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About this series
Jesus Offers Hope
We all put our hope in something or someone. Hope is the oxygen of the soul! At some point, though, most of us experience hope that never pans out. What then? Is it possible to hang on to hope when life doesn't make sense or when things go from bad to worse? Or, maybe you've received exactly what you hoped for, only to realize that it doesn't satisfy! In this series, Chip draws from New Testament parables to reveal how to experience and safeguard unshakable hope, in spite of your circumstances.More from this series
Sometimes, when this story is told of this rich young ruler, I think he gets a little bit of a bad rap. Jesus offers hope to a man.
His bio, he’s wealthy, successful, moral, powerful, sincere, and intelligent. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind that bio for me. Would you? What if someone said, “Tell me a little bit about your wife, or about your best friend…” – that happened to be you – And they said, “Oh, well, he’s wealthy, intelligent,” or she, “successful, moral, self-aware.” I mean, he was listening to Jesus teach. He watched Him with the children and he was aware: Something’s missing! Something’s missing. It’s not money. I’ve got money. It’s not religion. I’ve kept it from my youth. But something’s missing.
And then he had the self-awareness and the humility: You know what? He just got done teaching. He just blessed the children. Jesus is walking away.
This man in his Armani suit, with all these peasants, runs after Jesus, slides in, falls at His feet, humbles himself in front of all these peasants and says – what? “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”
It says he ran. He fell at His feet. You know, we read that over real quickly. This is a guy who’s not embarrassed. This a guy who says: This Jesus has something that I need. Something’s missing and it’s not religion; and it’s not money; and it’s not intelligence; and it’s not power; and it’s not wealth. But He’s got something I need.
But he recognizes his success has left him empty.
Anybody here feel a little bit that way?
And so, Jesus gave a little test – didn’t He? And please don’t miss this. Everything He asked him to do from this point on - He loves this man. If you were a teacher, and you saw someone with that – he wasn’t proud. He wasn’t like: I don’t need anybody. He wasn’t - He didn’t think he trusted in his wealth. But Jesus saw his heart. And so, Jesus says to him, here’s the challenge: Sell everything that you have. If I’m really good and I’m the Messiah then let’s test this. Sell everything that you have. Let go of what you’re hanging on to. Then, notice: Give to the poor.
He wanted him to experience joy. Have you ever given to the poor? Have you ever given - maybe a single mom, she can’t pay her rent and you secretly pay for it, and you experience this joy. Or, you’ve been in a situation where maybe you’ve been on a mission trip and you’ve been able to give some money to someone and it just changes the course of their life.
I remember going on one mission trip in the Philippines. And it was only $70-$80 bucks and we, over there, could buy enough penicillin - we saved six kids’ lives. It was like, “Whoa! For 70 bucks?!”
When people learn to give, you start learning to give? Jesus wanted him to understand: It’s not religion and it’s not about all the things you don’t do.
Then and now so many people think following God is: I don’t do this; I don’t do this; I don’t do this; and I don’t do this. I got news for you. People that are dead don’t do that either.
A lot of it is what you do do. It’s loving and caring. Jesus wanted him to experience what it’s like to release what holds you in and bring life to other people and the joy that would swell his heart.
And then He said – what? That this is for your benefit. See, we tend to think that life is this little tiny thing called time, and Jesus gave him an assignment that would change all of his eternity.
He said when you sell and when you give, you’ll have – who’s He looking out for? What’s it say? Look in your Bibles. You’ll have what in heaven? Treasure! This is real stuff. This is real reward. This is something that would pay out for him forever and ever and ever.
And then he gets this personal, amazing invitation: … and then come. There are crowds!
This guy is getting a personal invitation: You know these twelve guys that hang with Me? You want in on the inner circle? I don’t see a lot of this. I want you to come. I want to be close to you. I want to do life with you. I want to bless you. But, there’s this obstacle. You can’t see it. But the fact that you could sense that something is missing; the fact that you responded to My teaching; the fact that you saw how I treated children; the fact that you know better than using women; the fact was you were getting it. Now, let’s do some spiritual surgery so you can get the life that’s really life. Let go of the idol in your heart. Great act of love.
The rich man’s response revealed the condition. The true condition of his heart and the god that he served. His face fell.
It was like: I want help I want help, I want help, show me what I need to do! …. I don’t want that much help. My security is my money. My god is my money. Money defines my success.
This is a guy that made the list on the front of Forbes. This is a guy that people knew who he was when he walked in the room because of how many zeroes behind his portfolio. He goes: Wait a second. I want what You have, but…
See that sex, money, power mantra. He said, I can’t give up what I can see for what I can’t see. So, his face fell and he went away sad.
Jesus was testing him. God has unlimited resources. He could have given his money back to him the next day or the next week or the next year. What we know for sure is that he would have had joy that his money could never bring. He would have security that his money could never bring. He would have a relationship with God and peace and rest in his soul that his money could never bring. Isn’t that why he was running over and saying: “Jesus…” See, his money revealed his heart.
Your money reveals your heart.
Sometimes, when this is taught people are so careful to say: This doesn’t mean that every Christian needs to sell everything they have in order to come to Jesus for eternal life. That is very true, but let me tell you something. Jesus does ask that of some people. What if He asked it of you?
What if He actually asked it of you? I mean, we get this, like he asked it of this guy.
You think he’s the only rich young ruler who’s ever been born? What if money is such an idol in your life that gets played out by the hours that you work and where you spend it and the prestige and the pride? And, by the way, the problem with money is the deceitfulness of riches.
When it has you, you don’t even know it. You just think it’s normal. What if God loved you enough to say: I want you to sell everything you have and follow Me. Would you do it? If the answer is no, you clearly understand where you’re at in your relationship with God.
See, you know, we get lots of little things that we sort of figure out. We all want to know where we’re at with people, you know? You know, when you’re dating and you’re young and if he smiles at you: I think this is going pretty well. Or, she reaches and puts her arm around you: I think this is going pretty well.
We all think we know – Well, so, how am I doing with God? Oh, I had a neat ooey-gooey feeling when we sang that one song: Well, I must be doing pretty good with God. I prayed a little prayer and this got answered: I must be doing pretty good with God. I look at other people and I know I’m sure struggling in this and this and this, but everybody does: But, I must be doing pretty good with God.
You want to know how you’re doing with God? You take your financial statement for your taxes and you just go through and say: How much money did I spend on hobbies, and stuff, and house, and food and clothes, and how much money went to God and the people of God and helping other people?
That will tell you, exactly. Because Jesus said: Wherever your treasure goes, that’s where your heart is.
And so, that’s why, in America, we have nine out of ten people who say, I’m born again, I love Jesus, I follow Him and we have the average giving of an American Christian at 2.7% of their income.
So, if I took this literally, I would say: God I just want You to know, as the CEO and Master of the Universe, that as an average, evangelical, born-again Christian, I want You to know that 2.7% of my life is totally committed to You.
What we do know is actually that percentage is about 1 out of 10 Christians gives the beginning point of a tithe. Tithe means a tenth which happened before the law. It happened during the law and it happens after.
It’s not really like a law. It is a beginning point that frees us from our money and you get to grow. Because what happens is, people who understand the more generous you are, the more joy you have and the more you understand it’s His. And so, when you want your heart to go somewhere, what you do is you just send your money there.
I’ve actually had people that I didn’t like, I started giving them money. I’m dead serious. They didn’t know it was me. I actually gave money to people I didn’t like because I realized, I need to change my heart, and I know my heart always goes to where my money goes.
So, Jesus wanted to free this man and then He warns about the dangers of wealth. And before I go on and talk about the warning here, I just really want to remind you that you never graduate [from growing].
I was involved with Walk Thru the Bible and we had, it was probably the greatest privilege, an international ministry and they’re still friends, and people all around the world that are teaching God’s Word and they’re all nationals, and we would have like a couple of these conferences a year, where we would raise money and donors would come. And we had one particularly wealthy and generous donor that during the midst of this conference--I taught it but different people would share different things and
these brothers and sisters from all around the world, these nationals, they just captured Theresa’s and my heart and we wanted to help them.
And you knew that every dollar you gave would just really multiply. And so, one of these generous donors said, “Anyone who would give a six-figured gift or above, I’ll match it dollar for dollar up to I forget how many, but he was very wealthy. And he says if two people do that, I’ll match two of them; if three, three; five, five.”
And I was thinking about these guys and I was teaching that morning, and so I got up early that morning to review my notes and I was praying through it. And, it was one of these, this doesn’t happen all that often, but it was one of those: Chip, I want you to give a six figure gift that will be matched for those people that you love.
And it was like: Surely Thou jests. And this was not, I mean, my arguments, don’t get any idea that I was being generous. I mean, it was like, now, Theresa and I learned to tithe early and then we’ve been learning to grow our percentage, because we want to, not because we feel we’ve got to. We just love to get to do that. And God has always blessed greatly.
And so [this thought]: You need to declare this, by this next meeting. And, to me, it was: We can’t give that out of our income. Lord, the only place that could come would be our retirement. And we don’t have a lot of retirement. This is like, this is a major portion of all that we have. I mean, Are You aware of - right?
And now, I’m supposed to tell, and there’s no process, so Theresa’s up in the hotel in the room because I went out to study. So, I come back. By the way, this is not how to do life. The process that you’re about to hear is dumb and stupid, but I didn’t know how to get around it.
See, here’s the deal. It was a test. I’m preaching on this stuff and it’s a test. And I get tests and you get tests. And never think you graduate. And if you can’t let go, then it’s got you.
I remember going up to Theresa and saying, “I really believe God wants us to do that.” And she said, “Well, where would we get that?” I said, “Well, our retirement.” She said, “Honey, that’s for retiring.” And she was very straightforward as she is in saying things like, “I don’t think this is the right process. I feel out of the loop. I understand why you think what you think. If you believe this is what God wants us to do, I will just trust you in this.” And we did.
And all I want to say is that was a big one for me. But: Am I trusting my retirement? Are you trusting your 401k? Have you figured out little ways where God gets this much so you feel okay about yourself?
Or, are you: God, all that I have, all that I am is Yours. I want my heart where You want it. I believe You created the universe. I want the things that money can’t buy and I’m going to trust that whenever You tap me on the shoulder and You want me to give more time or more energy or more money to honor and love You, that You will take care of me.
And that’s what that guy couldn’t get rid of. See, he didn’t worship God. He had an idol.
And then, Jesus makes this statement that, again, I think that we make softer than it should be. He declares how dangerous money is. By the way, if you’ve got a lot of it and you’re rich, the Lord bless you. God’s not down on you and don’t walk out of here feeling guilty.
I don’t find any passages where God’s down on wealthy people. In fact, I’ve got some friends that are super wealthy and I pray, “Give them more, give them more, give them more.” Because it doesn’t have them and they’re super generous with it. And, yes, they have very nice houses and drive very nice cars, and have – You know what? Fine! Solomon had a nice house. David had a nice house. Barnabas had a nice house.
The only issue is: Does money have you? But when you know across America, and as is true in this church, half the people don’t give anything. Zip. Zero. We’ve become consumers. It means your heart’s locked up. For others, it’s this legalistic – some people that have been into that, I say, “Give 9% or 11% so you can at least slide in some direction, and hopefully, in a good way, because it’s relationship.”
Because Jesus says: How hard, literally in the Greek language, isn’t riches – How hard it is for someone with things to enter God’s kingdom. Why? Because when you have stuff you trust in it. He says: It’s harder for a camel to go through the eye – and the word for “needle” is a surgical needle.
If you’ve heard that interpretation that the needle is the wall of a city and the camel had to kneel down in order to take the loads off. That’s a very pretty story but it didn’t come until the 9th century. It’s not what Jesus taught. Jesus isn’t teaching it’s hard, He’s saying it’s impossible. It’s impossible! And so He’s saying: No amount of good works, no amount of what you can do can ever get you eternal life.
What he’s saying is: Stuff and hanging onto it keeps you from realizing you are desperately dependent like a child and you need to come to God stripped away and say, “I have nothing. Will You forgive me? I’m basing my salvation not on what I can do. I’m trusting that the second person of the Trinity, who’s perfectly human and perfectly divine, came and lived a perfect life and hung upon a cross.”
And, when He hung upon that cross, He paid for your sin and my sin and the sins of all people of all time, to atone, or cover for it. And that is why, when He was hanging on the cross, and my sins – past, present, and future, and all of yours and all the people – were place on Him, the Father turned away because He’s holy. And Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Because your sins were placed on Him, then He rose from the dead to prove that it’s true. And He says: The only way to have eternal life – it’s a gift. It’s grace.
And, you know the hardest thing for people is to receive a gift. And what keeps you from it is, you’re not like a child. You’re proud.
I was in Costco about three months ago and there was a young family. I saw all the different things they had in their cart. I had traveled somewhere, earlier, and some people had given me some money. Sometimes when people give me some money, I just stick it in my pocket and think: God, I know it’s not for me. I’m supposed to give it to someone.
And – a tiny, little couple and I looked and they were talking about: Can we keep or take this out? And I was ahead of them and I just waited and when it was their turn I walked over and I had a couple, clean hundred-dollar bills. And I said, “Excuse me. I just couldn’t help overhear you all. God gave this to me and I’m just to pass it on. Would you - this will take care of your groceries, okay?” “No, no, no…” “No, seriously, it’s not mine. It’s from God.” “No!” I said, “What do you mean? This is just -” He goes, “I could not receive that.” And I took my two hundred dollars and put it back in my pocket and I remember walking out of Costco thinking: I now know how God feels. See, he’s got to earn his keep. He can’t recognize he has need. I just met a very proud man and that proud man kept his kids from getting what God wanted to give them.
There are some of you in this room that your money is keeping you from God. And your pride keeps you from saying: God, you know what? I need You. And for some, it’s an idol. And He brought you in this room on this day to say, I’ve got better for you. I love you. I’m for you. Wealth is dangerous.
But notice the promise; we heard it in the testimonies. The promise is: Great reward for those who trust and follow Him.
In this world – more homes, more brothers, more sisters, more riches – He said you come into this family and this family is all around the world.
So, you give away a six-figure gift once because your heart – I’m assuming that God had me do that because He saw some things in my heart I didn’t see:
Chip, you kind of like preaching on this stuff. How you doing? Hey, bud, step up, way out of your comfort zone. “Alright, okay.”
So, what’s it worth to have people that love you, care for you, stand with you, share with you, and do life, and give you what no amount of money could ever buy, that’s what Jesus says to Peter, and – eternal life, forgiveness.
So, on the back page, I’ve written out what I think is a paraphrase of Jesus’ invitation to you and I’d like you, if you have a pen, to fill in the words because it starts with what He said to this young ruler: Come unto Me all of you who are exhausted with the weight and the burdens of life and I’ll give you rest. Wouldn’t you like rest? The pace we live at? The stuff? Take My yoke upon you and learn to follow Me. What’s a yoke? Remember, there are two oxen, and there’s that wooden thing that connects them, so if one moves this way, they have to move this way. You know what a yoke is? A yoke is saying: God, I’m going to not control my life. You turn this way, I follow. I’m going to do relationships Your way. I’m going to do life Your way. I’m going to do singleness Your way. I’m going to do finances Your way. I’m going to be yoked up and I’m going to – it’s a process – I’m going to learn, I’m going to learn to follow You – not be religious, not be legalistic, I’m going to follow You.
Why? Because: I’m gentle – and listen to this – I want what is best for every aspect of your life. This rich young ruler stayed materially rich and spiritually, emotionally, and relationally, and eternally poor. God wants better for you.