The Odyssey (Part 16)

   The Same Old Story
   by Rayola Kelley

    I have been on my spiritual odyssey for almost 38 years. Admittedly, at times I feel like I have been out in the wilderness for almost 40 years. The reason I say this is because much of the Christian life seems like drudgery. The reason for this is because we are called to live extraordinary lives, but we do so in the midst of the ordinary, mundane activities and demands of the world.

      The joy of living the extraordinary Christian life in the midst of the ordinary is a challenge, but it is possible. It is called the “abundant life.” Sadly, many Christians have been bottle-fed on the world’s sensationalism; therefore, they cannot imagine the Christian life to be anything more than dos and don’ts that prevent them from experiencing what they would consider exciting.

      Much of our attitude towards the world is a matter of conditioning. Whatever we expose ourselves the most to will be what ultimately influences our attitude. Sadly, many Christians’ attitudes are still being greatly influenced by the world, causing inconsistencies in their walk and a leanness in their spirit. One of the greatest examples of this problem can be found in the life of Lot.

     For Lot, the world was greatly influencing him. Granted, he did not compromise what he knew, but he compromised his attitude about matters. Such compromise implies an unhealthy mixture. Hebrews 4:2 explains how this mixture hinders a person’s decision-making towards the matters of God, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”

      Faith towards God causes us to obey what we know is right. However, when we simply console ourselves that we know a matter, but do not respond according to Scripture, we have failed to mix faith with the truth. Inactive faith is nothing more than the sin of unbelief (Romans 14:23). At the point of unbelief, truth will become stagnant, taking away its sharp edge to ensure liberty.

      When Abraham gave Lot the choice between the plush valleys of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Promised Land, Lot choose with his eyes and not with his heart. He chose to be as close to the world as he could get rather than give up the world to be as close as he could be to the One who possessed the promise of a spiritual inheritance (Genesis 13, 14, 18, 19).

      I realize that Lot was given a choice because the land could not hold the livestock that both he, and his uncle, Abraham owned. Lot, in his state, would not share in the promises of God. But, consider for a moment, is this not every Christian’s dilemma? Daily, we are given the choice to choose between the influences of the world that often collide with the high calling upon our lives as Christians. Since our soul can only serve one master at a time, we must choose who or what we are going to serve; thereby exposing ourselves to the law and principles of the master and kingdom we begin to serve.

    Like Lot our initial tendency is to choose the physical over the spiritual. The more we choose the worldly over the heavenly and the earthly over the spiritual, the further we stray from the center of our protection. We fail to see the traps of the world and find ourselves becoming “ho hum” towards its perverse ways. Even though we convince ourselves we are still tight with God, and our spiritual life is on track, we fail to see how entangled we are becoming with the world’s attitude. Eventually, we will become captive to it.

     Lot tasted the bitterness of such captivity when he was taken prisoner by an opposing king. Abraham learned of his captivity and fought for and obtained his deliverance. Was this not so for you and me before we received Christ? We were captive to sin and tasted the dregs of its bitterness. It took the intervention of Jesus on the cross to save us. He fought for us, died for us, and rose again so we could be redeemed from the entanglements of the harsh taskmasters of the age in which we live.

      Even though Abraham saved Lot from a lifetime service to an enemy, Lot still chose to stay on the other side of the Jordan, instead of the Promised Land. Even though all that Abraham personally owned in the Promised Land at the end of his life was a plot of land on which to bury Sarah and himself, it was still the designated place of God. This small inheritance was an earnest payment secured by the death of his wife, but Abraham knew that since it was promised by God, it would eventually be realized by his descendants. However, this inheritance would only come through Abraham.

    For the Christian, the example of Abraham points to the earnest payment of the Holy Spirit, whose presence will identify believers to their eternal inheritance. This inheritance was secured by the death of Jesus and His empty grave testifies that the fullness of this inheritance will be fully realized in a future age and not in the present one.

      As long as we live on the other side of God’s promises, we cannot be assured of the blessings that are guaranteed from the throne. These blessings come through the ever living “faucet” of the person of Jesus Christ. The “faucet” is ready to be turned on by faith, which is expressed in obedience to the Word of God, to allow the rivers of Living Waters of His Holy Spirit to freely flow in, through, and from our lives.

      I don’t know about you, but in those times when I stayed as close to the world as I could, I found myself losing my edge in discernment. Eventually, what was just plain wrong according to Scripture, slid into the attitude, “It could be worse.” From there it gradually digressed into a tolerant disagreement. In other words, I would not personally agree with it for myself, but who was I to judge those who seemed to have no real conviction about it?

     Tolerant disagreement does not have to take any real stand when it comes to right and wrong, life and death, and heaven and hell. It can be smug in the idea that it would not personally be right to do what is wrong, but it is noble about not judging others for practicing it. However, the Bible is clear about what constitutes sin and that it already stands judged. If it stands judged in the eyes of God, it is not for Christians to downplay such judgments in the name of tolerant love or noble understanding. Love does not rejoice in iniquity and true honor does not agree with anything that dishonors God, His Word, or His people.

      Lot’s soul was vexed over the sin in the city, but he continued to remain in the midst of it (2 Pete 2:7). There was no indication that he was being an example or witness of what was right. As Jeannette, my co-laborer once said, “Most people just try to get by in this world, which causes boredom, which leads to depression.” Lot was vexed, but he was not trying to resolve it by separating from it. When we walk the fence between the world and heaven, we end up just getting by. Boredom and drudgery sets in, followed by leanness of spirit, vexation of soul, and depression.  The Bible is clear that if we are not called into a place to be a Noah by raising a standard of righteousness, then we must separate from the influence of the world upon our lives and flee all youthful lusts. The reason we must emotionally and spiritually separate from the world is because God is going to eventually judge it.

      The problem nowadays is that we mistake godly love for worldly tolerance, but they are on opposite poles. The world has done a good job of convincing some Christians that the definition of godly love is to be tolerant and understanding towards sin. Due to my own tendency to give in to my base, lustful ways, I understand why people sin, but it does not make such actions tolerable or justifiable. Granted, there are sins unto death and if a brother is erring in such a way but is converted towards the ways of righteousness, his soul will be saved (James 5:19-20). However, the world’s tolerance makes a person feel good about him or herself, while he or she is on the way to hell. It is clearly a delusion.

      As I study Lot’s life, the one truth that keeps peeking around the edges has to do with possessions. Abraham’s possession was both spiritual and earthly. He valued the heavenly over the earthy and knew both were secure. Lot’s possessions were earthly. He started out with much material possessions, but what happened to them? First of all they were taken by a foreign king. Although Abraham regained all the possessions taken, it was clear that Lot lost his possessions for a short time to the world.

      When we next see Lot, he is residing in the city. What happened to his flocks? Granted, he could have hired someone to take care of them outside the confines of the city, but it appears that the world somehow consumed what Lot had possessed. Finally, when the angels almost bodily carried Lot and his family out of the doomed city, he left with very few possessions, while God judged the two cities. How much of his possessions were left behind and burned up in the judgment fires of God? We know that there could have been other family members left behind besides Lot’s wife and two daughters who were pulled out of the city by the angels. However, Lot even lost his wife when she turned around to see God’s judgment.

      Here was a man who possessed much, but when God delivered Lot, it was for the sole purpose of keeping him from tasting His wrath. Lot barely got out of the doomed city with his soul. We are reminded that the payment to possess the world is a person’s soul. Granted, God considered Lot because of his uncle’s prayer to deliver the just, and Lot fit into that category because he agreed with God about sin, but in the end he had nothing to show for worldly accomplishments when he left the city. It appears that almost all of his worldly possessions were burned up or destroyed by God’s wrath.

      The world uses material things to take people captive. Once taken captive, it will rob them of worldly goods, kill incentive, and eventually consume what little remains to claim full ownership of a person’s soul. When people sell their souls to taste the deadly fruits of the world, they are left with the emptiness of such possessions. Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, admitted that after pursuing the things of the world, what he discovered was that it was all vanity.

      This brings us to the Bible’s final record of Lot. It tells us that Lot went up to Zoar, rather than the mountain. In other words, Lot looked to the world for a dwelling place. He was clearly used to the world. He was no longer a sojourner in the world—now he was part of the world. However, Lot did not remain in Zoar for he feared to dwell in it. Zoar reminds us that nothing is sure when it comes to the world. It is already marked for judgment. From that point Lot dwelt in the mountain in a cave with his two daughters.

      Remember what Jeannette said, “Just getting by in this world ends in boredom, and boredom ends in depression.” How bored do you think Lot and his daughters were in the cave? How depressed were they because of the drastic changes that had occurred in their lives, from living in a city to hiding in a cave? That which is unusual can result in what is considered unnatural. It is in such a state that sin can take center stage.

      Lot’s daughters wanted to preserve the seed of their father. We know that they put him in a drunken state in order to seduce him. They both became pregnant by their father and produced offspring, the Moabites and Ammonites, who eventually opposed Israel. Although our beloved Ruth was a Moabite, she recognized her people’s pagan, idolatrous ways and left them behind to serve the God of Naomi, the true God of Israel.

      Today the name of “Lot” is attached to a popular saying that is associated to the idea of the same old stuff going on. It may not be really bad, but it is not really great because it is just mediocre, just getting by. I am sure you have heard the idiom, “This is just my lot in life.”

      As believers we have two choices, the way of Abraham that ultimately brings one into the Promised Land because of his faith towards God, or the way of Lot, living in the world on the plateaus of mediocrity. Like Abraham, we can possess a vision of promises that belong to another world, or we can be like Lot, where we may know there is something more, but we are not willing to leave behind what is useless, vain, and doomed to pursue it and become identified to it. Like Abraham, we may be a sojourner in the world, or we can be like Lot, stuck in a type of time warp that plays the same old record over and over again. We can be like the faithful Abraham who is looking for a city made by the hand of God, or we may be like Lot, just looking for the next city that is left standing after the judgment of God falls. And last, but not least, like Abraham we can be advancing towards our final destination, or we can be like Lot, getting by in the world, but barely escaping judgment upon our soul.