“But they had Onions there…”

We have been, in our church, working our way through the Bible, One chapter, One book at a time for the last two years. In that time we have read the entire New Testament, (yes, including the Revelation), and we are now reading through Genesis.

As of the initial writing of this sermon, (preached earlier this year at 2 UMC’s here in NYC) we’re 22 Chapters in…

What that means essentially is that we’ve been spending a lot of time recently with Abraham and his family…

Personally, I got stuck on Chapter 19, which means that

I spent a Lot of time with Lot.

I’d like to share with you what I learned from watching Lot and his drama.

Lot was the quintessential ‘ordinary guy’’, the kind of guy that you tend to skip over.

There is nothing special about him, nothing that makes him an ‘extraordinary man’.

In many ways he’s just like us, and that actually makes him worth examining…

Traditionally, we spend a lot of time studying the lives of the extraordinary people of the Bible.

People like David, who was both deeply devout and deeply flawed, who passed his flaws on to his children… Even to his son, the wisest yet dumbest of men, Solomon.

People Like Samson who just couldn’t keep his priorities straight. Like Ruth and Naomi, who teach us, like Jonathan does, what loyalty looks like, even when it costs us everything.

People like Peter, whose passion propelled him at times past his purpose.

People like Samuel, who from an early age hear and obey God’s voice, even when it’s inconvenient

People like Joseph, from whose ‘Trial to Triumph’ story we learn what

‘All things work together for Good’ truly looks like.

People like Jacob, deceitful, and dishonest, yet loved of God even before his birth, despite this. Yes He did indeed suffer, but God loved Him despite his flaws

People like James and John, who didn’t see at first, and asked for a thing that they didn’t grasp the depth of… So much so that they asked to be on the left and right, and ended up the first and last of the 12 to die, Apostolic bookends as it were…

People like Saul of Tarsus, who put his trust in his religion, only to be blinded by the truth, and become something, and someone new…

…and of Course,  Yeshuah Ha Maschiach, Jesus the Christ, the most MAN of any man, and the ideal in all things…

But we need, every so often, to look at the Bible’s regular guys…

So if you would bear with me, we’re going to take a few minutes to look at Lot

Lot was Abraham’s nephew. His Uncle was the Father of Faith

Abraham was a righteous man…  Abraham had a relationship with the Most High God

Lot had a relationship with Abraham…

He experienced the benefits of his uncle’s relationship with God

Note to some of you here: Grandma’s relationship with Jesus don’t mean you’re Ok… Mama’s God isn’t necessarily your God… Just saying…

After a bit of a land dispute, Lot and Abraham parted ways, and Lot, instead of staying relatively close to Abraham, went and pitched his tent near Sodom. I guess it seemed to Him like a good idea. But Lot traded righteousness for sin… Never a good idea…

Why?

Because:

  • The nature of sin is such that it promises to satisfy and please but in truth only enslaves and dominates

Lot, though he knew the character of the people, picked husbands for his daughters from among them…

  • The paradox of sin is that we know that it is dangerous and destructive, but we continue in it, or hover close by it, thinking that we can control it…

We know that it’s bondage, but we like the taste, the feel,  thinking it has benefits.

Lot wanted, even in the midst of pending destruction,  to not go too far away from where he felt comfortable, He didn’t understand that:

  • The strength of sin is Pride. You think that you can handle it, control it, but it in fact controls you

If you don’t hate sin you’ll play with it, but you won’t win… 

and his wife turned back, immediately and irrevocably discovering that

  • The Wages of Sin is DEATH…

Later, Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and sleeping with him in order to get pregnant: Here you see:

  • The impact/legacy  of sin,  which is that the corruption spreads through you and infects those around you… Our children take on the culture of the environment that we expose them to,

Looking at Lot and his family it was and is clear that with sin, there is always a price to pay… and your harvest is the pain and penalty.  What we see no a personal level with Lot, is the exact issue that we encounter with the Children of Israel throughout the Old Testament:  THEY JUST WON’T LEAVE SIN ALONE!

JUST…  LIKE… US!

JUST…  LIKE… US!

The hymn writer laments it, ‘Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it’

The Apostle Paul laments that ‘even when he would do good,  evil is present, and that the thing that he would do, he doesn’t, but the thing that he would not do is what he does…

JUST LIKE US!

This is why Joshua had to declare to God’s chosen people Choose ye this day whom you will serve…

This is why Moses had to declare to God’s Elect: See, I lay before you death and Life, blessing and cursing, CHOOSE LIFE!

Imagine having to be TOLD to choose LIFE…

But this is because…

  • The deception of sin is that it will cause you to despise the things of God…

As we read earlier in Numbers,  11:1-6 (HCSB)

1 Now the people began complaining openly before the LORD about hardship. When the LORD heard, His anger burned, and fire from the LORD blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and he prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. 3 So that place was named Taberah, because the LORD’s fire had blazed among them. 4 Contemptible people among them had a strong craving ⌊for other food⌋. The Israelites cried again and said, “Who will feed us meat? 5 We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna!”

What did they forget about? Onions can make you cry… Notice that God calls them contemptible. People who have been delivered by the hand of God but want their own way…

The people complained because what God had provided from His own hand was insufficient for them…

They missed the Old days. They missed being Pharaoh’s slaves because the food was spicy. Does that sound like us? We look back on our lives before we came to know Christ, sometimes wistfully, because it had a flavor that we miss…

Or worse yet, we stay where we are, knowing that our actions are sinful, that they offend the most High God, because they make us feel good…

Be not deceived, God is not mocked… Seeming to Reference this very event, the writer of Hebrews says:

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26:27)

These people were freed slaves, yet their lust caused them to have selective memory loss.. They wanted to go back to slavery to appease their bellies…

They were out of Egypt, but Egypt wasn’t out of them, and because of that, they died without ever reaching the Promised Land.

It is as Harriet Tubman famously said: “I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more, if only they knew they were slaves”

We must, as scripture declares, be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

This is no different than Esau selling his birthright for stew (Don’t get me wrong, I love lentils as much as the next guy, and because I am a vegetarian, probably more, but seriously…)

To lose your birthright, (your heritage, and your future) over some short term, immediate circumstance is both short-sighted and foolish, but people do it all the time don’t they?

Our instant gratification society encourages us to get it NOW, do it NOW with very little if any thought as to what it will cost in the long run.

This society is filled with, and run by, people who in their headlong rush to gain the world are losing their souls… and

No you CAN NOT have it all

They are No different than the people who came looking for Jesus, not because HE was the Messiah, the Gift of God, Emmanuel, God with us, but because they had a fish sammich the day before.

But it is as the Apostle John declares in:

John 1:10-11 (HCSB)

10 He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.11 He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.

The Apostle John makes very clear what 3 things Satan uses to tempt, to lure us into sin: The lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. – 1 John 2:16

We see even in the Garden at the very beginning, Adam and Eve were unable to navigate that mine field, but the 2nd man Adam, Jesus the Christ after 40 days without food, was able to.

Why? Because the long term goal was more important than the immediate gratification. Because He knew his purpose, and He knew His Father… (That is a word for someone today)

The Bible records that Jesus taught THOUSANDS, FED THOUSANDS, it can be gleaned that HE healed HUNDREDS! and yet, when the day of Pentecost came, there were only 120 people huddled away in an upper room, fearful, but expectant, waiting… Why is that?

The people who missed Jesus didn’t understand the potential in the person, the meaning of the miracles, or the cost of their redemption…

But you who are sitting here today, you should understand the cost that was paid on your behalf.

Listen again to The Apostle Paul’s words: Ephesians 2:1-10 (HCSB)

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.

3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5 made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

6 Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through ⌊His⌋ kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.

10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

There was a price paid for your place.

Blood, sinless, innocent blood in exchange for your sin.

Righteousness imputed to you that you did not earn,

Grace given you that you do not deserve, in exchange for your sin’s penalty…

Do not think for a moment that you either deserve or earned it, you did not, you can not. It is Grace and Grace alone.

Isaiah the prophet saw it so clearly, as he so strikingly lays out Calvary’s exchange,  seeing it 700 years before it actually took place, yet writing about it in  past tense

Isaiah 53:4-6 (KJV)

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Thank You Jesus…

In Sweden in 1885, a poet named Carl Gustav Boberg, wrote a poem to the melody of a popular Swedish folk song. Years later, British missionary Stuart K. Hine, added two stanzas of his own after translating it into English.

One of Hines’ verses, captures my hearts’ cry as I consider the reality of Isaiah 53:4-6.

Hine wrote:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.  THEN SINGS MY SOUL, my Savior God to thee. How Great Thou Art…

Glory To God!

But what should our response to this understanding be?

What should our response to the knowledge that we needn’t end up like Lot’s wife, or like the unnamed rich man who lifted up his eyes in torment, asking for water to cool his tongue be?

What should our response to this AMAZING GRACE be?

What you know, you are responsible for..The Blood paid the price,  our repentance is the response to this revelation. Repentance and lives of Holiness…

From Lot and His family, to the wanderers in the desert, to us right now, what makes us all the same is our need for a change via the Transforming power of the Spirit of God, and the subsequent renewing of our minds. But it starts with the acknowledgement of our sin, and repentance.

Did that happen for Lot?  It did not, and it did not happen for the wanderers, either. Most of them died in the wilderness, never reaching the promise, hence the need for repentance so that our fate is not theirs. The old song says, ‘Everybody talking ‘bout heaven ain’t going there.’

The Apostle Paul pleads with the church at Corinth to

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2 cor 13:5)

and that is my plea to you today.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

Like the wanderers, you see, you can sit in the midst of the congregation and not be saved

Like Lot, You can be related to righteousness and not be saved

Like the ones who had a fish sammich, or were healed, You can Sit in church all your life and in the end be eternally separated from God…

So I am calling on you today, beloved, in the tradition of John the Baptist, Of the Apostle Peter, Of The Apostle Paul, and of Jesus Himself,  to cry out to God, ask for His forgiveness, and turn from your sin. The call to repentance is the first Grace.

No more hovering around your sin, thinking that you can control it , knowing full well that it is controlling you. No more hiding it on the back shelf, away from people but not thrown away… You know, ‘just in case.’ No more Just in case, beloved, no more ‘Maybe another time’ The Spirit of God is calling on you to repent and be made right with God…

Not sure what to say? No need for eloquence… Simple words will do…

Like the tax collector who wouldn’t even come close, but beat his breast crying out

‘Lord have mercy on me a sinner’

And if that is too much, what does a drowning man say? HELP!!! HELP ME!

How about starting right there…

Amen

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