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Abraham In Gerar

“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. (Genesis 20:2)

I still remember how horrible I felt that night when I was a young Christian, as the preacher related his stories at the close of the sermon. He had been talking about the Lord’s ability to instantly free the believer from sin’s hold on their life. He told us story after story of people who had been in bondage to all sorts of sinful behaviors who, upon coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, were immediately freed from even the faintest yearning for what they had recently been so passionate toward. “That man had smoked for over 30 years”, this preacher proclaimed, “And when he came to Christ, he NEVER had the desire for a cigarette again!” The boisterous “Amens!” and “Hallelujahs!” that filled the sanctuary after these words were spoken led me to believe that maybe I was the only person in the entire congregation who still struggled with sinful desires!

Many of us have heard accounts of people getting saved and being instantaneously delivered from an addiction or sinful desire that they have had most of their lives. I have no doubt that this does sometimes happen (I must confess that I personally have never met such an individual, but I take the stories told to me in good faith), but it seems to me that this is not the normal way that the Spirit of God operates in the lives of His people. The record of Scripture as well as the everyday experiences of those Christians who have confided in me enough to be completely candid about such matters testify to the fact that true holy living is usually something that takes place over time. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the guilt of our sin is immediately wiped away and our position with God is changed in a single instant. But the ability to break some of our stubborn sinful habits is something that only just begins at that point.

I believe that the preacher who talked about those people instantaneously freed from their sinful desires that night was intending to do nothing but glorify the mighty ability of our precious Savior to free those who will put their trust in Him. But it made me seriously wonder why God would do that for some folks while others of us continued to struggle and flounder with the same sins over and over. Many students of God’s Word have been puzzled by the 20th Chapter of Genesis, asking why in the world is it even in the Bible? It looks so much like the events recorded back in Chapter 12, when Abraham and Sarah were in Egypt, and is so similar to what is later described in Genesis 26:6-16, that some scholars have suggested that the three accounts are all based on a single event and that a scribal error explains the redundancy. But when we truly understand mankind’s fleshly nature, there really is no puzzle at all. Honestly, I am glad that this chapter is in the Book of Genesis because it tells us that even Abraham was not beyond repeating the same sin more than once. We may not all have been instantly freed from our sinful desires when we received Salvation, but we are certainly in very distinguished company.

Abraham’s deception of Abimilech in Gerar is recorded right before the conception of Isaac (Genesis 21:2). It was necessary for Abraham to deal with this sin and get it out of his life before he could receive all that God planned for him to have. We may take comfort in the fact that Abraham apparently did not learn from his sin the first time in Egypt; in fact, we see that this ruse was a common practice that he and Sarah engaged in as they traveled about (v.13). But we must also realize that the time came for them to deal with this sin and get it out of their lives before God’s plan for them could go forward. So it is with us. We may struggle with the same sins again and again, and God is merciful to forgive us when we confess them to Him. But until we deal with them and trust in Him to free us from those sins, we will never receive all that He has intended for us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 10, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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4 responses

  1. Loren,

    Welcome back!!!….. Missed you! :)

    This post is very well put….. And, to back up what you have shown are Paul’s epistles, in which he needed to repeatedly guide the new Christians back into a lifestyle that would glorify our Lord and show that they were thankful for their gift of salvation in Christ Jesus….. These new Christians struggled in leaving the traditions of their former idolatry and sinful life styles….. Their struggle took time, and Paul encouraged them in their struggles, even claiming that he, too, continued to struggle….. In all our struggles, we are to keep our eyes on Jesus, because He alone can strengthen us to live for Him.

    Margaret

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  2. Thanks, Margaret, glad to be back and writing again! I had a great vacation but it’s nice to be back home.

    Great point about those in the early Church to whom Paul wrote his epistles. I think about the the Corinthians and their struggle to overcome their carnal desires, the Galatians and their tendency to want to blend Grace with Law, or the Colossians and their dabbling in the heresy of Gnosticism. As you pointed out, when we come to Christ there is a great deal that we must “un-learn” in addition to the new things to be learned. We turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, but we also must turn from what we were before we came to Him. This is a process that takes time.

    Paul discusses the agonizing struggle that every believer fights between their old nature and their new in Romans 7:15-25. Like you said, the Lord Jesus alone is the One Who can strengthen us to live for Him (v. 24-25).

    Great comments, thank you :)

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  3. What a great post. I too have wondered, especially when I first came to faith, why some were instantly delivered while the rest of us were left to struggle. I never met anyone who was instantly delivered but only heard about it.

    The bible is full of people who are just like most of us — even Paul said he would do what he shouldn’t and not do what he knew he should.

    But you’re right — when we finally deal with them, we won’t receive all that He intends for us.

    p.s. Welcome back!

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  4. Thanks, Tishrei. It’s good to be back.

    Like

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