March 8 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 16)
Submitted by Mia C. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church
•Forcing his way into it
The law and the prophets spoke of God’s standards and revealed our utter failure to meet those standards. The law tells us that we are condemned lawbreakers. John came preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God, that there is forgiveness to be had and we do not have to stand as condemned sinners. Anyone who knew and felt acutely this desperate situation would seize the opportunity to be forgiven and rid of their burden of guilt at any cost. There would be no price too great if you could be rid of your greatest problem.
For me, it wasn’t until I realized that my sinfulness is much deeper than I ever thought or imagined, as I saw the consequences of my sins on myself and on others that I started to really see the problem of sin in my life. When I thought about how all men are called to give account of their lives before God, I saw for the first time the magnitude of the problem of sin and that I stood condemned before God. And it was then that the gospel news of forgiveness and God’s mercy became a lifeline for me. The fact that I had to confess my sins and repent of them (and in that process die to my pride and any notion of self sufficiency) and submit to the lordship of Jesus was not so high a price compared to the offer of forgiveness and eternal life.
Each year since my initial decision to accept God’s forgiveness and offer of eternal life, I continue to see that my sins go so much deeper than I previously thought, saw and understood. As I get older, I start to see that the consequences of my sins are more dire as my responsibilities in ministry grow and my sphere of influence increase. During times of painful introspection and confronting the ugly truth of my sinfulness, I see how the gospel is good news because it reminds me that though these things are true about me, there is hope still because God knows and has forgiven me. I know that when I die and go before God, I will have to give account. I know that I will have nothing to defend myself with except that Jesus died for my sins and he is my righteousness. That gives me an immense sense of relief and gratitude that though I do not, on my own, stand a chance, the gospel gives me the assurance of eternal life.
•The time came … The rich man also died
The story that Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar, reminds me that regardless of who we are in this life, in the end, death comes to us all. It’s such a glaring, obvious fact about life that I often forget. On any given day, my life is filled with work, things to do, people to meet, emails to answer, appointments to make and I can easily become all consumed by the mundane day to day. Unless I intentionally stop to think about my life, it’s easy to go on as if there will be endless tomorrows. But the passage today reminds me that life is finite and fixed. There was a time I was born and soon there will be a time to die. That’s the hard, unchanging truth about my life.
One thing that strikes me is that my awareness or unawareness of my coming death actually determines how I live life. If I think that I have all the time in the world, I wouldn’t ever feel pressed to deal with anything urgently especially if it’s something that appear difficult, complicated and/or unpleasant. I rather deal with something that’s easier and more pleasant and unless this difficult, complicated, unpleasant issue required IMMEDIATE attention, I rather postpone it to tomorrow. I would not stop to reflect about my life because it wouldn’t really be important in the here and now to do that. Even if I did and I discovered some unpleasant truth about myself I would not deal with it right away because there would be no sense of urgency to do so. Why make myself feel bad when I can do it tomorrow? Besides, there are so many other things I could be doing right now. As I postpone dealing with different issues, feelings of uneasiness, discomfort, guilt or shame, basically my sins, these things would fade in their intensity and even my memory of what happened would fade. I know I have the tendency to push things out that I don’t like to see or hear out, save it for another day because right now I don’t have time, because right now I rather not, because right now I can’t deal with it. The end result is that I end up carrying a lot of past baggage that only makes life harder. The fact that my days are numbered and death is certain gives me a sense of urgency that when there is something wrong, when there are disturbing signs of trouble, I have to deal with it ASAP. I can’t keep counting on the fact that there will be a tomorrow because this might be my last day. Ultimately in the end, knowing that there is eternity and how I live affects that eternity gives me the sense of urgency to deal with my sins.
•They have Moses and the Prophets
The rich man having experienced the suffering of hell begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his family. Abraham’s response is that they have Moses and the Prophets to take warning from. This points to the fact that a warning is only as good as the person’s openness to be addressed, to receive the warning. The problem with the rich man while he was alive was that he saw no need to heed the warning of Moses and the Prophets. While he was alive, he had access to the Law and the warnings from Moses and the Prophets. Had he stopped to listen and subject himself to Scripture, he would have seen the truth that he was selfish, greedy, unloving. In fact, the warnings from the Prophets are very clear. Had he paid any attention or had any interest to be addressed by God, there would have been plenty for him to take warning about and to repent of. The thing though about people is that you can give warning after warning but if the person is not open to considering the warning, it only falls on deaf ears. This is something that we all recognize as true and I can personally think of many times when the warnings others gave to me fell on deaf ears because I was unwilling to listen largely because I was too proud to. I thought that I was somehow different and could protect myself. In his life, I’m sure this rich man had many opportunities to hear from Scripture and to personally respond to what he heard. In the end, he didn’t heed Moses and the Prophets because his earthly life was comfortable. He was too proud to think he needed warning, too dulled by the comforts of his earthly life to see the areas that he fell short. In the end, his wealth blinded him and he forgot the most important fact that he would die and go before God someday.
The story of this rich man is warning for me today because in a lot of ways my life is full of comforts that blind me to the truth of who I am before God. I can easily grow complacent, taking stock in what I have, what I do and forget that before God I am a sinner and my greatest trouble is my sin. I need to actively submit myself to Scripture and allow God’s Word to speak into my life, illuminating areas of darkness and when I am convicted of areas of sin, I need to immediately confess and repent. But all of this is only possible to the extent that I am humbly meditating and reflecting about my life in light of God’s Word. I need to be careful that I am doing this kind of daily reflection and responding regularly to the truth that is revealed about me.
Father thank you for your timely word that reminds me that I need to be a person of truth and honest reflection before your Word. It is only when I consciously make the decision to allow your Word to examine and speak into my life that I am able to know the truth of who I am and my true condition. I thank you for your persistence and faithfulness in speaking warning and instruction to me all these years. Father I want to recommit to being humble and teachable so that I can approach your Word seeking truth about myself no matter what that might reveal about me.
In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.
Submitted by John V. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church
• Reflect on the fact that the gospel causes people to force their way into it. How passionate and urgent has my response been to the gospel?
As I reflect on the fact that the gospel causes people to force their way into it, I am reminded that whenever the word of God convicts me, I need to act on it. Through the blessing of the gospel is given to me freely, it is not going to have any power to affect my life unless I forcefully obey it, personalizing and taking hold of it. I can agree with it mentally, but if there is no action there is no real faith. Whenever Jesus preached about following him, he made it very clear that he demands people force their way into it, calling people to leave everything to follow him, to make every effort to enter through the narrow door.
I try my best to passionately respond to the gospel because I know how urgent it is for me to do so. I know the ways that I am sinful, and that I live only because of God’s grace, and I want to honor him with my life for that.
It is always an urgent matter that I cling on the gospel passionately, because daily I experience how unrelenting the devil is at trying to stumble me, whether it be through the distractions of just getting through life, worries about the future, worries about my family, relational problems with people close to me, character issue, my own fleshliness, etc.–the list just goes on. It takes tremendous hard work and perseverance to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus, because it doesn’t come naturally to me to be humble and submissive to God. Even though it’s been 11 years since I made the decision to become a Christian, I still regularly come across difficult moments of decision in my life where there are real temptations to ignore the gospel and choose to do what I want to do. I understand that though the gospel is given freely to me, I need to be very deliberate and passionate in my every day decisions to reach out to take hold of it.
•What warnings does this story give to those live in comfort and luxury in this world?
The warning that is given to those who live in comfort and luxury in this world is that one’s wealth ought not to lead to self-indulgence and a calloused heart. It was not so much that this man was rich, that he “dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day” that he was condemned at his death, but rather it was because, while rolling about in his wealth, he completely ignored Lazarus who was placed before him, starving and covered in sores. This rich man had an opportunity to step out of his own little world and offer help to another, but he failed to do so. In his failure we see the consequence for the wickedness of allowing comfort and luxury to blind ourselves to the suffering of others around us.
• What is the significance of the words, “the rich man also died”?
That “the rich man also died” is significant, because it demonstrates that no amount of wealth or status will ever be enough to protect a person from the inevitability of death. We see that, indeed, death is the great equalizer. The rich man turns out to be no different than Lazarus in that they both die and take nothing from their worldly lives with them. In life, the rich man had thought that his wealth set him apart, that somehow because he was rich he was different, more important than all those who were not as well off as he was. But, in the end, his wealth, and all the confidence and esteem it had afforded him is proven to be a sham.
• What was the crucial mistake of the rich man that he was afraid his brothers would make?
The rich man’s mistake was that he had allowed his wealth to cause him to become self-absorbed, self-indulgent and completely heartless toward the people around him. Lazarus was starving and rotting away right before his eyes, but he never offered help, even though he must’ve had to step over Lazarus’ body in order to enter his house. Not only did he treat Lazarus this way, he was also completely indifferent to God. He was so caught up in his wealth that he did not bother to think about his own death and the fact that he would have to give account of his life to God. Because of his heartlessness and selfishness, he received the retribution of eternal condemnation.
• What is Abraham saying about human nature, the role of the miraculous, and the role of God’s word?
The rich man thinks that if only someone would warn his brothers then they would not end up like him. However, Abraham’s response to the rich man’s plea communicates the truth about human nature that people who do not want to hear will not hear. Even if these men were shown the miracle of Lazarus coming back from the dead to tell them what they ought to do, there is no guarantee that they will be persuaded, because responding to God has so much more to do with the condition of one’s heart rather than what one knows. All along God had been trying to warn people, through Moses and the prophets, through countless miracles, and yet it still had to come down to Jesus descending from heaven and dying on the cross.
• What warnings do I need to heed from the mistakes of the rich man?
One warning that I take away from the mistakes of the rich man is that I cannot allow the blessings I’ve received in my life to become my downfall by becoming so wrapped up them that I lose sight of what God wants me to do. I am very blessed to have a family, to have a job, to live in world that full of all kinds of technology, but I cannot allow my worries and preoccupations with these things to become such a distraction that I forget that as a Christian I have an obligation to love and minister to others. I must know that at the end of my life I will be held accountable to the people like Lazarus whom God has placed before me. That said, the reality is that I am already among those people. I just have to step out of myself, lift my eyes up and I would see that there are so many people who are hungering for truth, meaning and purpose for their lives. God has given me the gospel and placed me here in the context of a college ministry for the purpose that I would share the gospel with others. I must not allow my own selfishness to cause my heart to grow cold and apathetic.
God, thank you for the grace and mercy that you’ve shown me. Thank you for the gospel that has come to me. I was on a path of life what was leading to isolation, meaninglessness and ultimately, destruction, but you came to me with the good news of the gospel and rescued me. Help me to cling on to the gospel with conviction, passion and urgency. Along with the gift of the gospel, you’ve also filled my life with blessings and richness of all sorts that I feel I really do not deserve. I pray that you would help me receive the warning from the story of this rich man’s life, that I don’t make the same mistake of allowing the blessings and richness you’ve given me to become the cause of my pride, self-absorption, and heartlessness towards you, your purpose for my life and the people you’ve placed in my life for me to love. God there are so many people who, like Lazarus, are all around me hungering for your love. Help open my eyes to them, that I might be able to meet their deepest need with the message of the gospel. I understand that doing so means that I must learn to come out of myself in many (and some very difficult) ways, please give me the strength to do so. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.