17 September 2017

THE TALE OF TWO MEN


Luke 16:19-31

Does everyone go to Heaven? It’s an honest question that preachers hear often, and sadly affirmed by many good intentional preachers heard at funerals. But is it good intentions or is it fear to tell the truth? See, I wish I could answer that question with a joyful Yes! “That all people go to Heaven.” I know our Lord desires this……. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:3-4. But the simple truth and reality is; that this is never going to happen, though we plead for this to happen. Why? Man love darkness rather than light and men love their sin too much to give it up. Again Jesus said these words “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matt 7:13-14. Heaven and Hell are both real, literal places. Sadly, many preachers shy away from uncomfortable topics such as hell. Some even teach “universalism” the belief that everyone goes to heaven. Yet Christ spoke about hell a great deal, as did Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews. The Bible is clear that every person who has ever lived will spend eternity in either heaven or hell.

This brings me to my next question!

Is Hell real?

Do Christians really believe in it?

59 percent of people say Hell is not a real place! For this reason……Hell is not an easy belief to accept. C.S. Lewis said "There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord's own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason." We don’t want to talk about Hell because we don’t want to associate this wicked place with a loving God who is good, pure and holy.

So we rationalize! Why would a loving God send people to hell forever? These and other questions about the doctrine of hell may not be pleasant to address, but they often come up as objections to Christianity, even puzzling Christians at times. But my question to you is this! What makes you think you and I don’t deserve the flaming wrath of God in Hell? Especially what you might have said and did this past week. Hell is the eternal justice of God, reserved for the haters and rebellious.
  
Hell according to the scriptures is described as a place…..

Of everlasting punishment “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matt 25:46

Of intense suffering and pain “and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 13:42

Of outer darkness “while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt 8:12

Prepared for the Devil and His fallen angels and haters of the truth of the gospel. “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matt 25:41

The Hell that Jesus describes is not a “Hell on earth” that accompanies our bad decisions during this life. It certainly isn’t a party as AC DC describes it in their song. Hell is a place of punishment at the end of the age for “law breakers” who deny and refuse to submit to Jesus and the precious gospel. Do you know that Jesus spent more time talking about Hell then He did Heaven? R C Sproul quoted this statement on His Facebook page and one person’s comment was “I wonder why churches today do not.” And one person’s response to that comment was “Pastors are afraid off offending people. More concerned with making money selling Jesus than being truthful.” No Bible presenter places more stress on Hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus did. God’s Son, Jesus Christ was the great theologian of hell. And today we get front row seats to a testimony of an unconverted man who is in Hell. This passage is about a rich man who played the ultimate fool by indulging in his wealth, ignoring true faith in God and service to humanity, until he found himself in hell for his godless selfishness. This passage expresses the urgency we must have when we are faced with the truth of Heaven and Hell. This passage reminds us that the only way to escape such a place is the precious gospel truth of salvation only found in Christ alone. So lets us dive into this account of two men penned by Luke. And learn what Jesus wants us to learn from this encounter. Because! This passage seems much like a parable, but it is not specifically called that. Reason being this encounter has a name, where Jesus’ parables don’t. And because like all parables taught by Jesus there is a lesson to be learned.

First…..

We see two types of people (v19-v21)

A rich man who had everything and more so. He is dressed in fine apparel…colored in purple which is most esteemed colour to wear. It was the colour of kings and we are told he feasted “sumptuously every day”(v19). So the picture that Jesus paints is one of a man who extremely wealthy. Then we see A poor man who has a name “Lazarus” who had nothing, but his name means “God has helped”. But let’s not mistake this is not the Lazarus who died and came back in John 11. He was man with opens sores that oozed continually. Possibly because of malnutrition which resulted in weeping ulcers. He was a man who had no job and was reduced to begging for food and money and had to be “cast down or laid at the gate” of the rich man. And every day he would lay at the gate of this rich man’s house hoping for one thing “..to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table.” (v21) . And the only thing he received was the man’s dogs coming over to lick his oozing sores. It would seem the unclean dogs had more compassion for him, than from the rich man.

What do we learn about these two people? First! The rich man was self-focused that never acknowledges once this beggar who lay at his gate to his home. And what makes it even worse he knew him, despite never helping him. Why do I say that (v24) “…send Lazarus” This rich man was phony or a fake “so called man of God” Mike your saying “He professes to believe in God?” Yes, he makes that assumption! (v24) “Father Abraham have mercy on me” By saying that he seems to consider himself a son of Abraham and a blessed member of God’s people. If that was so which we know it isn’t!

How could someone who loves God be so heartless to those less unfortunate? This man wasn’t claiming Atheist status, or claimed to be a Sadducee. This was a man who would have affirmed the “Torah” and understood that after death came judgement. Jesus told this story to help the Pharisees to see who they have become, to see themselves more clearly. Why? (v14-v15) “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

What is the lesson we learn from this portion of this letter? The self-righteous man or woman have no place in Heaven, but have placed reserved in Hell. It doesn’t matter how religious or how much wealth one has when it comes to entering the Kingdom. To show mercy and compassion is far more important than legalistic performance. Understand this! We can never please God without a merciful spirit. These are factors that contribute, but this isn’t what keeps this man from entering that rest in Heaven. What keeps a man or woman out of Heaven is disregarding God’s word and his or her rejection of the Lord and the gospel of our salvation.
  
We see two types of locations and states of mind (v22-v26)

It says the when the beggar died the angels carried him to “Abraham’s bosom” The phrase “the bosom of Abraham was common to the Jews. It was a metaphor for Heaven, because Abraham was the father of the faithful and the one whom God made an everlasting covenant with. To be close and nested to Abraham was to be in the very presence of Heaven.  Jesus said I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” Matt 8:11. We need to understand! Lazarus was not justified by poverty! Meaning having no money doesn’t mean you have a ticket to Heaven. No he was a man who accepted his suffering without bitterness, complaint or hostility. He was a godly man who had been faithful in the little things and trusted in God’s goodness. Like the parable of the 10 minas “And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.'” Luke 19:17. The rich man resides in “Hades” a terrible place, so terrible he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his family. The word “Hades” means or can be translated “Hell” literally a dark, obscure place; the place where departed spirits go, but especially the place where “wicked” spirits go. In this place of torment he could see Abraham and he could also see the man who he never looked upon or helped as he came and went every day from his palace. The rich man claimed he was in deep anguish and pain. (v24)

R C Sproul said in his commentary “Talk about wretchedness! This wealthy man was not asking to have restored to him his palace and power. He was asking only that the miserable beggar, Lazarus would dip his finger in water, and just touch the tip of his tongue. He was in such torment that he would have given everything or done anything he could, just to be at the gates of his own house, having dogs lick his wounds.”

What I find amazing is the response of Abraham. He answers the rich man request with such gentleness and truth that has eternal implications. (v25-v26) Abraham calls his “Child or son” This reveals the heart of God that He takes no pleasure in the perishing of the wicked. “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Eze 18:23. It’s like watching your son or daughter on drugs who will never respond to help before they died…… And then it’s too late. Abraham says…..Do you remember when you received your good things while Lazarus received bad things? Do you recall hearing a very important person say “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. "Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:24-26 

Have you forgotten you had many opportunities to seek the need of Lazarus and refused to even give him the time of day? Have you forgotten that you bought the number one bestselling so called Christian book and you’ve already had your best life nowHave you forgotten you loved the world so much you married it and dressed yourself for her in fine linen that was draped in purple? Have you forgotten your rebellious heart to the God who gave you air so you could breathe? Your time is up and you know will face your sin for all eternity under the torment of God’s perfect and holy wrath. Lazarus is in a place of rest and eternal joy found in God’s grace and the same is for us who have been transformed by the gospel.

The warning goes to us as well! The rich man is forever in torment and is face to face with his sin for all eternity and he will wish for mountains to crush him all because of his rebellion and disobedience to the gospel. (Rev 6:16). The rich man realizing there is no hope for him and he begins to fear and feel the pressure of others who are just like him. Here is where things get really serious.
  
There is only one great concern (v27)

The ruling is final and devastating for those who reside in this place. This is not a place for the living to come to, and it sure is not a place where I want my family to be. Why? This man is begging for someone to go tell his family who still walk the earth with the breath that God gives them. What is the answer given to this request? (v29-v31). They had the prophets to show them the truth of eternal life, because even the Jews (many Jews) believed in Hell. Daniel wrote these words “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Dan 12:2. This story that Jesus told removes all ideas, theories and claims of a “purgatory” This is it for this rich man, and his pain is only beginning for all eternity. There is no soul sleep our hopes of getting out when you’re dead by the prayers and indulgences of others. One man went straight into Abraham’s bosom and the other man went straight in to Hades to wait final judgement and the lake of fire. Remember the men who hung with Jesus “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43

The only reasonable conclusion is that our Lord related this incident to bring clearly before us the importance of being right with God in this world in order that we might enjoy His favor in the world to come. This is why the gospel is so crucial in our homes, churches and in our own individual lives. These two places are real and sadly apart from the gospel and the work of the Spirit we are fighting an uphill battle for the Kingdom of God. Not because you’re not eloquent enough or a great theologian, but because men love darkness rather than light.

“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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” John 3:16-20

Eternal life is only found in Christ. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). The truth is, if we wish to live apart from God during our time on earth, He will grant us our wish for eternity as well. As one pastor appropriately said, “If you board the train of unbelief, you will have to take it all the way to its destination.” This was the train the rich man was on and for him it cost him everything.


What train are you on?

03 September 2017

A FATHER’S WORST NIGHTMARE


John 4:46-54

Nothing can shatter a parent more quickly or more completely than affliction falling upon their children. I can remember rushing to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto with Julie because of complications with Rachel’s valve that connects to her heart. I can remember rushing Hannah to the hospital after her fall in the kitchen when she busted her two bottom front baby teeth out. I can remember rushing to Sick Kids in Winnipeg because Sarah’s opening in her skull was swelling up and the doctors were very concerned for her.

These are shattering moments for any parent! They’re moments that make you feel utterly helpless and desperate for someone to take your babies pain away. I know Julie has much stronger stomach when it comes to cuts, blood or needle, so I can’t image what my little Sarah was going though as they stuck this long needle to collect fluid out of her spine, to see what’s going on in her little body. BUT! I truly believe it’s those moments where God does His greatest work, not just in our children but in us. I believe it’s those moments where God reveals His grace and mercy, even if the results don’t end in our favour………Because not every situation of affliction has a fairy tale ending! I remember that when we rushed Julie to the hospital, to find out we lost the baby on the way into Winnipeg, when she was 9 weeks pregnant. One thing for sure is that tragedy will strikes all of us; young, old, poor and rich. This is something that is inescapable for everyone! But it has purpose and meaning that we may never understand this side of Heaven.

Job said it best! “For affliction does not come from the dust, Nor does trouble spring from the ground; Yet man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward. "But as for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause” Job 5:6-7. As an open fire causes sparks to fly upward, even so mankind is unavoidably consumed with trouble. Here we see a man who is faced with one of the greatest trials a parent could ever face. Death was knocking on this family’s door. Albert Schweitzer said, "The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives." I’m sure this was the heart of the nobleman when he looked at his son who was slowly dying before his very eyes and realizing there was nothing he could do to stop it. A father’s worst nightmare comes true as he watches his son die.

4 PRACTICAL LESSONS we learn for this encounter with Jesus and the Nobleman. This is His second miracle that John records for us, because it’s significant to Jesus' ministry that displays His power, supremacy and most of all His deity. The first lesson we learn about this encounter is……

AFFLICTIONS NEVER SHOW SPECIAL TREATMENT (v46)

“an Official (Nobleman) whose son was ill.” We read the Nobleman is in deep anguish over the fact his son is sick and is going to die. “Nobleman” is someone who is a Royal Official, someone who officially attached to the service of King Herod Antipas, a terrible and ruthless king. He would have been a man of great influence and power; he also would have been a man of great wealth. We learn a sobering truth this morning! All the prestige and money could not solve his problem and cannot solve ours any differently. These accolades don’t make us immune to trials and afflictions of this world. Especially when it comes to the matter of sickness and death.

Doesn’t the rain fall on the just and the unjust? According to the scriptures they do. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt 5:45
  
Take for example riches, power, fame, or rank:


didn’t help Steve Jobs
didn’t help Glen Campbell
didn’t help Gordie Howe
didn’t help Gregg Allman
didn’t help Jerry Lewis
didn’t help Andy Griffith
didn’t help Robin Williams
didn’t help Chester Bennington

We are to never think for a moment that our financial status protects us from affliction or possible death. The one thing it might do is it makes a person blind to our own spiritual condition. One Theologian said “It's a disease that's rampant in the culture and in the church. People are drowned with messages from powerbrokers, media, entertainment, TV evangelists and bestselling authors that say joy is intimately bound up in material prosperity, physical health, relational success and all the comforts and conveniences Western society provides. For most people, joy and suffering are incompatible. Thus preachers have a difficult task at hand in communicating to such a culture a genuine joy found in Christ.” The idea that the more money I have, the better my health will be! That understanding only leads to heartbreak and deep sorrow as we have seen before with the Rich Young ruler in Matthew 19. J C Ryle said “the dweller in palaces often sleep more uneasily that the dweller in cottages. Gold and silver can lift no man beyond the reach of trouble; they may shut debt and rags, but they cannot shut out care, disease and death. The higher the tree, the more it is shaken by storms; the broader its branches, the greater is the mark which it exposes to the tempest. David was happier man when he kept his father’s sheep at Bethlehem, than when he dwelt as a King of Jerusalem, and governed the twelve tribes of Israel.” Afflictions affect us all! Rich, poor, young and old. 

OUR LACK OF FAITH IS ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY DESPERATION (v47-v49)

“he went to Him and implored Him to come..” “Implore” means to ask, beseech, desire, entreat, pray. This passage gives the idea that he repeatedly begged Jesus to come with him. His approach was out of desperation and urgency, just like any parent would do in the same situation. Why? His son was going to die if Jesus didn’t come. This is something that every parent tries to block out or would rather not talk about! We have a tendency to shut our eyes to the plain facts, and act as if the young will never die. The idea “My child will never die before me.” Look throughout history there has been many sorrowful occasions due to the loss of a little one or young ones. Go to any cemetery and look at the names and dates on those marble slabs of cold stone.

Aaron lost two sons at once found in Leviticus 10 
David a man after God’s own heart lived long enough to see three children buried.
Job lost all his children in one day.


What was Jesus’ response? “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (v48) The man pours his heart out to Jesus and it seems that in return Jesus throws a cup of cold water in his face. But that’s not so! Jesus said “unless you people” this is plural, referred not only to the Nobleman but also the people of Galilee. What Jesus is doing is pointing out the weakness of the people’s faith. You always need to see the miracle in order to believe. The only reason you follow after Jesus is for Him to perform His miracles as some religious sideshow. It’s that idea “Hurry, Hurry don’t miss the latest miracle, so get your popcorn ready.” This was not a rebuke to the Nobleman but a beginning of grace in his life. 

WHAT BENEFIT AFFLICTION CAN BRING TO THE SOUL (v50)

“go your way; your son lives” Sometimes pain and suffering play a greater purpose in the lives of those affected. Take for example:  Jacob, when his sons told him his son was dead. “And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, "This we have found; please identify whether it is your son's robe or not." And he identified it and said, "It is my son's robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted…..” Gen 37:32-35. Those who have endured such a horrific loss can certainly sympathize with what Jacob must have been going through.
Yet it is at times such as these that we are all reminded of the hope that we have in the Lord.

The greatest event in history when Jesus told His disciples He was leaving them. Jesus told his disciples he would soon leave them. As bad as it seemed, it was for the best. Jesus saysBut now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:5-7. Jesus also went on to say “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Affliction in this life always has a reason. Sometimes we may never understand or get an answer to why! But God knows what He is doing! One thing we see her in this passage is Jesus demonstrating sympathy and graciousness despite such faithless demands for miracles.

“Your son will live.”

Which in the end to serve to strengthen the Nobleman’s faith as he heads home. Why do I say that? He doesn’t argue, there is no pleading with Jesus or forcing Jesus to come with him. Remember he is a Kings official and he has certain kingly power. The Nobleman doesn’t once go and say “Now listen here, carpenter! This boy is royal blood.” No! Something radically was happening to this man as he turned and made the 15 mile journey home to his son in silence to the words of Christ. The man took Jesus at His word. A beautiful promise we can take out of afflictions is that it’s always for our good and for God’s glory! Again this encounter was another way of showing this helpless man that there is hope, but it only comes from believing in Christ alone. John MacArthur said “the Lord graciously performed the miracle, consequently drawing the official’s faith to a higher level. By healing his son physically, the Great Physician moved to heal the father spiritually". This man realized his blindness like the woman at the well was removed to see who Jesus really was! God incarnate deity! The Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the World. (v25, v42) All great encounters throughout the Lord Jesus’ ministry were to confirm this truth! God in the flesh! God came in the flesh and dwelt among us to show us His love for sinners who desperately needed to be saved. 

All afflictions have a purpose in our lives whether you like it or not!

Affliction will either draw us closer to His sovereign arms or further away from His sovereign arms. 
Affliction will either soften our hearts or harden our hearts. 
Affliction will either grow us stronger in our faith or deteriorate our faith.
  
CHRIST’S WORD IS AS GOOD AS CHRIST’S PRESENCE (v51-v54)

“go your way; your son lives” What I find amazing here again is that we see no argument from the Nobleman! We see him do one thing! Believe the words that Jesus spoke to him. Amazing! This is something that we can take to the bank as we walk in this Christian life. Again not every situation turns out like this Nobleman and his family. In this case Jesus granted the healing, but refused to follow the nobleman home. The only thing the man was left with was Jesus’s words “Your son will live.” We see in God’s word that we can find great comfort in times of our own affliction. His word brings truth, joy, comfort and peace into our heart when we’re afflicted confused and desperate. It strengthens our weak and feeble faith at times to a stronger faith that endures as we see with this nobleman. Just like we feel when our children are in pain and there was nothing we can do about it. Seeking His face through prayer and His word for comfort in the stormy trials of life!

Passages like this one found in Isaiah [Turn to Isaiah 40“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:21-31

This is the same God who spoke to the nobleman and He is the same God who speaks to you and me today. Though we may not have the same outcome as this man in the physical you can be sure we can have this in the spiritual when we are lacking faith to see past our hurts. He is an everlasting God who is deeply in love with you and me.

All He asks of us is too simple believe in Him!

In those dark hours
In those lonely hours
In those struggling hours
In those desperate hours
In those good and the bad hours.
  
Why? Isaiah said it best “He does not faint or grow weary” This is the promise this father did as we see at the end of the story that John penned in (v53). A father’s worst nightmare was turn into a great opportunity to see and savor Christ and to grow deeper in the love with the one true KINGHe did not complain that Jesus would not come with him. And amazingly, he simply left, and John says he away “believed.” From fear, uncertainty and doubt to a faith that believed. John Piper said “I’m inclined to think that in that moment of seeing Jesus speak so sovereignly in spite of his accusations, something awakened in the man. He saw something more than a miracle-worker.” It’s for our good and His glory that we go through afflictions because it helps us to see the gospel clearer. Jesus wasn’t some side show miracle worker so people could turn His abilities into idolatry. He did these things to point to His deity and that people would find salvation and grace through His words. This portion of John’s letter help us to see how much He truly loves you and me and it shows how our faith is strengthened though trails of life. As James said “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3. Obstacles in life are not in the way of God's glorious plan; they are part of God's glorious plan.
  
Wait for divine intervention. “Divine intervention” simply means entrusting God to do what only God can do. Turn to Him with all your cares and watch Him do a mighty work in your life, by strengthening your faith in Him alone. REMEMBER: He is the all-powerful, all- knowing, everywhere-present God. A dying boy healed with a word, over distance, at once. Such is the power of Jesus……”Grace and power. Mercy and might.”