Tag Archives: sins forgiven

Let There Be No Strife Between Us

Text:  Genesis 13:8-9, NLT

8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9 (NLT)

Introduction

During his 10-year prison stay, Craig wrote to his family members on many occasions, declaring his repentance and asking for forgiveness – but no one answered. Because he was a minister and a leader in his community, his highly publicized trial had left a bitter taste in the mouth of his family. Upon his release, he continued to write, but no one in his family would communicate with him, even though he had been out of prison for more than two years.

 

Move 1

Abraham had taken Lot his nephew with him to the land that God had shown him.  Lot had been with Abram through famine and prosperity.  As relatives, they had endured much together.  Both of them had been prospered by God and all between the family seemed well.

Nonetheless, because of their prosperity both of them could not live on the same piece of property.  Abraham and Lot loved each other and got along well, but their employees were engaged in continuous conflicts over use of land, water, and resources.  This tension caused Abraham and Lot as close relatives to begin to withdraw from each other.  This conflict interfered with the special relationship they had always enjoyed.  Lord, have mercy!

Now let me add here that these conflicts had become so contentious they had become violent and Abraham knew that the situation had to change.  I’m so glad that somebody in the family, especially the one who has God on their side knows when to act.  Abraham did not sit idly by and watch the devil destroy his relationship with Lot and the rest of his family.  Abraham acted and moved to resolve the issue.

Abraham said again, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen.  After all, we’re close relatives!”  I wonder if there’s anybody here among this assembly of family and friends who have allowed strife to come between you and your relatives to the point that you no longer fellowship one with the other.  I wonder if there’s anyone here who no longer attends the family reunion or no longer goes to visit a relative because of strife.  Well, if you’re in the building I stop by to tell you, God says, “Let no strife come between you because God is able to bless each of you.”  Hallelujah!

Abraham makes the first move; Abraham decides to give Lot the option to choose whatever land he wants as long as they continue to remain close as relatives.  Lot reveals his heart when he chose “the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar.”  He made his decision because “the whole area was well watered.”  Water was like gold in the world economy today.  The one who controls the water controls the economy.  And it’s just like the situation in Israel and Palestine today; the one who controls the water controls the land.  Lord, have mercy!

Israel and Palestine have been feuding for generations because Israel insists on controlling the major water routes.  I wonder if there is anyone here this afternoon who is controlling things in your family and because of your control others in your family have been held back, held up, and kicked back.  I wonder is there anybody here who knows somebody in your family that won’t share the blessings God has given your family because they control that blessing.  I wonder if there is anyone here this afternoon who believes that you can stop your family member’s blessings because mother or father left you in charge of the property and the money.  Lord, have mercy!

I stop by to tell you this afternoon, you better be a blessing, because when you become a blessing to your family, God will do exceedingly abundantly above all things.  Can I get a witness here?  Anybody here every had the bless you in spite of…..in spite of what your relatives did to you…..in spite of what they said about you…..can I get a witness here?  Hallelujah!

 

Move 2

Well, let me move on.  I got to tell you three things about this text that demonstrates how friends and family should relate to one another.  Hallelujah!

First, families and friends should stick together.  You have heard it said, “Blood runs thicker than water.”  That means that when you are related to somebody you’re family.  You will not allow anyone or anything to come between you and family.  God called Abram out from his Father and Mother’s house.  God did not call Lot; but since Lot was Abraham’s nephew and Lot wanted to go with Uncle Abram, Abram allowed him to go with him.  Abram became responsible for Lot’s welfare and ensured that Lot had the same opportunities to be blessed that Abram had.  Lord, have mercy!

Abram did not try to keep Lot from the blessings that God blessed him with.  Abram shared all that God had blessed him with, with his nephew Lot.  And Lot became a wealthy and mighty man.  Hallelujah!  Abram knew that families should stick together and bless one another.  Can I get a witness here?

Not only should families stick together but families should settle any differences that come between them.  Notice carefully that it was the older family member that made the first gesture to settle the dispute.  Abram went to his nephew and made an offer of compromise so that the family could remain stable.

Somebody here this afternoon knows that you have been entrusted by your fore parents to watch over the family and to take care of your younger siblings, but you are acting stubborn and stuck up.  I stop by to tell you that as a child of God, you ought to make the first move.  You ought to give that younger person in the family the opportunity to blessed even if it looks like you might lose something.  Lord, have mercy!

Third, and finally, families should sacrifice for one another.  Abram had to sacrifice so that Lot could be blessed and move on with his life.  But the mnute Abram acted like his Father in Heaven, his Father in Heaven showed up to bless his socks off.  Lord, have mercy!

God said to Abram, “14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants[a] as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”

The devil told Abram he was stupid; the devil told Abram you crazy; the devil told Abram if I were you I wouldn’t give Lot anything.  You the one with the blessing on your life; just run Lot away and keep what God has given you.  God never promised Lot anything anyway.

But I’m so glad that Abram looked at the devil and told the devil, “You just don’t know who you’re dealing with.  For I serve a God who is able to take care of me.  I’m the head of this household; I’m in charge of my father’s brother’s son.  And because he’s family, I’m going to resolve this issue.”  Devil, get thee behind me.  I will let no strife come between Lot and me.  Devil, my family is more important than my pride; my family is more important than houses and lands; my family is more important than silver and gold.  Hallelujah!

 

Move 3 (Conclusion)

You remember Craig; let me finish the story about Craig and his family.  Just after his release from prison, Craig returned to his community and formed a ministry that provided homes for the community’s homeless. Now, Craig was in the news again. Two years had gone by, and Craig had served faithfully without receiving any pay.

One night, as Albert watched the evening news, he saw a newscaster at a ceremony where, to his amazement, his brother Craig was being awarded the key to the city for the good work his ministry was doing in the community. Suddenly, Albert felt convicted, and he saw his brother’s life in a different light. He decided that he would pay his brother a visit.

Craig looked thinner than Albert remembered. He looked tired and withdrawn – no doubt the effects of a 10-year prison term. Albert stood in the busy storefront office and embraced his brother awkwardly. Then he said, “Craig, I apologize for not seeking you out sooner. I’m sorry I let your past mistakes keep me away. I wanted to be the first one in the family to welcome you back. We all got together, and we want to bless your ministry with a $1,000 contribution.”

Both men let their tears run freely. After Albert made that first move, love was victorious. A wave of reconciliation swept through their family.  Lord, have mercy!

Well,  because you and I were walking along the road of life when all of a sudden we came to a deep cavern in the road.  The engineers had left on a thin, spider web that stretched from one side of the cavern to the other.  The spider web was the only way over to the other side.  You and I had a spider web’s chance of making it over the cavern to the other side.  Lord, have mercy!

The cavern was the sin and iniquity that Adam bequeathed to us as human beings.  The spider web was our attempts to love one another and to do good in the earth.  We found ourselves unable to do good because whenever we tried to do good, evil was always present.  Lord, have mercy!  Can I get a witness here!

Many times that spider web had been broken by strife and offense between brother and sister, father and mother, relatives and friends.  Many times we had been walking across the cavern on the spider web only to get suspended over the cavern and find ourselves falling into the ravine.  We had no way to ensure the spider web would hold.  We were without hope and without God in the world.  Lord, have mercy!

But I hear a voice crying down through the ages, “Prepare me a body, Lo I come in the volume of the book it is written of me to do thy will, O God.”  And I heard the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest peace on earth good will toward men.  For unto you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord!”  yes, he did.

He came not as an overseer or a judge; but he came as our kinsman redeemer and our Elder brother.  He came to settle the strife between us and God.  He came to sacrifice his life for our death.  For we were doomed to die and spend eternity in hell.  But Jesus came that we might have life and that more abundantly.  Yes, he came to make sure that you and me could make into the promised land.  Anybody here glad about what Jesus came to do.  Anybody here can bear witness that Jesus paid it all.  Anybody here knows that if it had not been the Lord on your side, you never would have made it.

I’m so glad that Jesus came.  I’m so glad that my elder brother made a way for me.  Are you glad this afternoon about what God did through Jesus Christ.  Well if you show enough glad, you ought to commit this afternoon to let no strife come between you and your family and friends.

You ought to tell the devil, because God is able, I’m able.  I’m going to forgive and bless my friends and I’m going to bless my family.  I’ll let nothing separate me from the responsibility to to love my friends and family.  I’m going to settle the issue today; I’m going to let go and let God right now!  Hallelujah!

Paul said it like this “All we like sheep have gone astray, each unto his own way;  and God has laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all.”  Lord, have mercy!  Beloved, God reconciles people and all things to Himself through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. God’s plan to reconcile us to Himself reminds us that reconciliation requires that someone make the first move.

 

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An Invitation to Change

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Introduction

I learned so much from watching the hit television show “The Preachers of LA.”  II can’t wait to watch “The Preachers of Detroit.”  These shows highlight the flamboyance of certain high profile preachers and the ministries they share within their communities.

Yet some people get the message confused with the messenger.  However, the fact remains that the messengers of God come in all different shades.  No two messengers approach the task the same.  Each of us has to obey God and relay the message the way god has shaped it within our heart.  And you cannot be the barometer as to whether we’re pleasing God or not.  Only sinners who are weary and heavy laden can judge whether the message is valid.

Well, John the Baptist felt the same way about Jesus’ approach.  He questioned whether Jesus actually was a messenger of God.  John sent questions to Jesus about his authenticity.  John wanted Jesus to validate his claim to be the Messiah.  Albeit the Holy Spirit had shown John the sign that Jesus was the one prophesized about in the Scriptures, John still wanted Jesus to verify his claim.  Why?  Their lifestyles and approaches to ministry were so different.

John lived an aesthetic lifestyle.  He denied himself the pleasures of this world.  He lived in the wilderness, ate wild locusts and honey and never cut his hair.  From all appearances he lived as a Nazarite in the Old Testament.  A Nazarite was forbidden to touch dead bodies, marry a foreigner, or drink wine.  John came preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  So did Jesus, but Jesus lived a different lifestyle.

Jesus came eating and drinking, hanging out with sinners, attending wedding parties, in addition to attending synagogue and participating in the worship of God, the Father.  Jesus had a life that he used to influence sinners to discipleship.  He used every avenue he could to reach people.  His was a different approach than John, the Baptist.  Yet, his message was the same.  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand.  The Great Invitation remained the same:  Accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Follow Him.

Move 1

Well, if that is true, and it is.  Why don’t people respond to the message rather than the messenger?

First, immature people are listening to the message [v.16-17].  They are immature in the sense of not being ready to act on the message.  Most of those who hear the word of God concerning repentance and salvation have not yet attained the conviction of sin being despicable to God.  They don’t realize how much God hates sin, nor do they hate sin.  Most people just want to be appeased and given a sense of release from the weight of sin for that moment.  But in order for you to appropriately hear the gospel, you must have reached a point of hatred and disgust with the sinful life you’re living.  You need to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.  You must be ready for change, not temporary change, but eternal change.  You must be ready for rest.  This is what is means to be weary and heavy laden.  This is what it means to be ready for God to intervene in your life.  And until you seriously come to hate the sin you’ve committed then you’re like a child being entertained.  You may laugh or you may cry, but you’re not going to change.

Second, the message is being shared in ways that seek to please people and deal with their present situation rather than their eternal destination [v.18-19].  Jesus has stated emphatically in these passages that until a person is ready to change, they will always criticize the messenger rather than deal with the message.  It doesn’t matter how holy the messenger lives in the eyes of people, or how loose the messenger lives in the eyes of people.  What matters is whether the messenger is being faithful to the God who called him/her to deliver the message.  Socrates stated, “To Thine Own Self be True.”  I now add, “To God Be True.”  In other words, be true to what God told you.  Tell it the way he told it to you; approach the people he sends you to the way he tells you to approach them.  Don’t try to fit some preconceived notion of people.  People will get you off track; people will get you killed; people will get you fired.  Don’t allow anyone to cause you to make yourself more important than the message God has given you to offer.  It is the message that will deliver those who are ready to respond.  Keep your focus on eternal destinies not temporary, emotional highs and lows.  God is concerned about both, but his message is intended to get a person’s spiritual life in proper order.  For it is the spirit that dictates how well a person will live in this temporary world.  Seek only to please God as you do his work in the earth.

Third, the options being presented are not exclusive enough [v.25-27].  It must be made clear that there is only one way to find peace from the weight of sin and guilt caused by alienation from God.  We live in a world that offers many ways to salvation, peace, and rest.  Yet, the church is charged to represent Christ and Christ alone.  The people don’t respond to mixed messages.  We must be consistent in the fact that there is only one way of salvation acceptable to God according to the Bible.  That way is through faith in His son.  Without such faith, rest cannot be obtained.  Jesus is the only one who can connect a weary and labored sinner to the Father and only the Father can give rest.  Only the Father can lift the burden of sin; only the Father can forgive, restore, and refresh a life broken by sin.

Move 2

Who then can respond to this exclusive spiritual message of rest and peace?

First, only the weary can respond [v.28].  The word “weary” means, “worn out; having one’s patience, tolerance, or liking exhausted; causing tiredness.”  If you are just looking for absolution from guilt but you really enjoy the sin, don’t come to Jesus.  The fact of the matter is you’re not ready.  You have to be a person who’s sinful life causing you grief, pain, and worry.  Your sin must cause you to walk the floor at night crying out to God for help.  Your sin must cause you to cry bitter tears at inopportune times and in inappropriate places.  Your sin must cause you to not only ask for forgiveness but also cause you to resolve never to do it again.  You need to not just want to be let off the hook; you need to be ready to destroy the behavior that put you on the hook in the first place.  You’ve got to be worn out with the sin.  If you’re not weary, don’t fake it, wait.

Second, only those willing to change can respond [v.29].  A clear definition of insanity is “to keep doing the same things you’re doing now but to keep expecting a different result.”  Jesus offers the sinner a lifestyle that is no longer independent.  Jesus offers to take the sinner by hand and heart and lead them into a place they have never entered before.  It is a place of rest.  Rest, much needed rest, from the heartaches and mental anguish caused by sin, guilt, and shame.  Jesus invites the repentant sinner to a new way of living.  Jesus invites the sinner to begin a relationship with God by following him.  It is this relationship with God that offers rest and peace to a sin sick soul.  This is a call to change!  It is a call to rest!  No more judging or criticizing self; no more beating up on yourself.  It is looking through eyes of faith at the God of salvation knowing that He loves you.  Once Jesus allows you to see the love of God, rest and peace follows.  There is no greater joy than knowing that God, your creator loves you regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been.  There is no greater peace and rest than knowing that your God will always be there for you and that he will help you grow and succeed in life.

Move 3

This is the Great Invitation.  Jesus invites you to change.  Jesus calls you to stop living your life apart from God and to begin living your life in His presence.  Jesus assures you that when you accept his invitation; rest and peace shall be your reward.  Your soul will be filled with the radiating glory of the goodness of God, the Father.  Your spirit will be made alive, quickened, by the spirit of the Father.  Your live will begin anew.  God will be your God and you will be adopted into his family.

How then shall the weary and heavy-laden respond?  First, come to Jesus [v.28].  You’ve tried alcohol, drugs, women, work, and the world.  Now, walk out of that quagmire of confusion and decide to receive faith in God’s Son.  Simply turn around and listen to what Jesus is saying to you right now.

Second, become a disciple of Jesus Christ [v.29].  Decide to embrace Jesus as Lord.  The Word of God says, “That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord; and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved.”  What you do is confess that your efforts have failed, and left you weary with guilt.  Confess that you have found no other way able to release you from the guilt of sin, and then call on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

Third, learn from Jesus Christ.  A disciple is one who is under discipline of the teacher.  In other words, you exchange your way of doing and being right for that of what the Word of God says you should do to be right.  As a disciple you constantly change to comply with what the word of God asks you to do.  As a disciple you embrace change as a way of life.  Jesus sought to please the father by obeying his word and so do you.  Jesus sought to be a blessing and so do you as you prosper in the things of God and in this world.  As a disciple you seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.  As a disciple you belong to God in Christ.

Move 4

Finally, as a result of coming to Jesus, becoming his disciple and learning from him, you enter a period of rest and peace.  Rest from the bondage of sin that caused you to be restless and worn.  Rest from the power of repeated and habitual sin dominating your life.  Rest from the constant search of looking for a way out.  Rest from the fast paced life.  Rest from worrying about where you will spend eternity.

Everyday in every way your life will begin to get better because you know Jesus Christ.  This is God’s Great Invitation.  He wants your life to be peaceful, restful, and successful.  Will you come to Him?  Are you weary of sin?  Are you willing to change?  If so, come to Jesus, become His disciple, and learn his way of doing and being right.  He is here for you right now.  Why not lay down your heavy burden and let Christ pick you up and bring you out of your pit of despair?  I assure you that the love of God will be found in the face of Jesus Christ.  Come to Jesus!