Tonight we are going to continue our conversation about taking in Daily Nutrients as we jump deeper and deeper into a relationship with God. Since coming back for the Winter Retreat we have been talking about the importance of hanging out at the feet of Jesus and what that looks like. A few weeks ago, we talked about reading the Bible and how it is God’s Words to us. We looked at a whole handful of suggestions to make reading the Bible a little easier to understand and more engaging.
Two weeks ago, we talked, in a sense, about prayer but tackled it from the angel of listening to God. We talked about how important it is to find time to “be still” and listen for God’s “gentle whisper.” Often, our lives are too busy, too loud, too filled up; that we miss things that God is trying to tell us about Him and about ourselves.
Tonight, I want to look at another discipline that is really important to understand and practice every day. It probably wouldn’t be one of the first things that jump into your heads as we talk about taking in Daily Nutrients and at first it may seem to not even fit with our conversation. The discipline we are going to look at tonight is that of giving. Again, I know some of you may be thinking, “Aren’t we talking about ‘taking in’ not giving out? How is this part of taking in Daily Nutrients?” Well, we’re going to tackle that question in a little bit, but first, I want to get your general impressions about giving. What comes to your mind when you see or hear the word give?
***Give the students a few moments to think and respond***
I know some of you may disagree with my next comment at first but we, who sit in this room, live in a culture where we have a lot of stuff and a lot of options before us. Even if you are on the low end of the totem pole and feel like you don’t have much, compared to other parts of the world, you are rich beyond imagination. We have money to spend on movies, games, and all sorts of other pleasures. Think about how many clothes you have? Girls, how many pairs of shoes do you have? Guys, how many video games do you have? Some of you I know have more than one system, let alone games. Many of us have more than one TV in our homes. We have DVD players, sports equipment, computers, sound systems, instruments, cars, etc. We really do have a lot of stuff that surrounds our lives every day. So, let me pose another question. How would you respond if a stranger came up to you and asked you to give everything you had away– everything! – and told you to give up your family and friends as well, and then to come and follow Him? Just let that sink in for a second? How would you feel? What would you think about?
It is in just that situation that a young, rich man finds himself when talking to Jesus one day. Let’s open our Bibles to Matthew 19:16-22 and sit in on the conversation and then I have a movie clip that will help put the story in modern times so that we might understand a little better what’s going on.
***Have one of the youth read Matthew 19:16-22***
***Play Rich Young Ruler (Skit Guys) video clip***
As this rich, young man came up to Jesus, he asked a question that a lot of us ask all the time. “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” This is exactly that same place that we started our conversation about taking in Daily Nutrients. The rich man was looking for a way to earn God’s love and acceptance the same way that we too often have a habit of doing. The man was desperate for an answer and wanted to have eternal life really bad. No doubt he had heard stories about Jesus and knew that he was a great teacher so he anxiously approached Jesus and asked his question.
Jesus’ response spoke to the answer that we arrived at when we asked the same question a few weeks ago. “‘Why ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good.” In other words, Jesus is saying that, “There is no good deed that you can do to earn my love and acceptance by God. Only through Me can you be accepted.” But, knowing that his answer was not what the man was asking for continued on and told him that if he wanted to receive eternal life he should keep or obey the commandments.
As Jesus said that, you could almost picture the young man pulling out a little notebook and getting a little excited. Completely ignoring Jesus’ first thoughts on his question, and really the most important, the young man quickly asks, “Which ones?”
Jesus responds by going through a handful of the 10 Commandments that all have to do with other people and then summarizes what he has said by stating that the young man should love his neighbor as himself. I found it interesting as I studied and mediated on this passage that Jesus says nothing at first to this man about the commandments that deal with loving God – such as having idols, worshipping other gods and using the Lord’s name in vain.
Consider that in Matthew 22, the Pharisees try to back Jesus into a corner by asking what the greatest commandment is. Jesus summarizes them all by saying we need to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…and equally important [to] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” It seems that in the conversation with the rich, young ruler Jesus just forgets the first and greatest and skips to number two. Why does He do that? Well, we’ll see in a minute.
As the rich, young man finishes scribbling Jesus’ words into his notebook, he looks them over and a confused look comes across his face. He looks up at Jesus and expresses that he has obeyed all of those commandments but inside he knows he is still lacking something. So he asks, “What else must I do?” He thinks to himself, “I’ve followed all those rules. I’ve done all those good things…what am I missing?” Really, what he is missing, again goes back to Jesus’ first response that there is no such thing as a “good” Christian and that there is only One who is good, but the rich man still is more concerned with earning his way to heaven.
So Jesus, goes deeper with the young man and tells him to go and sell everything he has, give the money to the poor, and then, come and follow Him. Jesus’ response does two things here. First, Jesus now speaks to the commandments that deal with loving God above all things. He wasn’t forgetting all that stuff before but instead he was saving it to make a point and show the man something about himself. Second, Jesus shows the man to be a hypocrite. The man had just claimed that he had followed the laws that Jesus mentioned and loved his neighbor as himself. Obviously, that was not actually the case seeing the man’s reaction to giving money to the poor.
Taking in Jesus’ words, we read that the rich, young man goes away “very sad, for he had many possessions.” He had no interest in following Jesus or being a disciple. Instead, he followed himself and a group of things, or idols, that he had placed before God – his money, his stuff, his power, etc. He also was too caught up on rules and earning his own way to eternity. He obeyed all the “big” commandments – not murdering, not sleeping around, didn’t steal, loved and obeyed his mom and dad – but yet, even he knew he still fell short of receiving eternal life.
Living in a very materialistic culture, there is almost nothing that we cannot buy, win, earn, and get for ourselves and too often we get locked into that mindset when it comes to our relationship with God. But really, a relationship with God and the idea of taking in daily nutrients must be paired with us giving up bits and pieces of ourselves to follow Him.
Again, as I mentioned, some of you might think giving is not “taking in” so why is they important as a daily nutrient. Think of it in connection to our daily diets. In order to take in healthy nutrients we, at times, need to give up the unhealthy things that do not help our body.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to go home and sell all your stuff, move out of your house and be poor and living in a box in some alley. Again, relating it to food, I’m not saying we have to give up chips or video games or shopping for clothes forever. What it means is that nothing should be more important to you than God. Figuratively speaking, we need to be willing to constantly give more and more of ourselves, our stuff, our time and everything else over to Him.
Think of it this way, in order to read your Bible you have to give up sleep, time, video games, some other activity or something else. The same goes when it comes to listening to God. Following Jesus means giving up certain friends, certain bands, certain TV shows, certain attitudes and a number of other things. Thus, when we talk about jumping deeper into a relationship with Christ, we must make a daily habit of giving ourselves more and more to Him so that those things can be replaced by things of God.
Going back to Jesus’ initial words, “There is only One who is good.” As He said that, He was talking about Himself. There is not a single good deed that you can do to earn God’s love or acceptance but only by giving yourself over to the Perfect and Loving Jesus can you find God. As we look towards Good Friday and Easter this coming weekend, which celebrates Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus gave up everything for us – His fame, His money, His family, even His life on the cross – and now He asks us to do the same, by taking up our crosses and being willing to give up everything we have and then following Him.
The question for us to wrestle with tonight, and really every day as we wake up, is, “What is God asking me to give up for Him?” Does he want me to give some money away to help the church or the poor? Does he want me to give up some of my time to read my Bible or to care for someone else? Does he want me to give up an attitude or a behavior? Or something else? We need to, again, everyday, prayerfully ask the question of what God wants us to give up for him. We may think it’s not fair or fun and it definitely will not always be easy but yet, when we remind ourselves that Jesus gave up his entire life for us, it puts things in a little better perspective.