Great is God's Faithfulness
We have gathered this morning to celebrate God’s perfect faithfulness to His Church specifically this church Cornerstone. Cornerstone began with four families five years ago in a living room in a house in Waretown. The purpose of coming together was to learn about God and how we can know Him more deeply. The thing is the church was not an idea that germinated in my mind and heart. The church is God’s plan and the church is God’s. God has made a promise and God has kept it and He will keep it. We are here this morning to celebrate the fact that God not only made this promise but He has kept it, and He is keeping it and He will keep. This service is not a service focused on man and what we do, it is not focused on the future of Cornerstone and how Cornerstone is to impact this and that. No this service is about Glorifying the One who never changes and because He never changes no matter what happens in this world and no matter what happens to people God never changes.
We live in a world that is constantly changing, it is always in flux. Just for example the weather is always changing from day to day and year to year. You may be able to predict trends but you can’t really know what will happen. People are always changing as well. People no longer look at morality as a standard but in turn they base everything on their own opinion and their opinion becomes the standard of how to live. The problem with basing your standards on opinions is that opinions are always changing. With so little consistency in the world it makes it difficult to know what truth is and who we can trust. This morning I want us to take a look at the only One who is constant and the only One that is faithful and as we look at the Scripture this morning I would like us to see how God’s faithfulness has spread through all of created history. We will see how God’s faithfulness to the church stems from His own character and has been consistent for all eternity.
Let’s take a look at God’s faithfulness
Great Is God’s Faithfulness
Great Is God’s Faithfulness
God’s Faithfulness to His church doesn’t start where you would think. If you look at the Bible it is divided into two parts. What has been called the Old Testament, which I call the Hebrew Scriptures. These books consist of the history of the nation of Israel. Then there is the second part of the Bible called the New Testament. This is where we find the gospels, the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry and His death, burial and resurrection. We also find the letters that have been written to the first century churches. Those letters contain different teaching on church governance and how Christians should live in respect to what God has done through out all of Salvation History.
I’m sure you would think since we are focusing this morning on God’s faithfulness and in particular His faithfulness to His church, that we would be focusing on a passage in the New Testament. But for us to have a fuller understanding of God’s faithfulness we need to look at His character through out time and this extends far beyond the New Testament. In order for us to take a look at God’s faithfulness we need to look at His unchanging nature and character. We need to see Him as trustworthy. One of my favorite passages that teach this is in Genesis 15, Genesis 15.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”
In the very first verse of this chapter we see something that we need to explore. There is something here that can’t be overlooked. God has made a promise to Abram when God called Abram to leave his home country of Ur. God told Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 that He would make Him a great nation and all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abram.
Look with me at Genesis 12:1-3
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
God calls Abram and tells Abram to go, Abram is told to leave his place of birth and to go where God leads him and God will bless him with a great name and a great nation and possession of a great land. Everything Abram is to have is to be given to him by God all God asks of Abram is to ‘Go.’ As long as Abram listens and does just what God asks Abram will be blessed and so will every family of the earth. So Abram trusted in God’s word and followed the word of God and he left and went on his way.
God’s Faithful Plan
God’s Faithful Plan
God brought Abram to the land his descendants would inherit and this is where we are in Genesis 15. In the beginning of the chapter we need to know that Abram is a very old man and he has no children. So here in lies the problem Abram is to be a great nation but he is old and has no heir of his own. So as we open this passage here we find a conversation between Abram and God. God once again calls on Abram and it for the purpose here of assuring Abram he will be greatly blessed we see this in verse 1. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”
So you see God has come to Abram and again just like in chapter 12, God initiates the conversation. He calls out to Abram in a vision and He calms him down so he can assure Abram he will be rewarded. Abram has no children and he is old and so is his wife so Abram thinking he is in a hopeless situation decides to provide a compromise to God’s plan. Here is the natural human condition raring its ugly little head. Instead of just saying to God, “yes, Lord, thank you for calling me as your servant and being my protector and provider and I wait to see what you will do.” No instead Abram makes a deal with God and we find this in verse 2. “Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus.’ And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.”
This is cool, this is interesting did you catch what Abram said to God, ‘you have given no offspring to me.’ Oh you can say look Abram understands God is in control and he understands God is the one who gives life and takes life. You could say that but if you look at the context it is this but at the same time a bit of a complaint as well. Abram is not just acknowledging God’s power, he is at the same time blaming God for not providing him with a child up to this point. Abram knows God’s power but even though he knows God’s power doesn’t mean he fully trusts yet. Abram turns and blames God but as Abram does this we find God is merciful and God is gracious and God has a plan.
Here is God demonstrating to Abram His perfect character and Abram instead of trusting right away in God’s plan he is playing let’s make a deal with God. Abram is thinking I’m old and my wife is old how can we have kids now so he believes this to be a viable option for being rewarded by God in having a future line it is through naming a distant relative who was born in his house as heir of all his possessions. God has provided His word to Abram and God has told Abram what He would do for him but Abram provides his own solution.
This is not God’s plan, God is the creator of all things and the One who has Authority over life and death. God is going to bring about a child from Abram and Sarai. That is what God tells Abram in verse 4, “Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” God has made a promise to Abram in Genesis 12 and now God’s promise hasn’t changed He is keeping His promise to Abram and then God wants to make two things very clear to Abram. In order for God to make His point He brings Abram outside and tells him to look at the stars.
Verse 5, “And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”” God is not only using the stars as a means to illustrate for Abram how many descendants will come from Abram. There will be so many that no one will be able to count them. Have you ever tried to count the stars. There are so many and they are so vast and the spread so far out that you will never be able to count them all. I mean even scientists agree there are so many out there you can never count them all.
So God wants Abram to understand his descendents will be so vast in number they will never be able to be counted. This is not the only reason why God wants Abram to look at the heavens and count the stars. God also wants Abram to take a look at the sky as a means for Abram to understand God vast creative power. You look at the night sky and glance at the beauty of God’s creation how He placed ever star in the sky in just the right spot at just the right distance and for just the right purpose. Look Abram was long before Darwin Abram lived in a time when evolution didn’t exist and people looked at the night sky and they knew it was painted with the hand of a glorious and powerful God. God wanted Abram to realize if God can place all of these stars in the sky then God can make this possible for him as well. With man things are impossible but with God nothing is impossible and God wanted Abram to trust in Him and trust in His plan.
That is exactly what happened verse 6 we have Abram’s faith, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abram believed God. This was not just a passing belief it was an unconditional belief. It was a trust in God, His power and His plan and that God would bring it to fruition. This belief was reckoned or counted toward Abram as righteousness. Abram was not righteous not by a long shot I mean seriously he just played let’s make a deal with God and lost big time. He blamed God for not have any children so Abram is not a righteous man still God saw Abram as righteous because Abram trusted in God’s promise. I have said this so many times in the passed five years. Christian’s love to say how they don’t like the God of the Old Testament, Hebrew Scriptures, because He is such a wrathful God. I like the God of the New Testament because He is a merciful God a gracious God. Then you don’t know the God of the Hebrew Scriptures. This right here is the God of the Universe He is the God of the Hebrew Scriptures and the God of the New Testament also, and as you can see He is being very merciful and very gracious to a man God has called to be a part of God’s own plan for the world.
Also I would like to point out here that when it comes to God’s plan, it is God’s plan. Notice Abram didn’t do anything to become a part of this plan. It had nothing to do with what Abram did. There was no work involved for Abram all he had to do was trust God 100% and unconditionally. That is it trust in God’s plan. Once Abram trusted in His plan that is when God credited Abram as righteous. It was credited to Abram, meaning Abram didn’t need to earn it and Abram didn’t deserve it but he received it he received a right standing before God. Look at that God is the One who decided Abram’s right standing and it had everything to do with God and not with Abram. Abram didn’t have to jump through hoops he didn’t have to perform a song and dance no all he did was trust in the plan.
God’s plan for Abram is to provide him with descendants so that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through Abram. Now God provides for Abram the Promise of His Faithfulness.
God’s Faithful Promise
God’s Faithful Promise
We have seen God’s faithful plan now we get to His faithful Promise. God continues in verse 7, “And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” So keep in mind God has provided Abram with His own plan for Abram, which is a people group nations. Now God is providing Abram with a land promise which is where the descendants of Abram will live. And let’s look at how Abram responds. Verse 8, “He said, ‘O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?”’ Now here it seems as though Abram is demonstrating a lack of faith again right. Well the thing is whether Abram is showing a lack of faith or not is not the point this question Abram provides here is actually for Abram’s benefit as well as ours. This question was divinely inspired so we can receive the sealing of a promise. See in ancient times, and in Abram’s day it was not uncommon when a promise was made to seal a promise. God is offering land to Abram Abram naturally wants a contract. Isn’t that what you do when you buy a house or a car, you sign a contract. Here it seems as though this is a brash and bold question but it is an amazing sealing of the contract.
Again God’s mercy and grace shine through, where we would look at this and say, “well if I were God I would have destroyed Abram for being so faithless,” I’m glad the God I worship isn’t like that. Because we have here one of the most powerful promises ever made.Check this out.
Verse 9, “So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’” Notice God didn’t yell at Abram, He didn’t smite him. Instead God called for animals. Watch what Abram does. Verse 10, “Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds. 11 The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.” So here we Abram preparing for God and for Abram the means of sealing the deal. This is the way they would sign a contract so to speak. They would cut these animals and lay them opposite one another and then the two who were signing this contract would walking between the two cut animals. I want you to keep that in mind as we read the next few verses.
Verse 12, “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.” So Abram is asleep. 13 “God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundreds years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 AS for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” This is all prophecy, God is telling Abram everything that will happen and Abram won’t even be alive to see it but we know for our own benefit because if you read through the book of Exodus you find that this happens. But that is a sermon for another day. Right now we need to get to verse 17.
Verse 17, “It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, To you descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.” That ending part there with all the ites is for the purpose of boundary and what land they would possess. These would be the people groups who were living in the land who would no longer be there because God will give that land to the nation of Israel.
Now I want to back up from there to the very important verse and I am not sure if you caught this in verse 17. Verse 17 they are enacting the signing of the covenant so to speak. Did you notice who walked though the dead animals to sign this covenant, to sign this promise. Let’s look again at verse 17, “It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between the pieces.” This smoking oven and a flaming torch that passed through the pieces, well that was God. Where is Abram? Oh yeah he’ s asleep, remember verse 12, ‘a deep sleep fell upon Abram.” So who sealed the promise? It was God, and God alone. God made a promise to Himself that Abram would receive the land. This is a perfect promise one that can’t be broken. Listen, God is perfect Righteous and Holy and God can’t lie.
Look at what the author of Hebrews tells us about this very moment and exactly what this means for us.
For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
God can’t lie, He made a promise with Himself and it is a promise He will hold fast too. He can’t break it ever. God has set His plan and He was faithful to bring that plan about through the most unlikely of men. An old man who could have children yet was going to be the father of many nations. Through God’s perfect plan He provided a perfect promise one which He has to keep. Look this promise God made He made so Abram would have assurance God would keep it but also so Abram’s descendants would also have assurance God would keep it. God’s plan was for generations to come from Abram and this plan includes the land, they will have a place to live. God demonstrated that He would keep His plan by make a promise with Himself so that His promise can never, ever, ever, ever be broken. God is no lier and God has been faithful with His plan and faithful with His promise and now let’s take a look because God has fulfilled this promise.
God’s Faithfulness Fulfilled
God’s Faithfulness Fulfilled
In order to see God’s faithfulness Fulfilled we have to now skip ahead about oh 2000 to the first century church. Jesus has come and died on the cross and has been resurrected. The apostles have begun to spread the gospel message of Jesus Christ a message of turn from your disobedience, repent, and turn back to God. The message of the gospel has spread not only to the Israelite community but also to the Greeks and the Romans, who are considered Gentiles. Here we have the apostle Paul writing to the Galatian church and look at what he tells them in Galatians 3.
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
Paul is dealing with a very serious issue in the book of Galatians. The Galatian church was made up of gentiles who as the Israelites believed were not a promised people of God. Now as we see in verse 1 these people have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to go to the cross and die to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. Jesus is the Son of God who is God. Yet, He was born of the flesh and He is a descendant of Abram or here as Paul calls him Abraham. Paul is going off the fact that the Galatian church has already trusted in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. They have trusted the facts of Jesus being tried, killed, buried and on the third day resurrected. The have trusted Jesus is God and Jesus being God has taken their punishment for sin. Now there are people in the Galatian church who are telling them in order for them to be saved they have to follow Jewish customs and laws and regulation. Paul is here teaching them they do not.
They have not been saved through a work, they didn’t do anything to receive their position or standing before God. They heard and they trusted in the truth they heard and because of this they are now brought into the family of Abram, they will receive the promises God made to Abram. Look at verses 6-9 “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Look at that they Paul is quoting the very same passage we have just looked at, the passage we have just studied. Paul continues, “Therefore,” important word here, meaning for this reason for this purpose, “be sure that it is those who are of the faith who are sons of Abraham.” Oh, do you see this, it is important Paul is telling them it is by faith that someone becomes a descendant of Abraham. So when God was taking Abram out to look at the sky and count the stars. When God was telling Abraham his descendants would be so vast and so numerous that no one would be able to count them. God wasn’t just meaning descendants through blood but descendants through blood and through faith.
Look Paul continues, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” This was God promise to Abraham and the means of the nations receiving the promise is by faith. “So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. Abraham believed in God’s promise, He trusted God would hold fast to His own word. It was his trust that caused Abram to be made right before God. It was a trust that God would fulfill His plan and promise. It is that same trust that will bring about a right standing for the Gentiles the Galatian church and ourselves.
God has been faithful to His plan to Abram. God has supplied Abram with a massive amount of descendants. God has also spread this faithful plan to the church. The church was God’s plan all along. The church is a mix of Israelites who are a chosen people by God through blood relation to Abraham and the Gentiles who are become descendants of Abraham through faith. Those who are in the church have placed their faith in the promised plan of God and trust God will bring it to fruition. In a world filled with inconsistency and moral decline the only One we can turn to is God. He is the only One who is consistent in all He does and all He plans.
The church, God’s church, is designed by God to be a place of refuge and a place where we can come to know God much deeper and much clearer. So we can look at His word and learn about who He is and how He has worked through redemptive history and His word is the only place where we can receive the answers to why there is so much inconsistency and moral decay in the world. The problem is the church is made up people whose nature is sinful. Man’s pride gets in the way and man’s ego gets in the way. Personal power becomes more important then God’s grace and love.
That is why we are celebrating God’s faithfulness to His church this morning. Listen I am not perfect and to be able to come up here every Sunday morning for the passed five years and preach is a blessing and an honor. It is not by my power I am here but by God’s call and plan. I am just following it. The consistency by which I fill this pulpit has nothing to do with me deserving this position, I don’t. It has just been God’s plan for me. He has been faithful for it. And His plan for me may involve me doing something else tomorrow. I don’t know. What I do know is He is a faithful God and when He calls for me to follow His plan I need to follow His plan and know He will fulfill it.
Have you ever felt as though there is no consistency in this world? Have you ever struggled to with thinking why do people one day treat you well and the next day throw you out like yesterdays newspaper? Well the only way to know is through the Bible, the Bible is God’s word and you can rest assured that God’s word is consistent because God can’t lie.
We are going to close a little differently this morning. We will close with a song and you don’t have to stand through the song. The words will be up on the screen and I want you to just really focus on the words of the song. After the song ends I will come up and close us in prayer and pray for our offering.