Sermon February 18, 2006 : Genesis 13
- Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda
- Date: February 18, 2006
- Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA
Let’s take some time to meditate a little bit about what God has to speak to us tonight. If you have your Bible with you, why don’t you turn to Genesis, chapter 13. It’s another one of those favorite passages of mine, that I want to share with you tonight.
Genesis, chapter 13, I’ll start reading from the NIB version: “So Abraham went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had and Lot, his nephew went with him. Abraham had become very wealthy in livestock, and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place, until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Hai where his tent had been earlier, and where he had first built and altar. There Abraham called on the name of the Lord. Now Lot who was moving about with Abraham also had flocks and herds and tents, but the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together, and quarrelling arose between Abraham’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and the Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
So Abraham said to Lot ‘Let there be any quarrelling between you and me or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is the not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go the right. if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left. Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt towards Zoar, this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorra. So Lot shows for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company. Abraham lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain, and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. The Lord said to Abraham after Lot had parted from him ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look North and South, East and West, all the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you. So Abraham moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built and altar to the Lord”.
Father, we thank you for your word, we bring it before You. We offer this text that we have read tonight, Lord. We pray for your visitation now upon this moment as we seek to illuminate your word and to extract its teachings for our lives, for our benefit, for application to the daily situations that we face. Give us wisdom, Father. And we will give you the glory as we delight in the wisdom that is in your word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Well, you know, we continue with these, what I call, foundational sermons. Foundational, because we’re just beginning, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to establish good, solid moorings and pillars for what we are hoping and looking towards the future, will become a solid ministry to our community.
And some of these sermons I see, in once sense, teaching principles, imparting some thoughts, and principles from the word of God, but I also see them as a kind of prophetic sermons. And by prophetic what I mean to say, is that sometimes as you preach or as you teach, you’re not only imparting knowledge and sharing ideas, but you’re also declaring certain things in heavenly realms, in spiritual realms. And you’re declaring to the Lord and you’re declaring also to demonic beings that are always witnessing the actions of human beings and this is what we believe, and we stand by this, and you’re kind of using the word of God as a powerful projectile that you’re hurling against human reality, and that you’re breaking through things.
I do believe that when you’re preaching, you have to preach in such a way in the spirit, that your word not only adds knowledge to people, but that there are also some spiritual dimensions, certain spiritual transactions that are taking place, that are hitting people in the spiritual……. in their own spiritual being, opening up things in their being but also in their spiritual realm, you’re declaring certain things. And so in a sense, I’m announcing tonight that this is a powerful principle that we want our community to be founded upon, that we consider this principle important for us as a community, that we believe in this case, that harmony, that reconciliation, that honesty in communication and integrity and trusting in God’s intervention in human affairs, is important for us as a congregation. That we believe that in our lives also, it is important to be people of love, people of unity, people of harmony, people of reconciliation, people who will resolve conflict in God-honoring ways.
And why do I think…… you remember that last Saturday I spoke about the importance of being, how should I says?, spirit-minded, of looking at life from a spiritual perspective, and we read from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the first letter, where Paul spoke about the fact that when he went to preach to them in his first visit to them, he resolved not to get lost in a lot of intellectual principles and a lot of external techniques to deliver the gospel; that he resolved to deliver a clear, simple, humble gospel, meat and potatoes, just the solid nourishment of God’s word, based on the fact that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus was crucified, that He was resurrected, and that through a relationship with Him, is how human beings obtain salvation.
He didn’t get lost in all the paraphernalia of his culture, the Greco-Roman world that was so insistent on the intellect and on sophistry and human wisdom, and that he said that the gospel will be founded on power, the gospel will be founded on spiritual principles and I want to orient you towards that. He said ‘you know, I came to you in weakness, in humility of words and presents and also in acts of power, in signs and wonders so that you would not be dependent on the wisdom of men but on the power of God’.
And to me that was an important principle, because as a congregation we want to believe and we want to be founded on the spirit. We are, in a sense, a pentecostal congregation, not in the denominational sense of the word, but in the sense that we believe in the gift of spirit. We believe in the power of God in lives, the power to change things, to break chains, to heal us physically and spiritually and emotionally. We believe in spiritual transactions, we believe in the laying on of hands, we believe in all the gifts that are mentioned in the Bible. We believe that the word of God is the same today as it was a thousand years ago, or two thousands years ago. We believe that Jesus is the same today and always and forever and that we are moving in the same revelation that was given to these first congregations in the first century, or even before that as well, as we see in the Old Testament.
So, I wanted to establish that as a principle for us, I want us to become hungry for the power of God. It’s great to have theology, as I said before, it’s great to have good teachings, and so on, and read good books and go to college and graduate schools. Its wonderful, there’s nothing wrong with that, you know. We live in the age of technology and I think the church should be extremely savvy in all those areas and we should delight in having the might of Christ that gives us access to all of those things that the world values so much, but knowing that our foundation and our priority is in the things of the spirit. And that as long as we are founded on that, that will give us a great platform to do everything else. So that was an important principle.
Today, I want to speak about something that is on another vein. You know that the Bible speaks about the gifts of the spirit but also speaks about what? About the fruit of the spirit, and these two dimensions are so important and they kind of serve to counterbalance and they mutually nuance each other and complement each other. The fruit of the spirit, as the Apostle Paul speaks about in Galatians, refers to the character of the Christian, the Christ likeness of the Christians. It speaks about joy, and it speaks about love and it speaks about the meekness and humility and tolerance, all these things that refer to the Christ-like character that God expects of us as believers.
I think a lot of congregations fall and are destroyed and at the very least hamper in their efforts to be a presence in the community because they don’t have a balance between these two powerful revelations of the word of God: the gifts of the spirit and the fruit of the spirit. I think congregations can die because they don’t pay enough attention about the power of God and so everything is just, as I said before, theology and a great program, great facilities and a lot of planning and administration and a lot of activities and trips to here and there and fellowship groups and all kind of different things and it’s all just a lot of activism, a lot of external action that keep people occupied, and it keeps them busy and engaged and doing things, and there’s a lot of comedies and all kind of things going on, and you know, money is being raised for this and for that, but they don’t place enough of an emphasis on the spiritual power, on the mystery of the gospel, of the supernatural realm that we’re supposed to dwell in, and so they die because they become ineffective, because they don’t have the power of God.
So when people in bondage, for example, or people come with all kind of neurosis, or demonic oppression, or when Satan is seeking to divide, to destroy the congregation, or when all kinds of situations are faced in the community, they don’t really have the power to break through. And that’s what the Apostle Paul said in another passage, he said that the weapons of our warfare are not material, but that they powerful for the destructions of strongholds. And by strongholds in the language of the Bible he meant, demonic entities, demonic forces, demonic fortresses that establish themselves either in communities or in families or in individuals. He said the weapons that we use are not material weapons, they’re powerful.
And so a lot of congregations they do not place enough emphasis on that side of things. And many times you will find that those congregations place a lot of importance also on character and on relationships and all that kind of stuff, and they neglect that other side.
I think that there are also other congregations that are very pentecostal and very charismatic and they suffer from the other problem, which is that they emphasize too much the gifts, they emphasize too much the power thing, and the speaking in tongues and you know, the healing ministries, and on people having supernatural experiences and everything is when you come on Sunday you have….. if the spirit isn’t there, they’re going to produce it somehow. They’re going to find a way to get things riled up by their emotionally or whatever, but something has to happen, because if it doesn’t happen then people are going to go away thinking ‘oh, the spirit wasn’t there today. Something happened to the pastor. He didn’t have his weedies in the morning or whatever’.
And so, you know, there’s an overly developed consciousness about the gifts and that can be a problem, because often what I have found in many such congregations, and I think that in the charismatic world, which I identify, which is that often there is a lack of character and a lack of depth about the complexity of the spiritual word, and everything is, well, if people have a problem let’s rebuke the demons. You know, if there’s a marriage problem, well let’s come because Satan wants to divide your marriage, so let’s pray that Satan will go away and everything is supernatural. Everything is demonic and often the congregation is so focused on the gifts of the spirit that they neglect teaching people about human relationships, about Christ-likeness, about the crucifixion of the self, about God working through weakness to generate power.
Power-focused congregations they will speak always in triumphant tones, don’t say anything that smacks of weakness. Don’t speak of anything that sound like poverty or death, or Satanist or anything like that, because ‘No, sh,sh….., we don’t want Satan to hear that’. And if you admit some sort of weakness, you’re giving the devil. And what happens, you know, they’re missing out on a very important dimension of Biblical revelation which is that God often chooses weakness to manifest His power, and sometimes He’ll use the cross, and death and poverty, and suffering and trials and failures, to generate the character of Christ in us.
Just as Christ himself said, you know, he despoiled Himself, He weakened himself, He impoverished himself of His glory and as a result of that God raised Him up and gave Him a name above any other name. And it says that we should do the same as well. So often what happens is that many power-focused congregations, they forget about how …… it’s hard work, let me tell you. It’s hard word living an effective, fulfilling Christian life and it’s not just by magic, it’s not by formulas, it’s not just by shear confessions and forcing God to do this because somehow you discovered the right formula or the right confession. There’s a lot of sweat and being broken up and going through a lot of really difficult situations in life, and all of that God, bringing about His glory in your life,… you know, God may choose to put you through a period of suffering and difficulty to form in you the figure of Jesus Christ.
So don’t just focus on power. It’s important to have a balance. That’s why I say, even as you preach about the gifts of the spirit you also have to speak about the fruit of the spirit. I refer you to Galatians 5, where there’s a whole workout on the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit that is so important. I urge you to focus also on the formation of Christian character, of Godly character, of humility, of love towards others, of forgiveness, of kindness, of tolerance, of generosity toward others. Those elements of human being of character are so important for human health and for peace of the soul and for good relationships.
And we should always seek a balance, and as congregation I hope that this church will be founded on both. And that’s why this passage, ah…. now we get to Genesis 13. That’s why this passage is so beautiful. It’s one of my favorite, because I think seldom in scripture, you see so graphically delineated that principle of Christ-likeness and of crucifixion of the self and of yielding of your rights for harmony to be preserved, and of the blessing that comes as a result of that.
Because that’s the key thing: here you will see that in Abraham’s way of conducting himself, vis a vis his nephew Lot, there was apparent defeat in one way, but really in Godly terms, in how God computes and conjugates reality, it was the most powerful thing that Abraham could have done on his own behalf. And so this is what I want to orient us to, you know, always in our relationships we need to imitate that principle of grace, that principle of yielding yourself, yielding your rights, so that God may be glorified. And as you do that, huge powers released in that dead, it’s almost like one of those chemical processes that when you get two substances together something happens and an energy is released as a result of it. Well, that’s what happens: when we pursue these Godly principles power is released, but interesting enough, is that power is released on our behalf and for the glory of God.
So what we have here, initially, you’ll see, as you read, there’s a situation of potential conflict. And actually conflict is beginning to emerge in the life of Lot and his uncle, Abraham. Ironically the source of the conflict is the blessing that has fallen on their lives. And that’s very interesting, you know, sometimes in congregational life, in relationships conflict comes out of greater closeness, for example, friends you know, they start seeing each other every day, they start calling each other on the phone, three time, four times a day, start going out every weekend twice on Saturdays and Sundays, and you know, they call each other on Monday to find out how they felt about Saturday and Sunday. And you know, it’s all the time they’re together and things are going great, but what happens? That closeness generates conflict many times and all of a sudden frictions start to happen.
Congregations are the same way. When the group is small and the congregation has limited resources, everybody is willing to work and everybody is willing to put their hand in the task and there’s a lot of adrenaline and motivation and great joy, and then what happens? As a result of that, God starts blessing because that’s the natural law of the supernatural and as harmony ensues, great blessings start emerging and God brings people and those people bring money and the money buys all kinds of equipment and resources, and programs begin to emerge. But what happens? As a result of that, conflict begins to emerge as well, and problems begin to emerge. That’s the nature of life many times and that’s what happened to Abraham and Lot.
God blessed them, you know, God’s blessing was in the life of Abraham and Lot was yoked to Abraham so God’s blessing fell on Lot as well, and so they started having lots of cattle, lots of property. And here they are, in a limited space and now their herdsmen begin to compete for the grazing land and arguments emerge and the stewards come to Lot and to Abraham and start accusing each other of doing this and doing that, and slowly the conflict is beginning to emerge directly between Abraham and his nephew.
And so, what we have is a situation of conflict. And many of us find ourselves in such situations in life, all the time. Congregations all the time are involved and I’m sure some of you can identify with that, amen. As a pastor, I have learned that’s part of the nature of life. I am never scandalized by conflict at this point. I’ve had so many over twenty so years of ministry that now when it comes, I say ‘ok, time bake the donuts again. Time to start applying the word of God and doing what needs to be done.’
I don’t get scandalized by them, and by now I know it’s part of the nature of human falleness. Conflict will be there with you all the time, whether it is in a job situation, in a marriage situation, in the family, in friendships. You know, you have to factor conflict in, so don’t be scandalized. Don’t be depressed, don’t become depressed when you have conflict in your relationships. That’s the nature of life. If you don’t have conflict with somebodt that you’re close to, I mean, something is wrong with you guys. You need to be in heaven, not here. You’re too good. It will be nice, so don’t get depressed, don’t get scandalized, don’t blow a fuse as a result of it. Simply say ‘ok, I mean, there is a conflict and what do I need to do about it?’
Abraham gives us a lesson here which is very important, which is that he did not allow the conflict to fester and to stay so long unaddressed that it became lethal and that it went beyond the point of resolution and dialogue. That’s very important. When we find ourselves in situations of conflict, try to ….as soon as possible identify the situation. I think that’s what kills sometimes many marriages. People, they’re having the same problem all the time, I mean, he’s leaving his underwear in the hall all the time. He’s refusing to put down the toilette seat when he uses it, and every day it happens and you know, she gets mad, and she doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to create conflict. It starts getting worse and before you know resentment begins and then one day everything just explodes and plates are thrown around and words are said that can’t be taken back. Or distance starts developing and you start looking at your partner with disdain and things get out of hand.
And then, when there’s a blow up he says ‘well, what’s the problem? Why didn’t you tell me? What’s the big thing?’. Well there’s a whole accumulation of anger has taken place and it can happen in friendship as well, something that annoys you about your friend. They keep doing exactly the same thing all the time. They keep dipping into your plate when you’re about to eat and taking their fork and putting it in and you never say anything and before you know it you’re not going out anymore, because you don’t want to be bothered with that. And all kinds of problems, you know, and so it’s important I think in keeping harmony in relationships to always be alert to those things, to monitor.
I think it’s very important to also ask God for that lucidity of sight that allows us to….. while we are fully engaged in a relationship, and loving it, and having fun with it and being passionate about it, also to keep a certain amount of distance so that you can monitor the progress of the relationship. And you can always say ‘how are we doing? How are things going? And these are things that you learn to do automatically after a while.
Ask the Lord to develop in you that capacity to both be engaged in life and also to have a certain amount of critical distance from it, so that you can always be observing how things are going and you can also observe yourself.
I tell my daughter many times ‘try to develop that capacity to place yourself in a little corner of the room, next to the ceiling and look at yourself as you are speaking or acting or doing whatever it is in a human situation. It’s a great skill and it can be developed, because that allows you sometimes to…. I think a lot of human beings the problem is that we don’t have that kind of lucidity. We’re so innocent and so one-dimensional in our emotions, that we just become fully engaged in a situation and we do things and we participate in it, but there’s no analysis, there’s no critical distance that allows us to ask ourselves: Am I doing the right thing? Am I speaking at the right moment? Am I resolving the situation correctly? Am I being courteous enough?, and so on. Most human beings were 100% …go… and all thrown into their relationship or distance and far away. And you have to develop that capacity to do both.
What I see here in Abraham is that he was monitoring the situation. He knew that a problem beginning to emerge and he took action. And we’re going to talk a little bit about action. But before I do that I just want to…. Let me say about discernment, it’s so important, because what I’m saying about critical distance, I think the Bible speaks about discernment and it almost like a spiritual gift that the Bible speaks about.
And you know, you can pray to that gift. It’s very close to the gift of wisdom which is the ability to discern, means kind to separate essences, to differentiate between sallow things and you need to ask the Lord that…. The apostle James says ‘if anybody is lacking in wisdom, ask it from the Lord who gives abundantly to all and without reproach and it will be given to you’.
Young people, older people, ask the Lord for discernment. Ask the Lord for wisdom in human relationships, in human situations and ask Him to give you that capacity to understand yourself, to understand others, to understand human dynamics. As a Christian you have the right to come before the Lord, there’s a specific promise in the Bible, if you ask the Lord for that, in human relationships He will give it to you. And if you set about to developing that skill, that gift, God will start developing.
How will He do it? He will start, sometimes, putting you in situations in life that will exercise that gift. Also He may start breaking you. That’s another thing. He may start working in your life in such a way to make you more sensitive. There’s a lot of Christians who are very insensitive. They’re very rough and awkward in their way of relating to other people. Because, it’s like…. They have so much energy, they have s much raw physical strength that they don’t have the capacity to get into the subtle aspects of human relationships. So God sometimes has to break us and bleed us in order that out of that weakness, sensitivity may come about. So God may start doing that as well in your life. Don’t be scandalized by that, because that may be part of God’s word to bring you to that refinement that you need to look at like in a way that leads to blessings to human relationships.
Now, Abraham analyzed the situation, sees the conflict is beginning and he acts in time. He comes in time, when there’s still communication between Lot and him. Full conflict hasn’t yet broken out, so they’re still lines of communication. That’s so important, do not wait until the last minute. If you see yourself getting hot under the collar about something in a human relationship or in a church situation, act before things get too bad. Enforce yourself to act. That’s so important.
I don’t think that it was comfortable for Abraham to come to Lot and say ‘hey, let’s get together for lunch’ and between the dessert and the cappuccino, Abraham says ‘you see, Lot, there’s a problem that is going on. I mean, we need to solve this before things get really out of hand. I have found that in order to keep peace in human relationships it is so important to force yourself to say certain things, not to act out of anger.
Sometimes we need the stimulus of anger or absolute frustration to have enough courage to say something. In Latin America what you do, is you take a few shots of rum or whatever and then you go and tell people off and so on and so forth. Others depend on just anger, when somebody does something really bad to you, then you express yourself. But what happens? You’re not in control and you’re acting out of resentment and then you say things that you didn’t mean and the whole thing becomes nuclear war. Instead of forcing yourself by principle knowing that that’s what God requires and you come before that person and you speak to them and you pull out every word just out of shear principle, because God requires that, because I love my friend or my partner, or whatever, and you say things in a loving way, in a firm way, in a clear way. And you combine those gifts of the spirit in a nice combination as the situation requires. And you present your case, always being careful to say it in a way that doesn’t scandalize the person, not to use cold words that will immediately trigger a reaction.
There are words in communication that if you use them, even if 99% of the rest of the vocabulary was loving and reconciling and so on and so forth, that single word is what’s going to stick to the person and set off a melt down, and sometimes we have to be careful to avoid those words, because they’re cold words in the life of that individual and you should not use them.
And that’s why it’s so important. It’s so delicate to solve those kind of situations that you need as much self control as possible, and that’s why you need to do things in the proper time, early enough. And that’s another thing that Abraham did, he came. The other thing is he took the initiative, that’s an important principle in resolving human conflicts. He took the initiative.
Now, he didn’t have to take the initiative, particularly in Middle Eastern culture, Abraham he was the elder, it was up to Lot really to come and try to fix things up. And Abraham could have called put rank there and called upon seniority and said ‘it’s that little punk that has to come to me and try to fix things up. He should be grateful that I’m letting him hang out with me’ He could have stocked to his position and say ‘you know, he’s the one who has to seek reconciliation and a solution. But, no. what did he do? He initiated. Why? Because he was the more mature, the was probably the strongest, he had more emotional reserves and therefore he could exercise that heroic initiative of coming and looking for resolution.
I read once that in Maritime Law, the big ships have to yield to the little ships. So when two ships seem to be coming into a crash in the see, the big ship will have to hold back until the little ship passes. And I think that’s a wonderful concept there. And I think it’s like that in human relationships. If you are the more mature person, if you are the one who really hasn’t offended, and you are the one probably who is perceiving things and the other person is rough and careless and is not paying attention to basic relational care, well, you initiate. Don’t sort of hunker down and dig in your heels and say, well, they have to do it. You go ahead and initiate and that is so Christ like.
In scripture we see, the Bible says that when we were deep in our sins, Jesus died for us. When humanity couldn’t ask God and didn’t want to, didn’t care for God, I think as a matter of fact Jesus may have come in the worse point of human history, when humanity was really corrupt, that’s when God sent his son to bring reconciliation between God and man. God could have said ‘the heck with the human race, they’ve offended me enough’.
Look at his work in Israel. How many times God has pursued Israel, and even to this day God is yet waiting for reconciliation and definitively there is no competition between God and any human being or the human race, and yet we see God always taking the initiate for reconciliation, for giving.
In the Bible we see the parable of the lost son, how when the father sees him from afar, the father runs to him, rather than say ‘hey, let that ingrate whatever come in and ask for forgiveness from me. He’s offended me enough’. No, the father immediately….. and you know that’s important that in Christian life, in the Christian work, my brothers and my sisters, it is so important that we force ourselves to put that principle into operation. Seek reconciliation. Give forgiveness before it is even asked for. Overlook offences, suffer sometimes loss for the sake of the kingdom or for the sake of someone else or of a third party that is witnessing a whole situation may be offended or scandalized or wounded by what is going on, and sometimes happens, maybe the children, maybe a young believer in the church.
We are public to a certain degree and if we don’t handle sometimes our situations in a God-like Christ-like way, there will be all kinds of human debris around us. And that’s why congregations break up all the time, because many of us are often so much more intent on winning our battle and winning our issue, than in glorifying the Lord and keeping the congregational harmony as much intact as possible. So, it is very important, my friends, I cannot….
There’s nothing more important than that, because one day many of you will be married or are married and I think the only was harmony is kept between human relationships and human groups it’s by the exercise of grace, where the person who doesn’t need to do something, the party that has been offended and hurt chooses, out of a heroic decision to exercise principle to forgive or to seek reconciliation, or to pray for the person who has offended you, or to exercise Christ-like grace. And because no matter, how many agreements, no matter how many contracts you draw up. I believe in congregational bylaws, I believe in congregational meetings. I believe in having an elders boards. I believe in writing things up and doing all kind of agreements and so on, you know, but what I found out in twenty some years of ministry is that no matter how intentional you are about drawing up all kinds of rules and who’s going to take out the garbage, and what night they’re going to do it, and how many bags and how many pounds per bag, and whether he’s going to do it, she’s going to do it, who’s going to wash the dishes, what day and so on…. you may draw up all of those contracts suggested by marriage counselors and so on, but if all that is not lubricated by grace, by love, by forgiveness, by humility, by neatness of spirit, by willingness to ask for forgiveness when you offend, by honesty and by brokenness of the self and acknowledgement of your own need before God and of your absolute, awful unworthiness, none of those principles, none of those covenant agreements will be worth a thing. Conflicts will ensue.
Congregations will be divided. Marriages will be broken, unless there’s absolute decision to exercise grace and to do it on both sides. Sometimes he will exercise it when he feels strong and close to the Lord, sometimes she will do it when he needs it. But somehow there will be this beautiful dance of according grace to each other and giving it in a way that the spirit lead. There’s nothing more beautiful than that in friendship, in relationships in a congregation, in marriage, in a work situation, in a ministry, whatever it is. It is that adoption that Godly Christ-like principle of the stronger, or of the one who has the right giving grace and crucifying himself or herself for a higher good.
And that’s what I see here in Abraham, that he went to Lot and he said to Lot: ‘Lot, you know what, we are brothers’. Read the chapter and you’ll see that. See, we are brothers and just before Abraham says that, it’s interesting and I find it revealing in the passage that it says that the Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
Now, why did the Holy Spirit put that into the text before Abraham calls Lot and says ‘Lot we are brothers’? I believe, because in that binary set up there, there is this idea, Abraham is saying ‘we are brothers and we are believers. We have been touched by the true God, by Jehovah and we belong to a chosen race. And here are these people that don’t know the true God and we cannot afford to show ourselves fighting with each other and being no different that they are, so let’s pay attention to that. Let’s not let our family bond be broken and negatively affected by mere money and cattle and possessions.
What was Abraham doing? He was putting the spiritual over the material. And that’s so important in life, my brothers and my sisters, that we cultivate this consciousness that we are people of the spirit. We dwell in eternity. The most important thing in our life is not money, is not career, is not possession, is not who is right, it is cultivating Godly character, it is glorifying God, it is preserving those bonds. I mean, how many marriages are broken up and children destroyed and all kinds of horrible wreckage in human lives over, you know, stupid things, material things, minute things sometimes.
I’ve seen many marriages that people divorce and they’re so angry at each other and so set on getting the car, or getting the house or you know, showing the other partner is wrong and so on that they sacrifice their children in the altar of who is right. And all kinds of terrible conflicts take place, and children are destroyed, and parts are embittered and bad testimonies given in the church and in the community, and people who were close to coming to the Lord, all of a sudden are scandalized. Never want to know about the gospel, because these two individuals were so much more intent on winning a battle or getting the house, or getting the car, that thing that will be destroyed and become old in three, four or five years, and they were not intent on the other part: we are Christians, we are people of the spirit, we want Christ to be glorified. God can give us another house, God can give us another car. And if He doesn’t, we will have Him and that’ll be enough.
People, let’s place importance on spiritual things. You are spiritual beings. Always tell that to yourself as I need to tell it to myself. The harmony of a church, of a congregation is worth 10.000 battles, 10.000 things and so we should always be willing to sacrifice our right or whatever it is, so that we do not touch…..
For example the harmony of a church or of a ministry is almost like a veil, satin, delicate. If you scratch it, if you break it up even a little bit, you can never put it back the same way that it was. The scar will be there. It’s like a beautiful, crystal, fragile cup that if you press it too much, it’ll break in your fingers. That’s how delicate harmony is in a marriage or in a church, and we should be very careful not to violate that as much as possible.
The Bible says in First Corinthians,… I’m drawing to an end because it’s a very deep concept here that will be elaborated, but generally in First Corinthians the Apostle Paul speaks to the Corinthians who were fighting among themselves and taking each other to court. I think it’s First Corinthians, six; he says ‘why don’t you, rather than fighting and taking each other to court and scandalizing the unbelievers, why don’t you solve things among yourselves’, and he even says ‘why don’t you suffer’. That’s an important thing, I can’t refrain from pointing that out to you.
I’ll read it just very quickly. He says: “the very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already, why not rather be wrong, why not rather be cheated?”.
You see what he says there? You know, instead of leading to scandal, instead of leading to a situation of huge conflict, why don’t you suffer some loss for the sake of the kingdom. You know, sometimes we will have to suffer loss in order for a relationship to be preserved and because many of us are not willing to suffer loss and say ‘no, I’m going to win this argument because she’s wrong and I’m going to show her that she’s wrong’. And so each other digs in their heels and you know, nobody budges and everything is destroyed and all kinds of havoc is created, unless one person is willing to suffer loss. Again, in marriage, in church relations, in human relations, unless one of us is willing to suffer loss, many times there will not be peace in human relationships.
So, in every congregation there have to be those peacemakers. In every conflict there has to be one person who is willing to be crucified just like Jesus was. If the process of crucifixion, really the cross is in all this process, everywhere. It’s like a water mark in a paper, it’s everywhere, the cross. Unless somebody is willing to pay up front there will always be huge conflict in human relations.
And please, I now that I’ve exceed my time but I’ll just say this, it’s the last thing here. The beautiful thing is that as you are willing to suffer loss, you know what happens? You release power. Just as when Jesus was crucified, when He screamed it is done, it is completed, it’s finished. I think at that moment, I mean, if we could have seen what happened in the universe with some sort of mechanism that could see the spiritual realm, I think we could have seen coming out of that point in the universe, just a flash of light, a reverberation like an atomic bomb like we see sometimes in the movie. Just that thing flashing from that point of the cross all over the universe and even penetrating time and space.
Einstein would have know about going back to the past and going to the future and to the present, and every dimension of existence was affected by that immense act of absolute yielding and breaking up and the absolutely infinite beauty and justice and holiness of Christ that didn’t need to be sacrificed, willingly giving it up all, and releasing such a power that it could cover generations in the past, in the present, in the future, in hell, wherever, because such power was released.
Now, we’re not able to release that much power because only a perfect, infinite God could do that, but we are able to release a certain amount of power in human transactions by our own acts of crucifixion, as we decide to suffer loss, to maybe keep quiet, to hold back our anger, to hold back that word that could really cut right through the heart and, you know, neutralize that person. And we say ‘Lord I offer this moment to you’.
And you know what? The Lord sees. Abraham said to Lot ‘You know, Lot, let’s go up. You look around you and decide what piece of land you want.’. He could have said, ‘let me do it first because I am the older guy, and I’m already working in this thing so why don’t you put up a little bit as well. No, but he said, you know, Lot, look around and take whatever you want. Imagine that and Lot, what did he do? Lot operated according to the principle of self interest, and it says that he looked and he looked, he saw the best condos, he saw the greenest area, he saw where the lakes were and the mountains were and the vacation places, and he saw where the real estate could really appreciate a lot and he made sure that this place was near highways and everything and he said, ‘ah, I’ll take that part’. He was acting upon the carnal, demonic principle of self interest and self right.
And so he acted on that. And what happens? When you do that it’s the contrary. You know, grace closes up. When you seek your own self, what happens is that all of a sudden you become totally sterile, unproductive. Jesus said that unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground it remains alone, but if it falls and it dies, it yields much fruit. That’s the essential paradox of the Christian life, right there.
I have not found one more basic principle of human existence than that one. As Abraham crucified himself and said, you know, I’m going to hold back my desire to get that piece of land, and I’m going to give him….. as Abraham crucified himself and gave his right up and Lot ironically took self interest, that’s his guiding principle, something happened in the heavenlies. You see until now, we think that it’s only Lot and Abraham that are transacting, there’s not mention of God being anywhere.
But it says here that when Lot went, we know what happened to Lot. He took the real estate, he took the city and he ended up in disaster, total disaster, loss of his family, loss of all kinds of stuff, and to the point that later on Abraham has to go and rescue him at another point. Talk about grace, that’s another whole issue, I won’t get into that. Thank God, but the point is that in the end it said, that after they separated and they went each their own way, God appears to Abraham and says ‘Abraham, come over here, son. Now, look again. Look at all the land, north, south, east and west. Look at everything that you looked at before with your nephew Lot. Let’s revisit that moment now.’ And He says, ‘you know what, Abraham? I’m going to give you everything that you are seeing, everything that you can see, I’m going to give it to you and your descendents, including the land that Lot chose’.
You see, because that’s what happens, when you use the principle of grace in your life and you glorify Christ and you sacrifice yourself and you crucify yourself for the glory of God, God is watching, the Holy Spirit is there in that moment. That’s so important that we understand that.
In that moment of conflict with your wife or with your husband, when you choose to humble yourself, in that moment of conflict in ministry, when you choose to hold back your tongue or sheet your sword again, in that moment of conflict in the corporate setting, when somebody stepping on your toe and seeking to get the better of you and get ahead of you, and you choose to act in a Christ-like way, and you choose to hold back your fist that you could very easily use to destroy that person and get into the same kind of running over each other and the same devilish demonic kind of dynamic, and you choose to glorify God, God may not seem that He’s there but He is there and He is watching you.
And He will call you in a silent transaction and say ‘my son, my daughter, that’s ok. I’ll make it up. I’ll give you more. I’ll bless you because you have glorified me. I’ll bless you because you have had the courage to act according my principles. You have not let yourself be intimidated by what you see on the outside. You have forced yourself to be guided by my principles. I’m going to honor you, I’m going to bless you, I’m going to give you more and I’m going to give it to you in such a way that in the end you’ll have a good conscience, you’ll have joy, you’ll have freshness of spirit, you’ll be fresh as a rose, you’ll be innocent instead of being ravished by carnality and by self interest and by how many people destroy their personality by all this running after a position in the corporate ladder and this and that, and they become demonic in their inner configuration.
But God gives the believer many, many wonderful things, in such a way that the believer can still remain child-like and innocent and joyous, and happy and able to love and to laugh because he’s done it in a Godly way. He’s run the race legitimately as the apostle Paul says. So this is the word of God and this is the word of God for our congregation.
I do pray that this church will always be the church of grace, a church of reconciliation, a church of love, a church of forgiveness, a church of suffering loss for the glory of Christ, a church of trust that God is so much more powerful in making up any laws that we incur for his glory. It’ll be a place for forgiveness of each other, a place of refuge for the broken, a place of tolerance for each other and for the very specific paths that God has for each of us that are so different and that we give ourselves space and that God will perfect his ways in us, in his time, in his way, in each of us, we give each other space and time for God to do that.
I pray that that will be…. That the spirit of Abraham in this moment will permeate this church, permeate our life, permeate our ministries, permeate our pastors, permeate our transactions among us. And I establish His word forever and ever as long as this church exists, as long as this ministry exists, I do pray that that’ll be the founding principle, the character of Christ, the fruit of the spirit.
And I pray that the Lord right now will touch our lives and I need that, I’m preaching this sermon to myself. Many times I don’t live, I cannot live that, I don’t have the power, I don’t have the resources and I fail God, but I know that that’s what God is calling me to do. And I don’t want to deviate myself from it, I don’t want to lower the values of kingdom. I have to strive for it, that’s why I want an aim and if I fall short I want to come to God, I’m going to confess and I’m going to say, ‘Father, help me, again, but don’t lower the principles’. That’s what God is calling each of us to do.
Would you stand with me for a moment? Would you embrace the word of God? Would you accept it for your life? Would you accept it as a program for life? Would you say Father, I want to honor Christ, I want to be like Christ, I want to be a Godly man a Godly woman. I don’t want to be computing according to the accountance of the world, I want to compute according to the principles of your word. I want to have the same spirit that was in Christ to despoil himself, to impoverish himself even though He could have claimed God likeness and made himself a servant and then God raised him from the dead and gave a name above every other name, so that even those that crucified him and that humiliated him will have to confess that He is the Lord.
And so, Father, I believe that if I do that you will bless me and my life will somehow…. You’ll make it up. The balance will be the balance that I’ll need to have in my life, because you will be watching over me. It won’t be me watching over my petty possessions but it will be y+You managing my life and my energies. So I embrace that spirit tonight.
In the name of Jesus, Father, bless my brothers and my sisters. We embrace that. I embrace it. Forgive us when we fail. Forgive when we are not up to that level of greatness, Father, but we certainly embrace it tonight. And we give you all the glory. We thank you because you showed us how to do that Jesus. You established the example. Bless this young men and women, bless everyone here tonight, Lord according to that word that has been established, in Jesus name, in Jesus name. Amen.
|Sermon delivered by Dr. Roberto Miranda taped February 11, 2006 at Congregation Lion of Judah||Listen|||||View (100K)|||||View (400K)|
Listen and view more presentations taped on February 18, 2006