Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
To make sure we understood Calvary, God gave us Mount Moriah. There Abraham, a picture of God the Father, was told to sacrifice Isaac, the picture of Christ the Son. To read Genesis 22 is to weep. Today we plumb the depths of a story only God could have written.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Today we conclude a long series about Abraham. Pastor Lutzer, the drama is high, as Abraham is about to plunge the knife into Isaac. Dave, I can't help but think that many people were surprised at your introduction when you made the statement that Abraham represents God, and God in effect killed his son. But it is biblical. Oh, I know that Pilate was involved, the Roman soldiers were involved, the Jews were involved. I understand that. But at the end of the day, it pleased the Lord to bruise him.
You're right. This story is incredibly important. I can't help but think that there are many who are listening today who have missed some of these messages. In this series entitled Strength for the Journey. Now for a gift of any amount, these sermons can be yours. Here's what you do. You go to rtwoffer.com.
If you do this, you'll be able to get them in permanent form so that you can play them again and again. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages, Strength for the Journey. And now we go to Mount Moriah. Verse 10, the angel of the Lord speaks. Notice it says in verse 10, then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham. And he said, here I am. Do not lay your hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.
What is a man willing to do in obedience to God? It's been proven. Some of you perhaps have seen Rembrandt's picture of this. Someday I'd like to see the original.
It's apparently in Saint Petersburg in Russia, one of the museums. But you can see replicas and in art books you can see pictures of Rembrandt's painting of Abraham and Isaac and it is dramatic. You have to stare at it for a while because in the picture what you have is Abraham already having his hand on Isaac's throat. So he has one hand like this on the boy's throat ready to strike it and his other hand is up like this with a knife and the angel of the Lord wraps his hand around Abraham's wrist. Don't do it, Abraham.
Don't. I know how much you now love and fear God. That's where the analogy breaks down when you get to the cross. Because when Jesus died on the cross, there was no hand from heaven. There was no rescue from the cross. He cried up and said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And the Father did not come out of heaven and prevent his death or rescue him. But Jesus went the whole way for you and for me. He died for sinners.
What a dramatic story. We've talked about the greatest test, the greatest trust, and now the greatest truth. And the greatest truth is that God is going to provide for himself a sacrifice. You'll notice in verse 13, Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns.
Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, the Lord will provide. Jehovah Jireh means the Lord will provide. As it is said to this day, on the mountain of the Lord that you'll be provided. Literally, the phrase means God will provide, God will see to it. Some of you are going through a struggle.
You're on the mountain. And who knows what surprise God may have for you that you don't know anything about. And you'll open up your eyes and realize that God made a provision for you that you could not have predicted. The Lord will see to it.
I think of the number of times in my life when I've been in a predicament not knowing what to do. And in the end, I look back and say, yeah, the Lord, the Lord saw to it. The Lord provided. And so Abraham takes this ram and sacrifices the ram in the place of Isaac.
The ram is now a picture also of Jesus. You say, well, I thought you said that Isaac was, Isaac is, but Isaac can only take us that far. Abraham was not allowed to kill his son.
He was prevented from doing so. So Isaac, the typology breaks down after Isaac is rescued from the altar. And so in order to complete the picture, God takes this ram that is caught in the thicket by its horns that Abraham sees and he kills it. And you'll notice that the text says in the last part of verse 13, he offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. It is now a substitutionary sacrifice, which is exactly what Jesus was when he died on the cross. He died, the Bible says, he was just, but he died for the unjust. He died for the ungodly. You remember, I've told you the story before, but it's a story I love to tell about a woman who is very opinionated and very opposed to the gospel.
She was open to it, but she had her own vision as to what the gospel should be. And so with a smile on my face, and if you ask a question like this, please always smile. But I said, would you consider yourself to be ungodly? Are you kidding?
Of course not. I'm not ungodly. I said, you know, that's really too bad. Then Jesus didn't die for you. Because the Bible said he died for the ungodly. I'm glad personally that Jesus died for the ungodly because I am ungodly.
And I think in a moment of honesty, you're ungodly too. And so the Bible says that Jesus died the just for the unjust. Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide and the Lord provided for Abraham. Imagine the new conception of God Abraham had when he came down from that mountain. Oh, we could read the rest of the story, and I hope you do, about how God reiterated the covenant.
God says, indeed, I'm going to bless you, and I'm going to bless your seed, and God is going to pick up now. Isaac, of course, is alive, and he's going to become the father of a great nation and so forth. And his whole conception of God was different when he came down from the mountain. One of the reasons I want to see it on video is I just want to see what the different expression when Abraham went up to the mountain and as to what he looked like when he came down from the mountain. Having proved that he feared God, having proved that he loved God, and God comes to him in fresh, brand new ways.
What are the greatest lessons that we can learn from this? First of all, worship always involves sacrifice. Worship always involves sacrifice. You'll notice it says in verse five, the lad and I will go yonder and worship and then we'll come to you. You say, well, I always thought that worshipping was coming to church and singing the right hymns.
Well, it is that. And if you come to Moody Church, God knows you sing the right hymns, don't you? We make sure that you do. And what wonderful hymns we sang today. Jesus, what a friend of sinners, and it is well with my soul. He said, I thought that was worship. Well, yeah, it's worship.
The fruit of our lips. But biblically, worship means that I bring myself. I bring an offering in the Old Testament in the temple. They always came with something for God, even when we're invited out for dinner somewhere.
Thanks to the good memory of my wife, we stop and at least buy a box of chocolate somewhere to bring to people. Amazing how many people come into God's presence Sunday after Sunday after Sunday and they bring him nothing. Worship always involves sacrifice. And then we have Romans chapter 12, give your bodies a living sacrifice wholly acceptable to God.
That's where it starts. It begins by saying, God, you have myself first. That's worship. And Jesus chided people who thought that because they said the right words and sang the right songs that they were worshiping. And he said, no, you're doing it.
And your heart is far from me. Worship is sacrifice. Second lesson and that is that when God wants to expose the idols in our lives, he sometimes chooses what is most precious to test us and what is most precious but our children.
But let me ask the question this way. What would it take for you to turn away from God? If God took your children, would you turn away from God?
If God allowed you to go through a difficult marriage and you go through the gut wrenching process of a divorce, would that make you turn from God? What is it that is in my life and in your life that means more to us than God so that we can actually just dispense with God and turn against him if things do not go our way and if he does not cooperate with our vision of happiness? I suppose that the greatest idol in our lives actually is the idol of happiness. We think to ourselves, I deserve a vocation in which I'm happy. I deserve a marriage in which I'm happy. I deserve I deserve living situations in which I'm happy.
And there's nothing wrong with improving those. But I'm simply saying that sometimes what our happiness is so bound up with what we want that we lose the larger vision of obedience and love of God which lies at the root of the greatest commandment. Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul.
That's the greatest sin is to not love God with your whole heart and everything flows from there, doesn't it? The summer I was at Bug House Square, you know, a mile south of here at the Newberry Library and I was giving my defense of Christ to an audience that was not entirely receptive. A few of you were there so you know you're given a bullhorn and then you can say anything that you like and I was giving a defense of Jesus and people can interrupt you. It's great fun.
I mean, you know, they can shout at you, they can say things that we wouldn't say in church and you just enjoy the banter. But when it was over, there was a woman who was very indignant. She said to me, because I ended by a personal testimony at the age of 14 accepting Jesus, she said to me, she said, what sin did you commit by the age of 14 for which you needed forgiveness? I guess she thought I was going to say, well, you know, I actually killed my brother. But I didn't do that, felt like it many times.
Problem is he felt like that too with his brother. I looked at her and I said, you know what my problem was? I broke the first commandment. Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind. I said, I broke that commandment.
And she just looked at me and walked away. It's the greatest sin you can commit to have a child, a vocation, something in the place of God that means more to you than God himself. That is idolatry and that is sin. Abraham proved, what is it that God needs to do for you before you draw near to him? So until he resolves this difficulty, until I get justice, I'm not going to have a thing to do with God. Until I can understand his ways, until I can see what God's up to in the world, I'm not going to have a thing to do with him.
That's idolatry because you're withholding something from God. There's something that means more in your life than he does. The final lesson is of course that we'll never give up the creature. We'll never give up the creature until we have been satisfied with the Creator. We'll never give up the creature until we're satisfied with the Creator. Only when we are willing to say, God you're first, you're number one, then of course all of the other things fall into line. But as long as we are narcissistic, filled with unrecognized self-absorption, and that by the way is the greatest hindrance to progress in the spiritual life, is unrecognized self-absorption. As long as we're there you see, we are not going to be able to love God.
And when we don't love him, we'll always put him in second, third, fourth, or fifth place. And so the angel comes out of heaven and says to Abraham, Abraham! He says, yes, here I am. Now I know that if you're God, how much is a man willing to do for God? Abraham, Abraham tells us anything, anything he asks. Is that your heart today?
Is that my heart today? Jesus, when he was here on earth, centuries after Abraham, 19 or 20 centuries later, said to some of the people who were criticizing him and accusing him of saying that he was God, which of course he did and which he was, he said, your father Abraham, rejoice to see my day, and he saw it and was glad. Maybe Jesus had this story in mind. How was Abraham saved? What happened to his sin?
He was saved on credit. God says, I'm going to take your sin, Abraham, and I'm going to put it away over here on a shelf, figuratively speaking, because I know that someday a redeemer is going to be born, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and when he comes, your sin will finally and completely be dealt with. There is no other way to be forgiven than the lamb that God supplies for himself and for you and for me. Let us pray. Now Father, only you can expose the idolatries of our hearts. Only you can say to us, do you see this idol?
Do you see that idol? Because we can't see it ourselves. We're too blind.
We're too self-absorbed. Would you by your Spirit do what we can't? Would you show us? How many of you today say, Pastor Lutzer, God has talked to me about some idols in my life that I need to deal with. Would you raise your hands please? All throughout the auditorium, up in the balcony too?
Some of you there up in the balcony? Would you at this moment say, Lord, I will deal with the idols that you've exposed? Father, we do come to you thanking you that now so many generations and centuries later we can look back on a story to inspire us to love you more than anything else and to sacrifice for you. Teach us these things, Lord, we pray, and don't let us go until we've heard your word about our hearts. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Amen. This is Pastor Lutzer and I have something very important to share with you. We here at Running to Win exist to help you make it all the way to the finish line. In every session we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but at the same time we want to help you in your journey. The series of messages that we have just concluded today is titled Strength for the Journey. It's really on the life of Abraham.
No doubt as you listen to Running to Win, there are times when you get an opportunity to hear a message, at other times you don't. Perhaps you would like to have the whole series. We believe that this resource will be of tremendous help to you. You can play the messages repeatedly, you can share them with your friends.
So for a gift of any amount, ask for the series Strength for the Journey. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, but I need to tell you that Abraham is a pivotal character in the Old Testament. I say that because there are three world religions that try to trace their heritage to Abraham, even Islam, Judaism, obviously, and Christianity. Understanding the life of Abraham, his ups and downs, the times when he had faith, the times when his faith faltered, the life of Lot and his mistakes and sins. All of this is given to us in God's word for our benefit. So for a gift of any amount, you can have the sermon series titled Strength for the Journey. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or if you prefer, as a matter of fact, you can pick up the phone right now and call 1-888-218-9232. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Jennifer has an obvious concern for the salvation of others. Her concern has led to a quandary.
Here's her story. My question is, how do I pray for strangers and family members? I want to ask God to save everyone. I'm overwhelmed because I feel I'm leaving people out, and I feel guilty when I pray for my daughter and husband first.
I shouldn't pray for someone's salvation in order, should I? Thank you, Pastor Lutzer, for caring for us. I pray God continues to bless you and yours.
Jennifer, first of all, I want to say that I am very touched by your sensitivity. The fact that you want to see people saved is not only commendable, but it is indeed the evidence of a Christian spirit. And I'm glad that you are praying for those who don't know Christ as Savior. But my dear friend, you don't have to feel guilty because you pray for your child first. God understands that.
Our first responsibility is to our family. And secondly, you say, how do I know that I'm praying for everyone? Well, you really don't have to pray for everyone. As a matter of fact, I think that we are much more biblical when we perhaps pray less for the unsaved and pray for Christians to come into the lives of the unsaved to show them the way. Now, perhaps you're surprised to hear me say that, but we have very few instances in the Bible where we are commanded to pray for the unsaved. Certainly, the Bible tells us to pray for those who have authority over us, and it tells us that we should pray for all people.
But isn't it interesting that when Jesus left this earth, he said to the disciples, when the Holy Spirit has come to you, through you, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. So, Jennifer, continue to pray for the unsaved, but pray especially that God will bring Christians into their lives who will explain the gospel to them, because it is through us that the world believes. Keep praying. Don't feel guilty about praying for people in some special order with your family first. Third, pray that believers will rise to the challenge of being the witnesses they should be to a hurting and lost world. Thank you, Jennifer, for your concern for others, and thank you, Pastor Lutzer, for your concern. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Some people say they have faith, yet their lives show little evidence of it. Others who have faith are willing to take risks to live out that faith. Next time on Running to Win, we'll focus on this latter kind of faith, the kind that will carry us through when times of testing come. Don't miss Faith That Survives the Fire. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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