and the day they find out why." — John Maxwell
We are wired to have purpose… any search for purpose apart from God is a dead end… a deep relationship with God including an acceptance of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised to new life, is humbling. Christ alone gives purpose. To embrace Christ is to set your life on the path of your greatest purpose!
Today’s scripture: a man trying to figure out who he is… Mathew, Mark and Luke include this story in their gospels… only Luke tells us he is a RULER.
Often, during a crisis, we question our identity… a death, illness, graduation is a crisis…. A wedding is a crisis because it is letting go of what was and leaping into the unknown. I like this silly testimony of a young husband who forgot he was married. The day after the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon, the husband was 3 hours late getting home from the office. Dinner was burned—and his bride was burning mad. He had absentmindedly gone to his mother’s house!
Sometimes, for no reason at all, we wonder who we are and what life is about…, questions of purpose. Identity. The ruler goes to Jesus in the middle of an identity crisis, trying to understand who he is, what’s important. Even though he is searching for a right relationship with God, he is not able to let go of his identity as a powerful man of wealth. The problem isn’t the money, as we learn from other places in scripture; it is the attitude towards money that is the problem.
This man was having an identity crisis. Maybe he is you…The admirable quality about him is that he knows he has a need. He knows something is missing. His wealth does not bring purpose. Amazingly, he even knows eternal life is the greatest purpose of all READ Luke 18:18.
The world is in crisis. Has the world ever been more discontent than now? We are becoming numb to bad news. We can list more that is wrong than we can what is right. Yet, like the rich ruler, there is a hunger for God. God is real to most people! The problem is personally knowing him, making a commitment, giving up our dead end answers.
Not only does the rich ruler know about God, he knows a lot. He calls Jesus good. In our culture that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in the context of the day, only God is referred to as good. READ Luke 18:19. the old title for Pastor that I am so glad has dropped off of common usage is “Reverend.” My father used to say, “Only God is to be revered.” While this man may not understand the fullness of the deity of Jesus Christ, he does use the designation of good which is meant only for God … The man is close to the Kingdom, but so far away… Not only does he recognize Jesus as a good man, but he is devout in his practices of serving God. READ Luke 18:20-21. God wants our hearts. It’s always about the heart, always about a relationship, not ritual obedience. The disciplines of faith are tools in knowing God and the fruit of our love for God, not the other way around…. Know about God and knowing God are not the same thing.
This man probably has fooled a lot of people who thought he was a faithful God follower! A righteous looking man with a good reputation…I can fool people into thinking I am an amazing Christian…. I can even fool myself… but God knows my faults. He knows when I put my good works ahead of a relationship with him. He knows when the outward actions take over as the main focus. You and I cannot fool God.
The rich ruler is stuck! Stuck. His story is Ecclesiastes coming to life: he tried to live for God and it isn’t working. Something is wrong… Like the woman whose letter I read… Easy to get stuck… Does God ever feel distant and irrelevant? Every hit a season of spiritual darkness?... Stuckness look and feel different for different people:
- Your daily fear of future tragedy erodes your affection for God.
- Your experience in worship is empty and distracted.
- You feel unimpressed, aloof to the things of God.
- Sermons seem boring.
- Going through the motions.
The rich ruler feels stuck. He knows what he wants, he has strived to find purpose, but it hasn’t worked. Jesus gives him a powerful answer: READ Luke 18:22.
Sometimes the Bible gives us negative examples: what not to do. For this man, he responds with sadness because he rejects Jesus directions READ Luke 18:23.
I believe in freedom of choice! We are all given choices in life ~ None of us choose when we are born or what our parents are like, accidents happen, circumstances of life derail plans, but we are given a choice in how we respond. This man chooses to be sad. When Jesus says to sell everything and give to the poor the man can’t do it. For this man, he chooses that which brings no meaningful purpose.
For this man, Jesus is asking him to give up more than money, but also his position in society.
I think the radical demand Jesus places on this man to give up everything is bigger than what I can imagine….In other places of the bible there are wealthy people who are faithful, so this isn’t a one size fits all…Jesus is addressing the man’s demon which may be different for you and me. On the other hand, unhealthy attitudes toward money is a common demon. This is a radical call to discipleship! For some of us, giving up earthly possessions may be exactly what Doctor Jesus orders… Jesus is a heart doctor as he focuses on the central stumbling block keeping this man away from embracing his greatest purpose. This man is owned by his money. Jesus says, cut out the false God of your life like a cancer. The professor I appreciated the most was Colin Brown, a gifted thinker, academic books, humble… he was asked in an interview what he would be doing if he wasn’t a professor at Fuller Seminary. “I’d probably be a janitor.” And he meant it. His calling form God, professor or janitor, he was the same before God…
For this man, Jesus gives him bad news, because he decides to not accept it. Jesus radical call to discipleship doesn’t have to be bad news. The command to give all his money to the poor can be good news ~~ God wants your heart.…
Jesus responds to the Rich Man by saying how hard it is to enter the Kingdom based on your riches… It’s commonplace for the pursuit of wealth/stuff to become your main focus…. Jesus compares the difficulty of the rich entering the Kingdom by saying it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…. your wealth/ status/ accomplishments have nothing to do with salvation. It would be like me applying for a job to build your house and touting what a great singer I am… let me build your house because I have the most amazing voice you will ever hear. Give me eternal life, God, because I have lots of money and did a lot of good things…. READ Luke 18:24-25.
The ruler apparently fooled a lot of people. If this man is not given eternal life, then who? READ Luke 18:26.
Luke 18:27 is the good news. For the rich man it was bad news because he wasn’t willing to pay the price of depending completely on God for purpose/salvation. Yet for those who hear and accept, it is good news… all I have to do is give up my time, a claim on my resources, and dedicate to God….READ Luke 18:27. That’s it!!!! What is impossible with man… you cannot make it on your own, you cannot be good enough, no earthly endeavor is lasting, no effort brings salvation…ONLY GOD…
Peter receives Jesus’ words as good news…This is my favorite part of this scripture. READ Luke 18:28… I am so glad Peter is our example. Awkward, bullheaded, Peter. He gets a lot wrong, but he understands commitment, giving up, self limitation, all to God….Notice that Jesus does not correct Peter in any way, but he appears to commend him, READ 18:29-30.
What just happened? In one breadth Jesus is saying how difficult it is to inherit eternal life ~ it’s easier for a camel to squirm through a needles’ eye. Impossible for any man to qualify! Then comes Peter. Peter, the one we usually laugh at for being so dense and not getting it. Peter gets it. Peter is a reminder that just when it seemed impossible to have an amazing forever relationship with God, don’t give up. Don’t be so hard on yourself! For all his faults, Peter gets it. Peter is accepted by Jesus. The person who gives up his/her own desires, dedicated to serving/following the Lord, is the one that Jesus receives… Peter is not perfect, but his devotion to the Lord is commended…
Jesus said something very similar to Luke 18:29-30 in Matt. 6:33: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
An identity crisis hits when we question the purpose and meaning of life. Sometimes we drift away from a personal relationship with God. At other times the doubts/confusion are in response to a life change. Questions of meaning are often related to our goals that don’t bring the expected satisfaction, or wealth, or accomplishments, or plans that are sidetracked by unexpected bombs. The world praises wealth and accomplishments, but the irony is how often the completion of self focused goals are hollow. Purpose comes when we know Christ and he knows us.
May we return to the simple gospel of knowing God. Only in Him do we find purpose. Only in him is eternal life. Striving after our goals does not bring lasting satisfaction. Accumulating wealth is a temporary high. Climbing the ladder of success at work or in the community does not bring lasting satisfaction. To be a Christian is to let go of everything else and to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. Give up everything is bad news if you reject it, but, like Peter, we don’t need to be so hard on ourselves. Focus on Jesus Christ as the primary purpose of life, and you will receive eternal life.