Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24 and Mark 10:17-27
Lauren Daigle is a successful contemporary Christian singer. Lauren just released her new album, Look Up Child. In its first week it sold 115,000 albums or songs from the album. Rolling Stone called her debut the best by a solo Christian female artist in 20 years. My favorite one is on her new album, Look Up Child. It’s called You Say.
The lyrics are: You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak. You say I am held when I am falling short. When I don’t belong, You say I am Yours. And I believe, oh I believe, what you say of me, Oh, I believe.
Lauren not only believes Jesus when He says, God loves us no matter what, she took that message into the Maximum-security Stateville Correctional Prison in Illinois, and led the inmates in worship.
She said about the experience, “We sang songs with inmates whose voices carried deeper into our hearts than the echo of a microphone will ever reach. I saw hope in the face of the hopeless, joy in the wake of sorrow, wealth in the gap of depravity, and life in the midst of death.”
“These people have stories, and they also have souls. I watched heaven befriend those who are often forgotten. With each day that passes, may I never take for granted what it is to walk around as a free person.”
Lauren Daigle has given her heart and her life to Jesus Christ. You hear it in her songs and you witness it in her life.
The rich young man in today’s gospel reading from Mark could not do it. He let his wealth get in the way.
Mark 10:17, “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him to follow the commandments that deal with the relationships we have with others, and the man replied, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (v.20)
“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.” (v.21)
We read in verse 22, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
Notice in verse 21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him?” Jesus had compassion on the rich young man, because He knew what was in his heart. Jesus knew the young man’s money was more important to him than living his life for Jesus.
We read in Psalm 139, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” (vv. 1-3)
In verses 23-24 of Psalm 139, we read this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” God knows our heart.
Christian author, speaker, pastor and sociologist, Tony Campolo in his book,
Everything You’ve Heard Is Wrong, tells about a young idealistic student named Ralph he once had in one of his classes. During his undergraduate years, Ralph was committed to becoming an advocacy lawyer who would champion the rights of the oppressed and stand up against the exploitation of the poor. Ralph was full of passion for justice and radiated a compassion for the underdog that inspired all who knew him.
By the time he graduated from law school, however, Ralph was deeply in debt. He took a job with a large firm that specialized in corporate law and did as little pro bono work as possible. The pay was mind boggling, and Ralph convinced himself that he would only stay with the firm for as long as it took him to make enough money to pay off his school bills. He assured his former professor that the yuppie subculture into which he was jumping would not rub off on him. He was certain that who he was had been so firmly established that the surrounding culture couldn’t change him one little bit.
When Tony Campolo met Ralph a few years later he was a transformed person. His idealism was gone. He was on the verge of becoming a partner in the firm, he had a live-in relationship with one of his colleagues, and they had just moved into a “super place up on the East Side.” What saddened Campolo most was that the excitement that had once sparkled in Ralph’s eyes seemed gone. “Oh,” says Campolo, “Ralph still went to church regularly. He had found one of those churches that served, as they say, ‘a better class of people.” * Money changed Ralph’s heart.
I’d like to take a few moments to analyze this rich young man. The first thing I see is that this young man was very near to the Kingdom of God. He asked all the right questions. He understood the Law and he understood Jesus’ teaching. Yet in the end his love of money kept him out.
Yet, I see positive attributes in this man. At this point Jesus was not recognized as God’s Son. He was simply a prophet, with an exciting message, a magnetic personality, and eyes that held you when you spoke to him. At this point in Jesus’ ministry the disciples did not know that Jesus would be raised from the dead and ascend to heaven to sit at God’s right hand. They knew there was something special about this Rabbi, they gave up everything for, they just didn’t know what.
The first positive thing I see about this young man was that he was courageous. He belonged to the upper class, but he did not let that keep him from Jesus. This rich young man was different from Nicodemus who went to Jesus undercover of night. This young man came to Jesus in daylight, with people all around. Something in Jesus and his teachings convinced him that Jesus was someone special.
How many of us are reluctant to share what Jesus has done for us, in public? How many of us are willing to face other’s ridicule of our faith if we share it? More than a few I think. This rich young man was courageous!
The second positive thing is that he was humble. He ran up to Jesus and knelt before him, in the middle of the road in broad daylight for all to see. If his friends saw him, those within his social class, they would be shocked, but this man didn’t care. He came humbly to Jesus and knelt at his feet.
He knelt before Jesus and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Pharisees asked different questions, questions meant to trip Jesus up. What about paying taxes to Caesar? What about divorce? Why don’t your disciples fast, wash their hands, obey the Sabbath? The Pharisees were arrogant, they did not think they could learn anything from the rebel Rabbi Jesus. The rich young man did, that’s why he asked the simple question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?
The third positive was that he was religious. He was a spiritual man trying to do what was right. When Jesus instructed him to keep the commandments, he answered, “Teacher, all these things I have kept since I was a boy.” (v.20) At the age of 13 a Jewish boy assumes personal responsibility for keeping the commandments. We are not told how old he is now, but he is old enough to be a rich young man. He had kept the commandments since age 13.
This rich young man was courageous, humble and religious, yet there were a few negatives too.
The first negative thing is that he thought he had to DO something to be granted eternal life. In our Ladies Tuesday noon Bible study at the Christian Centre, we are studying Grace Walk, by Steve McVey. Steve was a pastor in a very successful church and when he was called to a smaller church, he thought he had ‘to do’ something to build that church up. Instead, in spite of everything Steve did, the church continued to decline.
Steve couldn’t figure it out, until one day in the church office, he lay on the floor in tears. “It didn’t make sense. Had God brought me to this church only to set me up for failure? Couldn’t He see that I was doing everything I knew how for Him? I couldn’t imagine what more He expected from me than my best. And I had done my best. God, what more do you want from me? Silence. At this moment He seemed light-years away. The weight of failure was suffocating, and not just my failure as a pastor. I felt like a failure as a Christian. If dedicating my whole adult life to God to do His work wasn’t enough, what more did He want?” (p.13)
Martin Luther, who began the Protestant Reformation, also thought he had to do something for God. Luther had no peace in his life. He was a monk who wanted to please God, but he felt like an awful sinner. On a trip to Rome he encountered the church’s corrupt practice of selling indulgences, the belief that financial contributions to the church could release loved ones from purgatory. He paid the fee to climb Pilate’s stairs—the supposed staircase that Jesus climbed the day He was sentenced to death. There were 28 steps. You were to crawl on your hands and knees up all 28, stop on each step and say the Pater Noster–the Lord’s Prayer—on each one. Luther kissed each step for good measure. At the 28th step the loved one you named was released from purgatory. When Luther got to the top of the steps he said, “Who knows whether it is so?”
He realized some time later that you cannot do anything to earn God’s love and grace; you simply have to be willing to give your heart to God and receive God’s love and grace.
Let’s go back to Steve McVey’s office where he is lying on the floor in tears. He writes, “It was almost 2 A.M. and I had no tears left. The pressure of the anxiety that had built up over the previous year had been released in this unexpected burst of emotion. Now I just felt tired and empty. In the stillness of the early morning hour, my thoughts turned to a piece of paper someone had given me a few weeks earlier. I reached up to my computer desk, took the sheet, and began to read it. It was a quotation about absolute surrender to God. On one side was a list of things to commit to God. On the other side was a list of rights to give up—things like the right to success, the right to acceptance, the right to pleasant circumstances, the right to results. I took the paper and began to pray my way down the list. Lord, I’m tired of struggling for victory in my own life and I am tired of striving for success in my ministry. As I continued to pray, I chose to lay aside everything that had brought me a sense of worth: my efforts to have a growing church, my hunger for affirmation in ministry, my education, and my experience. As I came to the bottom of the list, I read this paragraph:
I give God permission to do anything He wishes to me, with me, in me, or through me that would glorify Him. I once claimed these rights as mine, but now they belong to God and are under His control. He can do with them anything He pleases. I signed my name below the paragraph. I sensed this night was a turning point in my life and my ministry.
When I left my office early that morning, I didn’t want a new program or plan. I wanted only one thing—Jesus. In church that next Sunday, Pastor Steve shared this scripture from Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (p.27-28)**
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Pastor Steve McVey stopped doing things for God, and became a new creation in Christ and began walking and living in the love and grace of God.
Lauren Daigle had it right when she wrote these words in her song You Say, “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak. You say I am held when I am falling short. And when I don’t belong, You say I am Yours. And I believe, oh I believe, what you say of me, Oh, I believe. No matter how we feel, God tells us we are loved and held by Him.
You and I do not have to do anything to gain eternal life. We just have to surrender our heart and life to God. He knows our heart. We cannot hide anything from Him.
The rich young man could not give up the control he thought he had of his life. He couldn’t give up his money, and he walked away. I implore you not to walk away. Just offer Jesus your heart, because He knows what’s in it anyway!
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References. * (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992), p. 128.
**McVey, Steve.(1995) Grace Walk, Harvest House Publishers. Eugene, Oregon
—Some of the ideas for this message came from a sermon by Brett Blair titled, What Must I DO to Receive Life.