If I had to summarize the first 2,000 years of biblical history, I'd say this: We think we are like god, and we think we can do this on our own. That's what happened in the garden. That's what happened before the flood. That's what happened when we built the tower at Babel. From the beginning, we decided we were going to do this our way.
In Genesis 12, we meet a man named Abraham. He's already 75 years old when we meet him, and he's married to Sarah -- and they are childless. And God spoke to him: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you." God chose Abraham and was starting something new with him. Jumping ahead 25 years to Genesis 15, we see God promising the old man Abraham that he and Sarah would give birth to an heir.
At a time when everyone believed they were gods and masters of their own universe, Abraham chose to believe the Lord. And because Abraham trusted God, the Lord declared him righteous.
Don't confuse righteousness for perfection! They are not the same. In fact, Abraham was far from perfect. For starters, he married his niece, threw his wife under the bus to save his own neck, and took the whole heir affair into his own hands. We can see the record of his foolishness and faithlessness. So it's not his own efforts that made him righteous.
Like Abraham, we try to live right, but we forget Whose we are along the way and often make wrong choices. We know the record of our own foolishness and faithlessness. What made the difference for Abraham is what makes the difference for us: Abraham reached out to the God who reached out to him. He was made right with God because he had faith in God!
When I taught high school, I used to take my students to a ropes course challenge to push them beyond their comfort. One element that always proved challenging for them was the Trust Fall. Standing on a raised platform 5-6 feet above the ground, you were expected to cross your arms and fall straight back into the arms of your team. I always tried to prepare my students ahead of time, but even I was caught off guard when our instructor said, "Let's have your teacher go first so you can see how it's done."
Most of my students were less than 150 lbs soaking wet, and some of those kids had been in trouble in my classroom in recent days. And I was supposed to trust them and fall back into their skinny arms?
Hemmingway said, "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." I fell back, and they caught me...but I had to let a whole lot of logic go in order to make that leap.
We are so determined to make things happen in our own way that it is really hard to believe God can make the wicked righteous just by trusting in Him. But Romans 4 makes it clear that God doesn't consider us righteous if we try our best or mean well or score 99%. Instead, He saves the wicked and welcomes even the most vile creatures who trust in Him.
Salvation isn't for the good. God's grace isn't for the pure. It's for the messed up, torn up, used up, screwed up whose only hope is to fall into the arms of Jesus and believe God.
Our current sermon series (Essentials for the Journey: Surviving in the Wilderness) has had a running theme: We don't survive because we are good. We don't survive because we are better than others. We survive only because we believe and trust God.
I wonder what's more risky? To fall into the arms of the One who loves me and gave Himself for me or to fall without Him?
We survive in this wilderness only by trusting Jesus. So cross your arms and fall.