Pitching Tents and Building Altars
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Pitching Tents and Building Altars

Genesis 12:1–9  (ID: 1073)

All initiative, traced from creation to redemption, lies with God, and an obedient response to His call and purpose can have an impact far beyond what we can see. Abram ventured forth on a journey of faith in complete trust, committed to God’s purposes for him. Alistair Begg challenges us to consider what marks our own journey and urges us to hold lightly to what has been entrusted to us.

Series Containing This Sermon

Venturing in Faith

A Study on the Life of Abraham Genesis 11:1–22:24 Series ID: 22101

Sermon Transcript: Print

Will you please turn back with me to the portion of Scripture that we’ve just read together, Genesis chapter 12? And this morning, we’re going to focus our attention on the first nine verses of this chapter. And as we turn to that, let’s turn to the Lord in a moment of prayer:

O Lord, with our Bibles open before us, we lift our hearts and minds to you, pray that Holy Spirit may be our teacher and that we might walk in obedience to the things that you will share with us now from your Holy Word. Amen.

We began last time to look at the life of Abraham, one of the most significant men ever to walk across the stage of human history and also, and certainly so, in terms of the realm of biblical history. We spent most of last time looking at the remaining verses of Genesis chapter 11, sketching in the background of Abraham’s life. This man who became referred to as “the Friend of God”[1] was brought up in a family where there was moon worship, and from an idolatrous background, God called him to this unique position. And we noted last time that God was not hindered, not ultimately helped, by our backgrounds but that he was able, as he did with Abraham, to mold the life of his servant on account of the background that he enjoyed.

Now, chapter 11 ends in the thirty-second verse with the announcement of the death of Abraham’s father, whose name was Terah. He “lived 205 years,” and that is a fair length of time. Whether Abraham had deliberately delayed his departure or his progress until this family tie was loosened isn’t stated, and we needn’t really speculate concerning it. But what we can say is that the death of his father, the event in his life, prompted the activity which we now find described for us in the early verses of chapter 12 and then continuing through his life. In other words, the death of his dad as a fixed point in his life acted as something of a catalyst, then, for forward progress in the realm of faith. And many of us can look back to incidents in our lives that have been that kind of thing for us.

Now, this morning, I’d like us to pay particular attention to three factors which are outlined for you on your sermon notes. We’re going to look first of all at the call Abraham received from God, then at the commitment he made to God, and then, thirdly and finally, at the communion he enjoyed with God.

The Call Abraham Received from God

So, let’s begin: the call that Abraham received from God.

You will note that the initiative here lies with God—just as you begin reading your Bible, and in Genesis 1, where we read of the story of creation, the initiative lies with God. Here in the life of Abraham, as God calls the one who is going to become the father of all who have faith,[2] we discover a principle which runs throughout the Scriptures in relation not only to creation but also in relation to redemption, and that is that the initiative lies with God.

If you’re using an NIV, you will notice the phrase with which the chapter begins: “The Lord had said to Abram…” And immediately your mind says, “Well, I wonder when God ‘had said to Abram’…” Then, if you turn to Acts chapter 7, you will discover in a speech which Stephen made before the Sanhedrin a cross-reference which clarifies this historical context. When Stephen was speaking on that occasion, he replied to the questions asked of him, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.”[3] So what we pick up here in 12:1 is something that has its beginnings back in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the region of Mesopotamia, in an incident the details of which are not described for us. But obviously, it was something extremely significant.

Now, under this heading of Abraham’s call, I’d like you to notice two things—first of all, that it was a call to departure. A call to departure. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave … and go.’” Dr. Graham Scroggie, many years ago, preaching in Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh, made this comment: “The callings of God never leave a man where they find him. For to stay where he is after God has bidden him to move on is itself a backward movement, though he take no actual step.” Perhaps you’d like to note just that opening phrase: “The callings of God never leave a man where they find him.” And that was certainly true for this man Abraham.

In the life of Abraham, we discover a principle which runs throughout the Scriptures: the initiative lies with God.

It’s not easy, is it, to leave behind places that are dear to us? It’s not easy, is it, to leave family who are precious to us? It’s not easy, is it, to leave the country where we’re nurtured and where we belong and where all of us in roots lie? Is it? But that was God’s call to this man Abraham. In short, he said, “Abraham, I want you to leave behind everything that represents security to you, and I want you to make a huge new discovery. I want you to discover, Abraham, that your ultimate security doesn’t lie in your country of origin, doesn’t lie amongst your family circle, as important as it is, but lies, Abraham, in me.”

The hymn writer, writing of these things says, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in thee I find.”[4] “Thou, O Christ, art all I want”? You see, when we sing those hymns, some of us have to skip lines, don’t we? Lest we lie to ourselves; lest we give the notion that we are actually venturing in faith when in point of fact, we know very little of a progress on that kind of pathway. “But Abraham,” God says, “leave. Go.” So it was a call to departure.

Secondly, it was a call to discovery. If you look at the end of verse 1 and then into verse 2 and 3, you will discover what Abraham was about to encounter as he walked the pathway of faith. You notice these recurring phrases: “I will make you,” “I will bless you,” “I will make your name great,” “I will bless those who bless you,” and so on.

Now, under the second heading, which is under our first heading, I want to give you three other headings. And for those of you who don’t want headings at all, you needn’t worry about it. But for those of you who get frustrated by the fact and come and tell me that I give a couple of headings and then I charge off who knows where, I’d like to try and take you with me. So if you have notes, you have a thing that says “The Call Abraham Received from God.” You’ve got a subpoint which says it was “A Call to Departure.” You then have a second one which says it is “A Call to Discovery.” And now, under the word discovery, I’ve got three further points.

The first of which is this: Abraham was called to discover the place where God wanted him. Now, I found it interesting—and you may, too—to note the contrast between the very specific instructions given to him concerning his departure and then the more general statement concerning what he was about to discover. God says to him when he calls him to leave—he delineates things. He says, “I want you to leave your country.” Fine. “I want you to leave your people.” Got it. “I want you to leave your father’s household.” Okay. That’s straightforward. Then he says, “And I want you to go to the land I will show you.” “Where’s that?” “Well, you’ll find out.” So in other words, clear about what he was to leave behind, he was now to head for a place which God was going to make clear to him in time.

The writer to the Hebrews, in Hebrews 11:8, writing of these things, says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” That’s faith! You know, it’s one thing to be called to go and know where you’re going. It’s quite another thing to be called and say, “Get going, and I’ll tell you.” Abraham was called by God to exchange the known for the unknown.

That is unsettling. You move your school as a young person—you go from what is known, from friends you know, to a whole environment that is unknown—that’s a horrible feeling in the first morning that you go. At least, it has always been for me. You move your job where you’ve been for ten years to a different environment, and you feel strange the first morning you walk in. You may have felt strange in the ten years before every morning you walked in there, but it’s a different kind of strangeness to leave what is known to head for the unknown.

And you know, I believe that God is calling some of us this morning to make that kind of move, that God is speaking to our lives down through the years using a man, Abraham, and he’s saying to us, “As surely as I said to Abraham, ‘Leave, and go, and I will show you,’ I’m saying to you this morning that I have a place for you to be. I have an appointment for you to keep. I have a direction for you in your life such as you have not laid hold of yet.” And God speaks within our hearts. May I say to you that a refusal to move by faith at this point will leave us assuming security as we walk by sight and not by faith. And God calls us to head for the unknown by faith.

Eric Alexander, who will be one of the keynote speakers at Urbana this coming Christmastime, once said to a group of ministers, “There is no ideal place to serve God except the place in which he sets you down.” You may like to think of that. Because some of us may well be waiting for the ideal place, and then we’ll go: “When the Lord has the ideal place and the ideal circumstances, and I like it, and the climate’s fine, and everything’s great about it, then I’ll go, Lord. No problem! That’s easy.” Listen, my friend: God may call you to what you think is the ideal place with the ideal climate and the ideal circumstances and everything else, and you get there and find yourself surrounded by Canaanites as Abraham was. There is no ideal place to serve God except the place in which he sets you down. That’s why some pastors, they move here and there and everywhere. They’re heading for the ideal place and the ideal church. They’ll never, ever be there! For the only place they’ll find ideal is the one in which God sets them down.

Now, if it was a call to discover the place where God wanted him, it was equally so a call to discover the purpose God had for him. And that’s made clear in verse 2: “I will make you into a great nation and … I will make your name great.”

Now, think about that for a moment. Here is an individual, and he’s called by God to go, and he is called on the basis of faith to enter into all that God desires for him. And the first promise is “I will make you into a great nation.” Well, that’s not going to happen overnight, is it? No one man became a nation overnight. “I will make your name great.” How? When? Where? How great? Both of the things that God called Abraham to discover, do you know he never even experienced them? Abraham never eventually knew the greatness of his name. Abraham never knew that we’d be thinking about Abraham in Cleveland in twentieth-century America. He never even knew Christopher Columbus. He never knew this place! Abraham never saw the extent of what God was about to do with a man who was prepared to go where God said. And I say to you again this morning, young people: God has a place for you, and God has a purpose for you, and there is no peace, no joy, and no thrill that you will ever know in life like that privilege which is found in that place, fulfilling that purpose. And the very fact that we are studying him this morning is an indication that God fulfilled his promise.

So, God called him to discover the place he had for him, to discover the purpose he would use him for, and thirdly, to discover the pleasure that he was going to take in him. You notice the lovely phrases that come in these verses: “And I will bless you … and you will be a blessing.”

Wouldn’t it be nice just to be a blessing? Sometimes we’re the bane of our families’ lives. Sometimes we’re a nuisance. Sometimes we are a pain in the neck. Wouldn’t you like to be blessing for once? I would. Man, I would love it if someone would say, “Ah! What a blessing!” God says, “I’ll make you a blessing.” You can’t make yourself a blessing. I can’t make myself a blessing. I’ve made myself a blessed nuisance, but I can’t make myself a blessing. And will you notice that God chooses to bless him so that through him others may be blessed? Some of us are sitting around, we want to be blessed. We want to be blessed up to the buttons. Our whole ethos of life is getting blessed: this meeting, that meeting, this place, that concert, “Bless me, bless me, bless me!” We’re blessed—we’re drowning in it! And what’s the problem? We’re like a phenomenal, big sponge just going …. And the Holy Spirit needs to come along, get a right, good hold of us, and go …. Have you been … lately? That’s not a very nice thing to do with your mouth, and none of the children should copy it, but do you understand what I’m saying?

[John] Wesley said, “Give me a hundred men who hate nothing but sin and love God with all their hearts, and I will turn the United Kingdom upside down for Jesus Christ.”[5] Right? Now, we have approximately a thousand people who pass through here on a Sunday morning. Don’t you think God might turn the place upside down for Jesus Christ? If we would venture in faith, if we would make a discovery of the place in which he wants to use us, of the purpose for which he called us, and of the pleasure he desires to take in us.

The Commitment Abraham Made to God

Well, that’s the call he received. Will you notice, secondly, the commitment that he made?

Now, the very matter-of-fact way in which the author introduces this in verse 4 highlights its significance for us and drives home the forcefulness. Notice the first three words of verse 4: “So Abram left.” You take verse 1: “‘Leave your country, your people … your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ … So Abram left.”

Now, we might have wished for a little bit more. Is there no more background? What was going on? Sure, there must have been myriad other things that took place in his heart, but the baseline of it was this: God said, “Get going,” and Abraham got going. And the commitment that Abraham made at this juncture in his life had crucial significance for generations to come. You know, my friends, we will never know the effect—however apparently small it may be—we will never ultimately know the effect through our lives of being obedient to the call of God, so that God comes to us at a moment in time, and he says, “I want you to leave and to go,” whatever that might mean. Apply it for yourself.

Do you know that your great-great-great-grandchildren may one day arise and bless your name?[6] “Oh,” you say, “don’t let’s get carried away.” Listen, my friends. Listen to this little story here.

The year is between 1776 and 1786, and the man’s name is James Taylor. That will make some of you of my generation smile. As far as I know, this James Taylor did not sing—at least, he did sing, but not the same way as the present James Taylor sings. In any case, he was getting married. It was his wedding day. He was up very early in the morning. He was a stonemason, and he had things to do in his work before he got married. These were the good old days before you got a day off to get married, right? I mean, these were the days when the lands were strong and free. No time off for anything; just keep working, keep working. So he worked, took an hour off, got married, went back to his work. You know, that kind of thing.

Anyway, he was looking forward to his wedding. And as he worked away early in the morning, four or five o’clock in the morning, he was troubled in his spirit. And somehow, in his heart, there were words coming across his mind, and they were these: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”[7] And he tried to shake them off—said to himself, “This is no time to be thinking thoughts like this. This is my wedding day, and all the people are coming, and it’s going to be fun. I don’t want to be thinking about these sermons I’ve been hearing.” But he couldn’t shake it.

What had happened was Charles Wesley had moved through their area and had been used of God to stir up something of a great spirit of longing in the hearts of not a few people. And this young man knew that he was at the most important juncture in his life thus far. Suddenly, he was going to take a wife to himself. And he said as he worked, “I cannot say, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’” And he knelt down amongst the straw around which he was working, and he came to place his faith and trust in Christ. And he went into his wedding with a whole new discovery of what it means to say, “We will serve the Lord.” And the biographer says, “Thus the critical moments of life come with little warning, silently as the sunrise often, shedding Divine illumination upon things unseen. All unexpectedly, one day, we see as we have never seen before.”[8] Well, that’s good! And suddenly someone makes the discovery of life that they’ve lived without God.

We will never ultimately know the effect through our lives of being obedient to the call of God.

Now you say to me, “Why are you telling this story?” Well, the man’s name was James Taylor, and he was the great-great-great-grandfather of Hudson Taylor, the man who went and pioneered the work of missions in mainland China and as a result of whom, under God this morning, as we worship here, people are, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and out into mainland China—and indeed, my dear friends, there are some from mainland China in our congregation this morning that would never have known that as old great-great-great-grandpa Taylor knelt amidst the straw, God was lighting a candle in a family that would run through generations so that people would come to faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, you’ll never know, Sunday school teacher, what you’ve done. You’ll never know, as you look at those tiny lives that you pass through your care, the effect of generations that you will have.

You see, we live in such a quick-oriented society. We want everything now, everything up front. We want results now: “Give me them now! Let me see what’s happening! What are you going to make of me? When will my name be great? Will it be great tomorrow? How many people will there be?” My dear friends, we need to learn a different way, and we need to learn the kind of patience that Abraham needed as he committed his life to God.

Now, his commitment was marked by two things. It was marked first of all by absolute obedience. We don’t hear any questions, any complaints. We merely observe the obedience of his faith.

In this respect, he’s a great contrast to others who were called by God. You think of Moses in Exodus chapter 3, when God appeared to him there in the burning bush. You may even like to turn to it. And as you look at those verses, you discover that God comes, and he speaks to his servant just as, clearly, he had spoken to Abraham. And he says to him in Exodus 3:10, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Now, I can identify with Moses’s response a little better than I can with the unequivocal obedience of Abraham that we’ve just noted in Genesis 12:4. ’Cause notice what Moses says: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” And God comes back and reminds him of his presence with him.

We don’t have time to read through all of this, but into chapter 4 you will notice that God reveals himself to him in a quite remarkable way. He takes his staff; he throws it on the ground; it becomes a snake. He takes the tail of the snake; it becomes a staff. He takes his hand; he puts it in his cloak; it becomes leprous. He puts it back, and it becomes right again.[9] You’d think to yourself, “Goodness me, if anybody showed me all that stuff, I’d be off like a shot!” Now, wait a little minute! Not so hasty! And the Lord told him, and then verse 10: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’” And “the Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth?’” In other words, “Moses, you think I don’t know that? Do you think I’m sending you up there to Pharaoh because you’ve got the gift of the gab? Do you think I’m sending you up to Pharaoh because you’re some great, eloquent orator? I don’t need eloquent orators. I don’t need men with the gift of the gab. I may choose to take and clothe natural gift with spiritual gift, but I don’t need that natural gift. Moses, I’ll do through your stammering tongue such as you could never even imagine. Will you not get going?”

Now, I wanted to put that in by way of contrast, because many of us can identify with that kind of reticence far more than we can with Abraham’s obedience. But we’re going to see next Sunday morning that Abraham’s failure of nerve may not have been at the beginning, but it came fairly close afterwards.

But he went. And when he went, “he took his wife” (that’s reassuring), and he took “his nephew Lot,” and notice in verse 5: and “all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran.” Now, at first reading, we might think this strange. Some of us might think, “Well, surely if Abraham was out to venture in faith, he would leave behind all those possessions. Why wouldn’t he leave it all behind? They don’t mean anything to him anymore.” Not for a moment. He took them all with him. Why do think that’s mentioned?

Surely one reason must be simply this: that had he left things behind, they would have been such a pull to him to draw him back. They may have indicated to others that he wasn’t really going to venture in faith—that he was prepared to say, “Well, I’ll go, provided I can leave this here.” So he said, or he could’ve said to his friends, “Now, listen, I’m not too sure about this whole project, to tell you the truth. I’ve had this word I’ve got to go, you know, and I’m kind of halfway there. I got to Haran, and there’s a bit to go yet. And I’ve got a lot of stuff and a lot of people, and I want to leave some of this behind, because I may well be back. And I want to establish a halfway house here.” My dear friends, that’s not faith. Faith is going on a one-way ticket.

People say to me, “And how long do you think you’ll be in America?” I say, “Forever.” “Really?” Probably. I don’t have a return ticket.

“And how long do you think you’ll be in Canaan, Abraham?”


“Well, you mean you’re not going back?”

“No, I’m not going back.”

“Do you need any of that stuff?”

“I don’t need any of that stuff. All that I need I’ll take with me. All that I have will be gathered round me. And I’ll go in the way that God has for me.”

It was a call to absolute obedience. It was a call to total trust. His commitment was marked not only by “I will obey you, Lord” but “I will trust you.” And when we read these verses, they’re stark in their simplicity. He stepped out on the platform of God’s promise alone. And in that he stands in the line of Noah, who was before him, and is the forerunner of many who will follow him. And, my dear friends this morning, we will never learn to venture in faith till we learn to trust.

The place of communion, the place of blessing, is always and only in the place of obedience.

Do you know I believe that almost, as we stand on a Sunday morning like this and look out not only on our lives but look out on our Mondays, that God is saying two things to us, and maybe even one. The first is this: “Will you trust me?” “Will you trust me? Will you trust me with your unknown future? Will you trust me with your relationships, with your children, your parents. Will you trust me with your future? Are you prepared to do what I ask you because you trust me?” And “Will you obey me?” In a sense, as we bring up our children, those are the only two questions we need ask them: “Will you trust your dad? Now, will you do as I tell you?” And God, as our heavenly Father, looks upon our lives and asks us just the same.

The Communion Abraham Enjoyed with God

Finally, will you notice the communion that Abraham enjoyed with God? Verse 6 tells us that “Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem.” You take a concordance and look up those words, and you’ll find that here was a place of crossroads on a number of occasions in biblical times. And we read, “The Canaanites were [then] in the land,” but “the Lord appeared to Abraham.” He was aware of the Lord’s presence, and he was also aware of the fact that one plus God equals a majority.

And you see, some of us may have been prone to think that when Abraham got to Canaan, everything would be fine there. There’d be no problems. So we think that somehow, God wants to take us from here and move us there, because there is the—just everything’s great there. Listen: there’s only one place where everything’s great—really great, great, great—and that’s in heaven. And until then, it may be pretty great, but it won’t be really great.

And so he gets to Canaan, and there are the enemies there, and God appears to him again. Why? Because God knew his servant. And God knows us this morning. And God knows the fearfulness of our lives. God knows how we look out on our projects and our future and we look at our children and we covet them for Christ, and he knows the fear that may rise in our hearts, and he appears to us through his Word and in the friendship and fellowship of others to remind us of the communion we may enjoy with him. You see, the place of communion, the place of blessing, is always and only in the place of obedience.

Some of us may be sitting in church this morning, and we’ve lost our joy. We’re not what we once were. We were once on the forefront of the battle; now we’re somewhere away in the back and can’t be discovered. Once we were engaged in service and in commitment, once we could be called upon, once we were there and ready for action, but now we’re not. And we wonder why we don’t enjoy that communion.

My friends, God is speaking to our hearts this morning, and the Spirit is prompting us to identify with his servant Abraham and to do two things: pitch a tent and build an altar. You notice that that which he was keeping for himself was transient. He pitched a tent, but he built an altar. So he held lightly to the things which had been entrusted to him, and he held tightly to that which he had entrusted to God. And as surely as the history of Abraham may be discovered by looking at the altars which he raised in his life, our history may be too. My spiritual pilgrimage may be gleaned by discovering the altars which I have raised to God. And the life of a fellowship will one day be charted and explained by the fact that they understood that that which is seen is transient, and that which is unseen is eternal;[10] and therefore, they learned to hold tightly to what they couldn’t see, and they learned to hold lightly to what they could see. And therein, my dear friends, lies many, many of our problems. For we are unprepared to hold lightly to that which is transient, and we have such a grasp on it that we have no fingers left to hold tightly to that which we cannot see.

Can I say to you, young people—can I say to you, as you face the future of your lives, whatever they may hold—learn this if you learn nothing else: to hold tightly to that which God has deemed important and to hold lightly to the things which society says are the whole characteristic of a successful life. For when the balances are weighed at the gates of heaven, they’ll be very, very different. Oh, we pay lip service to it. We pay lip service to it.

Stepping Out in Faith

Our time is gone, and so we must conclude. Let’s finish with that picture in our minds, shall we, of Abraham striking camp, pulling up the tent pegs, moving on. Do you remember in the film of Fiddler on the Roof? Do you remember that picture as they moved out there, as the Russian troops came in and began to move them out? Phenomenally graphic picture—beautiful and heartrending as you saw the man load onto his carriage, in his truck—really an old farm cart—all that he had, his possessions, the bits and pieces; as he takes his wife in his arm and the remaining children, some of whom he’d already had to part with, and to head out to who knows where. That’s Abraham, with his wife under his arm, at his side in support and in strength. She called her husband lord.[11] We’ll come to that tonight. And with his children. Where was he going? Where God said. Why was he going? Because God called. What would it mean? Precious fellowship.

You’ll never do any more important thing in all your life than step out in faith as Abraham did and discover that God is true to his word.

Can I ask you as we close: When’s the last time you built an altar to the Lord? Oh, I don’t mean one of these little things out in your back garden somewhere. Maybe what I mean is: When’s the last time you went alone with God and had a spiritual cardiograph? When’s the last time you went alone with God and said, “Let’s sort things out at this juncture in my life, Lord. Let me review where I’ve been and where I’m going, and let this place, this car park here as I look over the city, this laundry as I work with my children at school and my husband at work”—whatever it might be—“Lord, may this place be hallowed ground. For I heard your call, and today I want to commit my life to you and walk in communion with you.”

I have a book here of Glasgow. It’s relatively precious to me. From time to time, I leaf through it and remember some of the places I’ve been. And in one particular photograph, there’s a picture of a huge, big clock. And if you ask me, I’ll show it to you. The clock was in the Tent Hall, which was a large building seating 2,200 people that was built following the arrival of Moody and Sankey in Glasgow. And it was in that large building that I had the privilege of growing up as a small boy and worshipping as a tiny unit in the midst of those crowds. And I was always intrigued by this huge, big clock. It really is a huge, big clock, such as I would never put in a church. It must have been put in by the elders or the deacons or somebody to try and cut the guy down on his time. But anyway… And around the clock it said, “It is time to seek the Lord.”

Now, this is a book that’s just published about Glasgow by a press photographer. And some months ago, I said to my dad, I said, “You’ll be interested in this book,” I said, “because there’s a huge, big clock in there, and it’s the big clock from the Tent Hall. Do you remember that, Dad?” He said, “Son, do I remember it?” He said, “Do you see where that man’s sitting beside the clock?” He said, “That’s where I was sitting when I was thirteen years of age and I committed my life to Jesus Christ.” And there he raised an altar to the Lord, and his children’s children may not only see the picture but will face the fact that you’ll never do any more important thing in all your life than step out in faith as Abraham did and discover that God is true to his word.

Let’s pray together:

Father, now take the response of our hearts, we pray, and grant that it may be that ordained by your Spirit. And oh, how I long, Lord, that you will, by your Holy Spirit, move in the hearts of all of us here today so that we may be pitching tents and building altars, so that that which lasts for eternity will be what you’ve created. Grant that you may fill our vision, that other things may be as nothing—the praise of men, the prominence of our status in life. We don’t neglect these things nor denigrate them, for we know that you’re at work in all kinds of ways. But we want to have a perspective, Lord. We want to hold lightly to what we should and hold tightly to who you are. Help us, for your name’s sake. Amen.

[1] James 2:23 (KJV). See also 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8.

[2] See Romans 4:11.

[3] Acts 7:2 (NIV 1984).

[4] Charles Wesley, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (1740).

[5] John Wesley to Charles Mather, quoted in Luke Tyerman, Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., Founder of the Methodists (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1870), 3:632. Paraphrased.

[6] See Proverbs 31:28.

[7] Joshua 24:15 (KJV).

[8] Howard Taylor and Mary Geraldine Guinness Taylor, Hudson Taylor in Early Years: The Growth of a Soul (London: Morgan and Scott, 1911), 6.

[9] See Exodus 4:3–4, 6–7.

[10] See 2 Corinthians 4:18.

[11] See 1 Peter 3:6.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.