The back door slammed shut with a loud bang. “Mom, you won’t believe it! I’ve been offered a fantastic job with a corporation in Garden City! It’s just what I’ve been hoping for—an excellent position in my field! Look at the salary and benefits package they are offering me! Why, I’ll have my student loans paid off in just a couple of years! Can you believe it?” John exclaimed. He rarely got this excited.
“Whoa! slow down; yes, John, it certainly is exciting, but there are many things to consider,” mother replied.
Later, John and his parents had a lengthy discussion about John’s career opportunity in Garden City. His parents were very happy for him. At the same time, they reminded him of many important considerations, not the least of which was the church. And now as John lay sideways upon his bed, his long legs propped up on the wall, one brief statement his father had made kept running through his mind, “Remember Lot’s wife.”
It was the word of the Lord Jesus (Luke 17:32). Whenever we feel tempted or inclined to make decisions solely on the basis of the financial benefit, or the opportunity for wealth and success, remember Lot’s wife! And remember Lot!
Greed, worldlimindedness, opportunity for success had so blinded Lot’s eyes that he was willing to sacrifice his spiritual welfare. He was ready to leave Abram and pitch his tent toward Sodom. His eye was on the world, its wealth and opportunities, not on the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. What riches were there in the cities of the plain! What career opportunities! What pleasures! What success! There he could really make it!
Lot was like a moth fluttering around a flame. Yes, he was a righteous man. Yes, his righteous soul would be vexed by the wickedness that surrounded him in Sodom. Yes, he had good intentions and many excuses, but his “career move” would be a dreadful mistake! It would involve personal separation from Abram, and upon Abram were the promises of God’s covenant. It would involve leaving the strength and joy of Abram’s fellowship in that strange land. He needed that fellowship. How very precious and necessary is the communion of the saints! It would involve leaving the sphere of the true church. Leaving Abram, Lot was leaving the altar where Abram worshipped. Lot was leaving the faithful and proper worship of Jehovah!
But you can almost see the wheels turning in his brain, can’t you? “I’m a child of God; I’m not going to lose my salvation. I’ll continue to worship God. God has His people in other places too. After all, God has placed this wonderful opportunity on my pathway. I can be a good example and let my light shine in Sodom. Certainly God wants me to use my talents and abilities and advance myself as much as possible, reaching my full potential. I feel this is God’s will for my life.” Such must have been Lot’s reasoning.
Are we too attracted to the riches of the plain? Is Sodom appealing?
Around us too there are “well-watered plains,” many of them. They are typical of all the material prosperity, financial success, and carnal pleasures this world has to offer. Sodom is a picture of that world in the raw. Jehovah Himself describes it in the prophecy of Ezekiel, chapter 16:49,50: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: Therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Sodom— that’s where the action is! That’s where the opportunities are! Wealth, prestige, success, power are there, right at your fingertips. Move to Sodom and you can get rid of your pilgrim’s tent. Lot did!
The temptation is great for us to reason as Lot did: What a wonderful opportunity this job offer is! What a marvelous chance to advance myself in the industry! With the increase in income, I’ll finally be able to get on top of things; I’ll have considerably more money to give for kingdom causes. We’re not the only true church; God has His people in other denominations too. I can live a “good Christian life” in that locale too. I can be a witness there. I’m confident about my salvation, and it seems as if God has opened this door for me. My talents and skills will be put to so much better use in this new position.
But, is it so? Are career advancements, larger salaries, prestigious corporate positions the important things in life? Jesus says, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27). “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19, 20). God does not care so much about our career advancements, about the big bucks we can bring home, about the earthly success we attain. His concern is our living according to His Word and unto His glory in whatever work He gives us to do.
No, our Protestant Reformed Churches are not the only true church from a denominational point of view. God certainly preserves His people in many different churches, some of which are even making serious departures from His truth. But that is not the point. The question we face is: Where must I join myself? Where is the church in which I am called to live and worship in active membership? The Belgic Confession in Article 29 presents us with the three marks by which the true church is known and by which it is recognized. “The marks, by which the truth church is known, are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin…” Certainly the ecclesiastical scene is complex today—so many different churches and denominations. But our calling is to join and remain a member of that church which most clearly manifests these pure marks of the true church.
No, we will not lose our salvation; not one of Christ’s sheep can be plucked from His hand. But we may not foolishly suppose that we can remain spiritually strong and healthy where the pure milk of the gospel is watered down, or worse, poisoned with false doctrine. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2). To live a “good Christian life,” we need that pure milk of the gospel. We need that pure milk of the gospel for our light to shine brightly from day to day. Without it, like Lot, we will backslide; we will gradually weaken spiritually, increasingly compromise our principles until we must be pulled out of the fire (Jude 23). Yes, Lot was saved; saved in spite of his own folly. But how painfully Lot must be saved! The Lord caused his soul to be vexed with the wickedness of Sodom. For a time he was captive of Chedorlaomer and the kings of the East. He had to be rescued by Abram. He ends up losing what he sought the most, earthly possessions and material prosperity. He is left in a most miserable condition, according to the world.
What about our family, our children, and children’s children? What about the covenant of God in our generations? In the way of departing from the truth we see generations cut off. Consider Lot’s family—they became involved in Sodom’s ruin. His wife, who was an apostate, was double-hearted, destroyed. His daughters were adulteresses, hard-hearted, carnal and conniving, making Lot father-in-law to Sodomites when they married, and themselves making him father of heathen nations. Lot lost his family, also in their generations.
More importantly, we must remember that the glory of God is at stake in these things. Our God is glorified by the truth! To the extent that the truth is compromised, God is denied His glory. How can we expect the blessing of God in that way?
Finally, we must be very careful in coming to conclusions regarding what God’s will is for our lives. Many give themselves over to subjectivism: “I feel this is the Lord’s will for my life.” But nowhere does Scripture teach that God reveals His will through mere subjective feelings and impressions. Perhaps these notions arise from our sinful nature, the allurements of the world, the temptations of Satan, etc. Has God necessarily opened this door? God does not always give absolutely clear providential signs for our decisions in life. In confronting us with such decisions God may well be testing us, trying our faith. We must continually pray for wisdom to walk in the light of His Word so that we, and our families, may serve Him faithfully in the church where we may hear the pure preaching of the gospel, where we may glorify Him in the truth. As Solomon also declares, apart from God, all our labor is vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:18-26).
The next morning at the breakfast table John spoke to his parents, his mouth half full of Cheerios, “I’ve thought a lot about my job offer, and prayed about it too. I’m going to pass up the job in Garden City. You’re right, first things first. The church, the truth, faithfully serving God—these are the important things! I’m confident that the Lord will be with me and bless me in this decision. Thanks for your help.”
“Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32)! ♦