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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Admiring

What doesn't work.

Genesis 22:20–24

Now it came to pass after these things that it was told Abraham, saying, “Indeed Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Huz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” And Bethuel begot Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah.

God’s promise feels different now. Abraham knows, really knows, that his descendants will be as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. Then he finds out that his brother Nahor is already doing pretty good in the descendants game. This is great news. In their culture, large families are a principal sign of God’s blessing.

It has been a long and winding road to this point, but Abraham has reached the end and has discovered real faith, which is credited to him as righteousness. That’s a good thing, since his own righteousness has been pretty much AWOL the whole time.

By almost any standard, Abraham is a lousy hero. Yet the Bible holds him up as a prime example for us to follow. This is precisely where the Biblical point of view and the worldly point of view part company. Understand this, and you understand the foundation of the gospel.

The world admires things like hard work and honesty. We like those things too, but there’s a problem. The problem isn’t the hard work and honesty; it’s the admiring. We admire people for doing the obvious.

For example, do you drive with your eyes open or closed? Open, of course. Should you get a medal for that? Why not? Open is much better than closed.

From a Biblical perspective, admiring people for hard work and honesty is like admiring them for driving with their eyes open. Doing things right is better than doing them wrong, but it’s nothing special. Besides, we don’t do things right all that often anyway.

But there is something that’s special—faith. Faith is really all about not admiring ourselves and accepting the lordship of the only one who really knows what He’s doing.

Abraham is done admiring himself. He’s seen the light.

We can memorize this doctrine until we’re blue in the face and still not get it. It seems that only total failure can hammer this one in. So, in a perverse twist, a good way to teach the faith-based gospel is to give the works-based gospel a try. In failing, we learn the crucial lesson—the works gospel doesn’t work.

But that’s a slow and painful path. Praying about it is much more efficient. Ask God to open your eyes to your inability to conform to a works-based gospel.

But beware, that can get painful too.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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