Sermon Title: Letting it Go
Text: Mark 10:17-31
Series Focus: Evangelicals see God’s kingdom as more important than anything else… particularly money but also possessions, family, property, etc.
Sermon -Truth/ Big Idea: Central to who we are as Christians is eternity, and our view of eternity should shape our view of everything else and in particular our possessions.
2005 was a very significant year for me in three distinct ways, I graduated from seminary in June, I got married to the lovely Wacuka in September and we bought our first car in December.
Let me focus on the car for a bit, it was an old 1995 Toyota Starlet that had about every mechanical issue you could think of. But we loved that little car. At times wouldn’t start in the morning, or lunch or in the evening.
Nairobi Chapel had just multiplied into 5 church plants and I was the youth pastor at one of them. We met at an elementary school and on Sundays I would make sure to park near my friends just in case the battery died on me again.
With time, I noticed people were parking further and further away from me. I guess nobody wanted to be stuck after service jump starting the same car every Sunday?
After two years I didn’t love the little Toyota anymore so got 1999 Toyota E100 then a 2001 Honda CRV, by last year I think we had gone through 7 cars the last one being a Honda Accord.
At the same time, we were adjusting to marriage. We lived in a small one bedroom apartment that we loved, you would only need to take one step and you were in the bedroom another step to the left you are in the bathroom, one step back and you are back in lounge.
We had very little furniture.
Over the last 12 years as our family grew and we moved into different life stages we just continued to buy more and more stuff/ furniture. The different cars we bought were just an example of our shifting lives.
Then things changed the day we said yes to Church planting outside Kenya. After a time of prayer and fasting we felt we were ready to respond and step out to lead the Sydney Church Plant. This was at the tail end of 2015.
Since then Lord has taken us through a very joys and painful journey of preparation.
In the last 4 months, he has taken us through the journey of letting go of things we held dear.
Letting go of relationships, letting go of positions in the community, and of the possession we had slowly and sacrificially accumulated of the 12 years, things we loved and cherished.
It all culminated last month on 11th of June, as we checked in at the airport in Nairobi and our entire lives as a family of four had been rolled up into 5 suitcases and 2 backpacks. Those were our entire worldly possessions.
I come back to that a little later.
Today we continue with our series Formerly Known as Christian.
We know that this word over time has lost it mean in many aspects. We have been looking at what it means to bear that name today as a follower of Jesus. What are the blessings and responsibilities that come with it?
One of the blessing and responsibility that comes with bearing the name Christian is to hold our wealth and possessions with open palms.
As Christians God’s kingdom should be more important than anything else… particularly money but also possessions, family, property etc.
Central to who we are as Christians is eternity, and our view of eternity should shape our view of everything else and in particular our wealth and possessions.
Let us turn to our text Mark 10:17-31 page 839 in the Church Bibles
The Rich Man
We are introduced to our main character, though we are not given a name, we can from the same account as described by the other Gospel authors Mathew and Luke put together some basic information about our main character. We know three things:
- He is rich- we are not told the source of his wealth, could have been inheritance, family business etc.
- He is young
- He is some sort of religious leader – most likely a Pharisees rather than the Sadducees because the Sadducees didn't believe in life after death. (We see this in Acts 23:1-8 as Paul argues his case before the High Council). The question clearly implies that he does believe in life after death.
So, we call him the rich young ruler. And some of your Bibles may have that as the section title.
The encounter opens up with the man running up to Jesus, kneeling down and asking a question.
The First Big Question— What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Most of the religious leaders who asked Jesus public questions did so with the intent or motive to trick him into some incriminating statement – examples are”:
- "Should we pay taxes to Caesar?" (Luke 20:22).
- “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4).
But this man's question was no trick.
The posture he takes of kneeling down and the title he uses all point towards a genuine reverence and respect for Jesus as a Rabbi.
As we will see in the unfolding conversation it was a sincere question to which he needed to know the answer and so do we.
The form which the question takes tells us that this man has a belief that there is more that needs to be done to receive eternal life. It also tells us that he has been doing something but is still feels empty and inadequate.
False Security in the Law- I have obeyed all these commandments since I was young.
We see Jesus answer the first part of the question according to the young man’s expectation, he quotes the Law.
Jesus echoes the Old Testament Law, which the man would have been very familiar and comfortable with.
And we can be sure that indeed he had done the things he says in verse 20 because Christ does not condemn him for lying nor tell him otherwise.
He is very confident in his response, yet the question that led to this conversation suggests a lack of confidence in the very thing he was doing.
His response to Jesus betrays both his superficial understanding of inheriting eternal life, and a person's ability to do good deeds to inherit eternal life.
This is a far cry from what Jesus has been teaching just a few verses up in Mark Chapter 10:15 that the Kingdom of God it is about receiving eternal life as a gift from God.
The Unexpected Answer- Go, sell everything and come follow me
Having just confirmed that according to the stipulated standards of the law the man was doing very well, not just in the recent past but since he was young! For Jewish boys, it was age 12 from when they would be held accountable for the keeping the commandments.
Jesus could see the geniuses in his search for truth and his effort to achieve this by keeping the law. At this point things are going according to plan for this guy, then the bombshell comes in the second part of the answer.
· You still lack one thing
Jesus next words cuts through all that those around can see, hear or feel with their natural physical senses, he sees this man’s hunger for truth he has a deep love for him.
He tells him he lacks one thing.
I can imagine for a moment the man’s eyes lighting up in anticipation, as he awaits to hear what this one thing is. He can finally do it and be secure in knowing that he has bagged eternal life.
However, the conversation has suddenly shifted from keeping the law to wealth and possessions.
Why would Jesus make such a leap?
Because Jesus knows the true state of our hearts, the extent of our brokenness and the very things that hinder us from receiving the wonderful gift of eternal life. For this young man, it was his possessions.
· Go and sell ALL YOUR POSSESSIONS
Jesus speaks to the core issue and the man's greatest need, the state of his heart as regards wealth and possessions.
To take this further Jesus has not only shifted the conversation to wealth but has even asked him to “go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor”
Jesus proposes the man sell all his property, most likely wealth built over generations and handed over to him to guard, and handover to the next one. He then tells him give the proceeds to those who are least able to reciprocate in anyway - the poor
Wait a minute that is not what I was asking about, I was asking about what I must do to inherit eternal life, and so far, I seem to be on track so how are we now talking about my possessions?
• You will have treasure in heaven… Come follow me!
Jesus assures the young man that he will have treasures in heaven, and makes an invitation to come and follow him. The only other people who had received such a direct invite were his disciples.
So, there is the answer, if he wants to inherit eternal life he needs to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor and come and follow Jesus.
Jesus is inviting the rich young man to join him on an adventure, to become one of his followers to enjoy the immense and unspeakable privilege of spending time with him and learning from him on a day-by-day basis.
What a wonderful invitation! But he cannot go with them. He cannot go with Jesus, as much as he would love to. Because he loves one thing more than Jesus, his possessions and he just can’t let go.
And the man’s response is heart breaking, “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” Mark 10:22.
The young ruler "went away sad", Jesus has laid it all bare right there in front of him and all who were around.
We suddenly realize that although he had devoted himself to keeping the commandments, he had failed to keep the first and greatest of the commandments—love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Mark 12:30)
Jesus reveals the heart of the problem- the state of our hearts
Remember his question, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And the answer in this circumstance turned to possessions.
In verse 23 to 25 Jesus expounds to his disciple what has just happened in this encounter.
The false security that possessions bring can become a hindrance to both following and serving Jesus and eventually to inheriting eternal life.
In the phrase “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God” Jesus is not casting a generality that riches or rich people are predisposed to not receiving him.
Indeed, we see in the Bible both in the NT and OT the likes of Job, King David, Zacchaeus honor and love God even in their abundance.
In our community, today even in this church we know of men and women whom God has greatly blessed with wealth and possessions and they love, honor and serve God.
In this particular context and incident Jesus helps his disciples, and us today to see how becoming attached to our possessions can easily lead us to missing the greatest gift… an everlasting relationship with Him- eternal life.
And this is what it means to bear the name Christian, it is to be Christ like. Tim Ayers mentioned it a few weeks back when he said the name describes “little Christ’s”.
As Christians, we need to be people who have the same character as our Lord even with our possessions and wealth.
This is captured in Philippians 2:6 & 7[KK1]
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Jesus uses the metaphor of what was then the largest animal found in Palestine a camel and contrasts it to the smallest opening to show the impossibility of surrender, when we put our possessions above our love for him.
The Second Big Question- Who then can be saved?
The disciples are clearly shocked and even traumatized by the event that has just taken place. In comparison to who they were when they started following Jesus, the rich young ruler was way ahead, and if he “didn’t make it” what about them.
So, this leads to the next big question… Who then can be saved?
Jesus goes on to reaffirm what he has just said but adds that in our eyes it is impossible but with God everything is possible.
The truth is that salvation or internal life is way beyond our ability and capacity to get by our own means or strength.
And this is what the rich young guy did not seem to understand, he thought that he could “do something” to inherit eternal life.
And with one statement that speaks to the core of the man’s brokenness, Jesus helps us to see this truth.
Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Peter then speaks up and reminds Christ that they had indeed given up everything to follow him. Whatever Jesus had asked them to leave they had left (Mark 1:16-20)
A Reward is promised- In this present age and in the age to come
Jesus affirms the disciples and those listening that they will not suffer shame by giving up their world possession to follow him.
They will receive a reward here on earth along with persecution. And having listened to Dave’s sermon on persecution two Sundays ago we have a better understanding of what that means for us as Christians. And even more important in the world to come we will receive eternal life.
What does this mean for us today
- To be Christian means to ask questions of eternity in all aspects of life especially our possessions. We ought to be continually asking the same question as the young rich ruler did, but just phrased a little differently, “What I am doing today as a Christian with what I possess, is it Kingdom and eternity focused?
- To be Christian means to hold all we have with open palms. We need to realize that, one of our greatest hindrance when it comes to possessions and wealth is the state of our heart. We live in a broken world and we ourselves struggle with brokenness in many areas, including handling our possessions. Therefore, possessions can at times have a way of derailing us if we are not careful. They can tempt us to compromise our values, shift goals in order to gain and retain it at any cost. Living with clenched fists.
• You may not be wealthy as the world views wealth or you may be listening to me and you are struggling financially, so what does selling everything mean for you? How does this conversation look like for you?
• I would ask that you reflect on your life, and ask yourself there anything in my life that I possess that I consider wealth, that I am unwilling to give up to follow Jesus? It could be time, talent, space in your house for a small group or to host a new family for a meal etc.
• Could Jesus be telling you to literally “go sell everything and follow him” maybe move to our North Indy Campus as it launches out or move a few more miles down to Bloomington or maybe even move across the globe to be part of the Sydney Church plant.
• If you are sensing a call towards being part of the Sydney Plant in one way or another I would love to meet and talk with you after service [KK2]or email me firstname.lastname@example.org[KK3]
In all these what are your fears, what are you struggling to let go of?
We fear because we sense that we are not fully surrendered. Jesus' words to the rich young ruler are quite consistent with what he has been saying to his disciples throughout his journeys: Give up everything and come follow me, the rewards are immense but there is the suffering.
But the invitation to us is no less wonderful.
We are invited to come to Jesus, and to follow him. To enjoy his company, his presence every day, to be taught along the way by his Word and Spirit.
To become part of His great extended family. And to be filled with hope in the closing days of our journey as we know his promises to us are yes and amen...
If you are here today and do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, I want you to know that this invitation is also for you, and he calls gentle to you to “come and follow him”.
You can respond by talking to one of the pastors or any member of the prayer tem after this service, they will be waiting for you at the Cross that is on the right.[KK4]
Back to my story, as we checked in our bags and I saw them go down the conveyor belt at the checking counter I said to myself there goes all that we own.
Yet somehow, I had a sense of peace, a peace that only comes from knowing that Christ is in control and all the we have belongs to him.
To be Christian is to live palms up.
Jeff suggested that we could have this verse split into two. Phil 2:6 & Phil 2:7 so as not to take up too much screen space
This is only practical on Saturday at 146th
and Sunday at Fishers… J
This is the email that can be projected. If you feel it is necessary or prudent you could also give my number 317-914-4080
Jeff I believe this is in order for me to say?