A Worldly FaithErwin W. Lutzer | November 6, 2005
Selected highlights from this sermon
Abraham’s nephew, Lot, believed in profit more than principle. He was a judge in Sodom when God came to destroy it. When Lot relates the angels’ warning to his family, his sons-in-law didn’t take him seriously. Lot’s life had become a joke to them.
Because of his covetousness, Lot lost his testimony, he lost his family, and he lost his character. And still, God rescued him from the destruction of Sodom. And if God is willing to save Lot from Sodom, He’s willing and able to do the same for us.
This is a series of messages on the life of Abraham. But today we turn to Lot. I do that because, after all, Lot was Abraham’s nephew, and the Bible gives his experience an entire chapter in addition to other references to him. It would be wrong of us to look at this story as if Lot were some kind of a strange man divorced from the rest of humanity. No, Lot represents you and me. Lot is the quintessential businessman who believes that profit is more important than principle. Lot’s heart is our heart if we do not take advantage of the undeserved mercy of God.
I am going to tell you the story today and then we are going to look at some very important applications and transforming lessons that I have been praying will change us forever.
Remember how Lot chose the best pasture land, that which was the very best? He was given the opportunity to do that and so he availed himself of it. But clearly he was covetous and selfish. He pitches his tent toward Sodom and he lives in Sodom.
By the time the nineteenth chapter of Genesis opens, which is the passage I want you to turn to, Lot is a judge in Sodom. He’s been honored, he’s achieved all of his goals, and there he is. And later on he is referred to as a judge sitting at the gate. Two angels come to him. These were the angels that Abraham had encountered earlier, you remember. Jesus is not among those two angels. Jesus, the Lord God Jehovah passes off the scene at this point, at least from the standpoint of the theophany.
And now the two angels come, and they come to the gate and Lot invites them in. And then you have that terrible story how the men of Sodom come and pounded against the door because they want Lot’s visitors. Lot wants to show hospitality to the visitors; maybe he understands that they are unique. So he says to the men, “You can even have my daughters, my virgin daughters, but don’t touch these men.”
But the men of Sodom in a rage of sexual desire said, “Bring them out that we might know them.” Clearly it is sexual what they have in their minds. That’s why the NIV correctly translates it, “Come, bring them out that we might have sex with them.”
You say, “Well how can Lot offer them his daughters?” I don’t know, but how can it be that there are countries in the world today where young girls, ten or twelve years old, are sold into prostitution and the law enforcement agencies turn the other way? How can they do that? How can wickedness and callousness exist in the human heart?
Remember that Lot is a picture of us all. Martin Luther read this story and he said, “It caused revulsion in my spirit, as well it might.” He says, “It goes through my whole heart.” What a pitiful story. The angels say to Lot, “Hurry out!” But he lingers because he doesn’t want to go. He invested heavily in Sodom. He and Mrs. Lot had a house, their land and their wealth was there. Sodom was good to Lot and he didn’t want to let go of it.
Now mind you, the angels continued to put pressure on him and finally he says to his sons-in-law, “Hurry up, and let’s get out of here.” I am in verse 14, notice it there in the text: “‘Up, get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy this city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” They said, “You can’t be serious! We’ve never heard any God-talk from you before.” What a tragedy! At the most serious moment of Lot’s life, when he finally wants to have some moral authority in his family, it comes across as a joke.
Lot tries to bargain with these angels. First of all, he lingers and then he says to them, “‘I don’t want to go too far to the hills. I want to go to this little town of Zoar.’” The angels say, “‘Okay, okay already. You can go to the little town of Zoar.’” The four people who left—Lot, his two daughters, and his wife—were told, “Run from this city and don’t look back.” Lot’s wife looked back because after all, this was her heart. Her heart was in the city. And the Bible says in verse 26 that she turned into a pillar of salt. She became a part of the judgment.
I was thinking this week that I would love to preach on the words of Jesus, just three words that He gives us in the Gospel of Luke. He’s talking about those who begin in the Christian life and then fall away. He says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” What a biography! Shortest biography I know of in the Bible. “Remember Lot’s wife.” What a wealth of knowledge and instruction in those three words. She can’t let go of Sodom and she becomes a part of the judgment.
How does Lot end? Well, he has two daughters and he goes into a cave, they get him drunk, and he ends in disgrace. He has relations with them and they each bear a child, a child of incest. The Moabites—one was called Moab—the other the Ammonites. And all that you have to do is to remember in your Bible that these two groups, these two tribes, terrorized and became a stumbling block to the descendants of Abraham ever after. That’s the story of Lot. What a story!
Do you want to answer a question? How much did covetousness cost Lot? How costly is sin, anyway? How much do you have to pay for it? Very interesting. First of all, it cost Lot his testimony. When you have compromised in Sodom you don’t talk to them about Jehovah because they don’t want to hear anything about Jehovah, they don’t want to hear anything about righteousness. And Lot made enough concessions and Sodom promoted him enough that he had nothing to say to them about the Lord God Jehovah. That’s why when he speaks to his sons-in-law they think he is joking. He lost his testimony.
He’s the person who does not witness at work. The people of whom I’m speaking now do not share Christ with coworkers. There have been enough compromises in their lives and enough silences in their lives that they have nothing to say to the people with whom they work. A little word of advice: if you are in that position, change that position. Go to a coworker and say, “You know, I am really sorry. I’ve never told you about the most important thing that I’ve ever discovered. Would it be okay if I were to share with you something that somebody once shared with me that changed my life?” And if there are things that you have done at work that make you unable to do that, make them right! Be a witness where God has planted you.
Lot lost his witness and he lost his family—what a tragedy! I don’t even expect to see Lot’s wife in heaven. He probably got her in Sodom and she turns back and becomes a part of God’s judgment. Two daughters, look at how they turned out? Well, look at how dad turned out! He also lost his character. Standing there that day, and I assume the sun was shining, Abraham says to him, “Lot, you can choose whatever you like of the land and I’ll take the opposite.” He saw the deep, lush pasture land of the valley and chose it. He had no idea how much his covetous heart would cost him.
You’ve heard me say it before, but Lot is an excellent example that sin always takes us further than we intended to go, keeps us longer than we intended to stay, and costs us more than we ever intended to pay!
There are three life-changing lessons that I hope you will have burned in your mind and in your consciousness for the rest of your life. First, when we go against conscience the consequences are out of our hands. There’s a very interesting commentary on Lot in the New Testament. In a sense it’s a shocking commentary, but it can be an encouraging commentary. Three times in 2 Peter chapter two, Peter refers to Lot as a righteous man. Amazing! Lot will be in heaven because thanks to his Uncle Abraham, he believed in Jehovah.
This is what it says, and the author is in a series of “if’s,”—if, if, if, if—and I am going to jump right in the middle of it. Second Peter chapter two, verse six: “If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, God condemned them to distinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if He rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked, for as that righteous man lived among them, day after day he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.” His soul was tormented in Sodom.
Why didn’t he leave? Well, it’s just that Sodom was providing so much for him. It was his opportunity; it was his investment. It was easier to live there than to earn a living on the plain. So he lived with a tormented conscience. When you and I begin to violate our conscience, we are on a trajectory whose end is out of our hands. “To go against conscience,” says Luther “is neither right nor safe.”
Have you ever been in a situation where your soul has been vexed? Vexed by the television program that you are watching that you know is sensual and it vexes your righteous soul and soils your relationship with God? But, you watch it anyway because it is so appealing and appeasing, and so we violate our conscience.
You think of the mercy of God toward Lot. Angels come to him to rescue him. You’d think he’d say, “Angels, I am so glad you’re here! I’m outta here!” No, Sodom had such a great place in Lot’s heart that even after he left Sodom he did not get the Sodom out of his heart. Sometimes people say, “Well, you know, the city is full of sin.” Yeah, the city is full of sin so Lot goes to the suburbs and he takes his sin with him. That’s because the sin is in the human heart. Lot was rescued by Abraham, graciously rescued, and he would not leave Sodom. He would not become a pilgrim even when the brimstone was falling on Sodom and Gomorrah. He violated his conscience.
Second, God is faithful to His erring people. God is faithful! You know, God could have destroyed Lot. After all, there weren’t ten righteous in the city. He could have just said, “You know, I’ve got this deal with Abraham but there aren’t ten righteous. Boom! You get the judgment too!” No, God sends angels to rescue him. The point of 2 Peter is that if God is willing to do that for Lot, why then indeed God is willing to do that for us, too.
God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, the Bible says. And God is faithful even to those who are violating His commands and sinning, because as we learned in a previous message, He cannot deny himself. When God wants to send His judgment Lot has to be taken out. It says in verse 23 that the angels say, “We’re destroying this place but we can’t do anything until you’re out of here!” When God displays His wrath as opposed to just the vicissitudes of life, God’s people are rescued.
You say, “So Lot is going to be in heaven?” I take that to be based on 2 Peter. Now when he gets there he’s going to be like the people described in 1 Corinthians, chapter three, where the apostle Paul says, “There are some people who are going to be saved, but so as by fire.” The imagery is that they are running out of a house that’s burning and it collapses behind them and they leave without anything except themselves. I think that’s the way some people are going to be in heaven, saved but singed. They’ll make it but have nothing to show for their lives. Unrecognized self-absorption stood between them and doing something significant for the glory and honor of God. But God is faithful to even His children who err.
Finally, we should be willing to rescue those who have sold out to Sodom. That was an act of grace when God sent these angels. I mean, that was amazing grace! This is what the Bible says in the book of Jude: “Have mercy on those who doubt, save others by snatching them out of the fire. To others show mercy with fear, hating even the garments stained by the flesh.” Did you know that it is an act of mercy when one of our members or one of the pastoral staff or elders, or a fellow Christian comes to you and says, “You know, there is something you have in your life that is a stumbling block that I believe is hindering you; something that you are doing is wrong.” Don’t be offended. That’s mercy! The angels came and they snatched Lot. He didn’t want to go so they had to force him to go. They almost dragged him out of the city, but that is mercy!
You say, “Well is there a sin that is greater than the sin of Sodom?” Sodom and Gomorrah don’t exist today you know, probably at the southern end of the Dead Sea. God just wiped them right off the map! You say, “Well is there a sin that is greater than the sin of Sodom?” Yes, Jesus said in Matthew chapter ten, verse 15, as He’s giving His disciples instructions about going house to house, “If someone doesn’t receive you, shake the dust off your shoes.” And then He says those startling words that should sober us all week: “For it is going to be more bearable” He says, “for Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for that city in the day of judgment.”
What Jesus is saying is that responsibility and judgment is based on knowledge. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t know too much. They knew that what they were doing was contrary to natural law and decency. They knew that intuitively because they were created by God, so they should have known better. But how much more judgment to those who have light, to those who have the full revelation of Jesus, to those who can buy a Bible in virtually any bookstore in America and who can read it for themselves. For those who are listening to this message, for those in this sanctuary, or by the internet, by radio or by other means, I mean, wow! Jesus said it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for people who don’t respond to what they know in this age of light.
Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe. Jesus bore the penalty for those who believe—the eternal penalty. We still have consequences of sin in our own lives, but He paid it all when it comes to the penalty. And He paid so much because sin is so expensive, it costs so much. So He took an eternal suffering for those who believe and compressed it into three hours, actually. But He paid a tremendous price. If you do not take advantage of what He did, you pay it on your own, and it takes forever and it’s not pretty. Sin is very, very expensive.
Today if the voice of the Spirit is speaking to you, listen to that voice. Listen to the voice even of conscience and say, “I’m not going to be a Lot. I’m going to be an Abraham because Abraham fellowshipped with God.” Despite his own sins he fellowshipped with God. What a tremendous difference and tremendous history. Lot dies in an unknown grave, he’s gone but the effects are there. Abraham lives on as a friend of God. That’s it for today, folks, from my lips to your heart.
Let us bow in prayer. “Our Father we ask in Jesus’ name, as we see Lot, we see ourselves, prone to sin and self-absorption, prone to be attached to the things of this world until we are told we have terminal cancer. And then we begin to think, ‘You know there’s a world coming out there.’ Teach us while we are still healthy to live for the other world.”
Now what has God talked to you about? Whatever it is, will you talk to God for just a few moments? If you’ve never received Christ as your Savior you can do that today. If there’s something in your life that is wrong, you’re going in the direction of Lot, would you lay it at the feet of Jesus?
“Receive our prayers today, oh Lord we ask. For those who come with doubts, help them yet to come. For those who come with unanswered questions, may they come anyway. For those Father who come with fear, may they come. May all come to Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith. We thank you in His name, amen.”