ďReal WealthĒ††† Genesis 13:1-18†††††††† May 3, 2009

 

SI:Weíre studying the life of Abraham.

He is called, ďThe father of all those who believe.Ē

 

His life demonstrates, in a prototypical way,

†† the nature of the Christian life and faith.

By studying his life, we understand ourselves as Christians more clearly.

†† We learn what it means to be people who are called by God.

 


 

INTRO: In the early 1800s, a revival in Scotland and parts of Europe called

†† the Haldane Revival.Named after two brothers, Scotsmen, Robert and James.

Couple Sundays ago I told you a little bit about the Haldane brothers.

 

Christianity had sunk very low at that time.

†† In Geneva, Switzerland, where Calvin had preached 250 years earlier,

†† men wanting to be ordained actually had to sign a statement saying they didnít

†† believe in original sin, or the Trinity, or the deity of Christ.

Things werenít quite that bad in Scotland but church leadership was dominated by

†† men who had little interest in the Gospel or church growth.

 

Robert and James loved Christ, they loved the church.

†† They werenít ordained ministers but through their preaching and teaching and

†† encouragement of pastors and founding of seminaries, a significant revival.

Church was strengthened for several generations.

 

Their story is very much like what we have just read in Genesis 13.

Robert and James were born into a very wealthy family.

†† One of their family estates was Gleneaglesóa name you golfers will recognize.

Their parents were both Christians but died when the boys were very young.

†† In fact, their father died two weeks before James was bornó

†† and then their mother died four years later.

 

She did all she could to raise her boys in the faith in the time she had with them,

†† but as they grew up, they showed no interest in Christianity.

Robert inherited the estate and he poured his energy into developing itó

†† the gardens and farms and manor house.

†† He brought water down from the hills to make a lake

James, the younger brother, went to sea and made a fortune in shipping.

 

And then, both brothers came to faith in Christ at the same time.

†† Robert was 30 and James was 25.They werenít together.

It wasnít through the influence of a particular person.

†† It was just that the Lord answered the prayers of long-dead parents.

†† He called them and they responded in faithójust like Abraham.

 

As Robert and James grew in their faith, became interested in missions.

†† So Robert decided to sell the estate that had been in his family for generations,

†† and use the money to fund a new mission in India.

Plans were that he and his brother and their families would move there.

The India plans fell through, but that was Godís providence,

†† because their interests were directed toward Europe and Scotland.

Robert did sell the estate and the brothers used it for their work.

†† Iíve already told you how that revived the church in such a powerful way.

 

Now, the part of their story that is so much like Genesis 13 is how Godís call

†† changed forever the way they saw their wealth and possessions.

Before Robert just wanted to improve his estate, James just wanted to make money.

†† Then came the call of God and a completely different vision.

 

There are over 2,300 references to money, wealth, and possessions in Bible.

†† Itís a very important topic because a personís attitude toward money reveals,

†† maybe more than anything else, what he really values, loves, and trusts.

It exposes the foundations of a personís life.

 

Abraham was a wealthy man.Our father in the faith was loaded.

Many of the stories of his life reveal how his faith in the Lord

†† affected the way he saw and used his wealth and possessions.

†† In fact, I think youíll be surprised how often this comes up as we study Abraham.

But thatís real life, isnít it?Every day of our lives we deal with money,

†† and have to think about our possessions.So did Abraham.

And he shows us what it means to follow Godís call and live by faith

†† in this very important part of life.

 

The thing that makes this story especially interesting and sobering

†† is that there is another man who is contrasted with Abraham.

His nephew Lot.

Lot was a believeróthe Bible tells us clearly that he was.

†† He was also wealthy, but he looked at his wealth in a completely different way.

†† And it hurt him.Even as a believer it hurt him badly.

 

So letís look at this story in more detail.

And for you note-takers weíre going to look at it under two headings.

†† 1.The wealth of the world

†† 2.The riches of grace

 

Credit where credit is due:Sermon on this chapter by Dr. Timothy Keller.

MP#1The wealth of the world

Weíll begin by looking at Lot.He was Abrahamís nephew.

†† His father had died and so he went with Abraham to the Promised Land.

 

Wealth for nomadic people was kept in livestock.

†† And Abraham and Lot soon faced a problem.There was no more space for them.

Remember they didnít own the land.

†† It was occupied by Canaanites at time.

†† The Canaanites owned the fertile pastures.

†† So Abraham and Lot had to find desolate places to graze flocks.

 

And before long their potential for financial growth was maxed out.

†† They couldnít get any richer together because land couldnít support them.

And there was quarrelling.That bothered Abraham more than anything.

†† So he took Lot to a high place between Bethel and Ai where could see for miles.

 

Abraham said to Lot, you decide.Do you want the right or the left?

†† If you go left, Iíll go right.If you go right, Iíll go left.

Lot looked and saw the plain of Jordan, green and fertile.

†† He said:Thatís were I want to go.Those fields near the city of Sodom.

It was just on the border of the Promise Land, later, when Lot moved into Sodom,

he was actually moving outside of the Promised Land.

 

Lot was an ambitious man.So he chose the place he could get significantly richer.

Prosperity more important than sticking to Godís plan.††

†† God had said:Leave Ur.Leave civilization.Go to Canaan.Live as a pilgrim.

†† And wait.And one day I will give your offspring this land.

Lot said:Iíve waited long enough.Love you Uncle Abe, but business is business.

 

Now, is it wrong to want to make money?No.But there was more going on.

†† The key to what was going on in Lotís heart is in verse 10.

†† ďLot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered,

like the garden of the Lord.Ē

Thatís not the narratorís comment.Thatís not a description of the land.

†† Itís a description of how Lot saw the land.How it appeared in his mindís eye.

†† He was saying to himself:Thatís my garden of Eden.

 

That tells us that for Lot this was not just about getting richó

†† there was something spiritual going on.

What was the Garden of Eden?The place where Adam and Eve walked with God.

†† The place they were naked and unashamed.

Adam and Eve knew who they were.They knew their worth in Godís eyes.

†† Ever since the fall, people have tried to get back to the Garden.

†† Tried to find a way to know that their lives mean something.

 

While back we rented the old movie Chariots of Fire.Forgot how good it is.

†† Based on true story of two men, Eric Liddell and Harold Abramsó

†† Great Britainís 1924 Olympic track team.

Harold Abrams was a driven man.A gold medal in 100 meters is his quest.

†† Someone asks him why and he says:ďI have 10 seconds to justify my existence.Ē

†† For him the gold medal was his Garden of Eden.

What he needed to know his life meant something.

 

He was doing what Lot did and what we all do.

If I only had that! If I had that kind of success or that kind of money.

†† Then my life would be a Garden of Eden.My inner desert would be green again.

If I was only married, my life would be a Garden of Eden.

†† If I could get out of this marriage, my life would be a Garden of Eden.

Itís not just the gold medal or the money or the marriageó

†† itís the thing that is going to make your life complete.

 

What happened to Lot?Weíre going to follow his story with Abrahamís.

†† But let me just put it simply.It didnít work out like he expected.

Think about it.Lot wanted the Garden of the Lord without the Lord.

 

Thereís nothing more tragic than a believer who tries to do this long-term.

†† It leads to break down.

If you turn to romance or marriage or children or work or money

†† as your Garden of Eden, it wonít work out like you expect.

You will crush it with the weight of your spiritual expectations.

†† Itís a finite thing.It canít take the place of God.

 

Whatís your garden of Eden?Tim Keller says there are two tests.

†† Daydream test and the nightmare test.

When the busyness of life is hushed, and you have time to reflect and dreamó

†† where does your mind go?What do you long for?

And, What do you dread losing most?

†† Is there something, that if you lost it, your life would not be worth living?

Is it knowing the Lord and the smile of his countenance or something else?

How can you have real satisfaction and contentment in your life,

†† and a sense of worth and a sense of Godís approval without him?

†† You canít!

 

God calls you to a different life.A freer and bigger life.

†† So letís consider now . . .


 

MP#2The riches of grace

Abraham had three things that were important to him, and he couldnít keep all.

†† He had a relationship with God, relationship with Lot, relationship with money.

 

These were his choices.He could have gone with Lot to a fertile place outside

†† the Promised Land, pooled resources and both gotten richer.

If he had done that, kept relationship with Lot and money, but not God.

†† He would have abandoned the promise of God.

 

Or he could have said, Iím the patriarch.Youíre my nephew.

†† You have to do with I say and Iím going to take whatís best.

He would have kept his relationship with Lord, in sense he would stay in land.

†† And he would have kept his money-making potential,

†† but he would have embittered Lot.

 

Or he could do what he did.Lot, you go where you want to go.

†† He kept his relationship with God and with Lot, but he hurt himself financially.

In other words, Abraham chose to love God and love his neighbor,

and his money and possessions came in third.

 

Abrahamís way of handing this was totally outside the box in that culture.

†† For the older man to give in financially to the younger man, was unheard of.

†† It just wasnít done in that patriarchal culture.

This was a decision that showed deep wisdom.

†† And Abraham made this decision so decisively and with such poise.

†† He said.Itís not worth it.The quarreling between brothers.

†† This is not what God wantsóand he gave it up.

 

Hebrews 11:10 gives us this summary of Abrahamís life and motivation.

†† ďhe was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.Ē

Godís call changed the foundations of Abrahamís life.

†† It took him out of the life he had known, set him on a pilgrimís path through life.

†† It challenged him to live by faith in promises and look forward to city of God.

Thatís the essence of what it means to be a Christianóchange your foundations.

 

Everybody builds their lives on something.

†† For Lot it was financial success.

For Harold Abrams it was the recognition and acclaim that came from

†† proving that he was the bestóďI have 10 seconds to justify my existence.Ē

We all have something like that. Something that if we lose, life not worth living.

†† The call of God changes your foundations.

God says to youóStop finding your security and your meaning in that relationship

†† or activity or possessionóinstead

Make my righteousness your wealth.

†† Make my love your identity.Make my approval your joy.

†† Make my salvation your story.Make my will your mission.

 

If you do that, youíll be liberated.You wonít need status or approval.

†† Now you can live a big life.Your foundations have changed.

The other man in Chariots of Fire was Eric Liddell.He was a Christian.

†† If you remember the movie, remember he stood for what he believed in.

†† He was strongly criticized for it and disqualified from his event, the 200 meters.

 

He got to run the 400 instead and he set a world record.

†† Thatís the dramatic climax of the movie.But the spiritual climax earlier.

When his sister asks him essentially same question asked Harold Abrams.

†† Why do you run?ďGod made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.Ē

Winning not his garden of Eden, did not look to it to satisfy the dryness of his soul.

†† Through Jesus he was already in the Garden.

†† So he could make a big decision went against values of sport culture.

 

Or think of the Haldane brothers again.

What would Lot have thought of Robert Haldaneís plan to sell his family estate,

†† to sell Gleneagles.Lot would have been horrified.

Yet what a big and free decision that was.Abraham would have understood it.

 

What big decisions is the Lord calling you to make?

†† Focus of this passage has to do with money and relationshipsóthat may be

†† the very place you are being challenged.May be something else.

Donít resist.Listen to the call of God and change your foundations.

†† You wonít be enslaved like Lot, youíll be free like father Abraham.

†† Able to give up things you never thought you could.

 

But how do you do it? Where does the power come from to live that kind of lifeó

†† and make those kinds of decisions?

Comes by understanding Godís grace in Christ.

This chapter doesnít start with Abrahamís wise decisionó

†† It starts with him going on a pilgrimage of repentance.

Remember from last week what happened in Egypt.

†† Abrahamís faith and obedience totally collapsed.

†† He forgot all of Godís promises to bless him.He failed as a believer.

If Lord had not intervened, Abraham would have lost everything.

†† Promise of the ages would have slipped through his fingers.

†† But the Lord painfully exposed Abrahamís sin and delivered him.

 

Abraham returned to the Promised Land and slowly made his way back, vs. 3

†† ďto the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first

built and altar.There Abram called on the name of the Lord.Ē

Abraham retraced his steps.He made his way back to the place of last obedience.

†† This place between Bethel and Ai was where he had met with God.

 

Why is this detail important?

†† It shows us that the power comes from believing in the grace of God.

God had seen Abrahamís failure, he knew Abraham would fail againó

†† and yet God said to him from this high place between Bethel and Ai:

ďLift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, and east and west.

†† All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring.Ē

 

He reaffirmed his promise to Abraham.And with that affirmation of Godís grace,

†† Abraham moved on to next phase of life, to Hebron, and worshipped God there.

How could God do that?How could he just keep accepting Abraham?

†† How does he keep accepting you when you fail as a Christian?By his grace.

 

Centuries later Jesus went up to a high place.Satan said to him:

†† Lift up your eyes, look all around at kingdoms of earth, Iíll give all this.

†† What was Satan offering Jesus? You can have it all without suffering.Cross.

Jesus said:No.Iíve come to lose it all and suffer so that I can redeem my people.

†† Abraham gave up his wealth to keep a relationship with Lot.

†† Jesus gave up greater wealth to have a relationship with you.

 

Youíll never be like Abraham by trying to be like Abrahamó

†† but by believing in the Son of Abraham, the one to whom Abraham points.

Paul says: ďFor you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for

†† your sakes he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.Ē

Look to Jesus.Trust him.Cherish the riches of his grace more than anythingó

†† and you will be given supernatural power and wisdom and boldness,

†† to do the right thing and glorify God with all you have.