Five Things Found in Hell That Belong In The Church

Bible Book: Luke  16 : 19-31
Subject: Hell; Church Life; Prayer; Concern for the Lost

Let’s talk for a time tonight about 2 very important institutions. One is a place for people and the other is a people for a place. One offers life, joy, and peace, while the other offers punishment, pain, and death. One is called the church and the other is called hell, Hades, or Gehenna.

What do you think of when you hear the word “Church?” Most think of a brick building or some place you “go to”. Yet, in point of fact the church is a group of baptized believers, joining together to fulfill God’s mission and ministry given to them. Jesus said, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” So it is fair to say that the Church of the Lord Jesus was conceived, designed, instituted, and empowered by Christ himself to impact this world. Yet, the Church’s impact in the American culture is seemingly less and less as days goes by. Why is this? The answer to this question evokes many questions;

Why are many Churches not having a more profound impact on this culture? Why do building sit empty and/or congregations dwindle?

Why is there so much strife in the church? What has changed the church?

Where has the power gone?

One pastor was rather disappointed with the lack of spiritual and numerical growth in the church he was attempting to lead. So he asked the Chairman of the Deacon body, “What is wrong with this church? Is it ignorance or apathy?” Sadly the man responded, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

It seems like when we crack open and look inside the church in America today, as a general rule, we discover some things which don’t belong. We can find strife driven by pride, or selfishness, or self- centeredness, satisfaction, or even unconcern for others. From a Bible point of view the picture is ungodly and ugly. I submit this is not what Jesus died for. To look inside the modern day church is to see some things which do not belong and then to look into hell is to see some things which better fit inside the church.

Tonight turn with me to Luke 16 and let’s read a familiar story. It is called the Rich man and Lazarus. This story (not a parable) displays for us several items or characteristics which belong in the church. (Read Text)

Hollywood, for most, conjures up images of “movies”, “rich people”, and/or “unbridled immorality”. The barrage of immoral and ungodliness from the movie capital of the world seems to have no end. Yet, every now and then, in their ignorance, Hollywood gives us a profound picture of a spiritual truth.

For instance, in one of the “Indiana Jones” movies, we can see a clear picture of faith as Harrison Ford leaps toward a cavern. A bridge does not appear Until he jumps. This is faith like the first century church displayed.

In the same way Hollywood teaches us so does this display of hell. Note some things we see in hell that should be in the church.

I. Fire

The rich man said, “I am in agony, torment, or intense pain in the fire.” Fire has a way of being uncontrollable. James compares the tongue to a fire and intimates it uncontrollable. Fire spreads at will and can be seen as unstoppable. The wildfires of California are a prime example.

The fires of hell are tormenting, suffering, and punishing fires. These fires are destructive in nature and never go out! They destroy hope, they destroy happiness, they destroy comfort, and they even destroy peace.

I submit that fire is needed in the church, but it is a different kind of fire. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit which runs wild in our hearts. This fire melts the cold heart, causes stiff-necked Christians to relax and respond, and fire is the evidence of having a “spirit-filled” church. Honestly, how do we think we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts when we are cold from the inside out? Take an ice cube, bore a hole in it, stick a candle in it, and see what happens. The ice cube melts. Why? It melts Because of the candle.

In the small town sat a small church building with a few “faithful” saints attending. All the members attempted to get Joe to “come to church”. Joe was the town atheist and would have no part of it. One day the church building caught on fire and Joe was seen running toward the building. One of the more “spiritual” members said, “Joe, I’ve never seen you run toward the church before.” Joe’s response, “I’ve never seen the church on fire before.”

When the fire of God comes into a fellowship, it changes things. Priorities are re-ordered, impurities are removed, and God speaks.

I wonder, can you sense or feel the fire of God burning in your heart? Can you feel it in this church? When the fire is not felt and sensed, the church loses its purpose, its meaning, its mission, and even its hope. At that point we become a hotel for saints rather than a hospital for sinners.

II. Prayer

I’ll submit that we have the wrong idea about prayer. Already this week I have offered on several occasions that we need to fervently pray and that prayer is a two way street. The rich man prayed, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me.” We desperately need to learn this prayer once again, “Have mercy”. Please understand the contrast between Grace and Mercy. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve while Mercy is God Not giving us what we DO deserve. The truth is, we will never learn to pray until we realize how unworthy we are of God’s love, mercy, and grace.

With the fires of hell lapping at his feet, the Rich man had a new appreciation for his need. It would seem to me that the church, those who have been brought from death to life, darkness to light, hell to heaven, should not let a day go by without praying and thanking God for both, His mercy and grace.

Jesus taught us, “Ask and it will be given to you, Seek and You shall find, Knock and the door will be opened.” The prophet taught us that we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our hearts. As we read in 2 Chronicles, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and Pray.”

Recently there was a game show on TV entitled “Who wants to be a Millionaire.” One of the rules for the contestants was that they had 3 lifelines. For the believer and the church, we have one lifeline and it is prayer. Through prayer we find forgiveness in Jesus, leadership through the Spirit, and strength through God the Father. In Acts 2, the church gathered for worship, discipleship, fellowship, performed ministry, evangelism, and Prayer.

One church was having a problem and someone suggested they pray about it. One lady said, “My goodness has it come to that?” Brothers and sisters, prayer shouldn’t be our last option, it should be our first thought.

III. Understanding

When the rich man in torment asks for a drop of water, he was told no and then given the explanation. It will serve us well to make note of the fact that all of the man’s senses were active. He saw, he heard, he spoke, and he felt. In fact, the only one of the five senses which is not mentioned is smell. This leads me to believe that in the same way believers are given a new body for heaven, non-believers are given new bodies which are designed for eternal punishment.

I suggest that the Rich man had a deep understanding of his situation before he prayed for help because when Abraham responded, he didn’t argue nor attempt to change his mind. He accepted Abraham’s words.

This kind of understanding needs to take root in the church today. Candidly, many want to change the principles of the gospel. We have bought into a mentality of “he who shouts the loudest wins.” After  all, watch News TV with its “shouting shows.” While it may be greatly entertaining for some, very little truth gets out because it is swallowed up by the delivery. We need to come to an understanding that the Bible is the truth, the man of God has been called to be His spokesman, and that our opinions don’t count for much when offered in light of God’s word. IN fact, I would suggest that we should quit arguing about the Bible and the Church, return to an understanding of the purpose of the Bride of Christ and turn her loose.

IV. Concern

At the risk of sounding condescending, within the church located in America we have seemingly lost our concern for those outside of Christ and the Church. Most of the things we do are focused inside the four walls. Fifteen years ago, I interviewed with a Pastor-Search committee and asked this simple question, “If we surveyed the community and discovered that we met at the wrong time for people to come, what would be your response?” Unapologetically, one woman said, “I’d have to see how it affected me.”

Now picture the rich man one more time, standing in the fire - His concern turned immediately to his family. Realizing his future was decided, he immediately became concerned for those he loved. “Father Abraham, send Lazarus because they will listen to one who returns from the dead to tell them about this place,” were his words of concern about His family.

What would you have done, if you had known the stock market was going to fall? If you had a friend who had his life’s savings in the market, would you have called him, out of concern, and told him about the difficulty ahead? I think you would have. So here’s the payoff; how many do you have in your family, your circle of friends, or your close acquaintances, who, if they died today, would lift up their eyes with the rich man in that same place of torment? Are you concerned? Are we concerned? Is this church concerned? Yes, you are? Well then what does it take to stop you from getting them word?

V. Passion

In the church today, generally, if we visit someone, speak to someone about our church, or invite someone one time, we think that’s enough. If we share the gospel once, they have had their chance. If we receive any resistance, then we quit. Yet for the Rich man, who didn’t argue about his own personal relief, to hear Abraham say, “They already have all that they need to be saved,” was not sufficient. His determination was now driven by his passionate concern for His family and friends.

We badly need this inside the church today.

We need people who are so concerned that “give up” is not in their vocabulary. Our Lord is looking for passionate people to stand in the gap for the land….will He say like He said in the Old Testament, “I could not find one.”

Let’s face it, the things that we get passionate about, for the most part, are selfish things. We’ll passionately argue over our pew, our parking space, and our position in the church, while not being very concerned that the people next door or down the street knows how much Jesus loves them.

“I have a dream” was the title of the speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963. Of all the other things he said, I clearly remember those four words, “I have a dream”. Brothers and Sisters, I too have a dream tonight. I dream of a church where understanding the principles and precepts of God are the norm, where passionate concern by all the members is at the forefront of their lives, and where the fires of God reign in hearts because of the ongoing prayers of that congregation. I have a dream where every person who claims to know Christ produces spiritual fruit, where every believer loves one another, where the world wonders why we are wonderfully different in our actions, attitudes, and lifestyle. My dream is that people will want to know our Jesus because they know us. I have a dream.

As I end this message, I have a dream where those things we have spoken of that are seen in hell, will find their way into the church.