Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
I did not grow up a follower of Jesus.
When I was 12 years old, my best friend, came over to my house and said, “David, if you died tonight, do you KNOW you’d be going to heaven?”
I told him he had 10 seconds to get out of my house
And he ran up my basement stairs and quickly pedaled away on his bike
For many of us, if you were that kid, you’d probably never want to try talking to people about Jesus again.
For a lot of us…that’s our fear, right?
You finally get up the nerve to spark up a spiritual conversation with your neighbor, and they threaten to burn down your house.
But even when it goes badly…it’s still a seed.
Whenever I start my testimony, I almost always start with that story of being 12.
Because listen…it had to start somewhere.
The soil of my heart…at age 12…was rock hard…but that was the first dig in…of a whole lot of digs…that began to open my heart up to Jesus.
As summer begins to wind down, and we begin to gear up for the Fall…I wanted to spend three weeks talking about sharing our faith…evangelism.
It’s a subject we are very passionate about at Renovation.
The vision of our church is to be a people…being changed by God…to change the world.
And you can’t truly change the world unless you’re telling people about the world-changer, Jesus.
So we are doing a 3-week series called, “Illuminate.”
Where I’m going to be talking to you about illuminating a path towards Jesus.
This week, we’re going to start by studying a very fascinating and challenging parable from Jesus.
(Luke 16:19-31) – NIV
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 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.’ 25 “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. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “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.’”
It’s a fascinating and challenging parable about a topic that hardly any of us like to think of…hell.
The rich man…who does not have any sort of saving faith goes to hell
And the poor man, Lazarus, goes to heaven.
And in between the two is a great chasm…a gulf…
And once someone is in heaven or hell…they can’t go back and forth between the two
Our destination is permanent
THE RICH ARE OUR CONTEXT
One of interesting things about this parable is that it’s the only parable in the Bible in which a character has a Proper Name…and that’s Lazarus…the poor man
Typically the characters are addressed simply by “the man,” “the woman,” a father, farmer, etc.
But the poor man in our story has a name, Lazarus
In addition, the meaning of Lazarus’ name is significant.
His name means, “God is my help…my salvation”
And it’s an obvious counterpoint to the rich man who has no name.
Due to his wealth, he thinks he doesn’t need help…salvation…he already has everything he needs.
We’re told that he dresses in the finest clothes…and lives in luxury (or feasted sumptuously some translations say) every day.
He thinks that he has it all…when in reality, he has nothing.
He doesn’t know the truth…
That this life is only the beginning…and eternity is coming.
And I want to submit to you this morning that here in Blaine, our context is much closer to the “rich man” than it is to the poor man
If you don’t believe me, I can statistically tell you that the United States by many different statistical indicators is the 10th richest country in the world.
And the zip code in which we are currently in at this moment is 88th percentile in the nation for household income.
We, like the rich man, live in luxury…every day.
You might feel otherwise, but it only takes a quick trip to another country to figure that out…or even into some of the more impoverished neighborhoods of our own country.
Perhaps the hardest thing for me to watch in Haiti is when the kids eat lunch.
For many of the kids at the schools we visit or the orphanages we serve…lunch is their only meal.
And it’s just a plate of rice and beans.
I can basically eat whatever I want…whenever I want.
We have SO much here.
We have houses…while much of the world lives in shacks or packs their extended family of 10 people into 500 square feet
We have indoor plumbing…you ever seen someone just walk out of their house and go to bathroom on their front “yard” (I have)…we don’t even have to think about that kind of stuff.
We have lights at night…clean water…
And here in the suburbs…we can go beyond the necessities even.
We can afford extracurriculars for our kids…to remodel our kitchen when much of the world wished they had a kitchen…we’ve got big flat screen TV’s…and a car for every driver in the house.
And NONE of those things that we have are inherently bad…just inherently dangerous.
(1 Timothy 6:10) – NIV
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Money is not the root of all evil…
First of all, it says all kinds of evil…not all evil.
And it says, “The LOVE of money”
But what’s so dangerous about having money…and liking it?
Because when we have money…it can…so easily…be our God.
It can take care of us.
Most of us…here in the suburbs…we don’t have to rely on God…our bank account takes care of us just fine.
Our money takes care of us…
It gives us security.
It can make us happy.
It sounds a lot like a “Replacement God”
And for a lot of people with money (that’s us)…it can be a whole lot harder to see God…that’s the danger of it.
Look at the words of Jesus!
(Luke 18:24) – NIV
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
We know this to be statistically true as well.
There is a strong correlation to how wealthy a country is compared with how spiritual its people are.
And of course there are many factors here…but one of them is…the poorer the country…the more spiritual the people.
The United States is a bit of an outlier here because of our deeply religious past…but if nothing changes, we’ll soon enough join the European countries in both their wealth and atheism.
So why is it generally easier for someone of poverty to see God?
Because, it’s significantly more apparent …that they NEED God.
But to us…the rich…it’s not so obvious.
By the way, this is one of the reasons that it’s really important that we are taking the Good News of Jesus Christ all around the world.
Places like Haiti and Africa are fertile ground for people to hear about Jesus.
We talk so often of our international travels here, and we would love for you all to travel internationally with us in 2016.
Our goal is for every single Renovation Church attending adult to go on an international missions trip with us at least once.
(Put up Haiti Slide)
We are going back to Haiti again this year in February of 2016.
Applications are available starting TODAY actually…and we would absolutely love for you to come with us this year.
Make THIS the year you face your fear…and serve Jesus with us internationally!
It’s such an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience!
I’m also excited to announce that we are aiming to finally go back to Rwanda in August of 2016.
Applications for that trip will be available this winter.
(back to Message slide)
So back to the correlation between wealth and spirituality…
Why is it not as obvious to the developed world that they need God?
Many nice suburban families…with their three car garages… and their mini vans with the two TV’s inside… feel NO NEED for God whatsoever.
Money is already providing for them…or at least for the moment…it seems to be.
For the average Blaine family…there’s seemingly no real felt need to seek out God or church.
This is hard to talk about, but it’s important that we understand our context.
For many of our neighbors, one of the biggest blinders to the reality of what’s coming after our death…is the false and illusionary security that our money is giving us.
But indeed…death is coming.
And as the rich man from Luke 16 found out…his false god of money meant absolutely nothing when his life was over.
NOBODY EVER TOLD ME
We don’t like to talk about hell, but it’s very real.
That’s why Jesus talked about it. A lot.
I heard Timothy Keller say this the other day, and I thought it was good.
He said, “If anyone else spoke to us about hell, it would be hard for us to believe. But Jesus speaks about it more than Peter, Paul, Moses, David, Daniel combined.”
And see, you can’t reject Jesus on the doctrine of hell, but then say you like Jesus’ other teachings about love.
It doesn’t work like that.
You can’t say…I can’t believe that a God of love could send people to hell.
Why? Because you know who could believe that?? Jesus!
Almost all Christians believe in hell…but we just dance around it so much…that none of our neighbors, co-workers, and family members (those who NEED to know it exists) know what we really believe about it.
We say, “Jesus SAVED me.”
Yeah, from what though?
From your sin doing what?!
Sending me to hell.
Oh yeah, that’s right.
Hell is a part of the greatest story ever told.
Jesus Christ looked upon all of your sin, and came to earth to die in your place out of radical love for YOU
And if you would believe in Him, He would wipe away all of your sin. All of it. Forgiving you.
And then, rather than us getting the punishment we deserve (hell), we amazingly (because we’re forgiven now), go to heaven instead.
But see, the doctrine of hell is a MAJOR part of that story.
And we’re not helping anyone by keeping the doctrine of hell from people.
You’re never going to improve on God’s story by hiding some of its pages.
And once people die…it’s too late.
We can’t go from heaven to hell to finally tell our old best friend we’ve had since back in high school the truth about Jesus
Lazarus couldn’t go to the rich man…there’s a great chasm in between.
When your sibling or parent who doesn’t know Jesus dies…it’s too late.
You want to know the one thing that scares me more than almost anything else?
It’s that someone would get to the horrible, tortuous place that hell will surely be…and will think, “That David Sorn…I KNOW that he had to know about this place…about Jesus too…and he never told me”
May no one EVER say that of us.
Yet, I fear…so many…in this very city…many of whom are blinded by the illusionary fog of wealth…will set foot in that horrible place and utter the words, “Nobody ever told me”
“I had an idea about Jesus…there were churches all around me…and I guess I never sought it out myself…but man, nobody ever told me”
Hudson Taylor, the great 19th century missionary to China once led a Buddhist leader to Christ in China.
The man had been long seeking truth by studying Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, but there was no rest for his soul until he heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Eagerly he began testifying to the Buddhists of the peace he found!
One day, shortly after his conversion, he asked Hudson Taylor how long the English had known about Jesus?
Had they just found out recently?
When he was told that the English had had known Jesus for centuries, he was shocked.
He replied, “For hundreds of years you have had these glad tidings and only now have come to preach it to us? My father sought after the truth for more than 20 years, and died with out finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner!”
NO ONE ELSE IS COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD -- IT’S OUR JOB
Our job…as Christ-followers is to ILLUMINATE the path to Jesus Christ
Look at what Jesus says of our role as his followers
(Matthew 5:14-16) - NIV
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
In the following two Sundays, I’m going to present to you two very different styles of evangelism.
But here…at the beginning of this series…it’s important that we understand that people need to have the flashlight of truth shined on the full picture.
We can’t just shine it on the love of Jesus.
We’ve got to move the light over a bit and show them the cliff that is surely coming for a life without Jesus.
We must illuminate the truth…the full truth.
That doesn’t mean that you need to be out on Radisson and 125th with some doomsday sign…
But it means that when we talk about Jesus with the people God has already strategically put in our lives…we talk to them about what Jesus saved us FROM.
Listen there are a hundred different studies out there right now that will tell you that Americans are not giving up their belief that God exists…but that they’ve stopped going to church.
Well, maybe the reason most Americans don’t see a need for Jesus anymore is because we as Christians have just been painting Jesus as the next great thing in “self-help,”… not as Lord and Savior…Savior from a coming wrath.
What do you unbelieving friends think you believe about Jesus?
That Jesus is just some nice guy who improves your relationships and helps you smile more and have less road rage?
I mean no wonder people in our nice, self-sufficient suburban context don’t really see a need for Jesus.
But they’re missing the greater picture…the greater truth.
Ever since the Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean killed over 200,000 people, experts have been working to improve tsunami detection through buoys that can measure unusual waves.
However, there’s a problem.
Even though the buoy stations are supposed to last about four years, most don’t make it past one.
They become detached…and simply drift away…failing to due what they were created to do…save people from coming destruction.
It’s not all that different from us as Christians.
Most Christians are actually pretty decent at this the first year after they are saved.
It’s SO real in our hearts when we first comprehend what He saved us from…and we want to alert others to the amazing saving grace of Jesus.
But then we become detached…and kind of drift away from all that.
And what we’re drifting away from IS reality.
You might think all of this talk about heaven, hell, and eternity is over the top and crazy, but trust me…TRUST ME…a 100 years from now…when you’re sitting in one of those two places…I might just look like one of the most sane people you ever met J
What’s happened to so many of us?
Why are we becoming so numb to the full truth of the Gospel?
Back in January, most of the major news sites had a short story about the death of an online gamer from Taiwan…I don’t know if you saw it or not.
It blew my mind when I read it…so I kept it on file.
Here’s what happened:
The man was in a middle of a 3-day online gaming binge when he experienced cardiac failure.
But that’s not the shocker.
He was at an internet café…with a whole bunch of other gamers…and his body had already begun to stiffen by the time anyone even noticed he had died…even though they were sitting RIGHT NEXT TO HIM!
Just like the people in internet café were too interested in their own game, most of us continue on with our own lives while people are passing away into a Christ-less eternity right around us!
And listen, it doesn’t matter that it’s hard…that some people will reject us…or call us crazy.
We’re not crazy.
This is not crazy talk, it’s a coming reality.
Stop lying to yourself that you better not talk about it because it’s offensive, or HR would be upset, or it’s not politically correct.
Listen, no one in hell is ever going to be thankful that you abided by HR policy and didn’t talk about your faith at work.
And you know what…Some people won’t listen no matter what happens.
That’s why in our Luke 16 parable Abraham says, “They have Moses and the Prophets” (in other words, they already have the Bible)”
And yet for many…that’s not enough.
But the rich man says, “But what if someone like Lazarus came back from the dead?”
Abraham basically says, “For many, it’s still won’t matter”
And the end of the passage is full of irony.
For one, a man who ALSO had the name of Lazarus was actually raised from the dead by Jesus…
And while many did believe…it also tells us in John 12 that the Pharisees tried to kill Lazarus…instead of believing in what God can do.
And in the ultimate sense of irony…Jesus HIMSELF came back from the dead…and yet…some will never believe.
And yet for every story of rejection…there is another story like mine.
That maybe starts with… “I’ll give you 10 seconds to get out of my house.”
But the ending is much better.
And it’s much better because other people didn’t give up.
And see, no one is going to come back from hell and tell people the truth.
The rich man, of course, wants someone to go back, but it’s not going to happen. It can’t happen.
Because…it’s our job.
It’s your job.
Your job is that NO ONE in your circle of influence could ever say, “Nobody ever told me”
That no one could ever say about you, “I KNOW that they knew about heaven and hell…that there was more to life than money, houses, and retirement…but they never told me”
Let me ask you a question:
Who are you thinking about?
Who is God putting on your heart?
Would you share the Good news of Jesus with them?
Renovation Church…let’s be bold for Jesus.
Let’s wake up from this illusionary slumber where people are dying all around us…never knowing that they needed Jesus…simply thinking that they were living the good, Suburban life…the American dream…when that’s all it was…a dream.
It’s not real.
And let’s tell them about reality.
About a God that loves them so much, that He sent his one and only son…to die on a cross…to take their punishment…and save them from a place every single one of us…truly deserve to Go.
Let’s illuminate a path…to reality…to love…to Jesus.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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