September 25, 2022 Luke 16:19-31

Today’s Gospel reading, is about two men who died.  This story has several powerful lessons to teach us about both our present life and the life to come.

The first lesson we learn from this story is that every person is responsible to God for what he has been given. Luke 12:48b says “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”

Notice this rich man. Do we know how he became rich? Did he inherit his riches or maybe he worked hard all his life and used his talent of administration to make money. //// And what about Lazarus? Why was he poor and homeless? What tragedy happened in his life? How did he become lame – for the Scripture says that he was laid at the gate. He was not able to walk and covered with sores. We don’t know the whole sad story.

Both of these men die. One man went to heaven and the other went to hell. We are not given the reasons for why Lazarus went to heaven. It wasn’t because he was poor and a beggar.  This account does not really focus on Lazarus and his salvation. But it does focus on the rich man.

You see, he lived in luxury every day of his life, but every day he walk right by this poor man, the rich man did nothing. He didn’t lift a finger to help him. God had blessed him with an abundance of supplies, What did he use his gifts for? Himself.

Was his neglect of poor Lazarus that caused him to go to hell? No! No one is saved by their good works. We are all saved by our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.   But the fact that he ignored a needy man day after day at his gate reveals his heart.  This is not a man who loves and serves the Lord. If he did, he would have reached out in mercy and compassion as Jesus would have done.

And so James writes these powerful words: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17) No we’re not saved by our good works but our good works are always a fruit of our relationship with God.

And so when this rich man is blessed with so much, he has a marvelous opportunity to bless many with all that he has. How many blessings has the Lord poured out upon you? God encourages us to bless someone who is right around the corner.  Pray that your eyes would be open to the ways you can bless others – even in small ways.  Yes, we are to be responsible stewards for all that God has given us in this life.

A second lesson from this story is that with death there are no second chances for repentance.

This rich man realizes his failure after he has died. He pleads to Father Abraham for pity, for mercy. But after death mercy is no more. There is no second chance to repent and call upon the name of the Lord. All of life he had the opportunity to turn to God and call upon his name. Now it’s too late.

Nowhere in Scripture does it teach the doctrine that one can be cleansed and purified from sin after death. In fact the Bible says just the opposite in 1 John 1:7 “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from ALL sin.” When we repent and trust in the blood of Jesus which covers our sins, we are wholly and completely pure. We are acceptable to God. There is no need for cleansing or for further purification. Our sins of past present and future are 100% paid for.  But repentance must take place during this life you’ve been given. No one else can repent for you.

Another lesson we learn according to Jesus, is that heaven and hell are real places.  Oh, today you will hear all kinds of talk about hell being a myth. We will all die and meet God in a white light and be at eternal peace. You can believe that if you want – many people do and other want to, but it is all rubbish!

But one thing is for sure – the Bible does NOT teach that there is not a hell! Those who deny hell deny the Scriptures and Jesus as teaching us falsehoods.

In this account, the Lord uses the picture of fire so we can understand the intense pain and suffering that this rich man is experiencing. In Matt 13 Jesus describes the last judgment: “The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”(Mat 13:49-50). There will be pain continually without release and without hope - only weeping and crying.

Hell is a place from which God’s mercy and goodness have been withdrawn.  I tell you, there will be no atheists in hell, He will be real to them but they will realize it too late! There is no possibility to change because they will be separated from Him.

But still we hear the objection day after day: “God is love. How could a loving God condemn any person to an eternal hell?” Let me ask another question: “How could someone turn down a loving God and refuse to receive the free gift of eternal life? How could you reject God Almighty?”

Friends, we are born selfish, arrogant, self-seeking sinners. Scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Every day through our words and actions we prove that we do not deserve to be in God’s presence. We say things that wound those around us. We refuse to help the needy. And worst of all we give excuses for our sins: “I can’t help it. It’s just my weakness.”

But still God reaches out to us with his love, He’s paid 100% of the way for us to be in his kingdom. We merely are asked to repent – turn from this selfish life and surrender out lives to him in trust.

God loved the rich man, but he won’t force anyone to turn to him in repentance and faith. Yes, let us never forget that heaven and hell are real places – and sooner or later every one of us will experiences that truth.

The final plea of this rich man is in verse 27-28. And there he pleads that Lazarus be raised from the dead and then go to his five brothers and tell them all about the reality of hell and their brother who is suffering there. And then, they will all repent and trust in the Lord.

What is the response? Verse 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them’” and then verse 31 “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

What will convince those we know who are not saved to turn to God in repentance and faith? Well, we know what will NOT convince them: miracles will not do it. Nor will logical arguments. You cannot argue someone into the kingdom of God. What WILL touch them is “Moses and the prophets” – what Jesus means by that is that the Scriptures are the key. Today he would say: The Bible!

And this is where today so much of the church is missing the boat. When we are not using the Scriptures to convict of sin, to bring to faith, to change lives – NOTHING HAPPENS. Oh sure, you can make people happy by telling them nice stories, and jokes, and positive messages.

It is the Word of God that has power to touch our hearts and convict us.  Do you think this rich man would have been happy to hear what the Scripture said about his lifestyle while he was living? No he would have probably been angry.  That’s the power of the Word of God – to touch our heart. Many today do not want to hear about their lifestyle.  When we preach against it, or speak against it we are the ones who are mocked and despised When we give excuses for certain sins  that they were just cultural we deny the power of God to change lives.

We must speak up,  Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. It is the power of God for salvation.”

What could the Lord do through you? How can you warn others? Pray for God to give you ideas and opportunities. As we think of life and death today, first make sure that you are ready – that you have assurance of salvation – that you are trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation.

And secondly, be on the alert for those who are NOT ready. Be ready in season and out of season for God’s Spirit to prompt you with a word of testimony. So, as we remember those passed on, let’s not forget to remember the living especially those who are apart from Jesus Christ.  Pray for them, before it is too late!