Greg Laurie — The Choices of a World Changer
The three C's of life: Challenges, Choices, and Consequences. Challenges sometimes come as an opportunity. Sometimes they come as a temptation. It may be one of the hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn because choices are important as we will see now in the story before us. It is the story of two believers. Abraham and Lot. One was a committed believer. The other was a partially committed believer. And as we will see their choices were significant. Abraham the friend of God made the right choices. Lot the nephew of Abraham made some really bad choices and faced the consequences.
God sets a choice before us as well. You know back when I was in school I hated pop quizzes. Right. Because I always did poorly because I never did my homework. I was not a good student. One of my granddaughters Allie is now in kindergarten. We have been babysitting them. My son Jonathan is speaking at harvest New York city. So we are watching the kids. I took her to school. In fact this was the school I went to myself. That is how long it has been there. It is called Lincoln school. But anyway I took her to school. The next day Friday her older sister Rylie was out of school. So I said, "Allie you don't have to go to school today. You can take the day off and we will go do something fun". She said, "No. I want to go to school". I thought is this child related to me? How could that be? You want to go to school. She loves school. She is a great student. But I hated those pop quizzes because I was never prepared. I liked open book tests instead where I could find the answer.
God gives us an open book test. Here is what God says over in Deuteronomy 30:19, I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life that you and your children may live". I love that. God says you have a choice. Life or death. Blessings or curses. Now he gives us the answer. It is an open book test. By the way the right answer. Choose life. Here is your choice. Here is what your choice should be. But you still get to decide. And if you make the right choice there will be blessings and it will affect your children. Choose life that you and your children may live. And that is so true. The choices we make don't just affect us. They affect our children and our grandchildren. Even our great grandchildren. We all know of patterns of sin that have been passed on from generation to generation. Children of alcoholics often become alcoholics. Children of divorced parents often end up divorced. Then the pattern repeats. On the other hand godly legacies can be passed on too. And right decisions that you make are carried on to your children and then to your grandchildren. Choose life the Lord says that you may live.
So now we are going to look at the world changer who made the right choices. Let's look at Hebrews 11:8. "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise". We will stop there. Abraham. A world changer. Remember more ink is devoted to Abraham in Hebrews 11 than any other character so he is not just a world changer. He is a significant one. He is introduced to us in scripture as the friend of God. One day the Lord came to Abraham and said, leave your pagan country. Leave your pagan family and follow me. Make a clean break. Abraham obeyed kind of. He did leave that land. He did leave his family except he brought along his nephew Lot. As it turns out Lot had a bad influence on uncle Abraham. In effect God tells us to do the same thing. Because we all know certain people that build us up spiritually and other people that don't necessarily tear us down but after you spend some time with them you come away thinking I don't know if I want to do that again. You know what I am talking about?
I have been able to meet many godly people over the years. One of the privileges of being a pastor. I have met some wonderful men and women that love the Lord and are even more impressive privately than they are publicly. If I had to narrow it down to the godliest person I have ever met it would hands down be Billy Graham. Billy Graham is everything in private that you would hope he would be and even a little bit more. So gracious. So kind. I literally never heard him say a critical word about anyone. Just a wonderful godly man. I think of other people I met and it seems like they are always griping about something. They are always mad at someone. It almost seems as though they have to have a nemesis in life. They have someone they are upset with. They are sort of like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. I don't like to be around people like that that are always criticizing and always critiquing and always negative. That wears me down. I like to be around people that build me up. How about you?
2 Timothy 2:22 says, "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do what is right. Pursue faith, love, and peace". And listen. "Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts". Find people that call on the Lord with pure hearts. Even more. Be a person who calls on the Lord with pure hearts. Here is my question for you. What kind of effect are you having on others? What kind of effect are others having on you? Or another way of putting it, and I have said this before, are you a world changer? Or is the world changing you? Abraham was a world changer. Lot was changed by the world.
You see Abraham wanted God but Lot wanted this world. You can't have both. You know if you put God first and seek first the kingdom of God Jesus says all of these things will be added unto you. But if you seek those things and leave God out you lose twice. The believer gets God which is the most important thing of all and the Lord blesses them. But the nonbeliever or the compromised believer seeks the stuff. They don't get God. And then when they get the stuff they think will make them happy they still are not happy so they seek more stuff. That was Lot. He had a knowledge of God. He knew what was right but he was weak. He didn't want to make a stand and tended to lean on his uncle for spiritual strength.
Look what happened to Lot. Let's identify his steps in the wrong direction. Lot looked the wrong way. He looked the wrong way. Verse 10. "Lot lifted his eyes and saw that it was well watered like the land of Egypt". Notice that Lot's point of reference was Egypt. See uncle Abraham should have never taken him down to Egypt. Remember. They went down to Egypt. Any step away from God is always a step down. That is where they sort of sampled of those things. Now that is what Lot wants. He was drawn to Sodom because it reminded him of Egypt. So he looked around and he saw Sodom and Gomorrah and took his first step down. And by the way when it says he lifted up his eyes and looked it could be translated he looked with longing. Have you ever looked at something with longing? That car on the showroom floor. That outfit in the window. That freshly made krispy kreme coming down the conveyor belt in your direction.
Remember Eve in the garden. She ate of the forbidden fruit. Remember what the scripture said. She the tree was good for food. It was pleasant to the eyes and desired to make one wise. She took of the fruit and ate. So we see those things. Outlook will determine outcome. And so he looked with longing at this place instead of looking to heaven. He took a long look. The second step down for Lot was he separated himself from godly influence. This was good for Abraham but frankly bad for Lot.
Listen to this. A sure sign of spiritual decline is when you find yourself wanting to get away from godly people. So if someone says it is time to go to church. Unfortunately usually the wife talking to the husband. Honey time to go to church? All right. Yes. I am coming. You drag your feet you slacker. God bless you ladies. And here you are. Why? What is wrong with you? You don't like to be around Christians. You don't like to worship the Lord. That is not a sign of someone who is spiritually healthy. When you are walking with the Lord you want to be with godly people doing godly things. When you are not walking with the Lord as you ought to, you are kind of more drawn to the people doing the other stuff. You might even say well I wouldn't do what they do but I like to be around these people.
That was Lot. He was drawn to the wrong people. It ended up causing him to be in the in the wrong place. His third step down was he moved his tents to a place near Sodom. Verse 12 of Genesis 13 says. "He moved his tents to a place near Sodom". Fascinated by their freewheeling lifestyle and their disregard for God he thinks he could handle it. So Lot edges closer. If you were to have interviewed Lot at that moment. Lot why are you moving your tents close to Sodom? A wicked city. He might have said there are certain advantages a city offers. Maybe one day I can go in there and influence them for good. Yes that is what I need to do. Now a twist in the story. As he is getting close to Sodom there is another city and the king decides to attack Sodom. And in the process of attacking Sodom Lot is taken as a hostage.
Now when word came to Abraham you know your nephew Lot he was living so close to Sodom. Now he is a hostage of some king at war with Sodom. Abraham could have said it serves him right. Too bad for him. No. That is not Abraham. He says I will go get him. He puts an army together. Now Abraham is a warrior too. He gets an army together of his own servants. They go and they rescue Lot. They bring him back. What a wonderful thing to do. That was Lot's wakeup call. Have you ever had a wakeup call? You are going in the wrong direction spiritually and something happens like a warning saying don't do this thing. How did you respond? Here is what Lot did. Uncle Abraham rescues him from captivity. Now he moves to Sodom. He is not even living near Sodom. Thanks uncle. See you later. He moves into the city.
That was his final step down and a big mistake. Now he is living in this Godless place. Genesis 19:1 says, "He sat in the gateway of Sodom". This meant that he was now in a place of leadership. Because in the Bible when it says someone sits at the gate it means they are a leader or a ruler. Today it would be like he was a senator or a congressman. Or maybe a mayor. But in a position of influence of the city of Sodom. He was not influencing them. They were influencing him.
You know make a decision. If you are going to follow Christ, follow Christ. If you are going to go after the world and chase everything it has to offer, hey go for it. It may lead you to hell. But you will have a little fun. A lot of misery too. But this miserable in between spot where you are kind of a foot in the faith and a foot outside of the faith that is just the worst of all. You become effectively a mugwump. Don't be a mugwump. Do you know what a mugwump is? It is someone on a fence and their mug is on one end and their wump is on the other. I think God wants to shake a few fences today. Like Elijah say choose you this day whom you will serve. If the Lord is God then serve him. Are you going to be a Christian? Be a Christian. Be a totally committed Christian. This Lot like-life life, this in between world of compromise that is the worst place you could possibly be.
Now the Lord comes to Abraham. I love this. Because in Genesis 13:14 after Lot is gone we read, "The Lord said to Abraham, after Lot had separated from him". The Bible points it out. "After Lot had separated from him. 'look around at the land I have given to you'" Abraham had given up everything to serve God. Not only his country and people but he had given up some prime real estate in Canaan by giving Lot first choice in the matter. But now God says ok buddy. You gave it up. I am going to make it up to you. You gave these things up. I am going to give you more in their place. You gave up the best land. I am going to give you the entire land of Canaan. You get it all. Had Abraham lost family because of his obedience? Yes. But now God will give him offspring like the dust of of the earth. Listen.
We all choose what path our life will take. Listen to this. God will always give his very best to those who leave the choice with him. God will always give the very best to those who leave the choice with him. Never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God. Say Lord you choose for me. Here is what I think I want. Here is what I think is good. But if this is somehow outside of your plan I ask you to overrule it because I have come to know father knows best. He loves you. Abraham gave it up. But look what God gave him. I love the statement of Christ when the disciples were boasting. We have given up so much to follow you. It would make sense if we read and Jesus smacked them all across the face. He didn't do that. They actually had given up a lot to follow him. Here is what he said. "I will tell you the truth. No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come eternal life".
Here is what Jesus is saying. Whatever you give up for me I will make it up to you. You say I became a Christian. I lost some friends. Ok. God is going to give you a family in the place of those old friends who probably weren't even your friends to start with. He is going to give you the family of God. Yeah. Well I gave up some pleasures man. We used to do some fun stuff. What God will give you will be so much greater than that. Yeah. You have to give up some things to follow Christ. You have to give up guilt. You have to give up misery. You have to give up the ever present fear of death. And oh man listen to this. You have to give up hell. And God gives you the forgiveness of sin and the removal of guilt. He gives you his peace that passes all human understanding and a joy that is unspeakable. And he gives you the absolute certainty that you will go to heaven when you die. That is God's trade in deal. I think it is pretty awesome. Don't you?
So in closing there might be someone here who is living a compromised life like Lot. That is a whole lot of trouble. I urge you today turn your back on that and totally commit your life to Christ. Stop being a compromiser. Stop being a mugwump. A fence sitter. Be a sold out disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will start living the Christian life as it was meant to be lived in all of its richness and fullness. But there might be some others here who have never asked Jesus to come into their lives. They have never asked for his forgiveness. Listen. 2,000 years ago God loved you so much he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for your sin and my sin. For our sin. Jesus rose again from the dead three days later. He says he stands at the door and knocks if we will hear his voice and open the door he will come in. Jesus Christ will come into your life right now. You say well Greg if I become a Christian do I have to give up anything? Yeah. Give up your sin. Give up that old life and follow Christ. And as I said earlier what he gives to you will be so much better you won't even miss that other stuff. But you must come.