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A Generous Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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May 10, 2022 1:00 am

A Generous Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 10, 2022 1:00 am

The decisions we make—even about money—have eternal consequences. After an unusual victory, Abraham is given a choice between selfish dealings and generosity. In this message, we are introduced to two kings at Abraham’s point of decision. Are we living like God owns everything or do our decisions and bank accounts say otherwise?

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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.

The book of Genesis tells of beginnings, of creation, the fall, and of God's intent to send a redeemer through a nation of his choosing. Today we'll see Abraham victorious in battle and generous when facing another man of God. 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.

Our series is called Strength for the Journey. Pastor Lutzer, I think a lot of our listeners wonder who a man named Melchizedek was. Dave, you know, as soon as you mention that, what comes to my mind is this. Back when my mother was alive, I used to call her every Saturday night, and of course she assured me of her prayers. So one day I told her that the next day, Sunday, I would be preaching on Melchizedek, and she said, Is he not a pre-incarnation of Jesus Christ?

And I was amazed at that, because probably in some sense he is, and this message will clarify that. You know, I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, and at the end of this program, I'm going to be giving you some lessons that we can learn from history regarding Islam and the Church. Very critical for us to understand what is happening, what has happened in the past. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to,, or call us at 1-888-218-9337, and be sure to listen after this message, because I'm going to be giving you one or two lessons that we must learn about Islam. So how loyal do you think you would be to somebody who made a decision to make you poorer to enrich himself? Maybe I could put the question a little differently.

To what extent would you be willing to take a risk for someone whom you know would never take a risk for you? That was the decision that Abraham faced. The story of the 14th chapter of Genesis can be summarized in this way. And take your Bibles and turn to Genesis 14, because we're going to be doing some digging in the scriptures today as we look at this passage. Bottom line, there were five kings along the Jordan Valley, all the way to Sodom and Gomorrah next to the Dead Sea. These five kings were in subjection to four kings who lived in the northwest, and the five kings decided to revolt. So the four kings came down to the Jordan Valley in the area of Sodom, and they said, we're going to fight against you, and they plundered cities such as Sodom. Now mind you, the king of Sodom somehow escaped. He probably went to some of the hills, but the city was plundered along with the other cities in that coalition.

And people were taken captive as well as goods. So we open the story here in chapter 14 of Genesis, verse 13, then when one who had escaped came and told Abraham the Hebrew, who was living by the Oaks of Mamre. And then it goes on to say the specific area in which he was living and who owned the trees. But Abraham was there, and lo and behold, somebody comes and tells him that Lot, who is living in Sodom, his nephew was taken captive. This is the first time in all the Bible that the word Hebrew occurs, Abraham the Hebrew.

We're not sure of the derivation of the word, but it may refer to someone who has crossed over, maybe somebody who crossed over the river. But it shows you the extent to which Abraham had become a big man with lots of livestock and lots of people under his direction. So Lot's been taken captive. So Abraham begins to wonder, what do I do with this nephew of mine who chose the best pasture land? Abraham made a decision, and the decision was to help Lot. And that decision would lead to another even bigger decision, and the reason that it is important that we listen to God's word today is because we are going to be talking about the kinds of decisions we can make that have eternal consequences.

If you're facing a decision this week, listen especially carefully. So Abraham decides to get 318 of his men together, and he pursues them, it says in verse 14, as far as Dan, 100 miles. Can you imagine the supply lines? All of the things that they needed for 318 men, and then he catches up, and he surprises them by a sneak attack at night. He divides his forces and overcomes these kings that have just been rejoicing in their own victory and their own strength. And so he overtakes them, he rescues Lot, and then he continues to pursue them for another 100 miles, all the way to Damascus.

And then he returns. He and Lot I'm sure had some very interesting conversations on the way back. I can imagine Abraham saying, Lot, is it really wise for you to live in Sodom? I know that you took the best pasture land, and that was okay with me, but Sodom is a dangerous place to raise a family.

If they had that discussion, it's not recorded, and if they had it, it didn't do any good. But Abraham is coming back now, and if you can visualize the land of Israel, he's coming from the north, and so he's going to go to the south, and he is bringing back people and the goods that had been plundered, and he ends up right next to where Jerusalem is today. In fact, when it talks about the valley of Sheva, that is the king's valley in verse 17, it most probably is referring to what we call today the Kidron Valley. If you've been to Israel, you know that on one side is the Mount of Olives with the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the other side is the great city of Jerusalem. And it is there that he encounters two kings, two kings, and that's the essence of our message today.

We pick it up in verse 17. After his return from the defeat of Kedahlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Sheva, that is the king's valley, and Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out wine and bread. He was priest of God Most High, and he brings out bread and wine to refresh Abraham after his victory, and he blessed him and said, blessed be Abraham by God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.

And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. Who in this world is Melchizedek? Well that name Melchizedek means king of righteousness. Melch in Hebrew meaning king, tzedek, righteousness, king of righteousness, king of Salem, Salem, Shalom, Salim, peace, king of peace. This took place in Jerusalem, very ancient Jerusalem, city of peace, Ir Shalom in Hebrew, city of peace. Apparently this Melchizedek was king of a small area there in the city of Jerusalem or where Jerusalem is today, so he was a king, but notice he wasn't just a king, he was also a priest. He was the priest of the Most High God.

Think about it. Abraham receives a revelation from God to go into the land. Abraham is a friend of God. Abraham loves God. God talks to Abraham directly, and here Abraham meets someone who is superior to him, spiritually speaking. Abraham has in himself the entire hope of the world, the hope of redemption. Because of the blessing to Abraham and to his seed, Jesus Christ is wrapped up in that blessing. And here Abraham with all of the hope of the world wrapped in himself meets someone who is nearer to God and superior to him.

That must have been a surprise in a pagan culture. So Abraham evidently, if we interpret the text this way as we must initially at least, Abraham is met by someone who has a closer relationship and more revelation from God than he has, and Abraham takes and he pays him a tenth of all showing the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham. Mysterious man, this Melchizedek. Now what do we make of it? Many centuries pass and David is beginning to write the Psalms, and he writes in Psalm 110 verse 4, he says regarding the coming of Jesus, he says he is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Not after the order of Aaron, not after the order of Levi, but a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Now in the seventh chapter of Hebrews we find an entire chapter devoted to this argument, and I want you to follow it carefully. If you're listening on the radio, this is the time to pull off to the side of the road.

Don't hit a curb, but just pull off a little bit. If you're listening on the internet, it's time to tell the children to be quiet for the next few moments, and if you're here at the Moody Church, nudge your neighbor and say, just listen to this. Here's the entire argument of Hebrews chapter 7, and I'm summarizing it for you. The author says that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek who is superior to Aaron for this reason. Here's Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek, admitting that he is priest of the Most High God, and where was Aaron and Levi when this was happening? Well of course they weren't even born. To use the King James version of the Bible, they were in the loins of their father Abraham.

So the author's argument is this. When you have the father of Levi and Aaron, when you have the father bowing down and in effect, if not bowing down, at least giving allegiance to Melchizedek, clearly Melchizedek has a superior priesthood. In fact, because he does not have any genealogy, it says in the book of Hebrews, we don't know where in the world he came from, he really is a better picture of Jesus than even Aaron and Levi because that priesthood has been passed away.

It no longer applies now that Jesus has come. And so we know now that Melchizedek is a king, he is a priest, and he blesses Abraham, and this is what he says, blessed be Abraham by God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hand. Possessor, some translations say creator, it can be translated that way, probably better to translate it possessor of heaven and earth, and he blesses Abraham.

Why this here? Why does Melchizedek come out of nowhere and bestow this blessing upon Abraham? Because Abraham is about to face a great test, and the test is going to come from another king whose name is Bera, who is king of Sodom, where Lot lived. And so what God wants to do here in this situation is to prepare Abraham to remind him that God is the possessor of heaven and earth. God is not a poor God. He is not a confused deity. He is not a weak deity.

He's not a deity whose hands are tied in terms of blessing because he is possessor, he is creator of heaven and earth. Remember that Abraham when your test comes as it's coming right now. And before we get to the second king, notice that Abraham paid him a tenth of all. He paid tithes. Some people think that tithing came about as the result of the Mosaic law, but here hundreds of years before Moses, you have Abraham paying tithes, Jacob tithed. It was a principle that God obviously revealed very early. Now here at the Moody Church, we do not require tithing because the New Testament does not require it. We encourage it.

We think it's a good benchmark for people. It's a good way to begin the giving process. And did you know that if all of our members and all the people who attended at Moody Church were to tithe, we would never need a capital campaign to raise funds. Our missionaries would never lack for money if only we gave a tenth of all. So here you have this story of Abraham's generosity in the presence of this mysterious man, Melchizedek, king and priest, prefiguring Jesus.

Now we have a second king that enters into the picture. You'll notice it says in verse 21, and the king of Sodom said to Abraham, give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself. In other words, you've recovered the spoil. You can keep the spoil that you recovered, but of course, you know, return the persons. And a lot, of course, would be among that group that had been taken captive and that Abraham was able to return.

Now think about that for a moment. That was a reasonable deal. Abraham could say that the spoils that I received from this incursion into the territory of these four kings is legitimate payment for my risk. I took a risk and the spoils therefore should be mine. Obviously, the king of Sodom would not get anything if I hadn't had gone.

So yeah, I'll keep it. Notice though what Abraham says. Verse 22, but Abraham said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand to the Lord God, the most high possessor of heaven and earth, using the same language of the blessing given to him by Melchizedek, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abraham rich. Some of the young men who are here, what they ate and what they want to take, that's their business.

But as for me, we would translate it. I will not take one red sand. Lest the king of Sodom say, well, yes, Abraham is rich, but I just want you to know I contributed to that riches. He has some of our goods.

He had it coming to him, but we decided to be generous and to give him whatever it is that he captured. Abraham says, I don't want to hear one word along that line because if the king of Sodom were to speak that way, I'd be robbing God of his glory. Is not the God that I serve the possessor of heaven and earth?

Didn't he bring everything into existence? Does it not say in the Old Testament and Abraham wouldn't have known this, but we do that all the gold is mine, the silver is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills is mine, says the Lord. Even that which people grab for themselves belongs to God, the possessor of heaven and earth. And Abraham says, I want to make a clear distinction here. I will receive God's blessing, but I am refusing the manipulation and the deals of the world so that God gets all the glory. Aren't you amazed when you study the scriptures and you discover so much relevance to our situation today? Abraham had his faults, but also he's a marvelous example to us of obedience, of faith, and a willingness to give God all the glory. Back in 2009, it was my privilege to visit the seven churches of Revelation. We discovered when we were there that there are no churches, there are only mosques. This troubled me because it made Jesus look weak. As a result of that, I asked myself the question, how do we justify the sovereignty of Jesus over the world? And what are the lessons that Islam has to teach us historically applied to America today? I've written a book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. Some of these lessons are things like we cannot take the existence of our own churches for granted. Nobody would have thought that Islam would sweep over Northern Africa, which was a stronghold of Christianity or other countries in the Middle East. Could it happen here?

Yes, it could. Here's another lesson. I'm just choosing these arbitrarily. Even when the church is in the devil's hands, it is still in the hands of God. I proved that from the church in Smyrna, and what a story that is. One more, the crescent cannot destroy the cross. When we were in the Church of Holy Wisdom, our Muslim guide pointed out that every single cross, because it had been a church, was chiseled out. He said no Muslim can ever pray in the presence of a cross.

These are the kinds of lessons that I detail in the book entitled The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. 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 I'm going to be giving you that info again. The title of the book, The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent. Go to or you can pick up your phone and call right now 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. When marriages break up, the damage is extensive.

Patrick listens to Running to Win and has this question. My wife had an affair last year and now we are divorced. Am I permitted to remarry?

Well this is a question I wish I could sit down and discuss with you because I've got all kinds of questions that I'd like to ask you. You seem to imply that you would like to remarry and perhaps you even have someone in mind and I need to confess that that is a bit troubling. For one thing, as long as your ex-wife is still unmarried, there's also the possibility of reconciliation and I think that you should keep that door open as long as possible. Now if she has remarried, that of course closes off the marriage. But sometimes I've even known situations in which a wife or a husband kind of wishes that their partner were to have an affair so that they would have, quote, permission to divorce and marry someone else. So I need to understand something about your motives and finally let me say this that second marriages in your context often end very badly. I could tell you many stories of people who've been divorced and they've remarried and their second marriage wasn't happy either. All that to say you need to discuss this with your pastor. Somehow I'm troubled by the question that you are asking me.

Yes, I do believe that there are times when someone who's been divorced can remarry but the motives, the circumstances, the situation, all of that has to enter into the equation. Sorry I couldn't help you more than that except I hope that it causes you to do some deep thinking about the decision you are about to make. Patrick, thank you for bringing that question to us. Thank you Pastor Lutzer for your counsel. If you'd like to hear your question answered, 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, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Lot chose to ally with the King of Sodom to his eventual ruin. His uncle Abraham paid homage to the King of Salem, Melchizedek, priest of God Most High. From that choice has flowed blessing to the entire world. Next time on Running to Win, what will your choice be? Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-21 09:51:08 / 2023-04-21 09:59:21 / 8

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