Summary: When God calls, the only proper response is to obey and go.
The Incredible Adventure Begins
This morning we are beginning a brand-new sermon series. This series is brand-new in two ways. It is new to us as a congregation and it is new to me personally. Although I have been your pastor for nearly seven years, I served two other churches before coming to Oak Park in 1989. Over the last 18 years I have preached hundreds of messages from all parts of the Bible—quite literally going from Genesis to Revelation in the process.
But even though I’ve been preaching for 18 years there are still huge portions of the Bible I have never personally touched from the pulpit. With this series we are together launching out into new territory. That’s exciting for me, and I hope it will prove to be exciting for you as well.
Starting today we’re going to take a look at the life of one of the greatest men in all the Bible. His name is Abraham and his story is told in Genesis 12-25. When I say that he is one of the greatest men in the Bible, I am not exaggerating in the least. Outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, you could make a pretty good argument that he is most important person in the Bible.
Amazing Facts About An Amazing Man
Consider these facts:
1. He is revered by the followers of three world religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
2. He is the founder of the nation of Israel.
3. He is mentioned by name 308 times in the Old and New Testaments.
4. He is the preeminent man of faith in the Bible.
5. He is a man whose life changed the course of world history.
Consider one further point. Abraham is the most important person in the Old Testament, while Jesus Christ is the most important person in the New Testament. And how does the New Testament begin? Listen to the first verse of the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” When Matthew wants to impress upon us the significance of who Jesus Christ really is, he links him with the greatest king—David—and with the founder of Israel—Abraham.
I want to stop and add a personal word at this point. Most of you know that I am basically a storyteller at heart. That’s what I like to do best—to tell a story and let the Spirit bring the message home to your heart. Good stories are fun to hear and fun to tell. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women whose lives were marked by drama, passion, and excitement. In years past I have preached through the life of Samson and the life of Jacob.
The Mt. Rushmore of Faith
Why Abraham? Why now? There are two answers to that question. I have already mentioned that Abraham is the preeminent man of faith. When the writer of Hebrews 11 wanted to explain what the life of faith looks like, he gave more space to Abraham than to anyone else. Jesus spoke of Abraham’s faith, and so did the Apostle Paul. Over and over again the New Testament repeats a simple phrase: “Abraham believed God.” That’s what faith is. It’s believing God and then acting upon that belief. So I hope that by studying his life, we may all be challenged to believe God, to take him at his Word, and then to step out in faith.
As Ray Stedman said, if you ever carved the Mt. Rushmore of faith, you would have to start with Abraham.
All of us would like to have more faith, and what better way to do that than by studying the best example of living by faith in all the Bible?
The Second Great Chicago Fire
There’s a second reason, and that has partly to do with what will happen eight days from now. Next Sunday afternoon hundreds of people will gather in downtown Chicago at the very spot of the Great Chicago Fire that destroyed the city in 1873. That event marks the beginning of the Say Yes campaign with Luis Palau. I like the symbolism of meeting at the place where the fire began in order to pray for another fire to sweep across Chicago—the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Five years a handful of people started praying. Now we are only eight days away from what we hope will be a mighty spiritual awakening in this city. I remind you that on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, there were “tongues of fire” that rested on the heads of the believers. It was a sign of a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit. The Christian church began is a blaze of fire from heaven. May that same fire fall from heaven next Sunday afternoon and spread across Chicagoland.