Sermon:  Faithfulness     

Summary:  God demonstrates from the beginning that he is faithful and wants 
us to know that he is faithful.  As a result, he engages in a human practice 
of making a covenant to demonstrate that he is faithful and will bring his 
promises to pass.  Since faithfulness is a part of God's character, he also 
desires that we be faithful as well.

Text:  Multiple from Genesis

Scripture Reading:  Ps 98:1-3

1.  Been studying Genesis in the Wed. Men's Class.  It a significant book
2.  Genesis is where the rock hits the pond
	a.  What happens when rock hits a still pond?
	b.  Splash, followed by ripples
	c.  There are ripples that go throughout the Bible
	d.  Genesis shows where it all started
3.  First major section:
a.  Chap 1-11 - The stone that hits the pond
	- God created the world and man, it was very good
	- Sin in the garden, starts a ripple that grows to tidal wave
	- Cain murders Able, then (4:23-24) murder becomes common
		- (6:2, 5) - Evil everywhere, became a tsunami
	b.  Then the flood, but after the flood, it didn't get much better
	c.  All of this serves as an introduction
4.  Ask question, who is the centerpiece of Genesis?
	a.  Abram?  God appears to him and tells him what he going to do (12:1-3)
	b.  Is Abraham the hero in Genesis?
	c.  Actually, God is the Hero.  
	d.  What do we learn about God?
		- That should be one of the basis questions we always ask
		- Will look at three stories to see what we learn about God

I.  (Gen 15) God can be trusted 
	A.  We know that God is trustworthy
		1.  God does what he says he is going to do
		2.  God does not lie
	B.  We know this, but sometimes we don't really believe this
		1.  God intensely desires we believe that he is trustworthy & faithful
		2.  To do this, he does something remarkable
			a.  (v.17-18) God obligates himself in a covenant
			b.  Passing between the halves was a way of enacting a 
			c.  Saying that on your life, you will keep the covenant
		d.  If not, will suffer fate of these animals
		3.  I am not sure if we understand the gravity of this
			a.  This way of enacting a covenant not invented by God
			b.  This was common in Ancient Near Eastern Culture
			c.  Seems that man made this up
			d.  God enters into a covenant using a form man created!
				- God could have just spoken the words
				- Instead, he enters into a covenant
	C.  ILL:  Try to get contemporary parallel
		1.  When we enact a "covenant" today, what do we do?
			a.  Get lawyers to make up a contract
			b.  Review it, then legally execute it
			c.  May involve a notary and even a judge
		2.  Imagine God enacting a contract with us
			a.  Lawyers review it
			b.  Legally executed with notary
			c.  We on one side of table, God on other, both sign
		3.  Seems preposterous
			a.  God doesn't need contracts or covenants
			b.  Yet, he does so anyway
	D.  God has made a contract with us
		1.  Not because he cannot be trusted
		2.  God does not lie
		3.  He did it to assure us who struggle in our faith

II.  (Gen 17:15-21) God is Able to all things  
	A.  Abraham's friends probably all grand parents and great grandparents
		1.  Abraham has had only one son, Ishmael
		2.  Ishmael is Abraham's but not Sarah's
		3.  Now Abraham and Sarah are going to have a son
	B.  Abraham laughs.  Why?
		1.  90 & 100 year olds don't go around having children
			a.  The idea of someone their age having a child
			b.  All he could do was laugh
		2.  Did he rush home and eagerly tell Sarah?
		3.  (Gen 18:9-15)
			a.  God and a couple of angels come to Abraham at home
			b.  Reminded him that he and Sarah would have a baby
			c.  Now Sarah laughs - Obviously Abraham did nothing
				- No indication he said anything to her
				- No indication he had been acting on it
		4.  But God said it would happen, so it will
	C.  ILL:  We used to own a mini-van while living in Vermont
		1.  On a trip to Arkansas, van died several times in Kentucky
		2.  Stopped, prayed for and laid hands on the van
		3.  Made the rest of the trip okay
			a.  People driving by wonder what happening
			b.  We didn't care, we wanted God to get us there
		4.  I know that is something minor, but it illustrates point
	D.  Nothing is impossible for God, even if we struggle to believe
		1.  Throughout Bible, many things threaten covenant
			a.  Famine, but family spared going to Egypt for food where 
			     Joseph had become second in command
			b.  Egyptian bondage, but God rescue them
			c.  People go into exile, but God bring back remnant
			d.  The Messiah crucified, but God raised him from grave
		2.  There are many other things to add to list
		3.  Nothing is impossible for God
			a.  Even when it seemed like all was lost, God still working
			b.  Even death on a cross became part of the plan
			c.  Satan was contributing to his own defeat when he 
			     entered Judas
		4.  Indeed, God is able to do all things

III.  (Gen 22:1-10) God desires faithful obedience 
	A.  God is faithful, and expects us to be faithful as well
	B.  Notice the drama
		1.  And they walked . . .and they walked...a long walk, difficult
			a.  First he had to send Ishmael away, now this!
			b.  What is going through Abraham's mind?
			c.  Why would God ask such a thing?
		2.  God was testing his loyalty and faithfulness (v.11-15)
			a.  God said, "now I KNOW you fear God"
			b.  Abraham passed the test, he is faithful and obedient
		3.  (v.16-19) - Then God swore by himself to bless Abraham
			a.  Like making a covenant, God did not need to swear
			b.  However, God wants us to know he is faithful
			c.  God demonstrates faithfulness through action
		4.  God wants us to demonstrate faithfulness through action
			a.  God demonstrated it
			b.  We see an example of it in Abraham
	C.  (Heb 6:9-20) - Provides us some lessons on this
		1.  We can have assurance that God is faithful
		2.  We are not to become sluggish in our faith
			a.  We can have strong encouragement
			b.  We can take hold of the hope like an anchor
				- It is a sure anchor
				- It is a steadfast anchor
			c.  It will not shift
	D.  Every generation being new winds
		1.  Faithfulness to God is our anchor
			a.  Anchor through tragic times in life
			b.  Anchor through intellectual challenges
			c.  Anchor through moral challenges
			d.  Anchor through emotional challenges
		2.  Faithfulness to him and his will in scripture keeps us from being 
		     blown away

1.  So this story is not just about Abraham
2.  It is about God
	a.  God is able and trustworthy, and keeps his word to us
	b.  God wants us to be trustworthy and faithful as well
3. Text in Heb 6 says not to be sluggish
	a. Says Jesus is our forerunner
	b. Means he is trailblazer
	c. Means Gospel is not just about benefits to receive (inv)
		- There are most definitely benefits
		- Sin means we lost, but Jesus die for sins
		- Buried, raised.
		- Will come back to take those who obey Gospel home
	d. Means Gospel is the model for our life
		- We are crucified with Christ, live a new life
		- Old man to death, walk in newness of life
		- We not conformed to world, but transformed
4.  What this means
	a.  If obey Gospel, you obeyed from the heart (Rom 6:17)
		- You buried with Christ, sin done away with
		- Jesus wash away your sin
		- You now walk in newness of life
	b.  If baptize as baby or small child, you did not obey the Gospel
		- You didn't obey from the heart, you couldn't
		- There was not the commitment
		- Sins are not washed away yet, you are lost
		- Bluntly - If die today, you would be lost eternally
	c.  If don't know if ready, then come.