064 Testing Times
GENESIS 22, 1-19
Gen 22 v1 reads “After these things God Tested Abraham”
My sermon today is about what I am calling “Testing times”. One might reasonably enquire about the reason why Gods Children must essentially pass through times of testing, and why the road and Christian Pilgrimage is not an “easy” one? The first thing I want to say is that God tests us because, we cannot remain “just as we are”. Many have come to Christ, and I am happy that it should be so, through the words of that lovely Hymn “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bids me come to Thee, Oh lamb of God, I Come.” It is true that we can come to God, just as we are, we can come to him with all our faults and failing, warts and all, but one thing is certain, we cannot stay just as we were. Many of Gods children have never grown up, never matured, and are all their lives in Spiritual Infancy! This is not the will of God, God desires to see us grow, just like any loving Parent desires to see their children grow and mature.
Our growing up into Christ depends on 2 things, The work of the Holy Spirit within me, and my Surrender to or willingness for that work and process by Him! Many Christians are living like Chickens, flapping their wings …all too earthbound, when they should be living like Eagles, soaring in the Heavens!
God has greater things for us, if we can pass the tests which qualify and bring us into contact with those higher principles and those loftier truths.
The Christ life, and fellowship within the Church is not all hymn singing and happy clappy fellowship! God leads his dear children along many varied and different paths towards the “Destiny” that he has prepared for them. The Hymn writer says, …
“Some thru the waters, some thru the flood some thru the fire but all thru the blood”
So then let us see the test to which Abraham was put and the reason why God tested his servant. In verse two we read that God said to him,
“Take now your son, …. Isaac, and burn him on an alter”
God did not say take now your best Bull, or Fastest Horse, or finest Camel but rather God was asking him to take the one thing that he possibly loved more than any other, the jewel in his crown, the apple of his eye, the Son of his love! We know of course that although God referred to Isaac as His Only Son, and the Son of his love, Abraham had another son, Ishmael. Abraham had fathered a son with his maid or housekeeper Hagar, as his wife was Barren. But God stepped in and restored Sarah’s womb and as Sarah was his wife, the love of his life, Isaac was conceived in Love, and thus became known as the son of his love.
God was asking Abraham to lay down the most important thing in his life, to put his own flesh on the Alter of Sacrifice.
PUTTING FLESH ON THE ALTER has been a God given principle since Abel offered flesh in Gen. 4 ,
God became Flesh in the person of Jesus and it had to die on the alter of Calvary’s Cross to satisfy Divine Justice.
Without the Alter, there can be no Glory – without Calvary there can be no Heaven.
Now my dear friends, I confess, as you must, that it is no easy task to “deny self… take up the cross and follow Christ” which is exactly what putting the flesh on the alter is all about. The apostle John reminds us in 1 John 2.16 that it is easy, nay natural for us to love the flesh when he says… “Do not love the world” and goes on to say how alluring the world can be …. “all that is in the world
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the Pride of life”
When the Gospels remind us that Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are, it is not saying that Jesus was tempted in all things, or to do all the things that we are tempted to do, rather it is referring to these three categories into which all temptation falls.
There are only these 3 avenues of temptation ….the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Examine all of your temptations carefully and you will discover that they fall into these three categories. When God requires of us that we should lay down our flesh life, for the exchange of the Spiritual life, he is asking us to resist the temptations to the flesh, crucify the flesh, starve the flesh, for without such surrender, there can be no real access into the Holy things of God. In the Tabernacle, there was no alter of sacrifice within the Holy places, there dwelt the Ark of the Covenant” the symbol of the presence and power of God. Before one could enter there the sacrifices must have been laid down outside, first. Without the surrender of the flesh life, there can be no presence or power in the Spiritual life.
Let us read on
v3 “Abraham rose early in the morning” I expect that he didn’t sleep well? After all, if God was asking you to “burn” your Son in the morning, I don’t expect you would have a good nights sleep? God often calls us in the night hours to part with those things we love too much, the things that have become our gods, our treasures, our priorities!
v4 tells us that having risen early, they set out and eventually reached the appointed place, the place to which God had directed their steps. They had brought wood for the burn offering, and as there were no matches or cigarette lighters handy, they brought fire, a vessel in which they carried a “live” coal!
I can picture the Father and Son begin the ascent to the top of the mountain, leaving the servants behind to keep the camels or
donkeys! I know that Abraham must have feared the coming
question, knowing with certainty that at some point the matter of the lamb, the sacrifice, the offering, and at some point Isaac would ask …
v7 “My Father, behold the wood and the fire, but where is the offering?”
Abraham answers, quick as a flash, obviously prompted by God himself, v8 “God will provide himself a lamb”
Isaac could see no lamb, and maybe no-one can see what it is you and I must bring to the Alter…. but God can!
What is God asking you to lay down, to sacrifice in order to achieve His best for your life? Is it that you must end that ungodly relationship, is it some habit you need to drop, is there drugs and alcohol tugging at your heart? Do you crave the pleasures of the world, is it immorality, promiscuity, pornography that fights for your heart every day? Are there treasures too costly to part with, your property, your possessions, your financial prospects that lure you away from surrender to Jesus Christ? Like Isaac it may be that no-one can see what you need to sacrifice, but God alone! My dear Brother and Sister, my dear friend, Holiness Healthiness and Happiness is Gods purpose for you and if you accept anything less that is to settle for less than you are worth to God! It is to deny yourself the destiny, the purpose for your very living. Of course the journey to the top will be trying and testing, Abraham was discovering that with every step he was taking….. and the worst was still ahead of him.
Now it was crunch time, in verse 9 we read, …
v9 Abraham bound Isaac and laid him on the alter…”
Here he was, the great man of God, pushed to the very limit of what he could bear, but not only had Abraham his confidence in God at this point, God had his confidence in Abraham. Isaac, the
great love of his heart, the most precious treasure he owned, the
most costly sacrifice he would ever have to make, …was bound, tied up in front of him, on a pile of wood, now if he could just kill the child, he could complete the offering the sacrifice, and he grasped the knife from his belt, raised it in the air, and …
IT WAS OVER! The test was over for at that very moment God stepped in! Before he could bring the knife down, before he could actually kill the boy, God stopped him. (Behind him in a bush, a Ram was caught by his horns, and Abraham went and took the Ram and offered it there as a burnt offering instead of, or in the place of his son.) Now, God knew that nothing and no-one was more important to Abraham, than his God. You must remember that God didn’t want Abraham to kill Isaac, God had no requirement that a dead Isaac could fulfil, but God wanted Abraham, a committed Abraham, a surrendered Abraham, and he had to test this man to prove him.
Now God is able to make the Promise, a promise that has enriched the life of Abraham and his descendants, both Jew and Arab, and has brought blessing to the whole world, in the person of Jesus Christ. We read in verse 16 “By myself I have sworn, because you have done this, v17, I will bless you, multiply you, and defeat your enemies “etc
Obedience has always resulted in Blessing, while disobedience has brought the curse!
If we can walk in obedience to God, then great blessing can also be ours, if we, like Abraham are willing to surrender those things that are holding us back, and holding us down, then God will bring great blessing into our lives as a result.
God is about to move his people into blessing never before witnessed, providing they come to the place of trusting and obeying. Abraham could never have known the great blessing or
received the great promise and covenant had he not first passed the test of love and loyalty to God. God cannot trust his servants with greater things unless and until they have proved their total and absolute love and loyalty. Like Abraham, you and I will find our affections and our attractions divided between what is of the world,
and what is of the Kingdom of God. We shall be torn between pandering to the Flesh, or walking in the Spirit. The choices are never easy, since we will retain our fleshy nature all our days. Even though we have been granted and given a new nature in Christ, both will be at war, and we will often feel torn between the two! Only God can grant us grace to make the right choices, to surrender the self life, for the greater spiritual life in God.
Now I believe that great testing times are coming on the whole Church, like Abraham, the “crunch” time is upon us. I am not speaking of the “credit crunch” rather the moment of decision. It is time to side with God, or to side with the world. There can be no middle ground. You are either saved, and earnestly seeking and employed for the salvation of others, or you are lost, and headed for destruction. Merely belonging to, or having and association with a Church cannot save you. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see and enter into the Kingdom of God “ That’s what Jesus said to a very religious man called Nickodemas, in John Chapter 3. Religion is not enough, religion cannot save you, but a Relationship with Jesus as your sin-bearer and Saviour can!
Are you willing to lay down the things of the world, for the things of heaven? Are you also willing to walk with Jesus, pleasing and obeying him, or will you still persist in walking with the world, pleasing and obeying Satan? The choice is yours, I cannot make it for you, your parents cannot make it in any baptismal rites, every man woman boy and girl must make that decision personally, for themselves.
If we side with God, making the right choice, then in these last days, we can see multiplied souls saved, a harvest unlike anything we have ever witnessed before. God has promised in his word, that the latter or last days of the Church will be her most glorious. Of course we must have first enlisted for service and joined his side.
We must walk in righteousness, anything that Looks like, sounds like or is like the WORLD the FLESH or the DEVIL in us, must be surrendered and placed on the alter of sacrifice!
I counsel the Church today to be very wary of allowing the world into the Church. By this I mean that our worship, our music, our praise and our preaching must not bear any resemblance to the world. I often listen and watch in horror as the youth of the church have been caught up in the “Para pop culture” of modern so called christian music. I can tell you that this is so like the world, that I am convinced God is not in it. It does not bear witness in the Spirit. It may be pleasurable, exciting, moving and get your feet tapping, but if it gets to your feet and not your heart, then it is seriously flawed. Of course it will attract, the world is always attractive, and the Devil sees to it that we are deceived into thinking that things that sound like God are God. Oh my dear young Christian listening, take care that you are not deceived, the things of God sound and look nothing like anything worldly!
God is going to remove from our world all that is evil, sinful, and the consequential result of the fall. God is in the process of returning or restoring this fallen planet back to what he had originally created in Genesis 1, 1-11. All that have raised their voices, raised their children, raised their standards contrary to God will very soon discover that all they have raised will be brought down, brought low, brought to nothing. God will remove every semblance of sin, every remaining evidence of anything and
everything that was contrary to his word and way. Kings and Princes, Prime Ministers and Ambassadors, Dictators, and Tyrants, Countries and Nations will all be brought low, brought to nought. Scientists and Scoffers, who have tried to disprove the Bible and replace its teaching with their own, will also fall. False Doctrine and Heresies, and all Error will be done away with, and only Truth will remain. All falsehood, deceit and lies will be brought out into the open and shouted from the housetops, all who have terrorized will themselves live in terror and fear, and God will change this world, preparing it for the new millennium, the next millennium the 1000 years reign on earth of Jesus Christ, the King of all King and the Lord of all Lords.
Lawlessness will abound for a while, but grace will more abound, and there will come an end to all who break the law of God. A Holy awareness of God and his Glory will descend again on this planet, and the Lion will lie down with the Ox, and the Bear with the Lamb, and the little child shall play on the den of the Snake, and none shall hurt or destroy, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea!
We have already embarked on the journey to this time. We have
left the shore, and are sailing out on troubled waters ahead. Those in the vessel, with Christ at the helm, have nothing to fear, but those without Christ have much to trouble them. I weep for my friends and family, for young boys and girls, for the infants still in their prams, for the future of the rising generation. There are those who may label me as the “doom and gloom” preacher, but the doom and gloom is reserved only for those who turn their back on God. There is a great harvest out there to be gathered in, fields ripening with grain, men women and young people …. Souls for who the Saviour died. No one win them alone, the whole Church will need to get motivated and moved. Will you lay
down your worldly ambitions today, and join me, in the soul -winning. The time is short and the work is hard, but the more labourers that are in the field, the sooner the job will get done.
Years ago, my Father owned a few fields, and in which he regularly planted potatoes. In the autumn, he would scour the local village for school-boys and the unemployed to come and help us gather them in. Many of those youths have never earned a shilling in their lives, (that’s 5 pence today) but the thought of a little wage, a little money in their pockets, moved and motivated them to climb on board the trailer, and join the team at the farm.
God has a wage too. For those who will work in the gathering of His Harvest, there will be an eternal reward, unfailing in the heavens. Will you come home to him at the last with empty hands, or will you come rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you?
At the end of the potato gathering, Mother would have prepared a hearty meal for all the busy workers. 15 or 20 boys in one dining room, and 15 or 20 men in another. Many of them openly confessing that they have never seen food like this on their tables?
God has a “supper” prepared also, what a wonder feast it is, not because of the heavenly menu, but because of the honoured guest.
It is the marriage supper of the Lamb, it is the feast where for the first time, the Bride, (Gods precious possession the Christian Church) sits down together with the Bridegroom (The Lord Jesus Christ). It is the Church, you and me, who are the guest of honour, above our heads a banner flutters in heavens breeze, on it is one word, LOVE. It is the Love Supper of the Bride and Groom, together at last, together for ever, together because one out of love
sought and found the other, that the two may now live together, happy ever after.
Now this final word
When God asked Abraham to take His only Son, or the Son of his love and kill him, offer him on an alter of sacrifice, He did so, in order to help Abraham understand something of the Pain and Passion in the heart of God for humanity. Just what it felt like to part with your son, to give him up, to give him over, to lay him down on the alter of sacrifice… Abraham had no idea, until this time of testing. Again, just what it felt like to surrender the Love of your life, the apple of your eye, the jewel of your crown, Abraham could not have felt that kind of passion, until this test.
What is the love of your life? Who is the love of your life?
If your answer is anything, or anyone, other than JESUS CHRIST, then like Abraham, you must take that to the alter of sacrifice today, and lay it down. God laid down everything for you, so that you could stand up with him in the Glory we call Heaven. Jesus laid down his life, and accepted death, so that you and I might never die, but live eternally. Come today and lay your life at the foot of His cross, and give him everything you are and have….
And may God grant you and me the grace we need to do it.
God Bless You Amen