Sabtu, 08 November 2008

Are You Going Up or Going Down

Are You Going Up or Going Down
by: Craig Condon

The Pope, Billy Graham and Oral Roberts all died on the same day and arrived at the Pearly Gates at the same time. St. Peter said to them, “I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that we are full right now and I am going to have to send the three of you down to the devil. The good news is it should be temporary and I’ll have you back in six weeks or less”. St Peter made a quick call to Satan to arrange the necessary accommodations, and then the three went for a brief stay in hell.

A week later, St. Peter received an urgent call from Demon HQ. It’s the Devil himself. “You have to get these guys out of here and now! I mean NOW!” “What’s the problem?” St. Peter asked. “It’s like this,” the Infernal One explains, “The Pope is going around blessing everyone, Billy Graham is saving everyone, and Oral Roberts has raised almost enough money to put in air conditioning!”

On Oct. 29, 1999, the CBS Morning Show went to Hell. A headline in the Detroit News on Nov. 3, 1999 read, “Businessman Sees Hell as Tourist Site.” A headline in the Chicago Tribune on Oct. 29, 2000 read, “Saints and Sinners Can All Go to Hell”. On Jan. 27, 2001, a headline in the Detroit News read, “Almost Cold Enough to Freeze Hell Over”. The article read, “The deep freeze that hit the nation in recent weeks and buried several states in an unending wave of snow had one more odd effect: Hell almost froze over”.

What each of these stories was referring to is a small town between Detroit and Lansing, Michigan called Hell. A small town of just a few hundred residents, it has capitalized off its name. The Chamber of Commerce has a billboard visible to travelers traveling along a nearby highway suggesting they go to Hell. The town gets calls throughout the year from TV and newspaper weather reporters to find out if there town is truly hotter or colder than hell. Husbands send alimony cheques through the post office so that they are postmarked in Hell. Many citizens in the surrounding area come to this little town every April to mail their tax returns so that they bear the Hell postmark.

We can laugh about hell all we want, but in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus reveals that hell is a real place that is no laughing matter. Where we end up after we die depends on where our heart is in this life. God calls us to celebrate the riches of life, not a life of riches. Where our treasure is, so is our heart. A good example of this is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Both wanted to enjoy the good things in life, but the rich man wanted everything for himself. This is typical of the “me first” world we live in today. No one in his right mind who is right with God would refuse to help a neighbour in times of trouble, but that’s what the rich man did when he refused to help Lazarus. The rich man chose to live according to the chasm his god-money-created in life. He couldn’t cross the great chasm in death. The price we pay for our love of money is a deep chasm that divides us from each other. The rich man enjoyed a life of plenty on earth, while Lazarus enjoyed a life of material poverty. When they died, they went in opposite directions-the rich man to hell, and Lazarus to heaven.

The rich man’s thirst in hell is the same thirst we have-a thirst to know God. For the rich man, it was too late. For us who are living, it is never too late to know God. Knowing God won’t save us from times of trouble, but faith in Jesus will give us an anchor to hold on to during life’s storms-just like the words of the hymn “Will Your Anchor Hold” say. God wants us to know Him because He loves us and wants to provide for our needs. He wants to provide for us because of the special covenant He has with us. He wants us to be as close to Him as His shadow. God wants us to be dependent on him so we can experience our greatest happiness and freedom. God never stops giving. Coveting feeds a lack of contentment, encourages roving, restless eyes and causes us to look for satisfaction in the things we don’t have instead of the riches God has given us to enjoy. God uses money to steer our lives into the areas in which He wants us involved. He does this by giving or withholding money.

God is the constant companion of the poor. If we develop a relationship with the poor, we also develop a relationship with the God who continually relates to them. Just as the rich man ignored Lazarus, we often ignore anyone who can’t help us achieve our goals. The way to life involves keeping the Ten Commandments, especially as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke’s message to the rich calls on them to share their wealth. They are not more valuable because they have more valuables. They are not owed a privileged status. Social status and material possessions are no guarantee of our standing with God. The rich man’s tragic flaw is that he suffers from a deep spiritual deafness, an inability to hear and listen to the call for mercy and justice, or even the practical plea for just plain bread and some salve for the sores the dogs lick.

God does not condone poverty or condemn plenty. The difference between Lazarus and the rich man wan not what they owned, but what owned them. The rich man was rich materially but poor spiritually. On the other hand, Lazarus was poor materially but rich spiritually. He was a good example of the 2nd Beatitude mentioned in Luke 6:20-“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God”. The Pharisees loved material things more than they loved God, so Jesus used this parable to teach them what was really important. Just as the neglect of physical health leads to physical death, the neglect of spiritual health leads to spiritual death.

Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal”. The rich man’s experience warns us of the possibility of being rich enough in this world to live luxuriously, yet so poverty-stricken in the next that we have to beg for a drop of water. The best type of collection to have is one that is given away. That’s why Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:18, “Be rich in good works…” Remember Dorcas, the woman who made garments for the poor in Acts 9:36-43. She is the same woman Peter later raised from the dead. We are urged in Psalm 91:16 to use ourselves to glorify God and share the Good News of our salvation with everyone we meet.

If you were to die suddenly, where do you think you would go? Sudden death in particular should be a warning to all of us, for we do not know when our time is up. A good example is what happened to my brother-in-law’s mother recently. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer, but she passed away very suddenly after being rushed to the hospital one evening after she started coughing up blood. We need to be prepared (as the Boy Scout motto says) for the unexpected. It will be too late after we die. Hell is a permanent place from which there is no escape. There is no love in hell, only hate. It is a dark place where there is no freedom. The lost in hell will remember all the chances they had in life to repent. They will have no second chances in hell.

Jesus loved to talk about hell because that was part of His mission. He loved to talk about the Valley of Hinnom, which was Jerusalem’s garbage dump and most hated place. It was also the place where the bodies of the poor were buried, so it was likely the place where Lazarus was buried. Jesus did something in this parable that He didn’t do in any other parable-He mentioned specific names. This leads scholars to conclude that this is a true story. The rich man went to hell not because he was rich, but because He rejected Christ. The choices we make today will determine our eternal state.

If you want to know if hell is a place of literal fire, just ask someone who has been there-the rich man. It’s no wonder he wanted Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers. It’s no wonder he himself wanted to go back and warn them. There is no escape from hell. Hell enlarges itself daily. It is occupied by the multitudes who did not have to go there. It is occupied not only by some of the worst criminals and dictators in history, it is also occupied by those who chose to reject Christ. We need to hear hell’s solid conviction. Hell is a bottomless pit, a prison or dungeon where there is intense darkness. The meanest, cruelest, filthiest people in history will be there along with the unsaved church members and the people who trust in their own righteousness for salvation.

Some of us get too busy for God. We can’t belong to His church. We don’t want to be part of the folks that are going to heaven. We’re too busy doing everything else, and then we die, and that’s it. Some who are lost appear to be saved because they live good, moral lives. There are people who are saved who may, at times, appear to be lost. The real test of whether or not a person is saved comes at the time of death. Everyone lives forever-some in heaven, the rest in hell. Everyone who refuses to accept Christ has chosen to live their eternal lives in hell. They will not lose their memory or identity. They will remember everything they did, said or thought while on earth, and they will remember it for eternity. Judgment is a very real fact in this world and the world to come.

We do not need to be deliberately evil to miss the gate of Heaven. All we have to do is be indifferent to the needs of those around us. We need to have a missions conscience. The church must also listen carefully to the world’s concerns as it determines its programs and direction. We need to help the hungry, the thirsty, the lonely, the dying. The way we treat other people in this life is the way we will be treated in the next life. In other words, what goes around comes around. We will have to deal with our decision to help or ignore them when we stand before God’s throne on Judgment Day. Our mistakes will come back to haunt us for eternity.

When the rich man died, he found out ten things:

1. Death does not end it all.
2. God had a record of his sins.
3. Satan lied to him.
4. Hell is the kind of place Jesus said it was.
5. He missed the greatest thing in life.
6. He still had his memory.
7. Hell was a mad house.
8. All opportunity to be saved was gone.
9. There is only one way of salvation.
10. The redeemed received the opposite 5 minutes after death.

One of the most fascinating works of poetry I have ever read or heard is a poem entitled “Five Minutes After I Die”, and I would like to conclude my sermon by reading it to you, because it sums up the points of my message very clearly.

Loved ones will weep o’er my silent face
Dear ones will clasp me in sad embrace
Shadows and darkness will fill this place
Five minutes after I die.

Faces that sorrow I will not see,
Voices that murmur will not reach me,
But where, oh where, will my soul be,
Five minutes after I die?

Never to repair the good I lack,
Fixed to the goal of my chosen track,
No room to repent, no turning back,
Five minutes after I die.

Marked forever with my chosen prong,
Long is eternity, o so long,
Then woe is me, if my soul is wrong,
Five minutes after I die.

Oh what a fool—hard word, but true,
Passing the Saviour with death in view,
Doing a deed I can never undo,
Five minutes after I die.

If I am flinging a fortune away,
If I am wasting salvation’s day,
“Just is my sentence,” my soul shall say,
Five minutes after I die.

Thanks be to Jesus for pardon free,
He paid my debt on Calvary’s tree
Heaven’s gates will open for me,
Five minutes after I die.

Oh marvelous grace that has rescued me,
Oh joyous moment when Jesus I see,
Oh happy day when like Him I’ll be,
Five minutes after I die.

God help you to choose! Your eternal state
Depends on your choice; you dare not wait.
You must choose now; it will be too late
Five minutes after you die.

God has given us gifts to share. When He empties his coffers and becomes poor, we become rich spiritually. This Parable is about values, not money. The rich man’s sin was not his wealth, but his hard heart. Those who are rich have an obligation to help the poor. How we use what we have leads to God’s judgment.

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