Friday, 6 January 2017

How do we prepare for mission? (Acts 1)

We live in a pragmatic age.  One church-growth expert says, ‘people are more interested in what works than what is true.’  A pastor told me that he built his church around a good praise-band.  The lead singers of some popular worship movements leave me wondering if only pretty people can sing.  It seems that Christian consumers want church services to make them feel a certain way.  We need to get the look and mood-lighting correct.

But is this right?  Is this how we open ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit?  In these verses of Acts, we see the embryonic church prepare itself for the out pouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Let’s see what they did to be open to his movement.

1.     They listened (3-5)

Firstly, we see that Jesus prepares the apostles for his departure by teaching them(3-5).  He appeared to them for forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is not an earthly or political kingdom, but Jesus continuing transforming lives and communities through the person of the Holy Spirit.  It is what we see happening throughout Acts. John MacKay writes, ‘First the enlightened mind, then the burning heart.’  Do you want to see the person of the Holy Spirit transform individuals and churches?  Begin by teaching your people the Bible!

2.    They waited (6-11)
Jesus must have been disappointed with their question: ‘Lord, will you at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel?’  They still have a lot to learn.  They are still expecting a military kingdom that would drive the Romans out of Israel.  But they will be a part of a very different kingdom—one that will transform lives in Jerusalem and all Judea, into Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. 

He tells them that it will be the Holy Spirit who will give them the power to be his witnesses.  No, not by cool, nor entertainment, nor celerity-preachers, nor the latest technology, nor mood-lighting, nor big budgets, nor buildings, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.  Do you want to see the person of the Holy Spirit transform individuals and churches?  Teach them to realise that nothing of significance will happen without the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

3.    They prayed (12-26)

The apostles return to the upper room, are joined by the women and Jesus’ family, and devote themselves to prayer.  The book of Acts is filled with prayer (thirty-one references in total).  In Acts, God’s people cry out to God when they feel helpless, and God responds by doing great things.  Prayer demonstrates a realisation that we cannot extend God’s kingdom in our own wisdom and power.  Prayer should be based on a sense of personal and corporate inadequacy and confidence and faith in God.
The chapter ends with Matthias was chosen to replace Judas as one of the apostles.  These apostles were unique witnesses to the resurrection.  They were specially chosen by Christ (in this case through Jesus’ guiding of the casting of lots).  The apostles’ teaching had a unique place in the church then and now (through what is recorded in the New Testament).
Conclusion:
Our situation is different from theirs.  In one sense we are no longer waiting.  The Day of Pentecost came and the Holy Spirit was poured out on all God’s people.  Since then all Christians experience his power.  And the Holy Spirit did not finish after the twenty-eight chapters of Acts—we are Acts twenty-nine people.  The kingdom is still expanding. 
How do we prepare our people to be a part of the mission—through learning, waiting and praying!
While Jesus taught the apostles before ascending to heaven, but he continues to teach us through the word he inspired.  We are no longer waiting for the Day of Pentecost, but the Holy Spirit is not static and we wait for him to go on filling us.  Finally, if we truly grasp that the Kingdom depends on his power, not ours, then we prayer will be at the heart of all our plans and strategies. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Infinity in an infant


In the small village of Nazareth, a teenage girl becomes pregnant outside of marriage.  That was a major scandal in that society.  The law said that she should be put to death.  This girl, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph.  Betrothal was more than engagement—it involved a legally-binding contract that could only be broken by divorce.  Joseph knows he is not the father, yet he is amazingly gracious—he was not going to press charges, was unwilling to put her to shame, and resolved to divorce her quietly.  Of course he assumed that she had cheated on him (what other explanation could there be?), but he was not going to treat her as her supposed sin deserved.

Then an angel appears to Joseph in a dream.  ‘That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 1:21).  They shall call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).  That controversial foetus in Mary’s womb is the Word made flesh.  We refer to this as the incarnation (from Latin words which mean ‘in the flesh’).   

Andrew Wilson says that there a lots of important truths in the gospel, but they all depend on the incarnation.  ‘The cross made possible freedom from sin, and the resurrection secured it, but the writing was on the wall the day Mary got pregnant.’

Who exactly is this Word made flesh?  This foetus is one who was distinct from God the Father (‘the Word was with God’) and yet was God himself (‘the Word was God’).  He is a child stepping into his own creation (‘all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made’).  He is full of light, life, glory, grace and truth—if you have ever doubted the goodness of God, then take some time to examine the person of Jesus!

And this Jesus invites you to know him.  He took on flesh, ‘so that all who received him would become children of God—children born … born of God.’  He would later declare, ‘all that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away’ (John 6:37).  Approach Jesus with the confidence that the Father is determined not to treat you as your sins deserve but according to his loving-kindness; and, that Jesus never turns away anyone who comes broken by their sin and looking to live for him as their leader.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’  The glory of God displayed in weakness and vulnerability.  Spurgeon says, ‘Infinite, and an infant.  Eternal, and yet born of a woman.  Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast.  Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arm.  King of angels, and yet reported son of Joseph.  Heir of all things, and yet a carpenter’s despised son.  Oh, the wonder of Christmas!’  

Sunday, 25 December 2016

The Gift


This morning we celebrate the greatest gift that humanity has ever received—God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ; given in love.  I want us to spend a couple of minutes reflecting on the giver and the gift, and the recipients and the response.
The Giver and the Gift
For all eternity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoyed the blissful communion within the God-head.  Then, at the appointed time, the Father gives the Son.  He sent his Son to a hostile world.
It is hard for a parent to watch their child go overseas to study or work.  At Christmas you may be enjoying being reunited, or missing those who are still away.  But as they depart you can comfort yourself that they are happy where they are going.  Not so this Father.  He sends his Son into a world where he will experience poverty and toil; where he shall be despised and rejected; where his back will be lacerated with a whip and his body pinned to the cross—where he cries, ‘my God, my God why have you forsaken me?’
The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, reflects upon the Father’s gift of the Son and declares, ‘he seemed to love us better than his only Son, and not did spare him that he might spare us.’
The recipient and the response
One of the most incredible things about this gift is the nature of the recipient—God gives his Son to the world.  He gives his Son to a world that has rebelled against his loving rule; a world that deserves to be punished for its evil.  Yet his Son comes and lives the perfect life we were incapable of living and dies the death we deserve.  God gives us Jesus’ righteousness and Jesus took our unrighteousness upon himself.
As Christmas approached, boys and girls were asked, ‘have you been good this year?’  The assumption being that good gifts depend on good behaviour.  But God has reserved his best gift for those who admit they have never been good any year.
So how should you respond to God’s gift of his Son?  This gift is for those who believe.  You disqualify yourself for this gift if you seek to earn it.  You insult the giver if you try to pay him back.  Instead you come empty-handed and grateful.  Indeed, the desire to accept this gift is a gift in itself (Ephesians 2:8).  Receiving that love will transform you.  This is a gift that keeps on giving.  Jack Miller writes, ‘God’s love for you is far greater than you imagine’ and ‘when you understand God’s love for you, then you have the power to love the world.’

Monday, 19 December 2016

The Disappointing Jesus


The angel said … ‘you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus was a big disappointment.  He was a first-century Jew, but he was not the sort of Messiah that his people were looking for.  You see, first-century Jews loved their country, but it was occupied by the Romans.  They were pushed around by Roman soldiers, paid taxes to a Roman government and had the head of the Caesar on their coins.  They wanted a Messiah who would save them from their oppressors, but Jesus came to save them from their sins.
In fact, Jesus came to save his people from their sins, and defined his people in a way that they didn’t like.  First-century Jews were looking for a Jewish Messiah for a Jewish people.  Jesus comes as Saviour, not just for Jews, but for the world.  Jesus comes with a bigger vision than any narrow nationalism.  Jesus is gathering his people from every tongue and tribe on earth.
No one was more disappointed with Jesus than the religious people of his day.  They expected that when the Messiah came, he would praise them for all their rules and rituals, but Jesus points to their hearts and exposes them as self-righteous hypocrites.  He speaks of mercy and forgiveness, and welcomes the very people they were hoping the Messiah would come and condemn.
I am not disappointed with Jesus for the very reason that so many first-century Jews were disappointed in him.  I am not disappointed that Jesus didn’t come simply to kick the Romans out of first-century Palestine—in fact I delight in the fact that the Romans put him on a cross, where he took God’s punishment for my guilt.  I am not disappointed in that fact that Jesus was more than a Messiah for the Jews—in fact, I delight that Jesus never turns away anyone turns back to God and follows him as their Messiah.  I am not disappointed that Jesus didn’t come to praise the self-righteous and condemn those who knew they were guilt—in fact I delight in the fact that Jesus declared that ‘I have not come for the self-righteous but for people who know they are sinners;’ for I know that I am a lost cause without him!
This Christmas, I hope that you won’t be disappointed with the fact that Jesus is God’s greatest gift to the world, and that he came to save his people from their sins.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

What are you ashamed of?


What are you ashamed about?  Are you ashamed of the things that you have viewed on your screens?  Are you ashamed of the many times you were too cowardly to stand up and identify with Jesus?  As a parent, you may be ashamed about the many ways in which you have failed your children.  As a son or daughter you may remember the sting of hearing a parent say, ‘I am so disappointed in you.’  You may be hiding a shameful secret. ‘What if people knew what I was really like?’ You may be ashamed about the times when you were angry, moody, impatient and oversensitive.
Tim Challies writes, ‘so many Christians live their lives racked with guilt and shame.  They think back to all the things they did, the sins they committed, whether two days ago or two decades, and live under a cloud of shame.  This shame hurts, it burns, it incapacitates.  It raises the question, what … is the place of shame, in the Christian life?’
Let’s look at the parable of the father who covers his son’s shame.
The young man brought shame upon himself, his family and his community
The younger son is doing something shameful in asking for his share of the estate.  Not only is he inflicting the pain of rejected love upon his father, he is dishonouring him.  Sons were to be a source of pride and joy.  This son could be seen as a source of embarrassment.  As he heads off to squander his wealth in the distant land, he brings disgrace to his family, his village and his religion.
He lives shamefully among the pagans, and then he experiences his own disgrace.  When famine comes, he goes to a farmer looking for work.  I doubt that this farmer was looking to employ anyone at that time.  But in that shame-culture you did not turn down a request for help in that culture.  So the farmer offers a job that no self-respecting Jew could accept—feeding unclean pigs.
The hymn-writer, John Newton, pondered the prodigal and has him ask, ‘what have I gained by sin, but hunger, shame and fear?  My father’s house abounds in bread, while I am starving here!’
Shame kept him from returning home
Why didn’t he just head home?  He stayed in the pigsty because of what he feared would happen if he returned to his village.
Middle-eastern expert, Ken Bailey, explains that had he come home after dishonouring his village among the gentiles, he would have been greeted by people who would have broken a clay pot in front of him and declared that he was dead to them.
For the rest of his days, young lads, with nothing better to do, would have followed him around, taunting him and throwing dung at him.  He was also aware that his bitter older brother would never let him forget what he had done.
The shame he expected to be exposed to on returning home would be greater than the shame of feeding those pigs.
The father endures shame to cover his shame
But, what actually happens on his return?
His father saw him from a distance, was filled with compassion and sprinted to meet him.  That’s significant.  In that culture there was a proverb that said you could tell the manner of a man by the way he walked.  Men over thirty did not run.  Respectable men walked in a slow dignified manner.  Imagine the looks as the father lifts his robes, exposes his knees and races through the village.
One of the reasons he ran was to get there before anybody else.  Remember the pot-breaking ceremony?  He did not want his son to experience such pain and disgrace.  If he gets to the son first, and accepts him, then, because of his status in that society, the rest of the village will have to accept him.
Spurgeon says, ‘had the story been that of a selfish human father only, it might have been written that “as he was coming near, his father ran out, and kicked him.”’  Many fathers would have looked at the emaciated boy, in rags and covered in pigs’ dirt, and contemptuously declared, ‘look at the state of you!’
But not this father!  This father orders the best robe and covers the boy’s shame.
But, not everyone wants to forget your shame
Apparently the fatted-calf could have fed up to two hundred people.  That means that the father is inviting the whole village.  He is showing hospitality to the very people who gossiped about his wayward son and looked down their noses when they saw him race out to greet him.
However, while the father may have quickly forgotten the boy’s shame, you can be sure that not everyone in the village was so gracious.  His older brother was certainly not okay about it. 
Jesus endured shame for us
But we have another older brother.  One who endured shame for us!  The writer to the Hebrews tells us to, ‘fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Hebrews 12:2).  John Piper explains that Jesus’ ‘friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture.’  Jesus was utterly humiliated so that we would no longer have to live with our shame.
Conclusion:  It is sinful to hold on to our shame
Many people don’t want God to deal with their shame.  You would rather try to cover your own shame.  You try to prove to people that we are better than our shameful actions suggest.  You long for the day when the people say, ‘you are so different from that shameful wretch that returned from the distant land.’  The engage is self-justifying behaviour.  You are striving to prove yourself.  But God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.

As well as pride, unbelief stops people rejoicing that God has covered their shame.  It is unbelief when people’s opinion matters more to you than God’s opinion.  The people of the village were not okay with what the son did, but he rests content in his Father’s acceptance.  Does the fact that God is not ashamed of you more than compensate for the things people may say about you? ‘Jesus, I believe; help me in my unbelief!’
Tim Challies writes, ‘when I sin I should feel ashamed; it should cause me to run to my heavenly Father; but, as I receive his forgiveness, I must let go of my shame!’  Indeed, it is wrong for a Christian to hold on to their shame!

What are you ashamed about?


What are you ashamed about?  Are you ashamed of the things that you have viewed on your screens?  Are you ashamed of the many times you were too cowardly to stand up and identify with Jesus?  As a parent, you may be ashamed about the many ways in which you have failed your children.  As a son or daughter you may remember the sting of hearing a parent say, ‘I am so disappointed in you.’  You may be hiding a shameful secret. ‘What if people knew what I was really like?’ You may be ashamed about the times when you were angry, moody, impatient and oversensitive.
Tim Challies writes, ‘so many Christians live their lives racked with guilt and shame.  They think back to all the things they did, the sins they committed, whether two days ago or two decades, and live under a cloud of shame.  This shame hurts, it burns, it incapacitates.  It raises the question, what … is the place of shame, in the Christian life?’
Let’s look at the parable of the father who covers his son’s shame.
The young man brought shame upon himself, his family and his community
The younger son is doing something shameful in asking for his share of the estate.  Not only is he inflicting the pain of rejected love upon his father, he is dishonouring him.  Sons were to be a source of pride and joy.  This son could be seen as a source of embarrassment.  As he heads off to squander his wealth in the distant land, he brings disgrace to his family, his village and his religion.
He lives shamefully among the pagans, and then he experiences his own disgrace.  When famine comes, he goes to a farmer looking for work.  I doubt that this farmer was looking to employ anyone at that time.  But in that shame-culture you did not turn down a request for help in that culture.  So the farmer offers a job that no self-respecting Jew could accept—feeding unclean pigs.
The hymn-writer, John Newton, pondered the prodigal and has him ask, ‘what have I gained by sin, but hunger, shame and fear?  My father’s house abounds in bread, while I am starving here!’
Shame kept him from returning home
Why didn’t he just head home?  He stayed in the pigsty because of what he feared would happen if he returned to his village.
Middle-eastern expert, Ken Bailey, explains that had he come home after dishonouring his village among the gentiles, he would have been greeted by people who would have broken a clay pot in front of him and declared that he was dead to them.
For the rest of his days, young lads, with nothing better to do, would have followed him around, taunting him and throwing dung at him.  He was also aware that his bitter older brother would never let him forget what he had done.
The shame he expected to be exposed to on returning home would be greater than the shame of feeding those pigs.
The father endures shame to cover his shame
But, what actually happens on his return?
His father saw him from a distance, was filled with compassion and sprinted to meet him.  That’s significant.  In that culture there was a proverb that said you could tell the manner of a man by the way he walked.  Men over thirty did not run.  Respectable men walked in a slow dignified manner.  Imagine the looks as the father lifts his robes, exposes his knees and races through the village.
One of the reasons he ran was to get there before anybody else.  Remember the pot-breaking ceremony?  He did not want his son to experience such pain and disgrace.  If he gets to the son first, and accepts him, then, because of his status in that society, the rest of the village will have to accept him.
Spurgeon says, ‘had the story been that of a selfish human father only, it might have been written that “as he was coming near, his father ran out, and kicked him.”’  Many fathers would have looked at the emaciated boy, in rags and covered in pigs’ dirt, and contemptuously declared, ‘look at the state of you!’
But not this father!  This father orders the best robe and covers the boy’s shame.
But, not everyone wants to forget your shame
Apparently the fatted-calf could have fed up to two hundred people.  That means that the father is inviting the whole village.  He is showing hospitality to the very people who gossiped about his wayward son and looked down their noses when they saw him race out to greet him.
However, while the father may have quickly forgotten the boy’s shame, you can be sure that not everyone in the village was so gracious.  His older brother was certainly not okay about it. 
Jesus endured shame for us
But we have another older brother.  One who endured shame for us!  The writer to the Hebrews tells us to, ‘fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Hebrews 12:2).  John Piper explains that Jesus’ ‘friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture.’  Jesus was utterly humiliated so that we would no longer have to live with our shame.
Conclusion:  It is sinful to hold on to our shame
Many people don’t want God to deal with their shame.  You would rather try to cover your own shame.  You try to prove to people that we are better than our shameful actions suggest.  You long for the day when the people say, ‘you are so different from that shameful wretch that returned from the distant land.’  The engage is self-justifying behaviour.  You are striving to prove yourself.  But God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
As well as pride, unbelief stops people rejoicing that god has covered their shame.  It is unbelief when people’s opinion matters more to you than God’s opinion.  The people of the village were not okay with what the son did, but he rests content in his Father’s acceptance.  Does the fact that God is not ashamed of you more than compensate for the things people may say about you? ‘Jesus, I believe; help me in my unbelief!’
Tim Challies writes, ‘when I sin I should feel ashamed; it should cause me to run to my heavenly Father; but, as I receive his forgiveness, I must let go of my shame!’  Indeed, it is wrong for a Christian to hold on to their shame!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Your idols will keep you out of heaven (Luke 16:19-31)


Our society is filled with idols.  It is not that there are little statues on the street corners, as you might see in some countries.  Our idols are found somewhere far more dangerous—they are carried about in our hearts.  You see, an idol is anything that is more important to us than God, or something that rivals God in our life.  Idols are the things that we build our identity around—so maybe what people think about us matters more than what God thinks about us.  Idols shape how we live—so maybe we are more determined to make the team, receive the promotion or get the grade than we are determined to serve God.  Idols are what we place our hope in—maybe we dream more about the holiday in the sun than delight in the fact that we are on our way to our heavenly home.
Be careful because idols can keep you out of heaven.
Jesus has been speaking about one of the most common idols—money.  He has taught that no one can serve two masters.  You cannot serve God and money.  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard these things and they ridiculed him.  So Jesus tells a parable about a man who rich in this world and bankrupt before God, and another man who was destitute in the world but blessed by God. 
Two very different men (19-21)
Our parable begins with two very different men.
The first man is incredibly wealthy. 
He is clothed in purple.  In that culture there was only two ways on making purple and they were both very expensive.  Wearing purple was a way of showing off how rich you were.
He wore fine linen.  Apparently the word translated ‘fine linen’ refers to the Egyptian cloth used for underwear.  This is a piece of dry humour.  Even his underpants were opulent.
He feasted sumptuously every day.  That meant that he feasted of the Jewish Sabbath.  He didn’t go to the synagogue to hear the Scriptures read and he didn’t allow his servants a day of rest.  He cared neither for God or men.
The second man is desperately poor.
He is laid at the rich man’s gate (the word for gate referring to a fine ornamental gate).  He is too weak to go there himself.  Perhaps he is paralysed.  Maybe he is just too ill.  He is covered in sores.  He is destitute.  He longs to eat the scraps from the rich man’s table.  While the rich man cares nothing for him, his guard dogs like the poor man’s wounds.
here is one thing that the beggar has that the rich man doesn’t.  He has a name.  This is the only time in all of Jesus’ parables that we see a person being named.  His name is Lazarus, which means, ‘the one who God helps.’  That seems ironic, but it is not.  It was not God’s will for him to be healthy or wealthy, but don’t think of him as being entirely miserable.  He knows God’s love, friendship and forgiveness, and the sure hope that God is going to bring him into an eternal comfort.
Here is a question that reveals a lot about the state of our hearts.  Who would you rather be?  Would you rather be Lazarus—suffering in this world and yet in relationship with the God of this world, or the rich man—comfortable in this world but without any personal knowledge of God’s love? 
Two very different destines (22-31)
This parable reminds us that death is not the end.  There are far greater realities than this world has to offer.
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  I think that is beautiful.   While other people carried him to the rich man’s gates the angels carry him to heaven.  While he was rejected in this life he is honoured in heaven.
The rich man also died and was buried.  It is interesting that it doesn’t mention Lazarus being buried.  He was probably thrown anonymously in a community paupers’ grave.  The rich man was presumably afforded a fine well-attended funeral.  Yet he ends up in hell.
From hell the rich man looks up and sees Abraham, with Lazarus at his side.  What he then says is very telling.  He addresses Abraham as father—he is playing the race card.  He was Jewish and Abraham as his ancestral father.  However, who you are doesn’t determine where you will spend eternity!  Your respectable background and reputation matter nothing to God!
Have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue for me, for I am in anguish in the flame.  Notice that he knows Lazarus’s name.  He knew all about that beggar that was placed at his gate.  Yet he never did anything to help him.
We might have hoped that the rich man would have looked at Lazarus and apologised to him.  However, he doesn’t even speak to Lazarus.  He doesn’t talk to people like that.  He simply asks that Lazarus be sent to him as a servant.  That’s massive!  We need to see that there is not an ounce of repentance in the rich man’s words.  Hell is a place of regret, but not a place of repentance.  People continue in hell as they have lived—with themselves at the centre of their concerns.  Indeed, while on earth God restrains our evil so that no one is as bad as they could be, in hell that restraint is removed.  There will be no friendships in hell because everyone will be so selfishly consumed with their own interests.
Abraham tells the rich man that a great chasm has been fixed between heaven and hell.  There is no crossing over.  We might understand why someone would want to leave hell, but why would Abraham have to mention that you cannot cross from heaven to hell?  Perhaps, because Lazarus is at Abraham’s side saying, ‘I’ll go and serve him!’
Having asked for Lazarus to be his servant he now asks Abraham to send him as an errand boy.  Send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers.
Again, the rich man is only concerned about his own people.  Even tyrants can be concerned about their family.  But Abraham tells him that if they have ignored God’s word (referred to hear as Moses and the Prophets) then someone coming back from the dead won’t cause them to repent.  In John’s Gospel there was another Lazarus that Jesus did raise from the dead.  Yet there were many who saw that amazing miracle and still refused to turn to Christ.  The reason people don’t put their trust in Jesus is not because they don’t have enough evidence.  It has a lot more to do with the hardness of our hearts and our refusal to let go of our idols.
A friend told me that we get angry when people get in the way of our idols.  Our rage reveals what we value too much.  If you have built your identity around self-righteousness and self-justification you will be mad if anyone dares criticise or challenge you (you cannot justify yourself and be justified by God).  If you have to get your way or be right then you have an idol problem.  Do you get mad when people don’t recognise your talents or achievements, or thank you for something you have done (you cannot live for the applause of people and the applause of heaven)?  Maybe your impatience with people is because comfort is an idol.  I get nervous about how much I like new things, because I know that the love of money (and what it buys) is the root of all sorts of evil.
We all struggle with idols, so how do we know we are born again?  We know we are born again by what we do when the Holy Spirit reveals our idols to us.  The Christian sees how we get mad because people get in the way of our idols, and then flee to God asking him to change our hearts.
However, if you justify the rage you are in trouble.  You refuse to see the idols and so won’t let them go.  There is no godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  You keep your distance from those who make you mad by their assaults on your idols.  You become the sort of person that everyone is afraid to challenge.  You refuse to forgive those who mad us mad.  You never take a serious look at the ordering of your loves. Be careful when you are not struggling against idols, for it may be that you are simply living to appease them.  We want to make Jesus more and more precious to us so that the things of the world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
Appendix—how can a loving God send people to hell?
We need to remember who is telling this parable.  This is Jesus speaking.  There has never being a more loving person than Jesus.  Yet Jesus speaks of hell more than anyone else in the Bible.  He warns about hell because he doesn’t want people to go there.  In love we must warn people too.
Jesus doesn’t have a problem understanding how a loving God can send people to hell because he knows how awful our idolatry and sin are.  God is just and we deserve to be excluded from his presence and punished for our wickedness.
But we also need to remember when Jesus is telling this story.  At this stage in Luke’s Gospel Jesus has set his sights on Jerusalem.  He is travelling there in order to die on the cross.  He will experience the hell of crucifixion and abandonment in order that we might be rescued from hell.  The good news is that Jesus will never turn anyone who puts down their idols and comes to him.  Indeed he is the only one that can break the power that idols have over our hearts.  We need to tell people that they can become a Lazarus (‘one whom God helps’).