The Gospel Demands Radical Abandonment - Part 2
The Gospel Demands Radical Abandonment – Part 2
If you have a Bible and I hope you do. Let me invite you to open with me to Mark chapter 10. We got about half way through this text last week and I’ll go ahead and warn you. Tonight doesn’t seem even that promising for how much we will get through. So, we will likely be here another week looking at this text about Jesus conversation with a rich, young man. This last Wednesday night we had our first Q&A dialogue that we have had. The first of two, during this series as we look at radical truths, tough words from Jesus in the Gospels and we think about how they apply in our lives.
There were a variety of different encouraging pictures as people asked some different questions, but particularly, to listen to questions from students, middle, high school student as well as college students. Questions about how to share this Gospel with their friends the Gospel that calls us in this world, teenagers to renounce everything to follow Jesus. How do you share a Gospel like that? Students asking, “How do we look at school? How do I even approach school, whether it’s in college or high school, how do I even approach it in light of the urgency, of the need among the lost and the poor in the world? How do I pay this much for college if there’s so much need?
And then questions from particularly college students, how do I give myself to global mission when my parents discourage me or when Christians discourage me from global mission? And it was an incredible thing to see the generation of students that God is raising up in this faith family that’s asking questions like these. And there is such a tie in here between that kind of picture on Wednesday night and even the context of this passage. I want to show you something real quickly.
Look in Mark 10 verse 13. Right before the story of the rich young man, I want you to hear what Mark precedes this story by telling us about. Listen to verse 13.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).
So this is the picture. Child-like faith coming to Jesus, receiving the kingdom like a child. That precedes this picture of Jesus saying “Go sell all your possessions and give to the poor and you’ll have treasure in heaven.” And there’s a radical simplicity in Mark 10:13-16 that precedes this call to radical abandonment in verses 17 through 31. I pray this type of radical simplicity will be evident in this faith family, among students, as well as across this faith family.
When I picture this receiving the kingdom like a child I picture my son Caleb and when this two and a half year old runs up and he jumps in my arm and I can swing him every which way and he’ll just do whatever he wants (I have to be careful, in light of what I shared last week at the beginning of our time together, that Caleb, don’t swing him too much, right after eating especially). But, the picture is there’s just a radical, simple trust that his dad will take care of him completely. And the picture here of coming to Jesus and hearing tough words and him saying “Go sell all you have and give to the poor” and jumping in and saying “Okay, yes, yes I trust you. If that’s what you tell me to do then I’ll do it.”
And this is the kind of simplicity, radical simplicity that is intended to mark our lives as followers of Christ. What I want us to do is I want us to read this text again, Mark 10:17-31, and I want us to recap where we’ve been. And I’ll go ahead and warn you a little bit that we’re going to be in some thick Old Testament stuff and there’s going to be a couple points where you’re going to think “What does this have to do with our lives and why is it so important?”
I want to ask you, just in the very beginning, please hang with me because there is a neglected, ignored truth, picture, that I want to show you of the Word that I think we desperately need to recover in the Church today, in light of these things we’re looking at. So, precursor just kind of a heads up warning: Stick with me because it’ll be worth it to see what flows out of it. Let’s read. Mark 10:17,
“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’’’
“‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
“Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’
“The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ Peter said to him, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’
“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first’” (Mark 10:17-31).
Alright, lets recap with a reminder of where we’ve been, what truths we’ve seen unfold in this passage to this point.
A Radical Approach…
Jesus’ call to salvation demands total surrender.
First, a radical approach. Jesus’ call to salvation demands total surrender. In this passage Jesus is not using conventional evangelism techniques. And if only He had, some of the evangelism books that we have available in our bookstores today, He could certainly have led this man to Christ, i.e., Himself. But, He didn’t have those books and so He goes off saying he needed to go sell everything he has, and He loses the prospect because He tells him to abandon everything, total surrender.
And we talked about how salvation is never a matter of external reformation. Salvation is not a to-do list, not a check off box. Jesus is not saying, “If you do this, then that will earn your salvation.” Instead, salvation is always a matter of internal transformation. This man’s giving everything he has, selling everything he has and giving it to the poor would be evidence that he has trust in Jesus; that something is happening in his heart that would cause him to leave these things behind and give himself, give his possessions away, sell them all and give them to the poor.
And the picture is, we talked about how we don’t give away our possessions, sell our possessions, give to the poor in order to earn salvation. We sell our possessions and give to the poor because we have salvation, because Christ is in us, His love in us; His love for the poor overflows through us, that we would make radical sacrifices like this naturally, automatically, flowing from the presence of Christ in us because of an internal transformation in us. We talked about how, at the core, we all need changed hearts. Not looking for a legalistic to-do list on how much you have to sell in order to earn salvation. Never a matter of external reformation; always a matter of internal transformation.
We saw that Jesus is not merely a respectable teacher; he is the Sovereign Lord. There are many including this man who are just fine with Jesus being a teacher to respect. It’s a whole other ball game for Jesus to be a Lord to obey. Jesus is not in our lives, we talked about that, He’s not in our lives to give us financial advice. He is in our lives as the owner of every dollar we have, every possession we have, our houses, our cars, our clothes, our stuff, everything is under his Lordship and it’s His to do with whatever He pleases. Our lives, our possessions are entirely His to spend. Our savings accounts are His to spend. It doesn’t matter what financial advice you would get from what financial planner, He is Lord and this changes everything about how we live. He’s not just a respectable teacher; He's the Sovereign Lord.
A Radical Affection…
Jesus calls us to give sacrificially because He loves us.
All that led to the radical affection. This is where we talked about how Jesus called us to give sacrificially because He loves us. Verse 21—“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” We went to Luke 12:33...In Luke He tells His disciples there “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Same kind of radical command. But what He says in verse 32, this is the verse we camped out on. It’s the dynamite that blows up the god of materialism in our lives because Jesus knows for us to hear words like “Sell everything you have and give to the poor,” He knows that just sparks insecurity and fear in us.
What happens when you begin to sell all you have and give to the poor? Well how are you going to take care of this and this and this? And there’s all kinds of questions and Jesus said, “Do not be afraid” Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” He says, “When you abandon home and house, possessions, cars, clothes, stuff that you have held onto, security, safety that you have held onto in this world, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid because you have a Father who is a Shepherd who protects you. He is a Father who delights in you and a King who provides for you.” He has a Kingdom to give us.
And so Jesus tells us these things to make radical sacrifices, not because He hates us or because He wants our lives to be miserable. He tells us these things because He loves us. Jesus loves rich people. He loves rich people enough to tell the rich people the truth. And my reminder is we’re all rich people. That’s why this text is so pertinent for us, because all of us are incredibly wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Radical affection leads to the radical command.
A Radical Command…
Jesus gives commands, not considerations.
Jesus gives commands not considerations. Jesus does not say to this rich man, “Be willing to give everything you have.” Instead, He says five commands, “Go, sell everything you have, give to the poor, then come, follow me.” And we talked about how this command is not necessarily universal, that it doesn’t necessarily apply to every follower of Christ of all time that every follower of Christ is supposed to sell every single thing they have and give to the poor. It’s not universal. At the same time, it’s possible. It’s possible that He would say that to any one of us. And even if He doesn’t say that exactly, we cannot hide behind this smoke screen of “I’d be willing to give everything.” It’s not what this passage is saying.
This passage is saying your life is completely on the table before the Lord, a blank check, and whatever He says to give, whatever He says to do, those are not options to consider. They are commands to obey. I was talking with one family this week, who—they have a six year old son, a husband and wife and a six year old son. And they, one night this week were having family worship time, and they read through Mark 10:17-31 and they were talking about this passage. And they asked their six-year-old son, they said, “What do you have that you could sell and give to the poor?” And the son kind of thought about it, six-year-old son “Well I’ve got this video game system and my video games.” And they said, “Would you be willing?” That’s what they asked, they said, “Would you be willing to sell that and give the money to the poor?” And he said, “Yes.” And the father said “Okay, then that’s what we’re going to do.” And the little six-year-old said “No.”
This is us. Easy, easy to say, “Well I’d be willing.” And so they talked about it some more and the next day, dad got home from work and son was playing, went up into his room and called his dad up into his room. Completely unsolicited. His dad goes up there and son says to his dad, “Dad, I’ve been thinking a lot about what we talked about and I’ve heard you and mom talking about what you’re going to sell to give to the poor and I need to do that with my video games system.” God give 30 year olds and 60 year olds, six-year-old kind of faith. What happens when we see that all of our possessions and all of our houses and all of our cars and all of our clothes and all of our stuff, all the treasures we hold on to? What happens?
What a picture here. Jesus has not given us options to consider. He gives us commands to obey. That’s risky. Put everything on the table. You want me to sell it all? I will sell it all. Jesus, tell me exactly what to sell and everything on the table, what to give away, I’ll do it. That’s risky. This is the point where people start jumping ship.
A Radical Reward…
Jesus does not want to strip us of our pleasure; He wants to satisfy us with His treasure.
But it’s risk, don’t miss it, it’s radical risk, Jesus says, for radical reward. Jesus does not want to strip us of our pleasure. He wants to satisfy us with His treasure.
Matthew chapter 13:44 is what we looked at. Remember this verse? “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” How do you sell everything you have with joy? How do you take every single thing you have and sell it or give it away with a smile on your face? When you know you have treasure here, and you are trading trinkets for treasure. Jesus is not telling us anywhere in the New Testament, not to care about treasures. He’s telling us to care about real treasures. Stop living for trinkets that we think are treasures and to live for what is true treasure. Come follow me. You’ll have treasure in heaven.
Radical risk for radical reward and this is what we talked about, which do we want, short term treasures that we can’t keep or long term treasures we can’t lose? Unpredictable investments or inexhaustible savings? That quote from Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” And it really comes down to the question of where is our heart? We looked in Matthew 6:19-21, you remember? “Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).
And then He says, Matthew 6:21, memorize this verse if you don’t have it memorized. “For where your treasure is, there your” what? “Heart will be also.” What a humbling verse. The reality is what Jesus is saying there is that our use of money is a sure barometer of our present spiritual condition. In other words, our possessions and our lifestyles give away where our treasures are and our heart lies. Wherever our treasure is, there we see where our heart is. And it’s not just our present spiritual condition; our use of money is a sure indicator of our future eternal destination. There’s a radical reward to be had in heaven, Jesus says, and it begs the question: Are you going to live for treasure on earth or are you going to live for treasure in heaven?
And Jesus says lest we think, “Well I’m going to enjoy treasures here and then have treasure there.” This is the name of the game in contemporary Christianity. Pray the prayer. Live life. Enjoy the treasures here and you have a free pass to treasure in heaven, and Jesus says it can’t be done. No one can serve two masters. Treasure on earth, a treasure in heaven. Which are you living for? Where is your heart? Where is our heart? Radical reward that He has for us.
A Radical Loss…
Love of possessions will inevitably and ultimately rob us of the joy for which we have been created.
And all that brought us to radical loss. Love of possessions will inevitably and ultimately rob us of the joy for which we have been created. He walked away sad. Why? His eyes were blind. We talked about how his eyes were blind to the depth of his sin and it was bound up with his possessions. It was a blind spot for him. He was wealthy and he didn’t even know the extent to which he had missed it. It’s a blind spot. His eyes were blind not only to the depth of his sins but to the depth of the needs of the poor around him. He turned a deaf ear to them, closed his eyes. His eyes were blind, his face was sad and his hands full. He stood there with a full hand of treasures and walked away and missed Jesus altogether.
Now that’s what happened in Jesus’ conversation with him. That only gets us through part of the passage because the disciples are sitting there and Jesus turns to them and in verse 23 He says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples, look at verse 24, “The disciples were,” what? “amazed at his words.” They were shocked. And He repeats it again “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25). And we’re going to talk more about that whole imagery. But the picture here is, Jesus saying, “It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Again this should cause our ears to perk up because we’re rich.
It’s hard to enter the kingdom of God from here. Now why does He say this and why was it so shocking to the disciples? And this is where, in order to understand what’s going on here, we’ve got to take a step back. We’re going to dive into the Old Testament to see the mentality that was in these disciples’ minds that would cause them to have their jaws on the ground in shock when Jesus makes a statement like “how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” And you know it’s not just important for us to do this, in order to get into these disciples’ minds in Mark 10. It’s important for us to do this because we have to realize how we’ve got the same mentality.
It’s interesting. As soon as you start talking about radical giving and radical abandonment in the affluent religious community, there are certain phrases that come to the top pretty quick. One of those phrases is “David, haven’t you read the Old Testament? Don’t you know that Abraham, he was wealthy? Don’t you know about Isaac and Jacob, patriarchs, wealthy? Don’t you know that David? King David, man after God’s own heart”—which we always use to just kind of be a blanket thing, so everything that David did was right. “Well he was wealthy. Solomon, he was blessed by God. Look at all his wealth. Don’t you know it’s okay to have a lot of stuff? Don’t you know these are heroes of our faith? So it’s okay to enjoy all the stuff we have like they did.” That’s a good question. It’s good enough for us to dive into together. And I want us to see the answer.
A Radical Shift
We must understand our use of money and possessions in the context of biblical history.
So, go back with me to Genesis chapter 12. And while you’re turning there, what I want you to see is this next truth come up on the page here. A radical shift. While you’re finding Genesis chapter 12, here’s the truth. We must understand our use of money and possessions in the context of Biblical history. We must understand our use of money and possessions in the context of Biblical history. You’re thinking, “We’re going to have a Biblical history lesson?” I promise, just stick with me. You’ve got to see this. This is huge.
Genesis 12 is where we’re sitting in our Bibles right now. You know what happens before this, Genesis 1 and 2, God creates the world and all the things in this world, material things in the world, and He creates them good. And He creates them for His creation, His people to enjoy. Now, obviously, in Genesis chapter 3, sin enters the world and kind of mars the whole picture, not kind of, really mars the whole picture. And then you fast forward to Genesis chapter 12 and this is when God births the nation of Israel. This is when He calls out Abram in this passage, later called Abraham, calls him out to begin a nation that he could call his own, the people of Israel.
And I want you to hear what He says to Abraham, Abram in this passage. Verse one,
“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran” (Gen. 12:1-4).
Listen to verse 5: “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there” (Gen. 12:5).
In the Past (Old Testament)...
Here’s where this truth is going to start unfolding. I want us to think about it in the light of Genesis 12. In the past, in the Old Testament, this is the very beginning of God’s relationship with the people of Israel—old covenant. Obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth. Obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth in the Old Testament. Starts here with Abraham. What you’ve got is God saying to him, “Leave here and go to the land I will show you”, which that doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but needs to trigger in at this point that in the Old Testament, land is everything. Land is wealth. Land is prosperity. The more land you have, the better, more fertile your land is, the more wealth you have.
And so God says, I’ve got a promise of land for you, and He begins talking about how He’s going to bless Abram. Now that’s spiritual blessing, but it’s also material blessing. And what you’ve got is Abraham going off to this land and he’s got possessions that he’s accumulated. He’s got people he’s acquired. He’s got some wealth and he’s taking it all to a land that God has said “I’m going to bless you with it.” And God said “I’m going to bless you for this reason. I’m going to pour out my spiritual, material blessing on you and through you that blessing will overflow onto all the peoples of the earth.” So that’s how the whole picture starts in Genesis chapter 12.
Now fast forward with me to Genesis chapter 24. I want you to see how this is emphasized throughout the picture of Genesis. Obedience to God leading to acquiring possessions on earth. Look at Genesis 24:34. The picture here is Abraham had sent his servant to go find a wife for Isaac. And this is what the servant says to a guy named Laban talking about Abraham. I want you to listen to how he describes him in verse 34. “So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has blessed my master,” that’s Abraham, “The LORD has blessed him abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys” (Gen. 24:35). God has blessed him and given him all kinds of possessions.
Now keep going to the right and you’ll come to Genesis chapter 30. I’m sorry, go to Genesis 26 first, then we’ll get to 30. Go to Genesis 26 and look at verse 12. Abraham had a son, his name was? Isaac. Did Abraham enjoy all the material possessions and Isaac got nothing? No. Look in Genesis 26 verse 12, “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich,” talking about Isaac, he “became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy” (Gen. 26:12-13). I love that you’re going to see this, just the way this is described. It’s not just wealthy, he became “very wealthy.” “He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him” (Gen. 26:14). He had so much that the nations around him envied him for how much he had.
Now, go to the right to chapter 30. Isaac had a son. His name was? Jacob. Jacob and Esau—Esau made some mistakes. Jacob’s in the picture. Genesis chapter 30. Look with me at verse 43. This is talking about Jacob. “In this way,” talking about Jacob, “the man,” Jacob, “grew exceedingly prosperous,” not just prosperous, exceedingly prosperous, “and came to own,” not just flocks, “large flocks and maidservants and menservants and camels and donkeys.” Keep going to the right. Genesis chapter 47, the last place we’ll look in Genesis. Jacob had a son. His name was; he had a lot of them and you don’t need to know that. He had a lot of sons and one of his son’s name was Joseph. And you remember what God did was He took Joseph by way of slavery to Egypt and exalted Joseph in Pharaoh’s house there in Egypt to provide salvation for His people from famine.
I want you to listen. This is kind of how the Book of Genesis closes with Abraham’s family, his descendants, living in Egypt. Listen to verse 27, “Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.” So, we see the picture. All throughout Genesis, God’s chosen people, this nation that He is forming and establishing is extremely wealthy, exceedingly wealthy, very wealthy, much possessions. And what happened after this, you remember there in Egypt they became slaves and God delivered them out of their slavery.
In fact, the way He delivered them out their slavery, He did all of these plagues and got to the Passover and He sends them out and he says “I’m going to take you to a promised” what? Land. “I’m going to give you land that’ll flow with milk and honey.” It’s out there. And as they’re leaving their slavery in Egypt what are the Egyptians doing? Remember? They’re like throwing gold and silver at them. It’s a great picture. They’ve been slaves. They’re escaping slavery and they’re like “Hey take some of my gold on the way. Take some of my silver on the way. Just have it all.” God is prospering them so that they will be established in the land when they get there. He’s taking them to the Promised Land.
And on that journey, what He does is He gives them His Law. And in that Law, He talks about this picture. Obedience to God will lead to acquiring possessions on earth. I want to show you in two places. Go to Leviticus chapter 26, two books over to the right. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus chapter 26. You probably don’t spend a lot of time in Leviticus. Not the most popular quite time book. Leviticus 26:3. I want you to hear what God says to His people and just see this truth. Obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth. Listen to what He told them in Leviticus 26:3. “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands,” there’s the condition, obedience to God, “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land” (Lev. 26:4-5).
Look down in verse 9. He said,
“I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” (Lev. 26:9-13).
You see that picture? He’s prospering His people and He’s saying to His people, “If you follow my decrees, and are careful to obey my commands, you’re going to be eating the harvest from last year when the new harvest comes in. You’re just going to have to move it out. You’re going to have so much.”
One more place. Keep going to the right and you’ll come to Deuteronomy. You go to Numbers then Deuteronomy chapter 28. I’m going to read one extended portion there that really gives this picture. Obedience to God leading to acquiring possessions on earth, and I want you to see. You’ll see it a couple of times in this passage we’re about to read, the relationship between the people’s obedience and God’s material prosperity that He would bless them with. Look at Deuteronomy 28 verse 1.
Here it is,
“If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them” (Deut. 28:1-14).
Do you see the picture here? That is the bounty of heaven is yours. Obedience to God leading to acquiring possessions on earth. And it’s the same picture we started with way back in Genesis chapter 12 when God said “I’m going to bless you so that peoples on earth will be blessed through you” and that’s what He just said in Deuteronomy 28 verse 10 that “all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord and they will fear you.”
What God’s doing in the Old Testament, don’t miss this. What He is doing in the Old Testament is He is establishing a nation in a land that will be a display of His glory to all the nations around. In fact, it leads to the second part of this truth. In the past, Old Testament obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth and God gave possessions to build a place that displayed His glory among the nations. This is huge. First it was the Promised Land. You will live in this land and you will be a display of my glory. But then, this is where we fast forward to David and Solomon, and it’s not just about having land. What’s going to be in the middle of the land? A temple, right? And “I’m going to give you great wealth so that you can build a majestic temple a splendor, a majesty to display my glory to all the nations around.” And this is exactly what happens.
Go with me, and this is the last place we’ll turn in the Old Testament here. Go with me to 1 Kings chapter 8. Yes, God made David rich, wealthy. God made Solomon rich and wealthy. Why? What happens is, in 1 Kings 6, Solomon takes the wealth that he had inherited from his father, David, and he builds a temple—the glory of God. It’s not just another building. This is a place where the glory of God will dwell among His people. And then after that, he builds a massive palace. And you get to 1 Kings 8 and what Solomon does is he prays, starting in verse 23, he prays a prayer of dedication of the temple. And then you get to verse 62 and I want you to listen to the celebration they have. Just to picture this.
“Then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices before the LORD.” Listen to verse 63, “Solomon offered a sacrifice of fellowship offerings to the LORD: 22,000 cattle” that’s a lot of cows, “22,000 and 120,000 sheep and goats.” Can you imagine? That’s a lot of sheep and goats that you’re offering to be sacrificed. This is a mega party, worship, picture the king and all the Israelites dedicating the temple to the Lord with that and listen to this,
“On that same day the king consecrated the middle part of the courtyard in front of the temple of the LORD, and there he offered burnt offerings, grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings, because the bronze altar before the LORD was too small to hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings. So Solomon observed the festival at that time, and all Israel with him—a vast assembly, people from Lebo, Hamath to the Wadi of Egypt. They celebrated it before the LORD our God for seven days and seven days more, fourteen days in all. On the following day he sent the people away. They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done for his servant David and his people Israel” (1 Kings 8:64-66).
That was one incredible day. Affluent, wealthy, display the glory of God, so that the nations will see this and see the glory of God. We know that that’s what’s happening here. You get over two chapters to 1 Kings 10 and look what happens. There’s a queen, the Queen of Sheba, a pagan queen who comes to visit Solomon and listen to what happens.
“When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her” (1 Kings 10:1-4). Listen to this, verse 4,
“When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed. She said to the king, ‘The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom,” (1 Kings 10:4-8)!
And listen to verse 9, a pagan queen declares, “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.” God’s getting glory from the mouth of a pagan queen because of how He had blessed David and Solomon. And then you get to verse 10, “And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.” And it just continues throughout the rest of this chapter. Here’s the picture. Obedience to God, leading the people of God to acquire possessions on earth. This is such an incomplete picture in many senses.
We haven’t even looked at how God made provisions to make sure the prosperity He gave would be shared with the poor. Haven’t even looked at how wealth was abused. Maybe, particularly in Solomon’s life and other’s lives, how wealth was abused. But the picture is God is giving them wealth and possessions as they obey Him and He’s giving them possessions, why? To establish them as a people in a land with a temple that displays the glory of God to all the nations around them. That’s what He’s doing all throughout the Old Testament.
In the Present (New Testament and Today)...
Now, with that background, let’s step into some disciples’ shoes. When you see a rich, synagogue ruler come up to Jesus, simply by nature of the fact that He is rich, you assume, what? This man is blessed by God. Obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on this earth, and not only the possessions picture, but the place picture, the temple picture because this guy, of all people, has enough to afford the choice of sacrificial offerings. This guy is able to give, to support the temple furnishings. This is a picture of the blessing of God in all that he has. Don’t just think they’re shallow. They’re operating on Old Testament mentality here.
And he comes up to Jesus and says, “What must I do to inherit the kingdom of God?” And Jesus looks back at him and says, “Get rid of all your stuff.” And as soon as you hear Jesus say that, your jaw does go on the ground. He just told him, who’s so blessed by God with all of this stuff, to get rid of it all, who has so much to offer to the temple for sacrifices to get rid of it all? They’re amazed. And then Jesus turns to you and says, “It’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Do you see what a radical shift this was? In the Old Testament, obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth.
In the New Testament picture, obedience to God leads us to not acquire, but to abandon possessions on earth. This is unheard of, revolutionary. It’s a radical shift. Don’t miss it, Jesus is not just saying that this man’s wealth is not evidence of God’s blessing. Jesus actually is saying that this man’s wealth is a barrier to God’s blessing in his life. It’s a barrier to him being even anywhere near the kingdom. It’s a barrier to him. This is shocking to you. This is a very different picture. It’s all over Scripture when you compare the Old Testament and the New Testament. Now, I want to be careful here because I believe most of the themes that we see when it comes to possessions and giving in the Old Testament do reappear in different ways and are reaffirmed in different ways in the New Testament. But this one does not. This one does not anywhere.
And just in case you think I’ve like fallen off some truck and lost sight of what is reality in Scripture, I’m going to bring in somebody to help me out a little here. A guy named Craig Blomberg wrote a great book called, Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions. I want you to hear what he says in his conclusion he says, “The New Testament carried forward the major principles of the Old Testament with one conspicuous omission. Never, in the New Testament, never was material wealth promised as a guaranteed reward for spiritual obedience.” Material reward for piety or for obedience never reappears in Jesus’ teachings. And in fact, it is explicitly contradicted throughout.”
This is a picture in the Old Testament. Obedience to God leads to acquiring possessions on earth. So that He built a place to display His glory to the nations, that is a picture that is not carried over into the New Testament. And it was shocking, amazing, a little bit even scandalous for Jesus to say this in Mark 10. And I’m convinced it’s scandalous to talk like this in the contemporary Church. It is virtually unheard of to say in the contemporary American church culture that we live in. I’ll bring it down even to the contemporary, affluent Birmingham church culture that we live in. It’s not a popular thing or a common thing to hear that our wealth is a barrier to us entering the kingdom of God.
And that if we want to be obedient to God, we will abandon our possessions on this earth. That doesn’t go over very well today. It’s not received well today. It’s not adopted well today. Do you know why? Because in our contemporary church culture, I’m convinced we are still living on Old Testament principles of giving and possessions. This is where the point comes. This is why we needed to dive through all this because we need to see a mirror of the way we approach possessions today. And it’s a prevailing theology in our culture that says that wealth is a picture of God’s blessing in our lives for obedience and that wealth is given to us for us to have more and more and more and God gives us stuff to build stuff. Do you want the proof?
Last year alone, Christians in America spent over $10 billion on church buildings. $10 billion, like we’re building temples. Take the real estate owned by institutional churches in our country today, and you have well over $250 billion. God has given us stuff so let’s build places for His glory. No! Old Testament. We don’t build temples. You are the temple, I am the temple. It is a radically different picture. And it’s not just church buildings. Church buildings are a reflection of the mentality that plagues our hearts. We think every few years we need a bigger house. We need more.
We need a better car, we need more clothes, even more clothes, more possessions more gadgets, more electronics. Don’t we want to be like the heroes and saints in the Old Testament? I want to be in the one as Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David and Solomon. Look at all the stuff they had and they got to enjoy. No. Let’s be in the line of Jesus. It’s not that everything in the Old Testament is null and void and was bad. It’s a different covenant. God was establishing a people, a nation on this earth to be the display of His glory and it’s a radically new picture now. Instead of God giving possessions to build a place to display His glory among the nations, now God is giving possessions to build a people who take His glory to the nations.
This is very different. Now it’s not a place, it’s a people. You and I, we don’t build buildings and say, “Come here and see the glory of God.” Instead, we take the money that God has given us, the wealth that God has given to us, the possessions God has given to us and we take it to the nations and we say “Here’s the glory of Christ” and we give food to starving people and we bring orphans and widows into our homes. And we’re a people who take our possessions and we abandon them for the sake of taking the glory of Christ to the nations.
It’s just not how we work. It’s not how we think. Two years ago I used an illustration and I want to bring it back here. If you’ve heard it before, you’ll recognize it, but I remember when I was preparing to go to the Sudan a few years ago. Sudan is a place where hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters had been engrossed in civil war over the last 20 plus years. Not just since it got popular in the news over the last few years.
And heavy persecution...And I received in the mail as I was preparing to go to the Sudan, this was still during war time there, a Baptist state paper and on the front cover of that paper there were two articles side by side. I don’t know if the editor did this intentionally, or if he just missed it really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad. The picture was on the left, headline “First Baptist Church.” It doesn’t matter what church. It doesn’t matter what state. “First Baptist Church Celebrates New $23 million Building.” And there was a two or three page article. It talked about all the amenities this building had, as a place of worship. All the great things that it had. It was 1 Kings 6-8 like, $23 million building.
On the right, the article headline said, “Baptist Relief Helps Sudanese Refugees.” This article, short article, one column, talked about how 350,000 Sudanese at that point—this was in the Darfur region. This is when Darfur was beginning to get some press. 350,000 refugees in Sudan were dying of malnutrition and may not make it to the end of the year at that point because they had no food. And you got to the end of this article and it said Baptists had raised money to send to these Sudanese refugees. Do you know how much it said was sent? On the left, “First Baptist Church Celebrates New $23 Million Building.” On the right, “Baptists Have Sent $5,000.00 to Refugees in the Sudan”. $5,000.00 is not enough to get a plane into the Sudan, much less one drop of water.
Old Testament, New Testament. This is not an indictment of that church. It is not an indictment of church buildings. It is an indictment of you and me. We have thought the blessing of God meant we should acquire more and more and more and more and it’s transferred over into the way we do church, where it’s bigger and better and more and more and we need to repent. We’re a people. We have been given much, not to acquire more, and not to build places and stuff, but to take the glory of Christ to the nations. God has not blessed us that we would get our hearts and our minds around this. God has not blessed us so that we can live at higher standards of living than the rest of the world. He’s blessed us so that we can have radical sacrifices of our lives for the rest of the world.
He’s not blessed us so we could have higher standards of living. We could have greater sacrifices of life. This is what it means to be blessed by God to take all that He gives us and to spend it, to spend it for the sake of the church, needy brothers and sisters around the world, the lost 4.5 billion people who are going to eternal hell and the poor 30,000 children every day who are dying of starvation or preventable diseases. This is what lies before us. How can we acquire more and build more? God deliver us from Old Testament thinking that it’s not a picture of the New Testament. It’s not just here. It’s this new covenant here, God establishing a people.
In the Future...
But listen, in the Old Testament, obedience to God led to acquiring possessions on earth. New Testament, obedience to God leads to abandoning possessions on earth. But there’s a picture here to come. And it’s not to be contrasted with New Covenant because it’s still a part of the New Covenant, but it’s the completion here. Don’t miss it. In the future, as we look to the future, obedience to God leads us to accumulate possessions in heaven. We’re not living to have stuff here because we’re living to have reward there. This is a Biblical thing. We’ll look at this just a second. God gives possessions to build a paradise, possession in heaven, a paradise where we will enjoy His glory with the nations.
Display His glory among the nations in the temple. Be the temple; take His glory to the nations. There is coming a day when we will enjoy His glory with the nations in eternal reward and this is what we’re living for. These are the possessions we’re investing in and living for. Turn with me to the right, 1 Corinthians chapter 3. This is the last place we’ll look. I want to show you this. While you’re turning there, I want to share with you a quote from a guy named Randy Alcorn. He wrote a great book called Money, Possessions and Eternity that dives into some of the practical things about how maybe some of these things might play out in our lives.
I want you to listen to what he says, dealing with this picture of eternity. He says, “A startling thing has happened among the Western Christians. Many of us, habitually, think and act as if there were no eternity or as if what we do in this present life has no eternal consequences.” He continues, “Without a doubt, the single greatest contributor to our inability to see money and possessions in their true light is our persistent failure to see our present lives through the lens of eternity.” In other words, the reason we see, our minds are so foggy, our eyes are so blind, and we see our possessions here so wrongly is because we’ve forgotten there’s a world to come. Because when you’re living for what’s going to be there 10 billion years from now, it affects where you live here and how you live here.
Just look at eternity. And this is the picture in 1 Corinthians 3. This is a somewhat complicated passage in some ways, but the context here—Paul’s talking about building on the foundation of Christ in our lives and he talks about, just like we’ve mentioned, how we don’t build a temple because we are the temple. And I want you to listen to what he says in verse 11. We’ll start there. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” So he’s talking about, now listen here, Jesus is the foundation and he’s talking to the church. He’s talking to the believers here. Listen to what he says. “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
Let me help you understand real quickly what Paul just said here, he’s not talking about the Day of Judgment when believers and nonbelievers will be separated from one and other. He’s talking about, like the second coming of Christ, the picture here where believers will stand before Christ. And this is not salvation at stake; this is people who built their lives on the foundation of Christ. The question is, what are they built with? Paul said there are some who will have built possessions, treasures in their lives that on that day will be shown to survive through the fire and they will receive their reward. This is the picture we see of a reward all throughout the New Testament—a whole other sermon, a few sermons.
Hebrews 11. Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ because he was looking ahead to his reward. 1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 4, 2 Timothy 4 all talk about we’re living for a prize, for a crown, for a reward to come, to present in glory to Christ. What Paul said is there will be some on that day, who on the foundation of Christ, have built with hay, straw, and wood. And when the flames come, they will burn up everything that’s been built. And it’s not that their salvation will be lost because they will escape, but they will be like a man jumping from a burning wood building, escaping through the flames. And it all begs the question, what are we building in our lives? What are we investing in, in our lives? What treasures are we building in our lives that will survive on that day in praise to Christ or that will burn up on that day?
Let me help you think through it. Our houses will burn up on that day, and all the money we’ve put in our stuff, and our cars, and our possessions, and all the nice clothes will burn up. All the things that we grabbed on to burn up. Our 401Ks and our savings accounts won’t survive this fire, no matter how great or wisely we invested them. What will survive is the child who had no food on his table, and you fed him. The brother who was imprisoned for his faith, and you went to visit him. The man or woman in an unreached village that had never heard the name of Jesus that heard the name of Jesus from your mouth because you spent your life taking the gospel to him, they’ll survive. And these are the things that we will present to Christ for His glory on that day.
What scares me, what scares me is that this picture might cause some in this room to think “Well I’m still going to be in heaven, though, right? As long as I am in heaven, that’s what’s most important. I want to make sure that that’s okay. That’s what’s most important. I mean, I’m a Christian. Why do I have to worry about this radical giving and radical abandonment stuff? I know I’m going to heaven. That’s what’s most important.” How can I say that when so many other things are important to our God? How can we live like we’ll enjoy the luxuries here and not worry about this “radical giving or abandonment stuff”?
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