Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Decision Time

The following is the lesson that I taught tonight at AWANA. I like to write out completely what I plan to say, and then speak loosely from what I wrote. This was a powerful story to prepare. If you are a Christian, saved for eternity by the shed blood of Jesus Christ then I pray you will read it as a challenge to our perspective of those around us, and our need to spread the gospel. If you are not 100% certain of your eternal destination then I pray you would read this and be challenged by Jesus' teaching. Any questions, I would love to answer them . . .

Jesus often challenged people on their perspective of wealth. There is a great temptation in this world to focus on earthly wealth rather than issues of eternal value. We often can’t see much past tomorrow, or even today. This teaching of Jesus comes from Luke chapter 16, starting in verse 19.

Jesus began . . . Once there was a very wealthy man. He dressed extravagantly. All the gold, diamonds, latest styles and brands. He was put together, and everyone knew that he had everything money could buy. Everyday he lived the best life anyone could afford – the best food, clothes, houses, everything the top of the line. He spared no expense for his happiness and comfort. At the same time there was also a very poor man. The complete opposite of this rich man. This poor man was named Lazarus, not the same one that Jesus raised from the dead. He was covered with sores, diseased and weak. He had nothing to his name, no physical wealth whatsoever. He longed for just the crumbs from the rich man’s table. Dogs licked at his sores and he was powerless to do anything about it.

Eventually they both died, as people do, as we all will one day. The poor man was buried in the simplest of graves. Yet angels carried the poor man away from this world to eternal peace. The rich man received an expensive burial, maybe a parade procession, and opened his eyes in Hades, eternal torment.

The rich man saw the poor man in peace and cried out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.” Just a drop of cool water is all he asked. His agony was so great that even a drop of water seemed like a blessing. We cannot even begin to comprehend the agony of hell. It is definitely not the freedom that some expect. Just as God’s character is higher than description, hell’s pain is beneath description. Nothing that anyone experiences in this life begins to compare to the pain, judgment, loneliness, sadness, grief, guilt, all things bad and evil that hell contains.

Abraham responds, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things [he had been wealthy and lived a life of ease, comfort, and all good things the earth had to offer], and likewise Lazarus bad things [illness, hunger, cold, disease, loneliness, poverty, and all the bad things the earth had to offer]; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.”

However, Abraham also had to point out that the rich man had missed his chance. Earth is the place of decision making. This story that Jesus told makes it quite clear that our decision for or against Him must be made in this lifetime. If we do not choose for Him, we have chosen against Him. Abraham continued, “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us." The gulf between heaven and hell cannot be crossed in anyway by anyone. The decisions made in this life are final.

The rich man recognized the desperation, and had one last request, “Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment." This punishment was so bad; he wanted to do something to warn others about it.

Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”

The rich man said, “No, father Abraham, [that’s not enough] but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!”

Abraham replied, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

We have all the evidence we need right here – in the Bible. We don’t need to look any further for some dramatic experience, although God does use those at times to strengthen our faith and speak to us in special ways. We must make our decision and live our life founded on the Word of God.

In Matthew 16:24-27 Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.”

So, what will your reward be? God will be the final judge and jury. He knows your actions and the heart behind them. He knows if you have surrendered to Him as your Lord and Savior, the sacrifice for your sins. Don’t wait until it’s too late. The only thing certain in this life is right now.

While this life may seem like a long time, it is hardly anything when compared to eternity. What we accumulate in this life we may enjoy for up to 70 years or so, but what we build up in the next life through following Jesus Christ and the Bible (rewarded by peace and joy), or by choosing to follow our own way (consequenced with agony and pain), will last for tens of thousands of years, and still have just begun.

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