Summary: The lost need to learn four lessons in this life that the rich man in hell learned too late.
For the next few weeks I will be bringing a series of messages that will deal with salvation, personal evangelism and missions. Many things have prompted this series, first and foremost being the general lack of interest among believers concerning the eternal destiny of those to whom we minister. Most people just don’t bother to share their faith; not Sunday School teachers, not Discovery teachers, not deacons, not preachers. I read that the national average today is that it takes 85 church members just to reach one person for Christ in America.
It is not just a teacher problem. I am just as guilty as the next person. Just because our church is growing does not mean that the kingdom of God is growing. Most church growth comes from transfer growth. Our church has grown because of people coming from other churches, but what about the lost? I realize that talking about our faith makes many of you uncomfortable, but if we are really serious about doing what we were left here to do, then we must talk about our faith. We must talk about our Savior, and we must tell folk they need to be saved. In Luke 16, we find what may be a very familiar account to you about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. This account is one of many stories that Jesus told one day as He tried to get the attention of the Pharisees and His disciples.
From Luke 14, we learn that Jesus had been invited to breakfast at one of the Pharisees’ homes. It was a custom in those days to invite rich and influential people to your home for these social breakfasts, with hopes that you in return would be invited to someone else’s breakfast. They used one another to boost egos and stroke their pride. When Jesus arrived, instead of eating, He criticized them for their hypocrisy and piety, saying that instead of what they were doing they ought to be inviting the poor and lame and sick, people who could really benefit from their free meals. He said that they were only interested in helping those who could return the favor, but if they were really as righteous as they thought themselves to be, then they’d try to help those from whom they had nothing to gain. Jesus left their breakfast, went and found a group of publicans and prostitutes to have lunch with. This greatly angered the Pharisees, and they blasted Him for it, saying "this man eats with sinners."
By now, Jesus was surrounded by the Pharisees and scribes on one side, the publicans and prostitutes on the other, and the disciples by His side as well, so He continued His evaluation of these so-called religious elite by telling a story about a shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep just to find one, about a woman who swept the floor to find one coin when she already had nine, about a prodigal son and a self-righteous son and about a poor steward. In all of these stories and the one we will read this morning, He was driving home a point that needs to be received by us, that if they weren’t interested in what He came to offer, then He would move on to those who were. Jesus won’t beg you to accept Him - He offer stands good, but it is up to you whether you receive it or not. Let’s read our text in Luke 16:19-31.
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst they good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."