Losing to gain

Sunday service, Arno Stegen, 26 Feb 2017

Luke 18:18 – 29
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Many live as though they only live for the here and now. They have no thought about eternity. But this man was not like that. He asked a very important question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Sometimes those that have lack are more blessed than those that seem to have what they need, because those in need can turn to the Lord for help and receive from Him. They realise they need help and they know their dependence upon God. But blessed are those that realise their dependence upon God and turn to Him, even if they seem to have what they need.

This man was also not ashamed of the Lord. In another portion it even says that he ran to the Lord to ask Him this question.

He also had some revelation of Who Jesus was, for He called Him “good teacher”. And as Jesus pointed out, “no one is good except God”.

Jesus pointed him to the commandments, and he could confidently say that he had kept them since his youth. Very few people can make that claim. Jesus then told him that he lacks one thing, to go sell all he had and give it to the poor and then come and follow Jesus.

Jesus wasn’t shifting the goalposts. He set it long ago – to be holy as He is holy (1Pet 1:16). We cannot do it out of our own strength. We need Him day by day, walking and abiding in Him (John 15). We must be obedient to Him daily and do what He had given us to do daily.

But it’s interesting that when the Lord told him what He expected of him, it wasn’t something he expected, and it was something he thought impossible. Even the disciples afterwards asked Jesus how anyone then can be saved. But Jesus answered them that with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

He was suddenly confronted with the decision. Was he prepared to give up his own plans and do what Jesus told him?

The question is, how badly do you want eternal life? Are you prepared to take your hand and put it in His care. Are you prepared that from now on you no longer make your own decisions, but that the Lord make them for you. Now you’re no longer a ruler in your own right but become a follower. It was difficult for him. It’s not easy to give up all those comforts. It was no longer a life of predictability but a life of faith where you no longer know what the next step will be. From now on you will no longer be running your own life, but simply follow in the Lord’s footsteps. The life of Jesus was very unpredictable. He didn’t even have a place to call home. He didn’t even know where He would sleep that night. He would be on His way and someone would ask Him to help him, and that would take up His day.

Are you a Christian and keep His commandments? But now Jesus says to you, are you prepared to be fully dependent upon God, where you lose your own independence?

God doesn’t take something from you where He doesn’t give you something better back. Do you trust Him unreservedly? That is where you learn the life of faith, where you’re prepared to do beyond what you are able, but trusting in Him.

Remember also that God doesn’t ask us to do something that we cannot do. Jesus told him to sell his riches and give the money to the poor. He might have thought that he worked hard for it. But we forget that what we have is a gift from God in the first place. And not just what we have, but we ourselves belong to Him. That’s why He has the right to demand it from us. He can call us to Him when He wants to. He can make use of what He has entrusted to us as well, because we only have it because of His grace and blessing.

In Ez 31 we read of Assyria, where the Lord likens Assyria to a Cedar in Lebanon that has grown into a beautiful tree. The Lord made it beautiful, not because the Cedar was so wonderful in itself. The nations found rest under its branches. It was a great and a mighty tree, and it became the envy of the other trees. The reason this tree became so great, was because there were underground streams to the roots of this tree. But then that happened which happened to the devil himself. This tree became proud and boasted in its beauty and greatness. It forgot that it was only so great because of the underground blessings. If you get something right, don’t be like this tree and boast, but give God the glory. Realise that it’s because of that hidden blessing that God allowed to flow to you. It’s not because you or I are good. But God happened to need a tall tree in that place. But this tree became proud. And the Lord said to it that because it lifted itself up and did not glorify God, it will be brought down. And all the other trees that were below this tree was left standing while it was cut down.

So too this rich young ruler forgot that his riches and blessings were from God and belonged to God. But it’s interesting that it was Jesus that told him to sell all and follow Him. It wasn’t His disciples. They couldn’t say it to him. They also didn’t have the right to say it. Even though they heard Jesus call them to forsake all and follow Jesus, yet it didn’t give them the right to say the same. Only Jesus has the right to call others. It’s wonderful if you hear the Lord speak to you, that He calls you by name. That’s what makes the difference, when the Lord calls you Himself. God expects from each one not just our trust but our obedience.

Remember that others had done it. The disciples had done it. And the Lord Jesus Himself did more than all and was obedient unto death (Philippians 2). He had the splendors of heaven but He have it all up to save us in obedience to His Father.

Don’t just do something because you think you must do it, or someone else tells you to do it. Make sure it is the Lord speaking to you. The disciples gave up fishing and became the disciples of the Lord Jesus, and God gave them positions they would never have thought possible, not just in this life but for all eternity. They would have been fools if they hadn’t accepted His offer. They could have gone down in history as fishermen and we wouldn’t even have heard about them. But because they obeyed God and were prepared to lose everything they gained more than anyone could have imagined.

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