Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Abraham lets his nephew Lot pick the land he wants and agrees to take what's left over. Lot quickly chooses the best, even though it would lead to ruin. Today we learn that God gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.
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 was lot wrong in choosing what he thought was the best land for himself. Dave, I find this to be a fascinating story simply because it gives us an insight into human nature. We know that when there was a famine in the land, Abraham, Sarah and Lot went into Egypt. And now when Abraham gives Lot the opportunity to choose whatever land he wishes, the Bible says that Lot chose the best land because it reminded him of Egypt. My point?
Lot never got Egypt out of his heart. And of course, it's a great reminder that we can make a decision that we think is good and it can have terrible consequences. You know, I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, and I wrote the book to help us to understand some of the choices that we have to make regarding freedom of religion, regarding our friendship with our Muslim neighbors. I think it will be a great blessing to you. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you can do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 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 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 to 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. The cardinal wrote back to the pope and said, the fool doesn't love gold.
The fool doesn't love gold. He 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. That's the consequences of lots choice. What about the consequences of Abraham's choice? Notice that the text says in verse 14, the Lord said to Abraham after a lot had separated from him.
You remember chapter 12 verse one. God says, Abraham, leave your family and your kindred. He didn't leave his dad behind. He brought his dad as far as her ran and then his dad dies. And then he comes into the land with a lot.
And now lots, strictly speaking, should not have been a part of his entourage. But now that law has gone his own way, God and Abraham are alone. And notice what the text has to say about what God gave him. God says to him, verse 14, lift up your eyes. You say, well, pastor Luther, that's exactly what lot did. You'll notice it says in verse 10, a lot lifted up his eyes.
Both of them lifted up their eyes. What's the difference? Big difference.
The difference is this. One of the men lifted up his eyes and saw what he wanted and took it. The other lifted up his eyes and he saw what God gave him.
What a difference there is between what you take and what God gives you. So Abraham lifts up his eyes. God says, Abraham, you remember that promise I gave you when you first came into the land.
I'm going to expand upon that promise. The Lord says to him, lift up your eyes, look from the place where you are. Northward, southward, eastward, westward, for all the land that you see, I will give it to you and to your offspring forever.
I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can be counted. Arise, walk in the land. And what does Abraham end up doing? He builds an altar onto the Lord.
What a different ending to a story. Notice that God now expands the promise geographically. He says, as far as you can see and as far as you can walk, the land is going to be yours. God expands the promise numerically. He says, you can't count the dust of the earth in the very same way. No one is going to be able to count your seed. He even expands the promise durationally. Not sure if there's a word like that, but there is now. God says, I'm going to give it to you forever.
Olam in Hebrew. We're going to have to discuss that at some point. God says, I'm giving it to you as a possession. I'm going to even expand the promise experientially.
Go ahead and walk along the length and the breadth of the land. Enjoy it. It's going to be yours. And Abraham is going to die without a single square foot belonging to him except that which he purchases to bury himself and his wife and his family. But he dies in faith.
He lives with delayed promises. Let's talk about our decision. First of all, let me remind you of this, that the choice that you and I make today determines the kind of person we will be in the future. The choice that you make today determines the kind of person that you will be in the future.
How important those choices are. Many of us know Larry Poland who works in Hollywood trying to get executives befriending them and Hollywood producers befriending them and sharing the gospel with them. And he told us the story of a man who was converted out of a difficult lifestyle, very well known in Hollywood. And he was having lunch with Larry one day and he said, you know, Larry, he says, I can't understand it. He said, I accepted Christ as my savior.
Maybe it was six months ago. And he says, I tell people for what Jesus has done for me. I tell them what he's done for me. And they all say, you know, you're crazy.
You're crazy. Now he said, for years I lived, went through three marriages. My kids were on drugs. I was an alcoholic and nobody looked at me and said, Hey, you know, you're crazy. He said, now he said, I'm finally loving my wife for the first time. I'm off of alcohol and I'm connecting with my kids and I know that my sins are forgiven before God.
And now I'm being told I'm crazy. You see the kind of decisions that you make determine the character that you're going to be. If you want to be a character with deceit in your life and wrong values in your life and you make those decisions, you will end up either like Abraham following God or you and I could end up like Lot doing our own thing, choosing for ourself and living with tragic, tragic consequences, not just for us, but for others too. As a matter of fact, the decision that you make today determines where you will spend eternity because Jesus made it very clear that if you trust me as savior, your eternity is assured. Whereas if you neglect that, if you reject what Jesus wants to do for you or can do for you, if you reject that, then in eternity, you're on your own. And eternity is a very, very long time. Watch your choices because the choice that you make today determines the kind of person that you will be tomorrow.
Second lesson. When we believe God, we please God. When we believe God, we please God. Abraham in the scripture is spoken of two times as the friend of God. Wouldn't that be awesome to have on your tombstone?
A friend of God. Wow. Most of us would never think of asking that that be on our tombstone because we know right well that that's, that's more than we really are. In fact, you ought to be thinking about what you want on your tombstone. If you're over 50, you should be thinking about it. You say, well, pastor, do you know what you want on your tombstone? No, I'm not 50 yet, you see. I looked into the mirror the other day and I said to Rebecca, honey, I don't look 63, do I? She said, no.
No, you sure don't, but you used to. But I've often thought about my tombstone. Imagine being called a friend of God, and this is what the Bible says, he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he rewards those who diligently seek him out without faith. It is impossible to please God. The reason that Abraham could say to Lot, you choose and I'll take the leftovers is because Abraham could turn his back on wealth. He could turn his back on prestige and he could turn his back on opportunity because he trusted God and did not dare choose for himself. He allowed God to make the choice and so he could do it in faith. You say, well, pastor Lutzer, how much faith do we really need? Well, faith even as a grain of mustard seed, Jesus said, and even the faith that we have is really a gift of God.
That's why Abraham receives no praise in all of this. God even granted him the faith, but if you find within your heart today a drawing towards Christ, pursue it. God may be pursuing you so that you come to him in faith and you can come as the words of the hymn say, just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within and fears without O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Come with your doubts.
Come with your unanswered questions. And then having come, we can all sing with authority. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back the world behind me, the cross before me, because we're going to follow him every step of the way. Think of what Abraham got when he followed God. When he went to Haran, God waited for him. When he got messed up in Egypt, God restored him.
When he walked in obedience, God blessed him because he believed, he believed that there were some things more important than sight and that was the eye of faith. We come in humility, but we come in faith and we invite God to be a part of all of our decisions and the most important one that you could possibly make is to transfer your trust to Jesus. Some people will say, well, you know, you're crazy.
It's the most important decision that you could ever make. And then we say, with all of our hearts, we follow Jesus. Would you join me as we pray? Our Father, we ask in the name of Jesus, draw all of us into your presence right now, we pray.
Those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, help them to see that because they're sinners, they need a Savior. May they draw near to him. And for those, Father, in the throes of decisions, oh, we pray. Help us not to choose for ourselves.
May we choose you, we ask. And for those, Father, who are living now with regrets and pain, come and show yourself mighty, bless them, restore them, and make us a transforming people. Now, before I close this prayer, I'm going to give you just a few seconds to talk to God wherever you are seated.
What do you need to say to him? Do in us that which is well pleasing in your sight, oh, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.
Amen. And to that, my friend, I add another amen. Many of you are aware that the three great religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, all trace their background and their history to Abraham. I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. The subtitle is An Informed Response to Islam's War with Christianity. Perhaps you heard me say that the reason for this book, the occasion of it, is when I was visiting Turkey and discovered that there are no churches in the seven churches of Revelation, only mosques. I asked myself the question, what lessons do these non-existent churches have for the American church? And on the back of an envelope, I wrote down seven or eight lessons, and that was the small seed from which this book grew. We have so much to learn from the scriptures, yes, but also from history.
And I feel so deeply that Islam is continuing to expand in ways that we do not fully understand. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. You can go to rtwoffer.com or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that info again, give you time to get a pencil.
Remember the title of the book, The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, An Informed Response to Islam's War with Christianity. Go to rtwoffer.com or you can call us right now. Call at 1-888-218-9337.
Thanks in advance for helping us. It's time again for another opportunity for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Dr. Lutzer, today's question comes from Gary, who is serving time in a Texas prison. He writes, I'm a new Christian, so I seek all the Christian help I can find from the radio, but sometimes I hear things that are very disturbing.
I don't want to judge my brother, but I hear that some of the teachers I listen to have millions of dollars with private jets and several cars. I know Jesus taught us to follow not what leaders teach, but follow the way they live. How can I know whether a teacher is really of God or not?
Well, Gary, you've asked a very important question, and I suppose it deserves a long answer. But I need to be brief. First of all, keep listening to their teaching and see if it is biblical. It's very important. Listen to their attitude.
Do they exalt themselves? And only, number three, should you listen to others. Some of the rumors that you have heard may be right, some of them may be wrong. So what you need to do is to simply say, Lord, I don't know, but I'm going to continue to sift what I'm listening to and judge it on the basis of scripture. Remember this, gossip is a great curse, so we must watch what we say about God's people. God will reveal the truth in his own good time, and really, at the end of the day, it's not our responsibility to do that.
God has his timing, and we need to trust that. Keep listening to the word of God over the radio, Gary, and God will lead you. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can 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. Next time on Running to Win, we turn to Genesis chapter 14. Here Abraham rescues Lot from captivity and then meets a man named Melchizedek. In meeting this mysterious man, we'll watch as Abraham develops a generous faith. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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