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Genesis 12:1-4a John 3:1-1 !omans 4:1-", 13-1
What would happen to your attitude if you went to work and your boss told you that because of this year’s special building project, all raises were being cancelled and all pay was being frozen for the year? You wouldn’t be happy, would you? But then she said that they understood this was a burden and so, pay raises would dou#$e next year to make up at least in part! for the sacrifice" Well, now you’re still not especially happy, but you feel a $itt$e better" You decide to put it behind you and work hard" #o a year goes by and your annual re$iew is so good it glows" %here are words in there like, prompt, fast, courteous, ser$ice dri$en, excellence, and all the best buzzwords of your chosen career" But then, in the end, your annual increase is only one percent" You were expecting something like six or eight percent to make up for last year’s pay freeze, but no only is there no double increase, your raise is less than you would usually get in an a$erage year with an a$erage re$iew" You worked hard and your re$iew reflects it" Your boss recognizes that your performance was far abo$e most of your coworkers" &nd still, your raise is se$eral percent less than the rate of inflation" You lost ground" 'ssentially, you lost money because adjusted for inflation you are now earning less than you did two years ago" (ow is your attitude now? )ost of us ha$e worked for a li$ing" But none of us really like working for free" *espite the fact that many of us ha$e worked mandatory unpaid o$ertime, and a few of us ha$e worked for employers that were just flat out shady, or went out of business owning us money, none of us like the feeling that we get when we disco$er that we were working for free" But as much as we dislike working for free, many of us do $olunteer with the church or with Boy #couts, +irl #couts, ,iwanis, -otary .lub, cancer support groups, and a host of other things" When we $olunteer, our time is a gift and we ha$e little expectation that we will recei$e any compensation at all except perhaps for a little gratitude once in a while" We $olunteer our time because it makes us feel good to do things for others" %he difficulty is that sometimes, when we discuss faith and religion, we get the ideas of gifts and wages mixed up and that, in turn, can totally distort our expectations and our attitudes" /ur story today begins with the story of &bram, a man who was called by +od to lea$e his home, to lea$e his nation and all that was familiar" When he packed his bags and said his goodbyes, &bram had no idea where he was going0 only that he was going to a land that +od would show him" %Genesis 12:1-4a& The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a reat nation, and I will bless you! I will make your name reat, and you will be a blessin . 1
I will bless those who bless you, and whoe#er curses you I will curse! and all peoples on earth will be blessed throu h you.$
&o Abram went, as the Lord had told him! and Lot went with him.
Because &bram did what +od asked, +od promised that he would become the father of nations and because of his faith, +od considered him to be a righteous man" But was &bram considered to be righteous because he was obedient and followed the rules, or because of something else? 2n !omans 4:1-", 13-1 , 3aul explains it this way4 'hat then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather accordin to the flesh, disco#ered in this matter( 2 If, in fact, Abraham was )ustified by works, he had somethin to boast about*but not before God. " 'hat does &cripture say( “Abraham belie#ed God, and it was credited to him as ri hteousness.$
+ow to the one who works, wa es are not credited as a ift but as an obli ation. , -owe#er, to the one who does not work but trusts God who )ustifies the un odly, their faith is credited as ri hteousness.
It was not throu h the law that Abraham and his offsprin recei#ed the promise that he would be heir of the world, but throu h the ri hteousness that comes by faith. .% /or if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothin and the promise is worthless, ., because the law brin s wrath. And where there is no law there is no trans ression.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by race and may be uaranteed to all Abraham’s offsprin *not only to those who are of the law but also to those who ha#e the faith of Abraham. -e is the father of us all. .1 As it is written2 “I ha#e made you a father of many nations.$ -e is our father in the si ht of God, in whom he belie#ed*the God who i#es life to the dead and calls into bein thin s that were not. 3aul says that &braham had righteous credited to him because he belie$ed in +od" &braham was considered righteous because he had faith and not because he followed 5the rules"6 2n fact, 3aul points out, since the law had not yet been written when &braham li$ed, it was impossible for him to ha$e earned his way to hea$en by following the rules" &nd that brings us to the thing that people get confused about" 3aul knew a lot of people who learned, memorized and followed e$ery tiny nuance of the 7aw of )oses and all of its $arious interpretations" %hey e$en knew, memorized and followed the hundreds of rules that the rabbis had de$eloped to insure that no one accidently broke a law or a commandment" But 3aul knew that many of these people were confused because they thought that all of their work would earn them righteousness" Because they thought that they were earning their righteousness, they began to expect payment just like we would expect to be paid for the work that we do at our place of employment" 2n this passage, 3aul worries that once someone begins to think that they are earning their way to righteousness by obeying the law and following the rules, they gi$e up the $alue of faith altogether" /nce someone begins to think that they are earning or working! their way into hea$en, the promise of +od becomes worthless" 2n 3aul’s mind, the only thing that is possible under the law is to break it" You can’t break the law if there isn’t one and so the only thing that the law can gi$e you is the potential to be con$icted of breaking it" &braham
was sa$ed, not because he obeyed laws that didn’t exist, but because he had faith in +od and had trusted that +od would keep his promises" %he apostle 9ohn makes the same sort of point in an entirely different way as he tells of the encounter of 9esus with :icodemus the 3harisee in John 3:1-1 ' +ow there was a 3harisee, a man named +icodemus who was a member of the 4ewish rulin council. 2 -e came to 4esus at ni ht and said, “5abbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. /or no one could perform the si ns you are doin if God were not with him.$
4esus replied, “6ery truly I tell you, no one can see the kin dom of God unless they are born a ain.$
“-ow can someone be born when they are old($ +icodemus asked. “&urely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born7$
4esus answered, “6ery truly I tell you, no one can enter the kin dom of God unless they are born of water and the &pirit. 0 /lesh i#es birth to flesh, but the &pirit i#es birth to spirit. 1 8ou should not be surprised at my sayin , 98ou must be born a ain.’ : The wind blows where#er it pleases. 8ou hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is oin . &o it is with e#eryone born of the &pirit.$
“-ow can this be($ +icodemus asked.
“8ou are Israel’s teacher,$ said 4esus, “and do you not understand these thin s( .. 6ery truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we ha#e seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. .2 I ha#e spoken to you of earthly thin s and you do not belie#e! how then will you belie#e if I speak of hea#enly thin s( ." +o one has e#er one into hea#en e=cept the one who came from hea#en*the &on of >an. .% 4ust as >oses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the &on of >an must be lifted up, ., that e#eryone who belie#es may ha#e eternal life in him.$
/or God so lo#ed the world that he a#e his one and only &on, that whoe#er belie#es in him shall not perish but ha#e eternal life. .1 /or God did not send his &on into the world to condemn the world, but to sa#e the world throu h him. :icodemus was a 3harisee, one of those people who learned, memorized and kept the commandments, the laws, and the hundreds of rules that the rabbis had written" %his man comes to 9esus because he is terribly confused" '$erything that he had been taught, tells him you ha$e to follow 5the rules6 and e$erything he has seen tells him that 9esus has come from +od" (e knows that 9esus could not do the things that he has been doing, preaching, teaching, and performing miracles, if +od was not with him" But 9esus doesn’t follow the rules and neither do his followers! and :icodemus can’t figure out how to fit those two things together" '$erything that :icodemus has learned from the rabbis and the 3harisees tells him that 9esus can(t #e from +od, but e$erything that he knows about +od and e$erything he has witnessed tells him that 9esus must #e from +od" 9esus just confuses the poor man e$en further with an answer that talks about being born again" ;or 9esus, the answer is all about the #pirit of +od" 9esus says that people who ha$e been born of the #pirit are like the wind" You see the things that they are doing, but the things that they do are not always as predictable as the rules and the people who follow them" 2nstead of using the rules as a measure of righteousness, 9esus uses the example of the snake that )oses lifted up in the wilderness" 3eople were dying left, right and center from snake bites, but all they had to do was look at the bronze snake that )oses put up, and they were healed"
%he people weren’t healed by some magic contained in the bronze snake but instead were healed by their faith in the +od that told them to look at it" 9esus says that he is like that" %here is no magic that happens because we robotically follow the rules" We aren’t made righteous by the rules and we aren’t sa$ed by the rules, we are sa$ed by our faith in 9esus and in the +od who sent him" 9esus said, 5.0 /or God so lo#ed the world that he a#e his one and only &on, that whoe#er belie#es in him shall not perish but ha#e eternal life. .1 /or God did not send his &on into the world to condemn the world, but to sa#e the world throu h him.$ 9esus is different from the rules" &ccording to 3aul, rules are only for condemnation" We can only be con$icted by the rules and not sa$ed by them" 9esus said that he was not sent to earth to condemn and con$ict people, but to sa$e them" 2t is important that we remember that our good beha$ior and our good works are not earning us a ticket into hea$en but that our rescue from sin and death is a gift of +od’s mercy and grace" 2f we begin to think that we ha$e earned something, then it changes our attitude toward +od and toward others" )uch like the story of feeling robbed of the pay raise you were promised, losing something that we earned makes us feel resentment instead of gratitude" When we belie$e that we ha$e earned our sal$ation, we begin to resent +od for rescuing others instead of rejoicing with them and we become reluctant to gi$e away the good news that we think we earned" %he truth is that we are all con$icts" :one of us could keep the commandments and we ha$e all been con$icted of breaking 5the rules"6 We are all con$icted under the law" We are free, not because we earned our freedom, but because we ha$e been rescued by grace" When we remember that, then we are not resentful, but thankful" When we remember that our freedom comes only from +od’s mercy and grace instead of our own efforts, then we rejoice when others are rescued and we are eager to share the good news with others" *on’t be confused like :icodemus" We are not sa$ed by the rules, we are sa$ed4 by grace"
You ha$e been reading a message presented at %rinity >nited )ethodist .hurch on the date noted at the top of the first page" -e$" 9ohn 3artridge is the pastor at %rinity of 3erry heights in )assillon, /hio" *uplication of this message is a part of our )edia ministry, if you ha$e recei$ed a blessing in this way, we would lo$e to hear from you" 7etters and donations in support of the )edia ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to %rinity >nited )ethodist .hurch, <?@? 7incoln Way '", )assillon, /hio ==A=A" %hese messages are a$ailable to any interested persons regardless of membership" You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribeBtrinityperryheights"org" 2f you ha$e Cuestions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on ;acebook search for 3astor 9ohn /nline!" %hese messages can also be found online at httpDEEwww"scribd"comE3astor 9ohn 3artridge" &ll #cripture references are from the :ew 2nternational Fersion unless otherwise noted"
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