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Jul 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 14, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 18

Indicators of Growth

When [Abraham] lifted his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please, do not pass your servant by. Genesis 18:1-8

INTRO: Some years ago, I found myself frustrated with my Calvary Chapel colleagues

Our mission was to teach the Bible
– and the goal was make sure people in our churches “knew the Word”
• but I became disappointed when I realized what kind of Christians that produced
• moralistic, opinionated, self-righteous, argumentative
– it bothered me that I wasn’t hearing the importance of integrity or godly character
• we weren’t talking about becoming better people
○ kinder, more thoughtful or loving
• so even if we knew God’s word, it’s not like we were automatically living it

If you’re a parent, would you agree with me,
– it’s more fun and exciting to have a baby than to raise a child?
– how this translates into church life:
• it’s more fun and exciting to do evangelism than to grow Christians
○ growing Christians, you have to deal with all the hard challenges – every day!
• sometimes the exciting church is the one that keeps its members babies
○ this is something that frustrated New Testament writers (1 Cor. 3:1-2; He. 5:12-14)

How can we tell if we’re becoming spiritually mature?

There are signs we can check
– we need to make sure we’re looking for the right signs
• usually we think of what we’re doing – e.g., praying, reading the Bible, etc.
• instead of “do,” we need to think “be
○ not “what am I doing?” but “who am I becoming?”
○ what now is so much a part of who I am, it comes naturally?

There are just a few of these indicators in this chapter
– and they aren’t necessarily the most important ones,
• but they’re enough to get us moving in the right direction

Vv. 1-8, The “hospitality” indicator

The scene opens: Abraham is sitting in the doorway on a hot, lazy afternoon
– but the moment he sees three strangers, the pace of the story picks up
• we now see him running here and there, rushing Sarah and his servant to quickly prepare a meal
• the story has come to life and it’s full of energy
○ it seems that Abraham suspected, these were not ordinary men

My folks used to tell us, “Clean you room; we’re going to entertain company tonight”
-“entertain” has several meanings
• first: amuse, hold someone’s interest, provide entertainment
• second: to receive a person as a guest
• third: to ponder something (to entertain a thought)
– Christian hospitality does not meant to entertain according to the first definition
• it is not going all out with invitations, decorations, a gourmet meal, or telling jokes all night
– rather, it is putting people at ease, making them feel comfortable,
attending to their needs, and having a concern for them as persons
• there are convents and monasteries with few amenities, but tons of hospitality

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2)

But the statement I find even more motivating is when Jesus said, I was a stranger, and you invited Me in (Mt. 25:35)

One other observation regarding this scene
– Abraham was sitting in his doorway – threshold (like morning or evening)
• we’ve seen the importance of a threshold many times in scripture – a sacred space
• a space of stillness between our active world and active home
– find your sacred threshold space and spend time there – watching
• “lifted his eyes…looked…behold” — this is what we’re doing in the stillness, we’re watching for God

Vv. 9-15, The “sense of humor” indicator

Sarah was eavesdropping behind the tent flap
– some commentators tell us this was the “laughter of disbelief” or “despair”
• I prefer to just take the text for what it says
○ Sarah just cracked up or got the giggles
• perhaps she pictured herself pregnant
– I once had a personal assistant who had a few choice lines
• one of her favorites, “Get over yourself”
• people who can laugh at themselves live with much less conflict and tension

If Sarah giggling behind tent flap isn’t funny,
– it certainly is when she runs out and denies that she laughed
• even funnier when the Lord said, “but you did laugh”
– although there’s humor in this scene, it’s also serious
• Sarah gets a flat, “No” – she’s not allowed to deny or justify what she did
• this is how God works – he requires honesty

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being (Ps. 51:6)

○ he doesn’t have a problem with us saying, “I struggle with what You’ve said, Lord”
○ he will helps us work through it
○ what he does not accept, is pretending that it’s all good when we’re inwardly frustrated, doubtful, or troubled

Also in these verses, the “something new” indicator

Again, both the storyteller and Sarah stress the impossibility of God’s promise (vv. 11-12)
– God occasionally brings something new to life within us
• we are changed – “transformed from glory to glory”
• so if there’s never anything new happening or nothing changing, then  I’ve stopped growing

We’re not in charge of our spiritual growth
– God always decides what comes next
• so what theme keeps coming up? What response keeps getting triggered?
• and when God begins new thing, it doesn’t matter if it looks impossible

Eugene Peterson, “We live our lives in the practice of what we do not originate and cannot anticipate . . . we continuously enter into what is more than we are.”

– this is yet another indicator, the “adopt a generous sense of what is possible” indicator (v. 14)

Vv. 16-33, The “barter with God” indicator

The religious term is “intercede” or “intercession”
– this is really a beautiful piece of scripture
• it’s as if God feels it would be wrong to hold back from Abraham
○ privilege of maturity: God shares secrets (Ps. 25:14)
• Abraham was immediately alarmed by what he heard
• so he begins to test his relationship with the Lord
○ to see if he can be persuaded to reconsider his actions
○ in classic eastern style, when he gets a little he goes for more–haggling with God
each time, God doesn’t argue but consents to the lower number
– we need to know God well enough to “come boldly . . .”
• but also know him well enough to come in reverence
• Abraham’s speech is self-conscious and controlled, and peppered with apologies

Why did God come by Abraham’s tent anyway?
– God wasn’t limited to taking one particular road to Sodom
• and it’s doubtful he needed to stop and ask for directions
• God wanted to give Abraham this opportunity
○ to pull his friend into what he was doing – to have Abraham participate with him
• God wants human partners – agents in world working with him
– Abraham performed his role perfectly
• reverently, he argued for justice and compassion

CONC: So here’s what we want to do

Just ask ourselves the question, “Am I a better person than I was a year ago?”
– am I changing?
– is God bringing something new to birth in me?

I can’t help you:
– succeed in business
– work out your deep-seated psychological issues
– help you figure out how to be a perfect parent, child, spouse, friend, employer, employee

But if you want to grow in grace and faith and your relationship with God,
– if you want to get further down the road in your spiritual journey,
• then I want to walk alongside you and be a companion in that process
• we can go and grow together

If this is what we sincerely desire, then Jesus will meet us here
and with his help and direction we will grow and become better people

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