Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 21 January 2022:
Genesis 19:1, 15-16, 26, 36 – “Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom…. the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city…. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt…. both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.”
The story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is both shocking and tragic and should serve as a warning to Christians today against being influenced by society rather than confronting ungodly culture as ambassadors of Christ.
The New Testament tells us Lot was a “righteous” man who was greatly distressed and tormented in his soul by the sexual perversion and lawlessness he saw in Sodom. (2 Peter 2:8) Genesis 19:1 says Lot “was sitting in the gate of Sodom,” which likely means he was a town leader, at least active in community affairs and well-known. However, despite his anguished heart and apparent influence within the community, he seems to have had no significant impact on Sodom’s morality. On the contrary, he and his family were complicit with and corrupted by Sodom’s depravity.
Warned by the angels of the God’s imminent judgment and destruction of the cities, Lot tried to subsequently warn his son’s-in-law (presumably Sodomites), but they thought he was only joking (v14), which says something about Lot’s daily convictions and about what he had communicated to his family and community on a regular basis concerning sin. Furthermore, Lot had become so attached to Sodom that the angels had to physically kick him out of town, “the Lord being merciful to him.” During the destruction, his wife disobeyed the angels, looked back and died. Finally, although Lot’s two daughters survived, they had been so corrupted by Sodom they subsequently got their father drunk and slept with him in order to get pregnant by him! How could a “righteous” man allow such things to happen?
- 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 — Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
- Romans 15:4 — For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.
- Romans 12:1-2 — I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Proverbs 12:26 — The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.
- James 4:4 — You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God
Lot’s story should serve as a warning to us. It is not enough for us to lament the sins of our culture, we must counter and confront the sins of our culture and not simply to protect our families and preserve society but to reveal the need for salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation from what? From God’s wrath and judgment. Serving as Christ’s ambassador during times such as these is a tremendous responsibility – do not be complacent! Remember, silence is consent. Lot may have been vexed, but he wasn’t valiant against the sin of his day.
- Ezekiel 3:17-21 – “Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”
Are you having a greater influence on your culture than your culture is having on you? Are you remaining pure and ministering to the needs of others in your community while boldly proclaiming the Gospel in this age when so many people need to know Jesus? Are you discipling your children and next generation Christians to faithfully follow Jesus in order to leave a legacy of faith?
- 2 Corinthians 7:1 — Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
- Jude 1:17-23 — But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
- Matthew 28:18-20 — And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- Psalm 71:18 — So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Matthew 15:8, 18-20 — “Their heart is far from me…. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
The heart of man’s problem is the problem with man’s heart. While we tend to focus on actions; God looks at the heart behind those actions – “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) The Lord searches the heart, tests the heart, weighs the heart, and judges the heart (Jeremiah 17:10, Proverbs 17:3, Proverbs 21:2).
Fundamentally, our ‘heart’ is what we love. The “upright in heart,” the “wholehearted” are passionately (not just dutifully) driven by the First Commandment and Great Commandment upon which every other commandment rests: “You shall have no other gods before me…. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Exodus 20:3; Luke 10:27)
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Galatians 5:14) All of God’s commands reflect His love and are intended to guide us in His love in the fullness of life. Disobeying God, even in the slightest, is hateful, unloving, hurtful, and destructive. Obedience to God is loving. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Jesus fulfilled the law because He was the embodiment of love. He didn’t need a law to guide His actions because His love was even greater than the law, and He naturally obeyed from His heart the law of love. Only the unloving need laws to behave as love demands. We often struggle with obedience because, deep inside, we tend to love self over our Savior and our neighbor because we haven’t fully matured in love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) John tells us, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) The more we truly love, the easier it is to obey because we really want to out of love, we have a driving, defining passion for it.
Well before sinful deeds are exposed to people, our sinful hearts are exposed wide open to God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Our problem is “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Because of the deceitfulness of our hearts, we cannot even honestly critique our own motives – “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2) We are totally dependent on God expose our hearts and strengthen us for growth in love. First, it is God, and God alone, who gives us a heart that even can love and to obey Him:
- Jeremiah 24:7 -- I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. - Ezekiel 11:19 -- And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, - Jeremiah 32:39 -- I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. - Jeremiah 32:40 -- And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. - Mark 6:52 -- for they did not understand… their hearts were hardened. - Psalm 119:32 -- I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
Then, only God can reveal to us, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the truth of our hearts:
- Psalm 139:23 -- Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
But we must remain receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirt, and act on that conviction. It starts with a humble and contrite heart:
- Psalm 51:17 -- The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. - Lamentations 1:20 -- Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. - Isaiah 57:15 -- For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. - Joel 2:12 -- “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
Then, in complete reliance on God, we must diligently, relentlessly pursue love, holiness, righteousness, mercy, justice, obedience, purity, unity with God:
- Psalm 119:112 -- I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. - Ezekiel 18:31 -- Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? - King Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 12:14 -- And he [king Rehoboam] did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. - Ezra 7:10 -- For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
The Bible says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23) We must put all of our effort into ‘keeping’ our hearts because everything flows from the heart. An important part of keeping our hearts is continually examining our hearts (again, empowered by the Holy Spirit). Today, Jesus points out again that the tongue is a great revealer of the condition of our hearts. Of course, the relationship between heart and tongue is repeated throughout the Bible. We are held accountable by God for every careless word that comes out of our mouths. Today, ask God to show you what your words say about the true condition of your heart.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 21 Jan 22: Do three things today: 1) Resolve not to be entertained by anything (TV shows, social media, web-sites, etc.) that makes light of what God considers abhorrent, and 2) commit to sharing the complete Gospel with at least one person today. 3) Pay close attention to when you fail to obey God or when you find it difficult to obey God, particularly in how you speak to others, and examine your heart for the root of selfishness within you being exposed, praying that God will remove it.
- Psalm 101:3 — I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
- Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
- 1 Timothy 4:7 — Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;
- Romans 12:2 — Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- 1 John 2:15 — Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
- Matthew 5:28 — But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
- Ephesians 5:11 — Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
- Matthew 24:14 — And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
- Mark 16:15 — And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
- 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV — Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
- Hebrews 12:15 — See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled….