Withholding nothing from God

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Introduction Sibongiseni Khumalo
Today is the day of Pentecost. We commemorate the time the Lord sent His Holy Spirit. Satan hates days like this, but they are special to us Christians and we thank the Lord for them. We have celebrated Christmas, Easter, Ascension and now Pentecost. It is up to us to affirm these days and to speak about them so that people are aware of and remember them.

The Lord Jesus said that He would send His Holy Spirit so that His children would receive power from Him to proclaim the Gospel, beginning in Jerusalem, then Samaria and to the rest of the world. We know that Satan does not want the Gospel to go forth and reach the hearts of people so that they can forsake their sin. He wants them to stay in their sin.

It is so important that each child of God should strive to have the Holy Spirit, so that s/he can continue to live for the Lord in power. May the Lord help each of us to be revived. Each day is a day where we should serve the Lord.

Ntokozo Nhlabathi
We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord who has kept us so that we can meet again today.

I met with someone recently who challenged me. I want to pass that challenge on to you. This person came with to discuss something and as we spoke, he said, ‘Before we can discuss this matter, I want you to know that it was not MY choice to do what I am doing. I did not make the decision to be where I am now.’ In other words, he was saying that others made the decision for him, otherwise he wouldn’t be doing what he is doing.

This is the challenge to us today: How many are serving the Lord because the Lord has called them? There is a great danger of being in a place where the Lord did not place you. If you are here because your wife is here, that will surely not work. If you are here because your husband is here, you will not gain from it. If you are here because of the way someone preaches or sings, or because what they do tickles your fancy, you will not last here. If there is just a slight breeze, a small wind, and the person you like is not here, then you will say, ‘Well, I did not put myself here.’ How many have not forsaken the truth because of people – they follow people. Which is why I say, if you are here because of others, and you have not experienced that miracle yourself, it will not last.

You may think that Christian persecution is still coming but we are presently experiencing it. There are people who are already being persecuted. After I have preached here, in fact minutes later, there are people who have dissected the words, taken them, and made what they want to. There are those who are persecuted for what they say, but we will continue to proclaim God’s truth for this it what we know. Therefore, although they keep posting, let us continue to speak the truth. Let us be where the Lord wants us to be.

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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 on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, 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. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy[a] will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy 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.” Genesis 22:1 – 12

This story of Abraham and his son is well known. A few points have been laid on my heart.

God tested Abraham regarding that which was dear to him. What was God’s test about?

Humanly speaking, it was impossible for Isaac to be born. His parents were old. For years they had prayed for a child but a child never came at the time they thought he would. The Lord Jesus does not forget His promises. He also did not forget His promise to Abraham. Abraham was 100 years old and his wife, 90 when God’s promise of a child was fulfilled.

As they waited for the promise, they did not seem to understand why it was not happening. In the chapter before and after this one, Abraham was joyful and happy but his wife was ashamed and wondered what people would say about her.

Many people are troubled by this: what will people say about me? God, however, does not consider this. Instead, He looks at you and the promise He has given you. The Lord speaks to you but you doubt what people will say. The Lord puts it on your heart to correct a misbehaving child during a service, but you think, ‘What will people say?’ The Lord makes something possible; He even creates a platform so that we can uplift Him - how many of us were there on Ascension Day to lift Jesus higher? After God has spoken, you say, ‘What will people say about me?’ When the Lord tells you to pray about something, you say, ‘What will people say if they see me praying in public?’

The doubts and problems Sara had, did not prevent the Lord from fulfilling His promise. They received the child they had waited so long for, their heir. How happy they were. Then God came with this command: 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 on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

I tried to weigh up Abraham’s reaction to this test from God. Abraham was able to do what God had told him to do in such a way so that those around him would not be harmed. He was wise. When God spoke to him, there was no doubt. He did not wonder whether God was speaking about his son. He did what God had told him to do. The very thing that he loved and was so precious to him, he put on the altar.

In my mind’s eye I can see him preparing for the journey, putting it all together, knowing that he was doing what God wanted him to do. He held onto this one thing: God has said. He needed to fulfil this one thing. On the journey to the place the Lord had instructed him to go to, he clung to God said. How much wouldn’t I say to God if He challenged me with such a test? If I had been tested in this way, would I have passed the test?

As they proceeded on the journey, Abraham told his servants to ‘…wait here, I am going with my son…’ His son realised that they were going to make a sacrifice for which they had wood, but no lamb. Abraham, an upright man, a true parent, he answered and said, ‘The Lord will provide.’ How many mistakes would I have made in the manner in which I answered my son? We may have said, ‘That is of no concern to you,’ but this man of God answered wisely, ‘The Lord will provide.’ He answered in such a way that his son was not hurt.

When he reached the place where he was to sacrifice, he did not do things the wrong way round. He did not get nervous. He prepared the altar as he should. He did it in an orderly manner. When we are tested, we can become confused, and we cannot quite remember exactly how the Lord had said it should be done. Because of a single test, we forget all the experiences of the past years - where we have come from and what the Lord has done to sustain us.

When the Lord visits you and takes your child, you become confused and say, ‘Why has the Lord done this?’ At school, when you write a test and do not get 100% as you have for many years, you become confused and lose your way. At the end of the month, the computer makes an error and you do not receive what you should have, so you storm into the office, kicking open the door, becoming upset because of a small test. The Lord is testing you. Can you trust Him? No, you fail dismally. It is a small mistake, ‘They did it to me last year and the year before,’ you say. You offload your frustration and anger onto someone who is not even involved. Your wife burns the corner of your shirt when ironing and in church all you can think of is what your wife has done now. It is such a small test.

This test did not confuse Abraham. He still followed the instructions when building the altar. Abraham held onto the word of his Father; Isaac could sense that his father had everything under control. He prepared the wood. He packed it together. Isaac may have even helped to carry the wood. He was happy to help his father.

I try to understand Isaac’s reaction. Abraham was already old, but Isaac submitted to him. Even when his father tied him down. We sense that he trusted his father and said, ‘This is my father.’ What would you have done? You would have rolled over and tried to escape.

In everything Abraham had an ear to hear what God said to him so that he did not make a single mistake. How many mistakes do we make when we need to sacrifice to the Lord? When the Lord expects this much from me, I say, ‘No, I will only give this portion.’ I am not talking about money; I am talking about you as a person. The Lord expects you to deny all, but you say, ‘No Lord, not this, only that.’

For example: If the Lord lays it on your heart to clean the church, are you obedient to what He says? The Lord has spoken to you and told you to do it. You rationalise that there are people who do that job and even get a salary. The Lord did not look at those who are there anyway, working for a salary, the Lord spoke to you and asked you to do something. When the Lord wants us to give ourselves, do we do it faithfully as He requires of us?

If I say, ‘The Lord has called me.’ Are you fulfilling that calling or do you look to see what other people are doing? You say, ‘The Lord called many of us, so I will just follow and do what they do.’ Each person has a different calling to another. Let us do what we have been called to do.

Abraham brought a sacrifice and he listened and followed each and every instruction.

10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 

Do you understand how close he was to God? He had an open ear to hear what God said. He was not stressed and anxious. I do not believe that he was waiting for the Lord to say, ‘No, I am just joking.’ He prepared the sacrifice as he was instructed. He took the knife and did each thing so that the smoke of the sacrifice could rise up to the Lord.

11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy 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.” 

You have not withheld that which is so precious to you, your only son.

How much is there that we have withheld from God? How much are we withholding from God? So many lose out on God’s blessing because they withhold what God requires. Although he loved what God had given him, he did not withhold it. Rather he said, ‘God, you have given me so much, I give it back to you.’

This son had no grudge against his father for wanting to do this to him. It is as if the Lord had prepared him even to understand and grasp the mysteries of the Lord.

That very thing which the Lord had sent to fulfil His promise, after many years, Abraham was willing to give up. That which is so precious to you, are you prepared to leave it on the altar? The knowledge that you have, are you prepared to put it on the altar to be burned? The unbelief that you have, are you prepared today to put it on the altar so that it can be burned? The criticism and fault finding, are you prepared to put it on the altar and admit that your heart is evil. That which you love so much, your children, are you prepared to put them on the altar? Are you willing to bring your family and put them on the altar? Your family who means so much to you that when someone suggest something to you about them you are unwilling to listen. Are you prepared to put them on the altar today? Your intellect, what you think you know, can you put it on the altar today? Many people are unable to walk this way because they follow their own intellect, but not God’s wisdom. If Abraham had walked in his own wisdom, surely his offering would have been wrong.

Are we able to bring that which is so precious to us to the altar to be burnt?

Young and old – your precious cell phone that you constantly carry in your hand, are you willing to put it on the altar so that it can be burned? That which is so precious to you and which you cannot let go of, can you bring it today and put it on the altar?

When the Lord gives you a whole loaf of bread - where previously you only had a few slices, are you willing and faithful to put God’s portion on the altar? If parents are unable to do that, what will they teach their children? If God blesses you with R5, do you give the Lord’s portion to Him or do you close an eye to what the Lord requires of you? If you have received something, do you only look at your own needs? Do you give God His portion? Being faithful means being faithful in the small things.

When the Lord takes you to your wardrobe and points out what you should sacrifice, you say, ‘I bought this here and there…’ The Lord knows that all, He wants you to be faithful. Are we faithful to what the Lord has shown us? Are we faithful to what the Lord has given us?

Look at what Abraham went through. He was tested to the utmost, the dearest, the most precious - his son. What have you done with what God has given you?

Are we faithful in that which the Lord has said to us? If we can hear God’s voice, then our path will be sure. Abraham could hear God’s voice and he was able to walk a straight way. If we are unable to hear God’s voice, we will keep on making mistakes. Abraham’s ear was inclined to God’s voice. He could even hear the voice when the ram was given to him.

Today is the day of Pentecost. May it be your prayer, your cry, ‘Lord, grant me Your Holy Spirit, so that I can be kept from making mistakes.’ The Lord Jesus promised, ‘I will go but I will send the Holy Spirit to give you what you need.’

When the Lord Jesus rose, He left an angel to tell Mary and the others that he had risen. The Lord left behind a witness. The Lord understood the need that Mary and the other women had on their way to the tomb. The Lord did it for their sake - when they did not know who would help them. 40 days after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven. The Lord did not do things as men would have done. The Lord prepared His children, His disciples and said, ‘I have to go, because if I do not go, I cannot send the Comforter.’ That is why I say that it is faith that sustains. The Lord Jesus went to heaven and sent his Holy Spirit to teach us the way. Let us cry out to be filled with the Holy Spirit; that we do not have mere doctrine, but the Holy Spirit who can teach us - so that we in turn can teach future generations.

The Holy Spirit has taught His children to pray at all times, this means even before driving in a vehicle and when you arrive at the destination to thank the Lord. Why? Because the Holy Spirit sustains and teaches His children.

Conclusion Albu van Eeden
We thank the Lord for this wonderful message. Faith is not a static thing – something that stands still. It is something that is alive. It continues to grow in us where God leads us.

If Abraham did not maintain a living relationship with God, they could have celebrated the day that Isaac was given to them, they could have had a public holiday for the day Isaac was born. The Christians of the first church were called the people of the Way. A way is not a place where you sit and settle down. A way is a place where you keep moving forward and if you do not move you are drawn to the world and you move closer to the world. It is a way because you follow in God’s footsteps - one step at a time. Abraham kept moving with God. The birth of Isaac would not be celebrated as a public holiday, but we would also celebrate the day Abraham placed his child on the altar, giving him to God and not keeping it for himself.

Are you still on the way or are you standing still spiritually? Because when you become stagnant all kinds of temptations will come your way. You cannot maintain your balance on a bicycle that is not moving. Why are you continually tempted by your cell phone and everything else you see? Is it not because you have stopped moving with God? You have stopped obeying God. We have heard precious truths today.

 

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