of Jesus, Son of God, and of the Holy Spirit, which lives today in the Children of God… amen.
Tropical Sands Christian Church – October 27, 2002