21 Mar 2021
We make many decisions in life. But some are just more important than others. And the difference between a good decision and a bad decision can mean a whole world of difference for your life. The story of Abraham and Lot in the land division offers some insights about making decisions. Whilst Lot was looking at the promise of the "good life", Abraham trusted the promise of the good Lord. Abraham was secure, content, and generous in offering the right to the first choice to Lot, because he knew that God had promised good to him. Lot, on the other hand, was looking only to the promise of the "good life" the way the world sees it and ignored the spiritual danger that lurked in Sodom. The consequences of their choices cannot be more disparate. Whilst Lot's life ended in tragedy and sin, Abraham received the fulfillment of God's promises. Maybe you have decisions to make- career, relationships, church, or ministry- be sure to check this out! But most of all, may you make the right choice in knowing Jesus as your savior!
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We are continuing our look in the book of Genesis. Today, we come to Genesis, chapter 13. I believe you have already read the verses.
I believe this is a story that teaches us about decisions. And decisions are something that all of us know about, are familiar with. Everyday you make 1001 decisions, like - what time to wake up? What breakfast to take? what bus to go on? What time should you arrive at work? How much time should you devote to a particular project? Who you speak to? And maybe what to speak about?
We make decisions all the time. And sometimes the decisions we make are very, very important. I remembered a decision I have to make when I was 16 years old, that's a long way back. But when I was 16, my friends; my classmates were egging me; daring me; challenging me to pick up the phone and to call this girl that I was seeing in a photograph. They said, "Ah ... you won't dare to one lah! You chicken lah!" They were daring me; egging me.
So I made a decision that very same day; that night, to pick up the phone and to call that girl. I mean it was such a ridiculous childish thing to do, but I made a decision to do it. And the phone call, actually didn't turn out so well, but eventually it turned out great, because this girl I called eventually became my girlfriend and now, my wife.
So without this phone call, I wouldn't have my girlfriend, without this phone call, I wouldn't be married. Without this phone call, I wouldn't have a family. Without this phone call, there would not be in existence, Shawn or Matthias. Without this phone call, I would not have been to Gospel Light Christian Church. Without this phone call, I wouldn't be saved. Without this phone call, I wouldn't be called to ministry.
It was a life-changing decision! Now, that I look back, I say, "That is amazing!" I mean, my life totally turned around because of this decision. And without this decision, nothing you see today would ever happened. And I think you all know how far-reaching decisions can be, how important decisions can be. That's why you take time to ... to listen to God; take time to pray; take time to ask people before you make your decisions.
Some of you today are at crossroads of life - maybe you're waiting upon God for a job, maybe you're looking at your career advancement, maybe you're thinking about starting a relationship. Maybe some of you are looking for a church. Well, maybe not here, as many but I know many tune in online, and that's because they're looking for a church, they're deciding, " Should they go to this church; leave this church?" and so on.
Maybe some of you are thinking about migration, you're sick and tired of Singapore, you are ... you say, "I want to get somewhere else." You're thinking about migrating somewhere. Some of you are really making decisions. I hope this story that we see in Genesis 13, will help you in decision-making. Decisions ... decisions.
Abraham had just been rescued by God from Egypt, and now he's back at the land of Canaan. And God has blessed him to such a degree that his flock and herd is so great, that it begins to compete and clash with Lot's herd and flock, that has also grown real great. So they have a space constraint, they ... they need to find more land, they need to separate, they can't be together anymore because the land that they are living in cannot support their entire family and their servants; and their livestock.
So they have to come to an agreement, they have to come to a decision about land division. So we're going to see how they decide, and what happens to them after they decide?
So first of all, in this story I'd like you to look into their considerations. What do they think about when they make decision? Well, you make decisions based on facts. You make decisions based on interpretation of facts. And so, how do they interpret the facts? What are the most important things in their minds?
When I was in the army, we learned about planning for a mission. This battalion is supposed to capture this hill or this knoll by a particular time. And in order to capture; or to conquer that territory, you do need to understand some principal considerations for that conquest - what are the unique things you have to be mindful about? What is the main thing that we have to get right in order to conquer?
So principal consideration, so that's what we're going to look at! What are the principal considerations for Lot and for Abraham? Let's see for Lot. We read in chapter 13, in 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." So Lot based his decision on what he saw, "He lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered," and that motivated him later on to choose this place."
The reason why Lot chose this property; this land; this region is because he saw that this was the land that will give him, if I may add - the good life. That this was a land of abundance; a land of beauty; a land that will provide him comfort and ease and plenty, and that motivates him to choose this land.
This was the principal consideration for Lot and everything else faded into the background. Everything else was not that important anymore. Once you have that principal consideration, that is it! I know that that's the case because the author, Moses, did give a commentary in verse 13, "Now, the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD."
Now, this land that Lot chose is going to be where Sodom is. And Moses is saying, "Now, Lot saw the beauty of the land; the abundance of the land but he did not care; he did not mind. He was not concerned that the city of Sodom were wicked, and great sinners against the Lord."
You know how it is, when you maybe meet a girl and you were fascinated with something about the girl, it doesn't matter anymore, whatever else. That's all you want! And that's maybe a description of Lot. He saw that it was prosperous, it was the promise of the good life, and that's what he wanted. Did not care; was not aware; was neglectful towards the spiritual dangers that may be lurking in Sodom, that would influence him, and really hurt him ultimately.
Now, some of you may say, "Well, what do you expect, Lot is a non-Christian! He's not a Christian. He's an unbeliever. He doesn't care. He would choose the way of the world because he is of the world." But mind you, the Bible doesn't tell us Lot was an unbeliever. It's scary thing! And the sad thing is that Lot was a Christian. In a ... in other words, he's a believer of God, he's a child of God.
How do you know that? Well, Peter tells us in 2nd Peter 2:7-9, that "Lot is given the title or the description, righteous Lot." "He was a righteous man who lived among them, day by day. He had a righteous soul." And God, and Peter uses this to say, "How the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials." So Lot was not an unsaved man, he was righteous; he was godly, he had a righteous soul. And I think this is a sobering part for you and for me.
Not only does the world choose things of the world, I mean you can't blame them, right? That's all they know - the good life; abundance; comfort; beauty; ease. That's what they look for, but the sad thing is that Christians like Lot, can also choose the way the world chooses. That we can look at our job and say, "It was a good job, man!" Why? Because it pays you a lot. Doesn't matter if it squeezes the life out of you. Doesn't matter if it gives you no time to serve God; to read His Word. Doesn't matter!
The principle consideration for even many Christians is that, "It makes me rich; it makes me comfortable. I can finally get my BMW. I can finally live it up. I can finally be admired by my family and friends. I don't care! This is a well-watered land, that's where I go!" And we follow the decision-making considerations of Lot.
Some of you may choose this way of thinking, when it comes even to looking for church. "Oh, I need to switch church, you know because I ... my church is very far away." And you are looking for a church now. Maybe some of you are checking Gospel Light out because we are very near you. Now, I'm not saying, "Being near you, or the fact that you live near this church is a bad thing; sinful thing. You purposely must choose somewhere far away." "Ah, I'm very godly I must choose a church in Jurong West!" I'm not saying that!
But I'm saying, "If that is all that you're basing your decision on, what difference is this from Lot?" "It doesn't matter if the church is not so faithful to the Bible, doesn't matter if the church compromise a bit. It's near, I'll choose it!" It's the same as Lot!
By the way, if you are here, checking this church out, I want to say something to you. You are already from another, now, I'm assuming you're from another church. I want to say to you, "If the church you came from is a Bible believing; Bible preaching church, centralized on the Gospel of Jesus Christ; faithful to His Word and ministry, I say, "Please don't come here. Please go back, because I believe God has called you in that local church, it doesn't make sense for you to be going around hunting for another church. You can shop for bags and shoes but I don't think you should shop for church."'
It's like if God has given me my father and mother, I don't go around, "I don't want his father, mother, I go somewhere else!" No, I think they should be church loyalty! So please, if you're from a good Bible believing church, don't come here simply because it's nearer, don't come here simply because there's aircon, don't come here because it's this and that. You should have church loyalty.
But if sadly, churches you come from, do not preach and teach God's Word faithfully, they are not central or centralized on the Gospel but on issues and ... and agendas of this world. Then yes, I think there is legitimate space for you to consider a change of church, especially if you have already engaged with the leaders.
But then when you choose a church, don't choose based on how far it is; how exciting the programs are, but ... but choose whether they honor the Lord, this church faithfully represents God and His teachings in the Bible. Don't choose like Lot, basically!
Maybe some of you are thinking about migration. Like I said, "Don't choose another country simply because, "Wah, the lifestyle where there very cool! Every day sit by the beach, so shiok!" I say, "It is so sad that the Christian would choose to live his life just wanting to be shiok, because you end up with nothing at the end of the day."
We are not here to enjoy life. Now, God does give us enjoyments, in this life, we receive them and we thank God for them, nothing wrong! But if that is your goal in life, there's something very wrong.
I've thought about migration, my wife and I, we talked about it casually, not seriously. But what always holds us back, what always keeps us grounded, is realizing we're not on earth to enjoy life. I say, "Oh, how nice to be in this country! How nice to be there! But hey, let's get real, we are not here to enjoy life, we are here on a mission! What's most important is - where does God want me to serve or want us to serve?" And I think that should be your question.
So sad when people look for migration possibilities and all they think about is career advancement; the better life; good life. And they never think about church; they never think about spiritual life. And hey, they end up there and they struggle spiritually! Is that where you want to be? I hope not!
So, decisions, decisions, it all comes down to some of your principal considerations, alright. Lot, sadly went with his eyes. That's the problem! He wanted the good life. How about Abraham? Let's ... let's ... let's look at something positive. Let's look at Abraham, how did he consider?
Well, the interesting thing about Abraham is that he let Lot make that choice. It's interesting because Abraham was the one who actually had the right for the first choice. He's the older person. He's a senior person in the family. He's the uncle of Lot, so rightly he should make the choice but he gave that choice, the first choice up to Lot. That's very unusual!
A story is told of a mom who just baked some cookies for her two sons. The first batch is out and she says, "Well, James, John, you guys decide who should have it first." And both James and John were fighting, "I want! I want! I want! I want! I want!" The mummy then sat both of them down and said, "James, John, you know, if Jesus was here, He would not fight like you did, He would say, "Now, you have it first." James, the older brother listened to mom and said, "Mom, I get it now. Alright John, you be Jesus."
Most of us want things first, we don't want to lose out. We want to grab, if we have the opportunity. So if Abraham gave this right up to Lot, it is an amazing thing! You say, "Why? Why would he be so cool; so secure; so contented; so generous? What is his principal consideration?"
I suggest to you that Abraham was very mindful of God's promise to him, that God will make his name great; that God will give him an offspring, through whom all nations will be blessed, and God will give him the land. So he was a cool dude, he was as cool as cucumber.
I think the hint of that is seen in verse 18, because later on when he went to the land of Canaan, he got this. When Lot left and he went to the land of Canaan, "He settled there, at Hebron and there he built an altar to the Lord." He remembered God. He's always mindful of God's promise to him and that frees him to be generous and sacrificial and contented, right where he is. That was his principal consideration!
You know, you think about Psalm 37. Psalm 37 is a Psalm about the man who is meek, and how he does not need to fret, he does not need to envy, but he is contented. He trusts in the Lord, he commits his way to the Lord, he delights in the Lord. This guy is real cool. Why? Because he believes that the meek shall inherit the earth. He's cool because he knows God and he knows that, as he trusts God and not fight for his own self and grab like the world does, God ultimately honors him.
I was reading this short booklet by Piper about spiritual leadership. I think it's short but I love the biblical; godly perspective on it. And I came across this one statement which I think is very helpful for our consideration, with regards to Abraham.
It says, "When the reality of God's promises to take care of us, and to work everything together for our good, grips our hearts so that we do not fall prey to greed or fear of vain glory, but rather manifest a contentment and a love and a freedom for other people, then the world will have to admit that the One who gave gives us hope and freedom must be real and glorious." [John Piper]
I like to focus on the three movements here that are critical. One is - God's promises. Two - grips our hearts. Three - contentment and the love and the freedom for other people. That's Abraham! Abraham had the promise of God, it gripped his heart. That was what gave him the confidence, so that when he got to the land, he worshipped God and thanked God for it. And because he had a grip, and he had a good confidence in God's promise, he was able to be contented; loving and sacrificial.
I think that was the principal consideration in Abraham's life, and that makes us sit up in attention, right? You know that is the beauty about faith. When a man of faith looks at God's promises in the Scriptures and believes in that promise, it changes his life. He is not a miserly; grabbing, self-centered man, but he becomes generous and sacrificial and is able to serve.
He doesn't always fight to be first. Now, I'm not saying that, "Christians should be 'lembek' [in Malay], should be very lazy and laid back. No! No! No! No! No! I'm not saying that, "As Christians, we don't work hard." No, but the reason why we work hard is totally different. We don't work hard to be number one. We don't need to be number one anymore, because God has promised good to me, and I can be generous with my friends, I don't have to step on people to climb up. I don't have to be overly possessive over what God has given to me, I can be generous. I can open hands with others. And that's what Abraham was!
So maybe this is a good gauge of your own spiritual life today. If you're coming to some decision-making, what would be the principal consideration? Would it be the promise of the good life; therefore you've got to be first, therefore you've got to choose that which is appealing, that promises you good in this world or would you be someone who trusts in the good Lord and are willing to be generous and sacrificial?
Well, that's how they thought, "What would become of them, what would be the consequences of their lives based on this one singular decision." Well, we read in the case of Lot that, "When he saw the Jordan Valley, he decided for this place. He decided to go to this, in this direction of Zoar, where the city of Sodom will be." [Gen 13:10]
And Moses, the author of Genesis gives us a hint; a warning; a premonition that things are not going to go so well, because the Bible says, "This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah." [Gen 13:10] Aha, not so good! It's going to end up in disaster, but the steps that Lot took were in a sense, inevitable now. Now, that he decided for this land, he just went deeper and deeper into this life. "He settled upon among the cities of the valley and moved his tent, as far as Sodom." [Gen 13:12]
So he moved his dwelling place to as far as Sodom was, nearby. That's what we read in chapter 13, but not only nearby, now he, "He stays in Sodom now," in Genesis 14. So he saw it, he moved near it, then he lived in it. And if that is not enough, we see in chapter 19:1, "He now sits at the gate of Sodom."
Now, what do you mean by sit at the gate of Sodom? 看门狗 [kàn mén gǒu] ah, watch dog? No! No! No! No! No! In those days, you have business trades; deals, issues to be sorted at the gate, that's where most people are. So the elders; the leaders of any city would situate themselves at the gate. So when you read of someone sitting in the gate of Sodom, it's saying that, "He has now become a leader in Sodom. He has become an elder in Sodom. He has become one of the people, who resolves issues in Sodom."
So you could say, "Lot is knit, is all the way into Sodom now, from faraway to nearby, to in it and now leading it." That's Lot! He's now a leader amongst the wicked sinners who were against God. Can you imagine that? But he had no choice, if you want the good life; if you want comfort and ease and abundance and beauty and stuff like that, that's where you have to end up!
I read this quote that says, "The dangerous thing about going outside of God's will to get what you want, is that you have to stay outside his will to keep it." You want riches; you want your BMW; you want to be famous? Well, you have to get out of God's will to grab these things. You might have thought that you can grab these things and come back to the center of God's will, but the reality is you don't come back, you stay there. You go further and further and further from God.
I've seen people in our church, promising young people - loves God; wants to serve Him, but once career starts, the end of him! Don't see him! Don't serve God! And every time we meet up, it will be, "Oh, I'm so busy! "Oh, life is so stressful!" "I have no time to study my Bible." "I have no time to serve." "I got to drop out from this and that."
And I wonder, "Why?" Could it be you wanted something outside God's will? You thought it would be a for a season and you can come back, but you're just going deeper and deeper. And this has absolutely be snuffed out spiritual life from you.
Well, that's not the end of Lot, because later on we read in chapter 19, "That the city was so wicked, there was hardly anyone who knows God in that city, and God destroyed the city with fire and brimstone. Lot escaped with his daughters, with his wife, but in the middle of this journey, his wife loved Sodom and the lifestyle so much, that she turned around and she became a pillar of salt." Tragic!
Lot, now goes to hide in a cave with his daughters. He got drunk and his daughters committed incest with him, to perpetuate the descendants. And two of the descendants became Moabites and the Ammonites, who will be perennial enemies with Israel. I mean if you look at Lot's life, you'll say, "How did this happen, man? He's righteous Lot, but wow his ... his end of life is anything but beautiful, it was tragic!" It all started with this decision, isn't it? Your decisions have far-reaching consequences.
How about Abraham? Abraham is a bright spark here. Abraham he ... he held God's promise in his heart, was generous, didn't want to be rich and have a life of comfort and ease. "He settled in the land of Canaan." [Gen 13:12] In fact, the Bible tells us, "He went from place to place, even after he settled at Hebron and built an altar to the Lord." [Heb 13:8] And the rest of the Bible would tell us that, "His name will be great, certainly greater than Lot's." Isn't it?
When we talk about Abraham, we think about the hero of faith. We think about Lot, we think about someone who tragically wasted his life. Abraham became the father of a nation, a great nation like Israel and indeed many other nations. And it is through Abraham that we have the Promised Messiah - the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, I would say, "It was well worth it at the end of it all."
In the Americas, in the continent of Northern America, they have this various geographical divides. These are mountainous hydrological divides, mountain ranges that divides the land. And you could see for example this red line that cuts from the top to the bottom of the American continent. It's a mountainous region.
And it is said that, "If a drop of rain falls to the left side of the line, it would flow towards the Pacific Ocean, via the rivers and tributaries. And if a drop of rain falls to the right side of the line, following the rivers and tributaries, if will ... it will drain into the Atlantic Ocean." So if you go to America, you see this Continental Divide, if the raindrops here, it goes this, if it rain drops the other side, just a little bit of a difference and it goes totally different direction.
And isn't it true, Abraham, Lot, just a little bit of difference, and their lives end so diametrically opposite? Your decisions have dramatic consequences, and you need to have the right considerations.
But finally, let me share with you the commentary that the rest of Scripture gives towards the decisions that they make. 2 Peter 2:7 tells us about Lot's life. Now, we read about Lot's life from Genesis, he ... he had incest with his daughters and so on but elsewhere we read of Peter saying that, "Lot was greatly distressed by the sexual conduct of the wicked."
Now, did Lot have a good life in this place of plenty? I guarantee you - no. Never did! Because the word here says, 'distressed', and by the way, not just 'distressed' but 'greatly distressed'. In Hokkien, we say, 'Pek chek' [frustrated in Hokkien dialect]; cannot 'tahan' [in Malay]. He must be absolutely miserable in this place, not least because he himself made a terrible decision to go there.
You think climbing up the corporate ladder; being rich and famous is the secret to a happy life? I don't think so! I don't think so! The Bible tells us that, "Those who desire to be rich ..." [1 Tim 6:9] Now, by the way, let me be clear, being rich is not a sin. Money is not evil. "But desiring to be rich is the problem," and the love of money is the root of all evil." So let's be clear about that!
But if you want this lifestyle, "You desire to be rich, you are just setting yourself up to fall into temptation, into a snare, a trap into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction," [1 Tim 6:9] That's what God says!
So if you want to live your life, you have only one life, it's not playing computer game can restart and restart and restart. You have only one life, and if you choose to live like Lot, going for Sodom; going for the land of plenty, this is the commentary God has for you.
And I've seen it, even in my short tenure of life here on earth in people's lives, sadly even in our church. I pray one day you would turn around, I pray one day you would wise up and realize it is fruitless to live for the things of this world. It aches; it pains my heart to see good; godly men trip up like Lot and waste their life away. It is really sad!
But Abraham was different! Abraham seemed like the loser, let his nephew choose first. But look at ... look at what God said to Abraham. God said to Abraham these things, "Lift up your eyes, look from the place where you are, northward, southward, eastward westward, for all the land that you will see, I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth." [Gen 13:14-17]
"Abraham, you're not going to be the loser. Chill, man! It's good that Lot went and, but I'm going to tell you, "You're not a loser, I'm going to give you all these things." And it's almost as if God purposely waited till this time because Moses wrote, "After Lot had separated from him." "Alright, you guys have settled, let me tell you, Abraham, you did right! It was a test! It was a test and you pass this test with flying colors, with the way you chose to decide!"
Do you know that your life is a test? You think that your decisions are all between you and someone else. No! No! No! No! God knows all the decisions you make and He puts you in this test. Our lives can be seen as a trust from God, He wants us to manage our resources and time for His glory. But our lives can also be seen like a test from God, how will you pass this test?
I pray one day, we can all stand before God and say, "We responded the best way we know." And God says, "Well, in this situation, well done, you good and faithful servant."
So today you have decisions to make, what kind of decisions do you make? What kind of considerations will you have? I hope we learned from Abraham, from Lot. Regardless of what arena you're called to make decisions in, put on spiritual eyes; look to the Scriptures; hold tight to the promise of ... promises of God. And I pray we would all be accountable to Him and hear God say one day, "Well done, you good and faithful servant."
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Take this time because some of you are at crossroads. Maybe it's about a church; maybe it's about ministry; maybe it's about a relationship; maybe it's about job; maybe it's about career. Your decisions are not purely materialistic or physical, everything we do is spiritual. And today, you can choose to decide based on what you see; based on what the world values, or you can choose to decide based on what God says and what God values.
May I remind you based on the story of Abraham and Lot, your decision today does not just affect the present, it can affect the future in a dramatic way. And I think it is wise for us today to pray and ask God, "Give me wisdom, not the wisdom of the world but the wisdom of Scripture. Give me a heart that fully believes the grand and glorious promises of God. Help me, so that the promises of God may have a grip of my heart, that I may be generous; sacrificial and contented."
Oh my friends, how glad we are that Jesus did not choose based on what was easy and comfortable, He chose based on the will of God. And today, what a wide-reaching impact His choice has resulted in - the salvation of the multitudes. To the glory of God! Be still and know that He is God, my brothers and sisters, choose rightly before Him.
And to all my friends, I say friends, because you are not my brother or sister as yet, you do not know Jesus as yet, but to all my friends, listening in right now, actually there's a decision that faces you - Who is Jesus Christ? Would you reject Him because even though you know that He's God's Son, who died for you and rose again from the dead, you will not have Him because you fear your friends will laugh at you; your family will reject you. You fear that you may have to give up your present lifestyle and you may have to forsake sin or would you today choose based on the promises of God?
That God works all things together for good to them that love Him. That God has promised good to us, and that we would be heirs and co-heirs with Christ. That in a life that is to come, we will never feel shortchanged whatsoever. I pray today you would choose with the eyes of faith, believing in God's promise of salvation. May God have mercy upon all of us.
Father, thank You for this morning that we can hear Your Word. Give us wisdom to choose well; to choose Jesus; to choose the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, believing then all these things will be added to us. Thank You. We pray all this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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