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A Costly Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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May 6, 2022 1:00 am

A Costly Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 6, 2022 1:00 am

After backsliding in Egypt, Abraham returned to God. Yet his renewed faith is tested again during a dispute about the land. In this message, we meet two men—Abraham and his nephew, Lot—at the impasse of faith. Let’s learn from Abraham why we do not have to manipulate circumstances or insist on our own rights. God has our lives in His hands.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. After backsliding in Egypt, Abraham is back in fellowship with God. His renewed faith is seen clearly during a dispute with his nephew Lot. Today, why we don't have to manipulate circumstances, since God has our lives in His hands.

Stay with us. 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. Pastor Lutzer, it seems today's teaching will show that feathering one's own nest is not always the best policy. Dave, I have to tell you that this account of Abraham and Lot is fraught with lessons. It has to do with the fact that Lot saw, and the things that he saw, it says, reminded him of Egypt. So when he went into Egypt, Egypt got into his heart. Wealth got into his heart.

So he chose the best pasture land. And Abraham here, God bless him, he's willing to allow his nephew to make the choice that he wants to make. But it's how it all ended that is important. I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. I wrote that so that we might be able to understand much better the ideas that guide Islam, also what is happening in America as we think about Islam here among us, and we think of the many people who have been integrated into our culture. How should we relate to all that? It also has stories, by the way, of those who have been in the Muslim faith who have come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. So it's a book of information, but also a book of hope. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let's go back to the life of Abraham and the consequences of a good choice and a bad choice. Sometimes we sing that song, I've decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.

No turning back. But the minute we begin to follow Jesus, God brings tests into our lives, no question about it. And the test always has the same essence, the same principles behind it. The question is, are we going to follow God's way or our way? That's the basic bottom line. Are we going to make a decision on faith or simply on the basis of sight?

Are we going to do what is right or are we going to do what is expedient? That's always the question when God tests us. Genesis chapter 12, you may turn to that in your Bibles. Last time we learned that God allowed Abraham to go into Egypt and there he lied. He failed the test. He got sent out of Egypt by the Pharaoh himself. Nothing as tragic as when pagans discover unethical behavior in the lives of people who supposedly are following God. Abraham lost his testimony in Egypt. He lost his altar in Egypt. But he comes back and today we're in chapter 13 of the book of Genesis.

And the Bible shows us how he was restored to God despite his sin. You'll notice it says in verse 3 of chapter 13, now Abraham was very rich in livestock and silver and gold and he journeyed on from the Negev. When you come across that word, it really means the south.

Lots of desert there in the south. As far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning between Bethel and Ai to the place where he had made an altar at first. Notice the words beginning and first. God leads us back to where we got off track with him. He gives us a new beginning because he is the God of new beginnings. So Abraham here is restored to God. The altar is back. Fellowship with God is back. And then that lovely phrase that occurs over and over again and Abraham called on the name of the Lord. What a wonderful description of what prayer really is. Well, he flunked that test, but thankfully he's back in fellowship with God. But now God is going to bring another test into his life and that test is going to have to do with the land very, very specifically. Here's what happens.

Let's pick up the text. It says that Lot, verse 5, who went with Abraham also had flocks and herds and tents so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together. For their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abraham's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock and at that time the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling in the land.

Wow. Strife. Abraham and Lot are going to part. They're going to part company even though they are kinsmen. They're going to see things differently.

They're going to split. Many of us don't believe that the church actually is in the Old Testament. It is there maybe in seed form, but many people have looked at this and rather humorously concluded that this chapter represents at least the beginning of the Baptist church.

Now I've been a Baptist for five and a half years as a pastor of a church and I love the Baptist very much and if you can't say that, don't tell this story that I'm going to tell you. There is a story of a Baptist who got washed up on an island and he was there for 20 years, no contact with human beings until some people found him and they said, show us around the island, which he was very glad to do. And they noticed that there were three huts. And so they said to him, what's in this hut? He said, that hut is the one in which I live.

He said, that's fine. They said, what's the other hut? He said, the second hut is where I go to church. And they said, and what's the third hut? And he said, that's where I used to go to church.

Lighten up, you Baptists. Splitting, strife, not able to agree. And so what happens in this text is we have a very interesting insight into human nature and into the character of these two men. Now let's read the text and we'll find out that Lot actually is the one who made an incredible choice. But listen to the text. You'll notice it says in verse eight, then Abraham said to Lot, let there be no strife between you and me and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. It's not the whole land before you, separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I'll go to the right.

If you take the right hand, then I'll go to the left. Wow. Abraham defers to Lot. We most assuredly would not expect that that comes as a big surprise for at least a couple of reasons. First of all, Abraham is older than his nephew Lot. It was because of Abraham that Lot had the blessings of many cattle and wealth because he got in on some of Abraham's blessing and his expertise. That's one reason why Abraham should have most assuredly, we would think, choose, and then let Lot take whatever was left over. But there's another reason why we should be surprised at how magnanimous, magnanimous, I hope I got that correctly, that Abraham was. We should be surprised because God gave Abraham the land. It says in chapter 12, verse 7, the Lord appeared onto Abraham and said, to your offspring, I will give this land. God gave him the title deed to the land and said, the land is yours. Abraham might have thought since the land is mine, of course I should take the best pasture land.

I should get first dibs. But notice what he says to his nephew. You choose whatever you want and I'll take whatever is left over. Faith is able to handle strife because faith said, I don't need what I have coming to me right now. Faith says, I don't have to insist on my rights. Faith says, I believe in the invisible God and his promises. Faith means I don't have to fight for what I think I own.

Faith believes in another world and faith believes in God. And so faith is able to solve this strife. Abraham differs to Lot. Lot now has a choice before him and Lot chooses to defer to greed. You'll notice that the text says that verse 10, Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the Garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt in the direction of Zor.

And then in parentheses, how ominously this occurs. Now that was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Wow. You say, well, today the Jordan Valley maybe is good, but it's not exactly like the Garden of Eden. Well, evidently before that destruction and in those times it was very beautiful. And notice that it also says like Egypt, Egypt along the Nile River. You see, when Lot was in Egypt with his uncle Abraham, Abraham was able to pull himself out of Egypt, bounce back into fellowship with God and go on.

Lot wasn't. There was something in Egypt that Lot coveted and that covetousness came out now in this choice. So you'll notice that Lot sees the wonderful pasture land, the possibility of gardens.

He visualizes his livestock in grass as high as their legs. And so Lot chooses for himself. I want everyone listening at this point, especially the young people, the teenagers. But if you're younger than that, you listen.

And if you're older than that, I want you to listen even more carefully. There's a phrase there in verse 11 that every Bible should have underlined. It says Lot chose for himself.

Wow. And in those four words, you have the destruction of many a life. The tragedy of many a life can be found in those four words. He chose for himself.

And that's the whole story. We think of some of the terrible marriages that have taken place because someone decided that rather than consulting God, he would choose for himself. We think of some of the bad business arrangements and the bad business ethics that people have stooped to because they would choose for themselves. We think of the entertainment that some people get into and the addictions that come as a result of that because somebody said I'm going to choose for myself.

And there Lot experienced the law of unintended consequences. Suppose we were to interview Lot and we'd say, Lot, tell us why you made the decision. He'd say, well, number one, opportunity. What a great opportunity my uncle is giving me. And furthermore, I don't feel guilty because, you know, he told me to make the choice. Opportunity.

Secondly, prestige and position. Because later on, he's going to be there in Sodom and he's going to have a position in Sodom. He's not going to live in a tent anymore. He's not going to be able to sing this world is not my home.

I'm just a passing through. He's no longer a pilgrim. He now lives within the city. He's a city dweller.

Nothing wrong with being a city dweller, but he was content in Sodom and received prestige in Sodom. But unintended consequences were on the way. There is the story of the president of a large company who was going to build a series of buildings. And so he farmed it out to various bidders, to various contractors.

And you know how the process works. The contractor that submits the best bid, probably the lowest cost with proof that he will do the best job usually wins. So one of the contractors was going to submit his bid. It was the last day for bids and he walks into the president's office and no one is there.

The room is empty. So he thinks to himself, I don't know where the president is. And he looks on the desk and there on the desk of all things of the president is an open bid from his most interesting and greatest competitor. And he thinks to himself, if I could just see the number that he came in on and if I come in just a little less than that, almost assuredly, I'll get the big business.

Problem was that right on that number on the application was a can of soda pop. He thought to himself, what am I going to do? Nobody's around. He walks the hallways, looks in the office again. The president is nowhere to be found. And he's thinking, should I or shouldn't I?

Should I or shouldn't I? So he decided that he would. He decided that what he would do is to lift the can of pop really fast, look at the number and then put it down. And he does that. And when he does that, hundreds of BBs spill out onto the table and drop onto the floor. That is the law of unintended consequences. When the Bible says that Lot lifted up his eyes and saw and chose for himself, Lot did not realize that entailed in that decision were some terrible, terrible, terrible consequences.

Let's look at them. First of all, Lot lost his testimony in Sodom. He's there as a judge at the gate.

He's being honored. And when the men surround his house, he's willing to actually give them his daughters for this terrible, terrible kind of perverted sexuality. He's willing to give them his daughters. And when he told his son-in-law, God is going to judge this city, the Bible says they thought he was joking.

Wow. No testimony. No altar in Sodom and Gomorrah. He lost his testimony. He lost his family. He lost his wife who turned back into a pillar of salt. And in the end, he lost his character.

He ends up in a cave committing incest with his two daughters. He did not know that all of those things would happen because he chose for himself opportunity, prestige, but at what price? Now, it's interesting that Lot succumbed to a very respectable sin. There are some sins that are not respectable. For example, sins of the flesh are generally regarded as not respectable. But sins of the Spirit are oftentimes extolled.

They are they are honored. Greed is good, we read. Greed makes capitalism work. Nothing wrong with covetousness because actually, if you see your neighbor have something, what's wrong with wanting the same thing and working until you get it?

Those are sins of the Spirit, respectable sins. Back in the days of the Reformation, when Martin Luther was complaining about some of the abuses of the church, a cardinal was sent to him to buy him off. And the cardinal was told, tell Luther to shut up and in order to encourage him to do that, we'll give him some gold, use money to bribe him. Cardinal wrote back to the pope and said, the fool doesn't love gold.

The fool doesn't love gold. It couldn't be bought off. It is sometimes those respectable sins that cause tremendous problems in families. Families have been split over inheritances. They've been split because of money. You weigh big money in somebody's face and even a rational Christian can become unrealistic and can become greedy and manipulative. Money has that power.

It has the power to seduce because it makes all of the same promises that God does. I'll be with you in sickness and in health. I'll be with you if the economy collapses.

I'll be with you. And so what you have here is Lot choosing in the direction of wealth and power and look at where he ended. I might also add that Lot ended in sensuality, which is usually where wealth and power ends up. What a story. Many lessons for us to learn. And you know, speaking of lessons to learn, I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. I wrote this book because it was my privilege to visit Turkey in the year 2009. And I discovered that there are no churches in Turkey that are visible, rather only mosques. And I asked myself the question, does this mean that Jesus Christ is weak? Why was it that God allowed Islam to basically crush the church? And I remember going back to where we were staying and I wrote on the back of an envelope seven or eight lessons that I thought we could learn as Americans from the non-existent churches in Turkey, churches to whom Jesus wrote personal letters.

The result eventually was the book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. For a gift of any amount, we are making this resource available to you. Here's what you can do.

Go to Now, perhaps I said that too quickly. I'm going to be giving you this info again. But let me tell you in advance, we want to thank you for your support of this ministry.

We're in four different languages in 20 different countries. Thanks to you. Here's what you can do. Go to Or if you prefer, you can call us right now.

You can call 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Personal evangelism is Tim's focus today, and Dr. Lutzer, he takes issue with your approach.

Here's his question. Why did Dr. Lutzer say we have to earn the right to witness to someone? I can witness after getting acquainted for less than three minutes. It's not our power we're depending on, but the Holy Spirit. If you'd known on September 10th, 2001, that almost 3,000 people would die the next day, and it was up to you to share the Gospel with them, what would you tell them?

You wouldn't have two or three years to build a friendship or a relationship with them. Tim, I just want you to know that I do agree with you, and I'm sure that whatever it is that I said, it has to be repeated in context. The fact is, often I've witnessed to people in three minutes, and particularly in situations like on the plane where I've not had an opportunity to get to know people, in contexts I've met people and have witnessed to them almost immediately if there's some kind of a bridge that can be built. But at the same time, Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven. What Jesus was saying is that it's not only by our words, it's by our deeds and our friendship. It is in these ways that we gain authenticity and a sense of integrity. And while it is true that we can witness to people in a few moments as God opens their hearts, it's also true that there are many people who will not come to saving faith in Christ, many people who have been deeply wounded by the church, and they probably will not be open to hear the gospel until you have established a sense of credibility, friendship.

And once they know that you care, that will go a long way to having them think about what you have to say. So that's the balance, and I hope that all of us keep it. We are ready in season and out of season to witness, but at the same time, we live lives that glorify God that eventually attract the unsaved to the gospel message. Thank you, Tim, for your question. Dr. Lutzer, thank you for that balanced answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life.

Our culture says, look out for number one. Lot got first pick of the land, but it led to his ruin. Next time on Running to Win, why God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-22 19:42:53 / 2023-04-22 19:51:17 / 8

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