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2016-06-05 Luke 16:22-27 A Parable About "Me" (2): Don't Be Surprised

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A PARABLE ABOUT “ME” (2): DON’T BE SURPRISED (Luke 16:22-27) June 5, 2016 Intro – Naturalism tells us that this life is all there is. But deep down we know that’s a lie. The desire for immortality drives our ambitions. Lily Tomlin once said, “I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should be been more specific.” Jesus’ parable teaches – Be specific about the identity you pursue. Hell is prominent in this parable, but the larger message is about identity, and what it takes to avoid hell. His point is the “me” I choose in this life is the “me” I will be forever. There are two choices. Self or Christ. It’s one or the other. Eternity hangs in the balance of whether I choose He or Me. Our outline for this passage is – I. The Eternal Me is Determined in This Life (Me Unformed). Saw that last week. II. Death Reveals but does not Change Me (Me Unveiled) III. The True Me is Found in God’s Word (Me Unearthed). We don’t gotta be Me and it would be best to consider a change. II. Death Reveals But Does Not Change “Me” (Me Unveiled) The question is, Who am I? If we are confused now, we will not be at the moment of death. We’ll know then. Death will be the final unveiling of the true Me. And Jesus’ parable is very revealing about what will follow. There will be Surprises: There will be Suffering: There will be Splendor A. There Will be Surprises -- Those who take their cue for what comes next from what they see in this life are in for some surprises. In C. S. Lewis words, this life is a shadow; reality lies beyond where surprises await. 1. Death is not the end – Naturalism teaches this life is all there is. Not Jesus. Both men die in v. 22. But that’s not the end; it’s just the beginning. A conscious, vivid, startling existence continues without missing a beat. Ready or not, Welcome to eternity. A huge surprise for many. Bertrand Russell said, "There is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere; only triviality for a moment and then nothing." At least he’s true to the logical conclusion of his naturalistic worldview. But who are you going to believe? Bertrand Russell who like you has never been there – or Jesus who came from there! Who is more likely to know? 1 Johnny Carson was once asked what his epitaph should be. His reply? “I’ll be right back.” Funny, right? But only because he wouldn’t be right back, and when he died in 2005, he wasn’t right back. Death is final. But death is not the end. Carson and Russell now know what Jesus knew. Death isn’t the end. Joseph Bayly, who lost 3 of 5 kids before the age of 18, prayed in his final sermon before his own death, “Lord, burn eternity into our eyeballs.” A million years out, this 80 years is going to look very small, is it not? But given that decisions now have eternal ramifications, it will never be insignificant. How we will wish we had lived it in light of eternity. Martin Luther said he had only two days on his calendar – today, and that day. The rich man lived only for today and paid dearly. He got a bad surprise. Death isn’t the end. 2. Hell is real – That’ll surprise a lot of people. We love to say that heaven is for real – even write books by that title. But we’re a lot less sure that there is a real hell. Jesus had no such doubt. He says of the rich man in v. 22, “and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes.” More than 20 times in the gospel Jesus mentions hell, Hades or the fire of judgment. He talks about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. If we take Jesus’ word about heaven, there is no alternative but to take His word about hell. It feels good to deny hell. And it feels sophisticated. The educated elite long ago consigned it to the garbage bin of ancient myth. But Jesus would remind them hell is not only taught side-by-side with heaven in God’s Word, it is also the only hope of the loving, peaceful world they want. That can only happen in response to God’s love. Hell guarantees the removal of those who will not so respond – who would mess the whole thing up. It’s real and it’s necessary. Denying reality doesn’t make it any less so, does it? One wife finally talked her husband who hadn’t been on the scales in years into weighing himself. Unsure of the numbers, he got off, grabbed his glasses and stepped back on. “Well, what do you know?” he called out. “These glasses weight 50 pounds.” Great spin – but denial didn’t take off the pounds, and it won’t eliminate hell. 3. People go to hell – Another surprise. Our minds rebel against a loving God sending people to hell. Yet the Bible says differently time after time. Isa 66:24, “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched.” Jesus warns in Mt 5:22, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; . . . and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Hell will be filled with people – even some who 2 knew Jesus personally! Lu 13:26, “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Lu 10:15: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.” He’s not talking there about streets and houses. He’s talking about people – people who are in hell even now. Hell was prepared for Satan and the angels who followed him, but it will include people who also follow his example of being their own God, setting their own agenda, insisting on their own way. Jesus says concerning the judgment at His 2nd coming in Mt 25:41, “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.” Those who join Satan in defying God and rejecting His grace will also join Satan in his hellish destiny. That’s why the Bible warns in Heb 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Know why people deny hell? A friend in CA, Mike Corcoris, was with his youth group one night when a girl asked, “The Bible says God loves us all. Then it says that God sends people to hell. How can a loving God do that?” She argued with all Mike’s answers and the discussion degenerated into an argument. The session ended and Mike sought out, “I owe you an apology. I should not have allowed our discussion to become so argumentative.” Then with her permission, he took her through a presentation of the gospel. When he got to Romans 3:23, “All have sinned,” she began to cry. Then this high school senior admitted she was sexually involved with a married man. She knew she needed forgiveness and trusted Christ. She admitted the reason she denied hell was -- she was going there. Her conscience condemned her as it does all unrepentant sinners. Our minds deny what our hearts know to be true – that’s why there will be a lot of surprised people in hell. 4. “Good” people go to hell – That’s the real surprise. To his utter shock, this man “lifted up his eyes in hell” -- last place he expected to be. The Pharisees would have been dumbfounded that this man ended up in hell. He was not a murderer or a thief. He was a good guy. His prosperity evidenced God’s blessing. The Pharisees knew this was aimed at them. But they were precise in keeping their traditions. They were the good guys. Hell was for Gentiles, pagans, and turncoat tax collectors. Not for the good guys. Rather like us, right? Okay, so hell is real and people go there – but that’s the Hitler’s and Osama’s, murderers, rapists. Hell is not for the good people. Good 3 people don’t go to hell. Yet here’s Jesus depicting a “good” guy, looking around in horror to find himself in hell. What gives? What gives is this. First, there are no good people. “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:10-11). “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isa 53:6). So we’re all Sadam Hussein’s? Of course, not. We all know many good people, trying to do right – including us. There’s just one problem. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (I Sam 16:7). And when God opens our hearts, he sees beyond the well-intentioned top layer to the selfish foundation that characterizes our most charitable efforts and declares, “Unacceptable!” And unless we turn from self and accept Jesus’ righteousness in place of our own, we are doomed. By our own goodness. 1,000 Americans were asked, “If you were to die tonight and God said, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you answer?” Over 80% pointed to their goodness – “I’ve gone to church for 30 years”; “I was baptized and confirmed;” “I do my best.” Is that you? Hoping your “best” is good enough for God? R. C. Sproul tells of a student who protested to John Gerstner about term paper grade: “Dr. Gerstner, I did my best.” Gerstner answered softly, “Young man, you have never done your best.” Hell will be filled with surprised “good” people who have “done their best.” Of course, they haven’t. But even if they had, it’d be way short of God’s perfection. Many “fine people” will be in hell because pride in their performance kept them from trust in Jesus’ performance. Jesus shows us in Mt 7:22: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me.” Unrepentant “good” people go to hell. Repentant sinners go to heaven. 5. Position here isn’t predictive of position there Earthly success if no predictor of heavenly acceptance. Thus in His parable we see a great reversal. Here – in this life, the rich man is rich, Lazarus has nothing; the rich man is inside, Lazarus is outside; the rich man dines sumptuously, Lazarus desires crumbs; the rich man is in comfort, Lazarus is tormented; the rich man is revered, Lazarus is humiliated. Then comes death – and the tables are dramatically reversed! Now Lazarus is rich, the rich man has nothing; Lazarus is inside, the rich man outside; Lazarus 4 dines sumptuously, the rich man desires a touch of cold water; Lazarus is in comfort, the rich man is in torment; Lazarus is revered, the rich man is humiliated. So, what happened? V. 25 is what happened: “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” Here is what happened. Both men got exactly what they wanted! Both got exactly the identity they chose. But whereas Lazarus found his identity in Christ – “whom God has helped” – thus securing eternal life – the rich man found his identity in “self”, and “self” had a short shelf life. His identity was defined by things; when life ended, things went away and his chosen self was over. His identity disintegrated! He’d made no provision for eternity. He lived only for this life, and when that was over, he was over. Meaningless, Godless existence is all that was left. Meantime Lazarus was just coming into his chosen identity. In that culture, this man believed in God. He prayed and tried to obey God. But he is in hell without a name. Why? Because his highest good was not God. He had already received “your good things.” God was an afterthought. His life was defined by “your good things” – the wealth and position he attained. That was what defined him, not his relationship with God. But sin is building your identity on anything but God. He built his identity on things. That is what he was about. But they did not follow him into eternity; they could not save him. He got exactly what he chose -- an eternity without God. Tim Keller says Jesus is urging us to look at what is ultimate in our life and ask – will it last? Or have a made a good thing the ultimate thing. If we look at money, career, talent, looks, relationships, family, power, approval, comfort, control – if that’s what demands our time and energy, we are building an identity that may stand the test of time, but it will fail the test of eternity. That identity will disintegrate before our eyes just like the rich man’s – and there we will be – in hell with no recourse, no God and no name and nothing but regret to comfort us forever. Success here doesn’t define success there! – The choices of your heart will do that and Jesus is urging – choose God. Make Him your highest good. He’s the only thing that lasts – the other never will. 6. There are no second chances Souls don’t have fingers and eyes and tongues as represented here. But Jesus is using the figurative language of a parable to teach real truth. He is showing 5 that those who have died are fully conscious and aware. They are not asleep. Further, one is suffering and one is in paradise. But the great truth that stands out here is that once a person has died, his fate is fixed forever! There is no second chance after death. Choices made now have eternal consequences. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. There is no passing from heaven to hell. There is no passing from hell to heaven. No second chances after death. Heb 9:27, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” The earthly record is frozen at the moment of death; the books are closed; the registry of is sealed; our mission is complete. Nothing can be changed based on new information gained at the moment of death. It’s too late. That’s sobering! Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis’s secretary, chuckled once over a grave inscription he found: "Here lies an atheist, All dressed up with no place to go." When he told Lewis about this, Lewis didn’t chuckle. He responded, "That atheist probably wishes now that were true." So will a lot of people – many of whom thought their good words were good enough. Now they know better, but it’s too late. Hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity. There are no second chances. We must get it right here – and now. If you were to die this moment, is your identity fixed in Him – or does your life revolve around something else? Who are you? Who are you really? Conc – Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road – take it.” But a fork in the road forces a decision, doesn’t it? And we are at a fork in the road this morning. We must decide – is it us, or is it Him? In Alice in Wonderland, when Alice comes to a junction in the road that leads in different directions she asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me please, which way ought I to go?” The cat replies, “That depends on where you want to go.” Alice replies, “I don’t much care where.” And the cat responds, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” But if you want to go to heaven, Beloved, you have to choose. And you have to choose now. Is it you, or is it Him? You must be specific! The “me” we choose now is the “me” we will be – forever. Don’t be surprised. Choose Jesus. Let’s pray. 6
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