The following is the transcript from the January 3, 2016 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
Epiphanies can help direct your life. They can change you, but you need to be willing to give them up. We need to let things go in order to grow. Are you willing to let some things go in your life? Do you want to grow? You need to let them go.
This is a very important life principle. Today I would like to take a look at a story in the Bible. It is about a man who was not willing to let things go, and therefore he could not grow!
Let’s turn to Mark 10:17-30 (The Voice) When He had traveled on, a young man came and knelt in the dust of the road in front of Jesus. Young Man: Good Teacher! What must I do to gain life in the world to come? Jesus: You are calling Me good? Don’t you know that God and God alone is good? Anyway, why ask Me that question? You know the Commandments of Moses: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not slander, do not defraud, and honor your father and mother.” Young Man: Yes, Teacher, I have done all these since I was a child. Then Jesus, looking at the young man, saw that he was sincere and responded out of His love for him. Jesus: Son, there is still one thing you have not done. Go now. Sell everything you have and give the proceeds to the poor so that you will have treasure in heaven. After that, come, follow Me. The young man went away sick at heart at these words because he was very wealthy, and Jesus looked around to see if His disciples were understanding His teaching. Jesus (to His disciples): Oh, it is hard for people with wealth to find their way into God’s kingdom! Disciples (amazed): What? Jesus: You heard Me. How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God [for those who trust in their wealth]! I think you’ll see camels squeezing through the eye of a needle before you’ll see the rich celebrating and dancing as they enter into the joy of God’s kingdom! The disciples looked around at each other, whispering. Disciples (aloud to Jesus): Then who can be liberated? Jesus (smiling and shaking His head): For human beings it is impossible, but not for God: God makes everything possible. Peter: Master, we have left behind everything we had to follow You. Jesus: That is true. And those who have left their houses, their lands, their parents, or their families for My sake, and for the sake of this good news will receive all of this 100 times greater than they have in this time—houses and farms and brothers, sisters, mothers, and children, along with persecutions—and in the world to come, they will receive eternal life.
Get rid of your ‘rival kingdoms”
This guy had it all. He was rich, he was young, and he was powerful. He was probably even handsome! But he was a truth seeker unhappy with his legalistic, performance oriented, graceless religion. He knew there was more to this life than here and now.
He knew that eternity needed to be prepared for. He wanted to go to heaven and have eternal life. So he comes to Jesus for an answer. Jesus responds negatively to the greeting. It’s almost like He’s trying to give this guy a hard time. However, the words “good teacher” was mere flattery.
It was common then as it is today to try to butter-up (i.e. manipulate) the teacher. Jesus challenges him to keep the commandments. The young man says he does. He is telling Jesus, “I am a good person,” like lots of people would say today. Jesus brings up the Law of Moses because no one can understand their sinful condition if they misunderstand God’s righteous expectations.
The Law reveals our inability to please God and leads us to seek His grace. Without knowledge of God’s Law, it becomes difficult to see that we are sinners in need of help. This young man failed to see the requirements of the Law; he didn’t see himself as a lawbreaker. So Jesus tries a different approach.
Jesus sees that something is not right with this young man, so Jesus told the young man “Sell it all and give it away.” Jesus was not making poverty or philanthropy a requirement of salvation; he was exposing the young man’s heart. He was not blameless. The rich young ruler said ‘he could not do that and walked away.” Jesus stopped him and said, “Is that your final answer?”
Now some people think that this is a command for everyone. Some people think that we are all supposed to be poor. But this is just not true; poverty is not a sign of spirituality. It is the result of the curse of sin and poverty should be resisted and taught against. God wants us to prosper. If you read to verse 29 what does He promise here? He promises to repay a hundredfold. He wants to bless us but He needs to break us from being controlled by our wealth first. He tells us this all through His word, now I did not say, that we are all supposed to be millionaires, but prosper means to have enough and some extra. Prosper means to enjoy what you have, that is my definition. But the truth is many of God’s people are not prospering. They are broke, and in debt. God blessed Abraham with abundant wealth; we are told he had over 400 servants! God blessed Paul with enough money to travel the world and do mission work and to pay for it almost all by his own income. He must have made a lot of money! How many of you could pay your own way to do mission work and travel the world? Which by the way, which I believe is the biblical model for ‘mission’ work. The person who feels ‘called’ should pay for most of it themselves, at least at the beginning, instead of ‘feeling lead’ to go to another country and then asking everyone to give you money!
By the time you are out of high school if you want to do mission work you ought to work and save the money and spend it on your trip. I paid to do ministry by doing various jobs and leading a Church. At some point I believe a person ought to receive income for his work in the ministry but I am all for spending your own money at least for the first five years or so. Paul had enough wealth to finance his travels all over Asia and Europe to start churches. God is not against His people having wealth but He won’t give us wealth if we don’t know how to use what we currently have or if we are being controlled by our money. God desires that we have enough money to provide for ourselves and to do the work of the ministry. He will provide you with this money if you learn how to manage what you have. This means that you have to learn how to start tithing and to start giving above the tithe and how to stop spending more than you earn with your credit cards. If you can’t manage what you have, how is He going to give you more, you will only hurt yourself more.
That is why I am talking with the Church Council to lead a Financial Peace University course here at the church. We will make it available not only to the church but also to the community at large. There is a need to understand money in this age and we don’t always get it from our homes. But there is the other danger of prosperity and wealth and that is riches can grab a hold of you and begin to control you.
That is what the problem was here with this rich young ruler. His money became his god. It became a rival kingdom, and so when he asked Jesus what he needed to do, Jesus went right to the source of the problem. What was really holding this young man back? It was his money.
What is holding you back? What is keeping you from living out God’s vision and calling for your life? For everybody it is different. Maybe it is your image or the way you view yourself, good or bad. Is that holding you back? Maybe it is your Intellect. You think you are so smart, or you think you are so dumb. Is it possible this is holding you back? Maybe it is your looks, or your past experiences, good or bad that is holding you back. Maybe it is your wealth, or your goals and plans, or your skills and talent that is holding you back. Maybe it is your music, your art, your family. Whatever it is, God calls you to give it up. Not so He can take it away, but so that it won’t destroy you and hold you back.
“Sometimes you have to let things go in order to grow.” Look again at the promise in verse 29, “no one gives up stuff that won’t get back more than they give up.” The following are actual responses from comment cards given to a wilderness recreation area… 1. The trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill. 2. There are too many bugs, spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness area to get rid of these pests. 3. Please pave the trails. Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to the wonderful views without having to hike to them. 4. The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals. 5. A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call. 6. Escalators would be a great help on steep uphill sections. 7. A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead. 8. Way too many rocks in the mountains.
These comments and complaints indicate that the people who made them do not really understand what it means to be in a wilderness area. They were looking for something convenient and comfortable, which does not come with the territory in a wilderness area.
Similarly, many people claim to be a disciple or follower of Christ, but don’t truly understand what that involves. It’s much easier to be a fan of Jesus than it is to be a follower. You can admire from a distance and be relatively unaffected but followers have their lives turned upside down. What’s holding you back? What would you say if Jesus asked you to give it up?