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Back on Mother’s Day we looked at a number of mothers in the Scriptures who are types of the church. Can anyone remember who some of those mothers were? [Proverbs 31, Ruth the Moabite, Tamar who pretended to be a prostitute, Rachel and Leah, Rahab the Canaanite prostitute, Mary the mother of Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well who had been married and divorced five times and was living with a man to whom she was not married]. The Samaritan woman at the well became a mother of faith to many because she ran back to her hometown and told everyone about this encounter she had with Jesus Christ. Likewise the church is a mother of faith to many who will be born again. I shared with you then that it was because of the testimony I heard in a mainline Presbyterian church that I personally came to faith. I know that is true for some of you and that others of you came to faith because of the testimony you heard in other denominations. But regardless of how you began your personal dangerous journey of faith, the church has been like a mother to you. And like many mothers, she wants to keep you safe from danger and sometimes becomes a bit overprotective – thus churches are often not willing to take risks and to go make disciples where it is not safe. Perhaps the church needs a little more of a fatherly influence–that is, the influence of our Father in Heaven who is calling each one of us to go on a dangerous journey of faith. So today I’m going to share the gospel in honor of the men of faith here with us, including those who have gone on before us – whether a biological, adoptive, or foster father or a mentor to young men – this is in honor of men of faith who took us into the woods with bears—sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively. For real fathers are those who encourage us to go with God rather than to go with GOAT. GOAT stands for Great Outdoors! Adventure Travel. Gowithgoat.com says, “Follow experienced guides to remote wilderness areas, breath-taking mountain scenery, and safe observation of wildlife for incredible adventures.” Now I’m sorry but that is not describing a real great outdoors adventure. If it were an adventure there would be some danger from wildlife not the “safe observation of wildlife.” If it were an adventure, you would not know where you were going whereas this sounds more like someone taking you where others have gone before you. This may give an illusion of adventure but it is not the real deal. If you go with God, rather than going with GOAT, then you will be going on a real adventure like Abram did.

Genesis 12:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16

Abram went on a dangerous journey of faith. Indeed, I could cite several examples of the dangers he met along the way. We could also look at the rest of Genesis 12 where Abram continued on to Egypt because of a famine in the land and being afraid for his life he told his wife Sarai to say that she was his sister, which was half-true – she was his half-sister – but she was also his wife. And Pharaoh took her into his harem so God plagued Pharaoh’s household and then Pharaoh told Abram to go with God and get out and Abram went back to the southern part of the Promised Land. If this sounds like a familiar plot it is because the people of Israel would leave for Egypt because of a famine, and Pharaoh would make the Hebrew people his slaves so God plagued Pharaoh’s household and then Pharaoh told Moses to go with God and get out. In any case, Abram was afraid that the Egyptians would see his beautiful wife Sarai and they would kill him to get her. But instead of trusting God to deliver him from death or even to raise him from the dead, Abram had his wife tell people that she was his sister. Nevertheless, God sent those plagues upon Pharaoh’s household that Abram’s faith might grow. Yes, we could say much more about Abram, but lest you think that it was any different for the apostles of Jesus:

Acts 23:6-11

  1. Faith in Jesus Christ is a dangerous journey.
    1. The life of faith has always been dangerous.

      1. Abram “went out, not knowing where he was going” and came to the land of Canaan where he found wild and dangerous Canaanites already living in the land and he began building altars to the Lord marking the territory as belonging to the true God. This was a place where pillaging armies might come and take you and your possessions away captive. That actually happened later to Abram’s nephew Lot. This was a place where visiting men might get raped. Lot actually protected some angels later that the Sodomites wanted to rape. This was a place where giants lived. Kings in that part of the world would often have large harems and try to breed the biggest and baddest champions they could. Nevertheless, this was the land that God promised to give to Abram’s descendants though he still had no child. (Fast forward to the New Testament:)

      2. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians at one point that he had been in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from his own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers (2 Cor 11:26). Paul faced danger at every turn: he was shipwrecked three times, adrift at sea a night and a day, beaten with rods three times, one time he was stoned, beaten more times than he could remember and often near death – five times receiving thirty-nine lashes. Nevertheless, Jesus promised Paul that he would testify to Him in Rome. (Yes, the life of faith has always been dangerous. As a note of encouragement for the men out there to read the Bible – most of Scripture isn’t chick-lit but much more like a Tom Clancy novel filled with action and adventure. But such action and adventure did not end back in the past.)

    2. Faith in Jesus Christ continues to be a dangerous journey. For some the danger is unto death like many of those testifying to Jesus in Egypt and the Middle East and elsewhere in the world today. At the time of the Reformation being one of the Reformers was incredibly dangerous and those who lived often did so because they had fled into exile – including men like John Calvin and John Knox. Many Christians today also have been forced into exile. But even if you don’t face the threat of imminent death or exile, true faith will lead you to go to dangerous places. You will go not knowing where you are going but trusting God that His plan is for your good and therefore you will endure the dangers of living among wild and dangerous peoples. Faith is risky. It takes us well out of our comfort zone. It leads us into exile. Christian living is not as much like a church picnic (which I hear we get to enjoy next week) as it is like a great outdoor adventure where you have to hunt and fish for your food. It is like going out on a hike into the woods and not knowing where you are going or what you are going to find there and even taking a gun to protect yourself from the wild animals. God wants you to take the gospel where it is not safe to go and to take risks for Jesus. (And Jesus has a word of encouragement for us.)

  2. On this journey Jesus says, “Take courage” (365 times) for I “will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
    1. We may have opposed God or we may repeatedly stumble, but Jesus is taking us to Himself.

      1. Our fallen forefathers were nevertheless looking forward by faith to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God, the city that God has prepared for them, not having received the things promised but having seen them and greeted them from afar. Yes, in a human way of speaking, Abram put the whole plan of God in jeopardy when he did not take courage but allowed his wife to be added to Pharaoh’s harem. After all, it was through Abram’s descendant Jesus that salvation would come to the world. Yet God is sovereign—not Abram. God’s promise was not made in vain. No scheme of man could stop God’s plan. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Indeed, the true and living God is not ashamed to be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abram believed the Lord and the Lord counted it to him as righteousness. (Fast forward)

      2. The apostle Paul had once tried to stop God’s plan by imprisoning, threatening, and encouraging the murder of Christians but now the Lord Jesus Christ was leading Paul as His captive to Rome. Surrounded by people calling for his death in the previous chapter of Acts, Paul gave his testimony including his shameful persecution of the church and then meeting the risen Jesus. And we read about this typical presbytery meeting the next day where Paul, seeing that the assembly was divided between Pharisees and Sadducees, decided to play them against each other by identifying himself as a Pharisee and saying he was being accused because he believes in the resurrection of the dead. This doctrine was a point of disagreement between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Things got so violent that the Roman tribune was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. Just after this, more than forty men took an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. Following Jesus can be quite dangerous. Thus by one man’s count the Bible says, “Do not be afraid,” 365 times – one for every day of the year. Likewise here Jesus tells Paul, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome” (Acts 23:11). C.S. Lewis said of the Christ-like lion Aslan that he is not safe, but good. Paul discovered that the Lion of Judah—Jesus Christ—was not safe but He is good. (Like Paul we may have opposed God and like Abram we may repeatedly stumble but Jesus says, “Take courage,” “I…will take you to myself.”)

    2. Despite being able to observe our faith in relative comfort and safety here in Buffalo, we and our children need to hear again, “Take courage,” “I…will take you to myself.” When you share the good news of Jesus Christ you will offend people. You may even fear for your life like a sheep among wolves. You may even lose your life like a lamb led to slaughter. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. King David had been a shepherd. Unfortunately, the image we often have in our mind of shepherds has been sanitized and feminized by idyllic imagery to be soft and cuddly. But when David told King Saul about his life as a shepherd, he said, “And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine [speaking of the giant Goliath] shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Sam 17:34-36). Jesus has defeated even bigger giants – sin and death itself. So following Jesus is a calling to action and adventure. You already have what you need for that faith journey – His Spirit and word. Indeed, the worship service is wilderness survival training. After all, when David faced Goliath it was not just the experience of defeating lions and bears that made him into the man that he was but he also knew that he could defeat the giant because Goliath had defied the armies of the living God. That is not information that you would learn by experience hunting or camping. It is revealed to us not through nature but in a special way – it is revealed to us in the Scriptures. We and our children need both kinds of training to survive in the wilderness. Sure if you want your kids to be respectable, then you will live in a good neighborhood, send them to a good school, and do everything else in your power and control to keep them away from messed-up people. But if your priorities have the gospel at the center, then you will encourage them to share the gospel with the socially unclean—those whose lives are messy. The irony is that if you do everything for the good of your children it is not in fact for their good because when you do so they will think that they are the center of the world. We cannot put their good above serving God and others. If we do shelter them from all the dangers of the world, from all the lions and bears, then how will they learn to trust God and take courage when they discover that faith is dangerous? Odds are that you will never face even a fraction of the dangers that Paul did. But know this, faith is dangerous – it will lead you places that you would never go without it, faith will lead you to talk to people you would have never said a word to before. Take courage. Be strong and courageous. Boldly go where Jesus shows and make disciples of all nations.