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Are You Right or Righteous?

Randy Skeete

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Randy Skeete

Evangelist and revivalist from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Recorded

  • February 27, 2005
    7:00 PM
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00:00 The title you probably have is Are You Right or Righteous? But I gave it another title, The Wrong Side of Right. Are You Right or Righteous? or you may give it a second title, The Wrong Side of Right. A lady was living in a house on a lot owned by somebody else. She was single, 3 children between the ages of 5 and 1, and she was carrying a 4th one perhaps 6 or 7 months advanced. She lost her source of income and the landlord gave her one month to come up with the rent. She was already 3 months behind. She could not come up with the rent, had no family, and had been deserted by her husband, the father of the children. The landlord went to the courts; exercised his legal rights to have her served with an eviction notice. When she lingered before leaving, like Lot lingered before Sodom, he exercised his rights again and had the sheriff come and put all her possessions on the sidewalk including her and her children. She was taken to court for failure to pay. The judge sat listening to the landlord make his case and the judge could find no fault in the landlord's case. The woman was behind in her rent 3 months. The fact that she had 3 little children and 1 on the way made not one whit of difference to the law. The landlord had exercised his right and there was nothing the judge could do. The judge found the woman guilty and awarded the man sufficient damage; which the judge himself paid and then took the woman into his house to live in his basement which was fully furnished and unoccupied. Why did the judge do that? Was he genetically kind?  Was he inhuman? Was he different from the rest of us? No, he wasn't. But he was troubled, he was moved with sympathy for this woman who was wrong and he was brimful of dislike for the landlord, who was right but was the furthest man from being righteous. There is an ocean of difference between being right and being righteous; and that is the message I want to nail into all of our skulls tonight. Our subject: are you right or righteous? Or the second choice as a subject: the wrong side of right. Reading from the King James version, Genesis 14:1-9, “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations; 2That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. 3All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. 4Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim, 6And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. 7And they returned, and came to Enishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar. 8And there went the out king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the King of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; 9With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.” There is a battle that is about to brew. Four kings have come from the other side of the Euphrates River, led by Chedorlaomer king of Elam. Accompanying him was Amraphel king of Shinar—the ancient name for the land of Babylon, Tidal king of nations and Arioch king of Ellasar. They are coming on a punitive campaign against five of the cities of the plains where Lot chose to live: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela. Obviously, probably, before Abraham had entered into Canaan, these missions had conquered this part of the world and they had rebelled as conquered nations tend to do and perhaps ought to do. So the nations return now to put down this rebellion. Genesis 14:10, “And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.” When the war began, the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah turned and ran, fled, and hid somewhere in the vast area of slimepits. Genesis 14:11, “And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.” Lot we know from Genesis 13 had chosen to live next to Sodom. We first find him on the planes. Now in Genesis 14 we find him in Sodom. It is a dangerous thing to get close to evil. You may think you can keep your distance but evil does one of two things. Evil’s philosophy is if the mountain won't go to you, you should go to the mountain. When we draw near to evil and we grit our teeth and we make an effort not to go any closer than evil comes to us; but evil first tries to draw us to it. And so from Genesis 13 we have Lot living in the plains; in Genesis 14 he’s in the city of Sodom. Genesis 14:13, “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.” Abram was living also in the land of Canaan because God had sent him there. But Abram had conducted himself in such a way that the surrounding nations respected him and regarded him as a leader in social cases and perhaps in military expeditions, as well. So one of the tribal leaders was Eshcol, another one was Aner, another one was Mamre. Abram was living in the plain of Mamre, the Amorite, and they regarded Abram—he wasn’t Abraham yet—as an ally. The King James Bible says in Genesis 14:14, “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive”—notice Lot’s not his nephew, he’s his brother. In spiritual matters we’re not sons and daughters or cousins; we are brothers and sisters. So Lot now is not so much a nephew, he is Abram’s brother—“when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, 318, and pursued them unto Dan.” Abram hears that a relative of his has been captured by Chedorlaomer, by Amraphel, by Tidal, and by Arioch. They have defeated Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah have fled. One man, who has escaped the battle, knowing who Lot was related to, comes to Abram and tells Abram the sad news, your nephew who lived in Sodom has been captured. And Abram arms his trained servants, goes in pursuit of these four armies combined. We don’t know how many there were but four armies combined must be many more than 318, which Abraham had. But when you're on God’s side you outnumber anyone else; even if it’s just you and God (amen). The Bible says he, “pursued them unto Dan. 15And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.” Genesis 14:16, describes the total victory that Abram won, “16And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.” Abram recovers everything and just about everyone who was left alive. When we fight under the banner of the righteousness of Christ, our victories are complete; our victories are total. When the Israelites were fleeing across the Red Sea from Egyptian slavery, at God’s command, when they got over to the other side the Egyptian army entered that pathway thinking they could cross on dry land—God brought the waters back together, drowned them, the Bible says, not one Egyptian soldier escaped. Meaning, if the Israelites had chosen to go back to Egypt, they would have chosen to go back, not because the Egyptian army took them back, but because they themselves decided to go back. Very often we blame the church for chasing us away; this person said that and I left the church. This person didn’t like my shoes and I left the church. We decide to leave the church. No one can tear you from the arms of Christ if you are determined to remain in the arms of Jesus Christ (amen). No one can pluck you from His hand, that’s what He said. Abram went in pursuit of these men to deliver Lot. And when God delivers the righteous, God’s kindness is so overwhelming it splashes over all the others who are in the area of the righteous. So Abram did not only bring back Lot, he brought back everybody else. It pays to get close to Christians. Is it a safe place to be when someone gets close to you? Is a person who gets close to me safe? Potiphar was blessed because of Joseph. Laban was blessed because of Jacob. Laban said, “I have learned by experience that God has blessed me [because of you]” [Genesis 30:27]. Are people blessed because of us? Abram brought back everything and everyone including Lot. Genesis 14:17, “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. 18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all”—another word for all: gross. Here is where our story gives meaning to our subject: the wrong side of right; or are you right or righteous? Abram fought this battle, recovered Lot and all the goods, Genesis 14:16, says it was Abram who brought back all the goods, all the people, brought back Lot; under the conditions which battles were fought back then, everything Abram brought back was his, including Lot. Everything Abram captured in that war and every person was his because wars back then ended in selling people to slavery, capturing inhabitants, relocating them, doing whatever you wanted because they were treated as cattle, possessions. To prove this, the king of Sodom comes to Abram in Genesis 14:21, “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself”—when those four kings came and started fighting, the king of Sodom fled. Genesis 14:10, he was hiding in a slime pit. Now the battle is over and won; and he shows up—there’s a group of faithful people fundraising, trying to build a church—some people you can’t find; laying the foundations, you can’t find them; doing cement, you can’t find them; go the extra mile with some contributions, you can’t find them; sponsor some pews, you can’t find them; the church is finished, up they pop up, they want to be head elder. Not anywhere around when perspiration is required but the first in line when the benefits are passed out. That man was in a slime pit hiding; now he comes to tell Abram how to distribute that which he has captured. But he’s very careful because Abram, who just defeated four armies, can destroy him like that (snap of a finger). So he makes a suggestion, give me the persons—meaning those inhabitants of my city who were captured, give them back to me that I may repopulate my city; but Abram you take all the silver that you got, all the gold, all the silk, all the diamonds, the pearls, whatever else you got, you keep it. He probably said to himself, I am in no military position to argue with you. Abram, you keep everything; just give me the people—remember this man is the king of Sodom. Sodom is no different than Gomorrah. Sodom is no different from Admah, Zeboiim, or Bela, the cities of the plains that Abram came to destroy in Genesis 14:8. This representative of Sodom is now making a bargain with a representative of the kingdom of God. That’s who Abraham was. And the reason why we’re told in Galatians 3:29, “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed”—Abraham, in a sense, represents the child of God. When the child of God receives bargains from the world, what does a child of God do?—though the offer is tempting: keep all the money, give me the people, you won’t have to feed them. I’ll feed and take care of them, just keep the money. By the way, if you read 1 Peter 3:6, [“Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him master; whose daughters ye are as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”] Sarah is our mother, spiritually; Abraham is our father, spiritually. Genesis 14:22, “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, 23That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” What is a thread? Ladies you know want I’m talking about. You are going to a banquet you go to a special climate-controlled part of your closet. You see a little string hanging down and you get specially bought scissors, diamond-encrusted handles, and you snip that thread off. Abraham said, “I will not take from a thread”—men you are wearing shoes, there are shoe latchets on your shoes. Abraham said, I will take nothing from you; and he gives the reason—“lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” Are you right or righteous? Abram had the right to take everything he brought back. He had the right based on the customs of that day and the fact that he was standing in front of his own personal victorious army looking at a king who just came out of hiding. If Abram had decided to take all the goods and the people, there was nothing the pitiful king of Sodom could have done. That man, as we say: was over a barrel and was begging. Abraham would have been in his rights to have taken everything but that action would not have been a righteous one. Abraham chose righteousness over being right because Abraham’s choice of righteous action rather than pressing his rights was based on the fact that his behavior would reflect on his Maker. So Abram says in Genesis 14:22, “I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord”—to lift up his hand is to swear an oath. Revelation 10:5, “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven. 6And sware by him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are”—to lift up the hand is a symbol of swearing. So Abraham was saying, I have sworn before God. He didn’t say, I am swearing now. The tense is important, I have sworn. Abraham had previously made up his mind that after the battle he would have nothing to do with the spoils. Often, people say, if someone stole my car, I don't know what I’d do. Let me politely suggest: you need to know what you’ll do before it is stolen. If someone runs into the back of my car on Hwy #10, I don't know what I'll do. Know before it happens or you will do the wrong thing. Don’t allow the circumstance to tell you what to do. Allow the standard of righteousness to tell you beforehand. If anything happens to me, I will approach it from the prospective of God’s standard of righteousness. I have to wait until it happens, then I’ll know—wrong thinking! Let us know now. So if you are taking an exam and you see the answer sheet accidently left by the professor on the desk right next to you, you ought to know before the exam: I don’t cheat! And not wait until you get there and say, Oh, my, I have a decision to make—no! Come with the decision: I don’t cheat! Whether there is an exam sheet on this desk, and that desk in front of me, and behind. So Abraham said, Genesis 14:22, “I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, 23That I will not take”—little things are very important, my beloved brothers and sisters,—not a thread, not a shoelatchet; I will take nothing because I don't want you to have anything over me. My success in life must not be attributable to the contributions of Sodom because when that happens then Sodom can exercise some control over me. So Loma Linda should say, we owe you nothing; we are accountable to God, alone, for what we do. The business you run should be able to say, through you, I am not accountable to you; I run an honest business, I don't cheat, I don’t steal, I return my tithes, I prefer to suffer a loss than to bring God’s name down in the dirt! Those of you in businesses, it is better, in the sight of God, to suffer a loss and be righteous than to make a profit and be right; because there is nothing higher than righteousness. Look how Abram’s righteousness extends in the next verse, Genesis 14:24, “Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” Abraham was thinking of someone else. With all the wealth laid out before him, for the taking, Abraham said, Give it to them. I don’t want it—you and they are all the same thing; not me, I’m a child of God. When I turn around and I’m right in front of you, at the head of my troops, you must say, that man cannot be bought. This was not an accidental event in the life of Abram [later his name is changed to Abraham]. In Genesis 12, Abram has deceived Pharaoh saying that Sarah was his sister. The Lord sends plagues unto Pharaoh. Pharaoh jumps out of his room, goes to Abraham, complains, evicts Abraham. Abraham leaves Egypt with Sarah and Lot, coming back to Canaan. Genesis 13:5, “And Lot, also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. 6And the land was not able to bear them, that they might live together; for their substance was great, so that they could not live together. 7There was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land”—that’s critical, wherever Christians are, there’s a Canaanite and a Perizzite in the land watching you. So here’s Abram; here’s Lot. Their possessions are so great they cannot even occupy a certain part of a country. There are surrounding nations, perhaps aware of the strife between Abram's cattlemen and Lot’s herders and the other herders are watching these two strangers, these Hebrews; how they will settle this? Abraham is aware that he is in a fishbowl. Do you know we are in a fishbowl and the unbeliever knows exactly how we should behave? Genesis 13:8, “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.” What’s the reason why there should be no strife? we be brethren. Do you know how many churches have broken up because one group was right, and the other group was right? The groups split because both were right. One group wants the wall blue and the other group wants it bluish and so they split. There are crises in churches for no other reason than that people stick to their rights. The Desire of Ages, Ellen White said, Jesus never stood up for His rights, never! [“But God’s servants are to be representatives of Him. He desires them to deal only in the currency of Heaven, the truth that bears His own image and superscription. The power by which they are to overcome evil is the power of Christ. The glory of Christ is their strength. They are to fix their eyes upon His loveliness. Then they can present the gospel with divine tact and gentleness. And the spirit that is kept gentle under provocation will speak more effectively in favor of the truth than will any argument, however forcible.” DA 353.36:2] Genesis 13:8, “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Abram is giving up his right of choice to Lot, for the sake of peace and righteousness. Lot, you choose, I am your uncle, I am your elder relative but you choose. I surrender my primary right of choice, you take it because what I am defending is not rights but righteousness; the Perizzites and the Canaanites are watching us. So let’s not go to court, Lot. (Amen!) Adventists believe we should not sue each other, officially—that’s my escape valve, officially. Genesis 13:10, “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before [YHWH] destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of [YHWH], like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” Lot sees this well watered land. He has flocks, he needs grass, he needs water, he sees grass, he sees water, he was given a choice, he exercises it, how can you jail the man for that? And he left Abram in the higher elevations, where it is not well suited for grazing in that part of the world. Lot chose the choicest part, moved on, and pitched his tents in the cities of the plains. Genesis 13:12, “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. 13But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before [YHWH] exceedingly.” God honors righteous action over that which is just right. Let me explain, after Abram lost the best land for grazing to his nephew, who in the very next chapter he will save from invading armies—tells you something about Abraham: no grudges—after Lot chose selfishly, exercising the right Abraham had just ceded to him. Genesis 13:14, “And [YHWH] said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him”—Lot is gone. Abram is probably wondering, where will I find some good grazing for all of my cattle? Abraham was rich. Genesis 13:2, “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” because when he deceived Pharaoh in Genesis 12:16, Pharaoh gave him a lot of stuff: “sheep, and oxen, and he donkeys, and menservants, and maidservants, and she donkeys, and camels”—Abraham had flocks, huge herds! And Lot has the best grazing land. But Abraham did what was righteous and God rewards righteousness (amen). The Bible says in Genesis 13:14, “And [YHWH] said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. 15For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever”—here’s what God told Abram. Abraham was a human being; he probably thought he suffered a great loss—very often in doing what’s right we suffer loss but we will never suffer spiritual loss: it may be temporal loss, it may be financial loss, it may be loss of health, it may be loss of friends, it may be loss of family, it may be loss of possessions, loss of job, but when we do that which is righteous we never suffer loss in the eyes of God and that counts. (Amen!) God said to Abram, I know you’re heartbroken over what happened but lift up your eyes look as far as you can see north. If the Lord said to you, Go outside this building and look north, as far as you can see. And you lift up your eyes on a clear day and you see way out in the distance, you see blue, as far as you can see, that’s way off. God didn’t say look north for 10 miles. He said look north, look south, look east, and look west, as far north as you can see. As far as you can look, Abram. He looked and he didn’t stop looking. The Lord said, Look north, look south, east, and west; all that you see, including all that Lot just took, I’m going to give to you. Everything you see, and if you read [“For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”] Romans 4:13, that promise from God was a promise that Abram would inherit the whole world. What did Lot get? Some land outside of Sodom; Abraham got the whole world. God honors righteous behaviour. It is more important to be righteous than to be right. There are people who die on the highway every day because a driver on the right side lane, driving an 18-wheeler, doing the legal limit, 69.9 in a 70 mph area, a car is trying to merge onto the highway, he will not slow down, he either moves over or the person goes over into the ditch; but he’s right, he’s in the right lane, at the legal speed, and the person ends in the ditch, rolls over, dies. And he’s right; the other is gone. He hasn’t broken the law. It’s the person entering that has to be careful. The person on the highway has the right-of-way. The right-of-way has killed more people than anything you can think about. People are shot on the highway because someone held to the right-of-way. You didn’t realize the person you squeezed had a history of homicide and you’re dead. The child of God is not excited by exercising his/her rights. The child of God exercises that which is righteous. When right and righteous are to the same—then glory, hallelu-Yah! But very seldom someone sticking up for his/her rights is acting righteously. That’s why Jesus never stood up for His rights. (Amen!) Are you right or righteous? Which is it as you talk to yourself in your heart and as I talk to myself in my heart? Abram conducted himself in such a way that no one would have anything hanging over his head; his character and the character of his God were important to him when dealing with his relative, Lot, in Genesis 13; in dealing with unbelievers in Genesis 14. This was this man's pattern of life. In Genesis 23, a sad chapter, Sarah is dead. Abraham loved this woman. For many years Abraham saw all kinds of kings try to take Sarah from him. That must've been one beautiful woman and she's dead. Genesis 23:1, “And Sarah was 127 years old; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.” He comes to mourn for this woman that he loved and to weep. The Christian life has moments of sadness. But in the moments of sadness when the dark clouds of grief and depression encompass us, God is in that cloud with us. Genesis 23:3, “Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, 4I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” Even though God has promised the land of Canaan to this man, Abraham; his wife is dead, his most cherished person on the earth and Abraham can’t find any land in which to bury his wife. Sometimes that which God promises us we have to wait and wait and wait for reasons best known to God. Genesis 23:5, “And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, 6Hear us, my sovereign; thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead, none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.” They’re saying, you are a mighty prince among us, we respect you, we know you, pick any tomb you want and you may have it. Genesis 23:7, “And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth, 8And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar [the Hittite], 9That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a burying place amongst you.” Abraham is saying I want to buy this land so that I have no ties to the Hittites. I want to buy it. They want to give it to him. We all love a freebie, am I right? The advertising experts are aware of a word that catches every eye: FREE—easy and quick. They want to give it to him. Genesis 23:10, “And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying, 11Nay, my sovereign, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead. 12And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land. 13And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou will give it, I pray thee, hear me”—you don’t understand I want to buy it!—“I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. 14And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him, 15My sovereign, hearken unto me; the land is worth 400 shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and thee? Bury therefore thy dead”—it’s only 400 shekels, Abraham, take the land! But Abram would not take that land for free because if he does that, he is somehow written in the records of history that he is obligated to the Hittites; and the child of God must have no ties to the world! The world shouldn’t come and close my school because I owe the world so much money! The world must have no control over that which belongs to God’s people, none! Abraham said, I don’t want this land for free. The children of God are not freeloaders—but we’ll take a free sabbath meal every week—that’s a different thing all together so remember me, please. But we are not freeloaders of the world. Genesis 23:16, “And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, 400 shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.” In Genesis 13, Abram gave up his right to Lot, you choose. In Genesis 14, Abram refused to exercise his military right of conquest and he told the king of Sodom, you keep everything, just give something to those who came with me; if they’re taken care of I'm fine. I find great joy in seeing others taken care of (amen). Jesus went to the cross for the joy set before Him; for the joy of seeing me saved and the joy of seeing you saved He accepted crucifixion. How can we be any different in our characters? In Genesis 23, Abraham is looking for a piece of land to bury his wife. What a tender heartbreaking scene it must have been to see Abraham trying to get from the Hittites a piece of land just to bury his wife. The Hittites seemed to be so accommodating: take it. But not even moments of intense grief are excuses to suffer lapses of righteousness. (Amen!) There is no excuse not to exercise righteous judgment. Ellen White says not even death and sickness are good enough reasons for a minister to leave a soul-winning opportunity and go back home—that’s how important soul winning is! You would think at the moment when a man is broken with grief over the death of his wife whom he loved so much that he would lose his sense of balance and reason and do something rash and the whole world would understand!—that’s how we reason. Who was under more stress than Christ going up Golgotha? Wouldn’t that have been an excuse for Him to say, turn to the right, go down an alley and forget this? Who would not understand? God wouldn’t. Jesus Himself wouldn’t. Don’t you realize that when Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus had the right to let them stew in the oil of their iniquity? Do you realize that if they had not decided to save the world they would've been right. Jesus would’ve been right to leave us in a mess we expertly made! When He was in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood, if He had changed His mind and gone back, He would have been right but the universe would have missed a demonstration of righteousness which is what the Gospel gives: righteousness, saving people who don’t deserve to be saved; yet doing that without staining His reputation as a just god. They would never have seen that if Jesus had held to His right and said, I didn’t sin, let them die. He gave up that right and gave to the universe a lesson in righteousness and love so great that sin will have no chance to rise a second time. Are we right or righteous? If you're presently in a dispute at work, at home, at church, playground, basketball court—the ball is mine—no it’s yours, it went off your shoe—it went off your shirt. I want all of us to ask God to help us to approach every situation with the determination to act righteously because being right is not always being righteous. Think of what I said. Think of Abram with respect to Lot, he gave up his right, would not have Lot say, my uncle was unfair to me; with respect to the king of Sodom, he gave up his right, the King of Sodom could have everything because Abram did not want the king of Sodom to say, that Hebrew is indebted to me; with respect to the sons of Heth, Abraham insisted on paying his way so that the world could not say, we have done something for you; Abram walked through Canaan and left no debts: no one could say, this man owes us something; because Abram was a righteous man and his actions were righteous. We can make a decision tonight that can cut down conflict in our lives by 75% if we will decide tonight, from this point on, by the grace of God, the enabling sustaining grace of God, we will seek to do that which is righteous, not necessarily right; even if we suffer a loss (amen). Heaven suffered some kind of loss when Jesus came. It was righteousness that led to salvation. Heaven did the righteous thing and God wants us to act the same—ultimately, righteous behavior is sacrificial behavior: you give something up for the sake of something else. Abraham sacrificed all that wealth so the king of Sodom may have nothing over him. Abraham sacrificed his right to choose first that Lot may have no complaints. Abraham sacrificed the gift of a piece of land that the Hittites may have nothing over him. God sacrificed His Son that in the judgment no [wo]man may say, there was something else you could've done. The Bible [Psalm 50:5] says, “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” Righteousness is self-sacrificial. You have cards with you? You do. I want you to take your card. Here’s what I want you to write in that card, if you will say, Lord, my heart has been touched by the word. I want, by Your grace, one day at a time, one incident at a time, to respond righteously as God responded to sin, as Abraham responded time and again. Give me a heart which is a heart where the commandments of righteousness are written. Give me that heart to treat every situation righteously. If you will say that, put a large R on the card. Then put a + on the right hand side of the R because I don’t want the R to remind me of right, I want it to remind me of righteous. [ R+] I’m telling you from my heart, this would cut out so many conflicts in our lives, in churches, wherever people get together. Because of the sinful nature, we think we have rights; but the nature of Christ is to sacrifice for the sake of others. “5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” and that mind is in Philippians 2:3-4, “4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves”—that is the mind of Christ. Paul says, you have that mind; and I need that mind: R+. Now I want you to stand. I have an appeal to make. You need to be brave to respond. Heads bowed. Anyone here who knows now, under the conviction of the Spirit, in some recent exchange you have dealt unrighteously with someone; you may have been right but you weren't righteous and you want to say, Lord, I’m sorry—raise your right hand. God bless you. [2SM 32] Father, we come to apologize very simply and very earnestly; we have acted unrighteously by sticking up for rights which is contrary to Jesus, contrary to You and contrary to Your spirit. Lord, we are embarrassed and we’re sorry. Father, being Christlike is more than just saying so; it involves some suffering, some loss for the protection of Your righteousness. In the name of Jesus, Lord, give us a divine impulse to view every situation, come to every negotiation, looking at it through the lens of the standard of Your righteousness: Your holy law which was given, according to Romans 10, for our lives, not our death. Forgive us, God, perhaps we didn't know better, now we know. Give us the courage of Jesus to do what's righteous far beyond and above what’s right. Father, I believe You’ve heard this prayer. You've washed away that sin. You’re giving us now a clean slate to fill it with righteous writings. Thank You! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

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