Abide: Faithfulness

February 17, 2019

Faithfulness is a mix of action and words beginning with a posture of obedience.

We become more faithful when we abide in a faithful God.

Good morning. Good morning. Quick question for you guys. I don’t know if you’ve ever have this experience where you’re hearing or listening to something, and all the sudden you kind of get this quick glimpse like your past right? Like you have this kind of mental picture of something that happened in your past when you were younger, when you’re a kid. It’s been happening to me as I’ve been listening to Pastor David preach about the fruit of the Spirit, the Abide series that we’re in. This glimpse that I’m having as I’m thinking and listening to him speak about the fruit of the Spirit, the glimpse is me as a little kid, probably six seven eight years old, I don’t know exactly how old I am, and I’m sitting in front of the family HiFi stereo. Anyone remember the family HiFi stereo? I did a kind of informal survey earlier today this morning with our worship team, and we determined that if you’re 40 or older, you have this memory maybe. If you’re younger than 40, you don’t quite remember it. The specifics of it is the record player, right? You’re not just sitting in front like your Spotify or your tape cassette or your CD. It’s the record player, the big vinyl records. In my house we listened to only Christian music. So for me, those records were like the Imperials or White Heart or DeGarmo and Key. Some of you are having blank looks on your face right now, like I have no idea, it’s another world that you’re talking about. You know, maybe there were some Disney records, whatever Disney records were there, but the one, the one that likes this is, the glimpse that I have is this record and it was called The Music Machine. Anyone have any idea, remember The Music Machine? Okay. So The Music Machine was a record like kids play, a kids musical. All right, and so is this record and it was magical machine and so, you know, there was no pictures, there’s no screen, there’s no images right? You had to make this up in your head. All right, so it was the music machine and we were watching we were listening. I’m listening to this record and it’s this magical machine that you put something in the machine and a song comes out. It was really exciting when your 1970s and you’re 6 years old. This is the most incredible thing in the world at that time and and you’re sitting there and you’re looking at the album artwork. Again, if you’re like younger than 40, you have no idea what I’m talking about. But you’re you’re listening to the record and you’re looking at the album artwork, in this case there’s like multiple pages of it. And so there’s certain songs that like go over and over and over in my head. I can remember these songs and they put like a fruit in and out with Tom patients and patience was Herbie the impatient snail. And snail are slow but not Herbie. He slides around and does things you shouldn’t do, and it’s, “Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry…” And it just goes on from there, right? And the other one was self-control. And these were things I probably needed to work on. Patience and self-control self-control is the very best way to go. I think that I’ll control myself… Literally 40 years ago I listened to the songs and they’re still stuck in my head. Now here’s the great thing about the music machine, is it taught me the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I know that the holy spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I know those are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Here’s the problem with the music machine. I never learned how to have the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It taught me what they were, but it didn’t teach me, at least I don’t remember it teaching me, how I go about learning the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Since the beginning of the year Pastor David has been teaching us Abide. How do we have the fruit of the Holy Spirit? How do we have more Love? More Joy? More peace? More patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? It’s not because we do more of these things. It’s not because we love more, be more kind or more gentle or more faithful. It’s because we are – and he uses the word abide, David has been using the word abide – we abide with Jesus. We connect to Jesus. For me, this is a kind of a reminder is my phone. I am lost without my phone. Anyone here lost, like you go for 30-45 minutes, you don’t have your phone, you’re like, I’m disconnected. I do not know what’s happening in the world. That’s me. I feel disconnected, literally disconnected, if I don’t have my phone near me.

So we Abide. What does abide mean? How do we abide? The word abide means being present. We’re persevering, we’re remaining. So when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, we’re present with Him, we remain with Jesus. We persevere, we go through hard times, so that we can connect with Jesus. And when we’re connected to Jesus, when we’re abiding with Jesus, we have the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We love more, we are more faithful.

Today we’re talking about faithfulness. I want to talk to you about faithfulness from the life of Abraham. Abraham is from the Old Testament. And Abraham was kind of like very beginning is found in the Book of Genesis Genesis, chapter 12 is the beginning of Abraham’s story. We won’t go through the entire thing obviously today, but I encourage you, I love the story, I love Genesis. It’s one of my favorite books in the Bible. I love Abraham’s story. It starts out Abraham, we meet Abraham when he 75 years old. He’s living with his father and a brother and his wife and a nephew who’s from a different brother who that brother passed away, and he’s living with them in a certain town.

And God tells Abraham at the age of 75 want you to leave. I want you to leave this town. I want you to go. Which is difficult in and of itself, leaving your family, leaving everything you know at 75. But the really difficult part is he tells him to go to a place where I’m not going to tell you where to go. You just got to leave and when you get there, I’ll let you know that you’re there. That’s pretty difficult, right? That’s tough, that’s a challenge. And so we find the Abraham is faithful. He Faithfully follows what God calls him to do. And he’s also faithful because God promises Abraham that he’ll make Abraham into a great nation. He’s going to have lots and lots of descendants, more than the stars in the sky, more than the sand that’s on the seashore, more than the dust that’s in the earth. That’s a lot of people. The problem is, Abraham doesn’t have any children. So, how, Abraham wonders, is that going to work? It’s a crazy promise, especially since Abraham hits 75 and 80 and 85 and then 90 and then 95 and 96 and 97, 98, 99 years old, and I don’t have a child. But this is what we learn.

God is faithful.

Two things we learn about Abraham, about God and about faithfulness in the story. 

The first one is that God is faithful. God promised something to Abraham and God is faithful. God gave Abraham a child through his wife Sarah. Sarah was ninety years old and Abraham was a hundred. Sometimes in Bible years we get confused. Adam lived to be a thousand years old. Why can’t I Abraham have a child when he’s a hundred? Well, by this point in time, it’s still kind of crazy. It’s crazy to think that anyone would have a child, especially when the woman is 90 years old and the husband is a hundred. It’s a crazy promise, but God fulfills. He’s faithful to fulfill his promises. We also know the God’s faithful in the midst of our unfaithfulness. Because the other thing, this is one of the things I love about Abraham is, Abraham messes it up multiple times. In this case, he thinks, God has not given me a kid through my wife Sarah. Maybe if I take her handmaiden, Hagar, I can have a child through her, and we’ll kick-start the process. Right, God? No, no, no. No, that’s not the way I’m going to be faithful. But God continues to be faithful to Abraham in the midst of Abraham’s unfaithfulness. God’s faithful. That’s who He is. God is faithful. That’s his nature. He knows no other way than to be faithful. That’s the first thing we learned.

Our faithfulness comes from a relationship with a faithful God.

The second thing we learned is that our faithfulness, Abraham’s faithfulness, came from a relationship with that faithful God. Because God is faithful and Abraham had a relationship with a faithful God, Abraham himself became faithful. He wasn’t perfect, alright? It’s not Perfection. It wasn’t discipline, right? For me, I think of faithfulness is, I will become more disciplined. I will get up earlier. I will read the Bible every day. I will get on my knees and pray. I will do ABCDEFG, all the way through Z, and then double AA, then BB. I’ll follow all these things and I will become faithful. But that’s not what faithfulness is. Faithfulness is a relationship with a faithful God. Then we become more like that faithful God because of the relationship. So we learn all of those things through those 25 years of History in Genesis, in the life of Abraham.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. I went to school, I went to college at MidAmerica Nazarene University. When I graduated it was still college. It has since become a university. Nothing’s really changed about the school other than the name. When I went, I was a religion major. And so I took theology classes. I was like taking a pre-Seminary degree. I ended up not going to Seminary, but I took all the religion classes. And my favorite Professor I had for one semester in one class. His name was Doctor Metz. He was a Professor Emeritus, he had retired I don’t know how many years earlier, and he came back to teach at least this one class, I don’t know. He was filling in for the professor who normally taught the class who has been on sabbatical. He came and he taught this class and honestly, how do I know he’s such a great teacher? I have no idea what class he taught. I think it might have been a church history class, but I loved him, right? I loved sitting and going, he must have been about eighty years old, and he really didn’t care about teaching the material as far as I know. He just sat and he kind of chatted. It was like coffee time with Doctor Metz. He would chat and we would raise our hand, and we would ask him questions. I learned probably more about God and more about the Bible and more about life in that class than I did anything else that semester. And I remember this one in particular question that someone asked Doctor Metz. I was sitting in that class and it struck me dumb, his answering. The question was this, the question was, Doctor Metz, does it get easier to follow God as you get older? And his answer is what struck me dumb because I thought, well sure it gets easier, right? You know all the things you’re supposed to do, and you do a b c and d, and you just do it. He said, No. Oh no, it gets harder. I’ve learned in the 20 years since I took that class and sat in that class with Doctor Metz, that’s really true. Life doesn’t necessarily get easier, living for God doesn’t get easier. It becomes harder because the challenges become more difficult.

And we see that in Abraham. He’s lived 25 years of faithfulness, and he’s had his ups and downs, but it’s when he’s well past a hundred years old when God asked him to do the most difficult thing he’s ever done in his life. And today we’re going to look at that story that God challenges Abraham and we’re going to see where and how Abraham is faithful God.

But let’s pray first, okay? God, I thank you that you are faithful. That’s just who you are. It’s your nature. You know nothing else but being faithful. And God I thank you, that because we can have relationship with you, you’ve made us a way to have relationship with you, God we could become faithful like you. And so God, I pray today that we would learn from you. We would have connection with you, we would hear your voice. You would use me to speak your words. So that God we can become more faithful like your servant Abraham. We can become more faithful like you. Pray this in your name. Amen.

So Genesis 22 verse 1 – you can look there if you want – and this is how the story begins. And actually before I read it, just, I’ll give you a little back story. So Abraham has had Isaac his son. And he also has this other kind of half-son to his wife Sarah, Ishmael. And there’s conflict, there’s issues. And so it comes to a head, and so Abraham sends Ishmael and his mother off, sends them away. This happens in Genesis chapter 1, immediately before, and then there’s this connection point between Abraham and a neighbor, and they make a covenant together, and they decide to share water, the most important thing that they have. And then it comes to the story. So we don’t know how long, how old Isaac is this point, but we know he’s gotten older right? He’s been weaned at least from his mother. And this is what Genesis 22:1 says.

Genesis 22:1 (NLT) 
1Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. 
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

So let me take a quick change here. Does anyone here ever deal with lower back pain? Not chronic lower back pain, but just, you know, every once in a while your back is stiff and sore? I was doing some research on that this week. And what is the common response that you get like, ah, my back hurts? Well, it’s your posture, right? You need to fix your posture. And if you, like me, the correct posture seems to be, you need to stand up or sit up straight, and kind of have a rigid back, and kind of that military pose, head up, and you need to have correct posture. Well, this article that I was reading about posture, this guy who was a doctor of Physical Therapy, he did some research and there was a study done of 17 year old girls who had correct posture. And they found that these girls, they had correct posture, they sat correctly almost all the time. Their back, still there was minor pain. And at the same time they studied these girls, they also studied boys and they found the boys who would kind of sit slouched and not really correctly, right? They didn’t sit in the correct way, they didn’t have the pain. Well, why didn’t they have the pain? The reason they didn’t have the pain, they found, is because the boys did more movement. They were more active and they moved more, which caused their muscles in the back to be stronger, and the movement itself is actually the important part. Which goes to what this guy was saying, he says the best posture is actually your next posture. The best posture is your next posture. So you need to be constantly moving, sitting up straight some the time, slouching some of the time. Getting up, walking around, doing active things.

Your best posture is your next posture.

So we see here – I’m going to tie these together, it’s magical, watch – Genesis 22: Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith. Abraham, God called. Yes, here I am. When it comes to faithfulness, our best posture is the posture of obedience. And that’s what we see here in Abraham. God calls, and Abraham’s response is open hands. Yes, here I am. He doesn’t even know the question yet. It’s simply, Yes, here I am. Open arms, open hands. God, here I am. Yes, here I am. What’s next God? Here I am.

Let’s compare that, contrast that with another story that also happens in Genesis. And it’s the story of Adam and Eve. And Adam and Eve have been created by God. The entire world has been created, all creations has been created. God has made this incredible Garden and put Adam and Eve there. He says, Here, it’s yours. You take care of it. You take care of the animals. You live life how you want to live life. There’s only one rule is, you can’t eat this fruit. Can’t eat this fruit from this tree. And the serpent comes and he deceives Eve. And Adam is right there with her, and they think he deceived them both. And she takes the fruit and she eats it, and hands it to Adam who’s right there with her, and he eats it. And they sin. And their eyes are opened. Their eyes are open to the reality that their sin and they’ve sinned. And then they see that they’re naked and they cover themselves and they hide.

In Genesis 3 verses 8 and 9, it says:

Genesis 3:8-9 (NLT) 
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

And earlier we find that this is God’s pattern, that he comes and he walks and he spends time and he wants to remain, connect, abide with Adam and Eve. But they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees. And then listen. Then the Lord called the man, Where are you? And instead of them saying, Yes, here I am, they hid. And God had to go and find them. And so instead of having the posture of yes, what’s next? it was closed and hidden and shame. I don’t want to connect with you God right now. I’m disobedient. I can’t connect with you. Whereas Abraham’s posture, even though Abraham was imperfect, he had made mistakes, he had done the wrong thing, it was open arms, open hands. Yes, here I am. What’s next?

So my question is, What is your posture? 
Is it, Yes, here I am, what’s next? 
Or is it closed, I don’t want to connect with you right now God?

Faithfulness begins with a posture of obedience.

And that posture is really important for Abraham. We find that in the next verse that says, Genesis 22:2, it says:

Genesis 22:2 (NLT) 
2“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

Reminds me of this family that I knew that came here to Cross Points years ago. They’re a little bit older and they had a child, an only child, and they had adopted this girl. And I don’t know the whole back story, but I’m assuming they tried to have children naturally and they weren’t able to, and so they adopted this girl. And they loved this girl. I mean love this girl. In particular the Dad, right? The Dad. She was the center of his world, the center of his Universe. There was nothing better on this Earth than this girl in every conversation I would have, he would just brag and gush and tell everybody how incredible this girl was.

Well, it makes me think of that, when God says take your son your only son, take your daughter your only daughter, the one that you love so much, and go and sacrifice. Go sacrifice her. How difficult that was for Abraham to hear. And we don’t know what Abraham’s response was. We don’t know that verbally, we don’t know if he cried, we don’t know if he moaned, we don’t know if he argued, we don’t know what he said. But what we do know is the next action he took. And the next verse says:

Genesis 22:3 (NLT) 
3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.

Abraham acted. Faithful action is faithful obedience. He did the next thing. Why? Because his actions reflected his faithfulness to God. My actions, your actions, they reflect our faithfulness to God. What we do matters. It’s not just having a posture of obedience, but then it’s following through and taking the next step when God says to step.

But He doesn’t just act, He also speaks. He speaks faithfulness as well. So, in Genesis he takes the journey, he’s almost to the mountain, and he stops. He has his servants and Isaac and the donkey and himself, and in Genesis 22:5 it says, Stay here – speaking to the servants – stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there and then we will come right back. Hebrews 11 it tells us, it references this story and says something to the effect of, Abraham had this faith that even if God, even if he was forced to sacrifice his son Isaac, he had this faith that God would at least raise Isaac from the dead. He had this intense faith that God was going to come through in this moment. And so when he says, We will worship there and then we will come right back, he believed that we – me and Isaac – we will come back to this place. Because I believe in a faithful God who keeps his promises. I’ve seen him do it before, and now I’m going to see him do it again, in this moment. What he’s asking me to do is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I believe that God is going to come through in this moment. And we see it happen a little bit later. Isaac, we don’t know how old Isaac is, he may be as young as 5, 6, 7, probably was at least 10 or 12 years old. He could have been the oldest 35 you don’t really know how old he is. He’s probably in his young teens, maybe maybe early twenties, but he’s old enough to kind of figure out something is not right because what Abraham does is, he gives the wood for Isaac to carry? And Abraham has a knife, and the the flint to start the fire, and something starts turning in that head of Isaac, and he says, Hey Dad, I got the wood, got the knife, got the fire. Don’t have a sheep. Abraham’s response is, God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering my son. And they both walked on together.

Genesis 22:8 
8“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

My actions reflect my faithfulness to God.

My words reflect the faithfulness of God. What I speak reflects how I believe that God’s going to come through. What I do reflects that I’m going to be faithful to God when he asked me to move. What I say reflects, God, I believe that you’re going to come through in the situation. I don’t necessarily see it. It’s a little bigger than me, outside what I can see. But I believe, I choose to believe that you will show up in this moment.

Two points of action. 

1. What action do you need to take? Has God spoken, but you need to take the step? Your hands have maybe been open but then, when He’s told you to move, you were like, that was a little too much? What action do you need to take? 

2. Or what language do you need to use? Do you need to change the words that you speak so that you’re reflecting that God is able to do the impossible?

Well, we see that Abraham goes and he lays Isaac on an altar that he makes, on top of the wood. And his hand is raised ready to sacrifice son. And then God comes through. And I love the symmetry of the beginning and the end of the story. The symmetry is this, in verse 11 it says at that moment the angel of the Lord called him from Heaven saying, Abraham! Abraham! Abraham!

Genesis 22:11 
At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

And what’s his response? Here I am. His hand was literally raised to strike his son. And I don’t know if he kind of waited a half beat. He’s like, okay, God this is it, show up? I don’t know what was in his head. But his response was Yes, here I am. And God shows up. And He provides the Ram, provides the sacrifice.

But the story continues to get better. Because it’s not just about faithful obedience, it’s not just about faithfulness, but God loves to bless us when we’re faithful to him.

Faithful obedience leads to blessing.

The story ends by saying, then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. And this is what the Lord says:

Genesis 22:15-18 (NLT) 
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16“This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

God’s doing something bigger than Abraham could ever see in this moment. He’s doing something that really wouldn’t be seen until thousands of years later, He’s foreshadowing something that happens beyond this moment. You see God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, the one that he loves so much, and to take him to sacrifice it. And then he brings Isaac to this certain point, and he stopped and he put the wood, the element of Isaac’s destruction on his back. And he walks up a hill to the place where he was to be sacrificed. I don’t know how old Isaac is, but he’s probably like 13, 14, 15 years old. And I don’t know whole lot but I know that 15 year olds can outrun a 115 year-old every single time. But Isaac in this moment, he’s aware. There’s like the spiritual awareness, that he allows himself to be bound and laid on top of this altar. His faith is just as strong as his father’s faith. And he puts himself into the father’s hands and he says, okay. This is what you say Dad, I believe. Like you believe, I believe.

And we see thousands of years later, that the Son of God, Jesus Himself comes to Earth. And he carries his cross, the element of his destruction, and he carries it up a hill. And he willingly lays himself down on that cross to be sacrificed. He puts himself in the hands of his father. Knowing that his father has the power to resurrect him and he has to trust and choose to believe that God is faithful to his word, that what God said he would do, he will do. That’s blessing. Because of the faithfulness of one man to do – Abraham, to do what he was called to do – He used the line of Abraham to save us, all of us.

Faithfulness. My faithfulness comes because I have relationship with a faithful God. Your faithfulness only comes because you have a relationship with a faithful God. And that relationship comes through Jesus.

And I want to offer the opportunity right now right where you’re at to say I need Jesus. I need relationship. I need connection. I need to know that guy who’s faithful. So if you wouldn’t mind right now just taking a moment and reflecting. Where am I at? Do I have connection with this guy? Do I have connection with the One who laid his life down so that I could have relationship with the father. So right now where you’re at, while you’re thinking about that, I just want to give you that chance, that opportunity to say, I need Jesus. So if you’re here and you say, I need Jesus, would you just raise your hand? I need connection with the father. I see that hand in the back. See the hand back there, too. Anyone else say I need Jesus? I see that hand. See a hand over there. . . Anyone else? I need Jesus. I need connection with the father. If you raised your hand, and if you didn’t raise your hand, would you pray this prayer with me? Actually if you wouldn’t mind, church, just praying out loud with all of us, saying, Dear Jesus, I thank you. I thank you for the blessing that you gave me. I thank you that you laid your life down so that my sins could be forgiven. Jesus I accept your offering. I choose to make you my Lord. I choose to make you my God. May I have connection with you? In your name.

Pastor David?

Amen. Can we give Pastor Andy a great big hand this morning for teaching us? Amen.

I thought that was so good. Your best posture is your next posture. I just want you to go home this week thinking about that. I know I’m going to. What’s the posture that God has for you next? What is he speaking to you? Often times we get kind of hurried and harried with the with the cares in the concerns of this world. And God is speaking to you, and wanting you to take the next step. What’s the next thing he has for you? I want you to have that kind of ring in your ears this week. God, what’s my next posture? Hopefully all of us would say, God, here I am, whatever you want. Amen.

Would you stand up with me this morning? I want to pray for you and bless you.

But before I do that, if you need any prayer this morning here we’re dismissed, to my left and your right, there’s some banners there that say Next Steps. We’re going to have our prayer team over there. And if you need prayer for any particular reason today, whether you have a physical need or maybe have something else that’s going on at work or maybe at school, we’d love to pray with you. Again, over to my left and your right, after the service make your way over there

And also if you’re new to Cross Points, you’d like to learn a little bit more about who we are as a church, I teach a class. It takes about 30 minutes immediately following this service. We have a small lunch for you as well. Again, I’d love to get to know you a little bit better. You can meet us over by the coffee house. There’s a banner there that says Grow. I’d love to connect with you. Again, takes about 30 minutes of your time, and you’ll learn a little bit more about who we are at the church.

Well, if you wouldn’t mind receiving God’s blessing by raising your hand, just as a sign of surrender. . . Father, I pray that your people, Lord, would have a posture that says, Here am I. That we would have open hands and open hearts. Father, I pray that you would speak to your people this week, and that we would be obedient. And that we would be faithful to you with our actions and with our words. I pray that over your people, that they would go forth with joy and be led forth with peace this week. In the name of Jesus. And the church that wanted that said, Amen. Amen. God bless you. Have a great Sunday.

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