We are in a verse-by-verse study of the book of Genesis, and we're in chapter 22, and we have stopped in Genesis 22 to do three messages in this chapter, and I've subtitled this little tiny series, How to Have a Massive Spiritual Life. And I've told you that the reason we've slowed down and paused here is because all three of the principles involved in having a massive spiritual life are displayed in the life of Abraham right in this chapter.
And they are absolute surrender, full obedience, and utter trust in the promises of God. Last week, we talked about absolute surrender, and if you missed that message, I'd love for you to go online and download it or podcast it, or you can pick up a CD in our lobbies. It's such an important message.
I hope that you'll catch up with us. But this week, we're going to move forward, and we're going to talk about principle number two, full obedience to God. So let's go back and review the passage very quickly.
Here we go. Genesis 22, verse 1. Now it came about after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him, Abraham. And Abraham said, Here I am. And God said, Take your son, your only son, Isaac, who was about 18 years old at this point, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.
Let's show you a map. So you see that Abraham was living in Beersheba. It was about a three-day walk north to Mount Moriah, which is where Jerusalem presently is today.
Verse 3. Early the next morning, Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. And on the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then he said to his servants, Stay here with the donkey, while I and the boy go over there.
We will worship, and then we will come back to you. So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. And when they reached the place where God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. We said last week there is absolutely no doubt that Abraham was going to plunge that knife deep into the chest of his boy had God not stepped in at this point.
Verse 11. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, saying, Abraham, Abraham, here I am. Abraham replied, Do not lay a hand on the boy, the angel said.
Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. Then Abraham looked up, and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.
He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time and said, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you've done this and have not withheld your son, your only son from me, I will surely bless you. And make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, and through your offspring, the Lord Jesus Christ, all nations on earth will be blessed. Say the next five words with me. Because you have obeyed me. Say them one more time. Because you have obeyed me.
All right. So in this chapter we see the first two principles for having a massive spiritual life. Principle number one is absolute surrender. Abraham said, all right, God, if you tell me to sacrifice my son, I'll absolutely surrender to your will. And the second principle is full obedience. Abraham also says, and God, not only will I surrender to what you tell me to do, but I will obey it fully and exactly the way you say it should be done. You see those two principles? Absolute surrender, full obedience. Got them?
Got them? Okay. Now, that's as far as we're going to go in our passage because it's time now for us to ask our most important question. And you know what this is. So Loudon, Prince William, Bethesda, Edge Community, Internet Campus, here at Tysons, on the count of three, here we go.
One, two, three. Right. You say, Lon, you know, I said this last week that I love this passage. It's a great passage, but I really don't see what it's got to do with me.
Well, friends, listen, if you want to have a massive spiritual life, this chapter has everything to do with you and with me because it tells us how to get that kind of spiritual life. Remember what I've told you before, the people in the Bible, these great men and women of God, and down through history, they did not have different genetic material than you and I have. What it is, is that they lived by a different set of principles than most of the world around them lived by. And if we can understand those principles and emulate them in our own life, God will give us a massive spiritual life just like they had. Does that make sense to you?
Okay. So, if we want to have that kind of spiritual life, in this passage are the principles, and we're looking today at number two, and that is full obedience. So, let's define before we go on. What is obedience? Well, obedience means to do what we're told to do.
That's pretty easy. Full obedience to God, however, goes one step farther. Full obedience to God means that not only do we do what God tells us to do, but that we do it exactly how God tells us to do it without shaving and cutting the corners in any way. No one can have a massive spiritual life without a commitment to full obedience to God. Listen to what God said to Joshua. He said, Joshua 1-7, be careful to do according to all the law that Moses, my servant, commanded you. And where is all that? Well, it's right here in the B-I-B-L-E.
Correct. Look what God says. He says, do not turn from it to the right or to the left. Folks, this is full obedience.
No right turns, no left turns, just right down the yellow line in the center. And you know, look here for a second, full obedience is what God wants from every single follower of Christ. It's just that people who don't want and care about having a massive spiritual life all that much, they're not going to give it to God. They're going to do it the way they feel like doing it. And what they're going to give God is excuses, every excuse in the book, for why they can't do what God tells them to do, the way God tells them to do it. And then they're going to presume on God's forgiveness and presume on God's patience and presume on God's mercy.
But my friends, this is a dangerous way to live. Let me show you. 1 Samuel chapter 15, the year is 1050 B.C. King Saul has become the first king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel. Here we go, verse 1. Then the prophet Samuel said to Saul, hear now the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel on the way while Israel was coming up from Egypt. Now, he says to Saul, go and strike the Amalekites and utterly destroy all that they have, put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.
You go, whoa, wait, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. This is God? This is genocide? This is wiping out an entire group of people? A loving God is doing this?
What is going on here? Well, friends, what we must understand is that this was an act of divine judgment upon these people. Deuteronomy 25, listen, verse 17, remember God says, what the Amalekites did to you, the Israelites, when you came out of Egypt, how they attacked among you all the stragglers at the rear, the faint and the weary, and did not fear God. Therefore, it shall come to pass that when the Lord gives you rest from all your enemies in the land that the Lord is giving you, the promised land, you shall blot out the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven, you must not forget. Friends, the point is, God did not pick out some random people group to annihilate.
That is not what is happening here. As the Israelites were marching across the Sinai, after they came through the Red Sea, the Amalekites did a despicable thing. They preyed on the stragglers at the back of the column, the weak, the sick, the children, the elderly, the disabled, who couldn't keep up with the rest of the pack. They robbed them, they slaughtered them like a bunch of merciless hyenas and as a result, God pronounced divine judgment on them. Exodus 17, 14, then the Lord said to Moses, write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua that I will utterly blot out the Amalekites from under heaven.
And the task of fulfilling this divine judgment fell on King Saul to carry out. Do you guys understand what we're talking about here? You got it? Now some of you may still be bothered by this and if you are, let me suggest to you a resource, Dr. Peter Williams online, you can find it online at the C.S. Lewis Institute. It's a little series of messages he did entitled, Loving God or Cosmic Tyrant. And it's all about this passage and others where God seems to be a cosmic tyrant, but he explains why he's not. So go check it out online. I don't have any more time to deal with it right now, but check it out online.
Okay, let's move on. So we're in 1 Samuel 15. God has commanded Saul to go wipe out the Amalekites. All the men, all the women, all the children, all the animals burn the city to the ground.
Now, let me summarize what happens next. Saul musters his army and attacks the Amalekites just the way God ordered. And Saul then totally destroys their army just the way God ordered. And Saul burns their city just the way God ordered. I mean so far so good, right?
Yeah. Verse 8. However, Saul captured Agag, the king of the Amalekites, alive. Folks, had God told him to do that? No. And what's more, Saul spared Agag and the rest of the sheep, the oxen, the lambs and all that was good. Had God told him to spare any of those animals?
No. And Samuel rose early in the morning to go meet Saul and Saul saw him coming and said to him, Blessed are you of the Lord. I have carried out the command of the Lord. And Samuel said, Well then what then is this bleeding of sheep in my ears and this lowing of oxen that I hear? You get what Samuel's saying? He's saying, Saul, if you'd have done what God had told you to do fully and completely, there would be no sheep alive for me to hear bleat. There would be no oxen alive for me to hear low.
It should be completely quiet. What do you mean you did what God told you to do? And Saul says, Oh, that. Well, he says, the people.
Don't you love it how he shifts this? The people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen. Watch now to sacrifice to the Lord our God. How sanctimonious can you get?
Samuel didn't buy it. He said, Hey, Saul, has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold. Say it with me. To obey is better than sacrifice.
Say it again. To obey is better than sacrifice. And may I say to you, you can take the word sacrifice out of there and put anything in its place you want.
And the sentence will still read the same. To obey is better than whatever is in the box. Folks, God is interested in full obedience.
It's just that simple. Samuel says, because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king. And he took Saul's kingship away. Friends, how important is full obedience to God? Hey, it's important enough that he revoked Saul's kingship over it. Above all else, God wants full obedience. Saul gave him half obedience. But as far as God is concerned, half obedience is disobedience.
You got it? Half obedience is disobedience. I know I've read this to you before. It's a quote from A.W.
Tozer, one of my favorite writers. But I can't think of any other quote I've ever read that fits better at this moment. You know how we're all praying for revival in our country and we're praying for revival in our city and revival in our church and revival in our lives?
OK, well, listen. Tozer said, and I quote, Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late and how little revival has resulted? Considering, he says, the volume of prayer that's ascending these days, rivers of revival should be flowing.
That no such results are in evidence, Tozer says, should not discourage us. Rather, it should stir us to find out why our prayers are not being answered. He concludes by saying, I believe that our problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying and it simply will not work. Folks, you can pray for revival in your life all you want. But if there's disobedience to God in your life, it's not going to happen. And we can pray for revival here in this church all we want. But if there's disobedience to God in our church, it's not going to happen. And churches around America can pray for revival as much as they want. But if there's disobedience in those churches to God, it ain't going to happen, friends. Remember 2 Chronicles 7 14, If my people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, okay, so far so good, and turn from their wicked ways, repent of their sin, come back to full obedience to God. Friends, if we leave that step out, the rest of God's promise doesn't apply. He says, I'll hear you from heaven, I'll forgive your sins, I'll heal your land.
Yeah, but we got to do everything at the beginning, not just some of it. And so the bottom line is, if you want a massive spiritual life, if I want a massive spiritual life, if we want revival in our lives, if we want revival in our families, if we want revival in our churches, friends, prayer is important, but obedience, full obedience is critical. You know, two weeks ago, I was having my quiet time, I was on my knees in prayer, and a gentleman's name popped up on my radar screen. And he and I had parted ways a while back. It wasn't a nice parting.
We had written some emails to one another that weren't the sweetest emails ever written. And a verse of Scripture came to mind. Matthew chapter 5, if you're presenting your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering before the altar and go.
Go where? Well, go see your brother. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offering. So I'm on my knees and I'm praying and the Lord says to me, hey, Lon, I want you to go humble yourself in front of that man and I want you to ask him to forgive you and I want to see you guys reconciled. And I said, but Lord, I don't want to do that. And the Lord said, do we need to go over the verse again, Lon?
I said, well, Lord, this is really true. I said, can't I just send him an email and tell him I'm sorry? I mean, it would be a whole lot less humiliating to send an email. It would be a whole lot less humbling to send an email. And God said to me, Lon, the verse doesn't say leave your gift and go send an email.
So I really struggle with this. Friends, I did not want to do it. And finally, just as clear as a bell, I sense the Lord saying to me, now, Lon, do you really want to be the person who quenches what the Holy Spirit is doing for good at McLean Bible Church because of your disobedience, because of your half obedience?
Do you really want to be that person? So I called the guy up and I said, hey, could we meet? And we met the next day. And he said, you know, I was thinking about calling you up, but I wasn't really sure how you'd receive it. He said, I'm really shocked you called me.
Why did you call me? And I'm like, it's a long story, okay? We don't need to really go into it, but it's kind of a long story.
And you know what? We exchanged forgivenesses. I asked him to forgive me. He asked me to forgive him.
We hugged each other. We said, look, why don't we just let this be ancient history, okay? Put it behind us and let's move on as friends from here and brothers in the Lord from here. Friends, here's the point. The point is that when it comes to obeying God, our flesh is always looking for the easy way out.
Our sin nature is always looking to cut the corners. Can I send an email? How about a text?
You know, maybe I'll write him a note. And God's saying no, no, no, no. I want full obedience. And if you aren't willing to give me full obedience, then don't even bother. And the reason our flesh is always looking for a way around it is because full obedience to God is hard. Full obedience to God can be humiliating. Full obedience to God can be demanding. But friends, we cannot build, listen to me, a massive spiritual life without full obedience to God.
It cannot be done. Amen? Got it. So let me ask you a question in closing. My question is where is God asking you to give him full obedience? Is he asking you to humble yourself and go ask for forgiveness from someone that you offended and you're saying, well, yeah, but it was their fault too.
Why don't God make them come to me? Is God asking you to go make restitution for something you did wrong and you're saying, Lord, it's way too costly and besides, legally there's nothing they can do to me. Is the Lord asking you to speak with somebody about their relationship with Christ and you're saying, well, I witnessed with my life.
I don't need to use words. My life is my witness. Is the Lord asking you to stop having sex with your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your fiancé and you're saying, yeah, but God, we don't do it all that often and we're going to get married anyway. Has God asked you to get into a small group and get connected with people and accountable with people and you're saying, I don't want somebody prying into my life. It's none of their business what's going on in my life. Has God asked you to confess a secret sin of pornography and get help and you're saying, yeah, but God, I don't do it that often.
It's kind of a minor thing. Is God asking you to stop the awful things that you and I say about people gossiping and just backbiting and just awful things and you're saying, well, you know, it is true, I mean, what I say. Is God asking you to stop lusting over women and undressing them with your eyes and you saying, God, I'm not doing that.
I'm just admiring your creation. Is God asking you to spend more time with your family and you're saying, God, I'll do it, I promise, but I got a career first and let me get my career where it needs to get to then I'll get back to this. Is God asking you to have family devotions and pray with your children before you go to bed at night and you're saying, you know, I'm so tired when I get home from work.
I just want to sit down for a few minutes and watch television. They're big people. They can pray. Is God asking you to get involved in some volunteer area of service for Him and you're saying, I'm already too busy, Lord, I don't have time for that. Or is God asking you to set aside quiet time to spend dedicated time with the Lord and dedicated time in the word of God in prayer and you're saying, ah, you know, I commune with God on the golf course.
I look at the trees and God and I, we have our prayer time on the golf course. Folks, you know what? When we say stuff like that, we sound like Saul and I've seen what happened to Saul and I don't want what happened to Saul to happen to me. And if you're smart, you don't want what happened to Saul to happen to you. Folks, if we want massive spiritual lives, let me close by saying then full obedience to God is where we must set the bar.
No excuses. And when we fall short, we can confess it to God and we can ask for His forgiveness which He gives freely and we can try to do better next time, but we don't lower the bar. We keep it at full obedience. This is what made Abraham the man of God that he was. You want to be a man of God? You want to be a woman of God?
This is one of the critical ways you and I have to be willing to live and I hope that you will. Let's pray together. With our heads bowed and our eyes closed, if the Holy Spirit tapped you on the shoulder at some point during this message and said, Hey, you know what?
This is you. You're giving me half obedience in some area and I want this fixed. Then why don't you take a moment right now to confess that to the Lord and tell Him with His help, with His power, you're committed to full obedience. Now, with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, please, no one looking around, if you made a commitment to full obedience to God in some area of your life, I want you to stand right where you are as a sign of the fact that you mean business.
And I want to pray for you. So stand up if that's you. Anybody else just before we pray? Lord Jesus, I thank you for every one of us who are standing.
I'm standing up here. Forgive us, Lord, for listening to our sinful fleshly nature and trying to always cut the corners on what you want us to do to make it easier on ourselves, less humiliating, less humbling. God, help us to have a passion for full obedience to God and to understand you will accept nothing less as satisfying to you. And so, Lord, for all the people who are standing, God, thank you for their willingness to repent today. And I pray that you would give them the strength that they need and the courage that they need and the determination that they need to carry through on what they've told you today. Father, help us be people, not like Saul, but help us be people like Abraham who was going to put that knife in his boy because you commanded him to. Help us to have that kind of obedience to you, full obedience. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. Thank you.
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