|The Church An Extension of Christ
by E.H. Jack Sequeira
Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-18
The Bible divides all believers into two distinct camps. By this I am not referring to wheat and tares, since the latter are really not true believers. The two groups of believers I am referring to are both born-again Christians. But one is carnal and the other spiritual, or one is weak and the other strong, or one is immature and the other mature. Here are two examples. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 16:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? ...Dont you know that you yourselves are Gods temple and that Gods Spirit lives in you?
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of Gods word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
The big difference between these two groups of believers is not that one is saved and the other is lost, but the big difference is threefold:
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
Are you not acting like mere men?
- Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.
- Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.
- He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.
- The woman came and knelt before him. Lord, help me! she said.
- He replied, It is not right to take the childrens bread and toss it to their dogs.
- Yes, Lord, she said, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masterss table.
- Then Jesus answered, Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted. And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
In contrast, the faith of carnal Christians is weak and will not stand the pressure of trials or persecution. This was the problem with the believers the book of Hebrews is addressing. That is why the epistle to the Hebrews alternates between ENCOURAGEMENT and WARNINGS. The encouragement passages are to strengthen their faith while the warning sections are to alert them of the great danger of losing their salvation altogether because of their weak faith. Hebrews 6:1-8:
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
One way you can tell whether you are a carnal Christian or a mature one is the way you handle your money. Money is the ingredient that runs this world. Without it we face major problems. For this reason, it is very easy for we Christians living in this world to make money an idol. But Jesus made it very clear to His disciples in the sermon on the mount that you cannot serve both money and Him. Matthew 6:24 (NIV):
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
It is also for this reason the apostle Paul warned young Timothy against coveting money. Not that money, in and of itself is evil, otherwise the church would have no right to touch it. But the love of it is very dangerous. 1 Timothy 6:6-10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
What I would like to do now is to examine the lives of two Old Testament individuals. Both were believers, both belonged to the same religion and served the same God of heaven, both worshipped at the same altar. But one was spiritual and the other carnal. Their lives have been recorded for our benefit and we need to learn from their experience.
The two men I am referring to are Abraham and his nephew Lot. Let us start by reading a little about their background. Genesis 11:27-32:
This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abrams wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahors wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.
Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.
After Terah, the father of Abram, died, God visited Abram and gave him a call. Note the call in the next chapter. Genesis 12:1-4:
The Lord had said to Abram, Leave your country, your people and your fathers household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he set out from Haran.
Please notice two things in this passage.
Joshua said to all the people, This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants....
If we were to express this same call in todays language, God would say, Come out of the world, my people. 1 John 2:15-17:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.
According to the book of Hebrews, Abram had no idea what Canaan was like or what reception he would receive in this foreign land. But, by faith, he obeyed God and went. Hebrews 11:8-10:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Going back to Genesis 12 please note what happened after Abram settled in Canaan. Genesis 12:10:
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.
This famine was so bad it forced Abram and his family, which included Lot, to journey to Egypt for survival. But all the time his faith held on to his God.
We do not know how long Abram and his family lived in Egypt but God did bless them while they were there and they became quite rich, i.e., by the standards of that time. However, the time came for them to return to the promised land. Note their material condition as they return to Canaan. Genesis 13:1,2,5 (the KJV does not have Negev, only that they left Egypt with their wealth):
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. ...Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.
Until now Abram and Lot lived as one happy family, worshipping at the same altar morning and evening. But as they approach Canaan, trouble brews up between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. Material blessings can sometimes be a curse in the family. Genesis 13:7:
And quarreling arose between Abrams herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot....
It is at this point the true spiritual characteristics of Abram and Lot show up. Please note how Abram dealt with the problem and Lots reaction. Genesis 13:8-12:
So Abram said to Lot, Lets not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Lets part company. If you go to the left, Ill go to the right; if you go to the right, Ill 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, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.
Notice also that not only was Lots choice selfish but how he compromises by pitching his tents near Sodom, a wicked city. Verse 13:
Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
But our story does not end here. Once you begin to compromise, you begin to slide backwards into the world. Please note where Lot was living some five years later, when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah were defeated by their four enemies and Lot and his possessions were also taken. Genesis 14:11-12:
The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abrams nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.
I am sure Abram was concerned about the fact that his nephew Lot and his family had moved into that wicked city Sodom and very likely Lot, in turn, gave soul-winning as his excuse for the move. We will see later on why I have come to such a conclusion.
But Lots story does not end with his capture. Turn with me to Genesis 19 and see what Lot is doing once he moved into Sodom. Genesis 19:1:
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.
Now this sitting in the gate had special significance in Lots time. Daniel 2:48-49:
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniels request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court [but Daniel sat in the gate of the king, King James Version].
By worldly standards, Lot had made a success of himself: From Shepherd Boy to Mayor, or How to Be Successful in Life. Let us interview Lot.
...and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men...
- The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?
- The Lord said, If I find 50 righteous people inthe city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.
- Then Abraham spoke up again: Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than 50? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?
- If I find 45 there, he said, I will not destory it.
- Once again he spoke to him, What if only 40 are found there?
- He said, For the sake of 40, I will not do it.
- Then he said, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only 30 can be found there?
- He answered, I will not do it if I find 30 there.
- Abraham said, Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only 20 can be found there?
- He said, For the sake of 20, I will not destroy it.
- Then he said, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only 10 can be found there?
- He answered, For the sake of 10, I will not destroy it.
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city! But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.
In conclusion, how did Abraham fare? Genesis 13:14-17:
The Lord said to Abram 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.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.