s20050123ms_The Challenge of the Committed
The Challenge of the Committed—Genesis 22:1-14
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call,
and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power.” 2 Thess. 1:11
“14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham,
having patiently endured, obtained the promise.” Hebrews 6:14-15
To Meet God’s Challenges Of Commitment You Must:
1. [HEAR] God’s [INSTRUCTIONS]!
“1 After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Verses 1-2
“16There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 … 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.2 Pet 3:16&18
2. [GO] Where God [DIRECTS]!
“3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off.” Verses 3-4
”17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. 18 O that you had hearkened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea”. Isaiah 48:17-18
3. [TRUST] God’s [GOODNESS]!
“7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.” Verses 7-8
“17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” 19 He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Hebrews 11:17-19
4. [OFFER] To God What You Most Dearly [LOVE]!
“9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” Verses 9-10
“37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37-39
5. [ACCEPT] What God [PROVIDES]!
“12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Verses 12-14
“10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; 11 so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11
“Have you ever heard of Katie Lynch? Well, she competed in the 2001 Boston Marathon. The crowd that was there that day will never forget her and her great accomplishment as they encouraged her across the finish line with tears and cheers. You see Katie Lynch suffers a rare form of dwarfism. On race day at the age of 26 she weighted 35 lbs and stood only 28 inches tall. She also suffered from circulatory problems and back pain. Most normal days for Kathy were confined to a wheelchair because of her pains. But on race day, leaning on a tiny walker with wheels, and supported by her two brothers, she walked 26.2 feet to her modified marathon finish line. A few minutes later the 105th Boston Marathon began and the runners began their 26.2 mile race around Boston.
Whether your challenge from God is 26.2 feet like Katie Lynch’s challenge or 26.2 miles like those runners’ challenge or anything in between or anything beyond, we need to know how to handle the challenges” God brings into our lives. (From the introduction of “How to Handle the Challenges of Life” by Dr. Dave Hartson in Sermon Central). He has always challenged his people beyond their human limitations. He does this so that we learn to be committed to him through faith. It is important to know that no challenge given by God is impossible. They are often difficult and need his power to accomplish, but never beyond the reach of people of faith. For example Sarah laughed in skepticism at the three angel’s promise of Isaac. Their response to her was “Why did she laugh, and asked “is there anything to hard for the LORD.” God is not an equal opportunity challenge giver. Not every challenge is the same because not every one of us equal faith or ability.
Paul says, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power.” In general there are three kinds of challenges God gives to us. First is worthiness or character. It is the challenge of the transformation of your character to the character Jesus. For example if I struggle with impatience God calls me to the patience of Jesus. Second is the challenge of good resolves. These are the challenges of doing what we know God wants us to do. For example I know God challenges me to invite unchurched friends to the assembly. Lastly are the challenges of works of faith. These are the works that require us to go beyond our limitations to trust the power of God. For example God challenges us to pray for the sick (a work) and believe (trust in His power) he will heal them.
It is important to note that Paul does not say that he is praying that we become worthy, or fulfill resolves, or do works of faith by our own power. The way they are accomplished is through God’s power. We cannot meet God’s challenges outside of faith and his ability to work with us. This is what makes Abraham so appealing. He leaves Ur for Canaan with an impossible task of becoming the father of many nations. The challenge through out his life is to have faith. It begins as a puny tiny little thing, but with every challenge comes growth and change. By the time Isaac is a young man Abraham is walking in God’s presence blamelessly. He offers his son without question or complaint. The event of Isaac’s sacrifice is a classic example of how to meet God’s challenge of commitment.
The Hebrew writer comments on Isaac’s sacrifice are interesting. “14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.” The promise of blessing and multiplication begin with his call from the Ur at age 65, but he receives them irrevocably after patiently enduring all the challenges of living by faith at around age 125. God swears with an oath in Genesis 22 and that makes the promise to Abraham inevitable. It is going to be fulfilled because he’s patiently endured in faith. We need to be very clear. Abraham failed often in faith, which means he failed to meet God’s challenges. What he did not do was to quite, to give up, nor to be overwhelmed. What he did do was to patiently endure in failure and success. So let’s look at the last challenge he received from God. He’s experience will give us insight to being worthy of His call, and to fulfilling good resolves, and to works of faith.
Number one to meet God’s challenges of commitment you must hear God’s instructions. The Hebrew word for test is nawsaw which can mean to prove, try, or assay like you would ore from a mine. The idea is that God is challenging Abraham to see how well he is refined or how pure is his metal. This is a character test of his resolve to walk with God by faith. That’s the metal God wants to assay. Again the Bible says “after these things”. After what things does the Scripture mean? It is speaking of after giving Isaac to him though a miraculous birth and after destroying Sodom when he answered his prayer to save the righteous. It is talking about when he cast Ishmael out of his house and his failure with his ally Abimelech when he lied to him. God wants to see if Abraham has the metal to be a man of faith. God’s assay of Abraham is to instruct him to offer his son in sacrifice. Listen to God’s challenge and you will see how pointed and direct it is to him. The Bible says, “1 After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
When God calls Abraham by name Abraham’s response is to say “Here am I.” It is Abraham’s way of saying I am ready to hear you Lord. I am ready to give you my undivided attention. Do you remember the old E.F. Hutton commercials that said, “When E.F. Hutton speaks people listen.”? Abraham knows that what God is to saying is important so he is listening. If you meet God’s challenges you must listen when he speaks, because His message will be vital to you. It is pointed and direct like it was to Abraham. God tells our father take your son, your only son, the one you love and burn him in sacrifice in the land of Moriah on a mountain the he will show him. For Abraham to meet this challenge he had to understand God’s directions.
For many understanding directions is a problem, because we listen with our assumptions and not our love for the truth. The reason the Bible sometimes seems to say different things to different people is because of the attitudes we bring to God’s word. Peter addresses this when he says, “There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” There were Christians in the first century twisting Paul’s inspired wisdom to their eternal loss. They were making Paul say things he did not mean, and that’s how they twisted the scriptures. The Bible is not always easy. It does have some hard things to understand. But to remain ignorant or to be unstable in your love for the truth is a sure recipe for destruction.
Peter a couple of verses latter tells us how to listen when God speaks. He says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” The word grow probably has several implications, but one of them for certain is grow your understanding of the Bible’s primary message about Jesus. Peter implores us to listen carefully to the grace and knowledge of Jesus because they give pointed directions for salvation. If you are going to meet God’s challenges then you must hear God’s instructions.
Second to meet God’s challenges of commitment you must go where God directs! Verses 3 and 4 say, “3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off.” Abraham rose early and he went to the place God directed him. The instructions of God will always move you from one place to another. Christianity is not a static defense of cherished traditions. It is movement towards the goals and purposes of God. The only way we ever meet his challenges is to leave our places of comfort to his steep mountain of obedience.
To go where God wanted, Abraham saddled his donkey, took two young men to help him and Isaac. They carried the wood and arrived after three days within visual contact of the mountain. When Abraham sees the mountain far away he leaves the young men and takes only Isaac with him. No one could obey for Abraham, because only he and his sacrifice were to be on the mountain. We all need help to be able to obey. We need each other to carry the wood and help in the journey. We need the support of the church. We could not make the movement of obedience without others to assist us. However, obedience is between God and you. You are the only one who is responsible for the challenge God gives you to be committed. You have to go climb this mountain with God and no one else can do it for you. This spiritual reality is necessary to assay your metal.
God pleads with us to go on this journey of obedience with him He says “17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. 18 O that you had hearkened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” God wants you to go on this journey with him because he has some things to teach you. He wants to show you how to be successful. He wants to direct you into the way he’s planned for you before you were born. He knows that if you hearken to his commands that peace and righteous will flow and lap into your life like rivers and waves. But none of that goodness comes if you remain statice and refuse to go.
Where is God directing you to go? Is God directing you to the Mount of Character like patience, love, or purity? Is He telling you to go to the Mount of Resolve like involvement in life group or Chimala? Or is he directing you to the Mount of Works of Faith like surrender and confession. God is telling all of us to go and showing us the way. And if we are wise we will learn to be prompt and not procrastinate in our obedience. Journeys to these mountains cannot be made until one foot is placed in front of the other. Do you know why a mile is 5280 feet? It is because that is 1000 steps of a Roman legion. The word mile is an English transliteration for the Latin word for a thousand. And the Romans legion went wherever Caesar directed them, and they accurately marked the distance by putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter how far you have to go to obey God. What does matter is are you putting one foot in front of the other. To meet God’s challenges you may have to travel many metaphorical miles to arrive at the point where you obey. Or you may be at the foot of the Mount of Obedience. In either case you are going to where God directs. And that pleases him to the very core of his being.
Third to meet God’s challenges of commitment you must trust God’s goodness. When Abraham climbs up his Mount of Obedience he does so with trust in God’s goodness. He’s a very old man unable to carry the wood for the burnt offering. Isaac must do that for him. He has the knife and the fire pot. And if I were Abraham in those circumstances my heart would be breaking with every step. I’m very sure that Abraham’s grief is one only a parent who has lost a child can possibly appreciate. Yet there is his faith that goes beyond his pain. Listen to his response to Isaac’s question. “7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.”
This young man had worshiped and seen his father worship God often. There was one thing amiss in this particular worship experience, and that was the lack of a sacrificial lamb. Abraham is not softening the issue of Isaac’s death by telling him that God would provide a sacrifice for himself. He is acting in the trust that God is absolutely good and that whatever God commands comes from that aspect of God’s divine nature. Abraham is fully aware of the consequence of his obedience to his beloved child. He is going to kill and burn his son’s body to please God. When Isaac asks about the lamb he says to Isaac “here am I my son.” He is not hiding himself from Isaac. He responds with respect for his relationship to Isaac, but he must answer the young man’s question with faith in the goodness of God. When he says that God will provide for himself a sacrifice he is placing both himself and his offering squarely on the goodness of God.
The Hebrew writer gives us an insight into Abraham’s mind. “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” 19 He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” In Abraham’s mind Isaac was offered to God from the moment he was commanded to go. He knows God is good and truthful, and that Isaac is not going to perish on the mountain. Through his faith he prefigures God’s resurrection of his own son. Isaac died to Abraham from the moment of the command and three days latter figuratively Isaac was raised from the dead. There was no way that Abraham would distrust his friend God. He simply reasoned it out from his own relationship with God. And I am sure that God would have done exactly what Abraham reasoned. But the sacrifice for Himself would have to wait until His and Abraham’s son died on a cross.
The spiritual truth is that when you climb the mountains of character, resolve, and works of faith you are offering to God what you love the most which is basically yourself. You are Abraham and Isaac in your heart trusting that whatever commitment God calls from you comes from his absolute goodness. That offering and being offered through the cross of Jesus means that his goodness will raise your character to be like Jesus, raise your resolve to complete obedience, and raise your works of faith to accomplish God’s supernatural work.
Fourth to meet God’s challenges of commitment you must offer to God what you most dearly love. “9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” The wood, altar, fire, and the sacrifice bound and laid out are prepared. The knife is taken and the act of obedience is underway. It is the moment of action. It is that instant of time when faith and commitment come together to form obedience. Abraham is trusting God’s goodness and he is committed to do God’s commandments. It is a great picture of loving obedience because of what he is sacrificing. If that sacrifice had been a watermelon it would be a ludicrous silly picture. But that’s not what was laid out on Abraham’s stone altar. What makes this so powerful is what God demands. He says three times “take your son”, “your only son”, “the one you love”, and offer him to me.” This is the crux of our relationship with God. Both God and you offer that which you love the most.
Jesus says it this way, “37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Folks this commandment is at the heart of God’s covenant of promise. The New Covenant is Abraham’s covenant fulfilled in his seed Jesus. Therefore what he demands of Abraham he demands of us. To love family more than God makes us unworthy. If you refuse the cross which is to trust Jesus death, and to commit to follow Jesus which forms obedience then we are not worthy of Jesus. If you’re life is too important for you to lose it then it will be lost forever.
On the other hand when you love Jesus more than family you receive back a hundred fold for your sacrifice. You are a better husband and therefore you have a better family. When you trust God’s grace in the cross and follow his resurrected son; your obedience is blessed with the supernatural power of that resurrection. When you lose your life on the altar of obedience then you gain it back with eternal life and immortality. This is the spiritual principle by which New Testament Christianity operates. Climb Mount Character and you will sacrifice your pride. Climb Mount Resolve and you will sacrifice your laziness. Climb Mount Works of Faith and you will sacrifice your fear and doubt. And with each Mountain of Obedience upon which you sacrifice you receive the right kind of self esteem, or sense of fulfillment, or a burning passion for God. When you hear God, when you go to where he directs, when you trust his goodness, and then offer to God what you love the most it is the most revolutionary and thrilling experience of your existence.
This brings us to the final act of Abraham’s commitment. To meet God’s challenge of commitment you must accept what God provides. Abraham was correct that God provides a sacrifice for himself on the mountain. “12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” God stops Abraham from actually physically harming Isaac, because Abraham convinces God of his deep abiding respect for Him. God is patient and will challenge you many times for you to come to Abraham’s fear of Him. He is not discouraged when you don’t sacrifice on the Mounts of Character, Resolve, or Works of Faith. He loves you unconditionally weather you are successful or not, but be assured God’s goal is to get you there in your commitment to him. He has a reason for that persistence and it is because of what he provides. It is only given on the Mount of Obedience and no place else. You will not find it until you have climbed and sacrificed and then and only then can you lift your eyes and see it.
What does God provide? The most blessed treasure of all which is his Son. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” This is the gift most precious to God and you are invited to receive him into your heart. Your deepening relationship with Jesus brings every spiritual blessing abundantly into your life. It prepares you for eternity and allows you to savor all of God’s riches as His child. This is not salvation by works, but by grace through faith. None of it is accomplished by your power but by the strength you find from Jesus. Climbing the Mounts of Character, Resolve, and Works of Faith are dependant on God’s power, and never give you any reason to boast of your goodness or righteousness. God wants you to take his hand and start climbing. Do it and you will be blessed forever.
Peter encourages us this way. “10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; 11 so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He says be zealous to confirm your call and election. Zeal is the Bible word for commitment. If you are zealous to add to your faith virtue, self control, steadiness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love you cannot fail. Like Mark I love verses that speak of cause and effect. Verse 10 says do this and you cannot fail. It is impossible to fail in other words. Be committed with zeal (the cause) and God provides you entrance (the effect) in his eternal rule, dominion and authority through Jesus. God provides you with everything you need to share his divine nature.
So we sit here in this warm beautiful building this morning. And you need to ask yourself these questions. Have I correctly understood what God wants of me? Have I resolved to go to where God want me to serve Him? Do I trust His absolute goodness that he will do what’s best for me? Am I offering to him what I most dearly love? And finally do I really desire what he provides for my eternal blessing? I hope you answered yes to all five questions.
Please pray with me. Father, help me to hear your instructions so that I may go to where I can serve you best. Grant me the experience of your goodness that I may offer to you my total surrender. I am willing to climb the Mount of Character to have yours. I am ready to scale the Mount of Resolve to serve as your servant. And Lord I am stumbling up the Mount of Works of Faith, but I will trust you and get up every time. Grant me this morning all that you provide that I may be with you forever in Jesus name Amen.
Will you come to the cross and death of Jesus. The first step up the mount of Obedience is baptism. Why not begin your journey today by sharing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Come let’s stand and sing.