AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/29/2000
#7 (Demands of Discipleship Series)
TEXTS: Matt. 19:16-30; 6:24-32
INTRO: It is not hard to detect what someone's priorities are in life, just look at they spend their money and time. For the most part, our commitments are reflections of what we consider our priorities to be.
Unfortunately, so many people never really stop to think about priorities, they are so consumed with life in the moment that they never stop to think about what is really important or what their future might be. Too many of us are so busy making a living that we don't know how to live!
ILLUS:Making a life is more significant than making a living. -- William Willimon, Preaching Today. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.
Tragically, when our priorities are wrong they have a way of catching up with us, and we can find our lives shattered. Sometimes even Christians discover this the hard way.
ILLUS:There is no way, if you take the whole counsel of God's Word, that you can equate riches or material things as a sign of God's blessing. -- Former televangelist Jim Bakker in a letter written to his followers from prison. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 14.
We might TALK about priorities, we might even know what they should be, but to actually put them into practice is something else!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that eternal things MUST have priority over temporal things, and while we all agree to this, our lifestyle and passions must reflect this too!
I. SEARCH FOR PRIORITIES 19:16-30
A. Curious 19:16-22
1. A rich young man approaches Jesus about what is most important in life.
a. He has been thinking about spiritual realities … this was good, but not necessarily good enough!
b. He is examining his life, trying to put it into some kind of perspective to find meaning.
c. He is asking the right questions … but is he willing to hear the right answers? ARE WE?
2. He is curious about meaning, about priorities, about eternal things.
a. Curiosity or intellectual knowledge alone however is not enough.
b. Our whole culture is curious about spiritual things … but so often this fails to yield any real significant changes in people's lives.
3. We like to talk about significant meaning in life, to contemplate deep things … but still don't like our routines changed.
4. In our culture we want "deep things" with "shallow commitments!"
ILLUS:One of artist Andy Warhol's great pictures is his "Last Supper" in which he superimposes the General Electric logo and the wrapper from a bar of Dove soap over a dim drawing of Leonardo da Vinci's famous work. Warhol meant no irreverence. He was rather making a statement that few will deny. Spiritual values are often overshadowed or hidden by materialism. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
5. This rich young man wasn't a bad man, in fact, he was quite good, quite moral … but still without eternal values as the most important focus of his life.
a. He is sensitive enough to want to know what spiritual values he should have.
b. He was rich enough however to not want to change his life for those spiritual or eternal values.
c. This is the tragedy of his life! … and often the same tragedy of ours - to be good enough to feel satisfied, but not aspire to putting God first in our life.
6. When Jesus clearly tells him how to prioritize his life he leaves sorrowfully, he is not prepared to embrace eternal values OVER temporal ones.
a. And before we are too hard on him, how many times have temporal passions pushed aside eternal values in our life?
b. How many times have we justified sacrificing eternal things to satisfy material desires?
B. Casual 19:23-30
1. Jesus wasn't saying it is impossible for a rich person to be a Christian, what he is saying is how hard it is for anyone to be a believer if their approach to spiritual and eternal things are too shallow or casual.
a. When embracing eternal realities takes a back seat to carnal desires and needs we are too casual about eternal things - such was the case of this rich young man!
b. So often we don't even realize just how out of focus we can be on the things that matter most … as soon as our material things are in danger we can so easily lose sight of the eternal or significant.
ILLUS:It was a 99-degree September day in San Antonio, when a 10 month-old baby girl was accidentally locked inside a parked car by her aunt. Frantically the mother and aunt ran around the auto in near hysteria, while a neighbor attempted to unlock the car with a clothes hanger. Soon the infant was turning purple and had foam on her mouth.
It had become a life-or-death situation when Fred Arriola, a wrecker driver, arrived on the scene. He grabbed a hammer and smashed the back window of the car to set her free. Was he heralded a hero? He said, "The lady was mad at me because I broke the window. I just thought, What's more important--the baby or the window?" Sometimes priorities get out of order, and a Fred Arriola reminds us what's important. -- Ray Tiemann, Fredericksburg, Texas. Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 3.
2. This rich young man was so focused on his material blessings that he was not really willing to make them second to eternal priorities … and this is what made it harder for him to be saved than a camel going through the eye of a needle.
a. A casual relationship with God will never work!
b. God has never yet had a casual relationship with anyone!
c. Jesus constantly talked about "dying," "serving," etc.
3. The evidence of where we place material things in relation to eternal things can usually be seen in our priorities.
a. Like this rich man, we can genuinely want to ADD eternal or spiritual things to our life, but not always make them the first priority!
b. This rich young man was not a bad man, he seems to really care about the spiritual things Jesus spoke about … but he didn't wish to place his riches BELOW those eternal priorities … and this is where he lost his soul, as soon as Jesus told him how to put eternal things above material things the Bible states, Mat 19:22 "When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."
4. You don't have to be rich however to put eternal things second to temporal things … we can do this even if we are not rich materially.
a. Some people put their jobs above spiritual needs.
b. Some people put their sports above spiritual priorities.
c. Some people place their own schedules and resources above their spiritual priorities and needs.
5. Jesus assured the disciples that their placing of eternal things above their own material comforts will one day result in their sitting on thrones in eternity, their reward will come later, but it will be a much greater reward and longer lasting than any temporary wealth and honor they might have received on earth.
II. SOLUTION FOR PRIORITIES 6:24-34
A. Confidence 6:24-32
1. Jesus taught clearly that it is unnecessary to panic over the material things we need …
a. He says first that we should avoid worrying over the basic things, if we belong to him like the sparrows which He feeds daily then we can be confident that He will provide our most basic needs also.
b. Ironically Jesus says, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
c. Scientists today now tell us that those who fret with worry all the time actually shorten their lives!
2. Jesus was not teaching that we don't have to THINK about our basic needs, we still need to be responsible, He just said not to WORRY about our basic needs.
3. Those who put eternal things as priorities in their life are most often those who have their material things in order as well, they are usually good stewards of all that God has given them.
4. Birds and plants Jesus said, simply go about BEING what God created them to be, and in this they don't worry.
a. And so can we, when we ARE WHAT GOD WANTS US TO BE we can live free of anxiety also.
b. Jesus clearly understood the dangers we face as humans when it comes to the power of material things to draw us away from eternal things, consider the following:
ILLUS:Jesus talked much about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions. -- Howard L. Dayton, Jr., Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 2.
5. Jesus said the pagans "RUN AFTER" material and temporal things … what a tragedy when the world sees people who call themselves Christians do this also!
a. There is a bondage to chasing material things.
b. Our testimony for Jesus Christ must reflect a proper emphasis on material things.
B. Commitment 6:33-34
1. Jesus makes the call for disciples quite clear, Mat 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
a. It isn't God's intent that we should NOT have material things, He promises to add those needed things to us, but it is His intent that we keep His kingdom FIRST in our lives.
b. It is not a matter of having to choose WHICH one, temporal or eternal, it is a matter of PUTTING eternal things FIRST.
c. God certainly understood the need we have for material things, but He also knows the greater need of eternal things.
2. Putting eternal things FIRST is a commitment we must make, one that is clearly demonstrated in our lifestyle, our priorities, our life emphasis.
3. It is important that we learn to recognize what is NECESSARY in life and what is UNNECESSARY.
ILLUS:In Jules Verne's novel The Mysterious Island, he tells of five men who escape a Civil War prison camp by hijacking a hot air balloon. As they rise into the air, they realize the wind is carrying them over the ocean. Watching their homeland disappear on the horizon, they wonder how much longer the balloon can stay aloft.
As the hours pass and the surface of the ocean draws closer, the men decide they must cast overboard some of the weight, for they had no way to heat the air in the balloon. Shoes, overcoats, and weapons are reluctantly discarded, and the uncomfortable aviators feel their balloon rise. But only temporarily. Soon they find themselves dangerously close to the waves again, so they toss their food. Better to be high and hungry than drown on a full belly!
Unfortunately, this, too, is only a temporary solution, and the craft again threatens to lower the men into the sea. One man has an idea: they can tie the ropes that hold the passenger car and sit on those ropes. Then they can cut away the basket beneath them. As they sever the very thing they had been standing on, it drops into the ocean, and the balloon rises. Not a minute too soon, they spot land.
Eager to stand on terra firma again, the five jump into the water and swim to the island. They live, spared because they were able to discern the difference between what really was needed and what was not. The "necessities" they once thought they couldn't live without were the very weights that almost cost them their lives. The writer to the Hebrews says, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Heb. 12:1, NIV). -- Ed Haynes, Edwardsville, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 4.
a. There are times when we discover how unimportant some things really are, and how critical things are the most important things.
b. Life is a journey of discovering just how much greater eternal things are, and so often the older we get and the closer to eternity we get the more we become aware of how unimportant material things are, and just how important eternal things really are!
c. Wouldn't it be great if we could discover this earlier in our life rather than later.
4. When we make God's kingdom our FIRST priority He has a way of making sure all those "OTHER THINGS" are taken care of in our lives.
a. In fact, so often when God is first the quality of our life and material things will be BETTER than if we had made material things our first priority!
b. Why? Because God has a better sense of our needs, and He can bless us better than we can possibly bless ourselves!
ILLUS:In the days of the country store, a little boy used to accompany his mother when she went shopping. The storekeeper always said, "Take a handful of candy, Son." But the boy never would. The storekeeper would reach into the box and give him a handful. One day his mother asked, "Why is it, when he asks you to take a handful, you never do?" The boy replied, "Because his hands are bigger than mine." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
5. How much more fulfilling even our material things will be when they are directed by God rather than by us, God's hands are bigger than ours!
6. You will note that Jesus said "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow…" ONLY AFTER He said, "seek first His kingdom…"
a. Avoiding unnecessary worry comes only when the order of things is proper.
b. There comes a freedom to our mind, soul, and body when God's kingdom is first in our lives.
7. If you were to examine your life right now, would you (and others who know you!) say that His kingdom is first in your life?
a. If the answer is "NO" -- what do you need to do to change this? It will require a commitment on your part to change this.
b. If the answer is "YES" -- what do you need to do to guard this so that it doesn't change?
CONCLUSION: No one develops a strong relationship with God without a strong sense of eternal priorities. The rich young man's problem wasn't his wealth, it was his sense of priority, he made his wealth a greater priority than his soul! Jesus taught that the only way to experience real satisfaction is to commit oneself to eternal priorities. What's first in your life?