Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Old Testament Book of Daniel, Part 4

We're doing an online study of the book of Daniel right now. The studies take place twice a week over on Facebook. Here's the video of tonight's session, part four of our study.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

You Can Trust in Christ

[Below you'll find the live stream video of today's traditional and modern worship services from Living Water Lutheran Church, as well as the text of today's message. Have a good week!]

Luke 16:19-31
The story or parable that Jesus tells in today’s gospel lesson is well known to you. As Jesus tells it, there was a rich man, “who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” (Luke 16:19)

From what Jesus says here, we know that the rich man wasn’t just rich, he was fabulously wealthy. Only the wealthy or kings could afford clothing made of linen or dyed purple. The rich man also lived in luxury, meaning that he didn’t just feast at weddings or holidays, but all the time. He wasn’t satisfied with what Jesus calls, “our daily bread.” This guy’s motto in life was, “More!”

Jesus then tells us about another character in the story: “At [the rich man’s] gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:20-21)

Lazarus, not to be confused with Jesus’ friend of the same name, is helpless. When dogs lick his open sores, he’s too weak to fend them off. And he can’t even place himself at the rich man’s gate. Someone else has to do that for him.

Maybe someone set Lazarus there, hoping the rich man would take pity on Lazarus. If that had been the hope, it was an unwarranted one. Lazarus lay at the rich man’s gate until he dies. The rich man dies at the same time. But, when Lazarus dies, Jesus says, “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side,” or, more literally, Abraham’s bosom. Lazarus is in a place of peace and contentment to which those who trust in the God of Abraham, the God the whole world can now know in the crucified and risen Jesus, go.

Of the rich man, Jesus says he “died and was buried.” (Luke 16:22) But Jesus tells us that, unlike Lazarus, the rich man went to “Hades, where he was in torment…” (Luke 16:23)

Let’s be clear. The rich man isn’t damned to an eternity of burning in unquenchable fire because he was rich in this world. Rather, he had condemned himself by putting his trust in the things of this world rather than in God. The Old Testament patriarch Abraham was, you’ll remember, wealthy. But Genesis 15:6 tells us that despite his sins and faults, about which the Bible was quite open, Abraham “believed the Lord, and [God] credited it to [Abraham] as righteousness.” Abraham was saved from sin and death by God’s grace through faith in the God you and I now meet in Jesus. The rich man in Jesus’ story didn’t trust in God.

As Jesus tells it, the rich man can see Lazarus, the poor man he once ignored, at the eternal Messianic banquet to which Jesus invites all who believe in Him. “Father Abraham,” he cries, “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.” (Luke 16:24)

The rich man calls Abraham “father” because he, a Jew, is genetically descended from Abraham. But as Jesus once told Jewish believers who were turning their backs on Him: “If you were Abraham’s children,...then you would do what Abraham did…” (John 8:39) In other words, if they were like Abraham, they would, like Abraham, trust in God and in the Messiah that God had long promised.

Abraham is tender, yet firm, in his reply to the rich man. “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. 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.” (Luke 16:25-26)

Friends, once we are dead, it will be too late to turn to God for life.

It will also be too late to share the good news, the Gospel of new and everlasting life with God for all who trust in Jesus.

The rich man was a descendant of Abraham and Sarah, an heir of God’s salvation promises. But he had forgotten God.

Today, Brady Cole has been claimed by God in the waters of Holy Baptism. At the font, Brady was crucified and raised again as God’s own child. God never reneges on the covenant He makes with us in Baptism. In the water, in the Bible, and in Holy Communion, He sends His saving Word to call us to daily repentance and faith in Jesus.

The rich man tragically walked away from God’s covenant with Him. He refused to receive God’s saving Word which works faith in us. And so, Abraham says, the rich man must live with the consequences of his faithlessness, even as Lazarus enjoys the consequences of his faith: eternal life with God!

Now the rich man, resigned to an eternity separated from God, finally thinks about someone beside himself.

He asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers–Luke actually says, to thoroughly witness to them–so that they can repent for their sins and trust in God for life.

Abraham tells him no and that the rich man’s brothers already have Moses and the Prophets to be warned and have good news preached to them.

The phrase, “Moses and the Prophets,” refers to the witness of the Old Testament that God would send a Messiah, God in the flesh, to die for our sins, destroying their power to condemn us, and to rise for us, opening up life with God to all who trust in Jesus.

Today, the Word of God, both Old and New Testaments, and the Word given to us in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, give witness for Jesus: His saving love, His power over death, His call to repentance and faith. God’s Word shows us that God loves us and that He has done everything needed to save us from sin, death, futility, and eternal condemnation.

The rich man says that if Lazarus went back to the world from the dead with the message that this heaven and hell thing is true and that they needed to put their trust in God and not in the world, his brothers would repent and believe. But Abraham says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

You and I are blessed. Not only do we have the Word of Moses and the Prophets pointing forward to Jesus’ cross and empty tomb, we have the witness of the New Testament testifying that hundreds of people, however imperfectly, followed, witnessed, and risked their lives to tell the world that Jesus Christ died to destroy the power of sin and death and rose to give us eternity with God!

We have the witness of the once-tongue-tied and fearful Peter who told the crowds on the first Christian Pentecost: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24)

When the crowds, recognizing that it was their sin–as it is our sin–that put the sinless Jesus on the cross, asked Peter how they could avoid the condemnation they deserved–the same condemnation we deserve for our sin–Peter told them: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

That promise, friends, is for you and me too! Jesus has prepared a place at His everlasting banquet for all who trust in Him. By God’s grace, He’s died on the cross to give us His righteousness and gain us a place in the Kingdom of God. Even when the world despises, dismisses, misunderstands, or slanders us for our faith in Jesus, we can trust in Him. All who trust in Christ know, like Lazarus in today’s lesson, that we will have an eternity of joy with our Savior.

For those who trust in the God we meet in Jesus, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning…” (Psalm 30:5) Trust in Jesus, friends, until that bright morning when we see our Lord face to face in eternity. Amen