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Old Age; Young Faith
Romans 4
Skip Heitzig

Romans 4 (NKJV™)
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.
10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,
12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,
15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Heart & Soul: A Study through Romans

Our skin may wrinkle but our faith never has to. Abraham’s faith was vibrant and youthful even when he was nearing one hundred years of age. As Paul points to the patriarch Abraham as an example for justification by faith, we can learn what it means to believe God through all the ages of life. How vibrant is your Christian faith? Have you let cynicism and doubt choke out your confidence in God?

When the wrath of God meets the righteousness of God, where does that leave us? The apostle Paul says that we are marked by sin at birth but marked righteous at salvation. In this series through Romans, Skip Heitzig explains the essentials of Christian doctrine that can transform your thoughts, words, and actions. Move from sinner to saint, and from saved to Spirit-filled as you inscribe the essence of the gospel onto your heart and soul.

Outline

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  1. Abraham’s Faith Exhibited (vv. 1-15)

  2. Abraham’s Faith Explained (vv. 16-17)

  3. Abraham’s Faith Examined (vv. 18-25)

    1. He Believed God Can Do Anything (vv. 17-18)

    2. He Believed Circumstances Aren’t Everything (v. 19)

    3. He Believed Challenges Are Nothing (v. 20)

    4. He Believed Promises Mean Something (v. 21)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: August 11, 2019
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Old Age; Young Faith"
Text: Romans 4

Path

Our skin may wrinkle but our faith never has to. Abraham's faith was vibrant and youthful even when he was nearing one hundred years of age. As Paul points to the patriarch Abraham as an example for justification by faith, we can learn what it means to believe God through all the ages of life. How vibrant is your Christian faith? Have you let cynicism and doubt choke out your confidence in God?
  1. Abraham's Faith Exhibited (vv. 1-15)
  2. Abraham's Faith Explained (vv. 16-17)
  3. Abraham's Faith Examined (vv. 18-25)
    1. He Believed God Can Do Anything (vv. 17-18)
    2. He Believed Circumstances Aren't Everything (v. 19)
    3. He Believed Challenges Are Nothing (v. 20)
    4. He Believed Promises Mean Something (v. 21)
Points

Abraham's Faith Exhibited (vv. 1-15)
  • A firm faith makes someone attractive at any age.
  • In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul talked about justification through faith in Jesus Christ. In chapter 4, he presented Abraham and David as examples of faith.
  • In verses 1-5, Paul referred to Genesis 15:1-6, when God took Abraham stargazing. Abraham was childless at eighty-six years old, but God promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.
  • Abraham believed God, and God accounted Abraham as righteous. Accounted is a banking term; Abraham was bankrupt before God, but because he believed, God credited his faith.
  • One of the themes of the New Testament is that sinful man can be made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. You're only as old as your doubt; if you want to stay young, say amen to God's promises.
Abraham's Faith Explained (vv. 16-17)
  • In verses 16-17, Paul explained the principle of faith (see also Ephesians 2:8).
  • Abraham was the prototype of salvation by faith, so everyone who believes shares the same lineage, and are children of faith.
  • Believers aren't saved through works; it is God in Christ who saves. God's gift of salvation is tied to His grace. We must simply believe to receive.
Abraham's Faith Examined (vv. 18-25)
  • He Believed God Can Do Anything (vv. 17-18)
    • Abraham factored the Lord into life's equation, believing He could and would accomplish His will and purpose.
    • We often project our own limitations onto God. We need a perspective adjustment, so that we can see God for who He is.
  • He Believed Circumstances Aren't Everything (v. 19)
    • Natural impotence is no match for divine competence. Abraham wasn't thinking about the frailties of the flesh, but the faithfulness of God.
    • With the birth of Isaac, Abraham became the "father of multitudes." God fulfilled His promises to Abraham and Sarah.
  • He Believed Challenges Are Nothing (v. 20)
    • The word waver in verse 20 means to vacillate; Abraham struggled in his faith (see Genesis 16:1-4, 15-16; 17:17-18). But a struggling faith is not the same as a doubting faith (much like temptation to sin is not the same as sin). Abraham put his faith into action and was "strengthened in faith" (v. 20).
    • Abraham's faith began by believing God's words; faith comes by hearing God's Word (see Romans 10:17).
  • He Believed Promises Mean Something (v. 21)
    • God's promises are as good as performances; they will happen.
    • Abraham was circumcised, then said amen. Abraham's faith followed God into the future.
    • What you believe about God is the most important thing about you; it determines what you think, how you act, and everything else in life. So, stand on His promises through faith.
Practice

Connect Up: Though we can see the handiwork of God in creation, we can't physically see God. Having faith in God is like trusting in the laws of physics to get a plane in the air. According to Hebrews 11:1 and 6, why is faith vital for belief in God? Knowing is not enough, nor is conviction. We must receive—by faith, through God's grace—the promises of God in Christ. Discuss why each of the following kinds of faith is important in our relationship with God:
  • Notitia: The content of faith; the knowledge and information of what we believe.
  • Assensus: The conviction that the content is true.
  • Fiducia: Personal trust, reliance, and assurance; saving faith.
Connect In: How is faith communicated and lived out in the church? Here are some areas to discuss:
  • Worship: How does faith inform worship?
  • Service: How should faith influence how we serve others?
  • Evangelism: How can faith affect how we reach out to others with the gospel?
  • Doctrine: How should faith influence the teaching of the Bible?
Connect Out: How would you explain to an unbeliever the role of faith in the Christian life? Knowing that all people have faith in something, how can you direct an unbeliever's faith in self, science, money, power, etc., to faith in God?

Transcript

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Old Age; Young Faith - Romans 4 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

We are in chapter 4. If you would turn to chapter 4 of the book of Romans, we can get started.

You probably all heard of Grimm's fairy tales, right? The Brothers Grimm published some of the greatest what are considered classics in literature. Stories like Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, et cetera. A couple hundred of these things. In their fourth edition of the Brothers Grimm, they have a little thing called the Duration of Life. And I'm not going to read the whole story, but here's a synopsis.

God originally determined 30 years as the ideal span of life for all animals, including mankind. The donkey, the dog, and the monkey considered it much too long, however, and begged God to reduce their years by 18, 12, and 10. Being healthy, vigorous, and somewhat greedy, the man asked to be given those extra years. God agreed, and so man's years totaled 70. The first 30 are his own and they pass quickly. The next 18 are the donkey years, during which he has to carry countless burdens on his back. Then come the dog years, 12 years when he can do little but growl and drag himself along. This is followed by the monkey years, his closing 10, when he grows rather strange and does things that make children laugh at him.

[LAUGHTER]

I found people who fear growing old. You should never fear growing old. You should fear growing stale as you grow old. You should be afraid of losing a vibrant, active, dare we say childlike faith, youthful faith in God. One leader remarked, "we need passion in our faith. Instead of praying if I should die before I wake, we should pray, Lord, wake me up before I die."

One of the great promises in scripture come in Psalm 92 where the Psalmist said, "those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age. They will be fresh and flourishing."

What makes a person attractive at any age is a confidence in God. And that brings us to Abraham. He is the feature star of chapter 4 of the book of Romans. And I found a survey that was given to people over 95 years of age. They were asked a simple question. If you could live your life all over again, what would you do differently? Top three answers. Number one, I'd reflect more, number two, I'd risk more, number three, I'd do more things that live on after I'm dead.

I take those answers to simply mean I'd live a more purposeful, intentional life where I live out my faith without regret. There are too many people have regrets. I will guarantee you this. You will never regret a life of faith. You'll never get to the end of your life and say, you know, I think I really trusted God way too much while I was younger. I wish I would have just sort of held back on trusting the Lord. I've never ever met somebody who said that. I've met plenty who said the opposite.

Well, in Romans chapter 4, Paul has been talking about what it means to be right with God, chapter 3. He talked all about being justified, if you remember that word, justified by faith in Christ. He said the law can only reveal sin. It can never remove the sin. He even said that salvation by faith was witnessed by the law and the prophets. Now, he knew that anyone who read this letter, once he said that, would say, really? The law and the prophets anticipated salvation by faith alone? Prove it. Where exactly does it say that?

The reason Paul knew that that would be the questioning is because he knew the Jewish mind. And the Jewish mind was that God chose Abraham because he was the most righteous person on the planet when God picked him. There's all sorts of stories that Abraham was righteous before God starting at age three, and of all the people who lived, he attained this high level of goodness and righteousness. That's why God picked him. Because he was the father of the Jewish nation. He was sort of like the MVP of their religion, the poster child of Judaism. So Paul calls on him as a witness in chapter 4, Abraham and David, to prove his case that it's salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

We're going to begin in verse 1. We're not going to read all of the chapter. We're going to look at several verses, but we're going to pick and choose. And I'm going to give you Abraham's faith in three slices. We'll go deeper in each one. First of all, his faith is exhibited, second, it is explained, and third, it is examined. Let's begin in verse 1.

"What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?" In other words, if we look at Abraham's personal life, what did he personally conjure up in his own nature-- since the Jewish mind was that he was the most righteous person who ever lived, that's why God chose him-- "what shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about--" I like this-- "but not before God." in other words, no way, Jose.

"For what does the scripture say?" Now he quotes the scripture. "Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt." Makes sense, you go to work, put in your 40 hours, they give you a paycheck. That's not an act of grace. You earned it. You deserve it. "But to him--" verse 5-- "who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputed righteousness apart from works."

That's Abraham's faith exhibited. Paul is referring to an incident that happened in Abraham's life when he was 86 years old. It's described in the 15th chapter of the book of Genesis. Here's how it goes. God says, Abraham, let's go for a walk, take him outside. God says, look up at the stars. See if you can count all the stars in the heaven. And as we look at the stars, he said, Abraham, so shall your descendants be.

It probably was one of those very dark, very crisp nights when the moon was low and the stars were shouting. And he pointed up to the stars. He said, can you count them all? That's how many kids you're going to have. That's going to be your progeny, your descendants. Then it says, Abraham believed God. Now, he's 86. Abraham believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness.

By the way, next time you're feeling really low, discouraged, despondent, in despair, go outside and look up and consider your God did that. You might have to drive out to the other side of the Sandias to avoid the light pollution, but get a good look at the stars. Because it says in the book of Isaiah that God measures out the universe with his span. Put your hand up and do this, just for a moment. That's your span. That's from thumb to your first finger. That was used in ancient times to measure. Says God has marked out the heavens with a span.

So get this. Your galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, 10,000 light years wide by 100,000 light years long. Let me frame that. If you could travel the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, you could go around the Earth seven and a half times in one second. You could sail past the moon in 1.5 seconds. You could make it to the sun in seven minutes and 30 seconds. But to go from one end of the Milky Way galaxy, your neighborhood, to the other end of the Milky Way galaxy, traveling 186,000 miles per second, will take you 100,000 years.

And if you could do that, you haven't even left the front yard. There are billions of other galaxies beside that, we are told. And we look up, and we should, and we go, wow, it's so large. And God goes, not so much. It's only about that big. So that helps you frame whatever you're going through as you also trust God in the midst of whatever you're going through.

So God made the promise. And in Genesis 15 it says Abraham believed God. Now in Hebrew, the word believed is the word a-meen, or amen. So let me paraphrase. Abe, look up. Check that out. Can you count those things? That's how many descendants you're going to have. And Abraham said amen, right on. And God said, good enough, you're righteous. You believed what I just said, that I can do that. I will account that to you as being right before me, righteous before me. He didn't do anything. He just believe what God said.

Look back in verse 3 and notice how Paul writes it. "For what does the scriptures say--" now he quotes Genesis 15, "Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Paul is writing in the Greek language. The Greek word for accounted is the word [SPEAKING GREEK]. It's a banking term, and it means to put something to one's account or to credit something to somebody else's account.

So here's the picture. Abraham, standing before God, was spiritually bankrupt before God. As soon as he said amen and trusted God, the accounts changed. God took righteousness and credit it to his account. He counted it to him as righteousness. God didn't say, well, Abraham, I'm glad you said amen to what I just said. That's a good start. But now you're going to have to do these other 36 things and get circumcised and get baptized and go to church every week and a few other things, confirmation, probably, and then, maybe then, you'll be right before me. God just said, I consider you righteous before me because you believed by faith.

So to the Jewish mind, to the religious mind who were thinking, I have to do my part, I earn a spot in heaven because I do my thing, let's go all the way back to father Abraham, who just believed and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Abraham and his response becomes prima facie evidence that any sinful person can be right with holy God simply by faith. That's why it is used no less than four times in the New Testament to make that point.

When Abraham believed God, the law wasn't even around. Moses wouldn't be born for another 400 years ago, so there was no law of Moses. There was no circumcision yet. In fact, look at verse 9. "Does this blessedness, then, come upon the circumcised only or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal--" that is an outward sign of an inward reality-- "a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also."

Now later on-- remember, he was 86 years old when God made that promise. Later on at age 99 Abraham will get circumcised. I can't even go there. I can't even fathom doing that. But the point is he did it after he believed and after he was accounted righteousness, 13 years after, then he went through that ritual. So this is a living, active, vibrant faith. Abraham is an old man and God is having him look to the future. You're going to have descendants, man, you're going to have kids. And not look backwards.

You want to stay young? Say amen to God's promises more often. Don't read them in the Bible and go, eh, I don't know about that one. Yeah, not so much. Just amen, yes, right on, God. Don't be like the guy who said, I get up each morning and dust off my wits, I pick up the paper and read the obits, if my name is missing I know I'm not dead, so I have a big breakfast and go back to bed.

[LAUGHTER]

Anybody can do that. That's not faith. That's not living. That's just existing. That's just doing time . George Bernard Shaw once wrote, "youth is a wonderful thing. It's a shame to waste it on young people." You don't have to. You are as young as your faith. You are as old as your doubt. But some of you all need a faith lift, if you know what I mean.

[LAUGHTER]

Abraham, 86, said yes, amen, let's do this. Abraham's faith exhibited.

Now we go a little bit deeper to Abraham's faith explained. I want you to go down to verse 16. Notice the transitional word therefore. "Therefore, it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all-- as it is written, I have made you a father of many nations-- in the presence of him whom he believed, God, who gives the life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did."

Paul is explaining a principle that he lays out again in Ephesians chapter 2, a familiar text. When Paul writes, "for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." So Abraham becomes the prototype, the poster child of salvation by faith so that everyone else who believes simply after Abraham can trace their lineage back to father Abraham.

You know, if you were to go to 23andMe and pay that $100, you can find out all about your gene pool and where it originated. And it's kind of fun to do that. You can go to not just 23andMe, but ancestry.com, find out, you know, what famous person is part of your background, your lineage. But when you place your trust in Jesus Christ alone, you are placed in a spiritual heritage that goes all the way back to the simple faith given by Abraham, is the heritage that you can enjoy.

And like Abraham, you didn't work for it. You don't strive to get it. You don't go through a ritual to obtain it. All you did is stand there and say amen, yes, I believe that. I believe in Jesus Christ. And when you say I believe in Jesus Christ, I trust in him, you are saved. You are saved. Romans chapter 10, verse 9 and 10, "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God."

Now that is just the beginning, and certainly you grow from that hopefully, and works follow. But you're not saved by them. Those works, those deeds, that growth simply verifies that the faith was real. But it's that simple amen, that simple belief in your heart that makes you right with God.

Not everybody thinks that way. In fact, most people think exactly the opposite. Paul's audience thought exactly the opposite. Jewish people thought exactly the opposite. Many people in ancient pagan religions thought you have to work hard to do it. Most people today believe that. Most people think that it's sort of like a frog that fell into a bucket of milk, couldn't jump out because the sides were too steep, so the little frog is in there trying to get out, paddling, paddling, paddling, paddling, paddling, paddling, paddling, paddling, paddling. Eventually that milk turns into butter so he was able to on a firm stance jump out and save himself by working so hard. Most people believe-- maybe some of you still believe-- you've got to do something other than just believe.

According to Lifeway Research, three quarters of Americans, 77%, say people must contribute their own effort for personal salvation. Half of Americans, 52% believe that good deeds help them earn a spot in heaven. This is why, when you ask people are you a follower of Jesus, they never answer you. Do you believe in Jesus? They go, I go to church. You're telling me what you do. Are you a believer in Christ? Do you follow Jesus? My parents raised me to be a believer. They went to church. I go to-- they want to tell you what they do. I've got to do my part.

Look at verse 16. "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to--" what? Grace. There's that word again, grace, unmerited favor, undeserved kindness, sheer generosity, grace. That is Abraham's faith explained.

What a place heaven would be if people got there by paying their own way. It would be a miserable place. People would be bragging and boasting. All of eternity, you'd have to hear people say, I got here because I did this, well, I did that. We're all going to say I got here by grace.

[APPLAUSE]

I got here because of what Jesus did for me, not because I did anything for him.

Finally, we look at Abraham's faith examined. And that will take us from verse 18 down to verse 21. I'm going to show you four characteristics of Abraham's faith. Abraham believed God can do anything, he believed circumstances aren't everything, he believed challenges are nothing, and he believed promises mean something. That's how I've outlined it. Let me show you that.

First of all, he believed God can do anything. Look at verse 17, if you don't mind, go back a little bit. "As it is written, I've made you a father of many nations in the presence of him whom he believed--" that is--" God, who gives life to the dead--" I love this-- "and calls those things which do not exist as though they did, who, contrary to hope--" this is Abraham now-- "contrary to hope, in hope believed so that he became the father of many nations according to what was spoken, so shall your descendants be."

Abraham essentially believed God can do anything. He brought God into the equation. Here's our problem. When something comes up, when a problem arises, the first thing we try to do is work it out in our minds. Oh man, let me see if I can figure this out. If we can figure it out, we go, oh, I believe. If we can't figure it out, we kind of think God can't figure it out. I mean, think of this 86-year-old man hearing this promise. His wife had been barren their whole marriage. God says you're going to have kids. He believed God could do anything.

He brings God into the equation. In fact, if you were to follow the Genesis narratives, you discover that God talks about Isaac as if Isaac was living at the time even though he wasn't even born yet. He talks as though it already existed. So the issue you and I have is we carry our limitations over onto God. We sort of superimpose our limitations onto him.

So God told Abraham you're going to have a son, another time, you're going to have a son, told him again, you're going to have a son, different spacings in his life. On one of those occasions when God made the promise, his wife Sarah was listening. God spoke it loud enough so that Abraham and Sarah could hear it. And Sarah had a response. Do you remember what it was? She laughed, but she really snickered. She did it inwards. [SNORT] Like, no way. She thought nobody heard it, so God out loud said, why did Sarah laugh? And she goes, I didn't laugh. So human. I didn't do it.

And God said, ah, but you did laugh. And then he said, is there anything too hard for the Lord? Sarah, is there anything too hard for the Lord? Because old Abe believes I can do anything. Is there anything too hard for the Lord? Jeremiah 32, "I am the God of all flesh. There is nothing too hard for me."

We need a perspective adjustment. How do you get that? Well, it helps to realize who you're dealing with, who you're praying to. Let me give an example. Acts chapter 4, a law was passed. Church cannot mention the name of Jesus anymore in the city of Jerusalem or they will be arrested. Persecution came down hard and heavy. Several were arrested. So they got together for a prayer meeting.

They did not begin their prayer like this. God, we're really in trouble. This is impossible. You know how they prayed? Lord, you are God. You made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. Why was that important? Because they're about to ask God for a heavy request, so they're framing the perspective. I realize I'm talking to the one who does this to the heavens. He made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, therefore they come up with their request.

Our problem is we let our circumstances block our view of God. Example, the sun out there in the sky that's been making it really hot the last couple of weeks here, that little ball up in the sky is actually 864,000 miles in diameter. That's how big it. Is 109 times larger than the size of the Earth. 864,000 miles in diameter, my phone is only 4 inches in diameter but it can cover that sun when I do this. I don't see anything. It's dark over here. There must not even be a sun in existence, because I have allowed this to get so close to my eyes that I don't get the right perspective.

If I were to throw this out into space where the sun is, first of all I could never use it again, but it would show how small my phone is in comparison to the 864,000-mile diameter globe called the sun. And we often go through life letting those things block our view of God. Abraham decided at 86, I'm going to let God be God and believe that he can do anything.

Second, he believed that circumstances aren't everything. They're there. They look pretty tough, but they're not everything. Look at verse 19. "And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body already dead." Now a better translation of that would be he didn't consider his own body as good as dead. You said as good as dead? What does that mean? Well, look at the next little part. "Since he was about 100 years old." OK, he's thinking I'm not going to live much longer. I'm as good as dead. Next part, "and the deadness of Sarah's womb."

OK, God said, Abe, you're going to have kids. He's 86. Eventually he gets to be 99, still no kids. What if Abraham looked in the mirror every day? Now I don't know that he had mirrors, but let's say he just looked in the mirror, and he's looking in the mirror at that 100-year-old wrinkly thing and he said, I'm going to have kids? I don't think so.

Or how about this? Abraham's 99 years old, takes Sarah to the gynecologist to get a pregnancy test. What's the gynecologist going to say? Dude, give it up. She went through menopause 50 years ago.

[LAUGHTER]

Right? Physiologically it's impossible. She's always been barren. And you think that's going to turn around now? You think it's going to get better, not worse? You're as good as dead and she's never been able to have a child. She's not far behind you.

Now let's actually spice this story up a little bit-- and it's true. I'm not making this part up. I said, Abraham was 86 when God made the promise. I didn't tell you the whole story. Abraham wasn't 86. Abram was 86. That was his first name, not Abraham. Abram, A-B-R-A-M. That was his name since he was a kid. Abram. Abram is a name that means exalted father. An embarrassing name when you've never had kids.

So imagine the caravan's coming through town, and he waved from the tent. And the caravan leader says, hi, what's your name? And he says, my name is exalted father. And the caravan leader says, oh, congratulations. How many kids do you have? None. OK. You knew that he got teased all his 86 years.

OK, to make matters worse, when he turns 99 years of age, 13 years have passed, still no kid. God says you're still going to have a kid. God said, but I'm going to change your name. No longer are you going to be called Abram, exalted father, you have a new name. Abraham, father of a multitude. Now can you just picture Abraham hanging his head going, God, please, no, please. Do I have to? Father of a multitude.

But he did take that name. That became his new name. That's how he would introduce himself, father of a multitude. He didn't say call me father wannabe, father fakeamony, father poser, he said, no, you call me father of a multitude. And that became his new name. That is an act of faith. He wasn't thinking of the frailties of the flesh as much as the faithfulness of God. Natural impotence is nothing next to define divine competence. So he believed that because God can do anything, circumstances aren't everything.

A third component of his faith. He believed challenges are nothing. Now that follows, right? If God can do anything and circumstances aren't everything, then a challenge to God is so what? It's God. Look at verse 20. "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith giving glory to God." Waver means vacillate or doubt.

Now some of you who are Bible students might be thinking, now, wait a minute. I've read Genesis, and it sure seems like the Genesis account shows Abraham wavering in his faith, in unbelief. Let me explain. Genesis 15, he's 86. You're going to have a bunch of kids. Amen, I believe you. Chapter 16, Sarah, his wife, says, look, this probably is never going to happen. So just take Hagar, my handmaiden, go in and have a child with her-- I'm barren-- and we'll call that the son of promise. So they had Ishmael. Remember Ishmael? So it sounds like he's sort of wavering. It was Sarah's idea but he went along with it.

Fast forward, chapter 17. Chapter 17, God comes to him again, says promise is still good. You are going to have a child. Abraham replies, well, here's Ishmael. We had Ishmael. Not through Sarah, but through Hagar. And he goes, oh, that Ishmael might live before you. Just make your promise live through him. And God said, no. But Sarah your wife is going to have that son I promised. At 99 years of age, that's when he got the promise.

So you might think it sure sounds like he's vacillating a little bit and wavering. Let me answer that by saying struggling is not the same as doubting. You can struggle through your faith. I've struggled many times with issues of faith, and it always has strengthened my faith as I worked through them. Struggling with your faith is not the same as unbelief is not the same as doubting. It's sort of like temptation isn't the same as sin. You can get tempted, we're all tempted. It's when you yield to temptation, that it becomes sin, but temptation is not the same as sin.

And then the second thing I would say is that at age 99-- I mentioned this, and I'm just sort of putting these stories together-- at age 99 after God promised him again, Abraham got circumcised. Don't want to explain all that, or how difficult that would be for a 99-year-old man to go, OK, I'll do that. But he did it as a sign, a seal that he believed God's promises. So like the text says, he was strengthened in faith.

You just got to think of this old guy, 86, turning 87, every birthday, 88, 92, 99, every year another birthday candle in the baklava, he's blowing it out. He's 99 years old, no kids. But when he's 99, God finally says, within a year-- by this time next year, you'll be 100, your wife Sarah is going to have that baby boy. Wow. Challenges are nothing.

Billy Sunday said we have a God who delights in impossibilities. Do you think God ever goes, oh, this is hard? I've done a lot of stuff, oh man. Not at all. Jesus said with God nothing shall be impossible. Talk about staying young. This is the kind of faith that says bring it on. When you live life like that, life is an adventure.

Now where does it all begin? Where does all that faith begin? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. That's where it all begins, which takes me to my last of the four characteristics of Abraham's faith examined. He believed promises mean something.

Look at verse 21. "Being fully convinced that what he had promised--" look at that. Fully convinced. Not oh, I'm crossing my fingers, I'm hoping God can do this. "Being fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to perform, and therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness." In other words, to Abraham, the promise was as good as the performance. God said it, going to happen. Yeah, but honey, you're 99. Going to happen. But you're 99. But I'm getting circumcised because I believe it's going to happen.

I have a question for you. What do you do with God's promises? What do you do with the promises of God? You might say, well, I underlined them in my Bible in yellow and pink and red and blue. I have a little color code system for all God's promises. Wonderful. What else do you do? Well, I memorize them. That's good, that's helpful. But your full answer should be I take them to the bank and cash them. I say amen to them. I apply them. I live by them.

There's an old song written in the 1800s. You've probably heard of it. "Standing on the promises of God my Savior, standing on the promises of God." Some of us, if we were going to sing that today, could not legitimately, honestly sing those words. We would have to say "creeping on the promises of God my Savior". Or not even that. We'd have to say "sitting on the premises", not even "standing on the promises". Peter called them exceedingly great and precious promises.

One of the books that was very helpful for me as a young believer in my earliest 20s was an autobiography about George Mueller. He wrote it himself. George Mueller ran not one, but several orphanages in Bristol, England. All by faith. He believed he shouldn't even tell anybody his financial needs, that God knew and that God would supply the need, and he would just live a life of faith. And the stories he told. Because he when you live life like that, you have plenty of opportunities to trust God.

So on one occasion all the kids were tucked into bed at night, he and his wife were going to bed. And he turned to his wife, said honey, a little FYI here. We have no milk for tomorrow's oatmeal for breakfast. He grabbed her hands and said, let's pray. They prayed. Not long afterwards, a knock on the door, a baker in town said, I don't know what it is. The Lord laid you on my heart and I baked a bunch of bread for the kids for breakfast tomorrow morning and brought it in.

That next day, the oatmeal had been made but again, there was no milk for the oatmeal. They get ready to eat bread, they sit down and pray and thank God for the meal. Another knock comes at the door. It is a milkman whose milk truck had broken down a block away who said, it's going to spoil. Can you use the milk? So we have story after story he wrote in his journals to talk about God's faithfulness. And how he said, if you walk with God and look to him, he will never fail you.

Contrast the great faith of George Mueller with the not so great faith of Skip Heitzig. True story, I'm in my early 20s, reading books like that. But it obviously didn't sink in because I was going through school and money was tight. And I at one point was living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches till I got some more money coming up. And that week, the bread ran out, didn't have a baker knocking at my door. Now I have a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. That's what I'm living on.

During that time I'm reading my Bible. I'm reading the promises of God. But I'm getting pretty disappointed, pretty dejected. I go to the mailbox, there is a check from the IRS. It's my tax return. I got up, I got so stoked, so elated. I think I even danced around my apartment that day. And I just-- hallelujah! And then it was like the Lord was just tapping on my shoulder. You're getting pretty excited with that government check. How come you didn't get that excited when you read this week in my word that I would take care of you? How do you know that check's cashable? How do you know the government's good? It's the government. You can trust the government. But not me, huh?

And I just felt so under the conviction that I should have, as I read, that week, those promises of God, eating my spoons of peanut butter, God is going to provide. And he did. But the excitement should have come earlier rather than later. Abraham said amen. In other words, he cashed the check before it arrived. He cashed the check before it arrived. That's how you stay young.

I close with this. One author wrote, "Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better, I'd have come running with a bucket." How do you live like this? I don't know if this is so hard-- God, this is hard for you. I've got a bucket. God, you can do anything. Because the book of Hebrews said, "if God didn't spare his only son but freely gave him up for us all, how shall he not then with him freely give us all things?"

Abraham lived a life of faith. Old age, young faith. Do you know that what you believe about God is the most important thing about you? Circumstances will not make you or break you. They will just expose you. They reveal you. What you believe about God is the most important thing about you. It determines what you believe about everything else. So Abraham stepped up and said amen. And then later on, I'm getting older, another candle, amen. I'm 99, I'm as good as dead, amen. And that kid came. Isn't God good?

Father, we thank you.

[APPLAUSE]

We thank you, Lord, that you made it so simple. We don't have to take a pilgrimage on our knees to a cross in a wilderness or a cathedral or go through a ritual. All we have to do is hear your promise and say I believe that. I believe him. I trust in Jesus. I place my faith in his work, done for me on Calvary's cross. And by that our sins can be forgiven. If you're here today and you've not done that, right where you are would you just say, Lord, I admit I'm a sinner. I am not right before you. I admit that freely and I admit there's nothing I can do to earn your gift.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

But I believe that you sent Jesus to earth to shed his blood for my sin on a cross. That he died, was buried, and that he rose again. With your help, I turn from my sin. I leave my past behind, and I turn to follow that Jesus every day. Help me to have a vibrant living faith. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Additional Messages in this Series

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5/5/2019
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The Heart and Soul of the Gospel
Romans 1:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Today we embark on a thirty-two-week journey through the book of Romans. Considered to be Paul the apostle’s magnum opus, this book is largely responsible for igniting the fires of the Protestant Reformation and the Wesleyan Revival. As Paul introduced himself to the church at Rome, he got right to the heart and soul of the matter—the gospel—the good news that presents Jesus Christ as God’s great answer to the pressing need of the human race.
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5/19/2019
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Unashamed!
Romans 1:16-17
Skip Heitzig
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Standing up for and speaking out about our faith in Jesus Christ can sometimes feel awkward and intimidating. Often our message is not received with glad faces or with open arms by the people we work with and live next to. As Paul was planning to visit Rome, he expressed eagerness rather than hesitation to herald this message. Why was that? The apostle gives us five reasons for his readiness and enthusiasm.
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5/26/2019
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Is God Mad?
Romans 1:18-32
Skip Heitzig
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The Wrath of God Is Revealed God is full of love, right? Right! That’s the good news. And Paul gets back to that theme and develops it fully in the chapters ahead. But first, there’s some bad news. Like a powerful prosecuting attorney, Paul made the case as to why we need the good news of Christ. God’s grace is necessary because of our guilt. In this section, we learn about the wrath of God—an attribute that many people can’t wrap their heads (and hearts) around.
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7/7/2019
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Four Mistakes Religious People Make
Romans 2:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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Jesus was not a religious leader. He was a righteous leader. And He was often confronting the religious leaders of His day. Likewise Paul found many enemies among the religious elite of his day, among both Jews and Gentiles. After announcing his theme of good news in Jesus, Paul promptly plunged into the bad news of God’s wrath—a subject that religious people sometimes love (but for all the wrong reasons). Paul tells us some of their most common mistakes.
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7/14/2019
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Hypocrisy Gets an Audit
Romans 2:17-29
Skip Heitzig
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All businesses, corporations, and individuals have blind spots. Auditors can help by giving a clear and unbiased reading of practices and procedures, and then give appropriate recommendations for change. Here, Paul played the role of auditing the hypocrite—the one who has spiritual style but no substance. Let’s consider the assets, the deficits, and the net appraisal of the one who wears a spiritual disguise.
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7/28/2019
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The Advantage of Having the Bible
Romans 3:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Those who have been raised in a home with spiritual foundations and the teaching of Scripture have an edge over those who were never exposed to such benefits. The advantage of having access to the Bible is enormous, but it is not a fail-safe. Paul addressed the Jews who were caretakers of God’s own words, and much can be applied to anyone who has the advantage of revealed truth but fails to take it to heart.
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8/4/2019
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How Prisoners Go Free
Romans 3:9-26
Skip Heitzig
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Freedom is a huge word for the Christian believer. Picture yourself nervously standing in a courtroom before a judge who has just read the pile of evidence against you. Just before the gavel strikes the bench proclaiming your guilt, a piece of evidence strikes his gaze and he unexpectedly announces your innocence. You can now go free! Here Paul explains how any person anywhere can find hope and freedom because of the gospel.
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8/18/2019
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Our Benefits Package
Romans 5:1-5
Skip Heitzig
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Why is being a Christian so great? Every unbeliever you meet is asking that question as they observe your life. What are the benefits of living with a committed faith in Jesus? After explaining what it means to be right with God by believing in Christ, and after illustrating that principle with Abraham, Paul gives a short list of some of the benefits of a saved life.
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8/25/2019
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Unrivaled Love
Romans 5:6-11
Skip Heitzig
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Modern wisdom continually tells us, “Love is a verb,” rather than a sentimental feeling. Love is a commitment that involves action. For the first time in the letter to the Romans, Paul introduced the word love and a very singular kind of love—God’s love for us. Wanting to show how secure we are in this salvation, he described the greatest demonstration of love—its proof, its provision, and its product.
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There are 9 additional messages in this series.