Friday, February 19, 2010

John 21:20--22

"Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, 'Lord, who is the one who betrays You?' So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, 'Lord, and what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!' "

Peter was indulging in many Christians' favorite indoor sport: comparison. Having been given a hard word from the Lord concerning the kind of death he would face, Peter immediately wanted to know about John's future. "After all", many would say, "it's only natural that he would want to know that while he had the Lord there to ask."

Our Lord, however, knows far better than we the dangerous distraction that fleshly comparison causes, the subtle pride that motivates it, and the havoc it can wreak among His children. Self-pity, envy, bitterness, and arrogance are but a few of the fruit the seed of comparison produces.

Like Peter, we must be sternly reminded that our Lord's plan for others is not for our eyes to see nor evaluate, but hidden within His sovereignty. There will come a time when there will be no one around with whom to compare (Romans 14:12), so we need now to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), eagerly seeking His will and way!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Luke 16:24--26

"And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' "

As flippantly as the world tries to trivialize the biblical portrayal of hell, its reality resonates deeply, still. The horrific images refuse dismissal, and mankind knows instinctively the words don't begin to fully describe the unceasing, unspeakable torture there.

In the present story, the Lord Jesus recounts three miseries of hell: (a) an unstoppable flame which produces unquenchable thirst [v. 24]; (b) everlasting memories of lost opportunities feed a guilty conscience [v. 25]; and (c) a fixed, unchangeable chasm separates the soul from God and everything good [v. 26].

The first, the physical agony, elicits a cry for mercy from the rich man's lips. Even but a drop of water would be infinitely better than the choking thirst the flame continuously causes. Surely father Abraham would heed his plea, and provide a moment's respite. But no. For, as a man on the rack will confess to anything, so in such terrible pain the rich man could seem piteous, when actually he is unrepentant still. Hell is totally punitive, never remedial. No one improves there.

There is mental anguish as well, with memories and conscience accusing the hell-enslaved one, reminding him of all the days filled with lost moments, lost to eternity, never to be given again for repentance and salvation. This indeed is a worm that never dies, a guilt that never relents, a yearning for the escape of sleep or unconsciousness, but there is none.... ever.

Finally there is emotional angst, unutterable despair, as the great chasm is revealed. The lost one sees and senses the separation from God, and feels it intensely. Impassable, irreversible, the great gulf is an unending reminder of the lost soul's confinement for eternity. Though within earshot and eyesight, the rich man could not move one inch toward heaven, to somehow improve his situation. The chasm removed any hope of help he might have had.

May the Lord burn this passage into the hearts of believers, adding urgency for seeing opportunities to share the gospel with lost folk; and should one who reads here be unsaved, may you look to Jesus, and live!