This is part four in a series of posts taken from a sermon I preached on Luke 16:19-31 under the same title: "The Trajectory of Our Hearts". You can read part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here.
The Trajectory of our Hearts in Jesus
You see, only Jesus passed the performance test. If life were an ACT or an SAT, the results would be Jesus: pass—everyone else: fail. And without a relationship with Jesus, we’re all failing the litmus test of our hearts as well. Every problem, every tension we’ve run into in this story, Jesus solved for us. And Jesus is now the solution for us.
You see, Jesus faced the problems of Lazarus the beggar by becoming poor like him, weak, outcast, and scorned. The problem of Lazarus: brokenness, (external) the problem of a fallen world filled with disaster, disease, pain and death. Jesus was humbled in every sense of the word so that he could model a servant’s heart, so he could be there and identify with us in our times of weakness and shame, even to the point of death. Jesus faced all this so that we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.
Jesus took on the problems of the rich man, the problems of the Pharisees--our problems--when he took upon himself the guilt of every heart that is trying to justify itself. The problem of the rich man: sin, (internal) the problem of a fallen nature that rebels against God and causes so much evil and suffering. Jesus took our greed, complacency, pride, selfishness, our rejection of God and obsession with self and bore it in his body on the cross.
And Jesus faced the problem of hell when, on the cross, he suffered the ultimate consequence of our sin--judgment and separation from God. The problem of hell: death, (eternal). Remember I said hell shows us the depth of the love of God, and it is here on the cross. However infinitely terrible you imagine hell to be, Jesus was willing to endure that to save you. Jesus stared sin, death, and hell in the face so that he could defeat them and overcome them on behalf of all those who would trust in him. To lose the love of an acquaintance hurts a little. To lose the love of a friend hurts a lot. To lose the love of a spouse hurts immensely. The deeper and greater the relationship, the more devastating and agonizing the loss of love. How can we know how much God really loves us, if he loves us at all? We look to Jesus on the cross, bearing our sin and shame, suffering the judgment of separation from the Father that should have been our own--God the Son rejected by God the Father, a fundamentally deeper separation and isolation than we could ever experience if we spent a thousand eternities in hell-- and then we see how far he was willing to come to save us and to show us his love.
“That sounds nice” you say “but how do I know it’s true? How do I know that Jesus really accomplished all of that for me?” Two Sundays from now is the most important Sunday of the year for the Christian when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that his resurrection is the promise and guarantee of his victory over brokenness, sin, and death. Jesus died in the suffering and agony of a broken world, but rose in victory over pain and death. Jesus died bearing the sin and guilt of fallen humanity, but rose in victory breaking the bonds of slavery to sin. Jesus died bearing the full weight of hell itself, but rose in victory ransoming sons and daughters for God. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then even Paul says, “we’re wasting our time here”. But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then there is nothing more important—nothing more relevant with where you are today—than to pursue that relationship.
The Gospel busts every category of who’s “in” and who’s “out” in any culture. Some Christians will be rich, others poor. Some will be healthy, others sick. Some successful, some just eeking by. But the trajectory of a life transformed by the Gospel will not be so categorized by any one of these characteristics. Rather, each of these conditions we find ourselves in serve to test the true trajectory of our hearts. And every day we are confronted with new tests about the trajectory of our hearts. The beggar was that test for the rich man. When you have yours today, ask yourself, “What is my heart doing?”
Heaven and hell isn’t about good hearts and bad hearts and their respective trajectory. It’s about bad hearts that try to do it their own way and justify themselves before men and God, and bad hearts who give up doing it their own way and cast themselves on the mercy of God in the living Christ Jesus. Only then are we given a new heart, one that seeks after God. Only Jesus changes the trajectory of a heart.