by Mike Ratliff
32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:32,33 ESV)
My pastor returned from T4G today. He had a gleam in his eye. He had a determined look about him. I overheard him talk to others about it before I had a chance to ask him anything. He told us that the focus on the gospel was truly inspiring. In between our worship time and his preaching time, I asked him if he had heard John MacArthur’s sermon. That gleam in his eye got brighter. The grip in his hand became firmer. He has been preaching through Genesis for over a year and we are just now in chapter 19, which is the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. I thought he did a fantastic job today showing us the parallels of God’s grace in remembering Abraham and thereby saving Lot from destruction and remembering Christ when at the final judgment and thereby saving all those for whom He is their propitiation. In light of this I would like to borrow some things from his sermon to reflect into the darkness of our time, to shed some light on the why so much of what seems so right and innovative in today’s Church is nothing more than possessing heaps of overthrow while those who refuse to compromise in worship, preaching, witnessing, and making disciples are the ones who truly possess the treasure of the Kingdom of God.
17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there–is it not a little one?–and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Genesis 19:17-22 ESV)
This is speaking, of course, of the two angelic beings who have saved Lot’s life along with those of his two daughters and his wife. They have told them to run for their lives, to flee for the hills, to not stop, and not to look back. They must leave the valley for it is to be destroyed. Think of God’s standard of righteousness compared to this world. Think of our sin nature and how it loves this world. Lot and his family love Sodom and the cities in the valley. They much prefer it to dwelling in tents and keeping sheep. However, it is fleshly. It is sinful. It is focused on the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life. Lot protests and asks for just a small part of the “valley” to be spared “Zoar.” God graciously grants this.
23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:23-25 ESV)
There have been quite a few “Doomsday” books and shows hitting the market lately. The movie 2012 is based on the Mayan calendar supposedly resetting at a point in 2012 causing global catastrophes. I watched another one last night that combined this with the prophecies of Nostradamus. None of them are truly serious. They are all “supposed” predictions. However, when God says He is going to do something it is going to happen. When it was time to rain down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, His Judgment was certain. Those who laughed at Lot when he tried to get them to flee were laughing no more. Also, God’s Judgment is complete or total. He is sovereign. In Luke 17:28, our Lord warned us with these words, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Why?
Lot’s wife was judged because her heart was still in love with what she left behind in Sodom. Her treasure was not in God and His salvation, but in the fleshly things of this world. The warning is that those who have this mindset are not ready for divine judgment. They are not treasuring Christ, but are treasuring what is actually the overthrow (v29). The Hebrew word that God used for the cities of the valley after His divine judgment is הֲפֵכָה or hăphêkâh, which means destruction or overthrow. Another way to view it is as nothing more than a heap of rubble.
Now, consider those who view the gospel as something that is subject to their “innovative” energies. This “innovation cult” wants to “engage culture” in the most effective way possible in order to maximize the number of people whom they can affect for the Kingdom of God. Sounds right does it not? However, to do that requires changing the message. There is no way to do this without tinkering with the gospel itself. This was the very thing John MacArthur was talking about in this sermon here. My brethren, we cannot make the message of the gospel more effective with technique for it is not up to us who gets saved and who does not. That part of the equation is in God’s hands. It is totally His will and is matter of presenting the truth of the gospel, the spreading of the seed of the gospel everywhere possible on all soils and let it germinate. The good soils will produce fruit (be saved), while the rest will not. That is what God’s word says. That is what our Lord Jesus Christ said.
Tinkering with the gospel message may indeed cause explosive church growth, but is it a growth of the Kingdom of God? Not if these people are given a false gospel. If they are not given the whole gospel of the fallenness of man and need of repentance then there is no salvation. A gospel without the call for repentance is no gospel at all. The complaint that the whole gospel is ineffective in today’s culture is bogus. It is God who gives the increase. Our part is to spread the seed.
Why was Lot saved?
27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:27-29 ESV)
God saved Lot because Abraham was his mediator. Was Abraham or any of his property or any of his people touched or harmed in any way by this catastrophe? No! Not at all! In the parallel to the Church, who is our mediator? It is Christ. He is our propitiation. He went to the Cross and took our place in the midst of God’s wrath being poured out on OUR sin. God imputed our unrighteousness to His account and judged Him for our sins. When we believed and were justified, He imputed Christ’s righteousness to our account, totally by grace through faith. None of us were saved by anyone being innovative, gimmicky, or creative with the gospel. What must we do?
We must stand up to this. We must speak the truth in love to these people and let it be known that what they are doing is not biblical. Of course, much of what is called “missional” and “emergent” is no longer too concerned about being biblical, but that which is may indeed listen so we must tell the truth in love and pray for repentance.
Soli Deo Gloria!