Sermon 9.25.16 Pentecost 19

Pastor Kenneth Frey
Pentecost 19
9/25/16

Luke 16:19-31 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Where is your heart?
1. Wrapped up in materialism? 2. Headed toward hell?
3. Or alive in the Word?

How’s your heart? Doctors give us treadmill tests, EKG’s and all kinds of other tests to determine if our hearts are healthy. Let’s do the same thing today with our spiritual heart. We might assume that because we are in church today, our hearts are in good shape. But I’m sure you know of people who have thought they were perfectly healthy and then dropped over from a massive heart attack. So, we can’t just assume that our spiritual heart is doing just fine. We need to ask ourselves today, “Where is your heart?”

Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” Designer togas. Stable full of the best horses. Theatre and games. The good life. And he had it all. He had the nicest house in the nicest part of town with a large courtyard and arched gate that made for great curb appeal. His villa was decorated with the best pottery and Italian mosaics. He didn’t need any of the modern conveniences because he had servants and slaves to take care of every need.

He lived the American dream before there was an America. Educated at the best schools he had what everybody wants: success. Classy friends, respect as one of Jerusalem’s leading citizens and political influence rounded out his charmed life. He lived life to the fullest – a dizzying series of parties, shopping sprees and episodes of self-indulgence. He enjoyed his wealth and never gave a thought that something could be wrong. His wife was stunning, his children graceful and his grandchildren a joy. He groomed them for the family business, gave them everything they needed and enjoyed their love. Then . . . he died.

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. There weren’t many people worse off than Lazarus. He was not just poor, he was destitute, homeless, sick, disabled and alone. He was dumped in front of the rich man’s house. Did they even slow the donkey down when they dumped him there? Dumped. By who? Relatives? Other beggars wanting him out of the way? Doesn’t matter. He was dumped there and nobody cared. The only attention he got was from the scavenger dogs who used him for their own sick appetites.

But, oh, how things changed. "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. Like a child lying in its parents lap, Lazarus reclined in the comfort of Abraham at the wedding banquet of heaven. What a feast that is, all the best all the time. The Bible calls it rest, glory, and peace where there will be no hunger or thirst or discomfort “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17) It is the place of joy in God’s presence, with eternal pleasures at God’s right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

What a striking contrast. Behind the gate a rich man lived a life of privilege. Just outside the gate lay a beggar, his emaciated body covered in festering sores. The important difference between the men was not their wallets but their hearts.

So where is your heart? Is the whole goal of your life to be happy? So many people have tried to justify their divorce or living together or whatever with the lie, “But doesn’t God want me to be happy?” I ask you, “Who was happy – the rich man or Lazarus?” Having a nice house and the right car with a cabin up north that you ride to on your new Harley where you fish and golf all day may make you happy. But is that preparing you for eternity? Living for happiness is not living for Christ; it is living your way to hell.

In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “Hell has a way of making a person thirsty.” (Meditations Vol. 48, #4, p. 34) It is real, lasting, eternal suffering. Helping my aunt bake cookies when I was five years old, I burnt the tip of my finger on the oven rack. I still remember how bad that hurt. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 10. Hell is 10,956.

It is so bad, this rich man begged for just the tiniest bit of relief. But there could be no relief. Some outcomes can’t be changed. Some chasms can’t be crossed. There is a point of no return. A time for justice. And Justice was being served. Abraham, Lazarus nor anyone else could do anything to change that.

Even worse is the spiritual suffering of hell. Completely abandoned by God, they exist with the heartache that they rejected Jesus. Jesus himself suffered hell so that they wouldn’t have to and they rejected that. That is what they must live with for eternity. Hell is complete loneliness, hopelessness and emptiness.

So, I ask again, where is your heart? You don’t want to think about it, do you? We ignore it and go on with life. We are like a blind man walking across a busy intersection. He hears the cars and knows the danger, but he keeps going because he figures he won’t get hit. So we keep going, enjoying life, spending less than an hour each week thinking about spiritual matters and eternity could come crashing into us at any moment.

We can get so wrapped up in enjoying ourselves, pursuing fun and parties, filling our homes with clothes and the latest technology that we can lose sight of the real goal of life. And before we know it, our hearts start to harden – slowly, gradually; so that we don’t even notice until it is too late. Paul warned, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith.” (1 Tim 6:10) Notice he said they wandered – slowly, gradually – and lost their faith.

Where is your heart? Is it wrapped up in materialism and headed toward hell? Or is it alive in God’s Word?

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

It’s typical of unbelief to belittle the power of God’s Word. A visit from a ghost would be far more effective, the rich man thinks. Send the Ghost of Christmas Future. Scare the hell out them, literally. Amaze them with the supernatural.

It won’t make a difference.

Some time after this a Lazarus did rise from the dead and it only hardened unbelievers in their hatred of Jesus. Only the Word changes hearts. Only the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ can make dead hearts come alive in faith. Only the gospel leads us to Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.

The rich man in us says, “Word, water, wine and bread, what are they when there is a world to save? Give us some pizzazz and the world will listen.” But it remains that only the gospel in Word, water, wine and bread is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

So here is the bottom line truth for everyone: 31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" If you do not want to spend eternity in hell – and I know you don’t – go to church, pick up your Bible, have home devotions, attend Bible study. Learn God’s Word. Listen to God’s Word. But most of all, believe God’s Word. Because that word proclaims Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) And whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.