#3 “Journey of Faith” Series
TEXT: Gen. 13:1-18; Prov. 9:17-18
INTRO: The idea of “choice” is more important that we like to think.
ILLUS: Near the close of the civil war a bowery bum had been found dead with a slashed throat. The derelict's name and address were misspelled on the hospital forms and the age had even been recorded incorrectly, but no one much cared ... he had obviously been a bum for some time by the looks of his body. The man had lived only to drink, when taken to the hospital at first he still was just barely alive, for 3 days he hung on and then passed away, the cause of death listed as: “malnutrition, alcoholism and loss of blood from the slashed throat.” Finally an old friend recognized the man as someone he knew, going through his coat pocket he found 38 cents and a scrap of paper ... enough money for one more night at the bowery, the note said, "Dear Friends and gentle hearts." Nothing more ... but before his death in 1864 this man who died at the age of 38 had written these songs: "CAMPTOWN RACES" … "OH SUSANNA" … "JEANIE WITH THE LIGHT BROWN HAIR" … "MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME" … and hundreds of other popular tunes. His name was Stephen Foster! The choices he made in his later years robbed him of the joy of life he could have experienced ... instead he chose the bottle which robbed him of his wealth, pride, success, happiness, and his eternal soul! – Source Unknown
Choosing once is not enough ... we must learn to make correct choices every day of our life if we are to live successfully for God, it is the choices we make that will make the difference between FULFILLMENT or EMPTINESS as a Christian ... and by the way, not choosing anything can be a choice to regress!
PROP. SENT: It is critical that we continue to choose correct godly ways everyday of our lives ... doing so once in a while is not enough, it is the daily choices that frame much of our happiness or sorrow in life, so learn to choose wisely!
I. A LEARNER OF PAINFUL CHOICES! Gen. 13:1-4
A. Repentant Gen. 13:1
1. We find at the start of this chapter a man named Abram who has clearly started off again with correct choices ... he is back on the correct course!
2. This indicated genuine REPENTANCE!
3. Real repentance means a change in direction ... not just sorrow over the sin committed. It means getting on the correct course again!
book with Ken Blanchard, Everyone's a Coach, Don Shula tells of losing his
temper near an open microphone during a televised game with the
Shula could have given excuses, but he didn't. Everyone who included a return address received a personal apology. He closed each letter by stating, "I value your respect and will do my best to earn it again."
There are two ways to gain respect. One is to act nobly. The other is, when you fail to do so, to make no excuses. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1.
4. Without change repentance is not real!
5. Abram had learned his lessons well in Egypt, he was back on course now and would stay there!
6. The tragedy of some Christians is when they learn a painful lesson and then they later repeat the same bad choices again ... and it results in the same pain or worse ... the Bible calls this "a dog that returns to its own vomit!" Prov. 26:11
7. Much pain in our lives can be avoided by learning from painful choices we made AND NOT REPEATING THEM!!!
B. Renewal Gen. 13:2-4
1. Abram picks up from the place
he had make the poor choice to go to
2. He renews his relationship with God, and in the place he left from!
3. This renewal helped to
restore him to the place he had before the poor choices of
4. Repentance should be followed by renewal! Otherwise the incentive for change might not get a good chance to settle in!
5. Abram presents a good lesson
for us today, he returned to the "HOUSE OF GOD" and restored his FELLOWSHIP WITH
GOD ... as well as returning to the proper road IN the
6. Restoration is not complete until we have worshipped at that first altar and renewed our relationship!
ILLUS: A sentence in one of the books [I was reading on osteoporosis prevention] struck me most: "Like all living tissue, bone is constantly being broken down and reformed." The words seemed to apply not only to our bodies but to the perpetual Christian emphasis on brokenness. Repent! Confess! Acknowledge your sinfulness! I grow tired of this continual retracing of steps, impatient for the beckoning road ahead. But it was the word living that leaped out at me. It's living tissue that is continually torn down and rebuilt. As long as my relationship to God is alive, this biological fact seems to suggest the tearing-down process will be part of it. The confession of sin, the admission of guilt, will go hand in hand with renewal. ... There can be no growth without pruning, no rebirth without death. -- Elizabeth Sherrill in Journey into Rest. Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 7.
7. Abram had learned his lessons of pain well ... no more side trips for him, it was back to the house of God and that simple altar!
II. A LESSON OF PROBLEM CONDITIONS Gen. 13:5-9
A. Resources Gen. 13:5-6
1. One of the problems that now surfaces however happens because of something he brought with him from Egypt ... its wealth!
ILLUS: No power on earth or under earth can make a man do wrong without his consent. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
2. The wealth he had received from Egypt which included cattle and other beasts were now a source of problems for his family!
b. These new found resources that came from poor choices continues to cause problems in the family ... however, God was using these circumstance to separate Lot from Abram ... that was the original call for Abram anyway!
c. It goes to show that if God gave some of us what we think we want (big bucks!) it could easily cause more problems that what it solves!
B. Resentment Gen. 13:7
1. The resentment between Abram’s and Lot’s servants heats up, putting Uncle and Nephew at odds with one another!
2. There is little doubt that this resentment had filtered down to their servants!
a. Don't kid yourself ... if you resent some other believer and speak that in front of your kids or act it out you are likely to raise them to your same level of resentment!
b. Attitudes DO FILTER DOWN ...that is why church leadership is critical about attitudes and actions!
ILLUS: Chrysostom says, the way is good if it is the way to a feast, even though it goes through a dark and miry lane. If it goes to an execution it is not good, even though it goes through the fairest street of the city. Non qua sed quo. Not the way but the end is to be mainly considered. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
3. We must guard our heart toward other believers that we don't resent what they have ... whatever they have they have temptations commensurate with those other things ... we all face temptations ... and the need of CHOICES!
C. Resolution Gen. 13:8-9
1. The character of godliness really shows in Abram and how he handles this uncomfortable situation!
a. His priorities were in correct order, notice his first words!
b. "We are brothers..." Abram’s first recognition is that of spiritual ties.
c. Abram allows his nephew first choice of any and all land around him, he takes on the role of being a giver and being willing to sacrifice for the sake of relationship!
2. This was an obvious change from his earlier attempt to sacrifice his wife to Pharaoh to save his own skin ... he had learned well! He would not repeat the error of those earlier choices!
a. Choices here extend into the future, hence why it is important what we choose now.
ILLUS: In St. Louis, MO. there is a railroad switchyard. One particular switch there begins with just the thinnest piece of steel to direct a train away from one main track to another. If you were to follow those two tracks however you would find that one ends in San Francisco and the other ends in New York, two very different destinations, all because of one tiny switch in a switchyard in the middle of the country! Here is where God's Word comes in, it directs us to a very different destination than this world offers, but we can't stay on the right track unless we make the choice to switch the track from this world to eternity. What's your destination? -- Source - Unknown
b. Small choices can lead to very different destinations later.
3. Becoming the lesser for the greater good was in action. Now it is Lot who must make some choices, we are about to find out how constant choices do affect our future life!
III. A LOT OF POOR CHOICES! Gen. 13: 10-13; Prov. 9:17-18
A. Rebel! Gen. 13:1O-11
1. You would think that after Lot witnessed the humbling of Abram in Egypt he would understand the dangers of moving toward a worldly solution.
a. But, Lot chooses the best looking land ... his first thoughts were "ME" … "I'm going to get my goodies too ... you're not the only one Abram who can get rich by the help of a foreign government."
b. He was going for all the gusto, the best, the finest, the most ... he was choosing to bless himself!
2. God was not forcing him toward Sodom and Gomorrah ... Lot chose this!
a. With regard only for himself he sets out!
b. These choices are going to affect his entire life!
3. When we become a rebel at heart our choices will usually reflect that ... no matter how much preaching we do, a rebel is going to rebel if they have chosen that attitude!
a. It will become obvious in their desires, which usually mean making "ME" #1!
ILLUS: I love
Jesus, but want to hold on to my own friends even when they do not lead me
closer to Jesus. I love Jesus, but want to hold on to my own independence even
when it brings me no real freedom. I love Jesus, but do not want to lose the
respect of my professional colleagues even though their respect does not make me
grow spiritually. I love Jesus, but do not want to give up my writing, travel,
and speaking plans even when they are often more to my glory than
God's. -- Henri
J.M. Nouwen, from his diary; in New
c. These are choices that will bring him great sorrows later in life!
B. Regress! Gen. 13:12-13; Prov. 9:17-18
1. Instead of learning from Abram's experience he seeks to duplicate it!
2. At least when Abram was caught in his lie he was humbled and returned to a correct course ... Lot was moving in the wrong direction!
3. It is unfortunate ... but even those who have known the Lord for a long time can take a wrong turn down a bad route!
a. Others can usually tell because the main attitude reflected is THE "I" ATTITUDE!
b. Nothing is more miserable than a selfish Christian!
c. This road only leads away from the “HOUSE OF GOD” toward the world.
4. Spiritual regression is the result of poor choices ... we only have ourselves to blame for such choices, THE DEVIL DIDN'T MAKE YOU DO IT, nor did YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST MAKE YOU DO IT!
a. We each are responsible for the choices we make in life ... and we will answer to God for the choices ... no excuses will be acceptable at the throne!
ILLUS: It is difficult to be honest about the choices we make. Rather than "I decided to ..." we say, "God directed me to..." When things don't work out as we had hoped, we point the finger of blame at lack of faith or disobedience to God's plan. We rarely stop to consider whether the decision itself was unwise. Seeking direction from the Lord is certainly appropriate, but making choices is ultimately our responsibility. -- Kurt D. Bruner in Responsible Living in an Age of Excesses. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 6.
c. LET'S STOP LIVING IN A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY ... the choices we make today CAN HAVE PROFOUND IMPACT on our kids and our future!
5. You are either growing or regressing ... God doesn't stand still and if you are not walking close to Him, you are getting farther and farther away from Him just by standing still!
6. Like in Proverbs 9:17-18, Lot was lured by the "SWEET LIFE" waiting in these rich cities of Sodom and Gomorrah ... but the price will prove to have been higher than all the riches of the plains later!
7. The temptations of the world look and feel wonderful at first ... but the poison they leave in our system can cause long-term pain and damage! CHOOSE WISELY AND AVOID THE FALL-OUT THAT WILL SURELY COME!
8. YES THERE IS CLEANSING ... BUT THERE MAY STILL BE CONSEQUENCES TOO!
IV. A LORD OF PROMISE CALLS! Gen. 13:14-18
A. Reaffirmation Gen. 13:14-17
1. The Lord quickly comes to Abram and affirms His Word to him ... to make good on the earlier promises now that Abram is in the right place again!
a. God affirms Abram’s position in Him
b. God affirms the land He
promised him ... including the land
2. You can almost feel the peace and sweet presence of God in Abram!
3. There is nothing like being in the right place and with the right heart toward God ... NOTHING IS AS WONDERFUL AS THIS!
4. Keep your wealth, keep your worldly promises ... I like going to sleep at night knowing all is right in my heart with my God!
5. God leaves Abram with an invitation: “GO WALK THROUGH THE LAND, THE ENTIRE LENGTH AND BREADTH OF IT ... FOR I AM GIVING IT TO YOU!”
6. What Abram had given away to
heal a relationship with
7. WE CAN NEVER LOSE WITH CHOOSING GOD OVER ANYTHING ELSE!
8. How sweet this new fellowship with God must have seemed ... the very presence of God visited him in the right place, with the right heart, and it was sweet!
ILLUS: The teachings of Christ reveal him to be a realist in the finest meaning of that word. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find anything visionary or overoptimistic. He told his hearers the whole truth and let them make up their minds. He might grieve over the retreating form of an inquirer who could not face up to the truth, but he never ran after him to try to win him with rosy promises. He would have men follow him, knowing the cost, or he would let them go their ways. -- A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 1154.
9. The house of God is either a place of sweet fellowship for you or a place of resentment!
b. Abram could not move until he heard from God!
c. These basic attitudes that they show here will affect their future choices and the resulting consequences!
B. Response! Gen. 13:18
1. So Abram MOVED by God's
orders to the great trees of Mamre at
3. They had both witnessed God's presence when leaving UR ... they had the same family background, the same resources, the same teaching, the same travel plans, the same God ... but LOT'S CHOICES WILL PROVE DISASTROUS even though he is later genuinely repentant ... while Abram's CHOICES WILL PROVE REWARDING, not just for him but for generations to come ... and even for the presentation to the world of the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST!
4. We must not underestimate the smallest choices we make ... they chart our course through time ... they bring us nearer to God or closer to the world where we feel miserable!
ILLUS: Max Jukes lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or in Christian training. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked to go. He has had 1,026 descendants; 300 were sent to prison for an average term of thirteen years; 190 were public prostitutes; 680 were admitted alcoholics. His family, thus far, has cost the state in excess of $420,000. They made no contribution to society.
Jonathan Edwards lived in the same state, at the same time as Jukes. He loved the Lord and saw that his children were in church every Sunday, as he served the Lord to the best of his ability. He has had 929 descendants, and of these 430 were ministers; 86 became university professors; 13 became university presidents; 75 authored good books; 7 were elected to the United States Congress. One was vice president of his nation. His family never cost the state one cent but has contributed immeasurably to the life of plenty in this land today. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 195.
5. LET'S ALSO BE HONEST ... OUR CHOICES ARE OUR CHOICES ... we must quit blaming others for the choices we make! I've seen some very bad examples of Pastors, but that will not excuse me being one ... if anything it should drive me to prove otherwise!
6. What have been your responses to God, what kind of choices are you making?
7. Where are these choices taking you!? DO YOU REALLY UNDERSTAND HOW POWERFUL "CHOICE" IS? OUR WHOLE FUTURE AND OUR CHILDREN'S CAN LITERALLY BE ALTERED BY THOSE CHOICES WE MAKE TODAY ... SO CHOOSE WISELY! CHOOSE GODLY!
CONCLUSION: The most basic of choices we make will affect our long term function as a Christian. Choosing the right things for the right reasons will also affect the everyday vitality of our faith and walk with God! Each day we must continue to choose the right way and with the right heart!