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Gospel Priorities: The Call
Sermon Recap | Genesis 12:1-7

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.


Introduction

In their religious education, Stephen Ro says, Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike all learn about Abraham and look to him as their father of faith. Ultimately, though, what makes Abraham such a special person is God’s call on him. Pastor Ro both challenged us in what it means to answer God’s call on our own lives and showed us the immense grace of God in the promises and blessings he bestows on his followers.


Purpose

God’s call to Abraham involved a decisive separation from the past. God called him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s house to go to the land he would show him. “At its heart,” Ro says, answering the call of God is a surrender of the will.” We must all admit that this is a difficult thing to do. We are all interested in knowing the details of where we will be going, what we will be doing there, and who will be there with us. If we’re honest, we often think it would be much easier if God would just tell us the details. Then we would be happy to answer the call. What we are really desiring when we say this, however, is control. We want to be able to assess the terms of the call before we commit to it. But part of the purpose of God’s call on us is God growing us in our trust in him. “What’s more important than knowing the will of God is the willingness to trust the will of God,” Ro says. In fact, unless we are willing to relinquish our will to God and go or do whatever he calls us to, Ro says, we cannot call ourselves Christians. Following God’s call is not how we become a Christian, of course, but it will be a necessary implication of becoming a Christian.

A second and perhaps greater purpose for God’s call on Abraham’s life, and ours as well, is to make us a blessing to others. We see in this passage that if Abraham follows God’s call, God will bless him and make his name great “so that [he] will be a blessing” (2). Ro tells the story of Elisabeth Shepping, a German-American missionary to South Korea. When Shepping’s grandmother died, Shepping was sent to America to live with her mother. She eventually entered nursing school and it was there that she first answered God’s call to follow him, a call that would eventually lead her to use her medical skills as a missionary to Chosun, an impoverished portion of South Korea. Once there, she changed her name to Seo, Seo-pyeong (slowly calmly), learned the Korean language, dressed in traditional Korean wear and lived a simple life following her motto “not success but service.” Shepping finished her life there in Korea, eventually dying at the age of 54 from malnutrition. She answered God’s call and he made her a blessing.[1]

We must read Genesis 12:1 alongside Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham obeyed God’s call even though he didn’t know where he was going, which seems to be the most ludicrous a person can do, Ro says. But the Bible explains his actions with two words: “by faith.” “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence,” Ro says, “but obeying in spite of consequences. True faith always manifests itself in trust and obedience.”


Promise

“The reason we can give up our control to God is because of his promises,” Ro says. In fact, in this passage God makes seven promises to Abraham:

1.     I will show you a land
2.     I will make you into a great nation
3.     I will bless you
4.     I will make your name great
5.     I will bless those who bless you
6.     I will curse those who dishonor you
7.     I will give this land to your offspring

If we compare the first and last promises in this sequence, we see that God begins by telling Abraham that he will show him a land and ends the sequence by telling Abraham that he will be give him the land.

God has promised to make Abraham great, but what does greatness in the kingdom of God look like? The Bible tells us that if you want to be great, you must be a servant (Mt. 20:26). This is the paradox of the Christian life. And it is because we have God’s promises that we can become servants, Ro says. It is because of God’s promises that we can become people who make decisions not based on personal gain or comfort but on where we can most be a blessing to others. If we seek to be full, we find ourselves empty but when we seek to bless others, our lives become full, Ro says. Perhaps these promises to Abraham are summed up succinctly in Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”


Person

Abraham was going to be made into a great nation, but first he had to have a son. The problem was that Sarah was barren, so God would have to work miraculously to fulfill his promise to Abraham. The promise of the land was given through Abraham’s son, who is none other than Jesus Christ – the better Abraham, the better Isaac, the real Isaac. The blessings and prosperity promised are found in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the real descendant of Abraham who left the comforts of Heaven to bless us, Ro says.[2]Jesus left the ultimate comfort of Heaven and took on humanity. Jesus left his security in order to bless us. God turned his face away from Jesus in order that he might turn it towards us. Jesus answered the original call away from security and comfort in order that we might have the ultimate security of being loved and accepted by God. The promises of God are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. And because we are convinced of God’s love by fulfilling these promises to us through the death of his son, we can with confidence answer God’s call to leave our own comforts and security and become a blessing to others.


Questions for Reflection/Discussion

1. What is the purpose of God’s call on your life? Is there anything that might cause you to hesitate in answering that call?

2. How do the promises of Matthew 6:33 and Matthew 20:26 give you confidence that when God calls you, he can be trusted?

3. How does the person behind God’s promises give you assurance that God’s call is for your good? How does it enable you to imitate Jesus in blessing others with your life?
 
 
 

[1]All quotations and illustrations are from Stephen Ro unless otherwise indicated.

[2]Ro cites Tim Keller, his former professor and mentor, as the one who initially taught him this.