Summary: we will read of a new level of revelation that came to Abram about the nature and purposes of God’s works. He gained a deeper understanding of his covenant relationship with God and from that understanding, moved into a deeper obedience that was sustained
Beginnings # 5
Once again, we turn to the book of Beginnings, the book of Genesis, as we continue in this series about foundations that undergird our understanding of this world and our God. Today’s subject matter is both comforting and complex! Our text comes from the 17th chapter of Genesis. I invite you to turn there today and to follow on in a couple of moments as I read the passage.
The Assurance of Living under God’s Covenant
Covenant - it’s an interesting word. One of the best ways to begin to understand covenant is by looking at marriage. Bev and I will celebrate 29 years of marriage in a couple of months. That we are still together today goes deeper than the fact that she is beautiful and that I am so easy to live with! ... You’re laughing, obviously not at the statement about her beauty because that is self-evident. It must be that you think I’m not easy to live with? ...
On January 10, 1975, as two kids, we stood in the presence of God and witnesses and promised to each other our love, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Somehow, despite our youth, we grasped that the vows we made that evening were a covenant sealed in Heaven and we have invited the Presence of Christ to sustain and deepen our commitment over the years... and He has, praise Him! At various times in our marrage, one or the other of us has had to carry the heavier part of the load but we never abrogated our covenant. Our relationship was been tested but today it is strong and filled with JOY!
One reason is that we understand that the only way marriage works well is when:
Jerry is 100% a loving husband regardless of how well Bev is ’wifing;’ and
that Bev is 100% a loving wife regardless of how well Jerry is ’husbanding’ that day or week!
Ours is not a conditional love. It is a covenant love modeled on the love that God has for us! Covenant marriage partners set aside selfish demands and seek to serve each other, for the Lord’s sake... and they find great love in the process.
Apparently, many marriages formed these days are not covenant relationships, but rather contractual: that is bult around the premise that "I will do this IF you will do that. I will stay with you IF you meet my needs." The vows of the one depends on the performance of the other. Love never deepens because life is one endless negotiation between two people, each seeking for the advantage!
Sadly, many Christians labor under the same misconception in their relationship with God: believing that God loves them more or less depending on HOW GOOD they are, HOW MUCH service they are doing.. Etc.
Their experience of God’s Presence is inconsistent and as a consequence of not living in intimate relationship, they are not obedient to Him either! When they feel particularly needy, they suddenly become GOOD, like a kid in the weeks jsut prior to Christmas- thinking that their burst of religiosity will earn them the favor of God. The downside is that when life is good and they feel less spiritual need, they slack off on obedience to God. The result is an up and down pattern - saint this week, sinner next week - and a deeply unsatisfying, self-focused relationship with God.
Lacking understanding of God’s covenant love, they are trapped by their sins because they cannot take hold of the true victory that the Spirit. Passages like ’not of works so no one can boast’ make little sense to this kind of Christian. Theirs is a rule-based religion of works. They need a new revelation that will move them into a covenant-based relationship with God. In so doing, a new freedom and a deeper holiness is discovered!
In our text today, we will read of a new level of revelation that came to Abram about the nature and purposes of God’s works. He gained a deeper understanding of his covenant relationship with God and from that understanding, moved into a deeper obedience that was sustained by faith in the word of His God. My prayer is that each of us will, from the story of the father of the faithful, gain a renewed sense of assurance; that our hope in Christ will be deepened, and from that deeper love, will come a life of beautiful obedience to the will of God!
READ Genesis 17
One of the most amazing things about the story of Abraham is that HE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO EARN the love of God that was shown to him. I hear you objecting right now,
"Wait a minute, Pastor, we just read that all the guys in his household including the old man himself were circumcised because of God’s covenant. That’s something!"