Summary: A sermon about putting God first.
“Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die”
It has been written that, “It is the desire for God which is the most fundamental appetite of all, and it is an appetite we can never eliminate.
We may seek to disown it, but it will not go away.
If we deny that it is there, we shall in fact only divert it to some other object or range of objects.
And that will mean that we invest some creature or creatures with the full burden of our need for God, a burden which no creature can carry.”
This story of the rich man is also recorded in Matthew and Luke.
In Matthew we learn that he is “young.”
And in Luke we learn that he is also a “ruler.”
And so, this story is most often referred to as “The story of the rich, young ruler.”
Clearly, the way worldly success is measured, we could easily say that this guy appears to “have it all.”
What more could he possibly need or want?
Well, eternal life, of course.
So, what is eternal life?
For many people today, this simply refers to an existence going on and on and on forever.
And this may or may not sound appealing; people’s opinions will differ on this.
But this view of eternal life does not catch the flavor, the sheer excitement, carried by the original meaning.
What the Jews believed was that in God’s new age, everything will be fresh, and free from corruption, decay, evil, bitterness, pain, fear and death.
And that’s just the beginning.
There will be new possibilities and opportunities at every turn…
…new joys and delights.
Heaven and earth will be joined together and God will live with God’s people.
And that is something people were longing for.
There is no more intimate connection with God, love and perfection than that!!!
And it will come about when God finally rules the world with God’s saving power.
And this is what Jesus is presently bringing to those who will trust Him.
Evil and death, there can be no doubt, still rage very strong.
But when people with humble and repentant trust accept that God’s Kingdom is active in and through Jesus Christ, life in God’s Kingdom begins to be seen—even in this life.
What the rich young ruler needs is what we all need.
We all need to allow ourselves to be claimed by the love of God.
And in doing so, we embark on a lifelong journey (both now and forever) of experiencing the love and goodness of God even though this life is difficult.
In verse 21 we are told that “Jesus looked at [the rich young ruler] carefully and loved him.”
Jesus doesn’t view the man with disgust.
Rather than condemning him, Jesus confronts the man with his “weakness,” his captivity to possessions that gets in the way of him living into the full life of the kingdom.
And Jesus names that “weakness” and invites Him to step out of it and into freedom!!!
In Matthew’s telling of the same story, Jesus says to the man, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.
Then you will have treasure in heaven.
And come follow me.”
“If you want to be complete…”
God wants all of us to be complete, to be totally dedicated to His service, not to be half and half people, with one foot in the kingdom and the other in the world.
In order to be complete, we must be empty.
And in order to be empty we must be willing to empty ourselves of all things which hinder or get in the way of our relationship with God.
In order to have everything we must have nothing.
In order to be fully signed up to God’s service, we must be signed off from everything else.
In order to live the Resurrected Life, we must first die with Christ.
Sadly, everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
You know, it’s interesting.
Life in God’s Kingdom is about transformation and character change.
It means being in the company and presence of Jesus Christ.
It means identifying with Christ.
And identifying with Christ involves a Cross.
Clarence Jordan was getting a red-carpet tour of another minister’s church building.
With pride the minister pointed to the rich, imported pews and luxurious decorations.
As they stepped outside, darkness was falling, and a spotlight shone on a huge cross atop the steeple.
“That cross alone cost us $10,000,” the minister said with a satisfied smile.
“You got cheated,” said Jordan.
“Times were when Christians could get them for free.”
We are told that the rich young ruler was “dismayed at [Jesus’] statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.”