Transforming Stories: How your story points to His Story! (Week 11)

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A 4-Part Teaching Series on How to Live the Transforming Story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
PEOPLE OF THE PROMISE: STRIKING GOLD IN THE PROMISED LAND!

Teaching #4: “Mining the True Vein!”

Hebrews 11:8-12 (ESV)
March 19, 2017


God does not expect us to be perfect in this life, but to make progress towards being Christlike! We call that growing up; spiritual maturity; being an adult; and the journey is called discipleship! We are not yet perfected pictures (that will not be until God glorifies us in Heaven), but we are becoming more than we can be by ourselves. God does this in us because God promises to tell His Big Story through our little stories. How do we live as people of the promise? What can we learn from those who have gone before us?

(show picture of California) For this final episode in learning how to live like people of the promise, we are learning from American history and asking the question: Why did people head west in the mid-1800s? Because they were hoping to strike it rich and quick—they went seeking their fortunes in the promised land of California. The rumors began and were confirmed in 1848: “THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THERE HILLS!”

(show pictures of map) How did the ’49ers know where to mine for gold? 

(show pictures of veins) The ‘49ers went where gold had already been found, because gold is found in a vein. It is not found on the surface: you must dig beneath what can be seen to find gold (a metal)! Generally, if you see something sparkly on the surface, it is fool’s gold (a mineral)!

(show picture of ‘49er) Here is a quote from a modern day ‘49er: “If you found your ‘gold’ on top of other dirt it probably isn’t real gold. Gold is extremely heavy and will always seek the lowest place to rest – often on top of bedrock or other hard material such as clay or limestone” (http://www.goldfeverprospecting.com/isitregoorfo.html).

So, if you are going to join in the great tradition of chasing after the golden dream, don’t be quick to assume you can find gold on the surface without much effort; the real thing—the precious metal of gold—is found in veins under the surface. The same is true with being a person who lives according to God’s promises: you can’t live a shallow life; you have to go deep and mine the true vein of God’s precious promises! The promises of God are the real gold that flow through Immanuel’s veins. Are you mining the true vein?

 We not only have been learning from our own American history, but we have been learning from the Bible’s Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. From the last three weeks, we have learned how God’s people are the people of promise by examining the story of Abraham and Sarah. First, we learned to stake our claim on the promises of God. Second, we learned to pause and pray. Third, we learned to have the right perspective by keeping our eyes on the God who keeps His promises—to know a golden nugget when we find one and hang on to it.

 For the fourth & final week, let’s look at their story from Hebrews 11:8-12.

Point I: When working God’s Plan for your life, you will make mistakes. When learning to be a person of the promise, you will unexpectedly detour from God’s best for your life. When the journey of life entered difficult periods and trust was hard, Abraham and Sarah talked with God and God kept their hearts and minds focused on His perspective. But, that does not mean they didn’t make mistakes along the way.

Let’s look at what happened in Genesis 16:1-6, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ [Okay ladies, before you throw Sarah under the bus for doing this, let me tell you that this was a common practice in the surrounding cultures; it was the way of the world at that time for how a rich couple dealt with infertility; totally not kosher for God’s people at any time, but widely accepted by the cultural standards of their time.] And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.”

When situations like this end up in my office behind closed doors, and the rest of you all wonder why I am so worn, welcome to the real world! This may have an ancient feel to it, but it represents a contemporary reality of our culture: HAGAR AND ISHMAEL ARE RELEVANT TODAY!

HAGAR is when we don’t trust God to take care of our needs and meet our expectations of how we would like life to work out for us, we take matters into our own hands. We take the world’s way of dealing with the issue and though it may be a widely acceptable practice of today’s culture, it is not kosher for God’s people anytime. And that which seems like a good idea at time turns bitter in our mouths, in our bodies, in our relationships, and in our communities. When we turn to Hagar, we end up with Ishmael!

ISHMAEL is the fool’s gold of quick solutions to long-term problems, easy solutions to complicated circumstances. It is like putting a band aide on a gushing artery wound. You end up with ISHMAEL when you:

  • Sweep issues under the carpet instead of having hard, but healthy conversations.
  • Don’t go to the person to deal with an issue directly, but talk about the person to others.
  • Take a sleeping pill to not deal with what is causing your insomnia.
  • Take a drink to drown your social anxiety.
  • Engage in an inappropriate relationship instead of doing the hard work of real intimacy with your spouse.

When we are satisfied with surface solutions and easy answers to the big problems of life instead of going deep and pressing into God, we are satisfied with fool’s gold.

Remember, when the promises of God are greater than our problems, then we walk in peace. But when we see our problems as greater than God’s promises, then the pressure causes us to crumble: we call this being stressed out, anxiety, worry, overwhelmed by life.

It is common for people to crumble under this pressure, but this morning I am going to invite you to remember that only fool’s gold crumbles. Real gold is a heavy metal (not a mineral); it is malleable and pressure presses it deeper; real gold does not crumble on the surface; it goes under the surface and forms a vein that can be mined! The promises of God are the real gold that flow through Immanuel’s veins. Are you mining the true vein?

(Testimony from Andy Personett.)

Point II. When life’s pressures are pressing in on you, what happens to you?

When working God’s Plan for your life, you will make mistakes, but after you realize you have made a mistake, don’t dwell on the mistake, GET BACK ON PLAN! When learning to be a person of the promise, you will unexpectedly detour from God’s best for your life, but once you realize you are off course, don’t wander in nothingness, GET BACK ON PLAN!

People of the Promise are called to PAUSE AND PRAY! God calls us back to remember that His ways are not our ways: God is able! Nothing is impossible for God! As people of the promise, we must mine from the true vein…we must go deep and trust in the promises of God! Just like Abraham was, we are called back to TRUST AND OBEY…to GET BACK ON PLAN…GOD’S PLAN!

 With this perspective, we can be people of the promise, no matter the consequences of our previous choices. Listen to Genesis 21:1-7, “The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. [2] And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. [3] Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. [4] And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. [5] Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. [6] And Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.’ [7] And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’”

 Isaac means “he laughs” as an eternal reminder to each of us that God will keep His promise—nothing is impossible for God! Isaac is a reminder to Sarah and Abraham that they did not accomplish this by their own power or because of their own goodness, desire or will. The descendants of Isaac are by grace, by God’s power, fruit of the Spirit.

In the same way, your being used by God after the Hagar and Ishmael moments of your life having nothing to do with your goodness, your power, your desire or will.  God is waiting to forgive you and get you back on His plan for your life!

Abraham and Sarah got back on track after they made mistakes, but not without consequences. To this day, the war between Ishmael (Arabs) and Isaac (Jews) is raging in the Middle East and the world is taking sides. Listen again to God’s Word about Ishmael, “He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen” (Genesis 16:12).

The only answer to the ancient Middle East Conflict is the Peace of God through Jesus Christ! The only way out of the mess of generational sin, hatred, dysfunctional family systems, vicious cycles of rage and revenge is the Peace of God through Jesus Christ! And in the same way, the only way out of each of our own conflicts is the Peace of God through Jesus Christ!

Listen to how the Apostle Paul uses this story to talk about the life of the Spirit: “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh [Ishmael] persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit [Isaac], so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son [Hagar and Ishmael], for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman [Sarah].’ So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:28-31).

In Jesus Christ, we are the children of Sarah—we are Isaac—the children of promise—the product of grace! The fruit of the Spirit! As such, we are called to be people of the promise!

So, cast out the work of the flesh and the fools’ gold of Ishmael in your life! Ishmael looks like a fulfillment of the promise, but it’s fool’s gold and it crumbles under pressure.

It is not impossible for God to use you again, but your life carries with it the consequences of your choices. God forgives you of your sin, but He does not remove the scars of your choices. God forgives you of betraying the trust of someone you love, but God does not force the other person to ever trust you again.  Have the courage to get back on plan, even when the consequences are painful and hard!

Life is a series of choices and I am calling you today to choose life. I wish there was a way to teach you how to avoid making mistakes all together, but until you get to Heaven you will not be perfect, so let’s learn how to get back to the plan of God for our lives. Let’s learn how to live as those who are forgiven (grace!), not as those who have to be perfect (works!). We are Isaac and our very name reminds us that we are because He is! The promises of God are the real gold that flow through Immanuel’s veins. Are you mining the true vein?

“THERE’S GOLD IN WORKING THAT THERE PLAN!”


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