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Disheartened, #83

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

Mark 10:21-22, ESV

Let’s be clear–Jesus really did love him, and that explains a whole lot. In verse 17, we see this man running to Jesus, and he kneels right in front of him. I suppose that this man desperately wanted the Lord’s full attention. He had to know–he must understand. He was a driven man with some very deep questions.

To be wealthy was the clear evidence that God really did love you. If you were rich, you must have God’s approval, and if you happened to be richer than rich–he must love you even more than that. That big bank account was the proof that you were set apart, and completely accepted by God. (Not a whole lot has changed, has it?)

All of this must be understood before we can go any further.

The rich young ruler was suddenly jolted by Jesus’ words–he simply had to give away all his money–and then, to start to follow him. I don’t think anyone had ever dared to confront him like this. Jesus spoke so clearly–and so concisely. The things that came out of Jesus’ mouth cut him like a knife, and then, smashed him like a hammer–they wallopped him hard, and quite honestly, nothing had ever hurt so much.

But dear one, remember this; Jesus always uses a rubber hammer.

The passage told us earlier that Jesus, “loved him” (10:21). Jesus lists five of the 10 commandments, but interestingly enough, the ones that Jesus spoke were the ones written on the second tablet–the ones that dealt with how we treat each other.

Did this man really keep them? Perhaps he may have–maybe yes, maybe no. But knowing human nature, and looking through the lens of God’s word, it was clearly impossible. He may have been seriously conscientious, and maybe he really tried his best to live righteously, but scripture is clear, “all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The text tells us that when Jesus spoke to this man, he issued an invitation, but it also doubled as a command, “come, follow me.” I don’t think that following was as simple as it sounds–and it seems it was the one thing that the rich young ruler couldn’t, or wouldn’t do.

He’d certainly made a valiant effort to be holy, no one could dispute that. But he had to know he was really saved, and he was desperately afraid he wasn’t. This man had a questions that weighed him down–but he must know for sure–he was tied by a golden rope to a heavy treasure chest, and that was something he couldn’t leave behind.

“The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.”

Billy Sunday

This man seems to have been ruled by fear. And that is something wealth will do to people. The richest people seem to be the most afraid, and although I admit that seems strange, and perhaps even a bit judgmental, scripture tells us that having possessions often leads one into mortal danger–it’s just the cheese in the mousetrap, (Psalm 49:5).

He ended up “disheartened.” A simple definition of that word means “having lost determination or confidence; dispirited and afraid.” That pretty much describes this man’s state of mind. Jesus had issued a command, and the rich young ruler couldn’t, or wouldn’t, ever meet the terms of Christian discipleship.

Money can be a useful servant, but it’s really a terrible master. That false god–Mammon is an idol, and a deadly one. And that evil god intends to destroy you, if you can’t release your wealth to God. and to others.

“He also did not choose to love God more than his wealth, even though Jesus specifically promised him treasure in heaven. The man was more interested in the earthly treasure of men than in God’s heavenly treasures. This man was essentially an idolater. Wealth was his god instead of the true God of the Bible. He put money first.”

David Guzak

“Most people fail to realize that money is both a test and a trust from God.”

Rick Warren

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Let’s Follow the Master, Entry # 21

Luca Giordano
Naples; 1634-1705
The Calling of St. Matthew, c. 1685
oil on canvas; 78.5 x 100.5 inches

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 

“Follow me.” 

And he rose and followed him.”

Matthew 9:9

Another “tax collector.” (Why won’t Jesus ever learn?) It really does seem that He has a definite preference for the scum and the outcast. For some very odd reason that’s the sort of person He likes. But really, do we dare question His wisdom in this? Do we think we have a right to pass judgement on Jesus’ choices?

I have to think that Jesus is showing us His deep fondness for the ‘ungodly.’ Tax-collectors, egads!!!! I don’t really understand, until I consider my own ‘wretched’ life. Until Jesus comes to me, calling me, I will continue to set in my dreary booth, taking money from other dreary people.

So what does it really mean to really follow Jesus?

I think of Matthew, a wicked man who has no qualms about betraying his people for money. It’s always been odd to me, that Matthew’s name meant “pure.” (What were his parents thinking? Maybe they grasped his future destiny as an apostle? IDK.) But I am certain that Matthew’s call to follow meant he had to leave something ‘behind.’

We follow Jesus. We’ve accepted the call that we must turn away from our past life. We’ve left behind all the money and just walked away from our table. We understand that we can’t bring it along; we have renounced its claim on us.

Following Him means taking up our “cross,” and everything that it might entail. We really do need to leave it all behind. What a deal, huh?

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Mark 8:34

   

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Simple Jars of Wine, Entry #10

Jesus said to the servants,

“Fill the jars with water.” 

And they filled them up to the brim.”

John 2:7, (context, John 2:1-11) 

Turning water into wine? Easy, right? But let’s think for a moment. Molecules have to be drastically moved and profoundly altered, changed completely. They are totally transformed into something they were not. Chemistry says “impossible,” Jesus says “watch Me!”

We are the jars, clay and water. We stand in the hallway, and wait to be filled. But when Jesus comes to our lives, we are transformed. Our watery life becomes full of precious wine. It is our own personal miracle, we are totally transmuted, radically changed.

We are no longer water, but we have become wine. And not just any old wine, but the very best (v. 10). But why does Jesus do this? He is love, this is how He has chosen to operate.

It’s His primary motive (John 3:16,) “God so loved the world…”

But secondly, it is all for His “glory.” He declares His magnificence in us, puny little “clay” pots.

We sit in the hallway, just waiting for His touch. We bring nothing and become ‘everything.’ We are mere water only, until He speaks. Nothing, but now everything. And not just second-rate–but the very best.


“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Romans 12:2

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