(Today’s sermon on this topic can be heard by clicking this link.) The question that the rich ruler asked Jesus was one that most of us ask as well: “What must I do…?” or as in Matthew’s account “What good deed must I do…?” (see Luke 18:18-23; Matthew 19:16-22) We all want to know what we can do. We all want to be sure that we are saved, that we will inherit eternal life. Here is Luke’s account of this discussion.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
You will notice that Jesus answered his question but there were a couple of things missing. In the first place, He said nothing about honoring God. Still, we can assume that a Israelite would understand that serving God was a necessary part in obtaining eternal life, so Jesus did not mention the first 4 commandments at all. He also did not mention the 10th commandment of coveting.
He covered the action commandments dealing our fellow man. A list of things that would not be impossible to find in a person. You can almost hear the wheels turning in the rulers head. Don’t commit adultery (Check!), Don’t murder (Check!) Do not steal (I have plenty…so Check!) Do not bear false witness (Check!), Honor parents….(Check!!!) Hey, that’s good….mmm, wonder if I need to do anything else? Uh, Jesus….what else do I lack?
Again: What do i need to do? Now Jesus brings out the 10th commandment. And this time when Jesus told him what to do, it was more like Jesus was telling him what he would need to give up! You see the 10th commandment “Do not covet” is now under consideration. This is not as much an action commandment as it is a heart and attitude commandment. It is easy to say “I don’t kill, steal, commit adultery, etc….” but to say ” I do not covet….” That is harder.
Notice that he had plenty of money. He was “extremely rich”. We tend to think of coveting as wanting something that someone else has….because we don’t have a way to get it. However, I suspect that if he had wanted the latest model of chariot that rolled out of the ACME chariot factory, he could have bought it. No, it seems clear that he was coveting his own possessions and things.
Jesus asked him to give up what he had and he was unwilling to do so. It is both a positive “Do this” and a negative “Remove this” It cut him very deeply. He went away sorrowful because he had great possessions (Matt 19:22)
What do you need to give up? You may not be a thief or murderer, you may not commit adultery or dishonor your parents but in the final analysis, what are you willing to give up to inherit eternal life? We should remember that we are encouraged to give our lives as a “living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1-2. Sacrifices always involve giving something up.
Will you give up your old friends for Jesus? Will you give up your 60 inch HDTV with surround sound? Will you give up your iPhone? Will you give up the next upgrade of the iPhone? Will you give up your Nintendo, even if you haven’t caught all the Pokemon? Will you give up a couple more hours to read your Bible, visit someone who is sick, send a card or letter of encouragement? Will you give up the one thing you want most? What is that thing? It isn’t complicated….it’s just hard.
I would suggest that for many of us, the freedom to do what we want and to live the lifestyle we want is a big draw. We have nice computers, comfortable homes, can pick up prepared food, talk with family all over the world, and pretty much be our own person.
Another thing we might consider giving up is the type of personality that we have. Some people have a way of doing things and saying things which they justify by simply saying “That’s how I am!” If I am cranky, short tempered, a loner, a party person, or what ever other flaw in character that we might have which we simply relish having or don’t care enough about it to give it up.
The process of becoming a living sacrifice can be expressed by Paul in Gal 2:20 when he says that it is no longer Paul that lives but Christ living in him. In other words, when people say Paul, they actually saw how Christ would have acted in that situation.
When people talk with you and interact with you, do they hear and see Christ? They should.
If we had asked the question of Jesus, what answer would we have gotten? It may be a different sacrifice for me than for you but it all comes down to this: If you want to inherit eternal life….what are you willing to give up?
Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice….and he did it by Faith.
Living by Faith means that we will offer sacrifices by faith…just like Abel did. We will offer the best, we will offer what God asked for, and we will offer it willingly!
Today’s lesson explores the example we have in Abel and you can listen to it here.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luk 9:23)
Yesterday we looked at the idea of coming after Jesus. The fact is that as a Christian, he is the one we are to come after and only him. When he says “follow me”, he does not say “follow me and follow x, y, or z too”. But to follow him, we are told that we need to do something and that something is very hard. While there are distinctions between “deny himself” and “take up his cross” they are essentially the same thing: Death to your own will and faithfulness in that death.
When Paul wrote in Romans 12 that we should be living sacrifices, the worthwhile note is that the difference between a living sacrifice and a dead one is that the living one can crawl back off the altar and we are not to do that. We continue to sacrifice ourselves for him and his cause to promote the Kingdom of God.
To Deny something is to negate its existence or truth. Anytime you deny an accusation, you are in effect saying “it is untrue”. If you deny that your punched your brother or sister, you are in effect saying “it didn’t happen”, When Peter denied Jesus, he was in effect saying “that man is of no importance to me, I do not know him and have no association with him.” Another thing you say is that whoever brings that statement is a liar. They are wrong but you are right.
When we apply that to ourselves, the denial is more personal. It is easy to deny someone else or something they say or accuse you of, but how do you deny yourself when the survival instinct is so strong? Paul said in Eph 5 that “no man hates his own body but cherishes it” and this is true. Yet Jesus says we must deny ourselves.
It is to say “I do not exist”. Of course, one has to ask, if you say “I do not exist” then who is it that I am looking at? Who is it that is verbalizing that statement? I would like to suggest that when we deny ourselves that we begin to say like Paul said”
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
It is not that you do not live at all but that what life you have is dedicated to serving Christ, to being Christ like, to living the life Christ would live were he still here. To put it into today’s vernacular “WWJD -What would Jesus do?”
Jesus did the will of the Father and while on this world taught us to do the same. How does an American make sense of this denial of self? How does someone who has so much, say a nice warm house on a cold day, carpet, shoes on his feet, food in his belly and a laptop upon which to write a blog? I have not even touched the smallest of riches yet. Do we give it all up?
It could be necessary and yet we see rich people in the Bible all the time and I don’t think we can ever say we are not rich. But we do need to deny our own wants after we take care of (give thanks to God) our needs. While that may not mean that we will not have some luxuries perhaps, it does mean that we will not have as many.
The thing is that this denial of self is the gift you give God and since we know that everything we have is His anyway, then what we have is to be used part for us and part for God. We take care of our families and we do it wisely. (it is written) If we are wise, we save for the uncertain future but we never assume that our massive 401k will be enough to care for us or give us liberty to not serve God.
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Pro 30:8-9)
Here is a thought to consider: Abraham gave 10% and so did Jacob, both of these men living before the law of Moses which commanded the tithe. Today, Paul writes to give ‘as we have been prospered” and the amount is not specified. What God made into a commandment was for the purpose of supporting the Levitical priesthood and yet, we have a greater priesthood.
I will not tell you that you need to give 10% by way of commandment but might I implore you to consider that you are partakers of the better covenant and that if we want to be children of Abraham we do the work Abraham did? 10% might not actually be enough but it is a start. In a future blog, I will write about ‘what hinders us from giving 10%?’
When you give away to God 10% or whatever amount you give, you are in effect denying yourself (on the financial side, there are other aspects to deny in your life) and saying “Even though I could do much with this, I will trust God to provide my needs.”
Onward Christian Soldiers…Deny yourself and follow Him