Warning to Save Lives

“…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, ESV)

A few years back there was an advertising campaign to help prevent texting and driving.  Below is one of the videos. Watch with care, the images are terrifying: 

Commercials like these come as a dire warning.  The dangers of distracted driving are real and deadly; the NTHSA reports that in 2018, distracted driving was the cause of 2,841 deaths. Still, I am tempted to pull out my phone while driving and check my texts, and I am appalled at how many times I see others driving while staring at their phone.

This is the kind of message that Jude is giving here in Jude 7. In verses 5-7, Jude gives a series of 3 warnings to those who would “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4).” In the first warning, we read of the Israelites, who though they had been delivered from Egypt persisted in unbelief and were destroyed in the wilderness. Next we read of the angelic beings who left their positions of authority and are now being kept in chains awaiting the judgment of the great day. Finally, today we are reminded of the awesome judgment brought down upon Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of what awaits those who persist in sin and ungodliness.

Let us be clear: the Bible explicitly condemns the practice of homosexuality (Lev 18:22, 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Ti 1:9-11), and this is seen most vividly in the wrath of God poured out on Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities in Genesis 19. In that story, we read that while Lot brought the angels into his home, the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house demanding he send out the two men so that they may “know” them. In Hebrew, “to know” someone suggested sexual intimacy (Gen 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…”). While sexual sin was not the only sin for which these cities were punished (Ezekiel 16:19 tells us they were also punished for their pride, gluttony, and disregard for the poor), we can be certain that sexual immorality is what Sodom and Gomorrah would be remembered for through the ages. The message of God’s Word is consistent: God has created us male and female, and our lives are to bring him glory, even in our relationships with one another.  The practice of homosexuality is a sin in that it does not conform to God’s law for our lives.

And let us remember, Christ Jesus came to save sinners.  All who come to him in faith, trusting in His righteousness, resting in His completed work of redemption in His death and resurrection, will know forgiveness and peace with God. Jesus is able to save from every sin, and to break the power of sin in our lives.

But if we only focus on the sexual immorality associated with Sodom and Gomorrah when hearing Jude’s warning, we’ve missed the picture entirely. It would be like watching the video and saying to yourself “Well, they didn’t say anything about drinking and driving, so that must be okay now.” 

Certainly Jude is warning the church against the ongoing practice of sexual immorality, this is the sensuality at mind in verse 4. It is likely that the false teachers who were twisting the grace of God were saying that because you have grace, you can sin all the more because it’s all been forgiven.  But the purpose of Jude’s warning is to remind us that those who persist in sin will come under judgement. You cannot play with fire and not expect to be burned, you cannot abide in sin and claim to have seen and known the Lord (1 John 3:5).

I read recently that warnings are one of the means by which God helps to preserve His people. He tells us of the dangers of sins, and gives us examples (the unbelieving Israelites, the fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah) to keep us from falling into sin. Let us not be like those who would persist in ungodliness, or like those who would encourage others in their sin (Rom 1:32), nor like those who sit in self-righteous condemnation of others (Rom 2:1). But let us heed the warnings and trust in the grace of God in Jesus Christ for our salvation, listening to and obeying the voice of our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ as he leads us in the way of righteousness.

SDG

Car Chases & God’s Grace

Why do we watch high speed car chases? 

I’m not talking about those in the movies, though they are exciting in and of themselves. No, I’m referring to the helicopter or dash-cam views of police pursuits on the city streets in real time.  

It seems like every week you see another chase play out on national media.  Just last week there was a wrecked RV leading police through Los Angeles, and what got everyone watching was the fact that there were two dogs in the RV – and yes, both are fine.

Are we drawn to this because we want to see fugitives come to justice? 

Is there a darker side of us waiting for the fiery crash that may come at the end? 

Is this now our Coliseum, where we cheer and boo the gladiators in the arena, and watch until all is settled?

Maybe these events speak to our inner “fight or flight” instinct, and we’re watching to learn what we already know – running from your problems never works.

As I was pondering our obsession with chases this morning, I read from Isaiah 30 in my M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan.  Here, God is speaking to the people of Jerusalem though the prophet, warning them of the coming judgment for their rebellion, and telling them not to go to Egypt in order to escape judgment, thereby “adding sin to sin” and face greater ruin. The people were ready to fly to Egypt, to ride swiftly from the hand of God. God’s warning was clear, “your pursuers will be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one…” 

Reading this is like watching the chase unfold. You say to the screen, “Don’t run!” but you know they’re going to anyway.

Still, in this midst of the warning, God extends a gracious promise  Isaiah 30 is beautiful in its promise. Even in the threat of coming judgment, God calls to His people, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength (Isa 30:15).”  Turn to me,  God is saying, find your rest, your salvation, and strength in me.  

From verse 19 on, the remainder of the chapter is God’s promise of restoration:

  • God will be gracious to the sound of your cry
  • Though the Lord gives the bread of adversity, your Teacher will not hide himself anymore
  • Your ears will hear him speak to you, telling you which way to go
  • You will turn from your idols
  • He will give rain for the seed, and bread, and produce, and livestock
  • There will be brooks flowing with water
  • The Lord will bind up the brokenness of His people and heal their wounds
  • You will have a song, and gladness of heart
  • The Lord will cause His voice to be heard
  • The enemies of God’s people will tremble before Him.

No one likes to see the lights in the rear-view mirror, or hear the siren calling them to pull over. Neither do we like the discipline of the Lord when we have erred. But with our Father’s discipline, there is always the promise of rich and redeeming grace, a promise confirmed for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Trust in His gracious promises, and know that resting in Him you will shall be saved.

From the Pastor’s Desk:

Here are some of the things I’ve been reading this week that I’d thought I’d share:

Don’t Be a Lazy Pastor: Lately I’ve been sharing articles on what the Pastor does, and how you can pray for your Pastor. Here’s another, from Desiring God, on the plague of the lazy Pastor.

PreachersNSneakers: Speaking about Pastor’s, there’s apparently a trend among some Pastor’s of wearing REALLY expensive shoes, clothes, or jewelry. Here’s an article about the trend – and just to clarify – my suits are all over 10 years old, and my most expensive shoes are the Brooks I run in.  I’m not saying I’m above the cultural trappings, but fashion is not mine.  Something I read a while ago, however, did lead me to stop wearing a preachers robe. One of the old Puritans stated that anything that separates you from you congregation, keeps you from your congregation.  If what your wearing, or the house your living in, or the car the pastor is driving is an extravagant leap from what the people of the congregation would have, there’s a disconnection taking place.

Can A Christian Lose their Salvation:  Finally, here’s an article by R.C. Sproul on the perennial question about one’s security in salvation.