Good evening everybody. It's wonderful to be here again with you all, it's always a pleasure to preach here. Could we pray together before I speak to you? I really want to ask you to pray for yourself just now. You can pray for other people, we're not going to prohibit you doing that, but we want you to be open to God speaking to you - particularly if you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus, you don't know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, or you're not sure - that God would speak to you tonight. He wants to do that, but it's important that our ears are cupped, as it were, to His voice; that we're tuned in to what He has to say. So would you just take that position before God now, before I share with you? I believe I have a message from God - so would you get ready? Let's just ask the Lord to speak to each of our hearts.
Father, we want to thank You tonight, for everything that has gone before, for all the praise. You are worthy to be praised, because You've done such great things for us whereof we are glad. We thank You for Jesus, Your Son. We thank You for sending Him into the world that He would die for us and carry away our sins, and that we might know You through His resurrection power. We thank You - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and we want others to know that tonight. Se we're asking You, Lord, we're calling in the Name of Jesus upon all of Heaven to send help. We're asking, Holy Spirit, that You will come, and that You will speak to people in this gathering in a mighty, mighty way. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Please turn to verse 13 of Luke 12: "Then one from the crowd said to Him", that is, to Jesus, "'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me'. But He said to him, 'Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?'. And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses'. Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: 'The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry''. But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'. So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God'".
I want to speak to you this evening on 'The Moment Of Clarity'. I wonder have you ever had a 'There must be more than this' moment? Have you? The man in our parable here in Luke 12 didn't have so much a 'There must be more than this' moment, but a 'There is more than this!' one. Sadly, his moment of clarity came too late. He lived his whole life as if God had not existed. Now, whether he was atheist or agnostic really doesn't matter, because practically speaking he lived as if God was irrelevant. But he had this rude awakening at the moment of his death.
The context of the parable Jesus taught was, it seems to be, brothers fighting over a will - imagine that! That doesn't happen too often, does it, in the countryside? There could even be folk here tonight - and I'm being absolutely serious now - and your family have split right down the middle because of a will, because of an inheritance. Each of these brothers is infused with a sense of righteous indignation because they have been outdone, but Jesus wasn't really that interested. Isn't that interesting? Because there are greater matters at stake than money. Money is important, it pays the bills - it's very useful, isn't it? A little bit more would be helpful for us all, we wouldn't say 'No' to that. But Jesus gives this warning in verse 15, look at it: 'Take heed', He said to them, 'and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he or she possesses'.
Money is useful, but it can't buy me love - isn't that right? Neither can it buy you one more day of life, one more second, or one more breath. The reason why I'm preaching this message tonight has got nothing to do with circumstances, tragic, that have gone on this week in our Fellowship - and I send my condolences to the family. Many have been affected in our community over recent weeks with sudden deaths. But, in fact, [it's] because of a Psalm I read two weeks ago when I was in Germany, Psalm 49 - and I want to put it up on the screen in the New Living Translation. Look at these words as we read in together - maybe, Chris, you could change the slide as I reach each part:
'They trust in their wealth
and boast of great riches.
Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death
by paying a ransom to God.
Redemption does not come so easily,
for no one can ever pay enough
to live forever and never see the grave.
Those who are wise must finally die,
just like the foolish and senseless,
leaving all their wealth behind.
The grave is their eternal home,
where they will stay forever.
They may name their estates after themselves,
but their fame will not last.
They will die, just like animals.
This is the fate of fools,
though they are remembered as being wise.
Like sheep, they are led to the grave,
where death will be their shepherd.
In the morning the godly will rule over them.
Their bodies will rot in the grave,
far from their grand estates.
But as for me', the psalmist says, 'God will redeem my life.
He will snatch me from the power of the grave'.
Profound! Essentially, the Psalm is summed up in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said: 'What shall it profit a man or woman if they gain the whole world, yet lose their own soul?' or 'What shall a person give in exchange for their soul?'. That's a moment of clarity, when you realise that you are an eternal being and there is more than this.
The novel entitled 'The Moviegoer' by Walker Percy tells the story of a commuter on the way home from his successful job. Now this was a man who, inextricably, feels bad in proportion to the many reasons why he should be good - everything is going well for him and he's successful in his career. We might say he was depressed. Suddenly, on the way home, he suffers a severe heart attack. He is removed from the train at a station he has passed countless times before but never visited. When the commuter regains consciousness, he is in a strange hospital, surrounded by unfamiliar people. As his eye wanders around the room, he catches sight of a hand spread out on the sheet of the bed before him. It's as if he had never seen his own hand until this moment. It's an extraordinary thing, able to move this way and that, to open and close. The author goes on to speak about this being an awakening, a kind of revelation for him. He says: 'Through the heart attack, the commuter was able to encounter himself, his life, in a way he had not for years' - absorbed as he was in what he calls 'everyday-ness'. It was what we would call 'an existential awakening', that just means something pertaining to our existence, the reason why we live. A brush with death aroused him to ask: 'What is it all about?'. In his hospital bed, he keeps staring at his hand. The commuter says: 'My hand was open in front of my face, the fingers closed and opened. I felt like Rip Van Winkle, waking, and testing his bones. Was anything broken? Was I still in one piece?'. Like Rip Van Winkle, who slept for 20 years, all of a sudden he had this awakening - like a blast of cold air coming at him and arousing him. Or, as The Moviegoer puts it: 'It was a good kick up the...' - and I'll not tell you what he said.
Do you understand? It was a moment of clarity. Sometimes it's only the reality of death that is powerful enough to quicken people out of the sluggishness of everyday-ness, everyday life, and [make them] actively search for what life is really all about. The commuter grabs his own existence, as it were, around the neck and begins to renew his life. He has a moment of clarity, we might call it 'a eureka moment', an 'Aha!' moment, a 'lightbulb' moment - or an 'epiphany', if you want to be religious about it. The Bible would call at conversion, or a new birth, we are born again to a new life or a new awareness of life. 'You've seen the light', you've heard that expression. Jesus said in John 8:32: 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' - that's clarity. Truth about life, what it's really about. Truth about yourself, who you are, why you were made, the purpose of your existence, where you're heading. The truth about death, that there is life after this existence. The truth about God, what He is like, what He says about us and expects from us.
The tragedy is, many never have their moment of clarity. Here in Luke chapter 12, if you look at how this man speaks, it's noteworthy how many times he uses the personal pronoun 'I'. If you look at it: 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'. So he says: 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. I will say to my soul...' etc. he is self-obsessed, he has become the centre of his own universe, everything revolves around his life and his needs. God has not featured on his life's horizons at all, until the moment he dies - and his moment of clarity comes too late.
Is it any wonder Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:4 that the god of this world, Satan, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe so that the light of the Gospel doesn't shine in. So many are blinded by busyness or business, food, drink, pleasure - and today especially, people are blinded by preoccupation, distraction, and amusement of every kind. In 1985 a man by the name of Neil Postman - he was an educator, a media theorist, and a cultural critic - wrote a book entitled 'Amusing Ourselves to Death', a public discourse on the age of show business. That was in 1985, what would his comments be now with the explosion of the technological revolution, of social media, etc - you know what I'm talking about - and how our attention is clamoured for on a second-by-second basis, even in this meeting tonight!
'Muse', the word 'muse' in the middle of 'amusement', literally means 'to think'. The prefix 'A-' means 'no', so 'amuse' is 'not to think'. Now, I'm not a party pooper, OK? I enjoy myself every now and again! It's good to switch off your brain at times and relax, yes, but is it not the case that our society - generally speaking - has completely switched off their consciousness to the eternal reality, to God and the eternal sphere, by everyday-ness? More pleasures, more pastimes, more possessions than ever - and yet people are more miserable, more lost, concerning what life is really all about. Our brains are numb, and our souls are dead - and many people, if we're honest, are just sitting around waiting to die.
Now, I'm not trying to make you miserable, I really am not. I'm not trying to scare you, because I don't believe in trying to scare people into the kingdom of God. You might be sitting here saying: 'Well, this isn't much good news! I thought the Gospel was good news' - and yes, it is. So, if you like, I'm not preaching the Gospel tonight, if that helps you. You can call this pre-evangelism. What I mean by that is: many people don't appreciate the love of God in Jesus Christ - do you realise that? We can talk about God's love in Jesus till we have no breath left; we can talk about His grace, how He has freely given us eternal life and forgiveness; but they are living in a realm that is utterly oblivious to the spiritual - it's not real to them at all. To some, the love of God is on a supermarket shelf beside the love of money, the love of sex, the love of food, the love of sport, the love of travel, the love of career and family - and they don't choose the love of God, not only because they don't have much appetite for it, but because the spiritual realm is not their 'real'. It's irrelevant, and that's where a reality check needs to come in - or, as 'The Moviegoer' puts it, 'A good kick up the...' - that moment of clarity; because we are sound asleep at times, and we need shocked, we need awakened. We are intoxicated by the superficial, and we need sobered up to the eternal realities that we are blind to.
Have you had your moment of clarity? The book that we read from tonight, the Bible, is the word of God. It reveals God's Son come in human flesh, Jesus Christ. The whole book, and Jesus the Person, speaks with great candour and great clarity to these great matters that face all of us as humankind. Jesus tells us that there is a God: 'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth', Genesis 1 verse 1. Jesus testifies to that fact, that His Father who sent Him is the Creator of the world. In the beginning God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul - we have been given a body, and because sin came into the world and disobedience through Adam and Eve at the very beginning, our bodies now die because of sin. But because you're not just a body, you are a soul, you will live on forever in either of two places: heaven or hell. I'm begging you tonight, with the help of the Holy Spirit of God, that in this moment you will gain clarity, you will realise that there is more than this.
I hope you don't make that discovery too late. The man in our parable did. God called him a 'fool'. It's said that the average body has enough phosphorus to make 800,000 match heads; enough sugar to go into 60 cubes (some of you probably could beat that!); enough salt to cover 20 tablespoons; enough iron to make about ten pounds worth of nails; and the rest of this body that we inhabit is just dust and water. So when you pamper and promote and protect this part of you that will only live, perhaps, if you do well, for 70 or 80 years, and neglect the part of you that will live on forever in either heaven or hell - God says you're a fool. Don't wait until it's too late for your moment of clarity.
A newspaper article once referred to a striking story in an anonymous book of memoirs. The writer met the woman who apparently had nursed the great agnostic Professor J.H. Huxley on his deathbed. She said that, as he lay dying, the great sceptic unbeliever suddenly looked up at some sight that was invisible to mortal eyes, and stared a while, and eventually whispered at last: 'So it is true'. He had his moment of clarity too late. Now, you don't need the dying gasps of an old man to prove to you that there is life after death - here's why: Jesus, the Son of God, said in John 14:2 'If it were not so, I would have told you'. To paraphrase: 'If anybody was going to tell you the truth, you can believe Me about the afterlife'. He was telling the disciples: 'I'm going to the cross, I'm going to die because of your sins; and where I am you can't come because of sin - but if you believe in Me, you can come and be with Me forever, and I will make a heavenly home for you. I am the way, I am the truth, I am life, nobody can come to the Father except through Me. But don't be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me, and I will prepare a place for you'.
Jesus died for our sins. He tasted death, Hebrews says, for every man. He died with the shame of our sin upon Him, the things that we have done against God and against others, He took it all upon Himself because He loves us. He died underneath that, and God's anger for it. He was buried, and He rose again the third day so that we could have His life; so that we could live forever; so that not only one day when we die we can go to be with Him in heaven in a spiritual sense, but we can actually be resurrected - these bodies can be made new, that's the hope that we have as Christians: that we will be raised incorruptible, to be like Jesus!
Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish persecutor of Christians. He was rounding up Christians to be fed to the lions to their death, and he had his moment of clarity on the road to Damascus when Jesus, in His resurrected form, appeared to him - the One he was persecuting. He fell down before Him like a dead man, and converted. Paul's motto then became: 'For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain'. In other words, his life was worth living, and his death was worth dying because of Jesus. Can I ask you: is your life worth living? Be honest now, it might look like it at the weekend to your mates, but is it worth living? But come: is your life worth dying for? Are you living for anything tonight that is worth dying for?
I believe I'm speaking to people here this evening. Whilst many never had their moment of clarity, recently you have. Whether it has been a close shave for yourself, an accident you've been in, or perhaps an illness - perhaps it has been the untimely death of a loved one, and standing around that open grave the moment of clarity came. Sometimes it can last a fortnight, but often everyday-ness invades and steals the moment. I'm asking you tonight, with God's help, to fan to flame the urgency.
An Arab on one occasion woke up in his tent hungry, and he lit a candle and began to eat some dates that he had beside his bed. He took one, and he held up to the candle, and there was a worm in it! So he put it down again, and then he lifted it once more, put it up to the candle - and the worm was there. Put it down again, for the third time he lifted it up to the candlelight and the worm hadn't gone anywhere - so he blew out the candle and stuffed it in his mouth! That's what many of us do with death, with eternity, with these sobering issues. I want you to look at that slide - one word, 'Eternity'. Where will you spend your eternity?
Let's pray. I know this is a sobering message, and I know it's difficult for some tonight, but I believe it's God's message. Are you rich toward God? Are you here tonight, and you're not ready to meet the Lord? If God was to come to you this night, like He did to that man, and say: 'Tonight, your soul will be required of you', you're not ready. Maybe God has featured in your life a wee bit more than that fellow, but you're still not ready. I want to invite you now to come to faith in Jesus. I want you to acknowledge that you are a sinner, and that Jesus died for you - and you're going to turn from your sin, and turn from your selfish ways. God needs to help you with that, I know you can't do that yourself, I understand that - He will give you the power, but you need the willingness to say: 'Lord, I want You to save me from my sin', and believe that He will save you and honour His word.
Pray after me, just you and the Lord: 'O God, I come to You in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I confess He is the Son of God, and the only way to God, that He died on the cross for my sins and rose again that I would be forgiven and receive eternal life. I confess my sins to You now. I turn from them to You for mercy and forgiveness. I ask You to save me now and make me Your child as I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord. I renounce Satan and all his works, and I ask You to fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit, that I would live a life pleasing to You'.
If you're a backslider, just confess your sins to the Lord, that have taken you away from Him - and return to Him. If you prayed that prayer tonight, will you tell us at the door? Or if you still need help, need counsel, maybe you need prayer with something tonight - well, seek us out afterwards. Some of you have had a moment of clarity tonight - don't be a fool.
Father, bless Your word to every heart. Write it deep, Lord, and may the heavy weight of the burden of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord, rest upon us all tonight - and even Your people, Lord, that we would have about us an urgency to seek to win the lost. Lord, please, would You sear that small word 'eternity' on every mind and every heart, to know that this life is preparation for the next. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Following The Wrong King" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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