Faith Puts Christ First
16th Sunday after Pentecost
Faith Puts Christ First
1. By trusting
2. By following
3. By worshiping
Text: Genesis 12:1-8
Would you have done it? Would you have left like Abram and Sarai? The Lord had come to Abram and said, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Notice how God dialed up the challenge meter in this test of faith. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household.” God was being crystal clear about how big of a challenge this was and how much he was going to leave behind. “Oh, and by the way,” God said, “I’m not going to tell you where you are going. I’ll show you where to go and tell you when to stop.”
Would you have done it? Would you have left like Abram and Sarai (who were 75 and 65!)? Would you have left your house, your neighborhood, your favorite Publix store, your local sports teams, your family, and your friends? Would you have left everything behind and blindly followed wherever God told you to go? Maybe you end up in Tallahassee. Maybe Timbuktu. Maybe Tijuana. Who knows? Would you have done it?
How would you have reacted to the Lord? After you pick your jaw back off the floor, with a stupefied stare you stutter and ask, “You-you-you want me to do what?” You ask for a couple weeks to think about it. You sit and talk with your spouse. You crunch the numbers. Can I afford this? “Are you going to get a moving truck for me, God? Will you at least pay me mileage? Wherever I am going, is there a good school district for my kids? Is it a nice neighborhood? I don’t know about this!”
What about Abram and Sarai? The Lord told them to leave and we hear in verse 4: “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him.” No questions. No hesitation. No excuses. Only trust and obedience. Would you have done it?
If you are still pondering that question, consider that this story is even bigger than that one question. This is about more than moving or leaving your family or following God to a foreign country. The deeper, fundamental question is really this: When God tells you to do something, do you listen and obey?
When God tells you to love your neighbor as you love yourself, do you listen? When God tells you to give to him offerings that are your first and your best, do you listen? When God tells you to remember the Sabbath day, do you listen? When God tells you to keep his name holy, do you listen? When God tells you to love him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and more than anything else, do you listen?
When God tells you to do something, do you listen and obey—no hesitation, no questions asked, no excuses like Abram and Sarai? Or might we stutter and stammer, hem and haw, and drag our feet when God commands us? “Lord, I would have come to church, but I had something more important to do. Lord, I would give you more offerings buy I really want to go on that vacation. Lord, I didn’t mean to take your name in vain, but it just kind of slipped out. And I didn’t mean to curse and swear, but don’t you know how angry I was? Lord, I do love most of my neighbors as I love myself. But not him. Don’t you know what he did to me?”
A questioning, doubting heart that is full of excuses is really a disobedient heart. It’s a heart that doesn’t put Christ first every moment of every day. It’s a sinful heart.
So how do we get to that point? How do we get to the point of being able to count the cost of following Jesus? How can we take up our cross and follow him first, leaving behind everything else as he asks us to do today? How can we listen and obey right away? Perhaps we can learn from Abram’s example of faith.
The first step in putting Christ first is trust. We have plenty of things to trust in. So did Abram. God didn’t command Abram to pick up and leave everything behind and then stop there. God also gave him a plethora of promises to trust in. Verses 2-3: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.”
God promised to make Abram into a great nation. He would make his name great. He would bless everything he did. Most importantly, all peoples on earth would be blessed through him. Abram put God first by trusting these promises.
And God followed through. Israel did become a great nation. Some 10-15 million Jews in the world trace their descent from Abram. And again most importantly, all people have been blessed through Abram because the Savior Jesus was born from his family line.
God always gives his people promises to trust in that make it easier to obey his commands. Abram could easily pick up and leave everything to blindly follow God because he had all those great promises trust. We have similarly stunning promises.
The Lord promises to forgive all your sins. The Lord promises to give you daily bread. The Lord promises to keep you as the apple of his eye and hide you in the shadow of his wings. The Lord promises that no one can pluck you out of his hand. The Lord promises that he will never leave or forsake you. The Lord promises to bring you safely to his heavenly kingdom.
With such incredible promises of mercy and grace, why wouldn’t we put Christ first? Why wouldn’t we listen to our God and obey? Follow Abram’s example of faith. Faith Puts Christ First by trusting God’s promises.
There’s an old saying though. You know it well. “Talk is cheap.” Or, “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk.” It’s one thing to say you trust in God, but another thing to listen and obey. Abram and Sarai could have trusted God’s promises, but they would have fallen short of God’s command if they didn’t actually follow God and leave.
We see how great Abram’s faith is in verses 4-6. “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.”
Abram’s faith put God first. He didn’t only trust God’s promises, but he also followed God’s commands. It was a big challenge to leave behind his extended family, to pick up his immediate family and many possessions, to move several hundred miles away, and to settle down in a foreign land among heathen people. That was a big challenge. But that is what faith does. It trusts the Lord and then it follows the Lord with obedience.
As we grasp the greatness of God’s grace and mercy in our Savior Jesus Christ, our faith will not be filled with “cheap talk.” We won’t just talk about remembering the Sabbath day; we will be in worship at every opportunity. We won’t just talk about getting ourselves into a Bible reading routine; we will read the Scriptures daily. We won’t just talk about loving other people, we will love all others in words and actions.
As Christ loved us and put us first, so we love him and put him first. Follow Abram’s example of faith. Faith Puts Christ First by trusting God’s promises and by following God’s commands.
Abram’s faith was not finished with only following the Lord. It showed itself in one more way. Verse 7: “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”
What did Abram do when he arrived at Schechem in Canaan? He built an altar and he worshiped. What did Abram do when he moved nearby to the eastern side of Bethel? He built an altar and he worshiped. God brought Abram safely to his new home. God kept his promises to Abram. God even repeated his promises to Abram. So everywhere Abram went, he worshiped.
This is how our faith reacts too. Look what God has done for you in your life. He has brought you safely to this point in your life. Some of you have lived longer than the 75 or 65 years that Abram and Sarai were at in this story. Some of you have traveled several hundred miles further than Abram and Sarai did to be living in this part of the country. God has never left you yet. God has always worked everything out for your good in one way or another. Every single one of your slew of sins God has forgiven. God has followed through with his promises. God even repeats his promises to you that he will give you the gift of eternal life in heaven.
So how will our faith respond? We will worship! Like Abram, we will call on the name of the Lord, proclaiming the great things he has done and praising him for it. We will worship him in the morning in devotion and prayer. We will worship him during the day with lives that give him glory. We will worship him in the evening in more devotion and prayer. We will worship him on the weekends as we join publicly to declare his praises.
This is what faith does. It always responds to what our God has done in worship and praise. Follow Abram’s example of faith. Faith Puts Christ First by worshiping at all times and in all places.
Would you have done it? Would you have left like Abram and Sarai did, leaving behind everything and blindly following wherever God would lead? Would you have done it?
It’s not really a fair question. God has never appeared to you and asked you to do such a thing. And almost definitely, God will never visibly appear to you and ask you to leave behind all your family and friends to follow him to some strange, foreign land. It’s not a fair question.
But this is: When God gives you a command, will you listen and obey? Without stuttering and stammering, without questioning or giving excuses, we can confidently say, “Yes! I will obey!”
We know we are sinners. We know we will stumble and fail at times. But our Lord forgives us, and then he strengthens us to put our faith in him first and foremost so we can obey.
What will that look like? Our faith will look like Abram’s faith. Faith Puts Christ First by trusting in the promises that God makes, by following and doing what God commands, and by worshiping at all times and in all places.
God grant us this faith to trust, to follow, and to worship. God grant us faith that is first, foremost, and forever.
Posted on September 9, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Abram, Bethel, Christ, Church, Faith, Genesis, Genesis 12, Obedience, Sarai, Sermons, Shechem, Trust, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.