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. A message beyond the grave

A MESSAGE FROM BEYON THE GRAVE

 

Introduction.

I know Ann and I know Oumatjie? Now, if I asked them what I should preach on today I believe what they would say is this: “Please tell everybody to join us here because it is glorious”. Now, I don’t think I have a verse like that in the Bible, but I actually have somebody who is not in glory but in the place of torment telling you what they would tell you.

I want to speak to you today from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Most of us know from our Sunday School days that Lazarus ends up in the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man ends in hell. The rich man cries to Abraham regarding days like this: ‘Father Abraham, that pastor is looking for a funeral sermon “I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’” Luke 16:27-28 (ESV) He actually wanted somebody raised from the dead to warn his brothers, but more about that later.

The rich man is in the place of torment crying ‘I have five brothers, warn them, warn them, as the last place I want them to be is here’. On the flipside Ann and Oumatjie would say: ‘We have brothers and sisters, and extended family, and friends and acquaintances, we want to see them in glory, and not on the other side.’

Let me put this story in context. One of the biggest thorns in the flesh or irritations in the life of Christ is the self-righteous, holier than thou, ungracious, unforgiving, do things our way, pompous Pharisees and Scribes. This section actually goes back to chapter 14. The Pharisees and Scribes hated the fact that Christ would eat with sinners. They judged Christ on the basis of the company He kept. He even ate with the prostitutes and tax-collectors who were hated by them. What they did not understand is the Father Heart of God, who rejoices in the salvation of sinners. What they did not understand is that Jesus came ‘to seek and to save the lost’. So Jesus tells them three parables. He tells them of the lost sheep that was found, and there was rejoicing, He tells them of the lost coin that was found and there was rejoicing, and He tells them about the prodigal son that returned and there was rejoicing. All of this was to demonstrate the Father Heart of God who desires for sinners to come home, and when one sinner is saved the angels rejoice and a feast is laid on.

And I promise you today that this is the desire of Ann and Oumatjie and this is the desire of those in torment. Return to God, enjoy His embrace, He will kiss you, He will put a ring on your finger, He will give you a robe and He will give you a party. And even though too late, this was the desire of the rich man in Hades. Guys, don’t join me here, repent and turn to God, because what Ann and Oumatjie have is glorious and beyond comprehension.

The only sad reality in all of this was that the Pharisees who listened to these parables, hated the very thought that God would restore sinners to full son-ship. Even when the prodigal desired to be nothing more than a day labourer, He was restored as a son. That is the Father Heart of God. But look at the response of the Pharisees to all of this, and this takes us into our text today. Luke 16:14-15 (ESV) 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he (Jesus) 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.”

There is one thing they missed. God knows their hearts, and today God knows our hearts. You can justify yourself before men, you can be blasé before men, you can judge others as they readily did because they are not like you and do not live up to your legalistic standards before men, but my friend, today, there is not one of us here whose hearts are not known by God.

So let’s look at this parable that Jesus told for their ears, and we simply have time to make a few statements, share a few truths. I cannot deal with the text in detail as we would do not have the time. All I want to do today is to highlight a few truths for our consideration.

Firstly. There are only two kinds of people in God’s eyes.

In God’s eyes there are only two kinds of people in this world, and that is believers and unbelievers. None of us will ever be judged on the basis of race or culture, or tradition or even which denomination we belonged to. The question is, are you a believer or not, are you truly born again or not?

The parable is not really about rich and poor. It is a story in context and cloaked in these terms because the Pharisees were lovers of money, and we will see what Christ does with them in this story. The story before us is a story of contrasts and paradoxes. The contrasts very simply are depicted in terms of health and wealth and poverty and sickness, but it is really about the truly saved and the unsaved.

Luke 16:19-20 (ESV) introduces us to the rich man. 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man ….”

In this parable the rich man represents the Pharisees and all people who think they will be saved on the basis of being religious, but who have no relationship with Abba Father. Now, he was really rich. He was clothed in purple, and only royalty were clothed in purple. The purple dye was extracted from a sea shell called Murex Brandaris.  This was so expensive because the dye extracted from 12000 Murex snails was only sufficient to make 1.4 grams of dye, or enough to colour only the trim of a garment. So, this man was really rich. We see further that he wore ‘Fine linen’ that he was able to ‘feast sumptuously every day’ and that he had a ‘fancy gate’ to his property. We don’t have time to go into it now. But here we have a Jew, a very rich one and we know that he is a natural child of Abraham.

Lazarus in this story is put in stark contrast to the rich man. Luke 16:20-21 (ESV) “20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.” I cannot elaborate in detail now, but just to say that he was the kind of man that the Pharisees and Scribes would frown upon. He represented the low life, the sinners, the prostitutes and tax-collectors of their day, the prodigals and the Samaritans that they regarded as dogs. His food was that which fell from the rich man’s table. He ate scraps. He is not just living in the gutters but he lives under the gutters. He is the type that in the story of the prodigal son, desired to eat the food of pigs. But there is a second truth.

Secondly. They both died.

Verse 22 says: “22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” This truth, no man can ever escape. Death will come to all no matter your age, no matter how spiritual you are, no matter your social position, no matter if you are a believer or not, and it will always be untimely. We were horrified with the death of Ann and Oumatjie. It just does not sound right. The riches of the rich man, could not extend his life and neither could the poverty of the poor man extend his life. But that is not the point of the story.

All of us here today need to deal with the fact that we will die. The joy of those who are children of God however is that they will live forever in glory. Or as the bumper sticker so aptly says: “Born once (physically) die twice (physically and eternally), born twice (physically and born again) die once”. Jesus says in John 11:25 (ESV) 25 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

But again, here is a contrast. The rich man died and was buried in a fancy tomb above ground, but the poor man’s body would have been thrown on a rubbish heap outside the town where it would be burned.  Death discriminates against no one. Life is brief, and it is destined for man once to live, and then to die, and thereafter eternal life. Both will die, the only difference is that the one will face Jesus as Saviour and the other will face Jesus as judge.

Thirdly, we see the paradox in their final destiny.

For the Scribes and Pharisees the Jewish rich man who is a natural child of Abraham would end in the arms or bosom of Abraham, who is their great ancestral father irrespective of the kind of life he lived. The poor man who is the sinner according to them, will end in the place of torment.

Jesus does something interesting in the story. He puts the poor man in the bosom of Abraham and the natural child of Abraham in hell. What a shock to their system. You see, God’s judgment is not our judgment. God is not an acceptor of persons, but he knows the heart. He is not fooled by the external, He is not fooled by dead religion, He is not fooled by our rituals and ceremonies and He is not fooled by official church membership and traditions. He judges the internal, He judges the heart and He judges your relationship with Him.

The rich man who, as a child of Abraham, would have been steeped in religion, steeped in rituals and ceremonies, suddenly with a shock discovers that claiming to be a child of Abraham meant nothing in God’s books. He missed what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:9 (ESV) “9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

According to 2 Timothy 2:19 (ESV) 19”God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his.” How many people will not be shocked one day when they are turned away? We see this in Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Simply this. God is not fooled by ‘sayers’, He only knows ‘doers’ and not doers of works, but doers of the will of God. There is a fourth truth.

Fourthly: There is no bargaining with God after death.

You cannot cross that bridge one day when you die, you must decide today, as Scripture teaches, today is the day of salvation. Let’s read further.

23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 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. 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.’”

Grace is the ultimate privilege and gift, but only to be found this side of death. You can have all the riches in the world, you can be an excellent debater, you can be religious, but if you do not come to God in this life, you will not buy God and eternal life afterwards and you will not debate God and convince Him to change His final decision for you. Now is the time of salvation. Then it is too late. This man failed to hear the words of Christ in Matthew 16:26 (ESV) “26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” There is a fifth and last truth.

Fifthly: The Word of God alone will convince.

This is the message for all of us today. Look at verse 27 and onwards: 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

Today, we hear people who say, “show me a miracle and I will believe, or God must prove Himself to me, make some appearance, maybe a letter or phone call from heaven”.  Many Christians even believe that miracles are the means to salvation. The Word of God is clear in Romans 10:17 (ESV) 17…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Nothing else will discern your thoughts and the intentions of our hearts but the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

I love what Martin Luther said and I summarise. He said that the Word of God is so alive that it has eyes and it will look into you, it has a mouth and it will speak to you, it has feet and it will chase after you, and it has hands and it will grab hold of you. My friend, when God’s Word gets hold of you, surrender, as it is the Sword of the Spirit, and you are no match.  Sadly, many people sit under God’s Word Sunday after Sunday, but they want more, they want gimmicks and fads, they want their ears tickled, they want to be entertained, they only want to hear what they want to hear so that they can believe what they always have believed, so that they can do what they have always done. They want Pastors or ministers who are not dogmatic as far as truth is concerned, they will rather have ministers who pussy foot around God’s Word. I actually agree that pastors should not be dogmatic, they should be bull-dogmatic, as it is believing in the truth of this book and obeying this alone that stands between life and death.

In closing.

I wish we had more time, but we sadly don’t.  But listen carefully now.

The rich man wants us all to be warned against joining him in hell, and Ann and Oumatjie want to invite us to join them in glory. You might feel yourself today to be a child of Abraham, you are religious but have no relationship with God. You serve God on your own terms, you play church. For you the church is like a club, it is a building and sadly for some it is a business. It is not about any of this, it is about knowing God and having God as your Father. Today, He invites you to Himself, and He will accept you as a son or daughter of God. Or you are not religious, but still you do not know God, as you have never come to faith in Him.

Don’t join the rich man in hell. It will be too late and you will not be able to phone your family back on earth to warn them. Now is the time to run to God and to be embraced by Him.

Rather be like Lazarus. This story tells us nothing of what Lazarus did to get into heaven. Do you realise that this is the only parable of all the parables where a person is given a name. Lazarus means: ‘the Lord is my helper’. The work in his life was a work of God and a work of grace from beginning to end.

And this is resounded in Scripture in Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

You can either enjoy the immeasurable riches of his grace, because God is your helper and He is you Abba Father, or you will join the rich man in a place of torment. Jesus will either be your Saviour or He will be your judge. The choice is yours today.

Anne and Oumatjie made their choice and they will want you to hear this message today. Will you decide for God, or will you keep running from God? Just remember, the Word of God by the power of the Spirit has feet and it will keep chasing you.

 

If you would like to visit with me or any of our pastors at Logos, so that we can show you the way to salvation, or that we can help you back on the path, please do contact us via our website. The address is recorded in your brochure. We will gladly minister to you.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Funeral Lee-Ann van Heese and Kleintjie Reyneke.

22 December 2014

IS IT WELL WITH YOUR SOUL?

 

It is Well with My Soul, the Song and the Story

Composer Horatio Spafford, It is Well with My Soul

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.


At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.


In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family's ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.


With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.


Philip Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many songs including Hold the Fort, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, and Jesus Loves Even Me, was so impressed with Spafford's life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.


For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul.