All of us have a dream for our children to do very well spiritually. All of us desire that our children become godly and not do the sins that we did growing up. It's important that as parents and grandparents - and uncles and aunties and whoever we are - we have a great influence on our children by holding on to some basic biblical principles in the Bible and emulating it in our families.
1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
2 "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.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.
5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
God speaks to Abraham and gives very specific instructions. Leave your country, leave your people and leave your father's household and go to the land I will show you'. This is what we learn when we become disciples. When we become disciples God gives us very specific instructions through other brothers/sisters using scriptures. 'You've got to put God first, you've got to put God above everybody else in your family and life, above yourself and your job.', And we said, 'Amen'. So Abraham had a similar calling from God to leave everything and put his trust in God. If he put his trust in God, God would bless him and his descendants.
Did Abraham listen to God? Did he? v4. 'So Abram left as the Lord told him'. So it looks like Abraham did obey God. But there is one additional verse next to it. It says, 'So Abram left as the Lord told him and Lot went with him'. Was that part of God's plan? Was it? No. Abraham decided to change God's expectation a little bit and say, 'Ok I'll take Lot along with me. He's my nephew. He needs some support. I need to be there for him'. Some sentimental reason - we don't know what - but he decided to take Lot with him - not according to what God had told him. So Abraham's on his journey but he's carrying some extra baggage with him.
1. Carry no extra baggage
We know in the railway station if we carry extra baggage they will make us weigh it. They'll make us pay for the extra baggage and humiliate and harass us. What Abraham did is not noticeable unless you read it carefully. We are just like Abraham when we become disciples. We know we're supposed to give up everything - we're supposed to give up our sins, all that company we were hanging around with and which is not good for our hearts. We know we need to give up all that but somehow after baptism we still have some extra baggage which we pull along in our lives. And if we carry that extra baggage into our Christian life it will become a liability, it will become a burden and one day we'll have a terrible conflict in our life because we haven't decided to let go of that extra baggage that we are carrying with us secretly at the time of baptism.
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him.
Abraham is taking off from Egypt to Negev. Here we see Lot went with Abraham - he still hasn't got rid of Lot. Then what happened?
Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."
Here we see that when they stayed together, when the extra baggage was with Abraham, they couldn't hold up with each other. When we have extra baggage in our life and we haven't dealt with it, the Bible is very clear - we cannot stay together. We cannot have both the extra baggage and the things we desire as a spiritual man. We have to let go someday for us to enjoy our Christian life. Just like he did with Abraham, God allows us to carry our extra baggage into our Christian lives. If we don't realize it, if we don't know what it is and we've not dealt with it - it becomes a problem, a reason for conflict in our Christian lives.
If we haven't dealt with our bitterness, it becomes an extra baggage we're going to carry into our Christian lives. If we don't deal with it, it's going to be in conflict with our desire to be a godly man, or godly woman or godly parent. Someday we'll not be able to stay together just like Abraham and Lot. They had good intentions, they never thought it was going to harm them.Abraham never thought it would harm him, but one day it became so hard for them to stay together that they had to deal with it. Abraham had to sit and think, 'Ok, it's time to let go'. That's the opportunity God gives us in our Christian lives, to deal with our extra baggage, to let go and start our lives all over again.
We know what baggage we're carrying right now in our Christian life. It bothers us every day. It doesn't make us read our Bible and enjoy our Bible study because it's in conflict with God's word. We know it. We don't want to touch our Bible because we think, 'Oh this is going to tell us something we don't want to hear' and we know that is something we must deal with. We know there is something that is dividing us and our relationship with God. Sometimes though we know God's standard, we know this is what the Bible says but still we justify yourselves by saying, 'God understands it is only for a short time. It's ok. God is not so hard-line as the church is or the leaders are or this person is or our wife is. God understands'.
We justify ourselves, have compromises in our heart and refuse to let go or deal with it but instead put it aside. What did it bring about - a lot of conflict between Lot and Abraham. Abraham was good. He pulled Lot aside and said, 'Listen, Lot, our going together is not going well. We must part company. You go whichever direction you want and I'll go the opposite direction. Staying together is not helping us and we need to part company'.
And we need to deal with our hearts like that. We have to sit down sometimes and think, 'Where are we going? What are we doing? Where's our life going? Where's our family going? Where are all our convictions?' We've got to stop and think about our life and our life in Christ and what's pulling us aside. Somewhere we have to draw the line and say, 'I'm not going here. My sin is going there I'm going this side'. That's what Abraham had to do. Do you know what happened after Abraham decided to get rid of Lot? It was not an easy decision he made to separate from his own nephew.
14 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.
15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.
16 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.
17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."
The Lord was waiting for the time when Lot would be sent away. When Abraham decided to completely obey God what happened. Here we see God willing to bless Abraham for deciding to obey him wholeheartedly. Sometimes we don't want to let go - we carry the extra baggage and think, 'Oh I carried along this all my life. It's going to be hard to let go now'. We are so fearful, so afraid that we don't trust. But God says when we trust him and let go of whatever is hindering our faith, hindering our walk in God, he will bless us because we trusted him.
As we grow as Christians, our love for God is suppose to increase and increase. In 1 Thessalonians we see Paul tells the Thessalonians that their love is growing more and more, their faith should grow more and more. He is calling the Christians to grow in their faith, to grow in their lives. We need to keep growing. We cannot serve the world and God. It will always create a conflict in our heart. Somebody's going to win the battle to rule our heart. If we play with the world, the world will take over. But if we trust God and we decide to trust and surrender and give up all those things that are hindering us, he will take over and bless us.
So let us 'carry no extra baggage' because we have to pay for it and someday, if we don't deal with it, it will become a snare to us.
2. Don't pitch your tent near Sodom
10 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.)
11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company:
12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.
13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.
Abraham gives Lot a choice where to go. Lot was given a choice and he looked towards the east and said, 'Wow! It's beautiful, just like the garden of the Lord. That's where I want to go!' So he goes as far as a place called Sodom and Gomorrah. What does he do? He pitched his tent near Sodom. The Bible very clearly says the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. Where do Lot and his family decide to pitch their tents? Near Sodom. Not inside Sodom but Lot decides to go a little near Sodom and pitch his tents just outside. That is the decision Lot made to raise his family.
He decided to raise his family near Sodom. He decided to take his wife and two daughters and said, 'This is where we're going to stay. This is our new home. We're not going inside Sodom because, you must have heard, they are wicked but we will stay outside, just near it - not inside'. Where is our tent? Who are we hanging around with? Who are our family influenced by? It's a choice we make where we raise a family and how we raise a family and with whom we raise a family. That's a decision Lot made to raise his family near Sodom. In contrast let's see what Abraham did.
So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.
What did Abraham do? Do we see the difference? What was Abraham doing? He went in the opposite direction, found a place near Mamre and...what did he do? He built an altar to the Lord. He was not hanging around sinful people, he wanted to glorify God, he wanted to make sacrifices to God, he wanted to live and serve God. We have to make a choice. We have the same choices. Whatever we do, wherever we live, whoever our husband is, whoever our wife is, whoever our children are, who our parents are - it doesn't matter. We can make a choice today how we and our families are going to live, where we are going to pitch our tents and what we are going to build. Are we going to build an altar before God and worship him or are we just going to build our life according to the world?
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 .
Two angels are coming to visit Sodom and where was Lot right now? He was not outside Sodom - he's inside Sodom at the gateway. So, he had moved his tent from outside Sodom to inside Sodom and not only had he moved his tents into Sodom but he has become an elder standing at the gateway. He becomes an elder of the people of Sodom and he was there right at the gateway. See what's happened? Slow progress towards compromise and ungodliness.
We don't even see what's happening to our families unless we wake up and ask ourselves, 'Where am I going? Where are my children being raised up? Who are my best friends? Who are my children's friends?' We have to start thinking because it's a slow and gradual shift to that darkness. And what is Abraham doing at this time? Some angels visited Abraham also and they told him what's going to happen to Sodom and what's going to happen to that whole place because God was going to bring destruction. And let's see what Abraham was doing. He was praying.
Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
Here Abraham is being a godly man - he's praying for the people. He pleaded with God, 'If there are 10 righteous men in that city can you please save that city?' The sad thing is that there were not even 10 people who were righteous before God in Sodom.
Let's see what happens when we pitch our tent in Sodom. When the angels came, Lot was a hospitable man. He invited the two men to come and have food in his house and spend time with the family. So while they were in Lot's house, some men came and started shouting outside his house. They wanted Lot to release the two men so they could have immoral relationship with them. Lot goes out and pleads with these men.
How does Lot address these men who are evil and wicked? 'My friends'. He's kind of nice to these wicked people. He's being nice to the angels and being nice to the wicked people as well. Sounds like us. We are trying to welcome spiritual things but we also want worldly things and sin. We are trying to be friends to both. He calls these wicked men friends. They come to have sex with men in his house and he says, 'My friends'. That's a sign of spiritual deterioration when we don't know where to say 'no!', we're not indignant about sin, we just compromise, we blend in. If we're spiritual we'll blend in there, if we're in the world we'll blend in there too.
That is a problem when we are not on the spiritual edge, we don't know the difference, we don't know where to say 'no!', we don't know whom to reject and whom to accept. And guess what Lot does? 'Please don't do anything to these men. Take my daughters'. Which father will allow his daughters to be raped by wicked men? Lot was a culturally sensitive man. He knew how to be nice to everybody. In the name of hospitality and being nice to people, he was willing to compromise and lose his own daughters.
This is what we've got to be careful about. So often we allow the culture we're part of take over and let truth be rejected. We allow culture to take precedence over convictions and over truth. What was Lot more worried about? He was more worried about hospitality, what people think, being nice, looking good rather than having convictions about what was right. Is that what we've become? Are we more worried about how we look than what really counts?
It's so sad that we even raise our families like that. Expectations of the culture gets into our families. We push our children to do very well in school. 'You've got to study very well, you've got to be a star, you've got to be a sport star, you've got to be a music star, you've got to be this star, you've got to be that star'. We push our kids to work hard and do homework and go to this and go to that and be this and be hard-line and discipline them but we never discipline our kids for doing what is wrong. We never push our kids to have a Quiet Time but we'll rebuke them and yell at them for not studying for exams. We never push our kids to go to church meetings but we push our kids to go for birthday parties because that's very important.
When we are not alert spiritually we let the world take over little by little and lose our families and children to the world little by little. We watch it happening and we allow it to happen right in front of our eyes because somewhere we haven't understood and we haven't drawn the line between what is right and what is wrong. We force food into our kids' mouth and force snacks but we never force Christianity or the word of God into the hearts of our children. We've got to be careful where we pitch our tents. This is our problem - we want the world and we want God and all the benefits of God but somewhere that is not going to happen because there will be a conflict.
Here Lot was in the middle of a conflict and he had to decide which to choose - to choose the words of men (angels) sent by God or to please these wicked men who wanted to destroy him and his family. When we raise our children up in the world it has an effect on our children. Sometimes we compare ourselves with everybody else. 'My family didn't know anything about the bible but see me. I'm good, I've changed!' We changed. Amen. But don't we wish that we didn't do all those things that we ended up doing and which are still tormenting our soul? We somehow think that if we allow our kids to be what they are and be friends with whoever they please, no restrictions, no discipline and we think they'll be godly children just like that, just because we think that somehow someone will change them.
The world is into 'no discipline'. In America teachers are not allowed to discipline children in school. That's coming into our schools in India as well - teachers rarely discipline children. They are scared that if they discipline the children their parents will come and yell at them. Do we believe in discipline? God's word says the rod of discipline is good for our children. We wonder what Lot was teaching as an elder of Sodom. He had lost his convictions. It probably was in there but somewhere he had compromised and he just wanted to blend in. He didn't say 'No!' when he had to say 'No!' Guess what? Did these men listen even after Lot was willing to sacrifice his daughters? They didn't. They kept putting pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door of Lot's house.
We see there was some intensity among the angels. They had to reach out and pull Lot back and shut the door because they knew that the influence was not good outside. Sometimes we need angels like that to pull us out, put us inside and shut the door. Are we willing to allow those men to influence us? We have to see where we are going with our families, where we are pitching our tents. We have to learn to say 'No!' to sin. We've got to have convictions about our children and what we are teaching them, what are we pushing down their throats and what is more important in their lives. We've got to prioritize, know what is more important, what's going to bless our children. It's so important that we give importance to God's word rather than our culture.
3. Don't hesitate
12 The two men said to Lot, "Do you have anyone else here--sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here,
13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it."
14 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.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished."
16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.
17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!"
Lot had a very serious message from God through the angels. He goes and tells his sons-in-law. Did they listen? Did they take him seriously? He said, 'Hurry!' - did they take that seriously? No. People were not in the habit of taking Lot seriously so when there was an emergency they still think he's joking. Nobody in Sodom took Lot seriously. They were taking life easy - 'Let's move on, let's see where it goes. I know God is in control'.
The angels urged Lot and his family -'Come on guys. Hurry!' What did Lot do? He hesitated. He just couldn't bear the thought of leaving Sodom - he had spent so many years there he just couldn't say 'No'. And when he hesitated what did the angels do? God was merciful to him so the angels grasped his hands, pulled him and dragged him along with his family and took them to a safe place. And what are the message he's been hearing? "Hurry". "Flee". "Don't stop anywhere!" Did he pay heed to it? This is the message we hear in the bible. We hear warnings.
It was very interesting to hear a true story from Nagapattinam after the tsunami. There was a lady lady who lost six of her children, six of her family members in the tsunami and she was sitting outside and crying in front of her house which was completely devastated by the tsunami. She was very sad, very broken. She said there was a time when that place was filled with activity and children playing and laughing. A time when they were all together, enjoying sitting together. Now nobody was left, all the houses were gone. She said something that was moving.
She said, 'We've been fishermen for generation and we've never seen or heard of something called tsunami. If government officials had come and warned us about it before tsunami and asked us to run and flee for our lives, we would have laughed at those people and would not have listened to them because we knew the sea better than those government officials. Even if the government had warned us, we would not have run away because we would have thought they were joking and thought in our hearts that as fishermen we know better'.
Sometimes it's good to trust godly people who warn you. Sometimes we take so much pride in what we know and where we are going - 'I know how to raise my family, don't correct me, don't tell me, don't teach me'. If that is the spirit it will hurt us sometimes when we don't listen. Let us not hesitate to get out of Sodom. Wherever we are today - let us run, let us take our families and run for your lives. Let us not just sit there and think, 'What's going to happen to my life, my house'. Let us just run for our life. Let us go where God leads us. God has a better place prepared for us than all that the world has to offer. Somewhere we have to open our hearts. We have to open our hearts and listen to God's Word and his direction for us and our families.
What happened after all this? The angels warned them not to look back. Lot is begging and asking the angels to take them to a place near by. He's making compromises, he's still not convinced, he's still struggling to let go, still struggling to say, 'No!'. Sometimes we can be so numb that we cannot understand the seriousness of God's word and God's calling and God's direction and just sit there waiting for something to happen.
What Lot's wife did? She looked back and became a pillar of salt. She was looking for security in a city and in her family and her old house and home rather than in God. We've got to take this to our heart, seriously. Terrible things happened after this. Lot's wife is gone and he and his two daughters go to this place called Zoar. God rescued Lot and his two daughters and the daughters had a talk with each other. There was a custom in those days.
30 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.
31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth.
32 Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father."
"Our Father is old. There's no man around here to lie with us as is the custom all over the earth". What are they holding onto? Some worldly custom which they learnt when they were in Sodom which was a very promiscuous city. They didn't know the difference between having a husband (who is not their father) and their father. Here are two daughters raised up in Sodom and having no spiritual convictions. What is still impressed in their hearts and mind? The customs of the earth. That is what they ended up following.
Guess what they do? They sleep with their father and have children by him. They ended up in the wrong direction. Because of the compromise made by Lot in taking his family and pitching his tent near Sodom. Who were the sons? Moab and Ben-Ammi. From Moab came the Moabites and from Ben-Ammi came the Ammonites - the number one enemies of God's people in the future. Wicked people whom God destroyed.
How we raise our families now affects not only our generation but future generations as well. How we raise our children affects us and many generations to come. We can make a difference starting now. As a church, as parents, as brothers and sisters who really love God and who love our families we need to take this seriously and start making decisions. May God bless us all and help us to raise our families in a godly way.