“Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Then He said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’ And he said, ‘Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?’ So He said to him, ‘Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.”
Dear fellow believers, you can’t imagine just how far our hearts would start drifting away from God if we do not come in touch with the work of God and the Word of God even for a single day. Today, I would like to share with you the reasons why we must follow after the Word of God and carry out the work of God everyday.
When God promised Abraham, “I will be your great strength and shield. And I will be your exceedingly great reward,” and Abraham replied, “The heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus. What You have awarded me, what You have strengthened me with, and what You have protected me with, therefore, I cannot but give Eliezer all these blessings.” What did God reply to that?
It is written, “And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Genesis 15:4-5). God told Abraham to look towards heaven and count the stars and said to him, “Can you count all those stars? I will make your descendants be like that.”
True Faith Is to Believe in Hope in a Hopeless Situation
If someone’s faith is approved by God, that faith is indeed a great faith. This faith of Abraham appearing in today’s Scripture passage received such approval from God. Dear fellow believers, what do you think the reason for that is? It is because Abraham had unwaveringly believed in the Word of God contrary to hope.
When Abraham left his homeland, Ur of the Chaldeans, and arrived in the land of Canaan, he was seventy-five years of age. Afterwards he sold off his wife, accumulated much wealth because of that event, separated with his nephew Lot because of that wealth, and rescued Lot and his wealth by fighting with King Chedorlaomer. These various events could be calculated as having occurred within a period of about a year. It is quite possible that all these events could have occurred within a one year period following their entering of the land of Canaan.
God appeared before Abraham and said to him, “I will make your descendants be as numerous as the stars of heaven.” This happened when Abraham had turned 76, one year after having left his homeland; so the question is, how long did it take for this promise to be fulfilled? Since Abraham had his child Isaac at the age of 100, the promise was fulfilled only after 24 years had passed. It is truly a long period of time. But Abraham clearly believed that the promise of God would be realized some day. God said, “Eliezer of Damascus is not your heir. I will surely grant you a child from your own body. See if you can count the stars of heaven. I will make your descendants be as numerous as those innumerable stars of heaven.” At that time, God had Abraham look up towards the serene world of stars and told him that He will make his descendants be as numerous as those stars. And our father of faith Abraham relied on that promise of God in his heart without a hint of doubt despite this long passage of time.
Because Abraham believed like this, Jehovah God accounted this to him for righteousness. Referring to his faith, Jehovah said that it was the most correct faith. Though he was very old and did not have any children, he believed in the promise of God, where God said that He would grant him numerous descendants, this was contrary to hope. It is said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). From a fleshly perspective it could never be fulfilled. But to believe that it will be realized because of God’s spoken Word, we can hope for something in our hearts; this is precisely what genuine faith is all about.
Actually, Abraham had another child named Ishmael who was born through a maidservant about 10 years after that promise. But this was not the son of the promise. The promise of God was fulfilled only after 24 years. Because God blessed Abraham, this promise was only fulfilled after 24 years had passed, but even before it was realized, Abraham had faith in this promise of God in his heart and had the evidence of faith in him. The Word of promise God had given him was the unwavering evidence which was firmly rooted deep in his heart. He believed unwaveringly by professing, “Through my wife, God will surely grant me a child and also many descendants like the stars of heaven.” For old Abraham to obtain many descendants seemed impossible from a human point of view, but despite all this, Abraham believed in the Word of God as it was spoken to him.
There is a story in the Bible which shows this perfect faith of Abraham much more clearly. God gave Abraham a son through his wife Sarah. And Abraham named that son Isaac, meaning ‘laugher’ for he thought, “God has given me laughter.” But as this Isaac was growing up, God told him to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering. God told Abraham to offer up the child to him by cutting him up in pieces as if he were to offer up a sacrificial animal. Just like this when the Word of God fell upon Abraham, what did Abraham do? Abraham took his son Isaac to the land of Moriah early the next morning without hesitation. And according to the Word of God, he placed his son on the altar and tried to kill him by offering him up to God.
What kind of faith is this faith of Abraham? His faith was an absolute commitment to God; This God who had granted him a son in order for him to offer up his son to Him by faith if He so required it. Because he possessed this faith that even if he killed his son, God would make that son alive again, therefore he believed that he could sacrifice his son up as a burnt offering before God. Because God had clearly promised him that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven through a child born from his body, he possessed this faith that professed, “If Isaac dies, I will no longer have my own child. There would then be no other child born from my wife. If this happened then the Word of God will not be realized. Therefore, even if I killed Isaac, God will bring him back to life again.”
What did God do for Abraham who obeyed all His Words with such crystal clear faith? Acknowledging that it was as if Abraham had already offered up his son to Him, God intervened and stopped Abraham from killing Isaac. God briefly tested Abraham’s faith. Afterwards God bestowed great blessings upon not only Abraham, whose faith was acknowledged, but also upon his son Isaac.
Abraham our father of faith was truly a man of great faith. And so many writers of the Scriptures, including the Apostle Paul often relate this Abraham’s faith to our salvation. The Apostle Paul said clearly, “God has saved us by the water and the blood. Even though we have not seen Jesus Christ in flesh, we have genuinely become the righteous by believing in the Word of God wholeheartedly, and by believing in the works God has done, and by believing in this gospel in our hearts. We can say that these words clearly explain what genuine faith is all about. Also, these words reflect the fact that Abraham’s faith was accounted to him for righteousness as he unwaveringly believed in the Word of God, as it is written, “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’” (Galatians 3:6).
Dear fellow believers, we are the same. You and I have also received salvation from our sins by believing in the Word of God. Although we have not seen God with our own naked eyes, we nevertheless received salvation from our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit in our hearts. Just as Abraham had become the father of faith by perfectly believing in and following after the Word of God, we have also become the righteous people who are sinless by believing in the Word of God. The entire Pauline Epistles talks about Abraham’s faith who believed in God in hope, contrary to hope. Abraham could genuinely be the father of faith because he believed in the Word of God perfectly in hope, contrary to hope. You and I who are gathered here today should do the same. We must also possess this faith of relying on the Word of God contrary to hope by looking towards the heavenly City which is eternally much better than this current world.
At times, I ponder about the promise God had made to Abraham. God called Abraham and had him look up at the stars which were spread out in a clear starlit night. Imagine if God called you and told you, “Come outside for a moment. Look up at the sky.” Don’t you think that you would have found that ancient sky to be beautiful? Back then when I was young, the night skies were really awesome. I would light up a small bon-fire at night and lay down on a straw mat on a hill, and then as I laid down looking up towards the heavens, I would just take in the night sky while listening to the croaking sound of frogs and stare up at the stars. A thought would then stream across my mind as I was lying inside all of nature’s blessings created by God. As if looking at an object whilst listening to music, I was able to feel all things three-dimensionally like this. I also had experiences like this whilst looking for the Big Dipper and counting the stars, while being immersed in such awesome beauty.
If you and I have turned 76 years old and our wives have become jolly old ladies whose menstrual cycles have long time ceased, and if we were to hear the Word of God telling us, “I will make your descendants be as numerous as the stars,” what would we do? There will be those who would believe in His Word and there will be those who won’t. But this Abraham believed in His Word all so assuredly. We must also do this. If it is the Word of God, we must believe in it, even if we are under a situation where it cannot be realized.
Throughout the history of this earth starting from Adam and Eve, there were many fathers of faith, but it can be said that the apex among the fathers of faith was this man Abraham. God started spreading through Abraham the realm of Heaven on a full scale. Right now, as well as long afterwards, there can only be one person whom God could put forth and say, “He is My servant.” There is only one man whom God could put forth among the ensuing generations, boast about and set as an example of faith. And that man is none other than Abraham, even though Noah and Enoch are likened like this also.
Of course, the non-born again cannot properly understand the greatness of Abraham. Even if we tell them, “Abraham’s faith is truly great,” they just fob it off by saying, “It is like you say he is probably so because he is the father of faith.” However, we who have been truly born again and try to follow after the Lord perfectly should be different from them. The Bible mentions the faith of this Abraham on many occasions, but one man the Apostle Paul talks about the most is none other than this Abraham. Dear fellow believers, I want you to bear this fact in mind. God set the example of our faith through Abraham. He told us that if you and I were to believe in and live out our faith just like Abraham did, then we will be able to lead a righteous life of faith without fail.
Even as we are looking at it now, we can come to the realization that this Abraham’s faith was truly without any fault. It is because Abraham followed the Word of God without any hesitation. Of course, he probably had many blemishes from a fleshly perspective, but Abraham is without a doubt the father of faith. Even before we were born again, we recognized Abraham as the greatest man of faith, but now after having been born again, it becomes so much clearer that we should model ourselves after him. For example, let us compare this Abraham with the Apostle Peter. Abraham had fleshly aspects as well as spiritual aspects, but he had many more spiritual aspects. But how was Peter? Although he was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus; but there was a time when he was portrayed as someone who was a spiritual hypocrite (Galatians 2:11-13).
Throughout his entire lifetime Abraham truly followed after the Word of God. He followed after the spirit. That Abraham listened to the Word of God and followed only God like this is indeed something tremendous. As for you and I who have been saved by receiving the remission of our sins, let us also go on living following after the Word of God like this Abraham. In the Old Testament era God appeared before Abraham, not as an illusion but as the Word of God. Only when we follow after this Word of God and believe in it, we will be able to carry out the spiritual work. I am saying that thinking about God and doing spiritual work is what following the Word of God is all about.
For us human beings there is physical work and spiritual work. Although we cannot wholly rid ourselves of our fleshly desires, but if we were to think about spiritual work and follow after spiritual desires, we would be able to lead a righteous life by being immersed in that spiritual work. In the Book of Genesis chapter 13 we read about Abraham selling off his wife. And in chapter 14, along with his subordinates, he waged wars and acquired much wealth. Like this even though he could not completely distance himself from fleshly things, but what happened afterwards? In chapter 15 we read about how Abraham placed his faith in the Word of God, and God acknowledged his faith. Because his faith was approved by God, it was possible for the mistakes of Abraham, who had once been fleshly to be buried under the spiritual work and be gone.
Actually, Abraham was a human being just like us. At times he felt agony and pain for having fallen into fleshly greed. Also he admitted that his own flesh had already died. However, as he chased after and obeyed the Word of God and as he started doing the spiritual work and the work of saving souls, his fleshly lacking and weaknesses got buried in that spiritual work he was pursuing, and they were no longer blemishes any more.
Dear fellow believers, it is the same for us. When we genuinely carry out and become crazy about spiritual work, our fleshly thoughts, acts, and all our shortcomings will fall into a spiritual swamp. Even our fleshly dirt will melt away like spring snow inside the righteous spirit if we start doing spiritual work. If we continue with spiritual work, our fleshly weaknesses will naturally disappear, and they will no longer become a problem before God.
God spoke to Abraham, and that Abraham believed perfectly in the Word of God and followed after it. Dear fellow believers, this is what spiritual work is all about. If it was the very Word spoken by God, then Abraham believed in it just as it was and followed after it. Like this by believing in and following after the Word of God, that is, by carrying out spiritual work, Abraham could lead a righteous life throughout his life without having any regrets. Abraham carried out exactly what God had told him, and like this he pursued after spiritual work. And so it was possible for his many descendants to become the people of God and receive God’s protection and blessings. We are also the same. You and I were also able to find the right path of faith and receive blessings of faith from the Lord, all thanks to the example of the faith of Abraham who carried out these spiritual works by following after the Word of the Lord.
We Must Carry Out Spiritual Work by Faith
If we do the work of God and follow after the will of God, we will be immersed in God’s righteousness and become masters of every creature. Like Abraham, when we carry out spiritual works for God, our own weaknesses and lacking will all disappear. And if we are buried in God’s work rather than our own greed, God will approve us and our faith even though we are still lacking. Also, within the scope of what God allows, we will be able to harvest much fruit of faith.
To believe in the Word of God is to carry out spiritual works, that is, God’s work. By believing in the Word that God spoke, God acknowledged Abraham. Abraham perfectly believed in the Word of God which only came true after about 24 years. And this is something which must be highly praised. Dear fellow believers, we must also possess such genuine faith. No matter how much this world changes, we must possess this faith of believing only in the Word of God.
Truly this world is changing more and more. Not only this world, but also the Christian society is changing like this. Originally Methodist and Presbyterian theologians did not even have meals together. They did not even look at each other’s faces. They did not look, saying that it was unrighteous to just look at each other’s faces. But right now they are sitting together and talking about doctrinal unification to adjust their faith to bring it in line with the culture of the 21st century. These very people, who used to avoid each other, are now trying to unite as one in these days.
Like this, this world in which we are living changes with the passage of time. But no matter how much this world changes, you and I must go on living believing in and following after the Word of God. No matter how much the world changes, we will not change. People of faith who follow after the Word and carry out the righteous work of God will not change, regardless of how much the world may change. No matter what the other people might say, if the Word of God says this way, then this way is absolutely right. We believe that everything will go according to the Word of God. Abraham, our father of faith was like this. I want you to realize the fact that Abraham, whose faith was acknowledged by God, followed only after the Word of God throughout his entire lifetime and carried out the works of God, that is, the spiritual work.
Let us once more take a look at today’s Scripture passage. In the Book of Genesis chapter 15 verse 7, we read, “Then He said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’” And then from verse 18, it says, “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates - the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
As you can see here, God told Abraham clearly that He was going to give him the land of Canaan. He personally promised him that He was going to give him this Promised Land. Then He said He brought Abraham out of Egypt to give him and his descendants that land of Canaan. Abraham then asked, “Lord God, You said You are going to give the land of Canaan to me and my descendants, but if so, what is the proof of this?” So God replied, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. And so Abraham brought all of this and laid them down on the altar before God. After this was done a spectacle of Jehovah’s fire appeared and passed between these pieces of sacrifice.
These objects Jehovah had told Abraham about at that time were all used for burnt offerings. Thus, the fact that God passed between these objects in the image of fire which was laid down before Him signifies to us that we have gained the Kingdom of Heaven by having received the remission of our sins by believing in God. God who had actually witnessed His promise to Abraham like this spoke to Abraham in detail once more time, “I have given your descendants the land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.”
God said He would give the land of Canaan to Abraham and to his descendants. Dear fellow believers, what does this all mean? It is precisely the same as God having promised that He will give you and me Heaven. Just like Him having given Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan, God is telling us that He will give the Kingdom of Heaven to those who have been truly born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. The Kingdom of Heaven is not imaginary stuff. It does actually exist. It exists just as the land of Canaan actually exists between the River of Egypt and the River Euphrates.
We do not have adequate knowledge of the Milky Way which fills the night sky. It can be seen from afar with the naked eye, but we are not able to know its substance. We are told that some stars that seem to be shining in the sky now actually disappeared some thousands of million years ago. It is because these stars are very far away from us, some billions of light-years away. We cannot figure out this fact exactly but we can only stand in awe and say by faith, “I guess the world which was created by God is so vast.” However we at least believe in this Word. God has given Heaven to those who have been truly born again by faith. Even though it is not visible to our naked eyes, we believe.
Dear fellow believers please remember this. As the Lord died on the Cross He cried out, “It is finished!” And He clearly told one of the criminals who was hanging next to Him, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The place where the Lord resides is none other than Paradise, which is the Kingdom of Heaven and the promised land of Canaan. The Kingdom of Heaven does indeed exist. Heaven is where the Lord is. I want you to know that God’s promise to give the born-again people the Kingdom of Heaven is also specific and substantial, just like God’s promise to Abraham when He told him that He will give him an area of land specifically ranging from one point to another.
Do You Believe That the Kingdom of Heaven Does Exist?
Dear fellow believers, do you believe that there is Heaven? Do you believe in the fact that this Kingdom of Heaven is actually yours? Do you believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is a place that has been prepared just for you? If you believe that there is a Kingdom of Heaven, then you must also realize that hell exists as well. Jesus told us that He will gather up the grain, thrash them, and then gather the wheat into His barn but He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. Like this, hell does exist and there clearly is the Kingdom of Heaven. God is Spirit, but He isn’t someone who exists only in our imagination. God actually built a holy world that is substantial, and He now resides there. I want you to know and believe in the fact that there clearly is a place called the Kingdom of Heaven and a place called hell.
Our Lord promised that He will give the land of Canaan to Abraham and to his descendants as an inheritance. How did He show us evidence of this promise? God said, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon,” and Abraham offered them up to God. Then appearing like fire God passed between them. Through these offerings, that is, through the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ who offered Himself with His water and blood, God promises that He will surely give the Kingdom of Heaven to those who have been born again by believing in Him. Dear fellow believers, without the burnt offering you and I cannot receive the remission of our sins. After taking all our sins through His baptism, Jesus went on His own accord up to the altar of burnt offering and saved believers in Him by vicariously receiving all the judgment for our sins, and rose up from the dead in three days. He received the baptism to take on all our sins. After that, He died and received the full judgment for us. Like this, the burnt offering which was laid on the altar of burnt offering signifies the fact that the Lord has saved us by offering His own body as our propitiation. This is why God was telling Abraham to bring Him those specific burnt offerings. And by appearing on top of them, God was showing Abraham the definite proof of His promise that He will surely grant him Heaven.
I believe that Heaven clearly has spatiality. I believe the fact that when we die, we the born again will go to that place. Today the Lord told us about this truth through the promise He had made to Abraham. Thus, we who are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven must first carry out this spiritual work, that is, the work of God as we go on living on this earth. As we carry out this spiritual work, even if fleshly things should arise within us, they will be buried under the heap of spiritual work and no longer be a problem before God. I want you to realize this fact.
Abraham believed only in God and followed after Him. Hence, he walked by the righteous path. I have this understanding that we must also be like this. By persistently carrying out spiritual work, we must throw away our fleshly lacking. But if we neglect in carrying out this spiritual work, we will one day be buried in our filthy flesh. The born-again must be like Abraham. I believe if we listen to and follow after the Word of God like Abraham, our entire life will be immersed in this spiritual work, and all our fleshly worries, troubles, lacking and weaknesses will naturally disappear away completely.
I am hoping that I will personally meet those righteous servants of the Lord like Abraham, Moses, the Apostle Paul, and so on in the Kingdom of God. By then of course, I will be able to recognize them not in the flesh but in the spirit. I don’t know what the image of Heaven is like, but one thing clear is, if we hold fast onto and follow after the Word of the Lord to the very end we will surely go to Heaven. Abraham continued to walk towards God by following the Word of God, and for this he was able to receive many blessings from God. I believe if we would carry out this spiritual work, all our weaknesses and lacking will be buried under the heap of spiritual work and disappear. I believe, if we continue to pursue this spiritual work, and if we believe in and follow only the Word of God, our hearts will be filled with faith of believing in God even more. I believe that God will become a great strength for us, cover up all our lacking, and allow us to bear much spiritual fruits.
Because I am holding many revival meetings at each branch Church these days, I am able to meet you only on weekends, but I want you to go living immersed in this spiritual work by all means. Do not look towards your own weaknesses. One’s own weaknesses cannot be fixed by one’s own will. Just continue to do the work of God. Follow the Word of God by faith and be immersed in God’s work. If you do this I believe you and I can become great fathers of faith just like Abraham.