Developing the Father’s Heart
Othal Feather said, “When the compassion on the inside of the church exceeds the indifference of the world on the outside, people will fill the Churches.”
Ill. Speaking of the more than 200 years of Christian missionary presence in India, Philip Yancey makes this interesting observation: “One telling statistic reveals the fruit of two centuries of a faithful mission work: of India’s nearly one billion citizens, less than 3 percent call themselves Christians, and yet Christians are responsible for more than 18 percent of the nation’s healthcare.”
Yancey concludes: “Despite the many bumbling errors of paternalistic missionaries, the Christians have given India an inspired legacy of education and medicine. If you say the world ‘Christian’ to an Indian peasant-who may never have heard of Jesus Christ-the first image to pop into her mind may well be that of a hospital, or of a medical van that stops by her village once a month to provide free, personal care in Christ’s name. It’s certainly not the whole of the gospel, but it’s not a bad place to start.”
“…and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:16).
Gen 19:27-29 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
There was an old TV commercial about litter where an old indian chief saw the litter around the Texas highways. The last scene was a tear running down his cheek. Nothing had to be said. The tear said it all.
We all knew the hanging questions of the ad campaign. What happened to Texas? Why don’t people care? How can someone through litter out the window and not have a broken heart.
I am not speaking on litter tonight, but that scene goes back to Genesis 19:27. There on the mountain, Abraham looked down and saw the smoke ascending to the heavens and all the destroyed lives. A tear runs down his cheek as his heart is broken.
I. Do we guard our testimonies?
Someone said: The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah shall forever live in infamy. The very mention of their names brings to mind thoughts of hellish depravity and horrible destruction. They stand in biblical history as the very epitome of God’s hatred for sin and His judgment upon the sinner who refuses to repent. There were five cities that were located in the Vale of Siddim (sid-deem’), according to Gen.14: 3.
Today these cities are believed to be located under the salty waters of the south end of the Dead Sea.
According to Merrill Unger, “Their ruins were still visible until the 1st. cen. A. D.” (Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Ph.D., Unger’s Bible Handbook, pg. 69).
Of the five cities that lay in this fertile valley, only the small city of Zoar was spared from destruction. That is where Lot chose to go to rebuild his life. The four cities were totally incinerated by fire and brimstone that fell upon them out of heaven, in horrifying rain of judgment.
Sodom, and Lot’s involvement there, is a perfect illustration of what is happening time and time again in cities around the world, where people are seemingly marching merrily down the road to hell without any concern about coming judgment. The sad thing is that there are Christians in those cities who know the Lord, and yet, have no effective testimony or witness for Him. This was certainly true of Lot in the city of Sodom.
This was a theme from last week’s lesson, but as Abraham stood on the mountain and viewed it, surely he remembered asking God to spare the area for 50 believers. Then he negotiated down to 10. As he stood on the mountain, the realization hit him. There were not 10 God-worshipers in Sodom. Yet, it is believed that Lot had lived there for long enough for his daughters to be born and become marrying age.
This is the sad reality of many today. We live our lives and have little, to any, impact on the community around us. We get caught up in our own little dramas to where we forget God’s purpose and plan for us. I believe that Jesus looks down from heaven at the messes we get into and a tear runs down His cheek. This may seem like dramatization to you, but let me show you something.
Luk 19:41-42 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
This is the very nature of Jesus, the very nature of God. God weeps over what could have been, if we had listened, obeyed, and loved Him more than ourselves. We spend so much time crying “wolf” over the worthless, that when we occasionally get serious, the world says, “There they go again.”
Ill. When I worked in industry, I worked with a desperate seeker named Robbie. Robbie wanted something to ease the conflict in his heart, but he hated Christianity. Someone had hurt him deeply, and as best I could tell, it was his professing Christian step-dad.
Robbie investigated witchcraft, Satanism, Hinduism, Buddhism. Each month, he was an evangelist for anything that wasn’t Christian. He would constantly attack my faith with any and every thought against Christianity he could find.
Years later he recognized me while we were shopping in the Dallas area. He looked and acted much different. He told me that shortly after I left the company, he had accepted Jesus. He said that he struggled with his bitterness for several years as a Christian. Then he was in a severe automobile accident. In his hospital bed during recovery, he committed his life to following Jesus with all his heart.
I asked him if he was able to reach his coworkers at the company. He said “No, I had cried wolf too many times. Even after becoming a Christian, I was lukewarm too much in front of them.” To have a witness, he had to leave the company.
Unfortunately, most of us cannot leave the community that easily. Have we become like Lot and lost our influence?
II. Do we care for the lost?
This is contrast by Abraham, standing on the high hill and shedding a tear over the people. This gives us a rare picture of Abraham’s heart. It reflects God’s heart.
Many of our favorite scripture speaks of God’s great love for mankind. John 3:16-17 - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
2 Peter 3:9 reminds us that God does not want anyone to perish but for all men to come to repentance. However, He forces no one. He gives an invitation and an opportunity. The rest, he leaves up to us. So we ask the question, if it breaks God’s heart to see someone perish, why did He blow up these towns and valleys?
NOTE: There comes a time when man crosses a line. It is a line when God sees we will do more damage to others than we could ever do good. We see that in God’s judgment of the world during the days of Noah and the flood. We see it in the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah. We see it threatened in Nineveh, with Jonah’s warning. We see it in the warning and destruction of nations in Palestine. And it can be seen in individual lives.
We see God’s warnings through Isaiah. Isa 5:4-5 “What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.”
This truth creates an urgency that we must deliver the message of salvation before it is too late. Nothing will be sadder than the proclamation to God, “I was going to, but I ran out of time.”
Dr. George Sweeting - "Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls. It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river. As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls.
"I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave. It was engrossed in the carcass of a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings. The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice slightly out of the water, and I thought it would escape. But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice. The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss."
“The finest attractions of this world become deadly when we become overly attached to them. They may take us to our destruction if we cannot give them up.” And as Sweeting observed, "Oh, the danger of delay!"
III. Does God remember the righteous?
I want to show you something that may be difficult to understand. We have worked Lot over pretty good for his sinful desires and decisions. Our text is clear when it tells us why God saved Lot: “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.”
There is nothing in this text to indicate that Lot was anything worth saving apart from Abraham. He obviously blew it and he is going to suffer much more for his mistakes, as will the rest of the world. But there is an interesting passage in Peter that we cannot overlook here.
Peter 2:5-9 “…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…”
Wow! Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter called Lot “righteous Lot”. He says Lot was “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)”.
What is he saying here? He saying that, even though Lot destroyed his influence, he never condoned the nasty sins of the region. They broke his heart. Why? Because he believed in the God of Abraham. He was one of God’s children. He is the example of one who is saved, but has not lived for Christ. He loses everything except his soul. But God remembers His people.
He remembered Abraham’s influence in Lot’s life, which was enough for Lot to make Abraham’s God his God. But he was not influence enough to influence others. This is one who is saved, but does not practice fellowship with God regularly as Abraham did. There will be a lot of pain and loss in this one’s life, but they will be saved. Truly 2 Timothy 2:13 holds true, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself.” Truly, as is described in 2 Cor. 5:10ff, these will have no works or rewards to offer God, but they themselves will be saved.
Let me add one more thought. Your life can protect those you love.
God remembered Abraham and Lot was protected. There is but little information on this in the scriptures so we have to be careful. However, there is enough that we could emphasize that our lives can protect those closest to us.
God remembered Lot because of Abraham. God remembered Joshua’s family when he said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” God remembered the father when he touched the heart of the prodigal son. God remembered the Galilean official when he said, “Your son will live”. God remembered David when he assigned his son, Solomon, to build the temple. There is enough scriptural connections between God’s protection of a loved one’s life in those who try to serve and please God.
There is also evidence of poor choices hurting those we love, as we will see in subsequent weeks.
Ill. A mother took her young son shopping. After a day in the stores, a clerk handed the little boy a lollipop. What do you say?" the mother said to the boy, to which he replied, "Charge it!"
Many a parent are teaching their children to “charge it” when it comes to sin. Many a father is failing to protect his children from spiritual attack by living in rebellion against God. Many a young man is failing to make a difference in his friends life, not taking an uncompromising stand for Christ. Many a young woman are hurting those around her by living for popularity and excitement instead of serving the very Christ who died for her.
God has given us a great light in our hearts. If we are not spreading that light, we are allowing darkness to spread into those we love the most. We may stand on the rubble of their lives one day and shed a tear.
God remembers those who love Him and live for Him. These have less regrets, by far in this life.
Eusebius, one of the ‘Fathers of Church History,’ quoted passages from Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria in the third century. In one of those passages, Dionysius spoke of how Christians responded to a terrible outbreak of the plague following a war:
“Most of our brethren showed love and loyalty in not sparing themselves while helping one another, tending to the sick with no thought of danger and gladly departing this life with them after becoming infected with their disease. Many who nursed others to health died themselves, thus transferring their death to themselves. The best of our own brothers lost their lives in this way—some preachers, deacons, and laymen, wives—a form of death based on strong faith and righteousness that seems in every way equal to martyrdom. They would also take up the bodies of the dead, close their eyes, shut their mouths, and carry them on their shoulders. They would embrace them, wash and dress them in burial clothes, and soon receive the same services themselves.”
Dionysius continued: “The heathen (non-christians) were the exact opposite. They pushed away those with the first signs of the disease and fled from their dearest. They even threw them half dead into the roads, and treated unburied corpses like refuse in hopes of avoiding the plague of death…
How to develop the heart of God? He has already given it to you. Just don’t bury it in the rubble of disaster.