2011 01 09


Reverend Anthony R. Locke

January 9thth, 2011  www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Genesis 18:16 – 19:11 English Standard Version
Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way.
17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave,
21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.
23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”
29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.”
30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.”
31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.”
32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth
2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.”
3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.
5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”
6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him,
7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.
8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.
10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door.
11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

The Lord troubled my heart this last week when I read this passage. What really got my attention was chapter 19 and verse 2. How many people would let their friends sleep out over night in the town square?

I don’t let my kids sleep outside on a Summer night in our back yard without adult supervision.

But Lot knew that the city he lived in was so troubled that even adults, with adult supervision, couldn’t spend a night unmolested in the center of town.

And Lot wasn’t bothered that his town had these problems until God showed up.

Lot slept tucked cozy in his Egyptian sheets and Afghan blankets as long as he could lock his doors to the chaos that happened outside every night in the town that he called home.

Lot wasn’t alarmed by the sin of the community until God showed up.

But the sin out there should have been critically important to Lot because the sin of the immediate community affected his family.

And that dynamic is true today.

Locking our doors at night does not protect the people we love. If we do not crusade for a moral society, then our children will assume that a sinful lifestyle doesn’t bother us. If we are willing to live at peace with the vice of our city, then our children will assume they can live at peace with us, even if they adopt some of those sinful lifestyles.

We must be on the offense with prayers. We must be calling our community to repentance or we face a huge credibility problem as Christians.

Many of us grew up in communities where we didn’t lock our doors. We left our windows open at night.

You wouldn’t do that in Sodom and you can’t do it today in the communities in which we live.

(It is easy to list the sins of a community. I am not going to shock you with a huge list. I will use two specific sinful issues within this sermon to illustrate our need to pray.)

Three days ago I read that 41% of all pregnancies in New York city end in an abortion. Your fellow American citizens, in New York city, kill 4 in 10 babies before they are even born. How does that hit you?

Honestly, I reacted like Lot. I marveled for a minute and then went back to my day.

That isn’t how God wanted me to respond. Love doesn’t act with indifference.

It isn’t love to say, “let me lock myself at my office, and lock myself in my home, and I’ll wait to hear about the tragedy on the evening news. I’ll read about who killed who in tomorrow’s paper. I’ll marvel for a minute, and go back to my safe life.”

Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus looked with compassion on the unfolding tragedy that sin would bring upon the human race and then agreed with the Father to come into our mess and redeem our world back to God.

Lot is not like Jesus. He evidenced no concern about the moral climate of his community as long as people left him alone.

Too often I act more like Lot than Jesus.

Do you see that parallel? Our community is not too far different than Sodom. Maybe we have surpassed them in our tricks for doing evil. We are way more creative with our sinfulness.

Our computers are just one click away from all sorts of evil information. Politicians lie and shade the truth. Our children are being taught in our public schools that any sort of relationship can be labeled a marriage.

I read a few months ago that 73% of all cell phones in the average American public high school have text messages with lewd photos on them. It’s called Sexting. I am sure that many students wish not to get these images, but other students try to embarrass them by sending this junk to their phones.

The article I read focused on how to change the child porn laws so as not to condemn under age school students who have pictures of under age friends on their phones. Potentially, 73% of all high school students could be charged as sex offenders.

It might sound like a cliché, but someone has said that if God does not judge our country then he will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.

How much worse will we let it get before we become concerned? Or, will we keep giving a Lot reaction to the trouble of our community? When will the spiritual poverty break our hearts?  What will it take for the sin of the community to feel like our sin?

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

That’s God’s plan. We lead people to God with our own ongoing repentance.

And if we are not leading people to God, then the world will lead our children into the destructive sin choices that we will not confront.

These are the sorts of concerns which keep ministers up at night.

This question is always in my mind, “how do I lift up Jesus in such a way that my family, and my church family, will repent and live holy lives so that God will use us to see the unchurched become converted?”

Well, it starts with me as a father and as a minister. I must repent. I must lead those I love back to God.

If we will do this, then the world will see the joy of salvation that follows repentance. They will rub shoulders with us and hear the new song in our hearts, specifically the praise we give to God. They too then learn to fear God and come to repentance and faith themselves.

Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

And the church grows.

The holy presence of God shook Lot out of his complacency and into action.

Let me illustrate. I have projects at my house that need to be completed. I don’t have the energy to finish them. I am making a swing set which is mostly finished, but unusable. My boat is not water worthy. I have a basement that is mostly finished.

But every time someone comes over to the house I discover new energy to get things done. Carpets get steam cleaned, walls go up in the downstairs, the lawn gets mowed and things get set straight.

All sorts of energy fills my tired body when I think of you seeing my mess.

So how much energy for repentance and renewal would enter our tired spiritual bodies if we were preparing to host Jesus in this community?

All sorts of energy would move us into action so that Jesus wouldn’t have to see our mess.

Lot knew exactly the sins of the city in which he lived, but he had no energy to warn anyone of God’s disapproval until . . .  until God showed up.

But by then it’s too late. Judgment comes like a thief in the night. You can’t live without respect for God’s commandments and hope to set things straight the night before God shows up.

By then it’s too late.

Who is the nationally recognized minister who recently said on television that he was tired of parents calling him in tears, begging him to help change the destructive sinful habits of their teenagers? His canned response to that request has become, “why were you not concerned about their souls 10 years ago when you helped them set priorities which pulled them away from God and the church?”

Lot tried to warn his daughters and their husbands of the coming wrath of God, but they figured he was drunk or just joking. His own kids had never seen their dad genuinely concerned about the state of their souls, so when the end came, they didn’t listen to their dad’s warnings.

Lot’s own wife loved her handbags, her spa, her house, her car, the shopping mall and conveniences. She loved those things so much that her life was in those things.

Lot’s wife took her eyes off the angels leading her to safety, her heart turned her eyes back  to what she loved and God turned her into a pillar of salt. Kind of weird, but creative.

God has not called us to be intoxicated by the comforts and conveniences of Sodom. Use the stuff of our world, but keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Paul said, for me to live is Christ!

Let His holy life transform your mind and actions. Let the joy of your salvation spill over into your speech and mannerisms. Let your boast be in the Lord when you succeed in business. Let your praise go to God.

And let’s be more like Abraham. He begged God for mercy to be shown to the citizens of Sodom since there were a handful of godly people in their midst.

The potential of a handful of righteous believers, like you sitting here today, is enough to transform a city like Tucker into a shining light for the rest of Atlanta.

That’s more than just great rhetoric. It’s faith in the promises of God to work through His people to turn our world upside down for Jesus.

That’s what the early church did all around the Mediterranean. They set the world ablaze with the glory of God.

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

God was willing to show mercy to Sodom if 10 righteous souls were willing to live righteous and call their city back to repentance.

God will redeem Tucker back to God if we will repent ourselves, pray intercessory prayers for others, live holy and call our community back to God.

This is God’s plan to use us to bless the world. It is our challenge for 2011. We need to be come a house of prayer more than ever before.

May God bless us to answer this call to intercede for our community with our prayers. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.