Sermon Sunday April 22, 2018 – The Reality of Hell

Luke 16:19-31

There was a day when all one seemed to hear was “fire and brimstone” sermons, we’ve now gone to the opposite extreme. There is so much preaching on love, grace, and forgiveness, but little or nothing is said about hell. The undeniable truth is that no one in the Bible places more stress on hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus. Jesus compared hell to the burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, he also compared hell to a prison and outer darkness. Jesus likened hell to “a fire” at least twenty separate times.

In Luke 16 we read that Jesus told the Pharisees a story of a poor man called Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Jesus doesn’t say that this was a parable. It may have been a true account of which only Jesus knew the truth. Or it was a parable that Jesus used to teach the Pharisees the truth of their own lostness.

The rich man was extravagant in his lifestyle, dressing in fine linen, Jesus even said that he feasted every day. And then as if a divinely arranged contrast, we have Lazarus, a poor beggar sitting at his gate, who was possibly a cripple. The name Lazarus means “God is my help”, in contrast, the rich man trusts in his wealth.

Both these men died, and Lazarus taken by the angels to Abraham’s side. He was given special treatment for a man who was never treated well in this life. In contrast, the rich man, “died and was buried”, no angels, no special treatment. His friends probably began fighting over his estate and soon forgot that he even existed.

The rich man may have had a prestigious funeral with many dignitaries, in contrast the poor Lazarus, probably didn’t have a funeral at all, in fact the body of Lazarus might have been thrown on the burning rubbish dump, Gehenna, the place where unclaimed bodies would have been disposed. But even though his body was burned and discarded, he was taken by angels to Abraham’s side.

The rich man is sent to Hades, a place of torment and utter loneliness, where he begins to cry out for mercy. First, he asks that Abraham sends Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue. The rich man was experiencing torment and real flames, it was a very genuine experience, so much so, that a little cool water on his tongue would bring some relief. Abraham responds and explains to the rich man that he has already received his good things in his life, but by rejecting God, he is never going to experience anything good ever again.

But aside from that, Abraham says it is impossible for Lazarus to come to him, there is a great divide between heaven and hell.

Jesus taught that Hell is a real place of eternal suffering, but the worst part of hell is not the physical pain, it is the absence of the presence of God. We have all heard someone say, “Well, I don’t mind if I go to hell. I’ll have a lot of company!” But there is no friendship or “company” in hell! Hell is a place of total loneliness and abandonment.

So how can a loving God permit such a place to exist, let alone send people there?” In asking that question, we reveal that we don’t understand the love of God or the wickedness of sin. God’s love is a perfect holy love, not a shallow sentiment, and sin is rebellion against an all holy and loving God (1 John 1:5).

God does not send people to hell, they send themselves there by refusing to believe on His Son. Hell, ultimately is the absence of God and sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Hell is the natural response of the all-holy God to the wickedness of sin, and unbelief in Jesus as the son of God is the primary source of that wickedness.

God hates sin and evil so much, that he sent his only son Jesus to suffer and die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice, atoning for our sins. Jesus went to the cross as our substitute because he does not want anyone to go to Hell (2 Peter 3:8-10).

The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers about their eternal destination. But Abraham tells him that they have the words of Moses and the prophets, the Old Testament Scriptures, the word of God. But the rich man argues that this is not enough, they need miracle. We are no different, we struggle to believe in the power of the word of God to transform lives. We must never underestimate the power of the word of God, under the direction and conviction of the Holy Spirit to transform lives (Romans 1:16).

Jesus loved us so much that he spoke about hell a lot. He did not hold back in describing the consequences of sin.

Do we believe in Hell enough to care for our friends and neighbors? If we really believed in Hell, we would not hesitate to share the Gospel, we would give our lives to praying for the lost. We would re-organize our lives in such a way that we would maximize our time on this earth to be able to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the way our churches operate, the way we struggle to pray for our neighbors, the way our evangelism and mission efforts are so weak and small, we give evidence to the fact that we do not believe in hell.

In the 21st century in the western culture has become a source of unending distractions and entertainment. We focus on our careers, movies, food, sport or hobbies, while all the time our perspective of eternity is being whittled away and we seldom think of the fact that our lives are so very brief.

Live your life in the light of eternity. Every pleasure you could have here on earth ultimately passes away, it is fleeting, but if we live for eternity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we will experience pleasure that is lasting.

“The safest road to hell, is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S Lewis.

Sermon April 15, 2018 – Heaven

Revelation 21:1-8

Do you know where you are going when you die? We are all eternal beings, designed by God to live forever. We as frail humanity, for fear of the unknown, struggle to live in these broken bodies for as long as we possibly can.

We struggle to hold on to something that is temporal, because we don’t see ourselves as eternal. We are afraid of the unknown, but the unknown is going to be infinitely better than anything we have ever experienced in this life.

There are two primary reasons why one fears death,

Firstly, if you don’t have the security of knowing that you are saved by the blood of Jesus, death is to be feared.

And secondly, we don’t trust the God who created us for eternity, we don’t trust that the one who created us knows what would be best for us.

We fear the unknown primarily because we don’t trust the goodness of the Designer.

Heaven is a real place, in Revelation 21:3 we read that God himself speaking from the throne, says that the dwelling place of God is with man. The new earth is a real place as Jesus promised in John 14:1-2.

This earth will one day be renewed made perfect, delivered from sin and the curse, will one day be our home and the place where God dwells. Heaven is a real place, and the new heaven and the new earth will be real as well.

While it is probable that heaven is in another dimension, we still can be assured that heaven is both a place and a state. I do not agree that it is primarily a state, since we are living on earth in a physical / spiritual dimension, why would this be so different in heaven. We would live in our resurrected bodies, but our soul would still exist and commune with God. I agree with the theologian Erickson that wrote, “life in heaven will be more real than our present existence.”

When we die, we are not going to have one single complaint, not one single thing about heaven will be imperfect. We have no idea of the glory and the beauty and the peace of the presence of our Heavenly Father.

In the new heaven, we will have real, perfect resurrected bodies, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15. These will be our eternal bodies, ones that will never fail or break down. And we will live with God in His presence.

We were made to have communion with God, God created man in His own image to have fellowship with him. But when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken, there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God himself, we read in Ecclesiastes 3:11; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship him. It will not be boring, that is a lie from Satan, Heaven will be the most exciting and thrilling experience that we cannot imagine. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense, because we cannot begin to grasp heaven. In our self-serving culture, we have no idea of what it will be like to be in the presence of the creator of the universe. Heaven will be a place of unending worship and praising God for all that He has done and all that He is.

Heaven will be a place of rest, peace and worship of God, but heaven will also be a place of service and work. We will not be idly sitting on clouds playing harps. God is a creative God and he designed us to be creative beings along with him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to have dominion and care for the creation. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the parable of the Talents given to the servants in Matthew 25. The servants who served faithfully were given more to rule over and more responsibility, this is a glimpse into our eternal destiny.

So, we know heaven is real, it is eternal, we have some idea of what we will be doing, but how can we be certain we are going to heaven? Randy Alcorn, in his book on Heaven said that a recent Barna poll shows that for every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. Yet Christ said otherwise in Matthew 7:13-14.

Heaven is not our default condition. Increasingly in our politically correct culture we don’t often hear people preaching on the fact that heaven is only for people who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Only people who have acknowledge that Jesus is the way the truth and the life are going to heaven.

If heaven was the default position of everyone who dies, then Jesus gave up his position in heaven, he humbled himself and even humbled himself to die on the cross, for nothing. The greatest act of love in all of human history was a waste of time, if heaven is the default position.

Heaven is where God dwells and before we are even allowed into the presence of God we need to deal with our sin problem, the sin that separates us from God. You deal with that sin by accepting Jesus as Lord and repenting of your sins. You can know, with absolute certainty, that you are going to heaven (see 1 John 5:13).

on the cross, he took upon himself the Hell we deserve, in order to purchase the Heaven we don’t deserve”

Randy Alcorn.

Sermon February 18, 2018 Treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven

As we look at Matthew 13 we see that Jesus taught eight parables, and each time he said something to the effect of “the Kingdom of Heaven is like….”, and then told the parable. Some longer, like the parable of the sower, and some shorter like the leaven in the flour, which is only one sentence.

But we need to define the Kingdom. Matthew wrote to a predominantly Jewish audience, as a result, he used the term Kingdom of Heaven, whereas Luke and the other gospel writers used the Kingdom of God for the same principle meaning.

The Kingdom of God is the rulership of God over all things. He owns and sustains all things, but because of man’s sin, the world has been under the rulership of Satan. This is not to say that he rules the world completely; God is still sovereign. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him.

The earth is in subjection to the rule and influence of Satan until Jesus comes again and destroys his evil kingdom. Paul writing in Romans 8 describes how all creation has been groaning and eagerly waiting for the new kingdom to be revealed. When Jesus began his public ministry, he began the introduction of the Kingdom of God to a lost and dying world. The Kingdom of God is not strictly a future hope tied in with Christ’s second coming. it is the realm of God’s rule both present, and future. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, of which He was the embodiment, when He commenced His earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:17).

When Jesus died on the cross and defeated Satan, he began the process of dismantling Satan’s kingdom and installing the Kingdom of heaven. So, the kingdom of heaven is present in the world, but not yet in it’s fullness.

The kingdom of Heaven is so foreign to the world’s kingdom, especially in our era, where the focus of our worship is ourselves. Jesus uses eight parables to introduce some of these foreign concepts of the Kingdom, four of which he tells the crowd, and then another four he tells privately to his disciples, he turns his attention to his inner circle, continuing to explain to them that this is what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

Focusing our attention on two of these parables; the man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and the merchant who finds a pearl great value, what can we learn from them?

When a person makes Jesus Christ Lord of their life, it must cause a dramatic change in one’s value system. The things we valued the most, we set aside;  the things that the world views as treasures become worthless in the knowledge of eternal life.

These two short parables speak volumes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What is valuable to you? Not just possessions, but people, titles, position and places. For some people their treasure is their sport, or their hobbies or their career (see  Matthew 6:21).

In both these parables, the man and the merchant sold everything they had to obtain a greater treasure. This is foolishness, this is extreme, this is radical. These are the same adjectives that people use when describing followers of Jesus.

RT Kendall wrote: “Once you have truly experienced the anointing of the Spirit, your money, reputation, love for the world, fear of what people will say and so on all pale into insignificance.”

The Bible does not say that having material possessions is wrong, rather it is when those things become more important to us than God, then we have a problem. This is because there is no comparison between the treasures of this world and the treasures of the kingdom of heaven.

The merchant who sold all that he had to buy one pearl, didn’t simply exchange one treasure for another. He found a treasure supremely more valuable than anything in his life.

This is what Jesus offers us and when we become part of the kingdom of God, we experience a treasure and a life that makes all other desires small in comparison.

So here is the big question, does this reflect your Christian experience?

Or have you simply tried to add a bit of religion to your life by raising your hand in a meeting in response to an altar call, but you really don’t know this treasure of the Kingdom?  Salvation is more than simply avoiding hell because our sins are forgiven. What you have available to you are treasures of inestimable value (see Romans 8:32).

When we ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, God gives us his Holy Spirit to fill us and to reign in us; we become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we become a follower of Jesus, we become like the leaven that impacts the dough, we become a change agent in our community, preparing the way for the fulfillment of the Kingdom when Jesus comes again.

When we see it that way, and we see all that it means to be a Christian, we would be fools not to view all our earthly treasures as worthless in comparison. Do you really know what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven?

But there is a different way of looking at these parables that will hopefully transform your thinking. When Jesus was telling these parables, he was proclaiming the Gospel message. Jesus came to the earth, setting aside his heavenly throne and took on flesh, he became a man just like us as he set aside his golden crown to take a crown of thorns (see Philippians 2:7-11). When we see this, we see that Jesus is the person who found a treasure in a field, it is Jesus who found the pearl of great value and it is Jesus who gave up everything to obtain it. It is Jesus who bought the treasure of salvation by buying the whole field of creation. These parables reveal the Gospel, they reveal the glory of Jesus who denied himself even to the point of dying on the cross so that he would receive the name above every other name.

The kingdom of heaven operates on a completely different currency than our small world.  Have you discovered this kingdom? Give everything you have to the Lordship of Jesus and God will give you a life and a future of infinite value.

Journey to Jerusalem Part 2. March 13 2016

Journey to Jerusalem part 2 newsletter

Read: Luke 9:51-56

Here we have an account that only Luke records. At first glance, this seems like a strange passage of scripture, why would Luke record this detail of the travel plans that didn’t work out.

Jesus

In 722 BC, the Assyrians invaded the northern Kingdom of which Samaria was the capital. The Assyrians left some of the Jews in the region but allowed other foreigners to inhabit the land. The end result was a mixed race, and many of them worshipped the foreign gods of the Assyrians. The Jews who lived in the region did not believe that you had to go to Jerusalem to worship God and set up their own temples. The rest of the Jewish nation regarded the Samaritans as ethnically and religiously impure, and there was a lot of prejudice and animosity between them.

James and John

So with that history in mind, we have the passionate James and John, the sons of Thunder as Jesus called them, being so offended by this Samaritan rejection that they want to call down fire and destroy the city.

In order to better understand their reaction, we need to look a few verses back in Luke 9, where the transfiguration of Jesus is recorded for us. Jesus takes Peter, James and John, up onto a mountain to pray, and suddenly Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking to Jesus.

James and John must have remembered their encounter with Elijah and the fact that Elijah had called down fire from heaven to destroy the two captains and their 50 as recorded in 2 Kings 1.

But the disciples were misguided. In their minds, they were marching into Jerusalem with the King of the Jews, who would establish a mighty kingdom, and yet these mindless Samaritans had the audacity to reject Jesus! Their attitude and request reflects their racism and their prejudice. What they had to learn, and what we also have to learn is that the journey Jesus was taking to Jerusalem was not to judge the world, but it was to save the lost.

They certainly displayed passion, but their passion was misguided. They were influenced by their culture and their prejudice. Jesus was using the situation to challenge their prejudice, to remind them that the Son of God, didn’t come for the Jews only, but for all peoples and that the real enemy is Satan, not the lost people who don’t think or act in a way that they were comfortable with.

As we encounter people who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, how do we respond to the drug addict, the adulterer, the alcoholic, the homosexual, the murderer, and the thief? (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Do we call down judgement on them? Do we confront them with the law and a superior attitude?

As Jesus rebuked his disciples, he rebukes us today. Jesus came to save the lost, not to call down fire on them. Ultimately Jesus will judge all mankind, but we are called to reach the lost as Jesus did, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to release the captives, to restore sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).

Samaritan Rejection

From the perspective of the Samaritan village there is a legitimate reason why they rejected Jesus.

The Key phrase is found in verse 53; “…he was heading for Jerusalem.” It upset them that he still wanted to go to the temple in Jerusalem rather than to worship at their place of worship. But apart from that, along with Jesus came a large crowd of people. Most of them were probably social outcasts, the poor, and the unclean according to their laws. It was going to be noisy, messy and probably inconvenient. And therein lay the problem, for Jesus to come to town was inconvenient.

The truth is that when Jesus enters a person’s life it is never convenient. When Jesus comes into your life, he asks you to care for the widows and the orphans, to love the downtrodden and the poor. He calls you to give your time, your money and your energy in order to tell others the Good News.

Jesus coming to town is seldom convenient, but if you do not receive him, you miss out. This Samaritan town missed the opportunity of hosting the King of Kings, the creator of the universe.

Jesus’ Response.

What took place here was a serious cultural and social offence.

No wonder the disciples wanted to immediately call down fire and destroy the city. How dare they!!

Yet, we read how Jesus responded (Luke 9:55-56). Jesus is rejected, he doesn’t try to plead his case or convince them that they are going to miss out, he simply moves on.

Jesus wasn’t surprised by this rejection, he knew exactly what would happen. He sent his disciples ahead on purpose, knowing that they would be rejected. He was using this as a teaching moment for his disciples, preparing them for what was about to happen to them and setting an example for all believers to follow. When you are rejected for being a follower of Jesus, don’t fight for your rights, simply move on (see Luke 10:10-11).

In our post-modern culture of self-importance and pride, this is a tough lesson to learn. Fortunately we get many opportunities to learn this lesson!

But Jesus had his eyes fixed on a bigger goal (see Luke 9:51). Jesus is focused on the ascension. He is looking forward to going home. He knows where he is going and nothing is going to detract from that. Not the cross, not the grave, not even his rising from the dead, he is looking forward to the day when he ascends into heaven to sit next to His Father.

We also must have a heavenly focus, viewing every day in the light of eternity. Sadly we are so focused on trying to make this life as comfortable as possible, that we forget where we are going.

  • If we would focus on eternity, we would stop trying to call down judgment from God on those who reject him.
  • If we would focus on eternity, we would not miss an opportunity to be used by God to help those around us and set the captives free.
  • If we would focus on eternity, we would be able to look past all the trials and sufferings of this world and look forward to the day when Jesus comes again or calls us home.

Run the Race Part 3 February 28, 2016

Run The Race 3 Title.2

Philippians 3:12-21

All this talk of running and discipline and hard work, sounds like the Christian life is not that pleasant, why would we encourage others to a life of discipline and suffering.

The truth is, the Christian life is a race that has a very definite purpose, it is not aimless or a fruitless exercise, there is a definite goal and a prize that we are running for.

Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church to encourage them and to keep them growing in their new Christian walk. Although Paul was a spiritual giant in the eyes of the Philippian saints, he wanted them to know that he had not yet attained the goal                      (Philippians 3:10-11).

He was still actively pressing on. He had by no means reached the final stage of his sanctification.

Paul’s salvation experience had taken place about 30 years before he wrote to this letter. He had won many spiritual battles in that time. He had grown much in those years, but he candidly confessed he had not obtained perfection. This testimony of the apostle reminded the saints at Philippi—and it serves to remind believers today—that there must never be a stalemate in their spiritual growth or a plateau beyond which they cannot climb. We must never settle. Are you closer to Jesus today than you were a year ago? There is no standing still as a Christian, either we are becoming more like Christ, or we are losing ground.

Then Paul says in verse 13; “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead”. This applies to us today both individually and as a church. We cannot grow in our Christian walk by looking back. The old idiom applies here; “to rest on one’s laurels”, looking back and thinking that enough has been done to secure victory. This applies to us individually, if we are still here, we are still in the race.

Then it applies to us corporately, we must never look back at the wonderful accomplishments of our church and say, look what we did back then – those were the great days – we have done enough. No, God is not done with His Church yet, He has much more in store for this church. Because this is His Church, and He has promised to build His Church, and he has promised to come back for His Church.

Paul goes on to encourage the Philippians to follow his example, and the example of others who are running the race with success (3:17). Paul had noticed that there were people in the Philippian church who were not setting a good example for the believers, and he points them out in verse 19.

Notice Paul is not referring to people outside the church, he is warning them about people inside the church, who are heading for destruction. They are only focused on temporal things, what makes me feel good now.

Their lives show no evidence of Jesus Christ being Lord.

Are you looking at temporal things, and making them more important in your life than eternal things? Remember your citizenship (3:20). If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life, you will know what it means to live with eyes fixed on eternity. Every decision you make in your life here in this life, affects eternity.

And then in verse 21, Paul explains why he is running the race, what is the purpose of it all. I am sure many of you are looking forward to that, a new body a supernatural body that will never experience decay or pain. That surely is a prize, surely that is a reward running after?

But that is only a part of it.

None of us have seen heaven, so to it is impossible to fully describe heaven and even if we did get a glimpse, we would find that our vocabulary was inadequate to describe it.

The Bible also tells us that the followers of Jesus will get rewards, James talks about the crown of life (James 1:12). Paul mentions the crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9).

But the primary joy of heaven will be far superior to all of that. We will be in the presence of God.

We were made to have communion with God, God created man in his own image to have fellowship with him. But when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken and there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God himself (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Looking at Revelation 3:11-12 and the letter to the church in Philadelphia, Jesus gives an encouragement to the “one who overcomes” – and keeps running the race. The greatest reward is to be a pillar in the temple of God? Sounds strange doesn’t it. We have no idea what it is like to be in the perfect presence of God. To dwell in his presence and worship Him, will be the most incredible experience of all. That is the greatest prize and that is why David could write as he did in Psalm 27:4.

We are to individually run whatever race or calling that God has set out for us. I cannot run for you, and you cannot run for me. But we are called to run that race with certainty, purpose and intensity.

Run your race to win, to be the best you can be for God where He has placed you.

Be willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to successfully complete the mission and call God has set out for you.

You only get one run at this life, give it all you have got. Make sure you don’t miss a single opportunity to live fully for Jesus Christ.

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:14