Morning again. Well thanks to the advent of the internet…tracing your family history has become significantly easier in the last number of years.
It used to be something only really wealthy people could do.
Like, “Hey…here’s $30,000…fly to England and research out if I’m royalty or not.”
But now…thanks to websites like ancestry.com you can do a lot of the groundwork yourself.
My sister has done some of this in my family and it’s pretty fascinating to look at.
And the further you go back, we’d all like to pretend we’re related to someone famous.
And I suppose the further you go back the greater the chances right.
Like…I’m sure I’m related to George Washington in “someway or another.” J
And this morning…we’re going to talk about somebody that over half the world’s population wants to find on their family tree.
A guy that everybody wants to be a child of. Even if they’re a different religion sometimes.
Kind of crazy.
And his name is….well, let’s get to that in a moment. J
We are rejoining our study of the Book of Galatians today in our Gift Vs. Reward series.
Galatians is a letter in the Bible written by the Apostle Paul, in the early years of Christianity, to one of the early churches in Galatia (which is in modern-day South-Central Turkey).
And Paul is writing to them because he has found out that a specific group of Jewish-Christians has infiltrated their Galatian churches…
and are now telling people that to be saved (forgiven), that people need to believe in Jesus AND observe Jewish Laws (like circumcision, eating Kosher foods, following Jewish Holidays, etc.)
Paul’s not happy about this at all…because Jesus has explicitly told him that people are saved…forgiven…given eternal life by faith ALONE.
So he writes to the Galatians to remind them of the truth of the Gospel.
And “The Gospel” is the GOOD NEWS that Jesus died for our sins, and if we repent and believe in Him we will be saved!
We’ve been slowly on and off again “verse-by-verse” teaching through this book.
We got through just over 2 chapters earlier this Spring, and when we last left off, we did a message on the 1st 5 verses of chapter 3 called, “Gospel Amnesia”
Where Paul was telling the Galatians that they have this tendency to forget that salvation is a free gift if a person wants to give their life to Christ, believe in Him, and follow Him.
It’s not a reward we have to earn for our good deeds.
And today…He’s going to use an illustration for them by referring to someone from the OLD Testament…the first half of the Bible…or the Jewish Bible.
So before, we get to today’s passage….I actually want to go back in time (timewarp)…to the first book of the Bible.
By the way, we want to teach you a TON about the Bible today…from the beginning to end…and my prayer is actually that even as we dive in deep today…that God’s most basic story of love for you makes more sense than it ever has before.
And let’s look at this guy that over 50% of the people of this world want to trace their faith back to.
His name…is Abraham.
And Abraham…was a man of great faith. A man of great trust in God.
And he’s unusually important…and everyone wants to trace themselves back to him…because God gives Abraham a very specific promise…about 4,000 years ago.
(Genesis 12:2-3) - NIV
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God reminds him again of that promise in Gen 18
And in Gen 22, we get a little bit more detail on it:
(Genesis 22:18) – NIV
and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
So everyone wants to trace their ancrestry.com page back to Abraham…because that means…if Abraham’s in your family tree…not only does God have a special blessing for you…but he’s blessing the whole world through his family somewhere along the line there…and you would be a part of that!
It’s a pretty big deal. Even today. For a whole number of religions actually.
Obviously it’s true in the Jewish faith. Abraham, along with Moses, is kind of the quintessential Jew. He’s their father. “Father Abraham”
Some Ethnic Jewish people can LITERALLY trace their lineage back to Abraham and say they are a decedent.
For Christians, he’s a big deal in a different way. Which, we’ll get to in a moment.
Even for the new Bahai (ba-ha-ee) faith…which is growing very fast around the world, traces itself back to Abraham.
Something that you perhaps didn’t know, is that Muslims ALSO trace their faith back to Abraham.
The genealogy of Muhammad, the so called prophet Islam, is even traced back to Abraham.
In the Koran, there are proposed teachings of Abraham everywhere.
EVERYBODY wants Abraham on their family tree…because everybody wants to claim they’re his kid, so they can reap the rewards
It’s like…say you have a really rich great uncle die…and they’re going to divide up his estate.
And let’s say you were the only relative even close to him.
Do you think you’d be the only one showing up to collect his things?
NO way…people would be crawling out the wood work so fast…it would look like 12 year-olds lining up for free Justin Bieber tickets
“Yeah…I knew uncle Jim…he use to bounce me on his knee…and say I was his favorite!”
But the question is really going to be: Who’s really a child of Abraham?
What does it mean to be really have that blessing? To really be his child?
And Paul, in Galatians…is going to use this as an example to these Jewish Christians are coming in to his churches he started in Galatia.
Because they’re telling people…”No, no, no, if you really want to be saved/forgiven…you need to be a child of Abraham too…and essentially become Jewish (get circumcised…start eating Kosher hot dogs, etc.)
So Paul’s going to lay out for the Galatians…what it REALLY means to actually be a child of Abraham…and that’s it more than just finding him on your family tree somewhere.
If you want to follow along, page 944 or YouVersion.
Let’s read the passage.
(Galatians 3:6-9) – NIV
6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
So…Paul’s saying that the real children of this promise and blessing to Abraham…are those who have faith…not just those who can pin it on their family tree…or those who do the customs he might have done
But why does he say that. Look at verse 6 again:
(Galatians 3:6) – NIV
6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Well, what is that referring to?
Well, you see when Abraham was a really, really old dude, he still didn’t have a son.
Can you imagine that.? God’s telling him…the whole world’s going to be blessed by your descendants!
“uh…God…one small problem…I don’t have any kids!!”
But God says to Abraham that his wife Sarah…even though she’s quite old herself…will indeed get pregnant…and then this happens:
(Genesis 15:5-6) – NIV
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Look at that last verse again because it’s 1 of the most important verses in the Bible…and it’s the same one Paul just quoted to the Galatians.
God…counted Abraham as righteous (well what does mean?)…”Righteous man!!!”
No, be righteous…is to be “justified,” or “saved,” or to be “Forgiven,” granted forgiveness by God…to be made “Right in his eyes.”
And how did he get that?? That’s the key question.
He got it…through faith! He believed!
So, the true sons of Abraham…are the ones…that like him…live by faith.
That’s what verse 7 said:
(Galatians 3:7) – NIV
7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham
And then what about the promise to Abraham…the one that said all nations on earth will be blessed through your offspring?
Well…that’s fulfilled in Jesus.
Who’s got Abraham smack dab on his family tree.
And every nation, tribe, and tongue is being blessed by Abraham’s offspring: Jesus!
But what exactly IS that blessing? Well that was verse 8:
(Galatians 3:8) – NIV
8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you
It’s that…messed up people like you and me…can be made righteous…right in God’s eyes…through faith. Even though I probably won’t find Abraham on my ancestry.com
But that’s not what Paul’s opponents in Galatia were saying.
They weren’t so concerned about the lineage thing, but they were VERY concerned about a few other things.
They felt like if you really wanted to make sure you were saved…were going to heaven…then you need to be like Abraham and DO what he did.
You know…get circumcised.
If Abraham did it all shakey-handed at 99, then we should do it to.
And we should do other things like he did…like all that extra Jewish law stuff. Obey the Sabbath…cut the bacon out of your diet.
That’s what we should do. You want to be children of Abraham, don’t you? Then let’s act like Abraham.
But this is essentially Paul’s argument back to them:
He’s arguing that when they were putting together their 5th grade report on Abraham, they must have messed up their timeline.
Because God justified…this father of faith…for his FAITH…BEFORE any of that other stuff happened
In fact, circumcision, which started w/ Abraham, didn’t happen until 14 years later.
And circumcision was was just a showing of his faith (a symbol...as sign)
Kind of like baptism is today.
It doesn’t save you. But it’s a symbol.
FAITH saves you.
Or what about obeying all those Jewish laws that Moses brought forth?
Well, that wouldn’t happen for another 600 years.
So if we’re going to be children of Abraham…and be saved…and be counted righteous like he was…then it’s not about being a good person or obeying enough law…or doing enough religious symbols…it’s about FAITH
Because before any of that…Abraham was counted righteous…for his faith.
WAS PAUL RIGHT?
So is Paul right then? Is Salvation…is heaven…God in your life…is that through faith? And WHO does go to heaven?
Sounds like an offensive question maybe…
But it’s the most important question you’ll ever need to ask.
You could say the most important question would be:
Where do I work?
Where do I live?
Who do I marry?
But reason with me this morning…put on your thinking cap…IF eternity is real…and IF there truly is a heaven and a hell…
That means that this life is a BLINK…and then we are in one of those two places for eternity.
And if we are wrong….a question like where do I live…is not even a blip on the radar of important questions.
You know, here’s where I think today’s text in Galatians is really interesting.
Let’s just be honest. It all seems kind of outdated, right?
I mean…seriously…that was a couple of thousand years ago…and they were arguing about who has Abraham on their family tree…should you be circumcised or not…do you celebrate Jewish laws and holidays?
It’s like…who cares?
Seriously. Who cares about being a child of Abraham?
What does this even have to do with navigating faith in the 21st century?
More than you probably think.
Because at the core…what Paul was arguing against in Galatians…I believe is incredibly similar to what is THE biggest misconception Americans in 2013 have about Jesus
It’s just that the terms and cultural items are different now.
To them it was: If you want to go to heaven…believe in Jesus…AND do these religious things (get circumcised, go to festivals) and do good things of the Holy Law
Today: Most Americans are not all that different.
We still have our religious and cultural events “to please and appease God” – infant baptism…and confirmations (religious events…almost as if they’re on the checklist to appeasing God and making sure we’re okay with him)
Why else do so many people do them and then check out?
There’s MORE: We still believe we have to at least avoid the MAJOR major sins.
The vast majority of Americans just feel like…if I do a few religious rituals…avoid being an atheist…avoid being a murderer…I’m good to go.
But that’s just what Paul was arguing against 2,000 years ago in Galatians
So many of us today…just like Paul’s opponents in Galatia believe that if we just believe God exists…do a few good things and avoid some major bad things….then we’ve somehow done enough to EARN a trophy of God’s reward. Heaven.
Like God’s going to look and say, “OOooo…You did JUST enough…you made it!”
And here’s a question we never really think of.
If it’s about being good enough, or religious enough, or nice enough…where do you draw the line?
How good is good enough for heaven?
And how DO YOU know where that line is?
You know, most people just assume that line is just a little bit below where they are.
But based on what?
I mean, these are tough questions, but have you thought about this:
If this life really is a blink…and then it’s eternity…do you really want to base your eternal destiny on a hypothesis based on a feeling??
Wouldn’t you rather see what the Bible says?
If you could know, wouldn’t you want to know?
Well…the Bible gives a bunch of different examples for how salvation…for how being made right w/ God really works…and one of those IS being a true Child of Abraham.
The blessing of Abraham is being justified in God’s eyes through Faith.
IT’s a gift. Not a reward.
See at first, when I tell you, you’re not going to earn it through confirmations, and baptisms, and being nice enough…it sounds all negative.
But really, this is the best news ever. It’s the most positive thing.
Let me back up first before I explain that.
See, as much as we try and ignore the issue by just putting it off, it’s a daunting feeling, if you have to earn God’s approval and entrance to eternity
And the true reality is: None of us are actually good enough.
(Romans 3:23) – NIV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
As Paul says in Galatians 2…no one’s going to build this ladder of moral superiority where you lived such a good life, that you’ve earned some trophy that allows you to sit in the very throne room of God for all of eternity
Like, “Hi Good, look at me, I’m amazing!”
No, the tough reality is we all fall short. None of us can earn it. None of us are good enough
We’re sinful people. We sin against people. We ignore and sin against the very God the gave us breath. That caused to even exist.
And God is a just God. He isn’t a cheat.
And if He is a true, and holy just JUDGE, then what we really deserve for our lives of rebellion, ignoring our creator, and sin…is justice. Is punishment.
Is separation from him.
We didn’t earn our way to heaven. We’ve earned our way to hell.
Does this sound any better?
Not really. It’s like…just take me back to that thought where I was like…be a decent person…don’t kill anyone and accidently stumble into heaven!
But here’s where the story takes an unbelievable turn!
See. We do fall short. We are guilty of sin. Deserving of punishment.
But God…is THE…MOST LOVING BEING…you could ever fathom.
And this God…is so in love with you…he’s so crazy about you…that he never once stops thinking about you.
He’s SO in love with you that the Bible says…despite all of our sin…he wishes that none should perish.
He’s SO in love with you…that he sent…his one and only son Jesus…to die on the cross.
But do you know why he died?
He died, the Bible says, to take our place.
He died to take our punishment.
It’s the most amazing love I’ve ever heard of!
And the Bible says this:
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
See, salvation, being forgiven…being made “Righteous” like Abraham…that’s not something we can earn…like a trophy.
You’re never going to be good enough.
But salvation, is a gift. It’s a gift! A gift of faith.
And like a gift at Christmastime…it sits in front you right now.
All you have to do is open it.
And it doesn’t matter what you’ve done…or where you’ve been…or you who are…this offer is for EVERYONE.
The love and forgiveness of God is THAT big.
And this Good news is so much better than having to appease God by good works and religious ceremonies and church attendance
All you need to do is believe that Jesus died on the cross for YOU…to take your place.
But it’s not just some creedal belief that you mentally assent to.
You’re believing in Him as your Savior.
Which means that if you were worth dying for, He is worthy COMPLETELY living for.
It’s saying, Jesus, I believe you died on the cross to take my place, and now, I will follow you, wholeheartedly with my life.
That’s becoming a true Christian. Christian means follower of Christ.
So if you want to do this. You want to believe that Jesus died for you, and accept the FREE gift of Salvation as one of his followers…and you want to start following God with your life…then let’s do that!
In fact, let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to believe in what Jesus did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver) to be completely forgiven! If that’s you…and you’ve never done this before…in just a few moments, I’m going to ask to stand up.
We’ll all have our eyes closed (no one’s looking), so this is just between you & God
But I believe today, it’s important for you to stand up today, as a symbol to say, “You died for me…for ME…I believe. I’ll follow now”
So wherever you are, all across this room right now. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, and accept his gift of forgiveness, stand up wherever you are.
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…again, the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life. Amen
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do just 1 thing for me
Right after the service today, I want you to go to either the back of the room or to the right of the hallway table on your way out…for just a moment.
In the back, and in the hallway, there are signs that say “FOLLOW-UP”
There will be some incredibly nice people there (they have lanyards on) who want to give you some extremely helpful tools to help you get started in your faith
Won’t take you very long. But absolutely go back there.
Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.