s20050109ms_The Gift Of Righteousness
The Gift Of Righteousness—Genesis 15:1-6
“By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land,
living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” Hebrews 11:9
“…Those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness
will reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17b
God Considers My Faith As Righteousness: Verses 1-6
1. Even If I Am [AFRAID] My Commitment Is Worthless.
“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.” Verse 1
”7Hearken to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not… 8 … my deliverance will be for ever, and my salvation to all generations.” Isaiah 51:7-8
2. When I’ve [QUESTIONED] That My Commitment Is Unrewarded.
“2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Verses 2-3
“1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications! In thy faithfulness answer me, in thy righteousness! 2 Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for no man living is righteous before thee.” Psalms 143:1-2
3. By [SENDING] His Word In Response To My Faltering Commitment.
“4And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” 5 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 descendants be.” Verses 4-5
God’s Word Steadies My Commitment By:
¨ CORRECTING MY FAULTY LOGIC: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12
¨ POINTING ME TO HIS GREATNESS: “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. Jeremiah 51:15
¨ GIVING ME HOPE: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
4. And Not My [DEFICIENT] Commitment.
“And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness”. Verse 6
WHY MY FAITH IS RECKONED AS RIGHTEOUSNESS BY GOD
Ú Because My Works Cannot Merit My Justification
“And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Romans 4:5
Ú Because Through My Faith I Am Born Of Abraham’s Seed
“6 Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
7 So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:6-7
Ú Because Commitment Along With Active Faith Makes Me God’s Friend.
“22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,
23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned
to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God.” James 2:22-23
Do you sometimes feel that no matter how hard you try to be a Christian that you are rewarded with a lot of problems, a lot of frustration, and a lot of criticism? I’ve sat in this auditorium with you and felt lonely and worthless and wondered if my work really mattered. As a congregation you have been wonderful to me and mine. Most of you I feel very close to, and I love every one of you unquestioningly. Every now and then one of you will say something that will warm my heart to overflowing. It’s not that you caused these lonely feelings or made me feel frustrated. I have no complaints about Vaughn Hill. No it is something else all together. This thing that causes these feelings lives within my heart, and probably does in yours too. It goes unrecognized but it erupts in my doubts and frustrations. It makes me depressed and sometimes leads me into the sins of envy and jealousy.
What is it? It is fear. It is the fear of failure. It is the fear of how I appear to you. It is the fear that God will not reward my commitment to him or you. Because commitment without faith is a pit of quicksand that sucks you down into a smothering hole of despair. The opposite of fear is faith, and if we are going to meet the challenge of commitment this year we must learn to believe. That is why the example of Abram is important. The Bible says, “By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” He journeyed through Canaan like a foreigner. As far as I can tell the only thing he owned of the land were grave plots in a cave. He has no security in the land of promise. He has to deal with famine, family conflict, and even a terrible war. He is truly a stranger in a very strange and dangerous place, so all that he could do was to live every day by faith.
By faith Abram lived and became rich beyond what he would ever spend in his lifetime. By faith his name became great and well respected by the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Salem. By faith God shields him with supernatural protection through the famine, conflict with Lot, and the war with the four kings, so why is Abram afraid? He’s afraid because the promise most important to him has not materialized. It was the gift more precious than all the others. It was the gift of Isaac. Abram in Genesis 15 is depressed and fearful. Even though he is rich, honored, and blessed by Melchizedek the priest of God Almighty Abram needs to be reassured because of his fear. He’s seen God do everything He promised except for one thing. He was still without a son. And Abram is afraid he will never have a boy of his own. It was not time for Isaac and Abram was sinking into that hole of despair.
However that was not the gift God gave him in Genesis 15. God was not ready for Isaac to be born. What God did give him was acceptance. The Bible calls this the gift of grace and righteousness. Paul in Romans chapter four argues that faith is the means through which God accepts you and not works or commitment. Paul is not arguing that works are unimportant. He would agree that faith without commitment is dead. But he would never say that your commitment earns you the right to be accepted. So in chapter 5 he reasons that grace through faith is how one is accepted by God. And that God gifts what we cannot obtain ourselves. He says, “Those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Our power over death to reign in life with God is what God does through Jesus. What God does is that he accepts us without our merits (that is grace), and reckons our faith which is not righteous as acceptable righteousness. He can do this for you because Jesus, Abram’s seed and God’s Son, died and was raised from the dead. This is how God accepts you and it is how God accepted Abram.
Abram’s encounter with God is so instructive if you’ve ever been afraid, or questioning, or faltering, or felt your commitment was deficient. He is like a lot of us who know we ought to be totally one hundred per cent committed to God. But when we consider our commitment we are discouraged. We look around at others and sometimes we even get more discouraged or fearful. And God wants you to know that he will take your faith which is not righteous and consider it as righteousness. That is His gift to you. It is His way of saying I accept you. He wants your faith to grow and your commitment to be total, but He knows you will feel worthless, or question him, or falter, or not be 100% committed. So let delve into Genesis 15 and discover this wonderful truth.
First God considers my faith as righteousness even if I am afraid my commitment is worthless. We know Abram was afraid because the Scripture in verse one says, “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.” Where did his fear come from? The Bible says that after these things meaning the trip into Canaan, the lie to Pharaoh, the family-break up with Lot, the war with the four kings, and his encounters with the king of Sodom and Melchizedek Abram was afraid.
Well he had procrastinated in his obedience in entering the land. Have you ever been afraid to obey God and put it off? He told a lie to the king of Egypt to stay out of trouble. Have you ever been afraid to tell the truth? His family was fighting over water rights so he and Lot separated. Have you ever afraid that your family was going to break up? He was blessed by the king of righteousness Melchizedek. Have you ever been afraid you didn’t measure up to the other Christians around you? Abram at the same time had to deal with the king of Sodom to whom goodness was a fairly novel concept. The reality was Abram did not trust him as far as he could throw him. This evil king wanted to have his hooks into Abram, and that why he refused to take one red cent of loot recovered in the war. Have you ever been afraid of a dishonest person?
Abram is saying to himself, “why would God give me a son when I have been afraid to give Him my all.” What it comes down to is a lack of confidence in himself which he projects onto God. In spiritual and emotional matters we tend to think that the way we think about ourself is the way God thinks about us. If we feel worthless or angry with ourself then God must feel the same way. And so we are afraid that we are not saved. We dread the thought of dying, because we really don’t have the confidence that we will go to heaven. We say to ourself my commitment is worthless.
God considers my faith at this point righteousness because he sends his word to encourage me. He never gives up on those who believe in Him. He says don’t be afraid. I’ll protect you. I’ll be your shield through your entire journey. Don’t be afraid because your reward will be very great. He says it like this through the prophet Isaiah, “7Hearken to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not… 8 … my deliverance will be for ever, and my salvation to all generations.” God says pay attention to me Christian. He says don’t be afraid of me because you know what is right, and my word pricks your heart. Pay attention to me because my deliverance is eternal, and my salvation is for all men for all time. I really will save you no matter what you think of yourself. And God will do just that to keep his promise to you. Don’t abuse this gift. Don’t throw it away, because it will cost you your soul. Rather rejoice in it. For as long as you let God create trust through his word he’ll take that faith as righteousness. And he will motivate you through faith not be afraid but to be committed to Him.
Second God considers my faith righteousness when I’ve questioned that my commitment is unrewarded. Abram response to God’s gracious encouragement is a question. He says, ““2“O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3“Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” At first glance he seems to be ungrateful. We can’t hear the tone of his voice so it’s impossible to know exactly how this question is asked. However, it is important to note that Aram had declared an heir. Wills and testaments have been around for a very long time. It is possible that when he went to war to save Lot from the four kings he made a will. He set his affairs in order and made Eliezer the steward of those affairs. This would be the action of any responsible man in case he died in battle. Eliezer is someone that Abram trusted. He maybe the servant sent to find Rebecca for Isaac in Genesis 24. There he is described as the oldest, most trusted, and in charge of everything Abraham owned.
Eliezer is a faithful man, a friend, and an able steward, but he is not Abram’s son. Abram remained childless and to him nothing else mattered. Without Isaac his riches were unimportant, and his fame did not matter. Winning a great battle or being honored by Melchizedek without Isaac meant very little to him. He is disappointed, and like him if you search your heart you may find a hidden dissatisfaction with God too.
We become Christians basically to make our life better. The reality is that as God fulfills his promises that do get better. And we grow accustomed to these blessings. Have you ever noticed how blessings become needs? Let me illustrate. When I was a boy my dad drove Ford cars, and as far as I remember not one of them had an air conditioner. It was an extra four or five hundred dollars, and only the wealthy bought them. O yes they were installed at the dealership as an extra. Now they are standard on every new automobile. Air conditioners have become needs and not blessings. We are dissatisfied when we drive in a hot mucky car. And that un-air conditioned car becomes a piece of junk to us. For example as we grow accustom to forgiveness when we feel guilty we are dissatisfied. Or when we pray and heaven seems a million miles away we feel God doesn’t care. It is in our nature to want it all and to want it now.
We would do well to approach God with our hidden disappointments with honesty like Abram. The psalmist prays, ““1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications! In thy faithfulness answer me, in thy righteousness! 2 Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for no man living is righteous before thee.” We need to learn to trust that He will hear us out. David was disappointed because he was being chased either by Saul or Absalom. He asked to be heard, because he knows that no one is righteous before God. He is coming before God with his own faults and is relying on God’s faithfulness and righteousness asking God not to judge him. When we ask with honesty and humility God considers such trust righteousness and he hears us. We can be confident that God bears no grudge at our questioning. Rather he welcomes the opportunity to explain and respond to us. If your child whom you love was disappointed in you wouldn’t you want him to tell you so you could explain? We have such a Father. We are told to go to the throne of grace with boldness so we can receive blessing to help us in our needs. If you have questions then God has answers for you. And if you will trust him to hear you out then he consider such faith as righteousness.
Third God considers my faith as righteousness by sending his word in response to my faltering commitment. Twice in our text (in verse one and in verse four) it says the word of the Lord came to Abram. Verses four and five say, “4And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” 5 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 descendants be.” God’s response to Abram’s faltering commitment is to talk to him. Like every good coach God instructs his team with inspired words that steady them. It gets them ready to play again and to give all that they have to win the victory. We may be down several touch downs, but God inspires us to keep on trying. And when you respond to his word with faith he considers that righteousness. There are three things that God’s inspired word does when we’re behind in life.
First God steadies my commitment by correcting my faulty logic. Abram’s logic on couple of occasions got ahead of his faith. He did here in Genesis 15 and again with Hagar Sarai’s handmaid. Logic is a wonderful tool. Its only fault is the assumption you must make to be logical. You have to start somewhere don’t you in reasoning. And our basic problem is that we do not have all knowing knowledge. The Bible states, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death”. Abram assumed that it was up to him to produce an heir. We take our human assumptions and often make them Scripture. I would never encourage you to question the authority or inspiration of God’s word. But I would strongly encourage you to make sure your assumptions are correct. God tells Abram that the assumption that Eliezer was his heir was not true. He will not be the heir but your own son will be. To be committed and to win we must have the truth, and the only way you can have truth is to avoid the ways that seem right to you (your assumptions), and to let God correct you and lead you to life.
Second God steadies my commitment by pointing me to his greatness. The word of the Lord the Bible always points me to God. Abram was told look at the stars and try to number them. Why would God do that if he didn’t want Abram to remember that he is all powerful? Jeremiah through his tears cries, “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” We are committed to serving God who creates the earth by power, who establishes the world by wisdom, and who runs the universe by his understanding. It helps us to be committed to the one who has power, wisdom, and understanding when we see the biblical picture of God. The Bible’s purpose is more than a set of rules for worship or the church. Its purpose is to accurately picture God in your heart.
Third God steadies my commitment by giving me hope. Abram your decedents, God tells him, will be as numerous as the stars of heaven. Abraham has a picture of what will be. And that my brothers and sisters is the classic definition of hope. Paul says “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” You can open to any page of your Bible and read for a while and you will get a picture of what can be. God wants you to have hope, and so he inspired supernatural words to live in your heart.
So if we are corrected and have the right Biblical assumptions, and we see God as the Bible pictures Him, and we have the hope of what the Bible says can be isn’t that faith? When the word creates such faith in you then God consider that faith as righteousness. And if you have such a faith then you will never give up. You will go into the last minute of the last quarter of the game knowing that God will be victorious. John said our faith is our victory over the world.
Fourth God considers my faith as righteousness and not my deficient commitment. Some commentators have hailed verse 6 as the greatest verse in the Bible. It is certainly the heart of Paul’s revelation about salvation. Moses says, ““And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” The basic meaning of reckon is count, regard, and to judge. God can choose what he wants to count in our lives. It is his prerogative to accept or dismiss whatever he wants to in your life. If he wants to count or regard or judge your commitment as righteousness he can do that, because it is His right. Or if he wants to count, regard, or judge your faith as righteousness that is his right too. What he has plainly chosen to do from the Scripture is to count your faith as acceptable righteousness and not your deficient commitment. So why would God, subtract deficient commitment from his math, and consider faith as acceptable righteousness? There are three very good reasons from our stand point.
First is because works cannot merit my justification. We all fall short of the standard of God. We are not the perfect New Testament church. None of us have perfect faith, morality, or knowledge of the Bible. We are deficient in every way. We have to be honest about ourselves. Paul says, “And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” The optimum word for us in the verse is ungodly. God chooses to justify ungodly people who understand that they cannot be saved by works or keeping rules, but turn in trust to God as their only hope. The saved are not perfect rather they are the ungodly deficient people who have placed their faith in God, because they trust He loves them. Justified means to be made right, and God makes you right in the cross of Jesus. When you are baptized you are baptized into His death at Calvary. Your immersion is not a work be an act of faith in the awesome power of the death of the Christ to make you right with God.
Second is because through faith I am born of Abraham’s seed. God promised Abram as many descendants as the stars of heaven. What Abram blessed the world with was a singular seed in Jesus, but he also blesses us with how we are accepted by God. That is through faith. Again Paul says, ““6 Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 7 So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Abraham believed that his seed Jesus would be born someday. That’s why Abram is the first person saved by faith. When you have his faith God saves you by rebirthing you into Abraham’s family. And if through the flesh you are Abraham’s descendant God requires the same faith as he does of the gentiles. In order to be accepted by God you must have your ancestor’s faith in his seed Jesus. He is no respecter of persons. Jew, gentile, male, female, ditch digger or CEO must trust Jesus to be born again. When you are immersed into Jesus you receive the new birth. Into a new kind of family called the church. Over the last two thousand years the church has become as numerous as the stars of heaven.
Third is because commitment along with active faith makes me God’s friend. It is impossible to have a one sided friendship. Friendship is a relationship that involves interaction between the friends. They have to talk, and do things together, and trust each other. Friendship involves responsibilities like being honest and trustworthy. Friendships sometimes can also mean you cannot be friends with your friend’s enemy, because your friend demands that you make a choice. James says, “22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God.”
When Abraham offered Isaac his promised son in obedience Genesis 15:6 was fulfilled in his life. He went from being considered righteous to being righteous. He climbs the mountain of obedience because he has come to absolutely trust God. That’s the change that salvation by faith in Jesus is meant to accomplish. It is that God gifts his friendship to help through your faith. He accepts you as you are and will encourage you to change and become righteous. Paul in Romans 6 describes friendship with God as yielding our bodies as instruments of righteousness. That’s why baptism is the beginning point of the process of being God’s friend. Because it is your pledge to God to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. But you will never be perfect in these three commitments. But through faith they will be fulfilled in your life.
Everyone this morning stands before God in a deficient state, because we continue to fall short in our lives. Now the question is what will you do? Since you cannot work your way into being God’s friend, then why not do what the Scriptures tell you, and believe God is offering his friendship to you through Jesus. You don’t merit this gift. You are most likely a gentile and can’t claim a relationship to Abraham by birth, and even if you could you still need to have faith in Jesus. Without an active faith in Jesus you cannot be God’s friend now, tomorrow, or forever. What God wants you to do is to believe his word, and he will consider you righteous. You won’t be afraid to commit when you have faith that is created by the Bible. Will you take the steps of faith today? Will you open your heart to the inspired words of God? Will you believe them with an active faith? Will you today be baptized into the death of Jesus committing your body as an instrument of righteousness?
Please pray with me. Thank you Heavenly Father for the gift of righteousness, because my faith is not what it should be, and my commitment is deficient. You have challenged me to be like you holy and righteous. Holiness and righteousness are mountains I cannot climb by myself. I am asking you to help me because I trust that your hand will pull me all the way up. Father I admit I feel worthless to climb up to the top of your mountains. Help me to look to the top of them by lifting up my head with your grace. I sometimes question the path you are leading me on, and I ask you to hear my request for help. And Father when you help me by sending your word I will believe it so you can save me. Thank you for the gift of righteousness and acceptance In Jesus name amen.