So It Continues

Mark 10:21-22 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

 

The story about the rich young ruler is a very familiar one.  Everyone in church knows the story and ministers have preached on it for years, so we basically know of it.  When we hear the retelling of Jesus’ encounter with the young man, the focus is on the him and not Jesus.  By doing so what we come away with is a “moral of the story”.  We don’t see or hear what God is saying to us and we don’t understand really how this event fits into the Gospel.  All we get is, “don’t be like the rich young ruler.”  In the previous post, “So It Begins Here“, we looked at how our mindset can blind us from all that Jesus completes and gives us by grace through faith in His finished work.  It also looked at how we can easily look at all that God promises and doubt that just having faith can bring such love into our lives.  We all battle with the flesh in the war of faith and doubt.  And our doubt actually works itself out in many different ways.  The point of reintroducing the rich young ruler is to pull the covers off of some of these ways.  And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

This young man approaches Jesus with an agenda already in mind.  He already had made his mind up about himself as he simple sought after Jesus to validate himself. Calling Jesus, “Good Teacher” could have been genuine but arrogant and proud people usually address those who are in authority in condescending tones. So he asked the question already knowing that he meets the standards above and beyond.  In asking “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He was seeking a pat on the back to justify his pride.  Jesus answers him with the list of commandments that directly affect our neighbors.  Of course the young man responds with I have done all since I was born.  What is interesting about this conversation is two things; Sermon on the Mount and Romans 1 to 3.  The Sermon on the Mount exposes the very commandments Jesus questions him about to be deep heart issues and not external observances. Romans 1 through 3 lays out that no one is good or even born good and that we all have sinned.  Yet, this man claims to have obeyed since birth?  Exaggerating? yes but the pride and arrogance to say it is thick and heavy.  But this is what we miss, Jesus tells him to sell everything and follow him and he walks away crushed. In the most loving way possible Jesus makes a request of the man that reveals something that stands in the way.  It is the young man’s treasure, not necessarily his possessions but the desire to justify himself or obtain a future void of a real relationship with God.  A relationship that will demand God to be above all and first, even over possessions that promise joy and happiness.  This young man had pursued possessions in the hope to validate his goodness and to bring happiness.  His path was right to him because he had gain some much and in his thinking God must be with me because of my wealth.  He had kicked God out and Jesus showed him.  You way or truth may not be riches but there is a dream, vision, people or thing that is your mark of grace, joy and happiness.

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We chase after what has our heart and affections; in the same vain the reason God just doesn’t do it for us is because by causing us to pursue Him, he is revealing our heart and what it treasures.  We chase after the things of this world that bring us momentary joy and happiness all the time.  We pursue after careers, relationships, family, friends, entertainment, possessions, status, validation, fame, wealth, movie stars, music artists, and ourselves.   The careers we love, we will do anything for including late nights and the neglect of other things.  To get the career we love we pursuit degrees and learn everything we need to know, to the point of memorization.  We pursuit our entertainment and plan for it. We budget for vacations, concerts, and events.  We set aside money and time to give ourselves to them.  We pursuit relationships with spouses, children, and others to the point of worship.  Unfortunately God is the only person that can sustain our joy and actually give us happiness; yet God is the only person that we set back and wait looking for him to do something about our lack of joy and happiness.  We chase after other things in order to receive joy and happiness.  God tells us over and over to pursue him. The word of God says to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  The word says to pray without ceasing.  The word gives examples of people pursuing Jesus and pursuing joy in the worship of Jesus.

 

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must regularly expose ourselves directly to the Word of God.

~Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace(pg 219)

If we are told to read the bible, we just don’t.  If we are told to pray, we barely do it at all.  If we are told to fellowship with believers through Sunday worship, we won’t show up. If we are told to study the bible, we won’t do it.  If someone doesn’t bring us Jesus and spoon feed us, we don’t chase after God.  But for anything else, we break our necks to be first in line.  We constantly pray to God to receive the things we pursue more than God himself.  These things that have our hearts, God reveals to us we asked for His grace, mercy, peace, love, blessings and hope but don’t receive.  God reminds us of one simple thing; seek ye first.  We keep praying but don’t pursue, pray changes us but showing who is our real god.  Prayer realigns our hearts, prayer submits our dreams to Jesus.  God is taking away a hopeless future without Him; a future without God that we actually think will make us happy.  God is showing us that holiness supersedes our happiness.  If we just have faith in God’s will and pursue him as if he has our hearts; joy and happiness is sure to follow holiness.
Holiness, however, is a greater good than happiness, so God arranges and orchestrates circumstances to produce holiness before happiness.  He is more concerned about our eternal than our temporal welfare and more concerned about our spiritual than our material welfare.  So all the trials and difficulties, all the heartaches, disappointments, and humiliations come from His loving hand to make us partakers of His holiness.
~Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace(pg 225)
So what is Jesus showing the rich young ruler in all of this?  Pastor Tim Keller puts it like this:

“What Jesus Christ says is; I want the most important thing in your life, that is the running soar, that is the cancer. I want your dreams, I want that through which you dream of a life of power and joy without God. I want the thing you think will give you a life of power and joy without God.  And until you have given it to me, not only we’re not right, but you don’t know it, it’s killing you.”

Tim Keller

 

We have more faith in dreams, plans and possessions that calls for a multiple of independent unrelated things lining up and all working together in order so that we achieve comfort, peace, joy and happiness.  But there is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit who all know about each because they are one.  Also before the foundation of the world God has been working for your good while we were still against him and did not have faith in Him.  When we were planning to operate without Him, He had already given His life.  The trinity doesn’t move without being in sync cause it’s against His nature.  We live for his glory and we aren’t stronger enough to stop His glory so how his plans for us don’t work out?  We have more faith in nothing [our plans] then we have faith in He [Jesus Christ] who is everything (Colossians 1:15-23). The young man’s question was to find out what to accessorize his life with to make sure he gets to heaven. When Jesus is an accessory, you will continuously bring Him to the tree in the garden to present the forbidden fruit.  You hope that he will say take it.  If not you will take it before him and test him; watching for yes, no or nothing.  Meaning all desires that we see as most important are forbidden because they compete with God’s will.  So we arrange our lives to test Jesus and call it walking by faith.  But walking by faith calls for all things under submission to God and by faith we follow the call not knowing the method but trusting the results to God.  This fruit I speak of you may call it dreams, aspirations, visions of how you see your life going or whatever none threatening terminology we choose.  And when I say threatening I’m speaking of a threat to Jesus’ throne over our lives. We are very careful not to void our airline tickets to heaven as they are none refundable.  Because we feel this way we have just confirmed our view of Christ as a simple addition or a step stool to use in order to reach what we truly want, a life not needing God but maybe just to validate our parking once in heaven. So we pick our words with such care that it causes frustration, confusion, heartache, insanity and even desperation to the point of giving up Christianity because it’s to hard.  But what we have really come up against is Jesus himself.

 

“When you meet the real Jesus you can have only one of two responses; give yourself to him or go away offended.”

Tim Keller

 

Our frustration is really us being offended because we can’t find the handle, the key, the sweet spot, or point of attack to gain access and control.  So God allows us to tire ourselves out to the point we throw up our hands in defeat.  Our delusions of taming a loin is over but we soon realize that the loin could have devoured us whenever he felt like, whether hungry or not.  We realize that we were just a mouse being toyed with.  Yet, in the face of our ignorance and blatant blasphemy we received mercy and didn’t know it.  We sought after pure domination of the loin, not knowing the danger.  The loin values our life more than we do as it shows in our determination for temporary joys.  It shows in how the gift of life never sustains faith in the supply of all things.  Because of this we must be reminded of the Gospel.  We must put on the armor of God daily to dress for battle like we put on earthly clothes.  We must remind ourselves of God’s love because we don’t love ourselves but we think we do.  Just because we give ourselves fleeting pleasures of lust and call it love.

 

In order to take up God’s Word as a sword, we must have it at hand, in our hearts.  To hide God’s Word in our hearts is to store it or treasure it in our hearts against a time of future need.

~Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace(pg 220)

So in love Jesus showed the young man humility by demanding his dreams, hope, future, and heart all of which was found in his great possessions.  This broke the young man, making his heart teachable.  Don’t neglect the times of God’s discipline, in those moments we are the most teachable because of a tenderized heart that has become very aware of our hopelessness and our need for grace.  What we think we want will only build a wall between what we desperately need.

 

I call this Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up “our own” when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is “nothing better” now to be had.

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  1. […] So It Continues (anointedplace.wordpress.com) In the previous post, “So It Begins Here“, we looked at how our mindset can blind us from all that Jesus completes and gives us by grace through faith in His finished work.  It also looked at how we can easily look at all that God promises and doubt that just having faith can bring such love into our lives.  We all battle with the flesh in the war of faith and doubt.  And our doubt actually works itself out in many different ways.  The point of reintroducing the rich young ruler is to pull the covers off of some of these ways.  And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” […]

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