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Leave Everything Behind – Part 3

Living in the Light / Anne Graham Lotz
The Truth Network Radio
September 10, 2023 3:00 pm

Leave Everything Behind – Part 3

Living in the Light / Anne Graham Lotz

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Anne Graham Lotz

This is Anne Graham Lotz. Don't settle for anything less than what God wants to give you.

Don't settle for halfway. It's taken from Genesis chapter 12. Abraham seemed to profit greatly even though he had disobeyed God and sinned shamelessly in the process. Abraham's wealth acquired in Egypt was not God's blessing.

In the future, it would become the cause of great distress and sorrow. The wealth Abraham had acquired was a substitute for the blessing of God. In today's message, you'll discover that Abraham's failure was not intentional. As he traveled through the land God had promised him, he simply kept going. He knew he had arrived where God wanted him to be, but then, unexplainably, Scripture tells us in Genesis 12.9, he set out and continued toward the Negev. The Negev was not where God wanted him to be.

Shortly afterward, he ran into trouble. He came up short when there was a famine in the land. And we'll discover that failure in our lives almost always begins with a famine. A famine of God's word and a famine of prayer. It was true in Abraham's life and it's true in your life and in mine.

You're listening to Living in the Light with Anne Graham Lotz as she continues her series in the life of Abraham. Right at this initial time, Abram fails in a most spectacular fashion. And I'm so grateful that God has recorded it for us, for our encouragement. Because when we sit out to know God and we have this wonderful desire and aim and vision of following him in a pursuit and embracing the magnificent obsession and receiving his blessing to be a blessing, then all of a sudden we fall flat on our face.

And I wonder how many of us at that point quit. Abraham, right at the very initial stage of pursuing God, failed. And he was leaving Canaan, went down to the Negev, and failure in his life was very unintentional. Verse 10, it says, now there was a famine in the land. And he just decided that, you know, there's a famine, there's not enough food here, I'm used to taking care of my family, I'm the head of the household and so I need to pursue food and I know there's some in Egypt so I'm just going to take them to Egypt. And it was just such a small decision.

He was just going to Egypt for a little while. There was no record that he prayed, no record that he sought the Lord. And failure is often in our lives, in fact I would say 99.9% of the time, failure is unintentional, isn't it? I don't think I've ever talked to anybody who said that they decided they would get up in the morning and they would fail. I've never talked to anybody that said, today I'm just going to go out and blow my witness.

And today I've decided to backslide. It just creeps up on you, it's just such a little thing. And it usually starts with a famine of God's Word. And I know in the past 10 years, while I'm busy in ministry, there was a particular time when there was a famine of God's Word in my life.

You know, you can study it to give it out but I'm talking about reading to receive it, to listen to God, to let him speak to you, spending time in prayer, that takes time. And when you're busy, busy, busy, sometimes you neglect your Bible reading. And you neglect that personal communion. And there was a time when I did. And I made a little decision, just a little decision. And you know it's funny when you make a little decision as you continue it like this, after a while there's a big chasm between you and the will of God.

And I found myself straight outside of God's will, just from a little decision that came from a famine in my life. If you've been neglecting God's Word, watch out. And I know you can study it to give it out and if you're a Sunday school teacher, you teach a Bible class and you're in God's Word and you know I applaud that and that's really wonderful. You can be immersed in it. But that's not a substitute for your devotional life.

I know what I'm talking about. And don't substitute your study of God's Word to give out for your personal devotional to take in. And Abraham just so unintentionally stepped out of God's will just for a little while when there was a famine.

And he went to Egypt to handle the practical problem in his life. And I think sometimes we can tell how we step out of God's will when we make a decision and we haven't prayed about it. What decision have you made without prayer?

A decision about where you'd spend your vacation or where you're going to go for Christmas or what job you would take or where you'll send your children to school or whatever the decision is, even something to do in ministry. And we make the decision and while we're carrying it out, we're asking God to bless us instead of praying first and asking God to reveal his will to us. There's no record that he prayed. He just stepped right out of God's will and you say, well, and he had to have food. I mean, you know, there's a famine in Canaan.

He had to do practical things to take care of his family. If he had prayed, maybe God would have said, Abram, I want you to go to Egypt. But he would have had the security that God was leading him there. Or maybe God would have said, Abram, I want you to stay in Canaan.

And God could have fed him with manna. And you know, when we step out of God's will, especially when we're in a hard place and the pressure comes on and we slip out of God's will, we miss the blessing of seeing how God would have provided for us. We miss part of the adventure, of the magnificent obsession.

We miss getting to know him and how he can meet our needs when it seems to him to be impossible. And Abram missed the blessing of seeing how God would provide for him if he had stayed and depended on God. And he just goes down to Egypt for a little while.

And the failure that was unintentional became very miserable. Verses 11 and 12, we can tell he's starting to worry because he's afraid to stay where he is. Where there's a family, he's afraid to go down to Egypt where he's going because he's afraid they're going to kill him for Sarah's sake. And what's happened to him, he's lost his peace.

And that's one of the first characteristics of somebody who's outside of God's will. You're scared inside. And you just lose your peace. And it keeps you up at night. There's an uneasy, isn't that a horrible feeling? It's just misery. It's just spiritual misery on the inside. And you just know you're not where you're supposed to be.

And you're scared to go back and you're scared to go forward and you just take matters into your own hands. And his worry led him to wrongdoing. He told Sarah, just say that you're my sister so that when they see you, they'll treat me well for your sake. And Sarah actually was his half-sister.

She was the daughter of his father but not of his mother. And so that was a half-truth. But a half-truth is a whole lie. And God says in Proverbs he hates lying.

And Abram lied and got Sarah to lie for him. And his wandering had led to worry that led to wrongdoing. Have you wandered out of God's will and then you lose your peace and you get worried and has the worry led you to do something wrong? Have you lied? Have you lied to cover up your lie?

Have you manipulated? Have you done something selfish like Abram? His sin led to suffering, enormous suffering because Sarah was taken into Pharaoh's harem. Can you imagine a worse situation for her to be in? And Sarah, her name means princess. And I wonder if Sarah had been a princess or maybe just from a very well-to-do family, a very wealthy family. And I would expect Sarah the princess had been pampered all of her life, that even her whims were met. And I know Abram put her on a camel and she went 800 miles.

But I bet you the top of that camel had one of those little platforms with a little roof on it, the tassels that dangled. And I bet there were curtains drawn so the sun wouldn't get on her skin. And when she got to her tent at night there were Persian carpets on the floor and satins and silks.

And she was the pampered, adored, beautiful wife of this well-to-do chieftain. And now Sarah the princess is taken into a pagan man's harem. And there's strange language and strange culture and she's been put in a compromising position, vulnerable to be defiled by a pagan man. Sarah suffered. And the humiliation of knowing her husband had put her there.

And think of Abraham's suffering. How was he going to get her back when the famine was over? How could he be so selfish? Selfishness is one of the hallmarks of somebody outside of God's will.

Totally thinking about himself. And when he saw her disappearing with these Pharaoh's men and she disappeared into the king's harem, he must have been mortified, horrified. What have I done to my beautiful Sarah?

Oh how will I get her back? God help me. And I don't know if it was to help Abraham or to help Sarah. But the New Testament says Sarah did the right thing in submitting to her husband at this point. In fact it tells you and me as Christian wives that we're to learn from Sarah and be submissive as she was. And her submission was amazing.

But I think when she's submissive and doing the right thing that she knows to do then God undertakes for her. And God just leaned down and just lowered the boom on all those men. And they all got a disease.

Nobody could touch her. And Pharaoh's entire household suffered because of Abraham's sin. You think it's just a little sin? Just for a little while? Nobody will know?

I'll tell you what. Sin causes other people to suffer, doesn't it? Not only ourselves but so often the people we love the most.

Innocent people. Everybody was suffering. And then the suffering led to shame. In verse 18 somehow Pharaoh figured it out. And he called Abram on the carpet. And he said, Abram, what have you done? Why did you say she was your sister so I took her to be my wife? I want you to take these things you've gotten in Egypt and Abram, get out of Egypt.

You're not good enough to stay down here. And by the way, Abram, if your God is God, I never want to know him. Now that's humiliating. God had said, Abram, if you leave Ur of the Chaldees and follow me I'll bless you and I'll make you a blessing and all nations of the earth will be blessed through you.

And the first time he's out he's not a blessing, he's a curse. And only a truly godly person knows the humiliation of being corrected and rebuked by a Pharaoh or a Canaanite or somebody who's just not a believer. Is it your mother-in-law that rebuked you? Or a daughter-in-law? Or somebody at your place of work? A friend?

Somebody who doesn't know Christ and they caught you in doing something that you shouldn't have been doing. How did you respond? Did you defend yourself? Did you give excuses? Did you lie to cover up? Abram was just silent.

And I appreciate it. What could he say? I appreciate his silence.

There's nothing to say. No excuse he could give, no defense he could offer. He had sinned and his sin had led to suffering and the suffering had led to deep shame and humiliation. Worse than the shame he brought on himself and his family, he brought on the name of God.

Have you brought shame like that to yourself, to your family, and to God's name? You know Abram not only brought shame but he settled for a substitute for God's blessing. Chapter 12 verse 16 said that down in Egypt he acquired sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, men's servants, maid servants, camels. Chapter 13 verse 2 it said he had become very wealthy in livestock and silver and gold. Abraham profited from his sin. Does that surprise you?

People do it every day, don't they? If material possessions and wealth was a sign of the blessing of God, the drug cartels would be the most blessed people on earth, wouldn't they? It's not necessarily a sign of God's blessing. And all of this wealth in Abram's life was not the blessing of God. In all of this wealth was Hagar, the little Egyptian girl that Abram would commit the greatest sin of his life with. And all of this wealth becomes a source of division within his family. And all of this wealth provides such a temptation for Lot that I think this is what triggered Lot's downfall in the next chapter. That he had just gotten a taste of worldly pleasures and worldly things and a man who had set out to pursue God then decided to embrace the world because he had been down in Egypt and he had tasted it firsthand.

There was just so much misery and so much shame and so much sin that came out of all that wealth. It wasn't the blessing of God. It was a substitute. God forbid any of us would ever settle for a substitute for God's blessing.

But as I was preparing this, I was thinking, you know Ann, what substitute have you settled for? And sometimes I wonder if I settle for busyness and I settle for a lot of activity in ministry and opportunities instead of my personal one-on-one devotional time with the Lord. Have you substituted a position or possessions or reputation or popularity or prestige or possessions? Something for the magnificent obsession. Have you substituted something for the genuine blessing of God?

And the genuine blessing of God is God. Is there somebody here who is still in Egypt? Even as I speak, are you in the midst of failure? Have you failed in the last year? You know, a failure that was so unintentional. You had such glorious ambitions.

You're going to pursue God and get to know him and to make him known and be blessed, to be a blessing. And then you just fell flat on your face. And is that where you are?

Is that where you've been? And it was so unintentional. And it's been so miserable. Nothing is as miserable as a person who's out of God's will and knows what it's like to be in God's will. Knows what it's like to be in that place of blessing and then you're out of it.

And praise God. Failure like that is reversible. You don't have to stay in Egypt.

And if that's where you've been, if that's where you are, would you get out of Egypt? Leave your failure behind. Don't wallow in it. Don't stay there. Come home to God. Return to him.

Chapter 3, 13, verse 3, from the Negev. Abram went from place to place. And I have this sense that Abram is searching. God, I used to know you. You used to be in my life. And somehow I left you and you're lost to me.

And God, I just want you back. Please God, where are you? And he keeps searching from place to place until he comes to Bethel, the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. And there, where he had last met God, Abram called on the name of the Lord. He returned to God at the place where he had last been. He repented of his sin. And I know he repented. Repent has changed.

Turn around. Because Abram didn't go back to Ur. And he didn't go back to Haran.

He didn't even go back to Egypt. He went back to God's. And you know what I think Bethel represents at this point in his life? It's the cross.

And Abram was going back to that place where he knew God had been in his life. And is there somebody here? You've been living in failure. And it was unintentional. And you didn't mean to.

It's been miserable. Well, you can come back to the cross. Do you know something? God has never turned away anyone who's ever come to him at the foot of the cross. You can just come.

And I think Abram's prayer was something like this. God, I'm so sorry. I'm so ashamed of myself. God, you called me to leave Ur of the Chaldees and I left everything. I mean, I know I stopped halfway. I sat on the fence for a while. But I got off the fence. And I got out of Haran. And I came down to Canaan. And man, I was building my altars everywhere.

Right in front of the Canaanites. And you appeared to me. Then you didn't appear. But I was just learning to grow and live and walk by faith.

And it was wonderful. I knew you were in my life. And God, I don't know what got into me. Why did I keep going to the Negev? I've said, if only a hundred times. If only I hadn't gone to the Negev. If only I had stayed. If only I had prayed.

But I didn't, God. And took matters into my own hands. And I went to Egypt.

And I was terrified of what they would do to me. And I know the Egyptians are so ruthless. And told Sarah to lie. And she ended up in a harem. And she suffered.

And Pharaoh's household suffered. And I brought shame to your name, oh God. I'm so sorry. And I want to come back to you. Please forgive me. Please cleanse me. Please restore to me the joy that I had in pursuing you. Somebody here need to pray a prayer or something like that.

That's my invitation. Wherever you are. Wherever you've been. Whatever you've done. Where are you?

Are you in Ur? You know, just in your comfort zone. And even the Cove is comfortable for you. Because you go to Christian conferences. And you've got a lot of knowledge. And building up your knowledge. And he's calling you to come out of your comfort zone.

Step out there. Take a risk of failing. I'm talking about not being able to do what you think you can do. That's getting out of your comfort zone, isn't it? Our comfort zone is staying within what we think we're capable of. It's when you step out of your comfort zone. When you go right out there where you know you're not capable of it at all.

And if it gets done it's got to be God at work in and through you. And you get out of your comfort zone. Somebody here in Harren, still sitting on the fence. Can't imagine because you've come to the Cove. But maybe in your heart.

Maybe in your spirit you're still living in that place of compromise. There's somebody here surrounded by Canaanites. Or they're in your family. They live next door to you.

You work with them in your place of business. Have you been intimidated by them? Scared? Afraid? To share the Gospel?

Afraid to say a prayer in front of them when you go out for a business dinner? Would you leave the pharaohs behind you? And just freely be who you are before the Lord?

Somebody here down in Egypt. And it's time to come home. It's time to come back to Bethel. Would you come back to the cross? Return to God, repent of your sin. As you embrace the magnificent obsession. And what's the magnificent obsession? It's knowing God and making him known. Being blessed that you might be a channel of blessing.

Reaching the full potential that he has for you. Would you pray with me please? And in the quietness of this moment, I just want to give you time to think of what God has said to you. And where you are in your Christian walk. And I want to tell you something. I am so grateful to God that you're here.

And I've been praying for you every day this week. Asking God to prepare your heart. To stir you up. To make you restless. To quicken you. To desire more than anything that you might know him.

To know him in his fullness. So wherever you are from application in this lesson. Wherever you are at this moment.

Maybe it's in a place I haven't mentioned. But tonight I just invite you to come back to the cross. And just thank Jesus for dying for you. Taking away your sin. And not only that, but I believe you're not only forgiven. You've not only been saved. But I believe his hand is on you for service.

Oh that's a privilege. To have him reach out of heaven and call you. Not just to know him, but to make him known to other people. And so it may be that you need to come to the cross in humility. In contrition and repentance. And get right with him.

And ask him for his cleansing. That you might pursue him with a whole heart. And so Father we just commit now the thoughts in our mind. And the emotions in our hearts. The decisions that we're making. We just commit it to you.

And I ask that even now we might hear you calling us. Personal commands. That you're commanding us to leave everything. That means everything.

Not half of everything, but everything. In order to pursue knowing you. And so Lord now we make that decision. Humbly, sincerely. In Jesus name and for his glory.

Amen. Do you want to start all over again too? Then would you tell God about your failure? The mess you've made? Remember, God has never turned away anyone who comes to him in humble repentance at the foot of the cross.

I'll say it again. Come back to the cross. Pray like you may imagine Abraham prayed.

Pour out your heart. It doesn't matter if you can't remember how or when or where you began to wander. Just come back to the cross. Right now, if you're hesitating, is it because you feel ashamed and embarrassed?

Is it because you're not sure God will receive you? He will. I know. So don't keep him waiting. Leave everything behind. The familiar.

The fence sitting. The fear. And the failure.

And run back to him. You've been listening to Living in the Light with Ann Graham Lotz. If you'd like to share today's message, go to where you'll find much to assist you in getting into the Word of God and praying and sharing Christ with others. Join us again here next week for Living in the Light.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-26 22:33:38 / 2023-10-26 22:43:53 / 10

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