God Is Love.
God Is Love These are the defining words of the universe. GOD IS LOVE.
So do you want to start with the good news or the bad news? Do you want to start this morning with the two wonderful stories or the story that should cause us all to stop and think?
I am going to start with the bad news first. Just touch upon this truly strange and sad story. This story of bad news that serves as a warning to every Christian.
Turn with me to the book of Luke chapter 16. Luke the Historian, Doctor and Author gives us a wonderful portrait of God and Christ, yet he also gives each of us a stern warning. A very stern warning.
Which brings to first ask this question, “What is a Christian.” A Christian is someone who, with God’s help, is taking on the qualities of Christ’s character in their life. They are becoming Christ like. They have determined to not break the third commandment. They refuse to take on the name of Christ in vain.
Perhaps an example of this is in the illustration that a man and women meet, fall in love and get married and at the wedding ceremony the newly married woman takes the last name of her husband. We will call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith. But after the marriage the woman continues to live her life as though she still were an unmarried women. She has taken his name, the name of her husband in vain.
Is it possible for a Christian to do the same thing?
So turn with me this morning to Luke the 16th chapter and we will start in verse 19.
I want to remind everyone that these are the words of Christ spoken in the form of a parable, a story used to illustrate a point. He is using a common, though incorrect belief of his time and ours time to illustrate a point. It is a point that we need to take a very careful look at this morning.
Luke chapter 16 starting in verse 19:
There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar name Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at the gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Before we continue with this story there are a couple of things that stand out right away. A couple of things that bring clarity to this story and serve as a not to subtle warning.
Verse 19 starts right away with telling us there was a rich man who was clothed in Purple and fine linen.
We don’t have time to go into great detail by doing an in-depth study but sometimes in scripture what stands out is what is not written more than what is written. In this case there is a color that is left out and that color is the color Blue. What is being described by Christ in this story is the dress of the Priests and Levites. But a very important color is left out and that color is the color of blue.
The color Blue in Holy Scriptures represents two separate but interlinked items. It is the color of God’s throne (see Exodus 24, Ezekiel chapter 1 and 10) and if we were to do a study of Exodus 24 we would see that the original 10 commandments given to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai was cut out by God’s Own hand from His Own Throne then written on with Christ’s own finger. And that throne is made up of Blue Sapphire and God wrote on two tablets of blue Sapphire stone his law of love, the 10 Commandments.
And as Christian’s we have come to understand that God’s law, His 10 commandments are a law of Love. God’s love toward us and what should be our love toward our fellow mankind and toward God.
So by the description given in verse 19 it is clear to see that the Rich Man was Rich with great spiritual truth and had been blessed by God with worldly wealth. There was nothing that this man lacked both spiritually and physically, yet because he was not wearing the color blue there was no love of God found in him.
And for those of us that might be tempted to say, that only applies to the Priests and Levites of Christ’s time let me be the first to state that that is rubbish. That would be a false teaching because I Peter 2:9 tells us: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Peter is making it perfectly clear that We, Yes, You and Me are members of a Royal Priesthood. Which should make this strange story from the book of Luke all the important for you and me today.
So the rich man in the story represents each one of us who have been blessed by great spiritual riches in the Bible truths that we hold near and dear to our heart. Each day we can dine sumptuously from this spiritual table that has been prepared for us.
Verse 20 But there was a certain beggar name Lazarus, full of sore, who was laid at his gate. Who’s gate? The gate of the Rich Man. Why would he be there? Verse 21 Lazarus this beggar was desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. And now here comes the shocking part of this story. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Right away in this story we get the feeling that Lazarus receives no relief from his suffering from the hands of the rich man. I want you to hold that thought for a moment for we will return hear in just a moment.
I am not in the habit of listening to non-Christian music. I will on occasion but for the most I don’t. But the lead Singer of the Group U2 Steve Bono has some very interesting words that he wrote for the forward in Jeffery Sacks newest book. These are the words he wrote.
“Fifteen thousand Africans are dying each day of entirely preventable and treatable diseases – AIDS, Malaria, TB – for lack of drugs that we take for granted.
This statistic alone makes a fool of the idea many of us hold on to very tightly: the idea of equality. … Deep down, if we really accept that their lives – African lives – are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out.
It’s an uncomfortable truth” Isn’t it? For if we really believed we are equal
But Bono continues and cuts to the chase.
“We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies – but will we be that generation? … We can’t say our generation didn’t know how to do it. We can’t say our generation couldn’t afford it. And we can’t say our generation didn’t have reason to do it. It’s up to us.”
( “The Hole in Our Gospel, 104-105)
Bono is right isn’t he? It certainly isn’t that we cannot afford to do it or don’t know how to do. Is it that we don’t have a good enough reason to do it? No! This generation has more money and more means to make a difference in the world than any other generation in the history of the world.
We should now have two thought floating around in our heads. The story of Lazarus and the Rich man in which Lazarus wishes for crumbs to fall from the rich man’s table and this quote by Steve Bono in which he is challenging us to make a physical difference in this world.
Let’s jump ahead in the book of Luke just a few pages to Luke 19 verse 41.
I told you there were three stories. We have looked at one story now let’s look at the second story. Luke Chapter 19. Luke 19, just a few pages away from our last story. Let jump all the way verse 41. We are just going to look at one line from this story.
Luke 19 verse 41. Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.
Let’s read it again. Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.
Those of us familiar with our Bibles and the stories in Luke will recognize this as the Triumphal entry.
It is late Sunday afternoon and Jesus is on the back of that little donkey and has just made his way up the Mount of Olives. The people are shouting and singing. Waving Palm branches and throwing their coats on the ground in front of the donkey preparing the way for one who they felt was about to proclaim himself King.
They are shouting 38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!
The people were so loud and so excited that the Pharisees called to Jesus to quiet the people fearing the Romans would cause another mass massacre of the people. This had recently happened resulting in the arrest of Barabbas, yes the same Barabbas that would be released the following Friday Morning. Barabbas and the others that would soon to be hung upon crosses on either side of Jesus had been arrested as the instigators of the revolt that had caused the Roman’s to massacre some of the demonstrators on the very steps of the temple.
Now as this little donkey with its heavy load crests the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus looks down upon the city with the afternoon sun glistening off the temple dome. Jesus whoa’s that little donkey to a stop looks upon this scene and then bursts into tears.
The creator of the universe, the darling of heaven bursts into tears. What could be happening?
From the book “Great Controversy” comes these words:
“ . . . the world’s Redeemer was overwhelmed with a sudden and mysterious sorrow. He, the Son of God, the Promised One of Israel, whose power had conquered death and called its captives from the grave, was in tears, not ordinary grief, but of intense, irrepressible agony. His tears were not for Himself, though He well knew whither His feet were tending. Before him lay Gethsemane, the scene of His approaching agony. . . . Not far distance was Calvary, the place of crucifixion. . . . Yet it was not the contemplation of these scenes that cast the shadow upon Him in this hour of gladness.
No foreboding of His own superhuman anguish clouded that unselfish spirit. He wept for the doomed thousands of Jerusalem. . . . The Majesty of heaven in tears! The Son of the infinite God troubled in Spirit, bowed down with anguish! The scene filled all heaven with wonder.” (18,22)
“Filled All Heaven With Wonder.” And if it filled all heaven with wonder, should it now also fill us with wonder!
And when he saw the city he wept over it. He weeps over a lost city and a lost world.
And I have to ask you and I have to ask myself, when was the last time we wept over a lost city. When was the last time.
I can hear some of you say, “We don’t have a lost city around us”
Are you sure about that? Are you really sure about that? What about Brooklyn Center. How about Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, Coon Rapids, Champlain and Osseo. Are these not lost cities.
If we are truly followers of Christ and determine to call ourselves Christians, then we must come to the place where what breaks the heart of God breaks our hearts, too.
Let me repeat that. In our Christian experience we must come the Place where what breaks the heart of God breaks our hearts, too. “And As He saw the city, He wept over it.” It broke His heart.
There is no more shining example of God’s love for the universe than in these defining words, “He wept over it.” Because the heart of the God of the universe broke and he burst into tears.
Do we weep over Brooklyn Park? Do we weep for the neighborhood we call home? Do we weep over those that live in our neighborhood?
It breaks the heart of God every time he loses a single child. For those of us that are lucky enough to have become parents, we can understand for what parent that truly loves their child hasn’t wept over them, prayed over them. Pleaded with them and wept some more for them.
It gives every parent a little insight of the grief that fills our heavenly Father over one lost sinner. If a parent can weep over one small child, do you not suppose the God of the Universe weeps for His 7 billion children that inhabit earth and call it there home.
If we have learned anything this morning from our brief study of God’s word we should understand that God weeps over the lost.
Three stories, we have looked at two of them Now, let’s turn back just a few pages to Luke chapter 15 and discover our third story. We all know these stories so we will not read them word for word. We know them as the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Lost Son.
Let me remind you that all three of this stories ends with a party.
Luke 15:6 This is the story of the shepherd that leaves the 90 and 9 in search of one lost sheep. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found My lost sheep.’”
You see he calls to his neighbors and friends, not on the telephone, not over social media but in person he tells to them to come celebrate with me over this one lost sheep that has been found.
Luke 15:7 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
This is a defining truth that God celebrates over one lost sinner that repents. Why, “BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE”.
It is party time! But is this the only instance of God celebrating?
Luke 15:9 This is the woman that has 10 little silver coins and has lost one of her 10 coins. Luke 15:9 “And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’”
Once again there is a party and she personally invites her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her because she has found her lost coin.
Let’s continue with Luke 15:10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And our third story of the Prodigal son and Father. The Father wasteful with his love and the son wasteful with his father’s inheritance. How does that story end?
Luke 15:22 The father has run to him, wept over him, hugged and kissed him. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. Let’s have a feast and celebrate, Why? 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Henri Nouwen makes this statement in his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. “Celebration belongs to God’s Kingdom. God not only offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, but wants to lift up these gifts as a source of joy for all who witness them. In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. . . . All these voices (of the shepherd, the woman, the father) are the voices of God. God does not want to keep his joy to himself. He wants everyone to share in it. God’s joy is the joy of his angels and his saints; it is the joy of all who belong to the kingdom.” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, 113-14)
Earlier this morning we learned that God’s Love is about weeping over the lost. We have just learned that God’s love is about rejoicing or celebrating over the found.
What we should have learned earlier in this lesson is that what breaks the heart of God should also break our heart too. And the second things we should have just learned is that we must come the place where what elates the heart of God elates our hearts, too.
What drives His heart into elation and celebration is to drive me into elation and celebration.
“And when he saw the city, He wept over it.”
“And when He saw the boy, He wept over him.”
He wept over the city because it was lost and the boy because he was found. A breaking heart for the city and a bursting heart for the child. That is God, that is the Love of God. That is the defining truth of God and his defining love.
What is the defining truth. Just look at Jesus – Heartbroken over the lost and ecstatic over the found.
That is what lights up the Savior of the world, the Darling of Heaven.
This is the truth about God – because of the lost and the found, he lives with a Happy, Broken heart. A happy, broken heart.
What does this have to do with Bono and the 15,000 people that die daily in Africa from entirely preventable and curable diseases. And rightly so, we should be concerned as well. Bono is saying we should be doing something about it now, and we should.
Let me throw out a staggering statistic. Each day around this world 172,800 people die daily. To break that down to simplistic terms, that is 2 persons die every 1 second. 120 every 60 seconds. 7,200 every hour or 172,800 every day all 365 days of the year.
How many, how many of those 172,800 people go into Christ-less graves? How many of them? How many slip quietly to sleep with no hope of eternity no hope of salvation with no hope of a cure for their hopeless disease of sin. Of the 172,800 people that will die today, how many are going into a Christ-less grave.
I once heard a staggering statistic that less than 1 in 20 Christians alive today will be ready for the Lord’s return. Less than 1 in 20. And that is just Christians. Factor in the Hindus Buddhists and Muslims and the statistic of 1 in 20 become much, much smaller. It is no wonder the heart of God is breaking over a lost world. No wonder the heart of God weeps.
You see Bono is calling for activism, communal activism, western activism. But is anyone calling for spiritual activism, soul saving activism. 172,800 people are going to the grave every day. How many of them are going to a Christ-less grave?
And when he saw the city he wept over it.
If at any time in your life you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior and friend, then His happy, broken heart belongs to you and me too. It belongs to us. Which means daily we should be praying the prayer “Oh Lord, give me your happy broken heart. Happy over those that find you, broken and weeping over the lost.” This should be or prayer daily.
Bono appeals to us to make a difference in Africa. Let look at his quote again. “Deep down, if we really accept that their lives –African lives- are equal to our, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It’s an uncomfortable truth.”
And that is precisely Jesus’ point. “When he saw the city he wept over it.” Jesus is saying I want your heart to be broken by what is breaking my heart. I want your heart to be elated by what elates my heart and that is seeing lost souls come to him. So go into the whole world with my happy broken heart. Go with my happy broken heart.
If we really accept that their lives are equal to ours it is unacceptable that we sit idly by doing nothings as the people in Brooklyn Park and the surrounding communities go to Christ-less graves.
We could fill this church weekly, or even daily with likeminded Christians, but unless we are willing to share with those outside this church it will do us no good. Like the Manna given to the children of Israel, if it wasn’t used or shared with others it would rot. And the startling truth about God’s word is that if it is not shared with others. Shared with others that do not presently know about God, shared with those that are destined to a Christ-less grave it will cause us to rot from the inside out.
In the story of Lazarus and the Rich man the rich man didn’t mistreat Lazarus. He continued each day to allow him to lie outside the gate of his house. But he certainly didn’t lend a helping hand either. In fact, Lazarus got more relief from his suffering from non-Christians than he did from Christians. You see the Dogs that came to lick the sores of Lazarus were non-believers. They were Gentiles In the New Testament, when it talks about the dogs as it is in this passage it is talking about non-Jews, non-Christians the gentiles. The Jews considered others not of the Jewish race or faith to be dogs. They were considered less than human, they were like dogs. Jesus was using a code word to say, Hey you that profess to be Godly, you who have been blessed both spiritually and with worldly possessions. You may have the dress of a priest, but you lack the Love of God in your life. Because God IS LOVE, God weeps in agony over the lost and weeps for joy over one lost soul that returns to him.
And if we profess to really truly love God and have the love of God in us, should we not do the same. If the Rich Man had truly loved God and reflected the love of God, it should have been him helping Lazarus who lay by the gate waiting for the crumbs of the gospel to fall from the rich man’s table. If the rich man had treated God’s law as a law of love and not as a burden would he not have bent down like a good shepherd and helped this poor fallen soul. Bound up his wounds that festered and oozed. Sores that are a result of living a life of sin. Upon helping him that lay gate and then searching for others that are lost like the woman and ran to meet those who are returning to Christ like the father.
“You see if we really accept that their lives are equal to ours, we should all be doing more to find the lost and put the fire out.”
John Wesley the Great Revivalist wrote these words
Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
At all the times you can
To all the people you can
As long as you ever can.
In closing I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I do not want there to be any misunderstanding in what I am trying to say. We are not saved by works. We are saved by grace through faith.
Let me repeat that so there will be no misunderstanding. We are not saved by our works. We are saved by Grace through Faith. It is the grace of God and our faith in the promise of his gift of salvation that saves you and me from a world of sin.
With that said, let me also be perfectly clear it is our works, our actions our showing God’s love by the works that we do that truly shows we have accepted that gift of salvation that he so freely offers. It is by having the same heart of God, a broken heart over the thousands that daily go to a Christ-less grave and a happy grateful heart that wants to celebrate each time a lost sinner finds his way back to a loving God.
That is the type of heart God wants us to have. It is His heart.
God has promised
“I will do a new thing 3 I will pour water on those who are thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”
He has promised this to those that truly love him and reflect him.
Because God Is Love!!!