Religion takes on many subtle forms, some of which are antithetical to true relations with Our Creator. Always remember, the Pharisees, in the name of religion, wanted to kill Jesus, who was sent by God, who was the perfect representation of God. Two directions present day Christian religion seems to drift towards are rules and programs. True faith includes rules and laws that define God and govern our living with each other, and our living in this world. The book of Acts describes the feeding programs that the early church initiated indicating programs are an essential part of the practicing of our faith. But neither rules nor programs and church activities come close to representing the living essence of our relationship with God. Perhaps our marginalizing of the Old Testament has allowed us to wander from an appreciation of the genetic stock that began personal relationships with God. In particular, Abraham is the father of the faithful.
Years ago when I began studying the Old Testament in earnest, I marveled at how Abraham, who struggled mightily to have one child, became the father of a nation with such a glorious history; that is, Israel. That God would identify Himself as the God of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is astounding and that the ancient nation was reborn in modern times per the proclamation of the prophets is cause to marvel at the privilege of the man Abraham. In an abrupt revelation just a year ago or so, I believe the Holy Spirit showed me that Abraham's fathering of the nation Israel was not the point. The essence of our relationship with God is believing his promise to us regarding our individual and personal destiny despite the testimony of adverse circumstances and especially the negative testimony of your weakness and impotence. If you believe in what I just described, Abraham is your father whether you were born in Jerusalem or Juno. Abraham's story is a template for every true believer's life.
The New Testament, in the minds of its earthly authors, were little histories of the life of Jesus and the " church" he started. Then it was a collection of letters written by church leaders to nascent churches. The Old Testament or the scriptures as they were called, was written and complete in the minds of these leaders. They accepted that there was a current Word of the Lord apart from but based on scripture that guided them and was to be shared. Most of these people were Jewish, but increasingly some were gentile. So these writings that subsequent church leaders under the instruction of the Holy Spirit added to the canon of scripture were all written concerning the appearance of the Jewish Messiah and the development of this church thing. Never did they even remotely consider that latter day Christians would consider the earlier writings or Old Testament as superseded or rendered obsolete by the histories and church letters they were adding. And yet, presently we hear many people proclaim that they only read the New Testament, and as the hyper - grace message tears through the church, the Old Testament and laws and judgements of God are being marginalized even further. The result is an abandoning of a large part of our heritage.
The same carnal motivation that causes us to edit out over half the Bible in the Old Testament, also wields a razor blade that cuts out parts of the New Testament that speaks of judgement ( Jesus' letters to the churches in Revelation) and the coming Kingdom on earth. If all you subscribe to is the idea that Jesus' blood washed all your sins, past , present,and future away, so don't sweat it; live your life the way you want, die, and go to heaven for an eternity of bliss, then you won't understand the necessity of being tried by a divine word or promise as Abraham was or Jacob was or Joseph was or David was.
First of all, it is impossible to please God without faith; to believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Quite honestly, it does not require great faith to believe that Jesus died that you might be forgiven your lawbreaking and self centeredness, so that you can spend eternity with God. We have based a lot of our religious self satisfaction on our great faith in believing Jesus hung on a cross for our sakes. It took faith for you to step from unbelief to faith but it wasn't a mammoth step; the death and resurrection of Jesus is historical fact, testified and subscribed to by millions of churches and billions of people. Faith is being 95 years old and believing that you're going to have a baby with a 90 year old woman who hadn't produced, EVER! Because you're pretty sure the Supreme Being told you so! If you're also pretty sure He told you to leave a perfectly good home in Ur to live in a tent in Canaan, where you were pretty sure you'd be a king. Come to think of it , you're the only who believes He promised all this and it's looking a little bleak- BUT YOU GROW STRONG IN YOUR BODY BY PRAISING AND GLORIFYING THE GOD WHO KEEPS PROMISING AND DOESNT SEEM TO DELIVER!!!(Rom 4:20 liberally paraphrased) so at the age of 100, voila, child of promise! That's faith!
Or how about some old dude named Samuel comes and bypasses all your studly brothers
and anoints you king of Israel. There's something inside of you that felt like you would rule, that wants to rule, but you're just a teenager and Israel seems to have a perfectly good really kingly looking king. But you believe the promise. You continue to believe the promise when the king tries to kill you. When you're in a cave , hiding out with a bunch of indebted and discontent nobodies and the years are ticking by, you believe. Believing that personal Rhema word when the passage of time declares "you're kidding yourself!" That's faith. It's the faith that God is the author and finisher of and the faith that will be rewarded with position and power in the coming Kingdom rule. There is a seductive but false idea that God just loves everybody so much and isn't really going to be concerned with what you did in the past; whether you were a missionary who was eventually killed for spreading the Gospel or a carnal self seeking Christian, who rarely darkened the door of a church, everybody's going to be treated the same. Not true. The degree to which your faith enabled obedience and yieldedness, is the degree to which you'll be rewarded
There are seasons of trial. Psalms 105: 17-22 succinctly tells Joseph's story. He was bound in chains at which time the Word of God that came to him in a dream tested him mightily; how in the world could that glorious Word ever find fulfillment? But it did. Joseph's season of trial was long and excruciating , but because Joseph held on to it, it came to pass. I wrote all the preceding to tell you this: don't let the abuses of the enemy cause you to abandon Gods Word for you. Don't let your history of weakness and failure convince you it'll never happen. Be tried by the Word, but never give up on it! Rather, when you're the least motivated, give praise and glory to God that you may rise above discouragement and despair. Faith is not cultivated by fulfillment; its cultivated and grown when in the face of its not coming to pass, you choose to continue to believe! Theo
Be like your father Abraham and remember the promise!