Words of Faith 10-26-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores  and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  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.'
 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house,  for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
 " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
This story tells describes for us what happens if a heart condition is left untreated.
Chapter 16 of Luke's Gospel is about a variety of heart conditions. A heart condition usually involves a "blockage" that keeps us from receiving what God has for us. Jesus talked about the blockage caused by the love of money and material possessions. He also talked about the blockage caused by the Law and legalism.
In this text, the Great Physician Jesus told a story that helps us understand the prognosis and the "course of the disease.” Any good physician will tell you what is going to happen if you do nothing. Jesus told us what happens when a spiritual disease of the heart runs its course.
Some have suggested that this is not so much a story pointing out the possibilities as it may have been a "case history.” Because the beggar was specifically named Lazarus, this may not be a parable but a true event. In no other parable do we find a person named specifically. If the storyteller were anyone else we would not even think this could be the case, but of any person, Jesus is the One who would be able to recount such an event as witness to the facts. Jesus may have been recalling what He saw as the preexistent Christ. Remember that Jesus recalled to the disciples, "I saw Satan fall like lightning..." Jesus had seen things far beyond his 33 years in Galilee.
In this "case history," there was a rich man. Notice that we never learn the name of the rich man. The one thing that this man wanted all his life was to make a name for himself. The one thing that a wealthy person in Judaism desired was to have his name remembered. There was a certain belief in Judaism that as long as your name was remembered and was spoken, you would live on in the hearts of family, friends and community. In modern Judaism, there is a special day when names are read in the synagogue for that purpose. For a Jewish hearer, it was devastating that there was no memory or mention of his name.
But whose name was remembered? The poor man Lazarus! His name in Hebrew means "God has helped.” Jesus remembers the name of every Lazarus. Every suffering child, Jesus knows the name. Every "nameless" John Doe that dies in an alley way, Jesus knows their name. This poor man is escorted to heaven by angels while the rich man is simply buried in the ground. The rich man had a proper Jewish burial, while the poor man had no burial. But Lazarus had an angel escort!
Now, in eternity, the situation that had been in life is apparently reversed. But don't misunderstand. The rich man is not punished because he is rich. In fact, he is not punished at all. He is simply located in the place determined by his heart condition, which was separated from the heart of God. In life, the rich man was separated from the heart of God, and so in death he was separated from the heart of God.
What is the heart of God? It suddenly seems a valuable thing to know. Chapter 15 tells us that the heart of God is to seek and save the lost, to use the blessings of the material world to influence things that are eternal, and to look beyond our daily pleasure and comfort to that which is eternal. It is not a matter of "good works.” It is a matter of having received the heart of God and living by grace.
Notice that the rich man did not complain. He did not cry out that this is unfair. He understood the judgment. He simply asked that Lazarus be given an opportunity to bring him a bit of comfort. Of course, this was the man who had passed over hundreds of opportunities to bring comfort to Lazarus.
There was a powerful response from Abraham. "Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 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.'"
So the rich man asked another favor. "Send Lazarus to tell my brothers so they will not have to go through what I am going through!" But this was not possible. They have Moses and the Prophets. They have everything that they need. Not only was the rich man's place fixed for eternity, he had lost the chance to tell loved ones about the heart condition that got him there.
The rich man argued on that if they could see someone from the dead they would repent! But Abraham answered, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
Our heart condition has an eternal prognosis. There are many religions that do not believe this. Some speak of purgatories, others of baptism for the dead, and others of realms of ascent. But the reality taught by Jesus is that our eternal destiny is fixed. At some point, the earthly body dies, and our destiny is then fixed. It is not so much a matter of judgment or punishment but the distance we have put between us and God and our failure to respond to his offer of grace becomes fixed for eternity.
If we have been far from the heart of God in this life, we would not expect anything different in eternity. If have put our hope in money or material things in this life, then that is all we will have left in eternity and all that is gone. If we put our hope in our own righteousness according to the Law, that is where we end up, standing in our own righteousness according to the Law. We end up with a terminal blockage if we are far from the heart and mercy of God. That is exactly where we end up.
So what are we to DO?
We start with a DIAGNOSIS. What is the condition of your heart? If you do not have the heart of God your prognosis is very grave. If you have a serious blockage, your condition is not going to reverse itself. So how can we know? We need an examination. Who else but the Great Physician can do this? Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test" (2 Cor. 13:5-6).
With the help of the Holy Spirit we might ask ourselves some questions. Do I have the heart of God? Do I have a heart for the lost? Have I crowded into the Gospel of the Kingdom? If so, will not mercy will be evident in my life? If so, will I not be unable to turn away from Lazarus at the gate?
Next we RECEIVE TREATMENT. Jesus is the one person who can help our heart condition. He is the specialist you need. Ask Him to do radical surgery and remove anything that is a blockage in your life that is preventing you from receiving His grace.
Finally, it is important to SHARE the TRUTH with those you love. The very best gift you can give to your loved ones is the knowledge and assurance that your heart is right and God and your eternal destination is settled with Him. The next best gift is to share in some way with those that you love the Truth that can set them free.
Lord God, give me Your diagnosis of my heart. Find any blockages that are keeping me from having Your heart. Do the surgery. Get rid of the plaque. Remove the blockage. I trust in Your grace alone for my salvation. Give me your heart for the lost. Give me Your mercy for the poor. May I abide in Your heart, Your grace and Your mercy. In Jesus' name.