Other sermons in this series
“That’s unfair!” – How many times have you heard that before?
If you’re a parent you probably hear it nearly every day.
In that slightly whiny tone – ‘that’s not fair’
“That’s not fair that he can watch his DVD, but I can’t watch mine.” “Why does she get new clothes when I have to wear hand-me-downs?”
Growing up as a twin, I think it was one of the most common phrases in my repertoire.
If you think it’s hard comparing yourself to your siblings – try being a twin!
But it’s a sense of entitlement and injustice that’s not just experienced by kids, but it’s something innately felt in all of us.
When something doesn’t seem to be fair, we feel the injustice of it all.
We feel like good things should happen to good people.
Just this week I went into the city and saw the Buddha birthday celebrations at South Bank all this week. And the slogan for the week is:
Three good deeds: Good thoughts, good words, good actions
And it’s hard to find fault with that – right?
Don’t you agree with the sentiment? I know I do!
But what’s the motivation behind the slogan? In Buddhism, working on these three good deeds will ensure that you have good karma – future happiness.
And it’s an enticing thought – that there is a cosmic force out there that rewards our good deeds.
It’s no wonder that so many people are karma advocates.
The great life guru – Sandra Bullock says this:
‘I’m a true believer in karma, you get what you give, whether it’s bad or good.’
And though we might not use the term ‘karma’, I think for most of us here this morning, we still live our lives like this should be true.
‘You get what you give’
If I’m good enough, surely good things will happen to me. But when they don’t we question it all.
When a co-worker, who seems work just as hard as you, perhaps less, receives a promotion; there’s going to be a twang of disappointment and feeling of unfairness; the injustice – Why didn’t I get the promotion? I work just as hard! It’s not fair!
If you’ve put in the long hours of study – but the result don’t show that. You think how is this fair?
And we even take this same expectation of cosmic karma and place it on God.
If God created the world and everything in it, why doesn’t he reward good people, and discipline bad people?
How is it that my friend who is involved in whole bunch of charity work and is way more generous then me, not acceptable to God?
What does it take to be good enough for God?
Have you ever had these thoughts about God?
As we’ll see this morning, God is not a karma advocate. He doesn’t save people based on the good things that they’ve done – He saves people by something else entirely!
This morning we’ll meet a man who’s blessed not because of any good deeds he’s done. He’s blessed because God simply chooses to bless him.
And we’ll ask the question: How is it fair that God would choose some people, and not others – regardless of the good things they might or might not do?
THE WORLD GONE WRONG
But before meet this man, we need to remember where we’ve come from in the Bible.
In chapters 1 and 2, God created the world and everything that he made was GOOD.
Adam and Eve are meant to represent God and live under his rule and spread his rule all over the earth. But they ignore God and reject his rule over their life and choose to do the ONLY thing that God told them not to do.
And as you continue reading through Genesis, from chapter 3 to 11, we have an account of how stuffed up the world can be without its Creator.
Sin continues to spread throughout the world – instead of blessing spreading out from Eden, it’s curse – sin, conspiracy, selfishness, and murder.
Sound familiar? The state of the world hasn’t changed.
Humanity is on a trajectory very much away from God – there was no seeking after God or turning towards him. And we were on a direct path to destruction and judgement.
All of humanity had rejected the Creator – and in rejecting Him, they had rejected the life he offers.
Paul summarizes the state of the world aptly in Romans 1:18. He says this:
18 The wrath [or the anger] of God is being revealed from heaven against all the Godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness
God is just. And in the face of injustice he gets angry. In the sight of this world God gets angry.
And he’s angry with people. And what sort of people is he angry with? The Godless people. The wicked people.
Now we might look at the wickedness of others – to the violent person; to the murderer – and think that they are wicked. But you know they are a symptom of a disease that we all carry – which is Godlessness.
This looks different from person to person on the outside – we’re not all the violent; we’re not all the murderer – but we show this Godlessness in different ways.
Different symptoms, but same disease – Godlessness.
That we don’t want anything to do with God. And God is angry at all of us for all our Godlessness.
If God was to work on the same assumption as karma – then all of us would be in trouble!
Because God would simply hand us over to the very thing that we so desperately want – a life without him. Which only leads to death.
We all suffer from the same disease. Even those who look like good people. We all suffer from Godlessness. And it’s fatal.
But thankfully God isn’t a God of karma – but he intervenes.
From out of the midst of a world not unlike our own, full of corruption, injustice and death, God intervenes and chooses one man he’ll use to change the world in Genesis 12.
PROMISES: GOD INTERVENES!
Let’s have a look at Genesis 12.
Here we’re introduced to a man by the name of Abram (alternatively you might know him as Abraham – his name gets changed a few chapters later. Abram/Abraham same guy).
Now Abram who could best be explained as a nobody, with nothing, and going nowhere. This is a man that hasn’t done anything particular good or special; This is a man who has nothing to offer!
Read with me from verse 27:
27 This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. 30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.
Now it’s this Abram – This nobody, with nothing, going nowhere – a guy from a pagan family, and a pagan city; with a barren wife – no kids to continue the family line; with no plans – and God chooses him.
God plucks him from obscurity. God chooses Abram to be the first of his chosen people.
This is the man and that God speaks to in Genesis 12.
The world is in a complete mess!
It’s a world under judgement. But into this God intervenes. God chooses to act. God reveals to Abram His plan to save the world.
God says to Abram, ‘I’m going to put an end to the corruption and death in the world, and it’s going to start with you’. And so he offers him some incredible promises.
And these promises are incredibly important. They weave their way through the rest of the Bible, and provide the foundations for becoming part of God’s family.
See the promises in Genesis 12, from verse 1:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Can you see how grand these promises are?
Firstly, I’m going to give you and your family a country to call your own.
Secondly, he will be a great nation! – For a man that is in his 70s and has no children of his own, God says that to him that he will be the Father of a great and mighty nation.
And finally, he will be a blessing to others. And not just to his neighbours, but to all people throughout the world!
These are massive, massive promises!
Can you imagine Abraham standing there and God says through you a great nation; a lot of people; everyone blessed. And Abraham doesn’t have to do anything! He’s just a passenger.
And just in case Abram has any thought that he somehow deserves this special treatment – God says: ‘it’s not up to you, I’m going to do this’.
Notice how many times God says ‘I will’ in these verses. Look from verse 2:
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God says I’m making great promises to you Abram. I’ve got a great plan for my people. I know you don’t have much to offer, but I’m choosing you and I’ll protect you.
They are huge promises! God intervenes by choosing one man through whom he will save the whole world.
And that’s the first thing we need to notice about how God acts; who God chooses – It’s got nothing to do with what the person can offer, or whether they are good enough. It’s completely off God’s back.
God shows grace – An undeserved gift; an undeserved favour from God.
There was nothing that Abraham did that deserved these massive promises that God made with him. He is completely undeserving of God’s favour. It’s an undeserved gift. It’s an undeserved gift that God would intervene in the messiness of the world at all, and it’s an undeserved gift that God would choose Abraham of all people.
But that’s exactly how God acts. And as we continue reading through the story of the Bible, God continues to choose the most unlikely people – the broken, the outcast, the lowly.
God chooses Abram, gives him all these grand promises, and then what does Abram do? Verse 4:
4So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
Abram obeys God, leaves everything and heads towards a foreign land.
But we need to notice the structure of the relationship between God and Abraham here. Did you notice the order?
Promises and blessings first, and then obedience.
And that order of relating between God and his people is the same through the rest of the Bible.
PROMISE FIRST, OBEDIENCE SECOND
Abram hears the promises and trusts that God is going to follow through.
It’s not the other way around. Abram doesn’t do something amazing or show his loyalty to God, and then God blesses him.
No, it’s promise first, obedience second.
Abram did nothing to deserve God’s promises. God offered them and then Abram responded in obedience.
What makes Abram acceptable and right with God, is that he believes God. God says something and Abram trust it. It’s all he had to do. Abram brought nothing to the table – just believed.
God chooses him to work out his purposes and to reverse the situation that the world is in. But it’s got nothing to do with Abram being good enough, but it’s all about the promises of God.
BLESSING TO ALL NATIONS
And it’s these promises – these promises that God will intervene and choose those that don’t deserve His blessing – it’s these promises that actually form the foundation for the rest of the Bible.
The whole direction for the rest of the Bible is shaped by these three key verses.
These promises weave their way through the rest of the Bible until we get to Jesus, when all these promises are fulfilled.
And it’s through Jesus that God offers all people from every nation the opportunity to be part of His family. It’s through Jesus that all the nations of the earth are blessed.
Turn with me now to Galatians 3.
It’s here that we see that the promises are offered to all people.
The apostle Paul is writing to a bunch of Christians in a city called Galatia, who are worried that they’re not good enough for God. And Paul takes them back to the promises made to Abraham, and says it’s not who you are that’s important – or even what you’ve done – but it’s who you trust in.
Have a look with me from verse 8:
8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles [that is all the nations] by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith [or who trust in God] are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
It doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can be part of God’s family. All you need to do is trust the one who has made the Promise.
And though you might feel like you need to bring something to the table, Paul says that it’s impossible to bring anything. You’re either good all the time or you’re not good enough.
Have a look at verse 10:
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do EVERYTHING written in the Book of the Law.”
You’re either good all the time – constantly – or you’re not good enough.
How many of you here this morning can honestly say that you’re always good? That you never do anything wrong?
You never lie to get ahead at work; you never steal or cheat; you’re always patient with your wife or husband or your kids; you’ve never had a bad thought about anyone – even that person who can’t merge in the traffic properly.
Can you honestly say that you’re always good?
I know I can’t.
But God doesn’t wait for us to be good enough. He sends his Son, Jesus into the world to be the curse for us. To be the one who takes the punishment that we deserved for our Godlessness and wickedness.
Read with me from verse 13:
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus
Through Jesus, the promise that all the nations of the world would be blessed is fulfilled.
Right from Adam and Eve, to Abram, to Jesus, to us – what God has asked of his people is exactly the same thing. Believe him; trust him. Trusting his promises is all it takes to be acceptable to him.
When God made those promises to Abraham, none of it was dependent on who Abraham was. None of it dependent on him being good; none of it was dependent on his resources.
God was going to do it all, Abraham just had to go.
It was promises first, obedience second.
And God has promised something remarkable to us too! Through Jesus all the nations of the world have been blessed.
Jesus offers an invitation to be part of his people. He is giving you an invitation to choose Him.
We just need to take the plunge and trust him.
For us we receive the promises of God in exactly the same way as Abraham – by trusting God.
Galatians 3:7 say this:
7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.
Those who trust God; those who believe his promises, they will be acceptable and righteous before God. And we can have confidence before God, because it is God who makes us acceptable. It’s God who does the work. It’s not the strength of our faith or the goodness of our lives, but the strength and goodness of God.
Let me put it like this – it’s not how well you jump that counts, but who’s catching you.
Say for example a couple of you had this great idea – I know, after church this morning I’m going to get on the roof outside near the car park – and see how far I can jump – a bit of a competition. Now for the sake of OHandS I strongly recommend that you don’t do that!
But if we all went out and jumped from the roof – it wouldn’t matter if you could jump 10 meters out from the ledge, or if you could do three flips; or you were wearing a nice shirt; or that you had six degrees – most of you would break a leg.
It wouldn’t matter how you jumped.
But if there was someone at the bottom with a giant fireman’s trampoline. And they had a perfect catching record. Everyone of us could roll off that roof and be perfectly safe.
Abraham jumped because he knew that God was going to catch him. Even though he was a nobody, with nothing, going nowhere; God made these massive promises and Abraham had every reason to doubt; but because he knew who God was, he said ‘I trust you’.
Perhaps you’re here this morning thinking that you’re a nobody, with nothing, going nowhere. Or, perhaps you think you’re a good person, that you’ve worked hard, that you deserve blessing from God.
Wherever you’re at – we all need forgiveness: We all need to deal with the Godlessness in our lives.
And God is offering that forgiveness; he’s inviting you to be part of his people; you don’t deserve to be part of his people, but by His grace alone he is inviting you.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross has paid the price for your sin, Jesus has taken the judgement, justice has been served, you are considered righteous in God’s sight – in him the blessings of the promise are yours.
THE GRACE OF GOD
Is it fair that God would choose only some people?
Well it’s extraordinarily unfair that God would choose any at all.
It’s by his grace alone that any should be saved.
By his undeserved favour that he offers salvation and blessing to you and to me.
But that’s the incredible news of the Bible that God doesn’t treat us as we deserve, but graciously invites us to be part of his family.
And there’s something so liberating about that!
Knowing that it is nothing that you do, or don’t do!
There’s no cosmic karma that regulates your reward or place in heaven. It’s already done in Jesus!
But it’s something that is so counter cultural, isn’t it?
Do you feel the burden to succeed at life?
You work at earning your place in your career, your family, your studies.
It can be so exhausting – always working at doing better; always worried that you’re not going to make the cut. And that’s just how life works!
But we often bring this burden to Christianity; to our faith.
Thinking that we need to be good enough to be acceptable to God or to belong at church. But that’s not how God works through his promises. Being part of God’s family is not merit based, it’s grace based!
So if you’re here this morning thinking that God would never accept you because of what you’ve done in the past – or even today. It’s by grace that you have been saved, by faith, not by any works you have done. It’s a gift from God.
And if you’re here this morning thinking that you deserve to be part of God’s family. That you lead a good life; that you’re a good person. It’s by grace that you have been saved, by faith, not by any works you have done. It’s a gift from God (Eph. 2:8, 9).
God has offered you this invitation to be part of his family. How will you respond to it?