Genesis 19:17, 26


Sermon preached on July 13, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

The Tour de France bicycle race is taking place in France this month. During the race ten years ago, on Stage 9 of the 2004 Tour, there were two riders, Filippo Simeoni and Inigo Landaluze that were in a breakaway. At one point they had a over a 10 minute lead on the peloton. With 35 km to go they still had a five and a half minute lead. One of them should have won the race. The general rule on a breakaway is that the peloton can take back 1 minute every 10 kilometers. But since the breakaway was small, only two riders, they were tired and the peloton kept closing in on them. When they got to the final kilometer they only had a 15 second lead. But one of them still could have won. They had been cooperating for the 125 kilometers they had been out in front of the peloton. But in the last kilometer they stopped cooperating. They seemed to forget that the peloton was coming up behind them like a freight train. They started marking each other. Neither one of them wanted to finish second. Because of that neither one of them won. The peloton engulfed them just before the finish line. They had been out in front for 125 kilometers and to lose the race in the last few yards—it had to be heart breaking for them. One of the newspaper headlines about that stage was,

"One Glance Too Many".



What the writer meant by that was that whoever of the two was leading at that crucial moment, just before the finish line, as the peloton was barreling down on them—that instead of looking back over his shoulder, he should have been focused on the finish line. He should have buried his head low, and pedaled all his might for those last 35 meters. That's what riders looking to win a stage in the Tour de France do. The only time you'll see any of them looking back in the final few yards of a race is if they're so far ahead that they look back to see if they have time to zip up their jersey and sit up straight so that the TV cameras and photographers will take pictures of their jersey which has their sponsors on it. But other than that, no one looking to win the race looks back in the final meters. Looking back can cost you the race. That's what happened in that race. It was one glance too many. It delayed him just enough.

This past Friday, one of the young Americans, in this year's Tour de France, Andrew Talansky, crashed in the sprint just before the finish line. He crashed because another rider came across in front of him and hit his front wheel, causing him to go down hard. Talansky didn't see him because Talansky was looking over to his right at the time. One of the commentators was critical of Talansky. He said that even though the other rider shouldn't have verered over on Talansky's line, Talansky should have seen him coming because he should have been looking straight ahead. He said he had no business looking sideways at that point in the race. Just yards from the finish line in a sprint like that, looking straight ahead was the only thing to do.

Lot's wife looked back at Sodom and it cost her her life. In verse 17 the angel had warned Lot's company not to look back. But Lot's wife did and she was turned into a pillar of salt, a warning to any who went by about the dangers of looking back. When the angels told Lot to hurry and get out of Sodom, Lot hesitated. (verse 16) There was a delay in him obeying. The angel had to grab his hand and, it seems, had to drag him out of Sodom.

These things illustrate an important principle about Christian living. The Holy Spirit tells us in many places in Scripture that we are to be straining toward the goal. One of the great lessons of our text is that

you should have a singular focus in serving God.

Our obedience to God must not be reluctant, slow and full of hesitation. No. It must be prompt, focused, undeterred. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, 26–27 the apostle Paul said,

"Do you not know that in a race
all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Therefore I do not run like a man
running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air.
No, I beat my body and
make it my slave so that after I have
preached to others,
I myself will not be disqualified
for the prize."

In Philippians 3:12–15 Paul put it this way,

"Not that I have already obtained
all this, or have already
been made perfect, but I press on
to take hold of that for which
Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers, I do not consider myself
yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind and
straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win
the prize for which God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature
should take such a view of things."

We are all supposed to have that kind of devotion to Christ. The great goal of your life should be to promptly serve Christ in whatever situation he places you. Hesitating, looking back are the opposite of what we should be doing. They are both wrong. We should be pressing on, striving toward the goal.

When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, we read, (Genesis 22:3)

"Early the next morning Abraham
got up and saddled his donkey.
He took with him two of his servants
and his son Isaac.
When he had cut enough wood
for the burnt offering,
he set out for the place God
had told him about."

What a contrast between Abraham and Lot. Abraham is listed in the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Lot is not. They were both Christians. 2 Peter 2:7 refers to Lot as a righteous man,

"who was distressed by the filthy lives
of lawless men (for that righteous man,
living among them day after day,
was tormented in his righteous soul
by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)"

But when we think of Lot there are a lot of negatives that come to our mind. He had many flaws.

So the great questions are: How can we ensure that we don't hesitate to obey God? How can we ensure that we don't look back when God tells us not to? It's all of grace certainly, but there are ways we can draw near to God so that His grace is us can be powerful.

But before we get to those we need to make one point of clarification. In what I'm going to say I'm not talking about angels appearing to you, or you hearing audible voices from God. I don't believe that God speaks to us that way today. I'm talking about you not hesitating the written Word, about promptly obeying the prompting of the Spirit when He opens your eyes to your sin and urges you to put it away, to obey what the written Word says. At times like that we must not grieve the Spirit by resisting His promptings (Ephesians 4:30)

We need to fight against this tendency. Shortly before He left them Jesus said to His disciples, (Matthew 26:41)

"Watch and pray so that
you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing,
but the body is weak."

John Calvin writes,

"the flesh, by its sluggishness, so represses the alacrity [brisk and cheerful readiness] of the spirit, that with slow halting, it can scarcely creep along. And, indeed, as every man's own experience bears him witness of this evil, the faithful ought to endeavor, with the greater earnestness, to prepare themselves to follow God; and to beware lest as with deaf ears, they disregard his threats."



So what can we do so that we will obey the Lord with brisk and cheerful readiness?

The first thing is that

you need to prepare yourself.

What's the cause of hesitating? What's the cause of looking back? It's sometimes due to lack of preparation. I hesitate when I face a situation where I haven't thought things through. That's often a cause of hesitation.

Let me illustrate. This spring J. asked me to give her oldest daughter M. driving lessons. After a few lessons she was doing really good in most things. But one thing she wasn't handling well was intersections where there were traffic lights. What she was doing at traffic lights was hesitating when she got a green light. The light would be green, the coast would be clear and she would hesitate. She wouldn't go. She would just sit there for what seemed like 5 or 6 seconds. It probably wasn't that long but there was a very pronounced hesitation. After several lessons I told her that she should be bolder at intersections. I told her not to hit another car and to yield to pedestrians in the road crosswalk—but I told her that except for that, if the light turned green she should go right away, that if she had the right of way she should take it.

That's all she needed. The next time we came to traffic lights she handled them normally. There was no hesitation.

Our obedience to God must be like that. It must be bold. The only way it can be bold is if we prepare for this and ask God to give us grace. As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:13,

"prepare your minds for action;
be self-controlled; set your hope
fully on the grace to be given you
when Jesus Christ is revealed."

So what we need to do as a Christian is train yourself for difficult situations. The army trains soldiers to act decisively and boldly in dangerous situations. They simulate battle situations and have the soldiers practice and practice so that they will know exactly what to do.

We must be like that. We must know that in the future we are going to be tested, tested hard. In the future you are very likely to find yourself in a situation where suddenly you have to choose between following Christ and losing everything—or going the way of the world. The situation may be very difficult. If you choose to obey Christ it may even be dangerous.

You need to prepare yourself for such a situation. In Acts 20:23-24 the apostle Paul described his preparation this way,

"I only know that in every city
the Holy Spirit warns me that prison
and hardships are facing me.
However, I consider my life
worth nothing to me,
if only I may finish the race and
complete the task the Lord Jesus
has given me—the task of testifying
to the gospel of God's grace."

Paul was prepared. His mind was ready for action.

The second thing that can help us avoid hesitation is by viewing the present time as being crucial.

It seems that Lot thought that he had more time than he did. So he hesitated.

Are you hesitating in your obedience to God? Perhaps you're saying to yourself—

"I'll really start serving Christ when I retire. I'll have time for Him then."



Or,

"I'm going to get rid of this sin in my life eventually, but I'm not ready to do it yet."



In Matthew 8:21–22 Jesus spoke about a situation like that. We read,

"Another disciple said to him,
'Lord, first let me go
and bury my father.'
But Jesus told him,
'Follow me, and let the dead
bury their own dead."

You must not be putting off your obedience to God. Obey now. What makes you think that you have more time? The rich fool in Jesus' story thought he had more time to indulge himself. You need to start obeying Jesus right now.

Judgment came upon Sodom unexpectedly, quickly. It was too late for all those who put off obeying God.

The third thing that can help us avoid hesitation

is having our heart in the right place, having it firmly fixed in Jesus.

In Matthew 6 Jesus told us not to store up for ourselves treasures our earth, but to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. He said, (Matthew 6:21)

"For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also."

Lot's wife looked back? Why? Was it because all her earthly possessions were there? Lot has chosen this good land. She had friends there. It was natural to love them. It was natural to look back.

What does this world mean to you? Think about your family, your home, your possessions, your job, your friends.

Yes, you are to love your family. But your love for them is not allowed to compete with your love for Jesus. In Matthew 10:34–38 Jesus said,

"Do not suppose that I have come
to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to turn
'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against
her mother-in-law—
a man's enemies will be
the members of his own household'.
Anyone who loves his father or mother
more than me is not worthy of me;
anyone who loves his son or daughter
more than me is not worthy of me;
and anyone who does not take his cross
and follow me is not worthy of me."

Lot's wife loved the things of the world. 1 John 2:15 says,

"Do not love the world
or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him."

We are not to love this world. You must only use the things of this world as they help you spiritually, as they help you promote the kingdom of God. You must not set your heart on them. As John Bunyan taught us in Pilgrim's Progress,

"Beware Vanity Fair!"



Demas loved the world. In 2 Timothy 4:10 the apostle Paul wrote,

"for Demas, because he loved
this world, has deserted me
and has gone to Thessalonica."

We must not love the world. We must love God, His Word, His kingdom. Yes, we must love the lost—we must love them so much that we call them to Christ. Everything should be about Christ and His glory. 2 Peter 3:10–13 summarizes it well,

"But the day of the Lord
will come like a thief.
The heavens will disappear with a roar;
the elements will be destroyed by fire,
and the earth and everything in it
will be laid bare.
Since everything will be
destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming.
That day will bring about the destruction
of the heavens by fire,
and the elements will melt in the heat.
But in keeping with his promise we are
looking forward to a new heaven
and a new earth, the home of righteousness."

Don't love the world or the things of the world. John Calvin writes,

"Let us also hence learn, that God best provides for our salvation, when he cuts off those superfluities, which serve to the pampering of the flesh; and when, for the purpose of correcting excessive self-indulgence, he banishes us from a sweet and pleasant plain, to a desert mountain."



If you're not a Christian, this story of Sodom and what I've been saying show you

the true nature of the choice before you.

If someone were gave you a choice like this, what would you choose?

The choice was a minute of pain and the rest of your life being full of joy and happiness, or a minute of empty pleasure and the rest of your life one of absolute misery and suffering.

What would you choose? Anyone in their right mind would choose the minute of pain and the rest of their lives full of joy and happiness.

The choice before you to go to Jesus is even of greater contrast. It contrasts this life and eternity. The choice is of a few years of empty and fleeting pleasure and an eternity of bearing the punishment that your sins deserve. The other choice is going to Jesus. In Him you will find immediate joy and relief from your sins. In this life you will have trouble, but it is only the valley of the shadow of death—Jesus, the Good Shepherd will be with you all through it and will then lead you to an eternal glory—with joy and happiness forever and ever.

Which are you going to choose? Throw yourself down before God and ask Him to give you faith. Go to Jesus and ask Him to save you.