Sermon: Believers

Bible talk by Steve Millay

January 14th, 2018 5:09 pm     A+ | a-
Malachi 3:16-18
They call us believers.  We don’t look any different than they look.  We don’t have a sign on our back telling others we are a believer.  We don’t walk around wearing dark robes and chanting.  But there is something about us that makes us a believer.
It could be that we come to this building each week.  It’s a simple building, but it is one that is dedicated to worshiping the Lord God.  We don’t call it a church, but people who drive by it think of it as a church.

They might call us a believer when we sometimes open up to others and talk about our hope.  We might express a belief in God when we are out in public. It might be because we can be seen saying a prayer before we eat.  It might be because we are never heard cursing. But being a believer involves more than what they may see on the surface.  And sometimes underneath the surface it can be much more complicated.

When the people of Sodom saw Lot, they saw a man who believed.  They saw a man who seemed to take everything in stride.  They saw a man who never got angry, never cursed.  They saw a man that always seemed to have a clear head about situations.
But they did not see the underneath.  There was a battle inside of Lot.  The bible says that he was vexed.  That is another way of saying that Lot was upset, he was angry, he was displeased.  We read about this in 2 Peter Chapter 2. 

NIV reads in verse 7 and 8 – “And He rescued Lot (for that righteous man (that believer) living among them
day after day was tormented (vexed – angry - irritated) in his righteous soul by the lawless (filthy) deeds he saw and heard.”

Things he saw and things he heard.  Lot struggled every day with this inner torment.  This was a struggle that the people around could not see.  This was a struggle that maybe even his wife and daughters could not see.   Sure, Lot could have expressed his anger; he could have let people know that he was upset at things going on around him.  But Lot knew enough to know that it would not make a difference and it would probably just make things worse. 

The challenge for us as believers is what we do with this inner turmoil that we might feel.  We think we hide it well, we think we wrestle with these things on our own.  But the daily frustration we feel is not unique and many of us may share the same feelings.
It is now the year 2018 and like a modern day Lot, here we sit in the gates of the town of Springfield Vermont.  Are we tormented daily by the things we see and hear?  After all, the bible tells us to love not the world, and to love not the things in the world.  Anyone who loves these things does not have the love of God in them.

But if we look around us there is probably of lot of things we love.  Who doesn’t love going out to eat steak or king crab legs at Black Rock Steakhouse?  Who doesn’t love watching the Patriots come from way behind and win the super bowl?  Who doesn’t love listening to music and relaxing in a soft comfortable chair?  Who doesn’t enjoy driving through town in a nice clean car on a warm sunny day?  Who doesn’t enjoy drinking hot chocolate with popcorn?  Who doesn’t enjoy skiing down the mountain in fresh snow?

Are we wrong to enjoy these things?  It was these same types of things that attracted Lot to Sodom.  In Sodom were all the comforts and conveniences of life.  In Sodom there were books to read, plays to watch, music to listen to.  There were shops filled with goods and pottery, many different kinds of food, the best clothes, blankets, robes and sandals.  In Sodom you would not be bored; you would have a good size house.  You would be protected from bandit and gangs that were wandering through the country. 

Sodom was the place to raise your kids. There were schools with the best teachers.  Organized activities and sporting events.   It was the place to meet people, to enjoy the holidays and all that life has to offer.

But in Sodom Lot was vexed by the things he saw and the things he heard.  If he wasn’t vexed by all the good things in the town around him, what exactly troubled him?

It is probably the same thing that troubles us.  We have no problem with many of the good things this world has to offer us.  But what we are bothered by is some of the behavior, the language, and the attitudes that we see and hear every day. 
The problem with all these good things that we enjoy is that it is too easy for people to become consumed by them, so that you forget who you really are.  You forget that all our days are numbered.  You forget that the Creator is watching.  You forget to thank Him for the food you eat.

Not only do you forget, but over time you deny.  People don’t believe in God.  People don’t even have a place for God in their lives.  And some people curse God every day with no real appreciation of just how terrible their words are when they speak against the Most High.  There are no prayers, there is no acknowledgement, and there is no consideration of God in the lives of many people.  God just doesn’t come into their mind at all.

And for Believers this is hard for us to see and hear.  We have our own issues.  We struggle in our life trying to do the right thing.  We have our own personal battles that we are trying to overcome.  But one thing that we seem to succeed the most in is our conviction, our belief in God.  That is almost unwavering.  There is no doubt in our minds that God IS.

This is a confidence that we feel throughout our soul.  It doesn’t mean that we blindly believe.  So often many people think that if you believe in God you are just ignoring scientific facts and theories.  But that is not the case.  As believers we embrace knowledge.

Knowledge is the thing that separates us from the animals.  Try to explain the sacrifice of Christ to your pet cat and see what kind of response you get.  Try to teach your pet dog to say a prayer before they go to bed and see how that goes.  They have no conception at all about the coming Kingdom of God.

So yes, knowledge is critical in the life of a believer.  To know, to really know the only true God is what eternal life is all about.  And when it comes to scientific knowledge, it doesn’t matter what field it is, Geology, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Biology.  It doesn’t matter to the believer because the knowledge that comes out from those sciences (when interpreted correctly) actually confirms our belief in God and His power.

Do you want to know the power of God?  Then look up to the heavens.  It’s incredible what man is finding out about the universe.  Mankind spends billions of dollars and has hundreds of massive telescopes looking up to the heavens.  They can measure the size and distance of the stars, they can tell what they are made of by the light that comes from them, and they can map out galaxies and identify so called super black holes.  The heavens are incredible; it’s all amazing to think of the God who controls all that.

But the people of Sodom took God out of the equation.   All they saw when they looked up were stars.  There was no thought of God in their life.  As a result almost anything goes.

When I was a teenager my parents left my older brother and I alone in the house for several weeks when they traveled across the country to some different bible schools.  Without the parents there for us to answer to the house was a different place.   We had freedom to do whatever we wanted.  Of course there was still the uncle who lived up the road that we had to worry about, but I remember there were some parties that I am sure my parents would not have approved of and we certainly would not have had if they were there.  I remember that during that time of so called freedom, my own conduct went downhill quickly.

Such is the life of some people without a God.   There are few barriers on language, on things you do to your body, on things you digest.  And in the quest of pleasure, the movies get more violent, the music gets louder, the drugs get more powerful, the drinking becomes more extreme, the carnal desires become an open door.  In Sodom the parties were loud, well attended and lasted all through the night.  In Sodom fornication was common and marriage had little value.

So we do see and hear things around us that vex our soul. 

But it isn’t always that black and white.  Most of the unbelievers we know are not wild, crazy people who chase after every lust out there.  Some of them we actually can have a lot of respect for.  I would imagine that in Sodom there was also this type of mixture.  Some of the people probably were great citizens.  Always helping others, always courteous, always giving to those that were poor.  There were hard workers.  There were good moms and fathers.   There were grandmothers who adored their grandchildren.  They had their athletes, they had talented musicians. 

But what did God tell Abraham?  He said that if there were 10 righteous people in the city that the city would not be destroyed.   Well aren’t these people who do good to others and are kind to strangers and would never harm a fly counted as righteous?

What makes a person righteous?  The bible says that Abraham believed God and that belief counted or added up to righteousness.  Abraham became righteous through belief.  Lot became righteous because he believed.  We are believers.  Do you want to be righteous in Gods eyes?  You need to believe Him.  And if we believe then that belief will be counted as righteousness.

As good as some people are out there, as much as we might admire and respect them, if they are not a believer, if they don’t believe God then they lack righteousness.  In fact, without belief in God there cannot be righteousness.

One thing we know about Sodom is its reputation was getting out.  Whatever was happening in that city was alarming.  The word was getting out about things that were going on there.  It was shocking, unless you lived there.  For those who lived there if you were not participating in something wicked, you were probably allowing it to happen.  When the angels came into the house of Lot that night the people became riled up about something.  Their thoughts and imagination lit up like a wild fire.  It was a mob and anyone knows that you cannot reason with a mob.  The thoughts and desire of a mob just get caught up in the passion of the moment.  What they wanted to do to the angels we can only imagine.   There was no reasoning with them.  They were wholly given over to the flesh.  It says all the people of the city were there, both young and old.  They surrounded the house and were ready to break down the door.  They threaten to do to Lot worse than what they wanted to do to the angels.

It was a climatic ending to this sad period in human history.  We are now approaching another climatic ending in human history.  A time when all the nations will be gathered against Israel.  It’s shocking to imagine that all the people in Sodom, both good and bad, were riled up and gathered against Lot.  But the same thing is happening today, people are being riled up against Israel.  In the minds of our next door neighbor Israel is the aggressor, Israel is wrong, Israel needs to give up the land.  This mindset has been growing stronger and stronger in recent years and it will reach a climax when the nations will act on it and come against Israel.
That day is coming.  And even though the promise is that God will rescue the believer from what is to come, deep inside us we are concerned, deep inside us we are troubled.  Sure it’s great to have this hope and it’s great to look to the Kingdom.  But what does this all mean for the people we love.  In particular, what does it mean for our own family and those close to us? 

In the ideal world, we would get married and have kids and those kids would have kids and the whole family would worship the same God together.  But real life doesn’t seem to work that way, and we all have brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren who do not seem to have the same interest in God.  They have no desire to come here and worship with us and it’s hard to say if they believe or not.

It is encouraging to see that the same God who rescues the believer in the Day of Judgment also is kind enough to care about the ones that are important in the life of the believer.  The angels specifically asked Lot if he had anyone else there.  Do you have any sons, daughters, son in laws or anyone else that needs to be saved with you?  This is encouraging because we do hope that in the end all will work out.  In the end we will share the Kingdom with those we have grown up with and love as family. 

But the message is mixed.  Lot went to his sons in law and begged them to leave with him.  They mocked at what he was saying.  His wife and daughters did leave with him but we know that something happened.  In the end Lot lost his wife.  It says she looked back.  Jesus seemed to indicate in Luke chapter 17 that she actually returned back.  

As much as we try, as much as we want the best for everyone, we all make our own choices.  It seems easy to come to grips with the idea that not all will be saved when you don’t know the names and faces of those who won’t be saved.  But when you do know the names and the faces it can be very troubling inside.  I would say out of all the battles I face in this life, this is the hardest one.  But I still hope that all will be well in the end.  Every now and then you hear things about people that no longer meet here.  It sounds like they are still thinking about things, it sounds like they are still interested, and it sounds like they might still be a believer.

One can only imagine the horror that was felt by the people on the ark knowing that all those in the world around them, all the people that they grew up with and all the people that they met in the streets, all the young children and new born babies that were alive at that time.  It was horrible knowing that they were out there drowning in the storm and perhaps they could hear their cries for help.   It would take some time from the land to be completely flooded and it’s not hard to imagine that the people outside scrambled to try to cling to the ark.  But it was too late and as loud as they cried there would be no rescue.   It is no wonder that Noah might have needed to give himself to wine for a while after the flood.  It’s a hard thing for a believer to face.

So as believers, of course we are going to have our good days and we are going to have our bad days.  We will have days like Noah where we are so sad by things that happen around us we may just want to get lost in drinking or eating, or working or playing.  We may have days like Jonah where we just don’t want to do what God asks us to do and we only want to escape responsibility.  We may have days like Elijah where we want to run away and hide.  We may have days like David where we make horrible mistakes and suffer the consequences.  We may have days like Jesus when we just need to go off and be alone.

In this time of fear, when our prayers often seem to be in vain and there is no proof that they are even heard, when thing we hope for never seem like they will even come to pass, when our faith is being tested to our limit.  When we feel like we just cannot go on further – just remember how far we have already come and the mountains that we have already climbed and if we can just hold on just a little bit longer we will see the wonders of God.

At the end of the day, as a believer we will want to be with others believers and we will come to places like this to remember what is really important in our life, to remember the sacrifice that is at the center of it all.  And in the end it will be to us…

As it is written:

Then those that feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those that feared the Lord and honored His name.  They shall be mine, they will be my treasured possession and I will spare them.
Older Post Home Newer Post