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Bartering With God

September 14, 2014

Genesis 18:16-33

Romans 8:1-11

 

Intro:  Our story begins with a conversation this morning between Abraham and God.  Let’s listen in.  

Genesis 18:16-33The Voice (VOICE)

16 At that point, the three men set off on foot toward Sodom, and Abraham walked with them to start them on their way.

Eternal One (to the other two men): 17 I wonder if I should hide from Abraham what I am about to do. 18 After all, Abraham will become the father of a great and powerful nation, and all the other nations of the earth will find their blessing in him.[a] 19 I have chosen him for a reason, namely that he will carefully instruct his children and his household to keep themselves strong in relationship to Me and to walk in My ways by doing what is good and right in the world and by showing mercy and justice to all others. I know he will uphold his end of the covenant, so that he can ensure My promises to him will be fulfilled and upheld as well.

20 (continuing so Abraham could hearI have heard terrible things—urgent and outraged calls for help—coming from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and their sin has become a serious problem. 21 I must go down and see for Myself whether the outcries against them that My ears have heard are really true. If not, I will know.

22 At this point the men turned and headed toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Eternal One. 23 Then Abraham approached Him solemnly and pled for the city.

Abraham (to God): God, would You really sweep away the people who do what is right along with those who are wicked? 24 What if there were 50 upright people within the city? Would You still wipe the place out and not spare it on behalf of the 50 upright people who live there? 25 Surely it can’t be Your nature to do something like that—to kill the right-living along with those who act wickedly, to consign the innocent to the same fate as the guilty. It is inconceivable to me that You, my God, would do anything like that! Will not the “Merciful and Loving Judge” of all the earth do what is just?

Eternal One: 26 If I find 50 good and true people in the city of Sodom, I give you My word I will spare the entire city on their behalf.

Abraham (emboldened): 27 Look, I know I am just a human being, scooped from the dust and ashes of the earth, but if I might implore You, Lord, a bit further: 28 What if the city lacked 5 of those 50 right-living people? What then? Would You destroy the entire city because it lacked those 5?

Eternal One: I won’t destroy the city if I find 45 good and true people there.

Abraham (persisting): 29 Suppose 40 are found there.

Eternal One: I won’t destroy the city for the sake of 40.

 

Abraham: 30 Please don’t be angry, Lord, at my boldness. Let me ask this: What if You found 30 there who are good and true?

Eternal One: I will not do it, even if I find only 30 there.

Abraham: 31 Since I have implored the Lord this far, may I ask: What if there were 20?

Eternal One: For the sake of 20, I will not destroy the city.

Abraham: 32 Please don’t be angry, Lord, at my boldness. Let me ask this just once more: suppose only 10 are found?

Eternal One: For the sake of only 10, I still will not destroy it.

33 At this point the Eternal ended the conversation with Abraham and went on His way, and Abraham returned to his home.

Most of us are aware of what God finds out there, but that’s for next week.  Today I want to take a closer look at what is troubling God and what would make him pleased.  We will begin with Gen 16:18-21 and also read Romans 8:1-11. In both of these passages we have a contrast between what God considers good and what God considers bad.  Not a distinction that our society likes to make, but God makes it.  And if we are to live as those who view the world as God does, we need to be aware of how he sees things.

 

Let’s look again at the Gen 16:18-19

18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

God speaks of Abraham and the blessing that has been promised him, that God has chosen him for.  He knows that Abraham will pass this blessing down to his children and that Abraham’s family will bring glory to God.  God states specifically what Abraham will do to please God, he will direct his children to “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.”  And as Abraham honors God in this way, so will God be able to honor Abraham by keeping his promise to him. 

 

Parents, we please God and are obedient to him, when we train our children to do what is right and just in every situation.  All of us are meant to live that way.  Are you doing what is right and just in every situation?  Are you seeking to honor God with every action you take?

 

We know what pleases God.  This has not changed, ever. It never will.  Righteousness is living in a right relationship with God and others.  Justice means standing up for the things that are right.  It means living in the light, in the truth.  It means acting as God would act.  But in order to act as God would act, you need to understand what God calls good and what grieves him.

 

The next two verses (20-21) tell us what God considers to be bad. 

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

God’s motto is NOT “live and let live”.  God does not own a T-shirt that says, “Keep calm and do whatever you want.”  God desires righteousness and justice.  When that is missing God calls it a bad situation or in this case a bad society. 

 

The things that are happening in Sodom and Gomorrah are so grievous that God is going personally to check out the situation.  He ends this paragraph by saying, “If not, I will know.”  He is willing to have hope that things are not as bad as they seem to be.  And there is a plan in place if the news is not good.  There is action God is prepared to take if the sin is as grievous as it seems to be.  God does not tolerate sin forever.  God is patient and forbearing.  He gives second chances.  But there comes a time when he declares, “Enough!” and deals with the situation directly.

 

Abraham knows that God means business and steps in to try to barter with God to preserve the lives of those who may not be doing evil.  But this seems to tell us that Abraham also was aware of the great sin going on in Sodom and Gomorrah.   Abraham knows that God must bring justice and righteousness to bear against evil, and is hoping that there will be enough left in the cities that is redeemable that God would not need to destroy them.

 

I’ll say it again, God is serious about sin.  He will not withstand it forever.  He will act and bring down His justice and righteousness. 

 

Hmm . . . what does that say about God’s patience with me?  How does God feel about me and my sin or about you and your sin?  Let’s look together at a part of Paul’s letter he wrote to the church in Rome in regard to righteousness vs. sin.  I’ll be reading from Romans 8:1-11

 

The theme of this letter is about the righteousness of God.  He has already explained the unrighteousness of all people – no matter who they are, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  People have attempted to make themselves righteous and Paul states that this is impossible for any human to accomplish on their own.

 

Righteousness comes only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  So as much as we do teach it to our children, if we are not also passing on the truth that their actions can make them good but it is a relationship with Jesus that makes them righteous, good works alone cannot transform the world or our lives.  It takes Jesus.

 

Paul talks about the battle in each of us to want to do what is right and good, and the struggle that creates with the part of us that desires to sin.  We are all in the same boat on this!  It’s because we deny this fact that we get ourselves into trouble.  It’s because of this that we hesitate to call out sin when we see it in the life of another because “who are we to judge when we have sin in our own life?”  That’s exactly why we can call out sin in the life of another!  We know what it looks like from personal experience!!  If we remain humble and mindful that our ability to overcome sin is only because of Jesus, we can share that with the person we see struggling with sin.  If we are in Christ we are standing on the boat, holding the life preserver, dripping wet because we’ve just been pulled out of the raging sea of sin ourselves.  WE have the way of salvation in our hands, all we have to do is throw the life preserve to our drowning friend and say, I’ve found the way to be rescued from sin!  Come with me!

 

Oh, but we don’t want to do that!  They might think I’m judging them.  Seriously?? If you saw a drowning man you would just let him go down because maybe you don’t have all your life guard training completed but have been handed a life preserver?

The Law of God kept people afloat until Jesus, the life saver came to them.  No one can be good enough to live out the law perfectly.  We need Jesus to come along side us and say, come on board with me.  I am your righteousness.  I will make you whole.  This is what Paul is saying.

 

Read 1-4  The struggle all of us have is the one between living according to our selfish, human desires and the desire to live as we were created to, living according to our desire for God.  Paul calls the human yearning living according to the flesh and he calls God yearning, living according to the Spirit. 

 

Every breathing human has the pull of both in their life.  Every human being gets to choose which influence they will respond to.  Will they seek to honor and serve themselves or will they seek to honor and serve God.  There is a moment when we are encountered with the forgiving love and mercy of Jesus Christ and we choose whether we will receive it, be changed and begin a life lived in obedience to God.  That is a transforming moment but when we open up our lives to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to recognize more and more that there are two powers pulling at our attention.  One is the pull towards obedience to God and one is the pull towards obedience to our flesh, our pleasure, our wants. 

 

Let’s continue reading what Paul wrote as he describes what it’s like to live with a mind set on living for ones self:  Read 5-8

 

Paul addresses two things about our minds.  First is our mind’s set and the second is our mind’s governance.  Let’s address the mindset first.  What is the focus of your life?  Is it your kid’s success?  Is it making sure your family is provided for?  Is it being a good citizen?  Is it being well liked?  None of these things are bad, unless they become the first priority in your life.  That’s when they become your mind set.  It is only when our mind is first set on what the Spirit of God desires can all the rest fall into place.

 

Our mind is governed by what it is set on.  Our life is governed by what our mind is set on.  If our mind is set on success for our kids or our pocketbooks, then we will live into seeing those desires filled.  If our mind is governed by the desire to please God, then our life will be lived in a way that pleases God.  Our life will be governed by the things that bring God honor and worship and the attention that He deserves.

 

The concluding verses speak to those who have received Christ into their hearts, those who have been rescued from sin and who’s minds have been reset to seek God first in their thoughts and actions.  Read 9-11

 

If you are in Christ you are a new creation.  The old has passed away and the new has come!  If this describes you, then you have assurance of salvation that can only come through Christ – not by being “good enough”. 

 

Concl.  I am trying to prepare us to understand what comes next in the story of Genesis.  God has looked at Sodom and Gomorrah and seen a people who had their mind set on their personal desires which were pleasure seeking, selfish, thoughtless of others.  Abraham pleads with God that if there are just ten people in the cities who seek God rather than self, that God would spare them. God already knew the answer to that, but he assured Abraham that if 10 people remained in the cities who had their minds set on please God instead of themselves, he would not destroy those places.

 

God cares about our mind set because our minds govern our actions.  Our minds cannot be set on God without the help of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.  And just because we claim to know Christ does not mean that we allow the Spirit the freedom to work in our lives and transform us.  As a whole we probably spend more of our energy fighting off becoming holy than we do embracing it and going through the hard work of being transformed. 

 

Yes!  You and me!  We know what is good and right and we want it, but letting go of the things that stand between us and a life that pleases God is hard work.  It’s a battle.  We will not win that battle completely on this side of heaven.  Our life’s work is to continually be transformed into the likeness of God.  It requires surrender and humility.  It requires a willingness to acknowledge our imperfections.  It takes us being convinced that God’s righteousness and justice are worth living for. It requires going against the social norm that screams for absolute tolerance of sin and tries to shut down the truth of God.

 

How are you choosing to live your life?  What is your mind set on?  What is your life governed by?  Think on these things.  Amen.