The Urgency of The One
March 6, 2022 | Who's your one? | The Urgency of The One| Luke 16:19-31
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As we come to the conclusion of our Who’s Your One series, where we have been focusing on ‘the one’ we come to one of the most important and potentially most uncomfortable conversations yet.
Follow along with me as we walk back through what we have learned so far.
First, we saw by examining the great commission that every person that names the name Christ as their Lord and Savior is called to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, to partake in the mission that Jesus gave us, which is to go and make disciples.
Second, we saw by looking at an encounter in Jesus’ ministry where four men brought one to Jesus to be radically changed, that that is a picture of what it means to be fishers of men, that we should desire to get men and women to Jesus, that we should have eager expectation that Jesus can and will save them, and that no obstacle should discourage us from the work.
Third, we saw the importance of one in the kingdom of God. In essence, because of what Jesus taught and how he ministered, reaching one for the kingdom of God is the single most important thing we can do with our lives.
Last week, we saw the impact just one person can have for Christ. We never know if our one will be someone God uses to reach thousands, as in the case with Andrew bringing Peter to Jesus.
Here is the danger. You can accept the fact that Jesus has called you to be a disciple, that you should be fishers of men, that reaching just one is important, and that when you do God could do amazing things through them, and still put it off for tomorrow. My greatest fear is that as a church we would believe all this is true and remain unmoved to do anything now.
My greatest fear is that as a church we would believe all this is true and remain unmoved to do anything now.
So this morning we are going to talk about the Urgency of Reaching the One.
What makes something urgent?
The definition of urgent is ‘compelling or requiring immediate action or attention’
To expand that into a working definition for us this morning, ‘urgency is the understanding that without immediate action or attention a situation or person is headed for an unfavorable outcome.’
Here is the question before us this morning. ‘What is at risk if we do not reach the one?’ Or to say it another way ‘What is the urgency of reaching the one?’
To answer that, turn with me to Luke chapter 16, beginning in verse 19.
As you turn there, let me give you some background on this passage.
Luke 15:1-3 (ESV) 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:
What follows is actually three parables with a singular emphasis. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and what we call the parable of the prodigal son. We have recently touched on these, so I won’t go back through them now, but Jesus is teaching that to the father, these ‘tax collectors and sinners’ are valuable and worth pursuing.
Jesus then goes on in 16:1 to tell another parable, this time to his disciples, about the shrewd and wise use of wealth, which he concludes with ‘No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”’
Luke 16:14-15 (ESV) 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he 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.
This is the immediate context of this story that Jesus tells next.
Luke 16:19-31 (ESV) 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 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. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 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.’ 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.’”
I want to share with you two observations concerning Hell from Jesus’ story. Two observations.
The Reality of Hell
Jesus says twice, this man died and…The poor man died and, the rich man died and was buried and…
That is a powerful ‘and’. ‘And’ means it’s not over, ‘and’ means there is something else.
Many people today in our world believe that this life is it. That once it is over, it’s over. Jesus clearly teaches otherwise when he says, they died, ‘and’.
The bible teaches that there is something beyond this life, that even though our earthly bodies die, our soul continues to live. That what we can see and experience on this side of death is only part of the equation. Furthermore, in this short story Jesus highlights the fact that there are two destinations in the afterlife. The poor man goes to one and the rich man to the other.
However, for many today, if they believe in something after death, it is overwhelmingly that there is something good on the other side. What we would call Heaven. Many of those people do not believe in a secondary destination that the church calls Hell.
The common objection is that God is a loving God and would never send anyone to hell.
I overwhelmingly agree, God does not send anyone to hell, we go of our own volition, because we choose to reject God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says Jesus Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17) Furthermore, it is not God’s will that men and women go to hell.
2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV) 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Some people say that hell is something the church emphasizes that Jesus never did. But even a casual reading of the gospels easily dispels this. Jesus talked about hell more than any other person in the Bible. Jesus talked about hell more than he talked about heaven. He described it in greater detail too. An article in the gospel coalition summarizes his teachings this way
“He says it is a place of eternal torment (Luke 16:23), of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), where people will gnash their teeth in anguish and regret (Matt. 13:42), and from which there is no return, even to warn loved ones (Luke 16:19–31). He calls hell a place of “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30), comparing it to “Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28), which was a trash dump outside the walls of Jerusalem where rubbish was burned and maggots abounded. Jesus talks about hell more than he talks about heaven, and describes it more vividly. There’s no denying that Jesus knew, believed, and warned about the absolute reality of hell.”
Let’s for a few more moments, suspend any talk of who is going to hell or who is not. Just the reality that hell exists and the reality, from Jesus’ story, that some can go there, should create in us an urgency to make sure that neither we or anyone we care about are going there. Right?
Parents, we worry about what school our kids go to, what sports they play, what teams they make, what college they will go to, what career they will have. None of those things are trivial and some are important but no question is more important than will my child grow up to know Jesus and spend eternity with him or not and spend an eternity separated from all goodness, and comfort, and joy.
Students, people will tell you that you have your whole life ahead of you, but the reality is that you have all of eternity ahead of you.
What good is it if you spend a lifetime of wedded bliss together with your spouse if they don’t know Jesus? Everybody here is going to spend eternity somewhere, and the reality is that hell is real and some people are headed there as we speak.
Everybody here is going to spend eternity somewhere, and the reality is that hell is real and some people are headed there as we speak.
The residents of Hell
Let’s dig into our story a little deeper.
Two men who couldn’t be more different.
The rich man’s description. (rich/Purple- expensive dyed clothes made, fine linen- Egyptian silk/feasted, sumptuously every day/at his gate-large gate)
The poor man's description. (poor/laid-literally cast/sores-ulcerous/desired-longed for/dogs came and licked his sores)
Two destinations that couldn’t be more different.
The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham's side (your translation may say Abraham’s bosom) which is a little strange unless you know the context. There is similar language used in the Lord’s supper of one of Jesus disciples. John 13:23 (ESV) One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side,
In this day, you would eat, reclined at low tables and to lay your head on someone's chest was a sign of closeness. Don’t miss the picture, this man went from lying in the street with no comfort, no companionship, and no food, to reclining at a table in heaven with Abraham.
This poor man, who seems to have had no proper funeral, who was unimportant by all standards, was carried by angels to heaven.
The rich man died also, was buried, probably had a wonderful funeral where everyone was there. The bible says being in Hades was in torment. Alone, in anguish, thirsty beyond measure. He looks over and sees Lazarus with Abraham in a place of comfort and joy.
Now, we make a mistake immediately if we think the poor man went to heaven because he was poor and the rich man went to heaven because he was rich. The rest of scripture will not support such a claim, besides Abraham was a very wealthy man.
There is here a great reversal in death for these men, which may very well be the case for many at the end of their lives. Those who had more than enough to live comfortably will experience the sudden loss of every good thing they have ever enjoyed and those who have scraped by with very little will suddenly be greeted with every good thing denied to them on this side.
Poverty does not guarantee you heaven and riches do not guarantee you hell. Which leads us to the question, who will populate hell? Who goes there?
From this story, I want to highlight 4 truths about the population of hell.
Hell will be populated by ‘good’ people.
Jesus does not say that this man got his money from dishonest gain. He doesn’t say he cheated on his taxes or his wife. For all we know, this man worked hard, earned his money, and simply enjoyed his life to the max. Did he ignore the man at his gate, yes, but haven’t we all looked the other way at a stoplight so we wouldn’t meet the gaze of a beggar? Haven’t we all walked a little faster so we wouldn’t have to interact with a panhandler? I mean, one pastor pointed this out, he let Lazarus be laid at his gate, didn’t he? I mean how many of us would welcome someone begging at the end of our driveway?
I think, if we do take hell seriously, we imagine that it will be populated with the worst of the worst, the bad people. Like Hitler, right? Not good people.
A 2021 survey found that 60% of self-identified ‘born-again Christians’ and ‘evangelical Christians’ both believe that a person who is basically good or does enough good stuff will go to heaven.
Here is the problem, how good is good enough? The Bible says that the wages of sin is death and that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That even our best ‘good’ works are like filthy rags in the sight of God. That having rebelled and broken one of God’s laws is like breaking all of them.
Heaven or hell is not about if you are ‘good’.
Hell will be populated by successful people.
I think one of the reasons Jesus makes this man rich in his story is because in this day, Jewsd thought that success, riches were a sign of God’s favor, therefore if you were wealthy, God was obviously pleased with you. We may not articulate it that way, but we let the same thinking creep in, don’t we?
Here is the problem, Jesus says elsewhere of his father, (ESV) For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. That is just because you God allows you to experience favorable circumstances does not mean that you are right with him.
Hell will be populated by religious people.
In our story the rich man was Jewish, we know this because of how he addressed Abraham and how Abraham addressed him. 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.’
We learned a few weeks ago that since this man was Jewish, he had learned the scriptures from a young age, he probably went to the temple when it was required, made sacrifices when he was supposed to. To be Jewish was to be, in a sense, religious. You can almost hear the inference here that he deserves relief because of his relationship to Abraham. Father Abraham, have mercy on me. You know me, I am one of yours. But sadly, being connected to a religion, being connected to a Christian family, being connected to a church are not things that get you to heaven. Hell will be full of people who were religious, or spiritual, that did the things that religious people do, they went to religious places of worship, they sang the songs of their religion, they participated in the practices of their religion.
Hell will be populated by compassionate people.
When this man realized he would get no relief, Luke 16:27-28 (ESV) 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.’ This further dispels the myth that hell is only for heartless and evil people. This man, in the midst of torment, denied even the smallest comfort, begs for Lazarus to go and warn his brothers. He does not want them to experience what he is experiencing.
Rich man- not a bad man, very successful, at least somewhat religious, and when push came to shove, he had compassion on those closest to him.
If we are honest, he is not the first one that pops into our mind when we think about the residents of hell, but nonetheless, he is the poster child Jesus chose to illustrate the afterlife in this story.
So why did he go to hell?
The key is in the closing conversation of this story.
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.’”
By Moses, Jesus means the first five books of the bible written by Moses, and the Prophets, are the rest of the old testament. Abraham says that they have God’s word and if they will hear them, that is if they will respond in obedience and faith to what God has said, they will not join him. The man, still justifying his own disobedience, says no, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.
‘That will convince them’.
Notice something with me. He doesn’t disagree, they have Moses and the Prophets, they know it like all Jewish men do, but they haven’t taken it seriously, they aren’t convinced. He essentially says, that wasn’t enough to convince me, it’s not enough to convince them.
The rich man went to hell because he disregarded God’s word and what it required of him and instead chose to live his life his way. That is the thing that all of hell’s residents will share. They will be different nationalities, economic classes, social classes, they will be varying degrees of good, varying degrees of knowledge and religious involvement, but they will all have rejected God’s word and chose to live in rebellion to it.
For you and for me, what does God require of us? What does his word say?
John 3:16-21 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Listen to what Paul says in Romans,
Romans 10:11-15 (ESV) 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Every person is headed for hell because they have rebelled against God and sinned against his law. But in his loving mercy he has provided a way for men to be saved. He sent his son to be the propitiation for their sins and if they will believe in him and call on him to be saved, they will be saved.
I want to share the rest of that scripture as we close.
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
As a disciple of Jesus, you have been sent to proclaim him to those that have not heard and believed, to go to the one and share Jesus with them.
That is the mission, and there is nothing more urgent than that.
Listen, friend, if you have made it this far, I just want to warn you of one more type of person that will inhabit hell.
Hell will be full of people that had good intentions. One day they were going to accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. One day they were going to repent and lay their life before him. We all have a limited number of one days, and it’s a gamble every time we put something off on whether we will have another.
The bible says today is the day of salvation. Don’t put it off another minute.