Let us pray: Dear Savior, may we always take Your Word of truth seriously and not regard it in the same way we do that of untrustworthy human beings. And then, empower us to live and act on the basis of such eternal truths without doubt or second-guesses. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF PROMISE AND FULFILMENT!
TEXT: Romans 4: 18-25
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Back in my youth there was a song with the lyrics: “Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.” It’s true, isn’t it? Once you break a promise, people don’t really trust you any more. They don’t share their inmost thoughts with you. They don’t believe you’ll pay back the loan. They never know if you’re lying or just slap-dash with your words. Promises are important.
Let’s be honest, all of us have made many promises to many people, and all of us have broken some of those promises. Usually we didn’t mean to. Often it was a forgotten oversight. Sometimes, rarely, I hope, it was on purpose. Problems were always the result, some of which I’m sure you’re still trying to repair. The one and only Person who makes promises and never, ever, goes back on them is our Holy God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today we have an excellent refresher course in the biggest promise of all: eternal salvation for our souls. So, let’s look at this text from Romans by considering:
THE VITALITY OF GOD’S PROMISES TO YOUR FAITH
Most of you are familiar with Abraham, the father of the faithful. Here St. Paul reminds his readers of God’s promise to him. Remember that Abraham was told by God that he would have a son, an heir, through whom the Messiah, Abraham’s salvation, would be born. He also promised Abraham that He would make his progeny into a great nation. However, Abraham reached the age of 100 and Sarah his wife was about 90 and long past menopause. And yet, no son was conceived or born! That meant: no salvation, no eternal life, no heaven for Abraham! To human experience and reason it also meant that God had either forgotten about this promise, or just decided Abraham wasn’t worth it. To human reason it must have seemed that all Abraham’s prayers, praise, struggles of faith, and the like were for nothing. What a blow this must have been.
But, Paul tells us via the Spirit’s power: No way! That’s not how it was for Abraham and that’s not the way it turned out. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about 100 years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”
According to the Spirit, Who is the author of faith, Abraham didn’t waver in his! We’d say: “What a man! What a faith!” And yet, Abraham wouldn’t say that. No, he was humble. He was simply doing what God expected. He took God at His Word and knew that God’s timetable was different than his own, but so be it. Human hope in this situation was worthless. But Godly faith wasn’t. Why? Because faith grasps hold of the One making the promise. It grasps hold of the object of that promise. And Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Who cannot go back on His Word, was both.
So it is with each of you. Your faith in God and in eternal life isn’t just some vague hope. Your faith in God’s Word: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” isn’t just lofty sounding rhetoric. It’s real because Christ, Who died on a cross for you, stands behind every single promise of God. His blood is God’s pledge as to the trustworthiness of such promises. It used to be that if someone really wanted to seal a deal they would extract blood from their body and sign the document with it. Well, that’s what God did when He made His pledge to save you, and Abraham, through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday we had confirmation at Pinewood. Many of you will remember your confirmation day. On that day you promised to be faithful to Christ and die rather than turning your back on Him by denying Him. You didn’t sign that pledge with blood, because Christ already had—for you, in your place. Have you kept your pledge? Well, He keeps His to you, even today, when He will give that pledge to you personally, His true body and blood, in Holy Communion. Life may have turned out differently than you had planned when you had your first communion. Certainly your prayer life, your allegiance to His commandments, and the faithfulness He expects from all His children has left something to be desired. And yet, the seed of faith, the hope for God’s promises to come true in your life—even weakened by sin–they still remained intact. Quite frankly, that’s why you’re here today. You’re here because it isn’t the size or strength of your faith that matters. No, it’s the object of your faith that matters. And that object is the Immoveable Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. This is Paul’s point when he writes: “The words ‘it was credited to him as righteousness’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
Abraham wasn’t saved because he was an extraordinary individual who outshined all his contemporaries when it came to worshiping God. He wasn’t rewarded with a son because he trusted in God rather than in common sense, either. No, rightness with God was given to him and enveloped him because he believed God’s Word. He believed the promise of a son and a future Savior. He believed that God cannot lie. He believed in the coming Christ Who would win for him and earn for him God’s rightness while hanging from a cross. Yes, just like you and me, Abraham believed that Christ would take away the guilt over all his sins, all his broken promises, and because of this God Almighty would declare Abraham “not guilty” and then embrace him in heaven.
I love this story of Abraham. I love it because it encapsulates what we go through every day. Temptations come, we fall down, we get disappointed, we get sick, we get old, money is tight, dreams are dashed, eventually we die. Along that pathway, we stagger and weave back and forth wondering: “Why is this happening to me and what’s God’s plan for me?” And yet, one thing remains true like the northern star. One thing never wavers. It is God’s love for our souls in Jesus Christ. That love is far bigger than all of life’s problems. Hold to it like Abraham of old and be saved! Amen