“Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD. Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. So Abram said to Lot, ‘Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.’ And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD. And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.’ Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.”
Abraham Became Rich Thanks to His Wife
According to today’s Scripture reading, Abraham was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold when he left Egypt. His family had many possessions. Abraham was able to earn all these possessions all thanks to his wife, Sarah.
The story how he came to have this great wealth goes like this: When the Egyptian king wanted to take Sarah as his wife because of her beauty, Abraham began fearing for his very life and said, “She is not my wife, but my sister. You can take her.” So Abraham sold his wife to the Egyptian king. At Abraham’s approval, the king took her to his palace with the intention to marry her, but God intervened becoming enraged and sent a plague onto Pharaoh and his house. God had probably brought onto Pharaoh tremendously great plagues. This puzzled Pharaoh then ran back to Abraham and said, “Why did you deceive me? Hurry up and to take back your wife. We were really that close to being utterly destroyed through this situation.” And he let Abraham’s wife go. So Pharaoh gave Abraham many possessions all to appease God. In such a perilous situation like this, God kept Sarah safe and brought her back to Abraham. Eventually Abraham got his wife back untouched, and on top of all that he received many possessions along with his wife, thanks to the grace of God.
At that time, Abraham and Lot were raising livestock. Due to the sudden increase in his possessions and the number of sheep, they did not have enough land to coexist. The land of Palestine was not suitable for raising herds and cattle. While countries with vast plains like the USA and Australia can have large herds of cattle including sheep and goats which can graze on any grassy place, Palestine could not afford this luxury. There were many deserts and mountains where not a single blade of grass could be found. Imagine just what it would have been like for Abraham and Lot to raise cattle in such crowded and sparse grassland. They couldn’t possibly breed and feed all of their sheep in one place.
After Becoming Wealthy, There Arose Conflict between Abraham and Lot
Finally conflict arose between them. The herdsmen of Abraham’s livestock and of Lot’s herdsmen began to fight over land. Abraham’s herdsmen said “Isn’t it our right to feed our uncle’s herds first before his nephew’s?” and then Lot’s herdsmen reacted, “When did we ever talk about the order in the family in feeding the cattle?” Abraham and Lot heard about this conflict.
When Abraham found out about this serious conflict, he went to see his nephew Lot. He could see that his nephew was obsessed with all his possessions including stock farming. So Abraham made a suggestion to Lot. “Son, let us not fight over this. You are my nephew and you came along with me so far from our hometown, so what is the reason for this fight? If you take the left, I will go to the right; if you take the right, I will go to the left. So Lot chose the land of Sodom, where it was well watered and lush everywhere. Why did he choose to go down to Sodom? At that time, Sodom was a very fertile land. The Bible says that before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, the plains of Jordan was well watered everywhere and it was like the garden of the Lord.
Abraham let Lot pick the land first, so Lot without hesitation chose to take all the plains of Jordan. When he looked down he saw clean water and green grass spread out before him everywhere. When Lot said, “I will go to that side,” Abraham replied, “Good! Then I will choose the other side.” He had already made up his mind to separate from his nephew. This is how they became separated long after they had journeyed together from their hometown. So Lot headed down towards Zoar and went into the land of Sodom and Gomorrah. He settled there and started to breed and increase his livestock. But Abraham stayed in the land of Canaan, which was on the opposite side of Zoar.
If you keep reading the book of Genesis, you will find out what the end of Lot’s life will be like. When God judged the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his two daughters were saved, while his wife became a pillar of salt. That is how he lost his wife and everything he had owned. Moreover, he slept with his two daughters whilst he was in a drunken state and they gave birth to two sons, who were the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites. These Gentile tribes were the typical enemies against God and His people.
After his nephew had left, God showed up before Abraham. The Lord blessed Abraham by saying, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are-northward, southward, eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length, and its width, for I give it to you” (Genesis 13:14-17).
What I have talked about so far is from today’s Scripture passage. Brothers and sisters, please keep this in mind. This is not just some story from the past. There is something very important God wants to tell us through this story.
This Passage Tells Us to Follow the Spirit, Not Our Flesh
What is the real implication of what happened between Abraham and Lot, and what God said to Abraham? God through this story is telling us to follow the lead of the Spirit, not our flesh. As you have seen in Scripture, Lot pursued his physical desires based on what he saw with his eyes. The conflict between Abraham and Lot was also caused by Lot’s greed. Because Lot pursued tangible possessions instead of what belonged to the invisible God, they ended up separating from each other. Eventually, God destroyed Lot who pursued only after his flesh, but He blessed Abraham who walked by the Spirit. This passage clearly shows us how those who follow after the Spirit are very different from those who follow the fleshly desires of the world.
Abraham was a man of faith who pursued after the Spirit of God. Therefore, he did not like the way his nephew lived, for he pursued only his flesh. Abraham told Lot that if he took the left, he would take the right; if he took the right, he would take the left. He said he would do the opposite of what Lot would do. “Your heart is crooked. Choose first. I will choose the opposite.” He told his nephew that he would do the very opposite of what Lot would do; in other words, he would follow the lead of the Spirit and not of his flesh. From a worldly perspective, Abraham lost a lot of good things when his nephew left him. What was he deprived of? He was deprived from the fertile lands of Zoar and the plains of Jordan.
Don’t you all know about the Jordan River? The banks along this river had lots of lush pasture. This was the perfect place for breeding and feeding cattle. On the other hand, the land of Canaan had no river and was a barren desert. Abraham, who had just chose the land of Canaan, was seemingly about to go bankrupt.
But as soon as his nephew left for these fertile lands, God appeared to Abraham right away. And He promised him, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are-northward, southward, eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Gen 13:14-15). He promised to bless him and his descendants forever.
We Will Be Destroyed If We Pursue Our Flesh after Being Born-again
This story means when we pursue the Spirit by faith, and when we preach the gospel together with God’s Church, not only will God give us the inheritance of this earth but He will also save our descendants and other souls through us. It is written in the Bible, “I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
God never fails to give those who pursue the Spirit the inheritance of this earth as well as the heavenly blessings to save other souls. The righteous and their descendants who follow God never have to beg for food. In other words, there are no beggars amongst the righteous. It is because God gives them the inheritance of this earth. Not only does God give His followers spiritual blessings, but also the properties of this land. Therefore the Bible declares, “Blessed are those who do not counsel with the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1) and “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell in it forever” (Psalm 37:29). “Inherit the land” is a very common phrase in the Bible.
Dear fellow believers, what is God telling us through this account between Abraham and Lot? He is telling us that He will take care of those who follow God and the Spirit, and that He will also give the inheritance of this earth to them. The inheritance of Heaven and earth is a guaranteed promise for those who believe in Him. But what is going to happen to those who do not pursue after the Spirit but the flesh? Those who pursue the flesh even after being born-again will be deprived of everything in the end. His descendants will not be saved, and there will not be anybody who will be saved through them. Do you see what I am saying? Those who pursue after the flesh and their descendants will forever not be saved. I believe this is exactly what God is telling us. He showed us through this how each group gets rewarded for their actions, by telling us to pursue after the Spirit if we claim to be the followers of God.
What Causes a Disturbance in Our Hearts after We Have Received Our Salvation?
Dear fellow believers, why do people have conflict within themselves after they have received salvation? What brings such disturbances in our hearts? Why do we still get agitated and upset while we are following God? The answer is: Two different desires arise within us: One desire is to pursue the Spirit and the other is to pursue the flesh; these two desires begin to collide within each of our hearts. Since what we can see all belongs to the flesh, people naturally like to pursue the flesh. For example, when Lot looked at the lush fertile plains of Jordan in the land of Zoar, he did not hesitate in choosing this land by thinking, “This is surely a great land. What is the big deal with leaving my uncle? I will definitely choose the land of Zoar, in the vicinities of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
But Abraham, who pursued after the Spirit, could not dwell with him any longer. Even though he needed good pasture lands for his sheep and goats, he couldn’t help but to journey towards the barren deserts. For he had already promised that he would take the right if Lot chose the left; he would take the left if Lot chose the right. It was obvious that he was going to go bankrupt in these barren deserts, but Abraham, the pursuer after the Spirit, could no longer live with Lot.
Dear fellow believers, physical things we can see with our eyes seem so reliable. We can picture it in our minds just how much we will gain from these things. They look like signed checks. They look so promising that even the born-again Christians like us may feel like pursuing after the flesh. But what is certain is that we should forsake such fleshly feelings and trust the promises of God’s Word instead. Even if our businesses go to ruin along the way in the pursuant of the Spirit, we should believe that God will give us the blessings of this land as an inheritance and do the soul-saving work through us. In other words, we should believe that God will not only bless us spiritually but also give the inheritance of this land to our descendants as well. God does take care of us faithfully and gives us all these things. We need to discover this secret of God’s blessings that pursuing after the Spirit brings us portions of this land and true wealth of this world along with the abundance of spiritual blessings. God does not abandon those who live for the gospel and work for it along with His Church. It is the definite promise of God.
We shouldn’t consider what happened to Abraham and Lot as just another historical event. Abraham became a man of great wealth by following God and the Holy Spirit, and his descendants also came to occupy this great land. All those who currently reside in the land of Canaan are also the descendants of Abraham. Just as God had promised Abraham, “All the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Gen 13:15), the descendants of Abraham occupied the land of Israel. As you no doubt know, the Israelites reclaimed their country which they had lost for about 1,900 years. The promise of God that went like this, “Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Gen 13:17) was fulfilled at that time. We should have a definite answer to this question that which one is going to prosper: the pursuer of the Spirit or the pursuer of the flesh? The Bible tells us that Abraham, the pursuer of the Spirit, became more prosperous than Lot, the pursuer of the flesh. Abraham represents all people who seek after the Spirit and the Word of God, even though these are invisible.
We Should Pursue after the Spirit in Spite of the Fact That We Live in the Flesh
Even the born-again have two different minds: One is that of Lot and the other is that of Abraham. These two minds conflict with each other in our hearts. Just like Abraham and Lot had conflicted with each other, these two minds are fighting against each other in our hearts.
“How can I live? What should I eat? What should I wear? If I go to church, I can’t do this or that. I lose this and that. Not to mention physical loss, I also waste time. Since I have already received my salvation, I am not going to church any more but instead I am making money diligently saving for my future.” Such worldly thoughts arise in our hearts. However, in times like this we need to pay close attention to what God says about this. God clearly said that He would give us the inheritance of this earth and save the descendants of those who follow after Him. We need to remember this Word of God and firmly hold onto it. Whenever these carnal desires to pursue after the flesh arise, we need to forsake them and instead follow the lead of the Spirit.
Dear fellow believers, even though we are living in the body of flesh, we must pursue after the Spirit and seek after what pleases God. In other words, we need to pursue the work that makes us unite with the Church and His gospel. When we invest our time and money in spreading the gospel, God will bless us and help us with the rest of our lives. The almighty God guarantees such a blessed life. He protects us. Do you believe this? It is not something we can accomplish with our own efforts. Only God can do this.
This morning I received a phone call from Brother Ongi Ahn. He told me that Brother Guangsuk Shim, who has not been attended the Church for quite some time, decided to come back to Church. Brother Ongi Ahn said, “Evangelist Park hurried over to see him. Go quickly and bring him back into the Church. Now he is coming to his senses.” Brother Shim is a businessman just like Brother Ahn. But he used to gripe and complain all the time. His house is full of empty liquor bottles. Some bottles of liquor are wrapped in black plastic bags and placed at the corner of his room. When I see them, I pretend not to see the liquor. Drinking itself is not problematic because it is okay to drink once in a while as long as you come to church. However, his excuse for skipping church services was that he couldn’t make money when he attended every worship service or meeting in the Church. He said that he had to suffer a great loss for coming to church. He said that he had been barely surviving and he could not have managed his life if he attended church regularly.
Brothers and sisters, I can guarantee you, if he had walked by the Spirit along with the Church, God would have helped him without fail. This is not my personal opinion. I can tell you this from having faith in the Word of God. We must firstly be united with God. It is said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” As saved people, we need to do our jobs well prior to anything else, and seek God’s help for our weaknesses. Then God will give us help even in the smallest things. He will keep us at all times.
I felt sorry for him when he said he could not come to Church because if he did, he could not make money. But everything will go smoothly for him once he unites with God’s Church; but he thinks that I am just saying this as a pastor to make him to come to my Church. He thinks of my admonition and considers it to be a manipulative move from a pastor. But I swear to God it wasn’t so. I would not lead anybody to God’s Church if that person were going to be ruined as a result. If I were to bring anyone to Christ and that someone would perish as a result; who then would take that risk? Why would a minister do something like this? If you were a leader of a church, would you do that to your congregation? If you knew the person whom you lead to Christ was going to perish, wouldn’t you lead that person to Christ? We are certainly not the servants of Satan. We lead people because God promised that He would make the pursuers after the Spirit prosper.
People Live by God’s Blessings
We do not live by bread alone, but live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You and I live not only with money but also with the blessings of God. Do you understand me? From a worldly point of view, Abraham who did not have this fertile land as Lot, seemed to be on the path of perishing away. If God had not blessed him, his cattle and livestock would have all died and Abraham would have also perished.
Instead, the Bible tells us that Lot went bankrupt, while Abraham became a man of great wealth. Not only Abraham but also his son, Isaac was a man of great wealth. He had numerous sheep and 318 servants (Genesis 14:14). If you do the math, Abraham wasn’t just a rich man. How much is sheep? How much does a goat cost? It may cost two hundred dollars or more these days. Then, if he had 1,000 goats, they would be 200,000 dollars worth let alone the other livestock. In those days, people who raised cattle were far from being poor. When calculating the money for a herd of thousands of sheep, they were unimaginably rich.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have been saved. And we follow after God as we live. As for those of us who have received salvation, how to receive God’s blessings is the most important thing. And the answer to this is to walk by the Spirit. We need to pursue after the Spirit. If we do not pursue after the Spirit but instead after the flesh, we will be considered no different to Lot. In the beginning, the pursuers after the flesh may look very successful. However, they will lose everything in the end.
Who is our Shepherd? It is Jesus Christ. Flocks need to be guided and protected by their shepherd. We can learn how to follow after the Spirit and work with the Church of God, and pray to God by coming regularly to Church. Even the saved cannot keep the genuine life of faith if they do not attend God’s Church, but instead share fellowship with the people of this world. They will forget what genuine faith is all about. People learn more about faith as they attend God’s Church.
So what should we pursue after? Even though He is not tangible or visible, we should nevertheless follow after the Spirit. I tell you again that we should follow after the Spirit and not after the flesh. If you and I want to be prosperous, we need to walk by the Spirit. We also need to find out what pleases the Lord; what God wants from us; how God’s guidance is revealed; and what God wants His Church to do. When we understand all these things and serve God being united with His Church, God will help us with everything and pour out His blessings upon us.
The Bible is not just a history book. The writers of the Bible did not include such a story because they had nothing else to talk about. God said these things through these writers so that we can clearly understand the answer for the questions such as, “What direction should we go after receiving our salvation? What should we do to become successful?” Does faith itself stay genuine once you receive your salvation? No, it does not. If we keep on following the desires of the flesh, our faith becomes weaker and weaker, and the will of God becomes unclear to us. Let’s look at ourselves. You did not know anything when you were standing outside of this Church, right? But when we began to dwell in the Church, we came to know God and believed in Him and started to grow as the people of faith who could pursue after the Spirit of God whole heartedly. As we attend God’s Church, we get to learn more about faith, the Spirit and the flesh. While we attend Church regularly, we discover the will of God and come to realize that we should pursue after the Spirit. Even when we are living on this earth, we can experience the protecting and helping hand of God, if we pursue after the Spirit. We can experience all the blessings of God. Then we will begin to understand what faith is really all about. We can give experienced counsel to younger Christians, “Do this. Live a life of faith this way. Be united with the Church. Walk by the Spirit.” We can do so only when we unite with the Church by faith.
God Blesses Those Who Are United with His Church
As I said at the beginning of this sermon, Abraham became rich all thanks to his wife. This also tells us clearly that people who are united with the Church can be blessed. Just as Abraham became rich because of his wife Sarah, we can likewise be blessed just by being united with the Church. Not to mention spiritual blessings but we will also gain physical blessings as well.
Of course, it may seem that there are lots of things you have to give up when you first start out on this life of faith. As a matter of fact, we lose our friends, family members and more as we live out our faith by being united with His Church. Everything goes that way in the beginning. However, when we learn to live a genuine life of faith by being united with the Church, we will gain much more than the things we have lost. And from then on we will live an abundant life that keeps on gaining. In other words, we will have more gains than losses.
Therefore, we need to walk by the Spirit and live by faith. Those of you who are working with the Church should consider yourselves extremely fortunate. No matter what circumstances you are in, the Church always prays for you. Praying in one accord in the Church has remarkable power.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people who have alienated themselves from the Lord and are not united with the Church. Do we pray for those people? Even though we think we should, but it is not easy to pray for those people in reality. For this reason, they are always outsiders to us. Once some people depart from the Church, they are excluded. And this means that they are excluded from the blessings of God. It is not because we want to do this, but it is part of God’s plan for them to be excluded. Why doesn’t God bless those who do not work for Him? Even if God blesses them, they would have no idea where the blessings had come from.
Dear fellow believers, I tell you this over and over again, being united with God’s Church after receiving the remission of your sins is truly a blessing from God. There will no doubt arise many worldly desires in our flesh. But one thing we the fragile should always remember is that we must be united with the Church, walk by the Spirit and obey God’s Word if we really want to prosper. If we are still in trouble despite doing all this, then we should earnestly take the matter before God. When we pray, we can find out whether or not God will help us. It is up to God whether He decides to help us or not. Our job is to do our very best in His assigned task for us. This is why the Bible says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” This means that we should do first what the Church wants us to do. In other words, we should invest our time, our hearts and money first in preaching the gospel. Only then will God add everything onto us. This is the promise from Almighty God. Therefore, if we want to be blessed, we should walk by the Spirit and obey the Word of God in His Church.
In God’s Kingdom, there are so many things that are different from human affairs. Those who received the remission of their sins and attend every meeting of the Church will live a successful life on this earth. But look at those who always think everything from a worldly perspective and complain, “Oh, Gosh, I can’t live like that. I am wiser than those people in that Church, so I am not going to attend there meetings. I will only go and listen to their Sunday sermons.”
Are they really wiser than the faithful saints who attend every meeting of God’s Church? No, they are not. Unsound souls cause unsound bodies. If you have a few more hours to yourself when you do not come to God’s Church, what difference can you make? When you have extra hours, do you use it all for good things? You cannot help but waste money during those extra hours. In worse cases, some people think, “What good is it to go to Church? I will read the Bible and try to understand it by myself, and live a life of faith by myself.” Of course they think that they are not wasting anything or losing anything, for they are using their own time and money for themselves, and not for the Lord.
But please bear this in mind. God never gives glorious blessings to people like this. People also receive prosperity, health and wealth when they walk by the Spirit. While seeking after the flesh, not caring for the Spirit, you will for sure suffer physical ruin. That is a certain formula God had made. It is a biblical and Godly formula. Since you and I are following the lead of the Spirit well, I don’t have to get into those details. Nonetheless, we need to remember that God fills our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs when we walk by the Spirit. Do you understand me? Do you believe in this?
I praise the Lord. I praise Him and thank Him for allowing us to live a spiritual life and giving us spiritual lessons.