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Summary: Many talk about having faith. But Abraham shows us what real faith is and what it mean when we confess that we’re saved by faith alone. Parts: A. Faith needs a promise, an unconditional promise. B. So go to his promises, his unconditional promises.

Text: Romans 4:18-25

Theme: Just Have Faith! Faith in God’s Promises, His Unconditional Promises

A. Faith needs a promise, an unconditional promise

B. So go to his promises, his unconditional promises

Season: End Times 1: Reformation

Date: November 1, 2009

Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/Just-Have-Faith_-Faith-in-God_s-Promises,-His-Unconditional-Promises-Romans4_18-25.html

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Jesus is Romans 4

"Hoping against hope, he [Abraham] believed, so that he became the father of many nations in line with what had been said: "So shall your seed be." Without weakening, in faith he considered his own body as already having died, since he was about a hundred years old, and Sarah’s womb as dead. Yet regarding God’s promise, he did not waver in unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, as he gave glory to God and was fully convinced that God was able to actually do what had been promised. Therefore "it was counted to him as righteousness."

"Now "it was counted to him" was written not only for him but also for us, to whom it would be counted, to us who believe in the one who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead. He was handed over because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification." (Romans 4:18-25)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

1. Describe what the world imagines faith to be.

How much he wanted a little boy, a son of his very own! Yet it seemed impossible. Hopeless! He was just too old. One night he looks up at the sky and sees the countless stars. He makes a wish. The next day his dream has come true.

Of course, I’m not talking about Abraham, but about Geppetto. After he wished upon a falling star, the Blue Fairy brought to life the wooden puppet he had carved. By the end of the movie the wooden boy became a real boy, and Geppetto and Pinocchio lived happily ever after.

That story illustrates what so many imagine faith to be. To them faith is convincing yourself that your dreams will come true, that if your heart’s desire is strong enough, it could happen -- it will happen. "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you. If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme" ("When You Wish Upon a Star" by Leigh Harline & Ned Washington, referenced 29 Oct 2009 at http://www.wikifonia.org/node/1123#/cml_0/1 ). You get the picture. So even non-religious people wear shirts that say, "Believe," with a glittering Tinker Bell on them.

They might even point to Martin Luther and say, "See what you can do if you just have faith. Only believe, sola fide, faith alone. He stood up to bishop and Pope posting the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31. He didn’t cave in to the Holy Roman Emperor at the city of Worms. He survived being declared an outlaw and accomplished so much in his life. See what can happen, if you just believe in your dreams."

How vehemently Luther would disagree with them. In his "Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans," which was included in his German translation of the Bible, Luther wrote: "Faith is not the human notion and dream that some people call faith" (Luther’s Works 35:370, Fortress Press: Philadelphia). Faith alone, sola fide, is not faith in yourself alone. It is not faith that your dreams will come true, even though nothing else says they will, so that your faith is alone, all by itself. That’s not faith.

A. Faith needs a promise, an unconditional promise

1. Why did Abraham believe that the impossible would happen?

What, then, is faith, real faith? Let’s have a childless man from history, not from a fairy tale, show us real faith. He, too, was old, nearly a hundred. His wife Sarah was ten years younger, but she was never able to have children at any time. Both of their bodies were as good as dead. How impossible, how hopeless to have a child!

But "against all hope, Abraham in hope believed" (Romans 4:18 NIV). Why? Did he wish upon a star? Was he just so sure his dreams would come true? Was his heart’s desire just so strong it had to happen? No, it had nothing to do with his dreams or the strength of his heart’s desires. Rather, remember the history.

Twenty-five years earlier the Lord had promised him that he would be a great nation and all peoples would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:2, 3), for the Savior would come from his family. But how could that happen without a son? A few years later the Lord took him outside at night and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars -- if indeed you can count them . . . So shall your offspring be" (Genesis 15:5 NIV). And now go back to Romans: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . just as it had been said to him, ’So shall your offspring be’" (Romans 4:18 NIV).

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