Monthly Archives: February 2018

Romans 4.16-25

Title: The Nature of Faith

Text: Romans 4.16-25

CIT: We have Abraham’s faith when we believe like he did (God raises the dead [Jesus] and calls into existence things that are not yet).

CIS: When anyone believes Jesus was delivered up for our transgressions and raised for our justification, it is credited as righteousness and they can have a relationship with God, just like Abraham.

Introduction: We’re in Genesis 15 and 17 this morning, as well as in our main text Romans 4.16-25;

Billy Graham died this past week at the age of 99. What I love so much about him was the fact that he lived out his faith. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect. I heard him call himself a sinner when he preached. But what he did… his choices, his actions were all about living out the faith he professed.

That is what I want to talk to you about this morning: living out your faith in a public way.

In our text this morning Romans 4.16-25, v 16 acts as a transition verse of sorts. You see our topic… rd v 16, that is why it depends on faith… Faith is our subject. And more specifically, the faith of Abraham: in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

So, we have some context before we even enter into the passage: Faith and narrowed down a little from such a broad subject, the Faith of Abraham, our father. To be sure, the faith of Abraham can be a pretty broad subject, too. So let’s get specific: in talking about faith, what Paul wants to do is describe for us the nature of Abraham’s faith in order that these Romans might apply it to their own situation. Paul wants the Romans to have the faith of Abraham – but what does that mean? How did Abraham demonstrate his faith and what he believed?

Opening illustration: I love Lisa. I trust that she loves me, too. But, words ring hollow if there is no action on my part (or hers for that matter) to demonstrate what I know to be true. My actions and reactions, well, that would be the nature of my love. Poems and songs are nice, but what we do in our day-to-day lives is what is true. What we do reveals what we believe.

Paul is going to spend the rest of this chapter outlining for us the Nature of Abraham’s faith, and then he will apply it to the Christian. Really, that would be the one point: The Nature of Abraham’s faith. Then, Paul cites three pieces of evidence from Abraham’s life which demonstrate his faith. Abraham believed God with the way he lived. (He persisted in Hope; His faith was not weakened at his physical condition; His faith was strengthened at God’s promise).

I.    The Nature of Abraham’s Faith (17)

exp.: rd v 17a; This is God’s Statement to Abraham. It is interesting to note in that quoted verse from Genesis 15, God speaks to Abraham in the present tense of a future event as if it has already happened. Let me repeat that: God speaks to Abraham in the present tense of a future event as if it has already happened. He says: “I have made you the father of many nations.”

That’s nice to say God, but where is the proof? That’s the thing about faith – it doesn’t need proof to act. Abraham and Sarah have room to say to God – that doesn’t make sense! We have no children! We have no son to carry on our name. Abraham is declared that father of many nations and yet, he has no children. Moreover, Gen 17.1 tells us Abraham was 99 years old when this was declared to him.

Paul tells us that Abraham believed God. Abraham, you already are the father of many nations. That is what I’ve made you. Which BTW, believed is the word for faith; you could read this (17b): in the presence of the God in whom he had faith… and just what was this that he believed? Rd 17c; who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Two parts to this: 1) bringing the dead to life (lit.: a compound word life maker) and 2) bringing into existence things that don’t exist (lit.: bringing the not being into being).

app.: When God says something, even if you can’t see it, even if it does not exist, do you believe it will come to be? Abraham did – that is the nature of his faith. He believed God. His faith in God was evident by what he then did. The nature of his faith is expressed in actions of his life.

God’s promise will demonstrate when it is fulfilled that He is the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. And Abraham then acts on what he knows about God – that God will do it. Paul seizes on this teaching moment by offering three pieces of evidence for Abraham’s faith, which demonstrate for us the nature of his faith. They are found in three subsequent verses (18, 19, 20):

  1. He persisted in hope when the physical told him it was impossible. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” Here is a 2nd quote from Genesis (15.5).
  2. His faith was not weakened even though he and Sarah were way to old for child-bearing. 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
  3. He did not doubt God’s promise, but grew strong in his faith. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

And then Paul sums it all up in v22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

app.: So, the nature of Abraham’s faith is that he lived his life knowing that God would (1) bring life to what is considered dead and (2) that he would bring into existence things that don’t exist.

t.s.: So, let’s look a little closer now at Paul’s three examples:

  1. He persisted in hope when the physical told him it was impossible. (18) In hope he believed against hope.

exp.: We get the context of this verse from Genesis 15. If you have that bookmarked, turn with me there. 15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

ill.: I love looking up at the stars; have you ever tried to lay outside looking up into a clear night sky and count the stars? It is impossible like that. I’m sure there are computers and technology that would help with that today, but just laying out under the stars is… breathtakingly beautiful. Try to lay there and count them… practically impossible. Now, add to this story the idea that there are no street lights, porch lights, car lights, city lights. There is nothing quite like being out of the city – out in the wilderness and far away from lights and to see the night sky filled with millions of stars. As Abram looked up into the sky he would have seen it filled with stars innumerable.

app.: All of this from nothing. Abraham, a nation – no, a nation of nations… pretty hard to believe in that moment. But not for him… he didn’t live to see it, but he believe that God would accomplish what he said.

t.s.: 2nd demonstration as listed in Romans 4:

  1. His faith was not weakened even though he and Sarah were way too old for child-bearing. (19)

exp.: consider his body: he’s 99 years old in Genesis 17. In Gen 15, he’s probably about 85 years old. Rd 19b: which was a good as dead. Physically, he should produce the same as a dead body. That ain’t very productive. And his wife, Sarah? Rd 19c; or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. The Greek reads: or when he considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Twice in this sentence Paul uses the word: dead. He did not weaken in his faith, though physically his and his wife’s bodies were growing steadily weaker with their age.

ill.: I don’t consider myself old. I know I’m getting older, but I don’t think of myself as being old. But I feel the aging process. When I fall, it takes me longer to get up. I used to bounce back up. Now I kind of just go ‘thud’. Then I crawl back up slowly. I know it only gets harder as I see people who are 30 to 40 years older than me. I had lunch this week with Percy Werner and a couple of men from the church. Percy is 96. As he was getting in my car to go to lunch he told me to take a good look at 96. He said: this will be you one day. I told him I don’t think I’ll make it that long and he assured me that I will. That means I’d have to go another 43 years.

app.: Abraham feels old. He knows his wife is beyond child-bearing years. Her womb is dead. But there is something Abraham has come to know: This God who has called him, He is the life maker. He brings to life things others consider dead.

t.s.: He is aware of their situation, but knows that God is God and that he will do what he says. We see Abraham struggle, but he never weakens in his faith.

  1. He did not doubt God’s promise, but grew stronger in his faith. (20-21)

exp.: rd v 20-21; 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. The Greek structure puts the promise of God at the beginning – making it the emphasis of the sentence. Then it continues: he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in his faith… lit.: but was empowered. Passive voice. He didn’t pull himself up by his own bootstraps, but rather, an outside force strengthened his faith. Rd v 21; as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

ill.: In Genesis 22, Abraham is commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham goes through the motions to fulfill what God has required of him. And the writer of Hebrews lets us in Abraham’s faith in chapter 11: 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

app.: by his actions, Abraham declared that he believed in God who gives life to the dead. Here is what Abraham knew: God promised him descendants. God promised they would be through Isaac. He pleaded with God: Oh, that Ishmael might be my heir! God said no. He promised the heir would come through Sarah. Abraham knows this as he walks up the mountain to offer Isaac.

I have no idea what you’re facing today. But may I encourage you: if God is indeed in charge of your life, if you’ve trusted him to run your life, then let him run it! Be obedient and you’ll find His plan unfolding in your life.

We have 1,000’s of years to bank upon the promises of God. What God promised Abraham has been fulfilled in Jesus.

t.s.: Paul then notes: 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Another quote from Genesis) Now, Paul brings his message home, making it applicable for the believer.

II.    The Nature of Our Faith in Christ (23-25)

exp.: rd 23-25: 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. The Nature of our faith is to demonstrate that we truly believe (1st) Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and sin and then (2), that he was raised from the dead for our justification. When we do, it is counted to our spiritual accounts as righteousness. When we do, we have the faith of Abraham.

app.: Abraham is our spiritual father – that is, if we’re Christians. We should expect that Abraham’s children would be counted as righteous in the same way that Abraham was counted righteous. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (24) – that God gave life to his dead body. V25 puts them together that he died for our sins and his dead body was brought to life for our justification.

t.s.: What we have in Abraham was recorded for us – that we might know what faith looks like.

Application: Our faith must be God-Centered.

Conclusion: some closing thoughts:

  1. God, in whom we trust, demonstrates his will with inconceivable power.
    1. We have the Old and New Testaments with plenty of demonstrations.
    2. We have Church History with plenty more.
  2. God, in whom we trust, demonstrates his incredible patience with the passing of centuries.
    1. How much time is left? I don’t know, but I don’t believe it will be long now.
    2. Why is he still waiting? That, I don’t know either, except for the opportunity for the lost to turn from their wicked ways and cling to the hope of salvation from sin.
  3. God, in whom we trust, demonstrates indescribable mercy to the penitent.
    1. God has structured all of history to bring about an indescribable display of mercy.
      1. He has told us who He is: Holy.
      2. He has declared to us our sinfulness and our separation due to this sinfulness.
      3. He has made a way for us to find forgiveness of sin and to be made right with Him.
        1. He gave his one and only son to die for our sin on the cross of Calvary.
        2. He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
        3. He was raised for our justification and now rules and reigns in glory.
    2. Today is the day of salvation.

And, when you and I commit our lives to this, through faith in Jesus – we, too, are like our father Abraham, who was counted as righteous before God – because he believed that God could raise the dead and make something out of nothing.

This morning, if you’ve never committed your life to Christ, I offer him to you. Today you can know what forgiveness is like. You can experience it first hand. Maybe there is another commitment on your mind. You want to join the church, get involved in our ministry and our mission. Let’s talk about that.

We’ll gather for a time of fellowship in the back in just a moment. But first, let’s sit quietly before the Lord and reflect on His great mercy and love and patience. Then, after a moment of silence, I’m going to ask ….. to dismiss us with a benedictory prayer. Then, Duffey, would you lead us in a song of praise… Then, we’ll be dismissed.


Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Justification, Romans, Salvation, Scripture, Sermon, Uncategorized

Romans 4.9-16

Introduction: the Christian faith has been in the forefront of social media lately and making the news because of it.

Joy Behar, one of the hosts of ABC’s “The View,” recently made the news for her comments about Vice-president Mike Pence and his Christian faith. She said that it was ok that Mike speaks to Jesus, but if Jesus speaks to him, well, that’s called Mental Illness. She went on to ridicule his rule about not meeting with women alone. She said she wondered if his wife would let him talk with Mary Magdalene if they were alone in a room.

Super Bowl Sunday, Tony Dungy, the former NFL great defensive back and Super Bowl winning coach made a comment in the post game show about how he had visited with Nick Foles, the QB for Philadelphia Eagles – the winning team. Coach Dungy told the audience that he visited with Nick before the game and Nick wasn’t worried about things. Dungy said that Nick would play with confidence because of his Christian faith. He felt that God had him there for a purpose. Twitter and other forms of social media lit up, tearing in to Coach for his inappropriate use of the time NBC gave him.

The hate and vitriol has spiraled out of control. Christians are being harshly criticized and maligned for simply calling on prayer for the victims of the Florida shooting this past week. It’s getting to where you risk being ostracized for your Christian faith if you display your faith in public.

Is that really such a bad thing?

Mindy Belz posted on her weekly update, Globe trot, some statistics from the International Bulletin of Mission Research that are really eye-popping concerning Protestant numbers and statistics world-wide: A recent academic paper on 500 years of Protestant Christianity has striking statistics (see report, page 3): In 1900 1.7 percent of Protestants lived in Africa and today 40.8 percent reside on the continent. Conversely, in 1900 63.1 percent lived in Europe, and today 16.3 percent of Protestants live there. Averaging across 5 ½ centuries, Protestants in North America represents under 14 percent of global Protestantism. If you add up all of the Protestants in the entire world outside of Africa and Asia, they don’t even add up to the numbers of Protestants living in Africa alone.

North American Protestants (which of course includes Canada and Mexico) represents less than 11% of all Protestants (it’s 10.9%) worldwide.

Transition: maybe we do need our faith on display? Now, when I say that, what does it mean? In today’s American Culture, Faith is a very private thing. But for Christians, it shouldn’t be.

We’re in the midst of a study in Romans. Your very rough and simple outline we’re following looks like this:

  • Sin: 1-2
  • Salvation: 3-5
  • Sanctification: 6-8
  • Sovereignty: 9-11
  • Service: 12-16

In the first couple of chapters we noted how Paul addressed the issue of sin and his great desire to preach the Gospel because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Here in the 2nd section, Paul is addressing the issue of salvation through faith alone.

In 4.9-16 this morning, we open up our text with two questions:

  • Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? This first question is in response to a quote from King David to which Paul just referred: rd v 7-8; Is this blessing of forgiveness only for the circumcised?
  • 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised?

Paul answers both questions in each of those verses. Then, it v11-12, Paul defends his answers. You might say he clarifies his answers. First he declares that:

  1. Abraham was counted righteous by faith, not by circumcision or works of any kind. (9)

exp.: Paul makes this declaration because some Jews believed that Abraham was right before God because he was circumcised. As you probably already know, circumcision was a sign of the covenant that Abraham had with God. It was required of all male Jews to enter into that covenant. Otherwise, they weren’t considered to be a part of the people of God. You were either circumcised and in covenant with God or you were considered outside the covenant.

ill.: Circumcision vs. Baptism: That struggle was very similar to baptism today. I’m talking about the struggle that the Jews had with uncircumcised Gentiles becoming Christians. Both baptism and circumcision are like rites of passage. Some see it as initiation into the faith. Some Jews believed that circumcision of Gentiles was required for salvation and some Christians today believe baptism is required for salvation. You probably have friends or even family members who feel this way. So, as we approach Romans 4.9-16, it makes sense for us when we see it that way and easier to understand why some Jews pushed for all believers to become circumcised.

But Paul minces no words here (9b): it was by faith that Abraham was counted as righteous. It isn’t by circumcision, nor by any other work.

How so? Well, Paul’s first argument or defense of his answer is:

I.     Abraham’s justification came before he was circumcised. (10)

exp.: his first argument is a chronological one; rd v 10; in Gen 15 Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God; in Gen 17, some 10-15 years after he was declared righteous, he is then circumcised. In the same way as Christians, we understand that Baptism doesn’t save anyone. We trust God, first. We put our faith and trust in Christ as God has promised. We believe God and so we’re saved. Baptism is a work of the believer, who obeys the command to be baptized. Baptism is really a believer’s first step of obedience.

app.: if you’re sitting here today and you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then congratulations. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ve never been baptized, then something is wrong with that.

t.s.: Your baptism is a public demonstration of this new life in Christ. Talk about Faith Displayed.

Paul continues his defense: Paul’s next argument is:

II.    Circumcision was a sign of what had already taken place (11-13)

rd v 11; note those two very important words: sign and seal; it is a sign and seal of his righteousness by faith. Circumcision did that for the Jew. It was an external sign and seal of the Abrahamic Covenant.

ill.: I received a letter from President Regan back in the 80’s for some work that I did while serving in the military. It will always be something that is precious to me. It came to me through my chain of command. The seal of the President of the United States of America validated the letter. I was taken into a room where my leadership was waiting for me. My platoon leader, 1st SGT, company commander and others were there. There were people I didn’t know. They showed me the letter and then read it to me. To be sure, the letterhead and the seal were pretty cool, but these weren’t more important than the letter, itself, what it said and the signature. What was in the letter was what I value. Unless I live to be 93, I don’t think that letter will ever see the light of day. It is classified Top Secret. It was closed up and sealed and deposited with my records somewhere in a warehouse where Indiana Jones is keeping the Ark of the Covenant. I’m rambling now, but don’t miss the point: I was recognized for some work I had done for the President. He commissioned the work and I was selected to do the job. It isn’t the envelope or the seal that made that letter important. It was what was inside.

app.: Paul is saying that the circumcision of Abraham was a sign and a seal of something that had already taken place.

t.s.: So, Paul continues his teaching in v13-16; and, really, he just repeats himself. There isn’t anything new or different presented in these next few verses.

III.  Abraham was counted righteous through faith, not through the law. (13-16)

exp.: in v 13-16, Paul reflects upon the promise: that Abraham would be heir of the world. Rd v 13; Hold it – heir of the world? Genesis 12 God promised Abraham that he would possess the land of Canaan. God told him to go to a land that he would show him. When he got to Shechem, God promised him the land of Canaan. That’s in v 7 of Chapter 12; Now, in Gen 12.3, God told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him – so there is this idea of ‘the world’ here.

ill.: This is a great example of using the New Testament as a commentary on the Old Testament. Sometimes, when you’re in the OT and something doesn’t make sense, or, you’re simply studying an OT passage – a wonderful tool already in your hand is to find any reference of that OT passage in the NT. The NT writers had a tremendous grasp of the OT and it’s meaning.

Back to our text in Romans 4, Paul tells us why Abraham is going to inherit the world. It must be because of his tremendous body of work! Rd v 14; Some folks think or at least act like the righteousness of God is imputed, credited to us through both faith and works, but Paul clearly tells us here that it isn’t. Because, he says, if works has any part in our justification, then faith is null and the promise void. You can’t have both.

But, why not? Rd v 15; if you try to gain righteousness through the law, you will fail. Why? because the law brings wrath and you can’t obey the law perfectly.

As a matter of fact, there is only one who obeyed the law perfectly: Jesus. Added to this, he then died on the cross for our failure to obey the law perfectly. That’s where our faith comes in… rd v 16;

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,

app.: faith, by grace to everyone who believes: to the adherent of the law – that is the Jew; and to the one who shares the faith of Abraham.

Conclusion: if you believe like Abraham, that what God said to you is true, then the righteousness of God is credited to your account, your sins are forgiven and you have the promise of heaven. What is it that God says to you? Simply this:

  • God is Holy
  • You and I are not – we’re sinful.
  • We cannot remedy this situation on our own – we need an intercessor.
  • The sufficiency of Christ in remedying our situation.

Application: Faith displayed:

  1. Faith alone is what brings justification before God, not works of any kind. This is a reminder to us that works, which display our faith, cannot save us.
  2. However, when it comes to faith, Faith must generate good works. Think James Any and all work we do must flow from this faith that we have in Christ. We don’t do it because it saves us. But, rather, we do good works to demonstrate the faith we have. If this is true, then wouldn’t a lack of works demonstrates a lack of faith. You don’t do anything because you don’t truly believe.
  3. It is deeply humbling to realize that our gift of salvation comes through faith and isn’t earned.

CS Lewis said: That Christ offers something for Nothing …That He even offers everything for Nothing …That we have done and can do Nothing …That we must stop trying to overcome… Then, Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair!

  1. True Faith exhibits itself through a positive lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that everything in our life is positive. I got an email this morning from one of my students’ mom letting me know that this student’s grandfather passed away. That’s negative. My mom told me her nephew in Korea committed suicide this week, leaving behind a wife and two little children. That’s negative. There could be some absolutely negative experiences in your life; however, a life of faith rolls with the punches because that believer knows God has got this. A positive lifestyle in the face of calamity demonstrates one’s faith in God.
    1. One of my favorite stories where this is demonstrated is with David when his son Absalom had launched a coop against his father.

ill.: 2 Samuel 16 7-8: “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” Then Abishai, who was one of David’s mighty men implored David that he might go over there and cut his head off. David was like: No. Maybe he’s only doing what God told him to do.

We all at some times in our lives experience struggle and pain. But a life of faith really comes out at during those times. Being discouraging toward others, grumbling and complaining about your situation, that demonstrates a lack of faith. It really does demonstrate that you don’t trust God.

ill.: John Piper has said: The Essence of faith is being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.

Are you satisfied in Christ? Do you find yourself longing for what you see in others? Maybe that’s something you need to lay before the father today and declare your trust only in him. Maybe you’ve never trusted him before? Maybe this is a new thing and you’re wanting to place your life in his hands. You’d say you’ve made a mess of things.

We’re going to have a time of fellowship around the coffee and cookies in the back. Come and visit with us. If you have a question about Christianity, Church membership, our missions and ministry, baptism – or you just need to talk, we’d like to visit with you. The elders and staff and membership will be gathered back there.

Let’s bow our hearts before God in a moment of silence. And then afterward, I’d like to ask … to lead us in a benedictory prayer.


Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, Romans, Scripture, Sermon

Overcoming Discouragement

Title: Overcoming Discouragement

Text: Psalm 73

Background: We’re in Psalm 73 today. I think most of us understand the book of Psalms to be a hymnal for the Jews. But, it is so much more than that! There is a congruency – a consistency and a melodic line that flows through the entire book. There is purpose and design. My intention this morning isn’t to prove that. Maybe I can do that at sometime in the future. For now, let me bring you up to speed with Psalm 73.

I know some are thinking: what? I thought we were in Romans. Answer: we are. But, I felt the need to preach from Psalm 73 this morning since earlier in the week. It was not originally on my calendar, but felt the Lord’s prompting and so, I’m leaving Romans for today and preaching Psalm 73.

With that being said, turn to Psalm 73.

What you know of the book of Psalms is composed of 5 individual books. Psalm 73 is the 1st Psalm in the 3rd book. Do you see that there in your titles and subtitles? A quick outline of Psalms would look like this:

  • Introduction:1-2
  • Book 1: 3-41
  • Book 2: 42-72
  • Book 3: 73-89
  • Book 4: 90-106
  • Book 5: 107-145
  • Conclusion: Praise 146-150

As we start in Book three, we see that Book two has just ended. The Psalm states that it is “to/for/of Solomon”, but as it ends in v 20, we read: 20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended. So, King David probably composed this psalm as a prayer. David is a great earthly picture of a king and God, who is King of kings, has selected this man who will follow him. This is what scholars call a ‘Royal’ Psalm. Israel understood their King to be God’s man for the job of leading Israel and they prayed for him.

God is their King and David is their earthly king. In a sense, they rule together because David has been chosen of God. And, God has chosen not just David, but his heirs, as well. And, the Messiah, who is to come, will be like him. Or, better worded: David is ‘like’ the Messiah who is to come. You and I already know this. David was a type of Christ to show us a picture of the one who would come: Jesus.

And He is our focus.

If we skip down to Psalm 74, we see this call from the Psalmist begging God to defend His own cause: not the cause of the Psalmist, but that of God. The Israelites, The Kings of Israel have not imaged God the way they should have. Their situation has made God look bad. Sure, what has happened to them is a result of their own behavior and rejection of their King and His laws. But, when Israel is conquered or in famine or in ruin, it appears God can’t take care of his people – which, of course, just isn’t true.

So, 72 is the Culmination of the section on King David and 74 is this plea for God to act on His own behalf. The Israelites are making God look bad and the Psalmist is begging God to act. So what is 73 all about?

Introduction: He begins by telling us what He knows: God is Good

He begins with God is Good! (rd v1); you would think that’s all that needs to be said, but there really is a great lesson here in this Psalm.

Oh, how I wish I could just make this statement and you’d all say: Duh, yeah! God is Good – All the time. All the time – God is Good! I wish we all felt it and didn’t have to struggle with it. But, the truth is, although I think you might have a little trouble admitting it, God is good and we don’t always see it that way. Asaph sure didn’t.

That’s what he’s saying in v2-3: “God is good! But, I didn’t always feel this way”; rd v2; He says: I almost stumbled, I almost fell. And then he tells us why: rd v 3: He says: I had been discouraged at what I saw in the prosperity of the wicked. The word saw here, means to watch with envy. It means to covet.

Asaph’s Struggle:

Asaph was really struggling at some time in the past. He sat down and watched so many others, who were wicked people, live what looked like blessed lives. He saw sinful people living prosperous, easy lives. He on the other hand – didn’t have it so easy. That just didn’t seem fair. Surely someone who walks with God faithfully should have it easy, No? And, the wicked – they should struggle! But that wasn’t what he was seeing with his eyes. And so he became envious.

V 4-12 tells us what he ‘sees’. And, as we move verse by verse through to v 12, we see a progression of wickedness and a blindness of those who join with them.

Let’s look at what he saw of the prosperous:

Rd v 4a; As Spurgeon said: “They have a quiet death; gliding into eternity without a struggle.” Rd v4b; You must also consider that a 21 Century health-conscious person isn’t going to get this metaphor. There is plenty to eat and the work is easy.

Rd v 5; man, it sure appears that they got it pretty easy compared to the rest of the world! Rd v 6; Pride is easy to understand, but violence as a garment, well, that’s a little harder. I think this means that their wealth and prosperity have led them to cruel and violent behavior toward others. Rd v 7: These people get whatever they want – whatever their eyes see and their imaginations crave.

Rd v 8-12; Marvin Tate, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Psalms 51-100, says that this passage seems to indicate that the ordinary people turn to the rich and drink down their language with unthinking desire for their affluent lifestyle. Regardless of how vile they may be, the ways of the rich are very attractive to many people. Even their foolish language (v 11) is treated as wise.

Ill.: This sounds so 21st Century America to me. For some reason, we think the rich are the smart people and that what they say has great value. In many ways, especially in this regard, we’re no different from Asaph.

Now, when we come to v 13, we see a self-assessment that the Psalmist does.

Asaph’s Self-Assessment:

“Truly” begins v1 and here demonstrates that something has changed. In v 1, the force of the “truly” is “in spite of everything to the contrary, God is good to Israel.” In spite of the way things appear in the prosperity of the foolish and the suffering of the faithful, God is Good! In v 13, the force is: “in spite of all the indications of well-being of the wicked, I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence”—which means that the speaker refused to run after the prosperous wicked and adopt their ways. It sounds as if he feels like he’s been good for no reason at all, but I don’t think that is his point. No, he’s saying in spite of all indications that the wicked are being blessed by God, I chose to keep my heart clean and not follow their path.

Rd v 14-16: lit., “it was a wearisome thing in my eyes.” Let me stop right here and now of how Asaph had become so discouraged. You can hear it in words. And, I’m pretty sure you could hear it in his voice, too, had you been around to hear him.

Oh, how Asaph was discouraged: have you ever been discouraged? Maybe you’re there right now.

  • Maybe you got passed up for that promotion. You’ve worked harder and longer and what has happened is just unfair. Maybe that other person even cheated or was dishonest. You played it fair and you’re your integrity, but now they have the promotion. There’s just something not right about that.
  • Maybe you’re checking out that other family. What is it about them? They always seem to be getting a new car or going on vacation. How can he get that much time off? They’re never in church on Sunday morning. You’re not even sure they’re saved. And you’re discouraged because you’re driving the same ole’ beater. You’re thankful you don’t have payments to the bank, but you’re local garage is getting regular payments.
  • Maybe you’re looking around at all the other churches in town and feel like God’s blessing everyone else, but us. Those people are getting a new worship center. Those people are remodeling their Family Life Center. Those people are getting a new Gym. Those people have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry or a (you fill-in the blank) ministry. Those people have this awesome choir and you find yourself discouraged because you’re looking at these other churches and don’t understand why God isn’t blessing you when you’ve stayed the course. You’ve been faithful. Your heart and your hands are clean before God.

Transition: But then, something incredible happens to Asaph as he encounters God.

Asaph’s Sanctuary Experience:

He was discouraged and wearied until… rd v 17; 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Asaph had a God-encounter! He saw what was real and realized what was not real. The sanctuary of God is the very presence of God. Asaph met God and it changed his attitude.

Isn’t it amazing what a proper perspective can bring? Asaph saw what was eternal and was able to bring into perspective what he had been looking at in the prosperity of the people.

When he saw God for who He really is, then:

  1. He saw the people for who they really are. Rd v 17b; rd 18-19;
  2. He saw his predicament, his situation in light of eternity. Rd v 20;
  3. He saw how he had been in his attitude toward God; rd v 21-22

Pray: Oh, God, forgive us when we focus on this temporary situation and put too much value on it in light of eternity. Oh, Father forgive us when miss what you’re doing in our lives and in the lives of others because we are focused on the temporary. Oh, Master, forgive us for when we think you owe us something – like you’re so lucky to have us on your team!

What a fearful, dreadful consideration: to be at odds with God. Would you choose today the materialistic success of the Western Church over and above God’s presence? Asaph says, no! rd v 23-24; He says I’ve experienced your presence and in v 25-26 he says, I don’t want anything in heaven or on earth that puts me at odds with you. I only want you! Rd 25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you. There’s none I desire beside you.

Conclusion: Now, the Psalmist has a great perspective on things. Now he really knows what is important. rd v 27-28

  • Their ending
  • My blessing: the presence of God – and that truly shows how wonderfully good He is!

Application: So, How do I keep from getting discouraged?

  1. Discouragement comes from a focus on the wrong things. When you want something more than you want God, you’re going to become discouraged.
  2. Discouragement comes when you think God owes you something. I’ve kept my hands clean and my heart pure. You owe me. You’re like the older brother in the prodigal son parable. When you assume that you’ve kept your hands clean and your heart pure and because of that, God owes you… you’re going to become discouraged.
  3. Discouragement is bred through gossip, slander and negative grumblings. Discouraged people discourage others. This kind of a person is a rebel and a beast toward God, too (v. 22).
  4. Discouragement is cured with a proper perspective of things:
    1. That God is in charge, in spite of what your circumstances tell you.
    2. That God is really all you want and need. Everything else is superfluous.
    3. That whatever you’re going through – it will pass. Let God teach you in it.

If you’ve been focusing on the wrong things: repent.

If you’ve been thinking God owes you something: repent.

If you’ve been badmouthing the church, a ministry, the pastor, an elder, a member: repent.

You don’t know what God is doing to and through others. So trust that what He is doing is right and best. It is what will bring him glory.

I’d like to visit with you about these things. Maybe you have a question about Christianity or maybe you’re interested in what it means to be a member of Calvary. If you want to talk about Psalms or this message – I’d love to visit with you.


Leave a comment

Filed under Psalms, Scripture, Sermon

Abraham Believed God

Title: Abraham was Justified by Faith

Text: Romans 4:1-8

Introduction: We’re in Romans 4 today. We’ll also be in Psalm 32 – so mark those passages.

Our topic this morning, The Doctrine of Salvation is vital to us as Christians and Southern Baptists. What I mean by that is that it is vital you and I understand what that means. You might even say it is foundational in determining who we are. We need to get this right. And, we need to be communicating this right.

CS Lewis teaches us in his book, Mere Christianity, that Christianity will not make sense until you realize three truths:

  1. There is a moral law. Simply discussing it establishes it.
  2. There is a ‘Somebody’ behind it. He says this to the random mind in discussing this moral law. It had to come from somewhere.
  3. We’ve broken the moral law and are at odds with this ‘Somebody’ because we’ve broken it.

When it comes to the study of the Doctrine of Salvation, Romans is a great book to choose. Really, you could choose any one of so many different books, but Romans is definitely focused on Salvation.

In some ways, you could say it is a doctrine that is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. And, in other ways, it is a doctrine that can be confusing and hard to understand. It’s easy and straightforward, but there must be more to it. It only makes sense that there is something you must “do”.

We’re like the Philippian Jailer who asked Paul and his companions: What must I ‘do’ to be saved? We want to ‘do’ something – make amends, earn our way. John 6 demonstrates for us a crowd of confused individuals who sound very much like us. They asked: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

I think Paul is trying to make this very point in 3.27-4.1 with all of the questions:

  • Then what becomes of our boasting? By what kind of law? By a law of works?
  • Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?
  • Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?
  • What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?

Is it really that easy? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight. Is it really that easy? Yes! But it can’t be. Surely there is something I must “do”! What must I ‘do’ to be saved? The answer: believe. Yeah, but what must I ‘do’…

This is important. We need to get this doctrine of salvation thing right. Souls depend on it.

Transition: if there is no boasting because there are no works that bring about salvation; if for the Jew, justification is by faith, then, Paul asks this question.

I.     The Question (1)

exp.: rd 4.1a; What then shall we say was gained by Abraham…? Consider the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith. What 4 faces would be on there? Abraham, Moses, David… I don’t know who gets the 4th spot. Here we see Abraham and in v 6, Paul will quote David. Moses appears in chapter 5 with Adam. I think Paul is pulling out the heavy hitters to make his point.

ill.: think about it, If I were talking computers and technology and I said something like: Steve Jobs said… wouldn’t that add some validity and weight to my point? If I were talking money and I dropped Warren Buffett’s name…

app.: that’s what Paul is doing…; the argument might sound like this:

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Oh, really? Then what about Abraham? Abraham is on the Jewish Mt. Rushmore because of his works! Remember how he willingly offered up his own son?

t.s.: So, he continues in v 2 and answers his question…

II.    The Answer (2-5)

exp.: rd v 2; If… that’s such a big word. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Many Jews believed Abraham was justified by his works: Jubilees 23.10 – Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord. Or, Kiddushin 4.14 of the Babylonian Talmud says: we find that Abraham our father had performed the whole Law before it was given. The Jews held this principle of Abraham’s perfection to the Law in high regard. And, Paul is saying – yeah, but no! If he could…then he would, but he can’t – not before God. It would be that way for all of us. If anyone here could be justified by works alone – then, yeah, there is room to brag.

ill.: We like to brag: about our kids, our accomplishments, anything that shows how awesome we are.

  • My son took his first steps when he was 7 months old.
  • Oh, yeah, my kid was able to read at the age of three.
  • My son, started on varsity.
  • My son started on varsity for both the Offense and the Defense.
  • My son played college ball.
  • My son played for the 49ers.
  • My son invented the football!

Brian Regan calls it the “Me Monster” – Me, Me, Me, Me, Me. If you haven’t seen it, Google Brian Regan on YouTube and watch: I walked on the Moon.

If we could actually attain salvation through our works… could you imagine the egos? The front row would be reserved for those very few who actually attained that perfection. We’d have a place in the hallway for their pictures. We’d have classes on how you, too, can attain salvation by your works. We’d have levels and patches and pins you could wear. You would know who was where on the scale by the color of their hat or the many badges on their sash.

app.: if you’re studying world religions and looking for how to get to heaven, then let me let you in on the difference. World religions are all about doing. Islam, Hindu, Buddahism… it’s about attaining. I just read a book entitled: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nebeel Qureshi. In it Nabeel presents the reader basic Islamic beliefs. And, the way to heaven is through works. I highly recommend the book if you’re wanting to know what Muslims believe. Paul is saying here: here’s the truth – you can’t earn it. For the Jews: look at Abraham – even he has no room to boast before God in his works.

exp.: rd 2b; But not before God; no one can boast before God; 1 Cor 1:26-29;

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

exp.: next Paul quotes from Gen 15:6; rd v 3; So, why can’t he boast? Rd v 4; it isn’t something earned, it’s a gift; someone who has worked and earned something deserves his just wage; but not so with gifts; gifts are undeserved.

ill.: As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’m deeply moved at the grace of God in my life; The Grace of God is a wonderful teacher. Consider your sins. They teach you all about your weakness, your need for God to protect you from yourself. You tried it your way and you failed miserably. Now, you stand as someone wiser. The sins of your past have made you who you are;

  • They keep you humble because you know how weak you can be.
  • They keep you trusting God, because you can’t trust yourself to accomplish this on your own.
  • They keep you dependent (I know I’ll fail on my own – that is my experience).

exp.: v 5; this is the 3rd time ‘counted’ is mentioned; look at the other verses 3-8; logistics; it comes from the Gk word meaning to calculate something. This is an accounting word and it means to give credit to one’s account; to balance your books.

app.: to illustrate his point, Paul will bring in another heavy hitter… another whose face is on the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith: David

t.s.: The last section here is…

 III.  The Illustration (6-8)

exp.: rd v 6-8; Paul is referencing Psalm 32.1-2; Some people think Psalm 32 should be read with Psalm 51 – the great Psalm of repentance from his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. There are a half dozen words for sin in the Bible for sin and in Psalm 32, David uses three of them.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Transgression or rebellion; sin: a missing the mark; iniquity: think perverse. Three separate words to define for us just how far from God we are.

  • Rebellion is an uprising against the authority. I’m going to do it my own way.
  • Sin is a missing the mark. You line up, tee up your golf ball and shank it or hook it off into the woods. That’s missing the mark!
  • Iniquity is crookedness, perverse or wayward.

Each word describes a different part of who we are:

  • Rebellion is in relation toward God. It describes our action against God.
  • Sin describes our relationship to God’s Law. We simply fall short.
  • Iniquity describes the affect of sin on who we are now. It describes what we do and how we do it.

But just as David uses three different words to describe us in the state we’re in, he also uses three words to describe God’s action toward us in pardoning us.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

  • Forgiven means to lift or carry away. You get this picture of sin that weighs you down. It is a burden to big to carry and God simply lifts it off of you and carries it away.

I think of the people who get trapped under mounds of rubble in an earthquake or like when the twin towers came down. What a fearful and scary nightmare to be trapped below ground, pinned beneath the weight of hundreds of pounds of concrete. That is until someone comes and lifts it off of the person trapped. That’s a picture of your and my sin. And God lifts it and carries it away.

  • Covered: it means atoned for. It is the word for atonement. The blood sacrifice covers the sin.

The 3rd word is different in that it describes something God does not do.

  • Counts not: He does not count our sins against us. There is now no record book to show our sins. You have this record of your debts and now, God has credited to your debts the necessary amount to balance your books.

David was there. His sin was ever before him. Like a giant boulder, he was suffocating beneath the weight of his sin. But look at v 3-4 (Psalm 32.3-4):

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

But something changes in v 5:

5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Conclusion: This Psalm means so much to me today. Many years ago, as a young man struggling between the way of the world and walking with Jesus, I found myself in this state. I remember coming across this v 3-4 and thinking to myself that this is where I am. I hated myself. I hated who I had become. I hated the decisions I was making – the decisions I had made.

But then something happened: I read v 5 and said, God, I want to do this. And so I did. I acknowledge my actions were missing the mark. I wasn’t even aiming at the right mark. I no longer tried to hide my sinful behavior, but rather uncovered it. The truth was I thought I was hiding it beneath my good works, but my good works was too small of a blanket. And, I confessed my rebellion and repented of it.

I wish there was a way to describe my relief. I wish I could communicate verbally to you the liberty I now felt.

I want you to know that you can have that same freedom today. You cannot do anything on your own to alleviate the burden you’re under. Salvation is available to you today and you don’t have to work to receive it. All you have to do is believe that what God said is true.

  • God’s Character: He is holy.
  • Offense of Sin: We are not. We have broken the law of the lawgiver and are at odds with him.
  • Sufficiency of Christ: Christ died to save us from our sin.
  • Personal Response: I want to give you the opportunity to respond.

I’d like to ask … to lead us in a benedictory prayer after we’ve had a moment of silence. Then, when he says amen, I’d like to invite you to the back for some cookies and coffee where we can visit.

1 Comment

Filed under Evangelism, Romans, Scripture, Sermon