August 24, 2017

Cultivating Faith (2): A Man of Perspective

Jim Oesterwind

Genesis 12.5-20

The most wonderful result of cultivating a life of faith is that people will glimpse the character of God in one who genuinely believes His Word. God blessed Abraham, but in him blessed all the families of the earth (Genesis 12.1-3). There are two perspectives which become very important in the cultivation of our faith. First, we must have a proper perspective of God. Second, we must have a proper perspective on godliness.

Our Perspective of God

Acts 7 contains the account of the Christian church’s first martyr named Stephen. Stephen’s address leading to his murder begins with these words: “Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham” (Acts 7.2). What then is the glory of God but an understanding of His character?

The Power of God

We learn much from God’s character when we consider that He called Abraham, an idolater, to become the source of blessing to all the families of the earth. How do we make sense of that? I believe God does that which will bring Him the most glory. Abraham’s conversion and calling is a demonstration of His omnipotence. God delights in taking broken vessels and communicating His grace and power through them.

Man does not operate in the same way. We always look for the best and the brightest. I am sad to say that the best and the brightest among us often do not need God. Their abilities and resources hinder them from relying upon the power and glory of God for effective ministry. God does indeed save those who realize they cannot save themselves. Paul cautioned Timothy about being ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or even of Paul and his imprisonment for the Lord. Suffering for the Gospel is a part of our call to ministry; it must be according to the power of God, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works (self-power), but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…” (2 Timothy 1.8-9).

Not one believer should puff himself up against another believer. God has made us to differ from one another. Everything we have we received from Him. Since we have received it, why would we boast as though we have not received it from Him? (See 1 Corinthians 4.6-7.) What was true of the formerly idolatrous Abraham is certainly true of you and me: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15.10). The question remains, “Will God’s grace toward us be in vain?” Anything worth doing in our lives must be empowered by Almighty God.

The Promise of God

While Abraham exemplifies a life-long cultivation of faith, it all began with the faithfulness of God. God keeps His promises. Yet Abraham would not own any of the Promised Land until he purchased his wife’s burial plot. He would be an old man before Isaac, the child of promise, was born. Yet God kept His promises. The child was given. Abraham’s descendants inherited the Land and will have it to the full one day. Indeed, all the nations of the earth are blessed and will be blessed through him.

We can be very thankful for the promise of God. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1.20). The greatest promise God has made to us is the eternal security we have in Christ. Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10.29). All of God’s children “are kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Peter 1.5).

Our perspective of God is sharply focused by a look at His power and faithfulness to keep the promises He makes. If we are to cultivate a life of faith as Abraham did, we must keep an eye focused upon the power and promises of God. But we also need a whole new perspective on godliness.

Our Perspective on Godliness

While Abraham move toward Canaan in Genesis 12, the LORD appeared to him and encouraged him. He built altars to the LORD in both Shechem and Bethel. He called upon the LORD as well. Our perspective on godliness must include the ideas of dedication to God and communication with God. I find it interesting and very ironic that Abraham epitomizes the cultivation of a life of faith, but he went down to Egypt when a famine came upon the Land. It doesn’t seem to me that the LORD directs him there. We don’t find it in the text. Also, God’s Word makes it clear that Abraham felt the need to lie to protect himself even at his wife’s expense (see Genesis 12.12-13). God faithfulness and power preserves Abraham and Sarah in the end, but we wouldn’t really turn to the end of this chapter for a perspective on godliness, would we?

Perhaps our perspective on a godly life is clarified over time. The weakness of Abraham is becoming a strength as he is led by God. But God will allow Abraham to strike out on his own and fail. He will permit the same when it come to our own lives. Still, Genesis 12:5 is evidence of Abraham’s faith. He departed from Haran and went into the Land. Clarity when it comes to godliness will require that we first and foremost follow the leading of the Holy Spirit by truly relying upon Him. As we rely upon God’s power and promises, we will fulfill five very important requirements.

Godliness Requires Faith

Faith is not complicated from our perspective. It is an unwavering stand upon the foundational power and promises of God. Abraham went without knowing where he was going. He simply believed what God revealed to Him. It’s not that he never stumbled or failed in life; he did. We simply must walk in the steps of Abraham’s faith (Romans 4.12).

After all, to be godly one must belong to God. To belong to God one must believe. “Abraham believed God … therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4.3, 22-25). God has always and will always require faith from the godly.

Godliness Requires Obedience

Obedience comes after faith; although, admittedly they often appear to be contemporaneous. When God called Abraham, Abram obeyed God right away. No hemming and hawing. He went. If we are to be godly, we must obey right away. Obey right away isn’t just for our children. We have the same litany of excuses as they when it comes to delayed or failed obedience. Consider the words of our Lord Jesus who said…

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9.58-62).

It is inexcusable for the godly to disobey or delay when it comes to the clear directives of our Heavenly Father.

Godliness Requires Self-Denial

It’s not only hard but impossible to get this right without relying upon the leading of God the Holy Spirit. When you leave everything familiar to you (people and comfort), it can be disorienting and depressing. Abraham certainly struggled. This is when we must know the Person in whom we have placed our faith. We know whom we have believed!

We must not only be willing but active in putting to death our members upon the earth. Cut off the right hand, pluck out the right eye, and crucify the flesh and its affections. It’s not easy, but God didn’t call us to easy. He call us to self-denial. If you lose your life, you most certainly gain it.

Godliness Requires Foresight

Abraham certainly planned for the trip from Haran to the Promised Land. It would be absurd to think otherwise. He even calculated how he would handle things with Sarah once leaders saw how beautiful she was. Abraham must support his family and provide for those close to him. But wisdom does dwell together with prudence, which is the practical skill of being discerning. If we do not provide for our families, are we not worse than unbelievers?

Godliness Requires Effort

Abraham stalled in Haran until Terah died. When the LORD renewed His call for Abraham to go further into the Promised Land, he went. He didn’t give up on God. We, too, must press on. Diligence is an essential part of a godly life. But I hasten to add that effort is effortless when we are led by the Holy Spirit and supplied with the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Galatians 2.20).

Hopefully, we see that the link between a proper perspective of God and a proper perspective on godliness when it comes to the cultivation of a life of faith. Those who follow Abraham’s example will find themselves to be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of Lord, because they know that their labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15.58).

Part One Part TwoPart ThreePart Four ♦ Part FivePart Six ♦ Part Seven


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at Sun and Shield.

This article first appeared at Sun and Shield and is republished here by permission.


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