Remember Lot’s Wife! (Part Three)

dscn0495Luke 17:32

We conclude our look at the exhortation by Jesus “Remember Lot’s Wife”. So far, we have considered that she was Lot’s wife (a woman with spiritual advantages) and that she had been warned by God to flee from Sodom. Thirdly, we ought to remember that she was halfway out and yet did not escape.

The Bible teaches two companion truths that together we call the fifth of the doctrines of grace: the preservation and the perseverance of the saints. It is certainly true that those who truly believe and repent have eternal life immediately. Those who are saved are in Christ, and already have his righteousness credited to their account before God. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Nothing can separate them from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). However, it is also certainly true that true faith and repentance perseveres. If you really change your mind about God and his glory, the nature of mankind and sin, the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christ and his work, the freeness of saving grace and trust in the Lord from the heart, that kind of repentance and faith will endure. But a cheap or false repentance never turns from idols, and a false faith never trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 John 2:19).

Let us never boast in empty professions of faith. To borrow an example from retail stores, there is a difference between customer count and sales. A store can have a lot of people walking through its doors due to location, intelligent design or clever ads or whatever, but the store doesn’t make money from people walking in and out. Sales pay the bills and make the profit. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if many people attend a church and talk with religious lingo and participate in the rituals of the church. Those actions are “customer count”. Lives of people who become learners of Jesus Christ are the “sales” in our illustration. American churches will never achieve reality until they believe and pursue that what matters in true Christianity is following Christ (1 John 2:3; Matthew 7:21-23).

Fourthly, let us remember that she desired to return to Sodom and was destroyed (17:31,33). He who knows the hearts of all people knew the reason she looked back to Sodom. Many people, while they look back at the world like Lot’s wife, have been suddenly overtaken by God’s wrath. “When Lot’s wife looked back, she was immediately destroyed, God had exercised patience toward her before. When she lingered at the setting out, the angels pressed her, and her husband and children, to make haste. Not only so, but when they yet delayed, they brought her forth, and set her without [outside] the city, the Lord being merciful to her. But now when, notwithstanding this mercy, and the warnings which had been given her, she looked back, God exercised no more patience towards her, but proceeded immediately to put her to death” (Edwards, “The Folly of Looking Back in Fleeing out of Sodom”, Works, Vol. 2, p. 67).

Reader, perhaps today God is being merciful to you, but are you looking back? This blog might be God’s messenger. What if a preacher would come down from his pulpit, grab your hand, and plead with you, “Come with me to Christ!” Would you go? Or would you turn beet red, pull your hand away, and say, “What are you—some kind of nut?”

The fatal error of humanity is found in the heart. People love the pleasures of whatever Sodom they are in and look passionately to those pleasures. Listen to God’s word about the heart. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV) Perhaps by some mercy, your heart might come under conviction to flee your spiritual Sodom. You might even start to change your life. “But the tendency of the heart is to go back to Sodom.” [Ibid.]

No one knows when the Lord will return, but he will return suddenly. “We cannot certainly tell what God is about to do, but this we may know, that those who are out of Christ are in a most unsafe state.” [Ibid.] The Lord’s great warning to you is, “Remember Lot’s Wife!”

Grace and peace, David

More Thoughts on Continue in the Teaching

img_4323-22 John 1:9

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (NIV).

Why is it important that we continue in the teaching about Christ? Some things are best said directly and simply. It is important because our relationship with God depends on our continuance in the teaching about Christ.

There can be no real relationship apart from truth. We require true knowledge to have a real relationship. As Frame said, we can think of knowledge in three ways: a knowledge of facts (“knowing that…”), a knowledge of skills (“knowing how…”), and a knowledge of persons (“knowing whom…”). Obviously, there is a difference between merely knowing the facts about a person and having a personal knowledge of that person. I have friends in Ohio whom none of you outside of my family have met. I could tell you facts about them, but that wouldn’t be equivalent to knowing them. This is the problem many religious people have about their knowledge of God. They know some facts about him, but they do not know God personally.

However, we cannot in truth have a real relationship with a person if our knowledge of that person fails to agree with what he or she actually is. For example, my wife’s name is Sharon. Some of you know her, and if I talk about her with words that agree with who she really is, you would agree that she is my wife. But if I said that my wife Sharon has black hair, brown eyes, grew up in Uzbekistan, and graduated with a law degree from Harvard, you would say, “Whoa, that’s not the Sharon we know!” Since the only way to know God is to know him through the Son, including who he is, what he teaches, and what he has done to save sinners, if anyone goes beyond the teaching about Christ, he or she does not have God. (To “have” someone means to be in a relationship with that person.) The Bible clearly says that you cannot have a personal relationship with God, except through knowing Christ, the Son of God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 2:22-23; 5:12-13).

You may have a true relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Right now, listen to what God tells you about himself in the Bible; agree in your heart that you need the salvation Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection, and trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior. You may change your mind and believe the good news right where you read this.

It is this teaching that puts true Christianity in opposition to the attitude of our culture. We live among a people who falsely assume that any individual has the right to determine what truth is, that whatever anybody thinks about religion and/or spirituality is what is right for him or her, and that no one has the right to say that anybody else is wrong. By the way, the people of our culture are incredibly naïve, because they fail to realize that they are far outnumbered in the world by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and true Christians who do not share their life in Tolerate Everything Fantasy Land or whatever imaginary world they live in. But I do not want to digress too far into social commentary.

The Lord through John plainly says that we must remain true to the teaching about Christ, or we do not have a relationship with God! Those who claim to be Christians in our time must decide now whether they will surrender to the foolish ideas of our culture or stand up for the truth that is Jesus. There are only two options; one leads to life and the other to death. You cannot walk in opposite directions at the same time. People are not going to like it when you stand up for Christ as the exclusive way of salvation. You should not expect them to like it; you must be prepared for unpleasant reactions when you stand up for this truth. The teaching about Christ is essential part of a real relationship with him.

What encouragement does this provide? We have a personal, saving relationship with God the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all. We have life in his Son! If you have God, you have what is best and worth more than all else. Therefore, rejoice and be content!

Grace and peace, David

Prayer in a Broken World

img_1175Psalm 10:12-18

David began the twin psalms (nine and ten) with praise as he thought about God’s rule over a broken world. We have seen that in psalm ten, he focused more on human hardships in a broken world than on God’s rule. The Spirit led David to sing about both aspects of reality. This perspective is beneficial for us to have. It makes our worship times real. We do not have to suppose that all of life is beautiful and happy in order to worship the Lord God. This realism guides us to pray.

When we read today’s text, it is important to remember the covenant under which David lived and worshiped. He lived under the law or old covenant. It was a ministry of death and condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:6-9). The law, though graciously given to provide Israel with access to the true God, did not and could not provide grace for the disobedient. So then, as David wrote about the wicked and the evil that they brought on others, he prayed for God to exercise justice on the wicked (10:15). We do not live under the law covenant, but we are in Christ. We have a better covenant and a mission that includes prayer for the salvation of the wicked. With that in mind, let’s consider the other requests that David presents to the Lord.

  • David prayed for God’s involvement. Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted (10:12; ESV for each verse quoted). This is bold language to use the Holy God, but he understood that he could talk to the Lord of all in a personal manner. David wanted God to act in power (lift up your hand) and compassion (forget not the afflicted).
  • David expressed his frustration about the attitude of the wicked. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? (10:13) Since David knew the glory of the majestic God, he questioned the way the wicked thought and behaved. We, too, see the heartlessness, cruelty, and malice in the world, and we can express surprise about the cockiness of the enemies of God and his people. One of their ruling motives is their lack of sense regarding eternity and the judgment to come. They refuse to consider it; they do not wish to think on it. This means that we ought to pray, because they will not.
  • David confessed God’s great attributes. But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless (10:14). He knew that God was not far off, though he has said that earlier (10:1). The Lord God did see with purpose. He was not a mere spectator, but watching for the time and place to act. He knew that his God was worthy of his trust and the faith of those in need. We ought always to strive to confess how God’s character and abilities apply to the situations for which we are praying.
  • David worshiped the Lord for his coming victory. The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land (10:16). Although David saw the present distress, he remembered that a better day was coming. The truth that the Lord rules over all had not changed, even when God seemed to stand far away. God would act for his people against the nations invading their land. In the old covenant, the people and their land were closely connected. For this reason, this is an important expression of faith by the psalmist.
  • David reassured himself and those who listen to his song. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more (10:17-18). He concluded his prayer in a hope-filled manner. God would act for the good of his afflicted people. Strength does rise “as we wait upon the Lord”!

One day the terror will end, the afflicted will be rescued, the fatherless will find eternal rest in the Father’s house. Until then, we must pray. “Lord, protect your people whom you love from those who act wickedly and who cause terror in this broken world.”

Grace and peace, David

Familiar Words

It is a new work week new expectations. (I usually sIMG_0583 (1)tart on Tuesdays; my apologies to those who start on Mondays!) A new week is an opportunity in which we want to see our dreams and plans take another step to fulfillment. Although we want to see new hopes realized and new prospects before us, we really like many things to stay the same. Imagine how upset you would be if you came home from work and you discovered that someone had rearranged your whole house. You’d have to search for everything from your socks and shoes to your fry pan to your toothbrush. So then, even those who love change do not want too much change at one time. We love the familiar.

We love the familiar about God and his word. We feel secure in the truth that he will never leave us or forsake us. This is good.

But there is another kind of familiar, when truths seem to have lost their luster and precious words no longer excite. Even glory can seem dull when God’s message becomes overly familiar. Consider the following words that have become overly familiar to many Christians. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:11-13 NIV). They, as you know, are from the Model or the Lord’s Prayer. They have been recited a zillion times by people since the time Jesus taught them. I attended a Christian university where everyone said them together at the beginning of every chapel or church service. It was far too easy to repeat them by rote, instead of praying them from the heart.

Overfamiliarity can fog our senses. Then we stop communicating with God, because the words are not coming from the heart. As I thought about these words from the Model Prayer during a walk yesterday, I wondered about the overfamiliarity that we have when we say them. Do we consciously consider the dependence on the Lord we are confessing? “Father in heaven, we need you to provide bread for us—and everything else we need for life.” But do we really feel that way? Or are we self-sufficient? Are we very self-reliant, until we get in difficult circumstances, when we actually feel our need? Do we look at ourselves in need of forgiveness, or is forgiveness something only needed by those who have been unkind toward us? Are we confident that we can make it through this week victorious, without an everyday dependence on the Lord Jesus (cf. John 15:5)?

Overfamiliarity can lead to spiritual decay. We fail to trust God personally to supply and to act in our lives. Soon the “house of our lives” becomes broken down. Let’s trust God with a full awareness of our need when we pray the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers. May the full reality of Jesus’ words transform us! Lord, work in us by your word!

Grace and peace,