SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
Why the Message of Divine Judgment Seems Unreal to Unbelievers (Continued)
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Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1622
Pastor Don Horban

Genesis 19:12-15 - ďThen the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. [13] For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it." [14] So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. [15] As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city."

The issue weíre examining is that strange phrase in the fourteenth verse - ďBut he [Lot] seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.Ē I have called that a strange phrase because the sentence before it - the sentence they considered humorous - doesnít seem funny at all - ďSo Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ĎUp! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the cityí"(14).

So the question Iím asking last week and this is why this reaction? Why canít these people take Lot seriously? And the reason I think we all need to have an answer to that question is the New Testament says the account of Lot is an example of how we are to relate the truth of Godís coming judgment to our present age:

2 Peter 2:4-9 - ďFor if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; [5] if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; [6] if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; [7] and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked [8] (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); [9] then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment....Ē

Peter says we are to study Lot. Weíre to remember his story. So what weíre doing here is in direct obedience to a New Testament command. And last Sunday we considered two answers to the question, ďWhy does the message of divine judgment seem unreal to unbelievers?Ē

Here are the two reasons we studied last week. First, any truth can reach the mind without being fully realized in terms of its importance and relevance. Like knowing the gravitational pull on the moon is less than that on earth. I know that to be true. But it doesnít matter to me. When you deal with people and spiritual things you quickly learn that the hard part isnít educating people to understand Biblical truth. Knowledge isnít that hard to impart. The real issue - the issue that seals eternal destinies - is getting people to feel the urgency of the truth they hear.

Second, we have evidence of the blindness and hardness of heart against the idea of divine judgment by the way they do prepare for other coming events, far less important. In fact, Jesus indites the leaders and thinkers of His day for the way they repeatedly did this in Matthew 16:1-4:


Matthew 16:1-4 - ďAnd the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. [2] He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' [3] And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times [4] An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So he left them and departed.

Today we wills start with point number three, as we continue from last week:

3) THIS FAILURE TO TAKE SERIOUSLY THE JUDGMENT OF GOD IS ALL THE MORE SENSELESS WHEN ONE THINKS OF THE ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY OF ITS COMING

Consider the plain truth of the matter. The danger of the wicked losing his soul is much more certain than the loss of his wealth in this earthly life. The danger of losing his soul is much more certain than the loss of his health in this earthly life. The wicked may or may not fall into poverty in this world.

The Psalmist lamented the many wicked who were at ease, living in comfort and prospering at every turn (Psalm 73). Itís a very dangerous game to measure the blessing and pleasure of God by material prosperity. Poverty may or may not come to the wicked, but the judgment of God is absolutely certain.

So again, we must consider the question: why do we prepare for tragedies that may never happen (this, by the way is how insurance companies make their money) while ignoring the one great reality that we canít avoid? Why do we spend large sums of money on insurance for houses and cars and possessions we may never damage or lose, but take no thought for our souls, which will, at some point with absolute certainty, face judgment? What has caused this acute and dark blindness in the most important and eternal aspect of our existence?

Look at these people as Lot speaks and pleads and warns. Theyíre perishing tomorrow and are actually being told about it! They think Lot is just trying to frighten them. How do people grow immune to what they most need to understand? How do they fritter away their lives with useless things and miss the biggest and most central truths they need to embrace?

This is the question we need to probe again in closing:

4) WHY DOES THE MESSAGE OF JUDGMENT SEEM UNREAL TO UNBELIEVERS?

Are there other reasons than the two we studied last week? This question is an important one for Christians to face and answer because it can become easy for Christians to water down their own understanding on Godís judgment simply because they see so many others not taking it very seriously. But there are more solid, Scriptural reasons why unbelievers donít take the message of judgment seriously.

a) Outside of Jesus Christ people not only commit sins - they are bound in sins. And this bondage keeps them from receiving revealed truth.

John 3:19-20 - ďAnd this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.Ē

So our wickedness, apart from repentance, causes us to go into denial about divine judgment. There is no truth that puts a search light on all our deeds like the absolute, inevitable prospect of Godís judgment finally breaking the bubble of our self-proclaimed rule over our lives. The reality of divine, absolute, truth-saturated judgment bearing down on our lives is the brightest light of ultimate reality we will ever face.

And if youíre committed to illusions, distractions and relativism you will do everything in your power to flee this light of judgment. You will flee the searchlight of absolute, divine truth like an escaping prisoner dodges the searchlight on the prison tower.

Evil deeds are an escape attempt from God that must be maintained against all odds. There is nothing rational in this flight from truth. It is sheer denial and desperation.

b) Careless people have filled their minds with enough material distractions to pull their thoughts away from the ultimate reality of Godís coming judgment.

This is perhaps the essence of what the Bible calls worldliness. It is really a shame that weíve linked Biblical worldliness with make-up and fashion and music. Those things may be limited expressions of worldliness, but they never capture its essence.

The essence of worldliness is the training of the mind to become familiar only with what can be grasped with the physical senses. Nothing seems real that isnít immediate and isnít sensually perceived.

This is how unbelievers tie their minds down to earth. This is how they push eternity to the periphery of their concerns. This is why Jesus said it was very hard for the rich to inherit the kingdom of God. They have so many things to pull their minds earthbound. This is what Jesus meant in these famous words from the parable of the sower and the seed and the growth of the kingdom of God in our lives:

Matthew 13:22 - ďAs for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.Ē

Unfruitful means the Word and church and worship and the voice of the Holy Spirit donít produce anything. Nothing changes in the life as a result of them. This was also the truth Jesus was hammering home in His parable about the wealthy business man:

Luke 12:16-21 - ďAnd he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, [17] and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' [18] And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' [20] But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' [21] So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

Hereís a man who is leaving this world tonight! And he hasnít even thought about it. Why? Itís not that heís incapable of planning ahead. Heís thought about everything else. Heís brilliant and productive with his material concerns.

And thatís exactly his problem. He thinks that enough. Heís been thinking about everything else but whatís most important. He has squeezed God out with the distractions of his own wealth. The biggest crisis of his whole eternal existence is coming tonight, and heís not given it a thought. Judgment doesnít seem as real to him as those cranes and bulldozers and construction crews on his estate. He canít feel the reality of judgment anymore. Has your success done that to you?

c) Many times friends and associations keep people from sensing the reality and importance of divine judgment.

If you are constantly around people who donít talk and think about divine judgment, chances are you wonít either. And thereís a classic example of this in the Scriptures:

Matthew 24:37-39 - ďAs were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. [38] For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, [39] and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.Ē

Donít overlook one very important detail in this account that Matthew doesnít record. The text says these people were unaware (39). But these people had no reason to be surprised by the flood. It wasnít an unannounced event. They had been specifically told that this judgment was coming. But, like Lotís relatives in Sodom, the news didnít seem real to them. They thought Noah was just trying to scare them, or brainwash them. Or they thought theyíd always have more time later on.

But why didnít any of them respond? How could they all have missed the point so totally and so tragically? The answer is in Jesusí words in our text. These people had heard Noah talk about the coming flood. In fact, these people had seen the ark being built. But they didnít take it all in - it didnít register - because no one else was taking it seriously either. Itís incredibly demanding to concentrate on something no one youíre regularly with is concentrating on. Thatís the life lesson to take home from church today.

There is such an important lesson for Christians here too. O, how we underestimate the power of associations in our lives! There is a corporate necessity to a strong faith that only one Christian in a thousand fully understands. This is why the New Testament constantly warns us about undervaluing the simple, sacred, life-giving act of coming together for church. ďDonít forsake it!Ē, the writer of Hebrews says.

I know you are reaching the lost world around you. Thatís great! I wouldnít minimize that for anything in the world. But there is something else to remember while you touch the world with the love and grace and gospel of Jesus Christ. While youíre touching them, theyíre touching you. While youíre influencing them, theyíre influencing you.

Never doubt the truth of this. This is why Paul says no one is to ďthink of himself more highly than he oughtĒ (Romans 12:3). Remember what Jesus said in His parable about the seed and the soils. When the seed gets mixed in with the weeds and thorns, the weeds and thorns win. While you are out in the world, the world gets sown into your heart. You cannot avoid it.

The associations you build with unbelievers cuts into the credibility of divine truth in your own heart. Jesus said so. Both the sharpness of my own conscience and the saliency of divine truth are numbed to the lowest common denominator of the crowd I am most with. If everyone else I am with is eating and drinking and partying when the door to the ark is shut, so will I be.

We are not to be fooled. And we are not to become bored with the things of God in this world. What we know for certain is this: within four decades most of us will face our Maker. For those in Christ Jesus this truth should excite and warm our hearts. Life for the child of God, in spite of all set-backs and hardships and sorrows, is ultimately heading for home.

But thereís also a lost world to be reached. Most of them donít even care about divine judgment. We must be sharp enough for them to catch this vision of the future from us.