“The Day of the Lord”     Genesis 19:12-29        July 19, 2009

 

SI:  We are studying the life of Abraham

   and we’re in the middle of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Outside of the book of Genesis,

   the destruction of Sodom is referred to over 20 times in Bible.

   Just for comparison, Noah’s flood is mentioned about 10 times.

It’s mentioned by numerous prophets and apostles and by Jesus himself.

 

That tells us this is an important story.

   The Lord wants us to remember and ponder the judgment of Sodom.

   What is he teaching us?  What does he want us to learn?

 

INTRO:  When we were at the Grand Canyon last month we bought a book called

   Over the Edge:  Death in Grand Canyon. 

It’s about all the people who have died in the Grand Canyon.

   There’s a chapter about people falling off the rim.

   There’s a chapter about people down in canyon falling to their death.

   There’s a chapter about people drowning in the Colorado River.

   There’s a chapter about dehydration and heatstroke while hiking.

   There’s a chapter about people crushed by falling rocks, struck by lightning.

   There’s a chapter about murders, people who were pushed over the edge.

   There’s a chapter about the crashes of sightseeing planes and helicopters.

 

It’s very edifying reading.  We all fought over the book.

One of the chapters is about death by flashflood.

   Because of the unique geography, there can be a thunderstorm miles away,

   even out of sight, and maybe only ¼ of an inch will fall. 

But that water is channeled through narrower and narrower side canyons

   until it becomes a wall of water and mud.

And there have been times when people are hiking in bright sunshine,

   on dusty trails when suddenly, they are swept away by a flood.

 

A 36-year-old man named Roger Clubb was hiking with his eight-year-old son,

   Roger, Jr.  They hiking up one of the best known trails in the Canyon,

   the Bright Angel Trail when suddenly they felt a rumble and heard a roar.

Hikers began scrambling for high ground, but when the dad turned to grab

   his son, he was not there beside him.  He had lagged behind.

 

The book says:  “As a ten-foot wall of water and mud exploded into view . . . Roger, Sr. made

   a mad dash down to scoop up his son before the flash flood hit.  Other hikers who witnessed

   his desperate race against disaster reported that, although he was running as wildly as any

   human being could, he never made it.  The tumbling wall of slurry engulfed Roger Clubb and

   then his son.  The two vanished in a flash of mud before the  horrified gazes of the hikers who

   had fled safely upslope.” 

The witnesses of another flashflood that killed a three hikers said that

   the wall of water was 20 feet high and it “sounded like a 747 jetliner.”

 

Throughout the Bible, the Day of Judgment, or the Day of the Lord as often called,

   is described as a catastrophe that catches people unaware and sweeps them away. 

The Bible makes use of every conceivable disaster to press on the imagination

   the suddenness and destruction of that day.

Bible compares it to a flood.  Lord says, My judgment will come like a flood.

   Also compared to massive locust plague that strips the greens field bare—

   and to a storm with tornados and hail that smashes mighty oaks to splinters—

   and to the rape and pillage of a city by a ruthless enemy—

 

And to the slaughter of mighty armies on battlefields,

   and to great multitudes of people cut down like grain

   and crushed like grapes in a wine press.

Bible also describes in cosmic terms—stars shaken, sun and moon darkened. 

 

That’s just a taste.  You could spend hours tracing this out in the Bible,

   all the descriptions of Day of the Lord used by prophets, apostles, Jesus himself. 

And as I’ve already said, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire

   is one of the greatest historical picture of judgment in the Bible.

 

So this morning we’re going to ponder the Day of Judgment.

And to get you thinking I want to ask you a question:

   Why does the Bible tell us so often about the Day of Judgment?

The first answer that springs to mind is “Warning!” 

   It’s a warning that judgment is coming so you must be right with God.  True.

 

But let me ask you again.  Why does the Bible tell us, Christians, forgiven

   and saved people, so often and so much about the day of judgment?

   What’s the benefit of this for believers?

 

The best answer is the one given by the Apostle Peter.

He says that if you are a Christian, have put your faith in Jesus Christ, then God

   gives you divine power for moral and spiritual transformation. 

   The conduits of that divine power are the promises of God.

Suppose there are problems and circumstances in your life that trouble you.

 

And what if you respond to those problems in all the wrong ways—

   with fear, or worry, bitterness, discontent, disappointment, shame,

   selfishness, self-pity, greed, or lust?

And what if those responses become habitual and reinforced?

   Where do you get the power to change and rise above your circumstances?

 

Through the promises of God.  His promises are conduits that bring

   his power into your life of his power to bring real, lasting transformation.

 

At the very end of Peter’s second letter, part we read earlier in the service,

   he says, the last and greatest of God’s promises to be fulfilled

   will be the day of judgment.

To the degree that you believe in that promised day—

   to that degree it will become a conduit of divine power into your life

It does so by simultaneously pressing home three truths:

   1.  The wrath of God.  2.  The salvation of Christ.  3.  The pursuit of holiness.

   Let’s look at each.

 


 

MP#1  The Day of the Lord presses home the wrath of God.

In promise after promise about the Day of the Lord, this stands out—

   it will be a day of God’s wrath against sin.

He will judge everyone who has broken his law in thought, word, and deed.

   Sodom and Gomorrah are the premier example.

Jude 7 says:  They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

 

Bible also says that God is slow to anger.  He is tremendously patient. 

   He has withheld the final judgment for thousands of years.

   His is not willing that any should perish.

   He wants to give people time to repent.

As Jesus said, this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world,

   and then the end will come.  God is patiently holding back judgment so that

   people of all nations can hear the Gospel.

 

But when the Day of the Lord comes, nothing will hold back God’s wrath.

   That’s why all the pictures in the Bible are of overwhelming forces.

In Zephaniah 1 there is the image of a city being destroyed by a ruthless enemy.

   15That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, 16a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.  17I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord.  Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth.  18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath.  In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.

 

What does it say about their money?  Their silver and gold won’t be able to save. 

   Think of how powerful and important money is to us.

   It’s one of the greatest gods of this life. 

   It promises us security and self-worth. 

And to a degree, it delivers.  The more money you have, the more you can insulate

   yourself against the unpleasantness of life.  The higher you can hold your head.

But even money won’t stop God’s wrath on that day. 

   If the problem of sin is not dealt with before judgment comes,

   then a person will suffer total loss just as Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown.

 

So the question is:

   How do these vivid reminders of God’s wrath help you in your Christian life?

   How do they bring God’s divine power into your life to make you a better person?

This is the answer:  They put all your problems in an eternal perspective. 

I want you to imagine a man hiking the Grand Canyon.

He has dreamed about this trip for years, planned and saved his vacation time.

   He has gotten in shape and bought all the right gear.

This hike going to be one of the highlights of his life, and he wants it to be perfect.

   But as he’s hiking out something starts to bother him—getting a blister on heel.

   And after a few miles, it’s killing him.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.  He bought the most expensive hiking boots.

   That makes him mad.  It’s spoiling his trip.  Can barely focus on scenery.

   All he can think about is this blister.

 

What he doesn’t know is that it rained a few hours ago, far away, at top of Canyon,

   and a 20-foot-high wall of water and mud is about to explode into view

   with a roar like a 747.  What will he think about his blister then?

 

A vivid and lively sense of the wrath of God reminds you that—

The big problem of your life is not financial.

   It’s not your business problems, paying for your kid’s college,

   or having the standard of living that you want.

The big problem of your life is not relational.

   It’s not the troubles and disappointments of your marriage,

   and the conflicts and challenges of your children.

The big problem of your life is not physical.

   It’s not your health, our your weight, or your appearance.

The big problem of your life is not psychological or emotional.

   It’s not the problem of your sense of self-esteem or even your happiness.

Those things are blisters on your heel.

 

The big problem of your life is theological.  It’s the Day of the Lord.

If you truly believe that the Day of the Lord is coming,

   and if you see with eyes of faith the terrible problem of sin and wrath—

   then you will gain an eternal perspective on all your problems.

 

Will realize that you have one problem that is so huge—the stakes are so big—

   that it doesn’t matter if every other problem in your life is solved tomorrow—

   if the big one isn’t then all is lost. 

What problems dominate your life and thinking right now? 

   You have a problem that’s even bigger.  That’s downright discouraging.

But what if the biggest problem of your life could be solved?

   That would also make you look at your lesser problems differently.

And that’s where we go next.  To the next big thing

MP#2  The Day of the Lord presses home the salvation of Christ. 

It has always been God’s plan for His Son to come to earth twice.

The first time he came as a little baby.  Born in Bethlehem, in a stable.

   Mary laid him in the manger.

Jesus lived a life of perfect, humble obedience to God in every way.

   Then he died on the cross and in those three hours of darkness,

   he suffered the wrath of God for sin.

 

If you repent of your sins, put your faith and trust in Jesus—give life to Him.

   Then his death on the cross is counted as your death.

   And his perfect obedience of God’s law is counted as your obedience.

That means that when Jesus Christ comes the second time—

   not as a little baby but as the Judge of all the earth,

   you will stand on that day—you will not suffer total loss.

 

The flood and fire of God’s wrath toward sin will not touch you—cannot touch you. 

   Because in God’s books—your sin has already been punished by death.

   And in God’s eyes—when he looks at you he sees the perfect obedience of Christ.

 

So as a Christian you can read the promises of the coming Day of the Lord,

   and you can simultaneously tremble and rejoice.

You can tremble at God’s wrath for sin, and know that you deserve that wrath,

   and you can rejoice at the deliverance you have in Christ.

The promises of the Day of the Lord cause you to shudder and therefore

   love Jesus more for having delivered you from all of that.

 

I’ve told you that Tolkien coined a word for this. 

He was trying to express the sense of trembling and rejoicing that Christians

   have when they think about Christ’s Second Coming.

He called the Day of the Lord the “eucatastrophe.” 

   Took word catastrophe and added the Greek prefix “eu” which means “good.”

   The good catastrophe.  For believers the Day of the Lord is a day of deliverance.

   It will be a day when they see and experience their rescue from God’s wrath.

 

How does this help you in your Christian life?  How does this give you power?

It means that the biggest problem of your life has been solved.

   The day of the Lord will not be a day of loss for you, but a day of gain.

   That puts every other problem in your life in its proper perspective.

If you believe that the day of the Lord is coming and that everything will

   be destroyed, but that Jesus Christ has already delivered you from that day—

   if you believe that—then nothing can rattle you.

 

There’s a wonderful quote from J.C. Ryle I’ve read to you a number of times.

   Ryle was a 19th cent. Bishop in the Church of England.

He was making the point that if you know that the big problem of your life has been

   solved by Christ, then that gives you power to face all your lesser problems.

 

(For the Christian) “the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts and works are then by comparison small.  (This) makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content; for it gives him a fixedness of heart.  It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burden of his crosses; it smoothes the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.  It makes him always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet and something firm under his hands—a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end.”

 

What are the businesses, debts, diseases, and works in your life that loom large?

   And what are the tribulations, bereavements, sorrows, evil tidings, bitter cups,

   crosses and rough places that you are suffering right now?

 

How do you face those things and not fall apart?  Not fall into despair or bitterness?

   Real power comes by looking intently at the Day of the Lord

   and trembling and rejoicing at that day.

It truly puts everything you are facing in an eternal perspective.

 

I like the way Tim Keller once put it. 

   He said that there is such thing as a Christian snarl.

It’s when the Christian says—

   Jesus Christ has promised to deliver me from the day of wrath,

   so nothing in this life can harm me.  Bring it on!

 

I don’t think I could go that far and say, Bring it on.

   But his point is well made.

The big problem of your life, the Day of Judgment, has been solved by Jesus Christ.

   To the degree you believe that, it gives you power to face your lesser problems.

 

Now, what does this look like in your life every day?

That bring us to the third point.

MP#3  The Day of the Lord presses home the pursuit of holiness.

I’m focusing a little more on 2 Peter 3 than Genesis 19

   because Peter’s words are such an excellent commentary on Sodom.

 

Peter asks a striking question in verse 11.

   Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?”

Then he answers the question:

   “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed

   its coming. 

And he adds a little more to his answer in verse 14.

   make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

 

This is Peter’s concern in his letter.  And not just in his letter.

That is always the Bible’s concern when it presents the Day of the Lord

   to believers.  The Holy Spirit wants you to grow.

 

He wants you to add to your faith all the Christian virtues—

   goodness, knowledge, self-control, kindness, and so on. 

As a Christian you are called to grow into the character of Jesus Christ.

   And the Day of the Lord is a reminder to pursue holiness.

 

But it is absolutely essential that you understand why the Day of the Lord

   is a motive for you to live a holy and godly life.

This is probably the most important thing I am going to say this morning—

   Listen to this carefully.  Understanding this makes a world of difference

   in your experience of the Christian life.

 

Peter is not saying to Christians,

   “You ought to live a holy life

   so that on the Day of the Lord, he will look at you and say,

‘Because you’ve been good, I’m not going to destroy you, I’m going to save you.’”

 

Instead, Peter is saying to Christians,

   “You ought to live a holy life

   because you have already been delivered by Christ from the burning of that day. 

You ought to live a holy life because God can’t destroy you on that day. 

You ought to live a holy life because for everyone who trusts in Jesus,

   the Day of the Lord is a day of salvation and joy.”

 

If you have been delivered from God’s wrath by the death of Christ—

   how can you live any other way than to prepare for the day of his coming

   by striving with all your might to live in a way that pleases him?

 

Has Jesus saved you from the day when everything will be destroyed

   so that you can love money and devote your life to making money

   and accumulating stuff?

 

Has Jesus suffered the day of wrath for you so that you can indulge in sexual

   immorality and foul language and spiritual laziness.

 

Has Jesus changed the Day of the Lord from a day of total loss to a day of

   eternal blessings for you so that you can be discontented with your

   lot in life and complain your circumstances?

 

No—he has saved you so that on that day when he comes to judge the earth,

   that terrible and glorious day, you can meet him with a clear conscience

   and with joy and receive the blessing from his hand—

   a new heaven and new earth, the home of righteousness.

 

The Day of the Lord is coming—look forward to it, and live holy and godly lives.

Jesus is coming—look forward to your Savior and make every effort to be found

   spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.

Stir yourself up with this great promise, believe it.

   And use it as a conduit of power

   for moral and spiritual transformation of your life.

 

CONC:  One of my favorite Johnny Cash songs is “The Man Comes Around.”

   It’s about the Day of the Lord. 

   “The Man” who comes around is Jesus Christ.

 

With that Johnny Cash voice and guitar he sings all the great themes of judgment.

   He sings about the wrath and terror of that day.

He sings about the multitudes before the judgment seat:

   “Voices calling, voices crying.  Some are born and some are dying.

   It’s Alpha and Omega’s kingdom come.”

 

And he ends with verses from Revelation 22, in King James Version, of course—

   verses that call God’s people to pursue holiness as the anticipate Jesus’ coming.

It’s a powerful song, a powerful expression of Johnny Cash’s faith.

But it’s even more powerful because it’s true.  

   There will be a day when the Man Christ Jesus intervenes catastrophically

   in human history for final judgment against all sin

   and for the deliverance of his faithful people. 

And the destruction of Sodom is a historical proof and picture.

 

Make that promise yours.  Believe it. 

   And it will enable you to see your problems differently,

   and it will be a conduit of divine power for the transformation of your life.