A Fixed Chasm
“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 16:19-31
Jesus tells a parable about a rich man and a very poor man in which he intends to teach us personally relevant truths, which we do well to hear. The poor man has a name: Lazarus. The rich man does not. The major truth in the parable is about an impassable chasm separating the rich man and Lazarus after their recent deaths. Lazarus cannot go to the rich man nor the rich man to him that Lazarus might alleviate his post-death misery with a drop of water for the rich man’s parched lips. The chasm also separates both Lazarus and the rich man from their previous life-relationships and communication prior to death, for the rich man has no way to speak to his brothers warning them about what they truly face after death; something the rich man now knows himself all too well.
The rich man thought, since his brothers knew Lazarus had died, if Lazarus could be sent back to warn them the shock of seeing him alive would get their attention. They would then believe what he had to say. But the rich man is told that the nature of unbelief is such that even a man returning from the dead would not persuade them to believe. If they refused to believe Moses and the prophets, they will not believe the warning of a resurrected Lazarus!
It is hard for us to grasp the impenetrable manner of unbelief. But this is its hardened nature. This explains for us Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in which Jesus says emphatically, “Nicodemus, if you want to see the kingdom of God, if you want to believe, you must be born again!” The power of the Spirit of God must pierce your unbelief and regenerate your heart before you will be able to believe the truth. This Jesus tells him in no uncertain terms.
Preaching or witness that is not drawn specifically from the content of the written Word of God, from the Gospel and Epistle accounts of the Bible, will not persuade one to believe. The Spirit bears witness to the truth of God’s spoken and written Word and He accompanies those words with power to believe. These written words are called The Faith once delivered to the saints! Another message, one which is extra-biblical, will never produce saving faith!
This fixed chasm does not allow communication from those on the other side of life to those still in this life. Such communication would take away the essential requirement of faith. We are not saved by sight; we are saved by faith! There is still the opportunity to believe when still in this life, but the standing you possess as a believer or as an unbeliever is fixed by your death for eternity. This parable of Jesus reaffirms this truth.
So the chasm is fixed verbally, consciously and “geographically,” that is, where you are positioned spiritually when you die. Faith is the conduit of your salvation in this life. And as Jesus says, you must be born again! Your faith must persevere pursuing this new birth until it takes place. Regeneration and the faith which accompanies it brings with it an assurance of salvation. Jesus promises to anyone who earnestly seeks Him, they will find Him. And He assures them, “If you EARNESTLY seek me, I will in no way cast you out!”
Pursuing Him with everything in you is the answer, if you desire to be found in Him when you die or when He comes again!
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed thee. Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
(Verse 4 of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain,” 1738)
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Not My Kid
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in recent years, you’re probably aware of the rampant prevalence of drugs and alcohol in our culture. Whether you realize it or not, many of your friends, family, and acquaintances struggle with substance abuse and addiction, and the celebration of the casual use and abuse of drugs and alcohol can be found in most of the songs, television shows, social media accounts, and magazine headlines of today’s pop culture. If you doubt this, just turn on your radio; I am confident that it won’t take long to change your mind. In fact, as I write this, four of the top five songs on Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 ranking for this week include references to drugs or alcohol.
You may be thinking, “Surely substance abuse is not that common. I don’t know anyone who uses drugs! Let’s look at some of the data. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 27.1 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the previous 30 days, which corresponds to about 1 in 10 Americans. 22.2 million individuals aged 12 or older reported current marijuana use, and 3.8 million people aged 12 or older reported current misuse of prescription pain relievers. 52.0 million people aged 12 or older were current cigarette smokers, while 30.2 million of these individuals were daily cigarette smokers, including 12.4 million who smoked approximately a pack or more of cigarettes per day. 138.3 million Americans aged 12 or older reported current use of alcohol, including 66.7 million who reported binge alcohol use in the past month and 17.3 million who reported heavy alcohol use in the past month. Approximately 20.8 million people aged 12 or older had a disorder related to their abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year.
Unfortunately, individuals are using drugs and alcohol at increasingly younger ages. The majority of the young men who come to the Paul Anderson Youth Home are caught in the throes of substance abuse and addiction. Some of them were exposed to drugs and alcohol as early as age 7. Within a month of turning 13, Jonathan, one of our alumni, had his first experience with alcohol and marijuana. It wasn’t long before he began selling pot; doing so allowed him to make money, get high for free, and gain popularity. By his freshman year of college, Jonathan was also selling ecstasy and cocaine. He had grown to personally prefer the easy-to-conceal cocaine, had also used ecstasy and heroin, and had no trouble finding customers amongst his peers at the private, Christian-affiliated college he attended. His world came crumbling down when some of the students’ parents brought their concerns about Jonathan to the school officials and he was ultimately arrested.
As parents, it’s easy for us to think, “I hear you, but my kid would never do something like that. This is a dangerous assumption. Jonathan was raised in a two-parent household by his loving family who ate dinner together every night and attended church together twice every week. They lived in a nice, safe neighborhood, and Jonathan went to private schools. His circumstances set him up for a successful life, and looking at him, no one would have ever guessed the level of deception, addiction, and darkness that consumed him. We must be wary when we find ourselves saying that our children are the exception. In fact, we should assume at the very least that they might encounter these temptations amongst their classmates at school, teammates at practice, or acquaintances at club. Talk to your kids, ask them questions, listen to their answers, and have honest conversations about drugs and alcohol. Know their friends and always be aware of where they are spending time. Monitor their cell phone and social media use. Stay involved and don’t ignore any red flags you might see or sense. Your children may feel hurt by what they perceive as mistrust, but sweeping any concerns you have under the rug won’t do them any favors.
None of this is meant to scare you, but rather to alert you to the dangers and temptations your children are facing. No adolescent is exempt from peer pressure, and as a parent, knowledge is power. Do you want to hear some good news? Jonathan made a full recovery from his addiction and the life of deception he had so tediously built. He salvaged his broken relationships, graduated college, fell in love, got married, and started a family. The Lord has restored his life, and consequently, he has an amazing testimony to share. As parents, let’s learn from Jonathan’s story. Be aware, be diligent, and remember that God is faithful and merciful when we fall short.
Paul Anderson Youth Home
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Kept from Recognizing Jesus
“But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” – Luke 24:16
One of the strangest post-Easter accounts in Scripture is the encounter Jesus had with two disciples who were walking to Emmaus on the very day he rose from the grave. They allowed him to walk and talk with them but did not even recognize the one they had known so well. In fact, they did not recognize him until he later broke bread with them at their supper table. Why did they not recognize him immediately on the road and why did their recognition spark to life while breaking bread with him? They had remembered his prophecy about a third day, whatever they thought the “third day” would bring. But they did not believe he was alive; that he had truly risen, despite all they heard about an empty tomb.
What “kept” them from recognizing Jesus? Was it something supernatural from the Lord? Something had been changed in his resurrected body? Even though he had been recognized near the tomb by Mary. Or was it something in their own frame of mind that kept him hidden? But what then awakened their minds to recognize him later? Do we learn anything from this encounter about ourselves in our own failure to see Jesus? Whether or not Jesus concealed himself supernaturally, there is enough said about these two disciples’ frames of mind that could lead to their not seeing Jesus; and that also lead us to have in ourselves doubts akin to what Thomas experienced.
Jesus had not been silent in prophesying his crucifixion or his resurrection. Yet his disciples refused to accept His word as gospel truth. Clearly, they mistook his mission. They thought, not from anything Jesus told them, that He would deliver them out of Rome’s oppression, physically and politically. He would become their king in a kingdom of this world, something with which they were familiar. His words “my kingdom is not of this world” just did not compute with their thinking or experience.
The key ingredient to recognizing Jesus appears to be this: faith. Vibrant faith that Jesus is who and what he says he is, that his words and promises are true, explicitly so. These two disciples, most probably Cleopas and his wife Mary, the sister, or cousin (same word) of Jesus’ mother, who lived in Emmaus, did not have faith to focus on Jesus’ pre-crucifixion words and really believe them, while eagerly anticipating their exact fulfillment. After Jesus’ opening the Scriptures to them and explaining his presence in the Old Testament accounts, their faith was then enlivened and it opened their eyes to see Jesus, to recognize him.
Faith was the difference. Their frame of mind, as they walked in despair, was not one of faith. Jesus’ “third day” prophecy was still confusing to them. His specific promise that on the third day he would rise was not really accepted by them as something believable, something concrete, so they were not looking for it, or anticipating it. In fact, Thomas was apparently completely oblivious to the meaning of these prophetic words even though he had heard them along with Jesus’ other disciples and followers. It took the only kind of evidence Thomas would then accept, flesh and blood evidence; Thomas being able to see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands!
Faith, the evidence of things not seen, as defined in Hebrews 11, is essential to see Jesus as he is, to recognize Jesus in any of your life situations. Faith is necessary to see Jesus in your own life, to hear him speaking to you, to see his directing of your footsteps, to separate his direction and words from the devil’s. The devil will camouflage his words from the Savior’s to make it appear Jesus is speaking. Faith, however, is the discriminator. Faith in the truth of Jesus’ Word is the difference maker. All the more essential for you to know His Word, be in it, obey it. Apart from His Word you are like a wave of the ocean, tossed to and fro. You are like Cleopas and Mary, not able to recognize Jesus though you had walked beside him for months, years.
Faith must be exercised through your intimate knowledge of Jesus’ Word to recognize him at work in your life and in your consciousness; activity in prayer to Him; obedience in following Him. Do not be kept from recognition of your Lord. Believe Him!
“My heart is leaning on the Word, the written Word of God, salvation by my Savior’s name, salvation through his blood. I need no other argument, I need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.”
(3rd verse of Lidie Edmunds’ hymn, “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place,” 1891)
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What Was Our Resurrected Lord Thinking?
“He is not here, for He has risen as He said.” Matthew 28:6
Jesus burst the bonds of death through the mighty power of God early on a Sunday morning. He saw Mary Magdalene first and two disciples on the road to Emmaus, then all the disciples save Thomas, then all the disciples with Thomas, somewhere in there he appeared to Peter, and James, and Paul tells us that more than 500 at one time witnessed his being alive. But the appearances were relatively rare, given the many days between His resurrection and ascension.
The question arises out of our own kind of thinking, why not appear to Pilate? Why not to the chief priests, to all those who wanted him crucified, yelling vociferously to make it happen; why not to all who mocked and scorned him, why not to the soldiers who tortured him, forcing a crown of sharp, inch long thorns down on his head, causing the blood to run into his eyes and face? Why not throw the truth back in their faces? “See you deniers and mockers, I did rise from the dead as I said I would! You were so wrong!”
Rather, Jesus appeared only to his friends, to those who faithfully followed him, to the disciples who walked by his side for three years. What would our own sense of revenge, or pride cause each of us to do differently than Jesus?
Remember the ruling council of the Jews paid bribe money to the soldiers concerning the undeniable circumstances at Jesus’ tomb to get them to tell a false story, spreading it abroad among the public. They purposely and willingly ignored and denied all the undeniable indications of Jesus’ actual resurrection. If he really did rise from the dead, they stupidly thought, we will kill him again! Just as they planned and purposed to kill Lazarus, who had been raised to life after clearly dying, all to dissuade anyone from following Jesus! Their thinking because of hardened unbelief became entirely convoluted.
The enemies of Jesus were committed to their unbelief. They were so committed that even Jesus standing before them with outstretched hands clearly showing the scars of the nail holes would not turn them from their unbelief! Truth alone does not dissuade from unbelief in hard rebels, in those who are as the Scripture states “depraved by sin.” Unbelief is a fixed frame of mind even if you think confrontation with the truth will change you. It is a hardened conviction, one that cannot be pierced, even if the facts are right in front of your eyes. What does it take to break this stranglehold of unbelief? What is capable of piercing the mindset of “I will not believe even if angels from heaven, or God himself appears and speaks to me; I am committed to not believing!”
The answer lies in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. I am sure Nicodemus was among those 500+ who witnessed the living Lord after his resurrection. Jesus told him in their conversation that night, “Nicodemus, you must be born again! The Spirit of God must pierce your hard unbelief and spark a regeneration in your soul before you will be able to believe. It is not enough to see the truth of what is, to persuade you differently; new birth is absolutely necessary.” So Jesus said to him, “Nicodemus, You MUST be born again!”
The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most attested truths in history. Numerous attempts have been made to discredit the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Regardless, people believe what their frame of mind tells them. The facts alone will not persuade them to believe. Short of a new birth in their soul, an unbeliever will not accept the resurrection of Jesus or allow it to impact their life for eternity. Their response will not be one of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus and committing everything in their being to Him as they ought.
This is the desired result of confronting and accepting the stupendous fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; a changed life, a life devoted to the Lord of life. But it will never happen in any unregenerate person. Seeing Jesus walking, breathing, talking would not change Pilate’s heart and life, anymore than the scornful chief priests, or any today who are not now committed to Jesus as their Master and Lord. Jesus’ Easter Sunday resurrection only communicates to and is loved by those who know the truth of being born again by the Spirit of God. The resurrection resonates only in the lives of those who have been born again. Easter makes no difference to those who do not know this new birth.
“Death cannot keep his prey–Jesus my Savior, he tore the bars away–Jesus my Lord. Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes. he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”
(3rd verse of Robert Lowry’s hymn, “Up From the Grave He Arose,” 1874)
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The Reason Jesus Wept
“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44
Palm Sunday is considered a “triumphal” day! An entry of great excitement and joyful acclaim into the city of Jerusalem, the iconic city of the ages; the city of the future, as well. This was a day of Hallelujahs! A day of palm tree branches, waved by adoring crowds with boisterous fanfare! It was also a day, often missed and forgotten, in which Jesus wept. He cried real tears over the people in Jerusalem. He cried over all the people they represented in many other cities and towns and villages; all those who did not recognize “the time of their visitation”; the time the Savior came to them with the free offer of salvation.
What really is this “time of visitation” to you? What is Jesus saying when he speaks of “a time of visitation?” Acknowledging its life-necessary importance, and seeing it was being ignored, even spurned, and the consequences of that, caused anguish and tears in the Savior. As he came to the place on the road to the city where around a bend the entire city comes into view stretched out before him, he bursts into tears. I am sure this emotional response was lost on his disciples then, and the welcoming crowds as well. Jesus alone saw the immediate and long range future before him, and them. He saw the destruction of the magnificent temple. He saw the scattering of the people; dispersal throughout the known world, of those, that is, who survived the Roman onslaught.
“He came unto his own, and his own people did not receive him,” John tells us. He goes immediately on to say, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13) This describes the time of visitation, a visitation by God to a man’s heart.
Does a real time of visitation come to everyone? Yes, is the answer of Scripture. Romans 1-2 declares all men are without any excuse, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Do you think this is a true and clear conclusion? Among unbelievers, atheists, the willfully ignorant? Among Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Satanists, and the like? Among the curious, but unconvinced? Because Scripture clearly says, “who believed in his name,” and “no man comes to the Father except through him (Jesus Christ).”
This exclusive path to God, according to what is known as God’s Word, is through Jesus alone, even if you think this exclusivity is overtly discriminatory. It is simply a stated fact undeniably taught throughout Scripture, Genesis to Revelation. And the Scripture itself demands exclusive authority to be the real words of God, whether or not it is believed.
Jesus weeps real tears because he recognizes there are those who willfully ignore his “visitation” to their consciousness, to their spirit, in any time of their life. And there is a time such as this, the Scripture says, for everyone, even if our mind cannot comprehend it. We do not know with everyone how the wonders of creation communicate to mankind and what impression it makes on them that there is a Creator, and that this Creator has sent a Savior who can and will save from sin, sin of which all men are fully aware.
You need to feel the Savior’s emotion empathetically, and, if you are united to him, join him in it. This Palm Sunday in just a few days remember again Jesus not only entered Jerusalem triumphantly, but also with hard tears. You and I need to feel his emotion and cry also for a world that will not recognize they have been visited by the Savior, and their believing response to him is the most important thing in their world. Cry for this world, asking continually for its redemption, until all tears are wiped away.
“He came from his blest throne, salvation to bestow; but men cared not, and none the long-for Christ would know. But oh, my Friend, my Friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend.”
(2nd verse of Samuel Crossman’s hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown,” 1624-1683)
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