Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

The Deadliest Fire in History

Posted on March 12th, 2019

The Deadliest Fire in History
Luke 16: 19-31

Jack took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone... Fourth time in as many months. How could a guy get caught so often? When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jack pulled over.

The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in hand. Bob? Bob from church? Jack sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A Christian cop catching a guy from his own church. A guy who happened to be a little anxious to get home after a long day at the office. A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow.

Jumping out of the car, he approached a man he saw every Sunday, a man he'd never seen in uniform.

"Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this."

"Hello, Jack." No smile.

"Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids."

"Yeah, I guess." Bob seemed uncertain.

"I've seen some long days at the office lately. I'm afraid I bent the rules a bit

Jack toed at a pebble on the pavement. "Diane said something about roast beef and potatoes tonight. Know what I mean?"

"I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct."

Ouch! This was not going in the right direction. Time to change tactics. "What'd you clock me at?"

"Seventy-one. Would you sit back in your car, please?"

"Now wait a minute here, Bob. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65." The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.

"Please, Jack, in the car."

Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Bob scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn't he asked for a driver's license? Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Jack ever sat near this cop again. A tap on the door jerked his head to the left.

There was Bob, a folded paper in hand. Jack rolled down the window a bare two inches, just enough room for Bob to pass him the slip.

Bob returned to his car without a word. Jack watched his retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket.

Jack began to read: "Dear Jack, Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it - a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail, and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters. All three of them. I only had one, and I'm going to have to wait until heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I've tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again. Even now... Pray for me. And be careful. My son is all I have left. Bob"

Jack twisted around in time to see Bob's car pull away and head down the road. Jack watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he, too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

Life is precious. Handle with care. Remember, cars are not the only thing recalled by their maker.*
Does anyone know what the worst fire in American History was? Most people would say it was the great Chicago Fire in 1871. That fire started on Sunday, October 8 and ended on Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing up to 300 people and destroyed a little over 3 square miles of Chicago, leaving over 100,000 people homeless.
But the great Chicago fire wasn’t the worst fire in American history. Ironically, on the very same day the Chicago fire began... so did the one that destroyed Peshtigo, Wisconsin (about 48 miles north of Green Bay). Historians list this as THE deadliest fire in U.S. history. On October 8th (the same day the Chicago fire began) a drought in the lumber area of Peshtigo led to a fire that destroyed nearly 1900 sq. miles of small cities and homes in the area of Peshtigo (as opposed to the 3.3 square miles in Chicago) and killed nearly 2000 people (compared to 300 in Chicago).
The fire was so intense that when people tried to flee... there was no place to go. People died in their homes, and their basements and on the streets. Some folks jumped into a well, but the fire sucked all the oxygen away and they died of suffocation. Others tried to cross the river to the other side only to find the fire there as well.
The few that survived jumped into the river, and had to constantly douse themselves with water to avoid their hair catching on fire. The temperatures that day were estimated to be between 500 and 700 F. The destruction was so total there was virtually nothing left of the city.
It took days for word of the Peshtigo fire to reach the nation. When news finally reached the capital of Wisconsin, all the state’s officials were in Chicago, helping with relief efforts there. For weeks, the Chicago Fire so dominated newspaper headlines that the governor of Wisconsin had to issue a special proclamation to divert aid from Chicago to the Peshtigo area.
Speaking of the tragedy in Peshtigo (“The Deadly Night Of October 8, 1871”) one author noted “The only light available in the dark of the night was that given off by the fire itself, creating an eerie glow that seemed to taunt the dying and surviving alike like the open mouth of hell.”
In our text this morning Jesus tells us the story of a man who went to hell - it’s called the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Now, there are some folks who try to tell us that this story is not true. They say it's fictional. They dismiss it as merely a “parable.”
That’s always bothered me. I mean this story is not even called a parable by Jesus (or even by Luke, where the story appears). Additionally, even in His parables... Jesus never used a personal name like Lazarus, and ALL of Jesus’ parables were based on real-life events that people could identify with. This is the only story Jesus ever told that pulled back the curtain on what happens after death.
So, I’ve always been puzzled that people would try so hard to say that this story is fiction. Why would they do that? Well, there’s all kinds of possibilities... I guess. For example, I think some folks dismiss this story just to prove how smart they are (it’s a pride thing). It’s an intellectual exercise they go through to prove how deep and educated they are. Folks seem to do that often with things the Bible tells us.
But I’m convinced that a lot of other folks argue this story’s not true because they don’t like what it says. They read the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus and they see one of the most disturbing descriptions of hell in Scripture - and they don’t want to accept it.
Jesus tells us the Rich Man was “... in Hades, being in torment...” Luke 16:23
The Rich Man asked for “... mercy” and for “... Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water ‘and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’” Luke 16:24
And it’s described as a “place of torment” and a place people would avoid if they would “repent.” Luke 6:28 and 30
Jesus tells us that Hell is a very, very unpleasant place, and because of that – Hell is a very, very uncomfortable topic for lots of folks.
ILLUS: A Research company did a survey about 5 years ago where they discovered that 72% Americans said they believed in heaven (defined as a place “where people who have led good lives were eternally rewarded”). But, at the same time, 58% of U.S. adults also believed in hell (a place “where people who’d led bad lives and who died without being sorry were eternally punished”)
72% believed in heaven, but only 58% believed in hell? I thought they were a matched set. I figured if you had one you had to have the other. But frankly a lot of people just don’t want to hear about hell.
ILLUS: A group of ministers – when asked why they won’t preach about hell said: “People already feel guilty enough. They’re not doing what they should. And, they have over 100 reasons way.
So, there’s a lot of folks out there that would prefer not to even preach about hell! In fact, I don’t often preach about it!
Even God’s not keen on it: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
So, there are very few people who seem to enjoy the idea of talking about hell.
And yet... it was one of the top 10 things Jesus preached about. Someone did a study of the book of Matthew and found that Jesus dedicated about 66 verses to the topic of judgment and Hell.
For example: Matthew 8:12 “the sons of the kingdom (of Israel) will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 13:49-50 “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And Matthew 25:46 “... these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”
So what’s going on here? If a lot of folk are really NOT all that happy about hell, and I really don’t like preaching about hell, and even God’s not all that excited about anyone going to hell - why is Jesus preaching so much about hell?
Well, 2 things:
1st – someone once said: "Hell is, Hell is hot, Hell is real, Hell is eternal."
And what is worse: Hell was where everybody was gonna go. Hell was our destiny! That’s where we were ALL going to end up if somebody didn’t do something about it!
Ephesians 2:3 “...we ALL once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Colossians 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”
And Romans 8:7-8 “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”
In other words: none of us deserved to go to heaven. We ALL had messed up. We all deserved Hell.
But a lot of people have convinced themselves they deserve to go heaven. In a different survey I've read, about 60% believed there was a hell (just like the other survey) they just weren't going there. Only 4 % of those surveyed thought they were going to end up in Hell. ONLY 4%? I’m pretty sure that’s not even close to the right percentage. But why would so many think that they’d not end up in Hell? Why did they believe they were going to heaven? Well, because most folks are intent on putting up a "good front."
ILLUS: A man once told of the day he and his wife bought their first house. “Our limited finances forced us to find ways of getting what we wanted without spending a great deal of money. We agreed we’d work on the front yard ourselves to save labor expenses and still create a proper setting for our home. It looked great.
One day, while I was standing in our BACK yard, I began to realize that we had spent no time or money making the back look good. Why? Because it couldn’t be seen by others as they passed our house.”
When it comes to sin in our lives, most folks are like that. They clean up the front yard – where everybody can see what’s going on - but they HIDE the “back section” of their life (their thoughts, their deeds and their words). They hide these things way out back where no one can see what’s happening.
Well... almost no one. God knows! Romans 3:23 says “We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all deserved to go to Hell!!! Every... single... one of us deserved to go to hell. Unless...
Unless somebody did something to stop it. So, did somebody DO something to stop us from going to hell? Of course! That’s why Jesus came. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him MIGHT NOT PERISH but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
As one man observed: “I deserved to be damned to hell, but God interfered.”
THAT, of course, still doesn’t answer the question of why Jesus taught so much about Hell? I mean, why would He do that? If it upsets people so much – why do it?
There are those ministers who don’t preach about hell, either because they either don’t want God to look bad...or they don’t want the people they minister to, to FEEL bad. Now, I understand that. And I don’t think their motives are necessarily evil - I just think their theology stinks! And here’s why...
ILLUS: Think about your Smoke Alarm (especially the one in or near the kitchen). Annoying, isn’t it? Now a smoke alarm is supposed to go off if the house is on fire but I’ve never had a fire in my home. This doesn’t mean the smoke alarm has never gone off. Once in awhile, when I offer a burnt offering to God in my kitchen, this sucker goes off and keeps incessantly beeping as I drag a chair from the kitchen table into the hallway and climb up on that chair to push this button that shuts it off.
But here’s the problem – I can push that button as many times as I like – as long as there’s smoke in the house, that alarm is going to continue going off, over and over again. So what am I to do? How do I stop this alarm from continually shrieking in my ears?
Well, there’s only two ways to stop this alarm from going off in a smoky room. 1. Remove the ALARM from the room (and throw it out in the backyard) or 2. Remove the BATTERY from the alarm.
Now I’ve known of people who simply take the battery out... and not replace it. They don’t want to be annoyed by that silly alarm. They don’t want to be troubled by its shrieking in their ears. But if their house actually caught on fire and the alarm wouldn’t go off... the fire would destroy their home.
But at least they wouldn’t be annoyed by the alarm. At least they wouldn’t be troubled by the warning.
But just removing the battery from the alarm won't stop the house from burning down. They may have removed the offending noise of the WARNING, but their home would end up in ashes.
THAT’S WHY Jesus preached so much about hell. He was being the fire alarm. He was WARNING people that there was going to be a place of torment; a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth; a place of eternal punishment.
And if Jesus hadn’t warned us about that that eternal hell why should we bother changing our lives? I mean, there are some folks who figure “I like sinning! I like getting drunk and sleeping around and living however I very well please. So, what if when I die... I don’t get to go to heaven... I didn’t want to go anyway! I just want to live the way I want to live and if I die and just don’t leave the grave, why should I care?”
WHY BOTHER believing that Jesus is the Christ, why bother repenting, why bothered getting buried in the waters of baptism and rising up a new creation? I only get to go around once in this life, so why not grab all the gusto I can get?
But... if there’s a hell – that changes the equation in a big hurry. Suddenly, life gets serious. And if there’s no one around to warn us of that reality, we may wake up from the grave to a major surprise!
CLOSE: The message of Hell is not a pleasant one... and it’s not meant to be. But without that part of our message, there’s no urgency for people to change and turn to Jesus.
A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was leaving the room after paying a visit, and said, "Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."

Very quietly the doctor said, "I don't know."
"You don't know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?"

The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side of the door there came the sound of scratching and whining. As he opened the door a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice that dog? He had never been in this room before. He did not know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing: I know my Master is there, and that is enough. And when the door opens, I shall pass through with no fear, but with gladness."

This sermon is based on
A sermon given by Jeff Strite

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