Did you know the Bible talks about money and possessions over 800 times? It’s not because God needs our money…it’s because God wants us to be free from its potentially crushing burden. Whether you feel like you have too much or too little, money can exact a powerful toll on your life. So, join us to learn how biblical principles for managing worldly wealth can set you free for the life God always intended.
We’re kicking off a new series on generosity, looking at a familiar passage in Mark 10. We’ll dive into how biblical principles can set you free when managing your worldly wealth; setting you up for the life God always intended for you. Join us for Threading the Needle!
Craig: Well, welcome to Mission Hills on all of our locations, including Church Online. I’m so glad that you’re with us today. Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to Mark chapter 10? We’re gonna jump in pretty quick. We are starting a new little kind of a mini-series here at Mission Hills. And I don’t know of any better way to sort of orient us to the theme of the series and at this passage than by looking at what Mark says about Jesus in Mark 10:17. He says this. He says, “As Jesus started on his way…” And I’m just gonna stop there. And I know it seems like we’re just barely getting going but those small words actually have a big impact in understanding what this passage is about and really understanding what this series is about.
Well, what Mark’s telling us is that Jesus is on the move, okay? That he’s going from one place to another. And that may not seem like a big deal but that’s actually something that Mark emphasizes over and over and over again in this Gospel. He kind of tells us constantly, Jesus is on the move. It’s really important because where Jesus is, that’s where all the good stuff is. Where Jesus is, that’s where salvation is. That’s where forgiveness is. That’s where joy is. That’s where hope is. That’s where peace is. All the good stuff is with Jesus. Now, because Jesus is always on the move, he’s a moving target, mobility becomes a must for us. Really, that’s what he’s saying. Jesus is always on the move so mobility is a must. We gotta stick with Jesus.
And the question then becomes, so what happens when there’s something in our lives that reduces our mobility? What happens when there’s something in our lives that keeps us from following Jesus, keeps us from sticking with Jesus? I mean, you understand that we’re called followers of Jesus for a reason, right? We’re not called standers-around with Jesus. We’re not hangers-out with Jesus. We’re followers of Jesus. And that means that we gotta be mobile enough to stick with Jesus. What happens when there’s something that’s affecting that mobility? That’s really what this passage in this series is about. Mark says, “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.” And that immediately tells that this man was desperate on some level.
You see his desperation in two things. First, he ran. Nobody in those days ran. Nobody. I mean, little children and servants. And this man is neither one of those. Nobody else ran because it was undignified. I mean, think about it. They all wore robes. There’s no way to run and look dignified in a robe. You gotta hike it up first. It’s weird. It’s awkward. Only small children, servants ran. But this man, who’s neither a small child or a servant, he ran. That means he set his dignity aside to catch up with Jesus.
And then it says, “He fell on his knees before him.” He’s also setting his dignity aside in falling on his knees before him like a servant. And what those things do is they indicate that this man is desperate on some level. He’s run hard to catch up with Jesus. He’s desperate for something he believes Jesus can give him. And the man said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And there we see what he’s desperate for. He’s desperate for eternal life. He’s desperate for the confidence that he can have, that he can inherit eternal life.
But I want you to pay attention to how he asks it. He says, “What must I do?” Let’s say it together. What must I do? He’s thinking about it in very standard religious terms. He’s thinking about it in the way that I think we all have a tendency to think about it, which is that religion says, “Eternal life is the reward for doing enough good things.” Right? Eternal life is the reward. If you do enough good things, you get eternal life. But, of course, that raises two other questions.
The first one is, what things? What are the things I have to do to inherit eternal life? And religion is great at telling you the list. Here’s the list of the things you have to do and here’s a list of things you have to not do. And you gotta check off the list. That’s how you inherit eternal life. So, religion says these are the things. Religion can answer that question.
But then the second question that religion can’t answer is the one that naturally comes. If we think that, you know, eternal life is a reward for doing enough good things, then, of course, we wanna know how much is enough, right? And religion can’t answer that question. In fact, the reality is that religion never produces confidence. I want you to hear me on that. Religion never produces confidence. It can’t.
We always wonder, “Have I made it over the goal along? How do I know if I’m in the end zone? How do I know if I stay here? How do I know? How do I know? How do I know if I’ve done enough?” And religion never produces confidence. And so Jesus deals with the man’s question not by giving him another thing to do, but by pushing in on really the root of his thinking, the root of the problem with all religion, which is that it can’t produce the confidence. And so verse 20, I’m sorry, verse 18, Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone.” And, understand, Jesus isn’t saying he’s not good. And he’s not saying he’s not God.
What he’s doing is he’s forcing the man to sort of rethink his whole perspective on goodness and what it means and where it comes from. And what he’s really basically doing is he’s challenging religious thinking. See, religious thinking says, “If I’m good enough, I get to God.” And Jesus says, “No, no, you’re thinking about this all wrong.” Goodness is not something that gets us to God. Goodness is something that we get from God. God’s the only source of goodness. So Jesus is saying goodness isn’t what gets us to God. It’s what we get from him. God is the only source of goodness. You don’t get there by being good. You get there not by a religion, but you get there by, what?
By a relationship with the one who is good. God’s not calling us to a religion. He’s calling us to a relationship. And Jesus kind of pushes in to make that point, to make the point that religion can never give you the confidence. And so he does this. He says, “Let’s talk about the do’s and the don’ts for a little bit.” And so he says, verse 19, he says, “You know the commandments, right? You know about them. Like you shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and your mother.” He says, “You know about these, right? You know about the commandments.” These are all drawn from the Ten Commandments, which is kind of the kind of compact list that the Jewish people believed that these are the list of things you do and don’t do. And if you do these, if you do enough of these, then you kind of earn your way into eternal life.
He says, “You know about them. So how are you doing? How are you doing with the doing, basically?” And the man says, “Teacher,” he declared. And I like that word. He says declared. It’s a powerful word. He says this with confidence. He doesn’t have any confidence in eternal life but he’s confident in his answer to this one. He says, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy. Yeah. I’m nailing it,” which is really interesting. There’s no reason to think he’s exaggerating. There’s no reason to think he’s speaking anything other than truth. He says, “Yeah. I’ve done it since I was a boy.”
Jewish boys were considered accountable for the Law when they turn 12. That was the age of accountability. He says, “From the moment that people began to hold me accountable.” It doesn’t mean he wasn’t before that. It just means from that moment, everybody watched. Everybody has been looking. “From that moment on, I have nailed this. I’ve checked off the boxes of do’s and the don’ts. I have nailed it. I’m confident of that,” which is really interesting because we’ve already seen that he’s not confident that he’s gonna receive eternal life. He’s nailed it from a religious perspective but that religion has never produced confidence, which is interesting to me. Religion never produces confidence.
You know what it does produce? Arrogance. Religion produces arrogance because I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I know I’m better than him. I know I’m better than her. I know I’m better than them. I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I know I’m better than those people. It produces arrogance but it never produces confidence. So what’s the alternative? If religion can’t produce confidence, what can? And the answer is a relationship, which is really the heartbeat of Jesus teaching all along. Jesus didn’t say, “Here’s the things you have to do.” What he said was, “Come follow me.”
In John 14:6, famous verse, he said, “I.” Not a thing you do. He said, “I am the way.” The way isn’t made up of series of things you do. “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He says, “No one gets to the Father except through me.” That’s relationship. It’s not religion. See, religion produces uncertainty. Only a relationship produces confidence. And the thing is that’s exactly what Jesus wants to give this guy. And I love what Mark says next.
Verse 21, “Jesus looked at him and…” Could you read that word with me? “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” not because of what he’d done, but just because he was his child. Just because. Jesus loved him. And what that says is that from Jesus’ perspective, there was a green light for the relationship that would have given this man the confidence that he was so desperate for. As far as Jesus was concerned, we can absolutely have this relationship. That may actually be the most important thing you hear in this whole series. This is not just true of this man. It’s true of you, too. It’s true of me. It’s true of all of us. God loves us.
From God’s perspective, there’s a green light. God is giving us the green light for a relationship with him. Do you hear me? We feel like, “No, I gotta clean myself up. I gotta do this. I gotta do that. I gotta earn my way.” No, no, no. None of that’s right. From God’s perspective, there’s a green light for a relationship with him, the relationship that will give us the confidence that religion never could.
The problem is that there need to be two green lights for a relationship. God’s giving us the green light. But Jesus looks at this man and he says an interesting thing. He says, “One thing you lack.” And I need to push in on the translation there a little bit because in English, this sounds a lot like Jesus is saying, “Ah, there’s one more thing you have to do.” And that’s not what Jesus is saying.
The problem is there’s really there’s no way to translate this literally from the Greek. If you translate that literally, it would sound something like, “One thing to you is lacking.” Not one thing that you lack, but one thing is like lacking you, which doesn’t make any sense. And there’s really no way to translate it.
Literally, the closest you could come in terms of capturing the thought would be, what Jesus is saying is, “One thing is holding you back.” So there’s one thing. It’s not who you are but there’s one thing that’s got its grip on you and it’s holding you back. Remember, staying close to Jesus is the key to everything. But as Mark tells us, Jesus is a moving target so mobility is a must. And he says, “There’s a problem with your mobility.” And so he looks at the man. He says this. He says, “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven and then come follow me.” Getting fun now, right?
You know, we have a tendency to focus in the first part of that. “Go sell everything,” and we get a little tense, like, “Oh, no. Please tell me this is not universal.” It’s interesting that we focus on that. And I understand why we do, but we focus on that. But that’s not really the main part here. It’s not the most important part. The most important part is those last little words. Jesus looks at the man and says, “And then come follow me.” You might actually recognize those words. We see them quite a bit in the Gospels. These are exactly the same words that Jesus used to invite those guys we call the Twelve Apostles.
I mean, check this out. If you wanna just flip back a little bit earlier in the Gospel of Mark, Mark 1:16, “As Jesus walked…” Notice that. Jesus is on the move. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake for they were fishermen. ‘Come follow me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll send you off to fish for people,'” which if we can strip away the Sunday school songs and the religious like familiarity we have with that, that’s a weird thing to say to a group of people. “Come follow me. We’re gonna catch people.” I guarantee you, one of them was thinking, “I think that’s illegal. And even if it’s not, they’re not gonna like it, right.” It’s a weird thing. They don’t really understand what that’s all about. But notice, he says, “Come follow me and I’m gonna send you out to do that.”
You know at Mission Hills, we say a lot that we exist to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission because you can’t follow Jesus without joining him on mission. They’re part of the same thing. And so, he invites them to come be with him and to join him on mission. They don’t really know what that looks like, but they know that the opportunity to be with Jesus is worth whatever the cost is. And so, at once, they left their nets and they followed him. You just flip over a page, Mark 2:14. “As he walked along…” There it is again. Jesus is on the what?
He’s on the move. He’s always on the move. “He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said. And Levi got up and followed him.” And now, Jesus uses exactly the same words to make exactly the same invitation to this man, which, I don’t know, but I think it means we could be looking at the 13th apostle right here. But we don’t have 13 apostles, do we? Why not? Verse 22, “At this, the man’s face fell. And he went away sad because he had great wealth.” Now understand, poverty is not a prerequisite for following Jesus. Poverty is not a prerequisite for following Jesus. And all God’s people went, “Oh, okay.” But this is so important, guys.
Saying yes to following Jesus requires saying no to whatever holds us back. Saying yes to following Jesus requires us to say no to whatever holds us back because Jesus is on the move so mobility is a must. And anything that’s keeping us from being mobile in following Jesus has to be dealt with. That’s why Jesus told this man, “You gotta sell everything,” because he understood that for this man, his wealth had a tremendous hold on him. That’s not surprising because the reality is that money tends to have that impact on people. I think it’s one of the reasons the Bible actually talks about money over 800 times. And the message of the Bible is very consistent. Two pieces to it.
Number one, money is a gift from God. Money is God’s gift to us. But the second part of it, the Bible says over and over again, is that it’s a dangerous gift. It has the potential to be a bad thing in our lives if we’re not very careful because it has the potential to hold us back from following the one who gave it to us. We could say it this way. Money is a dangerous gift because it has the power to hold us back from following the Giver. Money has an ability to draw our attention to itself and go, “Well, this is where my security is. This is where, you know, my significance is. This is where my hope is.” But it’s not. It’s on the one who gave it to us. But money has this power to draw our attention away from the Giver to the gift. And so the Bible says, “Money is a dangerous gift because it has this power.”
And the reality is we have to say no to whatever is holding us back from following Jesus. For this man, it was his wealth. Now, what Jesus says here is kind of extreme, right. “Sell everything.” Why so extreme? Because the more extreme something’s hold on us is, the more extreme the steps we have to take to be free.
We know it’s extreme in part because of his reaction. Mark says, “At this, the man’s face fell.” Literally, his face became darkened. It clouded over, we might say in English. It became angry almost. It’s an anger word. He has a visceral, visible reaction to this call to sell everything. And the extremity of his reaction sort of indicates the extremity of its hold on him and how much it was holding him back. Remember, Jesus said, “One thing is holding you back,” and now we know what it was. It had a strong hold on him. It often does.
Now, let me just real quick, I mean, do something pastoral to acknowledge that a whole bunch of you are thinking, “I’m good. I don’t have enough money for it to be a problem.” This is an OPP. This is another people’s problem. And I wanna say a couple things. The first one I wanna say is that, you know, we often think we don’t have all that much money. We don’t have as much as people around us because we look at the way they live their lives and we look at the people in our neighborhoods or at work or even the people we go to church with, and we’re like, “Okay. They clearly have a lot more money than we do.”
And I wanna tell you, after 25 years in pastoral ministry, a lot of people are spending a lot of money to make it look like they have a lot more money than they actually do. They’re spending money they don’t have to make it look like they have. And you’d only get caught up in the trap of going, “Well, they clearly have a bigger issue there. It’s a bigger danger in their lives because they got so much more.” That’s not always true.
The second thing I want you to understand is that it’s not really how much money we have. I’ve known people who had very little money and it had them locked tight. And I’ve known people with tremendous wealth that it had no hold on them at all. And the real issue, the real problem isn’t how much wealth we own. It’s how much our wealth owns us. And that can happen. It can get ahold of us. It can get us in an iron grip whether we have a little or a lot.
Jesus said to this man that he knew had an extreme problem with wealth, he said, “You’re gonna have to sell everything.” And what’s interesting is that, you know, when we read through the pages of the Gospel, we see a number of people who had wealth, considerable wealth. And Jesus never said that to them. We see people like Lazarus or Mary or Martha or even Zacchaeus, the wee little man. You remember Zacchaeus, the wee little man? They’re rich. They had considerable wealth. And yet we never see Jesus tell them they had to sell everything. Why don’t we see that?
Well, the answer is because we see them doing something that apparently this man wasn’t doing, and that is using their wealth to bless others. We see them being generous, we would say. We see them being generous. We see it over and over again in the Gospels. Everybody who had money but didn’t have a problem with money, we see being generous in the Scripture.
And you notice, Jesus didn’t just tell this man, “Sell everything and then come follow me.” He said, “Sell everything,” and then do what? Give to the poor. And it’s interesting, I wrestled with this as we were kind of dealing with it in the original Greek. I always kind of read that as, “Sell everything and then give everything.” And that might be what’s implied there but it’s not what’s actually said. What’s literally said is sell everything and give to the poor. It’s almost as though Jesus says, “Sell everything. You know, liquidate your assets. Get some liquid assets available and then start being generous. Start giving to the poor,” implying that that hasn’t been going on. So, whether it’s all or little, what Jesus is doing is he’s calling the man to be generous.
And here’s the important thing is that generosity is the key to having money without being held back by it. If you remember nothing else today, remember that. Generosity is the key to having money without being held back by it. And so what we need to do is we need to learn how to develop in generosity. So how do we develop in generosity? It’s pretty simple. You’re gonna wanna take everything you have. You’re gonna wanna give it to Mission Hills. So, if the ushers would come forward, we’re gonna be… No, of course not. Of course not.
But let me give you four things that the Bible teaches us about developing in generosity, four steps to it. The first one is very simple. First step is remember that money is God’s gift to us. We need to remember where it came from. We need to keep our eyes on the Giver, not the gift, okay? We need to remember that money is God’s gift to us. That’s the first step. You know, you get a paycheck. Remember who sent it to you. His name may not be on the check, but he’s absolutely the one in charge of the funds. And he’s released those funds to you and he is the one who needs to have the attention there.
The second step is to practice gratitude for what God has given. That’s one of the ways we keep our eyes on the Giver, not the gift. We thank God for the gift itself. We focus on what he has given us. See, here’s the problem. For so many people, the reason we struggle with generosity is because we start by focusing on what we don’t have rather than what we do. And when we focus on what we don’t have, guess what? It always feel like we don’t have…enough.
And if we don’t have enough, how can I possibly be generous? When we focus on what we don’t have, generosity is almost impossible. So the key is we focus on what we do, what God has given us. And it’s amazing. When we focus on what we have, it really transforms our way of thinking about what we have. It expands it.
I was driving the other day, and I saw this pickup truck. It was a man’s man pickup truck, okay? It was covered in mud and dents and stuff. And it had a bumper sticker on the back, and it was just one of the few places where the mud hadn’t covered over. And the bumper sticker you expected on a truck like this was, “Do not touch my guns,” something like that, right? But the bumper sticker in this kind of like frilly writing said, “Gratitude is what makes our stuff enough.” And I remember like, “That is truth right there.”
It’s gratitude for what we have that begins to make us feel like what we have is enough. And generosity is easy when we feel like we have enough. And so first thing is we remember that money’s a gift from God. The second thing we do is we become grateful for what God has given. Third thing we do is we develop God-honoring approaches to handling money. One of the reasons generosity is so hard for so many people and why money has such a hold on them, it’s holding them back, is because they’re not dealing with money in God-honoring ways.
One of the things we do here at Mission Hills a lot, we offer Financial Peace University. If you wanna push into this a little bit more, that’s an awesome experience. It’s a great way to begin to get a handle what the Bible teaches about dealing with money in ways that honor God. But I’m gonna give you the crash course on it right now. Bible talks about money 800 times. If we boil those down to the basic principles, here’s what the basic principles are. Give first. Save second. Live on the rest. There it is. It’s the whole thing. Can you say it with me? Give first. Save second. Live on the rest.
That’s what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that when we give first, that honors God. Giving first honors God. See, when we give second, when we give at the end of the, “Okay. Well, I needed this to live and I needed this to get the stuff I wanted. And now over here, okay, I’ll take a portion of this and give it to God,” what we’re saying to God is, “You’re pretty low down on the totem pole. You come pretty far…you know, late in the thinking.”
But when we give first, we’re honoring God. We’re recognizing, “This came from you.” We’re practicing gratitude. So giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom because the Bible’s filled with instructions, especially in the Book of Proverbs, that say, “Hey, they’re gonna be seasons where a lot comes in and seasons where not so much comes in.” But when you save second after you’ve given, when you save second, you’re putting something aside for those leaner seasons. And that’s just basic wisdom. It’s just common sense. But, of course, the problem with common sense is it ain’t so common. Giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom.
And then third, living on the rest builds contentment. Living on the rest builds contentment. You know, I’ve seen this in my own life. We made the decision several years ago to begin giving first. That whatever comes in, the first thing we do is we give to God. And the way we do that for a long time has been through our local church. Not everybody has that conviction. Personally, I do think we’re called to make our church our first place of practicing generosity. So the first thing we do is we give to our church.
The second thing we do is we set aside savings. I put it in a couple of different buckets because I got two kids that are in the college age and I got retirement I need to deal with. And we’re always having things that break and so there’s some money I set aside for that. And, honestly, at the end of that, there’s not all that much left over, but I make sure that we’re living on the rest. We’re not living beyond our means. And so we don’t use credit cards for taking vacations. We don’t use credit cards for buying things that we want. If we don’t have cash for it, we just don’t do it.
And what I’ve discovered is that when you live that way, like, honestly, I just feel so incredibly blessed financially. I don’t feel like we lack for anything even though there’s a regular season where we’re going, “Yeah, we can’t do that right now. We don’t have cash for it.” But I’m fine with that. It’ll come if God wants it to happen. But there’s a contentment. There’s a peace that comes. I’m not worrying about finances. Giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom. And living on the rest, it builds contentment. And from contentment, comes joy and peace and freedom. Freedom to move, to follow Jesus.
Then the fourth step, take the next step of generosity. As you do these other things, you begin to take the next step of generosity. And the reason I say next step is pretty simple. Nobody goes from being Ebenezer Scrooge to Bill Gates overnight. We move in that direction, the generosity that my family was able to practice now wasn’t the kind of generosity we were able to practice 10 years ago. But 10 years ago, we began to go, “Okay. What’s my next step?” And so I wanna kind of walk you through next steps and what that might look like in your life.
Now, let me just put all my cards on the table. Be very upfront and honest. I’m gonna use the example of giving to Mission Hills. Now, if you don’t attend to Mission Hills regularly, if this is not your church, don’t give to Mission Hills. I really wanna encourage you to practice your generosity with your home church, the church where you fellowship. That’s where you should be giving.
But I also wanna acknowledge that when I talk about giving to Mission Hills, there’s a bunch of people going, “Uh-huh, that’s what I was waiting for. I knew it was coming.” Yeah, here it is. I’m not gonna be apologetic about it. But I also wanna recognize that for a lot of people, the idea of giving to a church is difficult because you don’t trust the church. You don’t trust organized religion. You don’t trust many organizations at all. And what I wanna say to you is if you don’t trust Mission Hills, then don’t practice your generosity here. But practice it somewhere. I want you to hear me on that.
If you don’t trust Mission Hills, if this doesn’t seem like the place where you’re comfortable practicing generosity, then don’t practice it here. But practice it somewhere because what I’m gonna tell you is intended for your benefit. It’s intended to be for your good. Money has a tremendous power to grab a hold of us and to keep us from being mobile. But mobility is a must when it comes to following Jesus. So, if don’t wanna practice it here, practice it somewhere. But if you do wanna practice your generosity at Mission Hills, let me just tell you a couple things that I…you probably know these but maybe not. And so, I just wanna be really clear about it. The number one, my salary is not tied to your giving. We don’t take a percentage of your giving and that’s what I get that month. That’s not how it works, okay? I have a set salary.
Second, we’re members of the ECFA. That is the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. It’s an outside independent organization that audits our books and our financial processes every year to make sure we’re doing what we say we’re doing and that what we’re doing is in line with biblical principles. So we’re in good standing with them. Number three, we take 15% off the top of every single dollar that comes then it immediately goes to just pure outreach, blessing people that have nothing really to do with Mission Hills. The Bible does not command that. We just think it’s a good practice and so that’s what we do. Fifteen percent of every dollar goes directly to outreach. A lot more goes to that because all of our ministers are constantly looking to bless others and to do outreach. But 15% is just right off the top for that.
And the last thing I’d say is just this, that we do practice financial transparency. If you have any questions about our budget, our practices, or any of that, we’re happy to give you all of the numbers. There are a lot of numbers involved. We can drown you in numbers. We’re happy to do that. If you want it, you just call the church or send us an email. We’ll put it in your hands. We used to put it on the website. The problem is when you put it on the website, weird people do weird things. The Internet’s full of weird people. There was weird scamming and trolling stuff that was happening. And so we pulled it off there, not because we wanted to not be transparent but just because it was just getting strange. But we practice financial transparency.
Let me just mention this real quick. My daughter actually, my oldest daughter, was applying for an internship with a church. And I’m not gonna name the church. It’s not in Colorado though. And one of the first red flags about this church was that before she went too far in the interview process, they said, “Well, you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement saying that you will not discuss the church finances with anybody outside of the church staff.” And we went, “No. No, there’s something not healthy there. That’s not how we do it.” Financial transparency. So, hopefully, maybe that gives you some confidence.
So here’s what I wanna say. If you’re looking to take the next step of generosity, especially at your local church or at Mission Hills, here’s what I wanna suggest that you do. The first thing is you go, “Okay. Well, if I’m not giving anything, I need to start giving something regular.” That’s my next step. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something regular. Maybe it’s $5 a week. Maybe it’s $10 a week. You know, we spend $10 a day on coffee pretty easily.
What if you just started giving $10 a week to Mission Hills? What I’ll tell you is that I can…you know, the number of people who attend here and call this home who don’t give anything, and there’s no guilt involved in that, what I’m saying, if those people just started giving $10 a week, the amount of good that we could begin to do for people here and around the world would be staggering. Ten dollars a week could make a tremendous difference if everybody started doing it. So if you’re not giving something, start giving something regular. Whatever God leads, $5, $10, $20, whatever.
If you’re already giving something regular, then your next step is to start giving a percentage. What percentage? Well, may be its 1% or it’s 2%. The national average for committed Christians for regular church attenders is 2.5% of their income. So if you wanna be average… If you’re giving something regular, then start giving a percentage, however God leads you on that. If you’re giving something, if you’re giving a percentage, then your next step will be to start giving a tithe. A tithe is a biblical word meaning 10%. In the Old Testament, 10% was what God required of his people. That command’s not repeated in the New Testament. We don’t know if it’s necessarily required. But it’s a really good model to be thinking of. It’s a great way to honor God.
And one thing that’s interesting about the word tithe is it shows up in an interesting place. I’d honestly forgotten this verse, but I share the message on Tuesday afternoons with our service planning team. And as we were kind of talking over it, Justin Adams, our worship leader, reminded me of a verse in Malachi where the word tithe shows up. And I want you to hear this verse. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe,” the whole 10%, “into the storehouse that there may be food in my house,” in the temple. “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
That’s an interesting verse because, you know, there’s a whole bunch of times in the Bible where God says, “Do not test me.” One time, he says, “Test me.” This is the only time he says, “Test me with your tithe. Test me with 10%.” And he says, “And see if I don’t throw open the floodgates of Heaven.” Now, the Bible scholar may want to say, “Well, that was a promise given to the nation of Israel, not necessarily the church and not necessarily individuals.” But at the same time, I also have to go that the nation of Israel is made up of the Israelites, the individuals who made up that nation. And so I do think there’s probably a principle here that applies to individuals as well as to the nation of Israel. And as we were sharing this on Tuesday, Justin Adams, he brought up that verse, reminded us of it. And he said, “You know, a few years ago, we didn’t really feel like we had enough money, but God was calling us to that. And so we said, okay, we’re gonna start giving 10%.
He said, “The most amazing thing happened. Once we started giving 10%, it seemed like we always had enough whereas before we never did. And every time some new expense came up, it always seemed like there was plenty of money for it.” He was like, “It was the weirdest thing.” And then one by one, it was the coolest thing, one by one, everybody on the service team began to go, “Yeah. We actually had exactly the same experience. My husband and I did this two years ago. We did it seven years ago.” And it just seems that it’s always there. And I’ve had exactly the same experience in my life. We began to do this years ago when, honestly, most months I wasn’t quite sure how we were gonna pay the mortgage. But we just said we’re gonna honor God first by giving a tithe and we’ve always had what we need since then. Sometimes that’s because God has brought generous people in their lives to help out. But he’s always provided.
And so if you’re giving a percentage, maybe the next step for you is to start giving a tithe, to start testing God with your tithe. Now, if you’re already tithing, good news. You’re off the hook. Anybody believe that? Now, if you’re already giving a tithe, what I wanna encourage you to do is to start practicing what I call Spirit-led sacrificial giving. And I’ll tell you what that looks like in my life. We’ve been doing this for a number of years. It means that the first thing we do is we honor God by giving first with our tithe to the local church. And so everything that comes in, we move the decimal point one place to the left. And that’s the amount that we give. That’s 10%. And so we give that immediately to our local church. That goes immediately to Mission Hills right now. Well, then beyond that, we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us about other ways that we could use the money he’s entrusted to us to be a blessing to others.
And so we have a number of missionaries we support on a monthly basis. We have some nonprofits. We have two Compassion children we support. I say two. It’s two right now. Compassion just invited me to come down to Peru in May with them. I’ll probably come back with a third Compassion child. I don’t know how that’s not gonna happen. But we pray about how else God might call us to use our…sometimes that means there’s special things at Mission Hills we do. But very often, it means the things outside of the church that we do, and so 10% to the church and then, you know, as the Spirit leads, to other ways that are advancing the Kingdom. And so, if you’re already giving a tithe, then, you know, maybe the next step is Spirit-led sacrificial giving.
But the question really is, what’s the next step? Let’s just get really practical for a second. If you go, “How am I supposed to do that? How do I give?” because if you’re like me, I don’t have cash. I never carry cash. Anybody else? I haven’t even seen a checkbook in years. So how do you give in the plates? You know, we pass the plates every week. And like, how do you do it. Let’s just be really practical. We pop up that slide there. I give almost everything through missionhills.org. I go to missionhills.org/give and that’s how I do the giving. I actually set it up as a recurring giving so I don’t even have to worry about missing it. But we also have the opportunity through the Mission Hills Church app, you can do it. Or if you wanna grab your phones… Well, let’s just go ahead and do it. Let’s all take a next step right now, one little next step.
Take your phones. Go ahead and open your phones and go to your texting app. You’re gonna text to 28950. Now, when you go there, you need to put in a category. And here’s the category I wanna suggest that maybe just…let’s practice this together just today. It’s MHC Care. So if you just type MHC Care. That is a special fund that we use. One hundred percent of the money goes to people who are in poverty here in our area. It doesn’t pay for church staffs. It doesn’t keep the lights on. It doesn’t do anything except help people who are in need in our immediate community, okay? One hundred percent of it goes there so it’s a great place to begin practicing generosity. Type MHC Care and then you put in a number. I’m not gonna tell you what my number is. I had to do this four times this weekend. And you hit send and bam. “Thank you, your donation has been submitted.” I love for you to do that. Contribute to that MHC Care. It’s just a simple practice to begin practicing generosity or to use those to begin practicing generosity or take your next step of generosity. Why? Because Jesus is always on the move. So mobility is a what?
It’s a must. And money has the ability to hold us back and so we don’t wanna let it do that. So let me ask you three questions just to wrestle with. Question number one is what is or has the potential to hold me back from following Jesus? We’ve talked a lot about money today. And there’s a good reason for that. The Bible talks a lot about it. Certainly, it’s in this passage. But it might be that money’s not what holds you back. It might be a relationship. It might be a career. It might be a dream or an expectation. It might be a sin you’re holding on to. It might be a possession. But what is it that’s holding you back or could hold you back from following Jesus? Identify that thing.
And then the second question is what’s God calling me to do to be free from its power in my life? What’s God calling me to do to be free from its power in my life? If it’s money, then the third question is the most significant, which is what’s the next step of generosity that God is calling me to take so that money isn’t what holds me back? Would you pray with me? God, I just wanna thank you for the green light for a relationship with you. That’s awesome. I wanna thank you that we can have confidence because of that relationship. But, Lord, we know that our Savior is always in the move so mobility must. And so, Lord, would you just speak to us. Show each one of my brothers and sisters the things that are potentially holding them back from being able to have the mobility that’s a must, keeping them from being able to follow you with their whole hearts. Lord, if that is money, would you just give them the courage to take their next step of generosity so that they can peel the fingers of wealth off of their hearts and their souls and be free to follow you with all that they are. If it’s something else, Lord, make that clear as well. And give them the courage to do whatever is necessary to be free from its power.
And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for the people around you, people watching online? There’s thousands of people watching online from all over the world. And I believe that in this place and in those places where they’re hearing this, there are some people, they didn’t hear anything about money here. This is not about money for them. What caught their attention, what caught your attention was that conversation about religion versus relationship. And I think many people have experienced the lack of confidence that comes from religion. You know that you’re not good enough and you’re so worn out and you’re so tired of trying to get to that point. But you heard today that there’s a green light from God’s perspective for a relationship with you, that God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you, to pay the penalty of all the wrong that you’ve ever done, of all the goodness you weren’t able to achieve. He paid it all off with his own death. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that the payment had been accepted. And he’s offering you new life. He’s offering you forgiveness. He’s offering you a relationship that leads to eternal life and a confidence in your acceptance.
And if what you need today is that relationship, and if you’re ready to say yes to Jesus, to accept his sacrifice, to put your faith in him to begin that relationship, if you’re ready to do that, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. It’s fantastic. If you’re watching online, I just want you to click the button right below me. And wherever you are, in your heart you just say this to God. It’s so easy. Hey, God, thank you for loving me. I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve a relationship with you, but I want it. Jesus, thank you for going to the cross in my place. Jesus, thank you for rising from the dead. I believe you rose from the dead. And I know that you’re offering me forgiveness, a new life, a relationship with you. So right now I’m saying yes. Yes to you, Jesus. I put my trust in you. I’m yours from now and forever. Amen.
We had a number of people here and online who made the decision to say yes to Jesus. Can we just welcome them to the family of God? That’s so exciting. We love that so much. I’m gonna ask you to do something. You maybe already have your phone out. I want you to text Jesus to 888… You’re not gonna text Jesus. You’re texting the word Jesus, okay? Jesus is not on the other end of that. You’re gonna text the word Jesus to 888111. You’re gonna get a one-time link back to give you access to some free stuff we wanna put in your hands to help you begin this relationship and move forward in this relationship that you have. Not a religion, but a relationship. So text the word Jesus to 888111. If you made that decision, we’d love to come alongside you. God bless. We’ll see you next week.
The Impossible Made Possible
What does God say about prosperity? In this week’s message we look into what the Bible says about wealth through teachable moments with Jesus. If you have options in your choices, you are rich; but how should you manage those resources?
Mike Romberger: Well, it is great to be back. I had the privilege to be here just a few months ago and then Craig said, “Hey, I’m going on vacation. Would you like to come back again?” And I said, “Love to.” And Craig interviewed me a few weeks ago on his podcast on preaching called “Clarity,” which is a great title about preaching. And he introduced me on the podcast, as he and I having unusual relationship is the way he put it. And meaning we have a really good relationship. And that’s not always the case from the previous pastor and the present pastor, I mentioned that before to you, but what a joy it is to have that relationship with him. And I’m so grateful for that. And I tell you, I watch Craig from time to time preach, and you are well taught here, from God’s Word, and from a man of integrity and godliness. And I love that in fact he hops into tough issues and tough things to talk about, like the subject of this three-week series that he started last week on the subject of money.
When I used to pastor here, but I pastored in Southern California for 10 years before coming here. And in those 10 years, I never once preached on money, never once. Because I heard how offensive it is to people and how, you know, people come and they won’t come back if you preach on money. So I stayed away from the subject and because I didn’t wanna offend anybody. And then I came here and I decided to start to offend people, I guess. But I got convicted by the fact that it’s in the Bible a lot, the subject of money, but I wasn’t preaching on it. And so I began to preach on it here and begin to actually see how important is to, to look at God’s Word what God has to say about money. And it’s in here a lot in the Bible, because it’s important to us. We think about money a lot and God has a lot to say in it, and so we should align those things together. So I’m grateful that Craig wants to tackle this subject.
And I love the old story of the man who called the church office, and he asked the lady who answered the phone and said to her, “Can I talk to the head hog of the trough?” She said, “Excuse me, sir.” He said, “I’d like to talk to the head hog of the trough.” And she said, “Well, sir, if you’re referring to our senior pastor, I think you need to be a little bit more respectful.” And he said, “Well, I’m calling because I wanna give a donation of $100,000. I wonder if I could talk to him.” And she looked up and she said, “Oh, it’s your lucky day. I see that fat pig walking in right now.”
Oh, my. Well, take your Bibles if you would and turn them to the Gospel of Mark 10. Mark 10, page 822, and the Bible’s there in front of you if you need that. And we’ll be looking at a story that Craig started last week that’s also found in Matthew 19, and Luke 18. So it’s in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which shows the importance of the story and the prominence of this story. And I want to start to read where Craig taught from last week, just to give us a little bit of reminder and background of that and then we’ll move forward from there. So Mark, 10:17. As Jesus started on his way, a man came 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, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall 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. The story is known as the rich young ruler. If you look at all three accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke, you will find out with the culmination of those three stories, that he indeed was rich, that he indeed was young, that he also was a ruler. We don’t know exactly what kind of a ruler he was. There’s people who have different ideas of that, scholars have different ideas, but we know he was rich and he was young and a ruler. Think of the culmination of those three descriptions, those three words, you can think of a potential disaster, right? Just think of rich and young together. Sometimes that can feel like, do they have the wisdom to deal with their riches? And then you add on top of that, being a ruler, rich, young ruler, tremendous challenge for a young person to have riches and to be a ruler and that’s what this guy is. And we know about him and what Craig shared last week is that he was eager and sincere. He ran and fell on his knees before Jesus wanting to be in front of Jesus. We learned that he was seeking eternity.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked Jesus. The greatest question you could ever ask Jesus, what can I do to inherit eternal life? We learned in this beautiful phrase that he was loved by Jesus, where it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. But then we also learned that he was deeply disappointed by Jesus’ response to him, where Jesus said, “Sell all of your possessions and give to the poor and come follow me.” And it says that his face fell, or as the other translations say, he was crestfallen or sorrowful or grieving. And it wasn’t, as Craig mentioned, it wasn’t that it was so much Jesus demanding that of all people, that if you’re gonna follow Jesus, you’re gonna sell your possessions and give it all to the poor, and come follow him, but it was what was being first in his life and Jesus is saying, take what’s first in your life and put me as first in your life and to do that for you, you’re going to have to sell your stuff and then come follow me, and he was unwilling to do that because it says he had much.
So as soon as that encounter is over, Jesus now turns to his disciples. And he uses this encounter as a teachable moment to them at that time. It’s also a teachable moment to us, as well, on this day, through God’s Word. So being a teachable moment, let’s be teachable and to be open what the Bible has to say about this, what Jesus instructs his disciples about and to be willing to do accordingly. So, I’m gonna ask for us to pray and to open up our hearts to what the Lord would have for us today. Then teaching from his word, so let’s pray.
Dear Lord God, we come before you right now, talking about a subject that can be difficult to address. But so important to address because you’ve addressed it and it’s an area in our life that certainly matters a lot. And so, Lord, I pray as we come to this time that we would open our hearts to you. Open our hearts to your teaching, to your words, to your instruction. And that we would comply, we would follow, we would be a bit different when we leave, and you would be more in first place. So, Lord, do what only you can do at a time like this within our lives. Mold us, shape us, confront us, comfort us, whatever we need, Lord. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
So let’s keep going in this story. Let’s get to verse 23 now, and we’ll get through verse 27. Then we’ll go back and do it piece by piece to understand what Jesus is teaching here. So, Jesus, verse 23, and looked around and said to his disciples, right after this encounter with the rich young ruler, he turns to his disciples and he says, “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,” talking about the rich. “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.” 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.” The disciples were amazed, verse 24, that Jesus said it was hard for the rich to get to Heaven. Why were they so amazed?
Well, there’s a belief in that day that if you were wealthy, if you were rich is because God’s hand of blessing was upon you. God’s favor rested upon you. That’s why you’re wealthy. That why you’re rich. So ,if Jesus is saying, it’s very hard for the rich to inherit eternal life, that’s confusing to them. That’s amazing to them. What does this teach you? And if the rich can’t get in who are the blessed of God, what does that mean for the rest of us? So, they were amazed by this teaching. Why would Jesus say this? Why would he say it’s hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Let’s go back and look at verse 23, 24. First, let me give this explanation and this definition that I’ve been giving for years and years about riches and wealth. This is something that I heard I don’t even know where now, so long ago, but it has shaped me when it comes to the idea of riches. And that is this, that you are rich if you have options. You are rich if you have options, let me explain.
After the service, you can choose if you want, most of you, do we go to Applebee’s? Do we go to Chili’s? Do we go to Freddie’s? You know, where do we go to get a bite to eat? You can choose if you want. Do I buy a Toyota? Do I buy a Nissan? Do I buy a Ford? Do I buy a Chevy? What should I buy for a car? You can choose. Do I buy a dress or do I buy this particular kind of have an outfit at the store? You can choose. Do I go to Disney World for a vacation or do I go to Scottsdale, Arizona and go to spring training? Where I flew from yesterday to come here. And six days, six games, yes, I am still a Rockies fan. Yes, this is maybe the year. I’ll believe it when I see it. I still believe that there’s nothing positive and the Bible said about a giant just so you know, even though I live in Giants territory now and we have an option, we had an option where do we go on vacation, and we chose to go to Scottsdale. You have an option of where you live. Do I live in a two-bedroom house, a three-bedroom house, a four-bedroom house, a condominium, an apartment? Options.
Now, in our culture and in this particular area of, you know, the world, that’s normal for us to have options. But for the majority of the world, the rich are the ones that have the options. For the most part, if you look at a worldwide context, we are the rich of the world. You’re rich if you have options. So let’s go back and let’s look in greater detail at verses 23 and 24. Jesus looked around and he 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,” referring to them with affection. “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God” talking about the rich. Why? Why is it so hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Well, let me give us three barriers that the rich have that the poor don’t have in the same way. First of all, there’s the barrier of wrong pursuits. What they chase after, what the rich chase after. Proverbs 23:4-5 says this. Do not wear yourself out to get rich. Do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches and they are gone. For they will surely sprout like wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
Gone. Don’t wear yourself out to get rich and trust in your own cleverness to be rich. Wrong pursuits. Solomon, the richest man in the world in his day, wrote this in Ecclesiastes 5:10. That book he writes basically about the meaning of life. And he writes, whoever loves money never has enough. Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income, never satisfied. If they love money, wrong pursuits. What they chase after, there’s never quite enough, there’s always the next acquisition. There’s always the next thing to purchase. There’s the next road to conquer. And that pursuit becomes primary and first. That’s the problem, not the money. Barrier number two for the rich, personal pride. Personal pride, what they believe they’ve accomplished. Let’s face it, a lot of people who are wealthy have worked incredibly hard. They are highly educated often. They are people who have tremendous minds, many are great entrepreneurs. Some of them just have a different gear inside of them. And so it’s possible because of that, to have pride. Look what I have done, look what I have accomplished, what I have achieved by my hard work and my ingenuity.
And the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:17-18, to Timothy, who’s a young pastor, he’s teaching him how to pastor and he tells him this, he says, “Command those who are rich in this present world, not to be arrogant, or to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. Teach them, Timothy not to be arrogant and full of themselves, but instead use their money to do good to other people. Teach them that, not to put their hope in their money, but in God. Not to be full of pride, but to be humble and give their money away.” Barrier number three, misplaced priorities. Misplaced priorities, what they place first in their lives. Jesus said in Luke 16:13. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. You can’t serve them both. So be careful about loving money, having arrogance toward money, and serving money, serving money. You can’t have two masters. The Lord can’t be your Master and money can’t be your master at the same time, it doesn’t work that way.
Talking about priorities, misplaced priorities. And these barriers are preventing the wealthy from entering Heaven. Wrong pursuits, personal pride, misplaced priorities. And the poor often don’t have those same types of issues, although everybody has their own kinds of issues. Let me ask you this. You don’t have to raise your hand. But if you ever wanted to be in U.S. standards, U.S. standards, really rich. I mean, let me explain what I mean by that. Like, I never have to worry about my retirement account because it’s more money than I could ever spend. We have two kids in college right now. To be rich, you know, to just write that and don’t worry about it. It’s taken care of, to drive whatever you want to drive. To go wherever you want to go on vacation. To have multiple houses. To have one in Maui and to have one in the mountains here, and to live in the neighborhood you want here. Just to have wealth and riches, not to worry about all of those things.
So, I know a number of wealthy people. In fact, I’ve gotten to know a lot more in the last few years because one of my jobs at the camp that I lead is to raise money. I wanna tell you something that I’ve learned about the extremely wealthy. Be careful what you wish for. The complexities of their life, the amount of responsibility that they have, the lawyers and the lawsuits, and the personnel that they are over and the multiple things that they have to oversee to have that wealth can be almost crippling. My guess is sometimes they drive down the street and they see somebody who doesn’t have all of that stuff, and they actually envy them. Because they don’t care about all that stuff. With the stuff comes the burden. Be careful what you envy along the way. Although I have envied the rich, and there are days when I think how nice that would be.
I wanna take almost like a parenthesis here and I wanna share with you some principles that have been from the Scriptures, I hope, and have been extremely helpful in Jane and my 31 years of married life together. Four principles that literally we started out of the chute with from day one, and they have proven still to this day to be principles that guide us and help us and we believe that they work and we believe they work because they’re biblical. So principle number one is that, we’ve said all we have belongs to God. All we have belongs to God. We are stewards of what he’s given to us. Stewards of our time, stewards of our physical bodies, stewards of our gifting that he’s given to us, stewards of our children, stewards of ministry that we’re a part of, and our free time as stewards, of our resources and our money. We’re stewards of what God has given to us. And this is where it all starts. If you don’t get this, the rest of it doesn’t work. All the principles in the Bible do not work if you think that God just gets a little bit and you get everything else. Everything of mine belongs to God. When I gave my life to Christ, I gave my life to Christ, not just a portion. And so all we have belongs to God. If that’s first, the rest of the stuff just follows in nicely.
Principle number two, God is first. So, everything we have belongs to God, but God is first with our priorities financially. Meaning that the way that we have done it, the way that we have chosen to see how the Bible deals with this is that we give a tithe, a 10% of everything that is made, goes first and foremost, to the Lord and to the church. That’s where we start. That’s the foundation point. There’s a concept in the Bible called first fruits. First fruits, means God gets first. So that means before taxes is taken out, the 10% is given. He’s first and our priority. And then after that, we give additionally to missionaries, and the organizations that help the poor, and other things that touch our hearts, that’s additional. So tithes and offerings, starts at 10% and goes up from there. God is first with our priorities. Now, you say, I could never get there. There’s no way. That would totally disrupt financially. There’s no way I could get there.
Well, maybe not how you do it presently, and maybe you need to incrementally work your way to that point. But you can do that, because we were able to do it and we didn’t have a whole lot of money, again that was the priority from day one in our marriage. So maybe you need to change living, how you’re living. Like should maybe change where you go on vacation, changing what you’re wearing, maybe changing what you’re driving. So yesterday when I got here to DIA, I got in a long line and finally got to where I could go out and get a car and the lady says to me, “Hey, would you like to be upgraded for free to an SUV?” I’m like, “Sure. that would be great.” She said, “How about this one?” And it said Cadillac on it. I’ve never driven a Cadillac in my life. I guess maybe I’m not old enough. I don’t know. Excuse me, but I’ve never driven one before. And my car back, you know, it’s a 2007. This thing has all the bells and whistles, even some bells and whistles I didn’t know existed on cars. Last night my daughter’s in the car and they’re like, look at this, look at that, you know, look at the car. And I get now more why some of you drive some of these cars, okay? I get it. And I want one, but maybe you need to not be driving what you’re driving, or maybe not even living where you’re living. To make God first in your priorities.
Principal number three, this is a good one. This will be extremely helpful and it’s gonna blow you away. Ready? Spend less than we make. Spend less than we make. That’s been a principle for us from day one that we spend less than we make. That has helped us a lot in our marriage, in our home life. It has helped us in the church world, it has helped us now in the camp world, spend less than we make. So, Jane and I early on came up with what we call the 24-hour rule. When we begin to think of a purchase of something that is outside of what’s normal, more expensive than normal, we decided we will wait 24 hours to purchase it and then we can use that 24 hours to talk and to pray before we would purchase it. We have saved thousands and thousands of dollars with the 24-hour rule. I’m telling you, like thousands of dollars over the years.
You know sales people are very skilled. They will say things to you like, “If you buy today, you get 15% off. But tomorrow that won’t be here.” Baloney, baloney for most of the sales, right? So, let me give you an example. We were first married, first year we had a bed in our bedroom that was used and it was, like, really used. The middle of it kind of did this and so one day we weren’t even planning on furniture shopping, we were just at a mall and we saw a furniture store in the mall, so we said, let’s go into the furniture store. Then we begin to see these bedroom sets. A bed and matching dresser, and matching nightstands, and a very skilled salesman came over and began to show us how we can make this work and the layaway plan. “You don’t have to pay anything for six months” and blah, blah, blah and all this stuff. And we were, like, pretty close to sign on the dotted line, and one of us, I don’t remember which, but I give Jane credit because she’s better at finances than I am and she probably said, “Wait, wait, hold on. We have a 24-hour rule. Let’s just walk out and we’ll pray about it. We’ll come back tomorrow.” We said, “We’ll probably see you tomorrow.” Leave the place. Literally, I kid you not, we walked maybe two stores and we looked at each other and said, “What in the world are we thinking? We don’t have the money to buy that.” And we never went back to that store.
We have saved ourselves thousands of dollars over the years. We still don’t have nightstands, 31 years later, it’s true. We have little made up things, but spend less than we make. Number four, principle number four. This came a little bit later on in our marriage, not right at the beginning, give to where we see God working and where he’s touched our lives. It was in 1997, summertime, we were at a camp called Mount Hermon where I now get to work and lead and and we were listening to a speaker that summer called, his name is Bruce Wilkinson. He was the head of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries at the time. And he taught on generosity and in there he said this, he said, “Give your money to where you see God working and where he’s touched your own life. And that changed some things for us in our giving priorities. It’s always tricky to talk about these things when you’re the pastor. I’m really pleased to talk to you about these things today not being your pastor. Seriously. Because I would always be afraid that people would think it’s manipulative.
Craig has not asked me to say any of these things. The rest of the staff has, but Craig has not. No, they have not. Nobody has asked me to say any of these things. I wanted to share this from my heart to you. If this is your church, and this is where God touches your life, and I listen to Craig a lot, you are getting taught God’s Word well here. People’s lives are being changed here. People are going to be in eternity because of what’s taking place throughout the ministries of Mission Hills. If your life is being touched here, and you’re seeing God work here, you should be faithfully supporting what God is doing here. To give generously and sacrificially. Because God has given you the resources to make him first priority, and make sure the church is going strong. This place just can’t go on its own. It has staff, it has buildings, it has, you know, all those kind of things that go with this. And what was interesting is that we gave regularly and faithfully and I would say generously to Mission Hills when I was staffed here. I remember telling somebody once, not amounts, but just that we did that. And this guy says to me, he says, “Yeah, but that’s like, putting money into your own pocket. Because you get paid by the church.” And I said, “No, no, that’s not how we see it at all. We’re giving to the Lord’s work. This is his place.” And we do the same now that I’m not a pastor, the church we go to now.
It’s like, this is where God is working. This is where he’s touching our lives. We want to support this and support it with all of our heart and from our resources. So, I say to you, if this is your church home, and your life has been touched, and you’re seeing the other lives touched, give generously and sacrificially to this place.
So, let’s keep going on with this story, verse 25, very popular story. Name of this series comes from this verse. Verse 25, “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.” Let me say that again. “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.” Now there’s a popular idea out there that what Jesus was referring to is that there was supposedly a gate in the city of Jerusalem that was known as the Needle Gate, and it was a small narrow gate, and camels that were used to transport, you know, goods and things couldn’t fit through with all of the bags on their sides and things, so they took the bags off at the Needle Gate, kind of shoved the camel through, put the bags back on and keep going on their journey.
Maybe. But there’s a lot of biblical commentators who don’t think that’s the case and one of those that’s been helpful to me is Philip Ryken, who’s the president of Wheaton College. Dr. Ryken says, “They’ve said that there was a gate in Jerusalem called the Needle Gate, it was said that it was too small for camels and therefore, a trader using the gate had to unload his animal before entering. This is an interesting suggestion, but the trouble is that there was no evidence to support this. Besides, they are really missing the point,” he said. Okay, so what’s the point? What does Jesus trying to say here? Jesus is pointing on what’s impossible. It’s impossible for a big, huge animal to go through the eye of a needle. Philip Ryken goes on and says this. “Jesus wanted to show how hard it is for rich people to get saved. Humanly speaking, it is impossible. So, Jesus took the biggest animal that anyone had ever seen in those parts and imagine trying to stuff it through the eye of a needle like this.”
He’s trying to show what’s impossible. And this comment blows the disciples away. First, Jesus says it’s hard for the rich to be saved and they are amazed by this, verse 24. And after Jesus says about the camel and the needle it says, verse 26, they’re even more amazed. Verse 26, the disciples were even more amazed and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” If it’s impossible for the rich, who are the blessed of God, they thought, the favored ones of God, if they can’t get saved, if it’s impossible for them, who then can be saved? Verse 27, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God. All things are possible with God” or Eugene Peterson and the message puts it. No chance at all. If you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it. See, the problem is the rich, us, have learned to become dependent upon ourselves, right? We’ve learned how to do that.
We have enough money in the bank. We have enough resources, we got medical insurance, we can handle our mortgage or rent. It’s tight. Things have gotten tougher as these last few years have gone on for sure, financially, but we found a way to be dependent upon ourselves. That’s okay, financially, as long as your ultimate dependence is upon the Lord. What happens is we shift that and we put our own resources and our own abilities as what we rest on and we put God back here. It needs to be the other way around. It’s impossible to get to eternal life on our own. It’s impossible. It’s impossible to earn it. It’s impossible to buy it. This guy had a lot of money, he comes to Jesus, he says, “Hey, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And maybe he’s thinking, “I can write a check. Or if I do just some good things, I’m in.” And Jesus says, “No, no, you need to make me first and your other stuff secondary.” And he says, “I’m not willing to do that. I got way too much stuff that I wanna be first.
So that’s why it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast.” You can’t boast, you can’t buy it, you can’t earn it. It’s impossible for you to obtain eternal life, unless you put Jesus first. If that’s not the case, why did God send Jesus to this earth? Why bother? That’s why it says in John 3:16, Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but, have eternal life.” God said Jesus in the world, that if we believe in him, we would not perish, but have eternal life through him. A human being cannot do this, but God does it. It’s possible through God, impossible without him. So, God makes the impossible made possible. The impossible made possible.
That’s why Jesus looked at them and he said, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.” So, it’s easy for those of us who are rich in this world to be chasing after that which should be secondary, that we are depending on, that which we should not be depending upon that we serve, that which we should not be serving. And somehow, we think by what we do, we’re going to inherit eternal life. And Jesus teaches them. That’s not how it happens. You make me first. You submit yourself to me and I become king of your life. It might not be money. It might be something else in your life. It might be a relationship in your life, it might be an ambition in your life, it might be some kind of pursuit in your life that isn’t money-driven, but it is something that is in place of Jesus is number one in your life. And what he says to you is, I need to be first. Maybe some of you are in this room and you made a decision a long time ago to bring Jesus into your life and you are a follower of him, that’s for sure. But truth be told, he’s back to second place. Maybe third, and the other pursuits that you have maybe including money, you know, outweighed that.
I mean, when you wake up in the morning, what drives you to do your day? Is it the Lord or is other stuff? So, I wanna give us an opportunity to spend some time do some business with the Lord before we close today. Let’s not just talk about this, let’s do something with it. So I want you to just to have a time of prayer, I want you to go ahead and just so you’re not distracted, go ahead and close your eyes, not in any mystical weird way, but just so it’s between you and God right now. If you realize that you have never in your life ever placed Jesus as first, you’ve never given your life to him, and you’re pursuing things that are not what you should be pursuing as first, I invite you to pray this prayer with me if you wanna accept the Lord Jesus as the one in charge of your life, the Lord of your life, the first priority in your life and to follow him. To inherit eternal life. Pray this prayer with me.
Dear Lord God, you know better than anyone about my pursuits, about my pride, about what I serve. And Lord, I ask that you would forgive me for those sins, where I’ve placed myself first, my ambitions first before the Lord. Please forgive me. Wipe me clean and make me new. I place Jesus now as the one in charge of my life, to follow, to serve, that my ambition will be first and foremost to please him. I accept your gift of eternal life that comes through Jesus and through him alone. If you just prayed that prayer, I ask you today to tell someone that you know that that would be meaningful to tell. Tell them today that you prayed that prayer. The prayer that when meant from your heart brings you eternal life. Maybe you are here in this room and you’ve made that commitment in the past, but you know right now in your life, that the Lord Jesus is not first. So, pray this prayer with me if you want to change that.
Dear Lord God, thank you for saving me. Thank you for your gift of eternal life that I did not earn as a gift from you. Lord, you know more than anybody else, how things are backwards right now in my life as far as priorities and I place you first. I place Jesus Christ as first in my life, my ambition, my pursuit, the one that I serve, above all else. Thank you, Lord. Lord, I believe you love prayers like this, maybe more than any other kind of prayer, seeking after you and placing you first. Lord, we love you. It’s a privilege to serve you and to be a part of your family. Thank you for loving us and reaching out to us. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
Jesus has said that eternal life comes from being with him…from following him, having a relationship with him. He’s said that money can make it very hard to follow him but that money doesn’t have to exercise this kind of power in our lives if we are with God. So the question is, “are we with God?”
And that’s exactly what the disciples ask Jesus next.
Craig: Well, yeah. Welcome to Mission Hills. I want to do a special shout out to some people that I know are joining us from some different parts of the world. So, this will be a special shout out to everybody who’s over at our Dove Valley Campus. We love our Dove Valley Campus, welcome to you guys. Also, we have a family… The Boyd family that we have figured out they join us every single weekend from the Philippines, and we think that’s really cool. So well, let’s just all yell, “Hey, Boyds.”, One, two, three, “Hey, Boyds.” We love you guys, so glad you’re joining us. And then now, also we have a whole bunch of our friends, Pastor Mike who attends our Littleton campus. Pastor Mike actually shares the stream of our service with a whole bunch of our friends at the Sousse Church in Tunisia every single week, which is super cool. So we’re in, on three we’re all going to yell, “aaslama.” That’s how we say hello in a Tunisian Arabic. So, “aaslama” okay? So, one, two, three…
Craig: We love you guys at the Sousse Church in Tunisia. And, wherever you are joining us from, we’re just so glad you’re with us. Why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, and start making your way to the Gospel of Mark 10? We’re going to be wrapping up our series today called “Threading the Needle” where we’ve been looking at a conversation Jesus had with a man who came to him because he was looking for a little bit of certainty when it came to eternity. He was a good man, he was a religious man and yet he didn’t have any certainty when it came to eternity, and so, he’s asking like, “How do I get that?” And as Jesus began to speak to him, we learned a number of important truths.
The first truth that we have learned is that being with Jesus is the key to everything. Being with Jesus is the key, it’s not religion, it’s not a list of do’s and don’ts, it’s having a relationship. It’s being with Jesus, that’s the key to everything. Jesus is where all the good stuff is.
It’s where salvation is, right? That’s where forgiveness is, it’s where hope is, it’s where peace is, it’s were certainty is. Religion can’t give us certainty, only a relationship with Jesus can. So being with Jesus is the key to everything. But, Jesus is a moving target, that’s why we’re called… What are we, we’re what’s of Jesus? We’re…
Craig: Followers. We’re not standers around with Jesus, we’re not hangers out with Jesus, we’re followers. Because he’s always on the move, and so like if he’s at Mission Hills, we’re called to follow him, to become like him, and to join him on mission in the world, that’s what it’s all about, and that he’s a moving target, so what that means is mobility is a must. We have to deal with the things in our lives that are holding us back from following Jesus wherever he calls us, so mobility is a must. Now, for the man in this conversation, the thing that was holding him back was his money, and so Jesus gave him and gave us the key to not allowing money to hold on to us, and the key was generosity, because generosity is the key that…to not being held back by our money, generosity is the key to not being held back by our money. Unfortunately for this man, that wasn’t something he could embrace, generosity was not something that he was able to practice, and because of that, he wasn’t able to accept the invitation that Jesus gave to him to come follow him. And so, he went away sad.
And as Pastor Mike unpacked for us last week, that caused Jesus to turn back to his disciples and say what I think we all wish he’d really not said, which was, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” Like, anybody else wish he hadn’t said that? Right, even if we don’t think of ourselves as rich, you know, sometimes it’s hard to avoid the reality. If we look around at the rest of the world, like if we’re driving a car to church, and if we have a closet full of clothes to pick when we decide to get dressed for church, we’re rich, we genuinely are. And so, Jesus said, “It’s really hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”, we all go, “Oh, no.”, right? And, to make it worse, Jesus said, “No, no, let me tell you how hard it is.” He said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” You know, he took the biggest animal they were familiar with, and the smallest opening they were familiar with, and he’s like, “Yeah, it just doesn’t work.”, right, it just doesn’t happen. And fortunately, he gave us the good news as Pastor Mike unpacked for us last week, which is that, “What’s impossible with men is possible with God.” And in fact, he said this, and this is so important, he said, “All things are possible with God.”
And everybody breathed a big sigh of relief, right? All things are possible with God. But you notice, we’ve kinda come full circle, right? We’re kind of back to where we started. We said being with Jesus, being with God’s Son, being with God, that’s the key to everything. And he says, “All things are possible with God.” Being with him is key to everything, and that’s what caused Peter to respond in this way, we’re in chapter 10 verse 28, “Then Peter spoke up, “We’ve left everything to follow you?” Now, that’s a statement, but it’s also a question. I guarantee, if you could hear it, it would have a little bit of kind of a weird note at the end. He was like, “We’ve left everything to follow you?” Because he’s looking for some assurance, right? He’s basically going, “Hey, hey, we’re with you, right? We’re with you, we’re good, right?” I mean, “We’ve, we haven’t let anything hold us back from following you, we left it all behind, so we’re with you, right? So we’re good, right?” And Jesus assures him, “Truly, I tell you…” This is verse 29, “Truly, I tell you,” 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 the present age. Homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields, along with persecutions.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel like you could have left well enough alone, right? I was digging the list up until that point, and we won’t spend a lot of time, but we spent a lot of time in the last series. Jesus said, “If you’re going to say yes to following me, the world is going to push back, it’s just going to be the way that it is, so just be prepared for it.” What we can expect, we can endure, and so he says, “Yeah, it’s coming, but he says that in the age to come, eternal life.” So he says, “Yes, Peter, you’re with me, and you can be assured of eternal life.” But, along the way, he makes a pretty incredible promise, doesn’t he? He says anybody who’s left all of these things is going to get them all back a hundred times over. And he says it’s going to happen when? In this present age. Which is Bible talk for this life, not the next one, this one.
And that promise has become the subject of a lot of what I would call, irresponsible teaching. And probably, but my favorite one that I’ve ever heard is, I heard a guy preaching that passage, and he kind of set the Bible down, and he said, “Let’s talk finances.” He said, “This is God’s investment plan. If you really want a good return on your money, you’ve got to give it to God.” Because let’s face it, I mean you invest in stocks, you invest $1,000 in a stock, maybe it goes up 10% that’s a pretty good return, that means you got $1,100. But, Jesus ain’t talking percentages, he’s talking times over. He says, you give him $1,000, he’ll give you back $1,000 a hundred times over, that’s $100,000. And I think we can all agree, that’s a pretty good rate of return, can we not, right?
But is that what Jesus is saying? Is this God’s investment plan for the here and now? And I get it like, I mean, don’t misunderstand me. I understand why that misunderstanding happens, because then it’d be really easy to avoid that if he had just said, you know, “If you leave things, you’ll get them all back in Heaven, right?” He’d kind of spiritualize it, but he didn’t do that, he said, “If you leave these things in this present age, you’ll get them back a hundred times over.”, right?
So what does that mean? And I think to understand what Jesus is saying here, what we need to do is, we kind of need to answer three questions about what he’s saying, and the three questions are these. First, what are we leaving? Second, why are we leaving it, what’s the motive for leaving it? And so, what exactly are we leaving behind? Why are we leaving it, what’s the motive for leaving it? And then, how is it multiplied, how is it multiplied back a hundred times over? Those are the three questions I think we need to ask and answer.
Let’s start with that first question, what are we leaving? Well then, let’s all go back, look back again at 29, “Truly, I tell you, Jesus replied, No one who has left home, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children or fields”. There’s seven things there. Seven distinct items, but honestly, all seven of those items boil down to three very clear distinct categories. The first one, you might call comfort, the second one, you might call community, and the third, we might call career. There’s three categories, comfort, community and career, right? So home is comfort. All those relationships, that’s community, it’s your immediate family relationships, but in the ancient world, those immediate family relationships, that was just your first circle of community, and the idea was, you know, it continues to extend out from that, so it’s community. And then, the third category is career, fields were you know, it’s not only where you grew the food, but if you owned fields, you able to grow not enough food for you, but enough food to sell some of it, so it was income generation. And so, comfort, community, and field, all those seven categories, were down to those…all those seven items were down to those three categories.
But honestly, if we think about it a little bit more, those three categories all kind of boil down to one thing, doesn’t it? And that is security. All of these things really are things that people look to for security. These are all things people look to for security. And it’s not any different in the ancient world than it is here, right? Think about comfort, and community, and crew, those are the things that we continue to look to for security. I mean, if you think about your home, your home is, it’s clearly your source of comfort, and that is also a source of security. Our home is the place we feel most secure, or I hope it is, I hope it is for you. I mean, the reality is that you might be in a home situation where home doesn’t feel secure, it doesn’t feel comfortable, it doesn’t feel safe. But even if that’s the case, there’s probably something in you that goes, “Man, I just…I know how broken this is.” Because there’s something in you that says, “This is not how home was supposed to be.” Because I think God built us to find a sense of comfort, a sense of security in our home.
And so, even if you’re not experiencing, my hope is that God will move in your life, and in your family situation to bring that to the place where you can feel secure in your home, but home is a place of security. But you know, our relationships, our community, that’s also a tremendous source of security. And then, of course, our careers, we get a lot of security from our careers, right? And not necessarily all the jobs, but I mean certainly jobs and careers can be, but also, you know, the skills that we have, or the ways that we ended up being able to bring in income, maybe it’s the education we have, there’s all kinds of things. They’re the way that we bring in money, the way we pay for what we need, and that also is a source of security. So all of these things are things that people look to for a source of security. So that’s what it is that we’re leaving. He’s talking very clearly about those things that we look to for security.
Now, why would we leave those? Why would we ever leave those sources of security? Well, Jesus says very clearly, I want you to notice Jesus doesn’t say, anyone who leaves these things so they can get back more of those things. He doesn’t say, anybody who wants more of something needs to leave it with me so that you’ll get more of it. Well, here is what he says, he’s pretty clear about it. He says, “Truly, I tell you, no one who has left home, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father or children, or fields, for…” What’s that word? “For me and the Gospel.” That’s the reason they’re leaving, that’s the motive for leaving. He says anybody who leaves sources of security in order to follow me, and to advance the Gospel, as we say it in Mission Hills, “To become like Jesus and join him on mission.” To become like him, to enter a relationship with him, to follow where he leads, to allow him to transform us, to learn from him, to be changed from the inside, we’re becoming like Jesus. And, to follow him on mission, we’re joining him on mission in the world, that’s what we’re called to. So, basically, Jesus says, “Anyone who’s left these things so that they can follow me, and join me on mission in the world.” And you see, that’s very different than leaving those things so that we can get more of those things back, right?
This isn’t about getting more stuff, this is about getting more mobility, isn’t it? In other words, this is about people leaving sources of security, honestly, short-term security, so that they can get long term certainty. Because look what he says, “And in the end.” This is the end of verse 30, he says, “They’re going to get back all of these things, but then and in the age to come, eternal life.” That’s long-term certainty right there, long-term certainty. Jesus says anybody who leaves the sources of short-term security, and it is short-term by the way. We don’t always see it that way, you know, we look at those things, we look at, you know, community, we look at homes, we look at possessions, we look at career and all of those things, we go, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m not thinking short-term, I’m thinking long-term. I’m thinking retirement, right? I’m thinking college education for my kids. I’m really…I’m thinking not tomorrow, I’m thinking, you know, 10 years, 20 years, 30, 40, 50, 60 years down the line. I’m thinking long-term, that’s not short-term, that’s long-term Craig.” No, it’s not.
I mean, try to wrap your brain around this. I mean, the Bible is really clear, we’re immortal. I mean, yes, our bodies will die, but the essence of who we are will live forever. We’ll be reunited to physical bodies again, the resurrection of bodies, believers and non-believers, every human being is going to be around for the rest of eternity. The Bible is really clear about that. Which means, I mean try to wrap your brain around this, I just watched an interview with a woman, she was 100 years old and she gave this interview about how to live to be 100, and apparently one of her secrets was ice cream. So, I was very intrigued by the thing. But, I was thinking about it. It’s like 100 years, that’s long-term, and then I realized it’s not really. Because you understand that like there’s a day coming that we’re going to turn a thousand, because do you understand that? You’re going to turn 1,000 someday. Not necessarily in this body, in this world, but you’re going to turn 1,000, so, you’re going to be around.
And if that doesn’t blow your mind, how about this? You’re going to turn 10,000. You’re actually going to turn 1 million, one day. How about this, you’re going to turn a billion. Like, I don’t know when we stop putting the candles on the cake. I’m guessing it’s somewhere around a million, when you’re just like, this is just not worth it anymore. So that the cake is the size of Littleton and that’s just not going to work anymore, all right? But you’re going to turn a billion, and then, like, I kid you not, guys, there’s going to be a day coming, you’re going to look back on your billionth birthday and go, “I was such a child.” Now we’re talking long-term, do you understand what I’m saying? And really what Jesus is saying here is this. He’s saying, “Hey, don’t let a preoccupation with short-term security holds you back from following the only one who can give you long-term certainty.” It might seem like more than short-term security, but on the eternal scale of things, it’s not. And so many people make decisions that affect their eternal certainty, because they’re fixated on short-term, very, very short-term security. And he says, “Don’t let that happen.”
But what’s interesting is that even though he says, “Don’t be preoccupied with short-term security so that it impacts your long-term certainty.” He also says, “But I’m actually going to take care of the short-term security thing too.” Right? Because he says, “I’m going to actually multiply back into your life all of those sources of short-term security.” “In this present age,” he says, “I’m going to do it.” So, he doesn’t just give long-term certainty, he also gives short-term security. How does that happen? How is it multiplied? Well, let’s look again and let’s go back to verse 29, “Truly I tell you.” 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.” And I want you to notice, there are seven items there, and we said they break into three categories, we got comfort, career…comfort, community, and career. But I want you to notice there’s only one item that really represents comfort, right, homes. There’s also only one item that represents career, that’s fields, but there’s five items that represent community. Five items that represent that first circle of community, which is a stand-in for all of the other circles that extend out, and ripple out from that.
One item for home, one item for career, one category with five items in it, which clearly makes community a bigger deal, doesn’t it? He’s clearly putting a stronger emphasis on this community business, which is not surprising because in the ancient world, your community was your primary source of security, do you understand that? Nobody had 401(K)’s, nobody had IRAs, they didn’t have Social Security, your community was your number one source of security, but it was also the source of security that was most threatened by the invitation to come follow Jesus. Because you think about how, I mean Jesus comes into your village, and you’re listening to him teach, you’re seeing the miracles, and there’s something stirring in your heart and you’re beginning to go, I think this is the guy. I think he’s the one, I think he’s the Messiah. I think he’s the Lord himself among us, and then he does the most amazing thing, he says to you, “Hey, come with me, come follow me.” And then you go, “Seriously, you want me to come follow… I would love to follow. Yes, I would love to be with you.” He goes, “Great. And they takes off.” Like he just turns around and takes off and you’re like, “But…” And, you know, you’re kind of huddled there with your source of security, your family, your community, and he’s going and he’s looking back, “Are you coming?” You’re like, “What?” “Do you guys want to come with me?” And you’re like, “No, we really don’t.” And you… Suddenly, you know, you’re going, “Should I stay, or should I go?” Right, that song is playing over and over in your brain. You’ve got to make a decision, “Do I stay, do I go, do I follow Jesus, do I be with him, or do I stick with my source of security?” See, the community was the number one source of security, but it was also the number one thing that was threatened by Jesus’ invitation, “Come with me.” So there’s a strong emphasis on it in 29, but then look at verse 30. He says, “No one who has done that will fail to receive a hundred times as much in the present age.” And then look what he says as examples, “Homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields.” He loads up on the community business again.
It’s still mostly about community. He says, anybody who leaves their source of security will get back a similar source of security, but it’s not exactly the same. You know, I was in India a couple of weeks ago, and I had a chance to talk to a number of men and women who experience that tension in a way that most of us have not, and some of you have. But, most of us in America probably have not really experienced what they did, and that is, when they decided to follow Jesus, when they said yes to putting their faith in Jesus, when they said yes to following Jesus, they were disowned by their families. Pretty much said, “We don’t have a son, we don’t have a daughter, you’re not part of the family anymore.” They were exiled from their villages, and really they were rejected by the dominant culture of their nation. They found themselves without community, and in India that matters a whole lot more than it does here, because very much like the first century, most people in India aren’t counting on Social Security, or IRAs, or 401(K)s, or investment properties, or any of that stuff.
They were counting on their community, and their community said, “You’re not one of us anymore.” But what’s interesting is that, as I talk to these men and woman who’d said yes to following Jesus, they didn’t really see themselves as being without a community anymore. They didn’t feel like they’d lost their community, and the reason was because they felt like they came into a new community, it was actually better than the one they left. It shared their priorities, it shared their values. They came into the community of other followers of Jesus, and that’s really what Jesus is talking about here, do you understand that? He’s not saying, anybody who’s lost security… This isn’t a security loss, this is a security exchange, does that make sense? It’s a security exchange. Anybody who’s left, especially the source of security in their community, they’re actually going to get back another source of security in the people of God, and it’s not just better because they share the same values and priorities, it’s actually bigger too.
I mean, I just…I’ve experienced this in my own life, maybe you have, like, you know, I’ve only got one sister, but I’ve got a whole bunch of sisters in Christ. I don’t have any brothers, but I have a whole bunch of brothers in Christ. Men that, they hold me accountable, they helped me when I need help, I mean, I can count on them. I got no brothers, but I’ve got dozens of brothers in Christ. I got one mom and I have about a half dozen mothers in Christ. Women that have supported me and nurtured me over the years. And I love my mom, Mama, just in case you’re listening, I do love you, but I’m also so grateful for these mothers in Christ. And I know some of you were like, “Man, I just…one mom is all I can deal with. I don’t know that I need a bunch of more moms.” And mothers in Christ sounds a lot like mothers-in-law, and hey, these are way better than mothers-in-law. Linda, if you’re watching, I love you too, I do. I have a great mother-in-law, but my mothers in Christ, they’re the best. You know, I’ve only got two daughters, but I got dozens of daughters in Christ that Coletta and I have poured into over the years. I don’t have any sons, but I’ve got a whole lot of sons in Christ that I’ve been privileged to… Some of them to lead to the Lord, disciple them, and to kind of walk beside them as they’re figuring out family life, and work life and, what it means to follow Jesus and all those areas. It’s not just better, it’s bigger.
By the way, you might have noticed that there’s five items that represent community in the first list, but there’s only four items that represent community and the second list. There’s an item missing, do you see what it is? It’s father. Why is that? Yeah, because in Christ, you don’t just get access to some fatherly figures, you don’t just get access to more human father figures, you get access to a Heavenly Father, and no human father figures. And I’ve got a number of those that God’s provided in my life. Mentors that continue to help me along and that I can turn to for advice, and wisdom, and help, but none of those hold a candle to being a son of God Almighty himself. And when we’re following Jesus, when we’re with Jesus, we get access to a Heavenly Father, we become sons and daughters of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, of God Almighty himself, and that’s awesome.
This is not a loss of security, it’s a security exchange. The people of God, God and his people become what we look to for security. God becomes what we look to you for certainty. And his people are what we look to for security. We see this played out even in the Book of Acts in the early chapters of Acts. If you go and read it today, what you’ll see is that the early church, I mean they were constant…they were selling things and having everything in common so that they could take care of each other. For those who lost security by saying yes to following Jesus, they found it multiplied many times over in the context of his people that knew community.
And so then in verse 31, Jesus says, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” And really, I think all he’s saying is, when it comes to these sources of short-term security, many who have all of those, many who are first, the world looks and goes, “Hey you’re doing well, you’ve got all the things you need to be secure.” Jesus says, “Yeah, you might be first in terms of short-term security, but you’re last when it comes to long-term certainty, because those sources of short-term security, they are holding you back from following me just like this young man.” That was exactly the problem. He had it all. I mean, the world said, “You’re first, you’ve got homes, you’ve got a community that respects you, you’ve got fields in many numbers, you’ve got all the sources, so you’re first.” And Jesus says, “Yeah, but he couldn’t say yes to following me because of all those things.”
So, he’s actually last when it comes to long-term certainty, but then he says, “And many who are last.” The world looks at us and goes, “You don’t have any security. You’re way underfunded on that IRA this year, and the previous 10 years.” Like, “you’re way behind when it comes to retirement, saving for college, all those…you don’t have it, you don’t have security, you’re last when it comes to short-term security.” But, Jesus says, “Yeah, for many are those, they’re first when it comes to long-term certainty because they’re free to follow Jesus.” And being with Jesus is the key to everything.
And, really what Jesus is saying is just this, We have to understand, Jesus is my certainty and his people are my security. Amen.
Craig: Do you believe that? The first part is probably easier to believe actually, isn’t it? Jesus is my certainty. It’s also true. What Jesus is telling us here is, Jesus is my certainty, but his people are also our security. And I just want to acknowledge, I just want to be honest. I think some of you who’re listening to this, they don’t feel that way about the people of God. Maybe you’ve been mistreated by people of God. In fact, maybe you’ve been abused to the point that it’s hard even to think that Jesus could be your certainty, because you’ve had some pretty negative interactions with his people. Or maybe that’s not the problem, maybe you think that I’m okay with Jesus, I’m just not all that fond of his friends, right? It happens.
And so, I want to say I can’t fix that, but I can speak to the Church as the people of God, and I can say this, what Jesus is saying here is true. Jesus is my certainty, his people are my security, that’s true, but it’s only evident, it’s only obvious when the people of God act like the people of God. When we act like the Church that God called us to be. And so, over the next couple of weeks, maybe as we’re, kind of, ramping up to Easter, I’m going to push into that. We’re going to have a little series here, a little, kind of, sort of huddle-talk where, we’re going to call the series, “Don’t Come to Church.” That’s not a command, that’s just a title. “Don’t Come to Church.”, and then right underneath it, you’ll see, “Be the Church.”
And so, we’re going to talk for a couple of weeks leading up to Easter. But what does it look like to be the people of God that are the security for one another, that Jesus taught? Jesus is my certainty, his people are my security, so how do we do that, how do we live that out? What are we called to be as a church? And we’re going to push into that because that’s the only way that the truth of what Jesus is saying here is going to be completely evident. Jesus is my certainty, his people are my security.
So, let me give you a couple of questions. Question number one, what short-term security is holding me back from following Jesus? Because, I think we all have sources of short-term security in our lives that exert too much influence, that keep us from being able to follow Jesus wherever he leads, so what is it for you? You know, we’re talking about possessions, and community here, or, you know, maybe it’s one of those categories. Maybe it’s comfort, maybe it’s community, maybe it’s career, maybe it’s something in that area. But if you’re not really sure how to even identify that, you go, “Why?… I mean I, can think of some sources of security in my life, but I don’t know that I’m necessarily putting them in front of Jesus. How do I know if I’m doing that? Let me give you, kind of, a push in question, because this is a principle that I’ve come to understand in my own life and it’s this, it’s the sequence of my actions reveals the priority of my heart. Let me say that again, the sequence of my actions reveals the priority of my heart.
The sequence in which I do things tells me a lot about which of those things are most important. I mean, if you think about it, if I go home after work on a weekday and, you know, when I open the door, if I decide not to greet anybody…Well, I’m going to have to greet the dog because they’re pushy, okay? But if I…you know, if I don’t greet my family, and if I go immediately to the basement, and play video games for an hour, that sequence of my action says something about my priority when it comes to my family, doesn’t it? The sequence of my actions can reveal the priority of my heart. And so, when you think about life that way, that question, like, what does the sequence of my actions reveal that might actually point us into the directions of some things that are short-term security, that are actually getting more of our hearts than they should.
I mean, let’s talk about money, shall we? And you’re like, “Can we please?” Because we haven’t done nearly enough of that over the last few weeks, right? But I think we go to money, because money is what sponsored this conversation, is what kicked the whole thing off. You know, and one of the things we said a couple of weeks ago, because this is about money, and it’s about being free from its holding back influence in our lives. We said, you know, the Bible talks a lot about money, 800 passages. It boils down to basically three simple concepts, give first, save second, live on the rest. Give first, save second, live on the rest, the Bible’s teaching. And we see that giving first honors God, saving second practices wisdom, and living on the rest builds contentment, that’s the biblical teaching.
So, the question in terms of money would be, is that the sequence? Are you following the biblical sequence when it comes to money? And if not, what does that reveal about the priority of your hearts? And it’s remarkable to me how easily you can get the sequence wrong without even realizing it. It can be a very subtle thing. I am going to be super honest with you guys. I realized this week that I actually wasn’t following that sequence, and it surprises me. Hopefully, it surprises you, like, some of you are like, “Yeah, whatever.” Like, I’d prefer to see shocked faces at this point, right? Because what I told you a couple of weeks ago was, you know, the way that I have practiced it, and we didn’t start this way, we’ve built up to it as a family. We’ve taken our constant next step of generosity, but we…you know, when I get my direct deposit on Fridays, I look at it, I move the decimal place one point to the left, that gives me my 10% number and I give that to God through Mission Hills first. But what I realized this week, and I can’t believe that I’ve missed this all along is actually, by the time the money gets deposited me, they’ve already peeled off some retirement savings, so, actually, what I’m doing is saving first and giving second, which is not what I told you guys to do, no.
I don’t think that’s hypocrisy, I think it’s stupidity because I just honestly…it just…I never made the mental connection, but the Holy Spirit showed me that, and so immediately you Coletta and I went, “Okay, we’re going to change. We’re going to fix that so that we’re actually…we’re incorporating that number that is getting peeled off into our giving.” We want to give our tithe to God through Mission Hills, and so we fixed that. Now some of you are like, “Well, if you’re really going to fix it, you’ve got to go back and post-date all those other…” Like, Jesus and I are working on that, we’re figuring out, okay? I’ll just…you just let him and I deal with that one, okay? But where in terms of money are your priorities, what do those sequence of your actions reveal about the priorities of your heart?
And it’s not all about money, right? Because, you know, Jesus talks about comfort, and community, and career and money is certainly in there, but there may be other things that are not money that are your sources of short-term security, right? It might be a relationship, it might be a toxic, unhealthy relationship, it might be a career path, it might be an expectation, it might be a possession of some kind. I mean, there’s all kinds of things that we can point to, but what Jesus says is, don’t let a preoccupation with short term security keep you from following the only one who can give you long-term certainty.
And so, as you think about all kinds of stuff in your life, just sort of asked this question. I mean, the question we’re really asking again is, what short-term security is holding me back from following Jesus. But the push in question is, what does the sequence of my actions reveal? And we need to apply that question to all areas of our lives.
And then, as you begin to, kind of, get a handle on maybe here’s an area where short term securities holding me back. The second question, you’re not going to be surprised about, we do it almost every week at Mission Hills is just, what are you going to do about it? What step will you take this week to start loosening its hold on me? What step will you take this week to start loosening that things hold on you? Now, if it’s money, which it often is, for a lot of people it is, what we said a couple of weeks ago, and I think what Mike reiterated last week again as well was, the step is just to take the next step of generosity. Generosity is what sets us free from the power of money over us. So, what’s your next step? And we said, you know, if you’re not giving anything, start giving something regular. If you’re giving something regular, the next step is to start giving a percentage. If you’re giving a percentage, start giving a tithe, and if you’re giving a tithe, start doing Spirit lead sacrificial, where you give a tithe to your local church, and then you ask God, you know, “How else do you want me to bless others and extend your Kingdom with generosity?”
And then, let me just say again what I said last week is, as I know that there’s always the potential when we talk about money to make it sound very self-serving, or for it to come across like it’s self-serving. And I swear to you, I’m not saying any of this to make Mission Hills bigger or to get more money out of you for what we do, I’m saying this for you. Which is why what I said last week, and all right, I don’t know, two weeks ago, and I’ll say again, is this, if for some reason you don’t trust Mission Hills or you don’t trust your local church, whatever that happens to be, then don’t give to Mission Hills, don’t give to that local church, but give somewhere. Start practicing the next step of generosity somewhere because it’s for your benefit. Generosity is what peels the hold of money off of us, and so if for some reason you don’t trust Mission Hills or your local church, then give somewhere, because it’s for your benefit, but what step will I take this week, and if it’s money, really, what’s my next step of generosity?
If it’s not money, then you need to ask the Holy Spirit, you know, what step do I need to take this week? What small step in the right direction? You know, sometimes we go, “Well, this thing’s got a really big hold on me, so I’ve got to do this massive change.” Honestly, attempting to do massive change rarely succeeds. Whether that’s generosity or you’re dealing with something else in your life. What would I say a lot of times to the staff here is, small steps in the right direction take us to places we would never have gotten otherwise. One small step this week in the right direction, and then you keep taking those steps in that right direction, you’ll end up in a place where you were freer than you would have ever thought possible. Free to follow the only One who is your certainty. Jesus is our certainty, and his people are our security. Would you pray with me?
Jesus, you’re so good to us and we love you. We know you loved us first, but we love you right back. Lord would you send your Holy Spirit to move in us in such a way that we deal with the things that are holding us back from loving you back, from following you. Lord, whether that’s money or something else that has its hold on us, would you show us what that thing is? Could you give us the courage to take those small steps of obedience in the right direction to be free? Free to follow you, because you are our certainty. And Lord, thank you that your people are our security, that when we trust you, we come into a family where we have God Almighty as our Father, and brothers and sisters, and moms and, sons and daughters, not just a better community that shares our values, but a bigger one. And Lord we confess to you that your Church has not always acted in the way that we are supposed to. We have not always been the people of God that you’ve called us to be, and so we haven’t always been a source of security for each other. And so, we ask for your forgiveness on that, especially over the next few weeks as we push into what your Word says to us about being that, would you show us how to be the Church you call us to be? We love you.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just do me a favor, begin praying with the people around you. There are lots of people that are watching online from all over the world. Because I believe that there are people listening right now who, they’ve heard this idea about long-term certainty and maybe you’re hearing that word this day and you’re thinking, “I don’t have that.” You know that you don’t have long-term certainty. Maybe it’s because you’ve been focused on short-term security and for the first time you’ve realized you thought you were thinking long-term, but you’re only thinking 30, 40, 50 years, and that’s not nearly long term enough. And you realize that your focus on really short-term security has blinded you to the need for this long-term certainty that you can only have by a relationship with Jesus.
If you’re here today and you don’t have that relationship, you don’t have that certainty, I want you to know there’s no reason for you to leave this place without it, without the relationship and the certainty that comes with it. That’s what God wants for you. He loves you so much he sent his only Son. He lived a perfect life, he had no sin to pay for, and so, when he went to the cross, he did so carrying your sin. And when he died on the cross, he paid for it with his blood. Three days later, he rose from the dead. These are facts of history.
And right now, today, right here, right now, he’s offering you forgiveness, new life, adoption into the family of God and the certainty about where you will spend eternity. And if you don’t have that certainty, but you’re ready to say yes to Jesus, to say yes to following him and trusting in him, would you just lift your hand up.
That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. If you’re watching online, just click the button right below me, and wherever you are, you just say this to Jesus. Jesus, I know I don’t deserve a relationship with you, because I’ve done wrong, but I’m sorry for that. Thank you for going to the Cross to pay for my sin. I know you rose from the dead, I believe it, and you’re offering me new life, forgiveness, a relationship with you, a relationship with my Heavenly Father, adoption into the family of God, certainty about my eternity. I’m ready to say yes, Jesus. So right here, right now I say, “yes.” I put my trust in you. Jesus, come into my life, be my Savior, be my Lord, because I’m yours for now and forever. Amen. A number of people made a decision to come into the family of God today. Can we just welcome them? That’s awesome.