Summary: This sermon looks at the Rich Man and Lazarus and the reasons why Jesus tells us about Heaven And Hell. The Rich Man wants to become an evangelist, but he doesn't get the chance.
If Only I Had The Chance Again
If you knew exactly what was going to happen tomorrow, how many of you think it might change what you do today. For some of you, you would become a hero, for some of you would become rich, for some of you might get to work on time and work hard all day and for some of you, you would give your life to Christ.
But since we don’t know the future, we sometimes have to put our trust in things and in people, and we accept things as true which are not. We live in a world in which we are told everybody can have their own truth so long as they believe what they say they believe. It is not our belief that makes a statement true. It is truth that makes things true.
I’m from New York State. One of the hallmarks of the state is the New York State Thruway, which touches almost every major city in the state from New York City to Buffalo NY and down to the Ohio Border. We believed it to be one of the safest built highways in the country. However there was one bridge in which a contractor saved some money by building the support six feet into the river bed instead of on pylons driven into the bedrock. I think Jesus warned us against building our lives on the foundation of dirt and sand as opposed to upon a rock.
On April 5th 1987 at 10:40 am on a Sunday morning four cars and a semi truck were driving down the thruway. Three men were returning from a bowling tournament. A mother and daughter were heading to a baby shower. Two Shriners who had gone to a black-tie dinner and were heading home to Toronto. A married couple was driving to Texas . A truck driver heading from Green Bay, Wis., to Goshen in Orange County.
The one belief they all held was that it was safe to cross the section of the bridge that was coming up. Traveling at 55 to 65 mph, they had no idea that in 10 seconds the bridge would collapse. All five vehicles plunged into the raging river, and 10 people lost their lives. If only they had had the chance again to take a different route, how many of you know they probably would have taken it.
Suppose you knew that bridge was going to collapse and all five of those vehicles had stopped at the same rest stop where you were. Would you feel an obligation to warn them? What would you even say to them? What do you think their reaction might be to you? You have the truth, but they think your truth is wrong and theirs is right. Trying to save their lives might be a lot more difficult than you think.
Jesus had one of the most difficult missions in coming to this earth to try to save us. Problem number one is that it is very difficult to save someone who does not believe they are in any danger. They immediately assume, you are trying to do something to them, rather than for them. Our society paints the church as a group of people trying to do something to people, rather than for people. If I don’t think I have a need, I am less inclined to listen to what you have to say. How many of you had people warn you not to take a course of action, but you did what you wanted to, but now you think, “If only I had the chance again, I would.”
Jesus tells us in Luke 16:19-31 about a man who was living the American Dream. The man was rich. He lived in luxury. He was dressed in the finest of clothes. He could mention what he wanted and somebody was there ready to give it to him. His house was magnificent. His parties were the talk of the town. This guy seemed to have it all. He did have it all, except for a relationship with God. He believed that God was just a big fairy tale. He had heard the stories about Abraham and Moses, but they were nothing more than bed time stories for kids.
He was like the one spoken of in our Old Testament reading which said “Fools say in their hearts, there is no God.” Atheism did not just start, it’s been around a very long time. Trying to tell this guy he needed to be saved, was like trying to tell a billionaire he needed to work at a job paying minimum wage. If there was a God, his wealth was proof that He had God’s blessings on his life. His life was all about him, and what he had.