Passage: Luke 16:19–16:31
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 16:19-31
Date: September 25th, 2016; Pentecost 19; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Do you believe hell exists?
Many people don’t.
In fact, surveys have shown that even many people who identify themselves as Christian don’t believe it exists.
The rich man we heard about in our Gospel lesson for this morning certainly didn’t live his life as though he believed in hell.
Or, if he did, he was so wrapped up in his life of luxury, that it didn’t concern him.
It seems that the rich man was so busy enjoying the here and now that he didn’t have any thought or interest in the hereafter.
There are verses in the Bible that can make us feel uncomfortable – they are sobering when we read them.
Verse 26 of our text this morning is one of them: “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
It’s so final. It’s so permanent.
The rich man’s eternal destiny was immediately determined upon his death.
Hell’s torment and agony is now his daily experience.
His prayer for mercy is too late. A chasm too great to crossover is fixed.
There’s no such thing as purgatory to cleanse yourself of the sin you couldn't take care of is this lifetime. Either you believe that Christ has taken care of your sin completely or you don’t.
It’s scary that the rich man represents so many people today – members of our family, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbours.
People who have no time for God, for what Christ has done for them.
People who are captivated by their own self-interest, obsessed by their pursuit for wealth and the immediate pleasures of life.
Eternal life is the furthest things from their minds.
We all likely have, and still do, have this mindset from time to time too.
I didn’t grow up in the church, and I recall when I was a teenager I had a discussion about God with a friend of mine who did.
We were discussing the trouble in the world - poverty, wars, natural disasters.
This gave us a sense of the chasm described in verse 26. We recognized that things were not right between us and God.
But at that time being in a relationship with God seemed inconvenient.
We knew we were living our lives in a way that wasn’t pleasing to him, but we were not yet ready to give our lifestyles up. We put our own wants and desires before God’s.
In fact, we actually came to the conclusion that we would revisit our relationship with God after we had finished living out what we considered to be the only fun years of our lives – that is before we became adults and it was too late.
Our self-interest, our desires for immediate gratification were more important to us than God. God was an inconvenience.
When, I look back at this time in my life, I tremble in fear considering how easily I could have suffered the same fate as the rich man in our Gospel lesson.
We are all bombarded with the temptation to live in the moment, to satisfy all our immediate cravings, to eat, drink, and be merry at any cost.
This is what our affluent society tells us. This is what all of the advertisements we see on TV, in magazines, on the internet tell us.
Buy this, do this, get that, have that - and then you will have made it and will be happy.
Before we know it we put our stuff and our pursuit for worldly pleasure before God.
We become selfish and instead of loving and helping our neighbour we see them as an obstacle, or a tool, for getting what we want.
For this we must repent.
Paul’s warning to Christians two thousand years ago is just as applicable for all of us here today: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root for all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
The time of salvation is now.
The tormented rich man found this out the hard way and prayed that his brothers be warned before it was too late, “I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so they will not come to this place of torment” (Luke 6:27-28).
The rich man didn't realize that even witnessing a miracle as startling as Lazarus rising from the dead will not break the spell of sin and unbelief.
Abraham revealed the only way this happens when he said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 6:29).
For some, Moses and the prophets (God’s revelation through his Word) are not enough. They want more!
They want to be convinced by human reason. They want to be convinced through signs, wonders, and miracles. They want some special feeling of God’s presence or a grand experience before they are willing to trust his promises.
But Abraham tells us, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 6:31).
The writings of Moses and the prophets are filled with warnings that judgment awaits those who replace God with their own sinful desires.
We see the prophets calling people to repent over and over in the Old Testament. We see it in the New Testament too.
And we are no better than those people. We too are sinners who need to be warned that apart from God we are dead in our trespasses - eternally.
Our sin has caused a great separation between us and God and for this we must repent.
Hear the Good News that God did not just send Moses and the prophets to condemn our sinful ways and call us to repentance, but also to speak of the One who has bridged the separation between us and God.
Moses and the prophets speak of Christ. Jesus said, “These are the Scriptures that testify of me!” (John 5:39).
As soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin, Moses speaks of the Seed who will crush Satan.
He speaks of a Prophet greater than he is - One who will come to save us (Deuteronomy 18:15).
David prophesied of One who will be forsaken by God, but who will also not see decay (Psalm 16:10).
Isaiah prophesied that a Suffering Servant will experience shame and death in order that we might be healed (Isaiah 53:4).
Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant when God will remember our sins no longer (Jeremiah 31:34).
Jesus, the Son of God, is the One of whom Moses and the prophets speak.
Christ Jesus removed the great separation between us.
He is the only One who reconnects us to God and he accomplishes this through his Word.
St. John writes, “These things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
God’s Word leads us on a journey to the Upper Room, where our Lord in bread and wine announces, “take and eat, this is my body; take and drink, this is my blood,” strengthening us, forgiving us.
God’s Word leads us to Gethsemane where our Lord prays for us saying, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (John 17:4).
God’s Word takes us to the cross of Calvary where the Son of God was forsaken by his Father, pierced for our transgressions, paying the debt we owe that we are set free.
God’s Word leads us victoriously to the empty tomb - a visible reminder of our own victory over death and our own resurrection to everlasting life.
The rich man in our Gospel lesson discovered too late that hell - torment, eternal separation from God - is real.
Hear Moses’ and the prophet’s warning to flee from sin and wickedness - and repent.
Hear the Good News that Christ Jesus is the promised Messiah they spoke of - the One sent to remove our sin.
He is the Saviour, who has fully accomplished your salvation - and eternal life in full communion with God and all of his people is your everlasting future. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.