The Tragedy of Choosing Heaven over Hell but not Heaven over Earth

I recently preached on Genesis 13 where Abram faces a test that is just the opposite of the test he faced in Genesis 12. In Genesis 12 he faced a test of adversity, namely famine. There we see Abram struggling to walk by faith. After just receiving God’s amazing promises to him in Gen. 12:1-9, He fails to trust God’s promises and to call upon the name of the Lord when famine comes his way. It’s as if he has already forgotten those promises and immediately goes into survival mode in order to fix things himself. He walks by sight in Gen. 12 and gets himself into an even worse situation when the Pharaoh takes Sarai as his wife. But regardless of his faithlessness, God is faithful to his servant Arbam and the promises that he made to him. He brings him out of Egypt with his wife and family and incredible wealth. But then when he returns to the promised land he faces another test, a test of prosperity. Now he has too much stuff. The land where Abram and Lot are dwelling cannot support the both of them and so Abram gives Lot a generous offer to have a share in the promised land. But Lot looks up and sees that the Jordan Valley, which is either outside the promised land or just on the border, looks better than the promised land. And so, instead of choosing the promised land and trusting God’s promises, Lot now walks by sight and head’s towards Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abram remains in the land of Canaan trusting God’s promises by faith. Commenting on Lot’s choice in this episode, R. Kent Hughes writes:

“Lot was the kind of man who would certainly choose Heaven over Hell if given the choice, but not Heaven over earth. Material prosperity was the bottom line. He was the example of believers who choose professions for their children or encourage marriages that will elevate the family’s prosperity and power–with no thought of what it will do to their soul and the souls of their children. Lot’s descendants testify to this as they became enemies of God’s people.” (Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, 201)

It is indeed a tragic thing to see God’s covenant people in the church today making choices like Lot’s based merely on what they see rather than walking by faith and trusting God’s Word. Besides what R. Kent Hughes mentions, I think of those who move their family for a great job opportunity with no regard for whether or not there is a faithful church in that area for their family to worship at. Or I think of the person who takes a great job opportunity locally with no regard for whether or not it will allow them to attend to the public means of grace on Sunday. I also think of parents who allow their children to miss the means of grace on the Lord’s Day in order to play in a sports tournament. They’d rather be prosperous in this world than walk by faith and place their hope in the glories of the age to come. Instead of trusting God’s Word which tells us that we need to be at church every week to worship Him and to receive his grace for the trials of this life, they choose to place their trust in money, job security, and social status.

O that God’s people would learn the lesson of Lot! Lot went from dwelling near Sodom (Gen. 13) to dwelling in Sodom (Gen. 14) to sitting in the gate of Sodom, most likely a reference to his status as some kind of a noble (Gen. 19), to giving his daughters to the men of Sodom in marriage (Gen. 19). Sodom was a place where the people were “wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Gen. 13:13). But Lot saw (like Eve saw) that it looked pleasant to the eyes and was a prosperous place. And so, he took the bait and swallowed it hook, line and sinker. And the consequences for his family were tragic.

In what ways is God challenging you to walk by faith instead of by sight? The truth is that we all need to learn the lesson of Lot over and over again because we all still fight against our old sin nature even though we are saints in Christ through faith. Do you not know that, not only the sufferings of this present age, but also the prosperity of this age is not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed when Christ returns? (cf. Rom. 8:18). As John Newton once put it, “Savior, if of Zion’s city, I through grace a member am, let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name. Fading is the worldlings’ pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.” Amen!

(If you’d like to hear my sermon on Genesis 13, “The Life of Faith After Failure,” that inspired this post you can listen to it here under “morning sermons.”)

 

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2 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Choosing Heaven over Hell but not Heaven over Earth

  1. Great stuff, Brian. I’m preaching from Phil 1:18-26 this week and may have to steal a few choice quotes from you. “I am hard pressed between the two [departing to be with Christ or staying here].”

    • Thanks Bryce! Good to hear from you. Feel free to use whatever you find helpful. I once quoted one of Shane Lems’ blog posts in a sermon. I love that passage. I really enjoyed preaching through Philippians last year. I’m sure that that passage hits close to home these days. My family has been praying for you and your family and will continue to do so. If you haven’t seen R.C. Sproul’s memorial message for his daughter-in-law on that text you’ll have to check it out here. It’s a must read: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/denise-sproul-memorial-message/

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