Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Camel and the Needle

Isaiah 58:1-14; Mark 10:17-31 / Romans 10:1-21

I. Do All Rich People Live on Hell Highway?

A. Which way leads to the permanent good life? “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17)

B. Jesus treated the question as a trick, rather than a genuine request. “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18)

C. The holy life is obvious. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” (Mark 10:19)

D. The trickster then said something ludicrous. “And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” (Mark 10:20)

E. Jesus went to the heart of the matter. “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

II. Some Things Are Too Hard

A. The man was sad because he was too rich to follow Jesus. “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:22)

B. Sadly, people who love the things of this world have trouble valuing the riches of the world come. “And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:23)

C. That the rich should have trouble doing anything is counterintuitive to thoughtful people, but it isn’t to God. “And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:24)

D. People who think they are rich are as disinclined to do what is necessary to get right with God as a camel is to do what is necessary to pass through the eye of a needle. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

E. If rich people—those who are successful in this world—are not guaranteed entrance to heaven, what chance is there for ordinary people? “And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26)

III. Only God Can Do Some Things

A. God can do what people cannot do—this is the central feature of grace. “And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) “And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

B. A genuine believer is willing to give up an entire world, which will inevitably pass away, in exchange for a world which will last for ever; Jesus was not talking about bank accounts. “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.” (Mark 10:28) “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:7-9)

C. Ultimately, no one who invests everything in Jesus will lose anything. “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

D. People who do not understand grace will lose everything. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. (Mark 10:31) “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

Thank God for Mercy

1 Timothy 1: 12-20

I. Paul Traced His Call to Mercy

A. God put Paul into the ministry and Paul was appreciative. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;” (1 Timothy 1:12)

B. As the developer of the European church, there was much to commend in Paul’s life, but he himself traced all that which was good to God’s grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

C. The great evangelist was first the great persecutor and abuser of God’s people. “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (1 Timothy 1:13) “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

D. Saul was actually on his way to destroy the church at Damascus when he was converted and became Paul, the evangelist to the Gentiles. “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,” (Acts 9:1) “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5)

II. Sinners Can Be Saved

A. A person who has experienced grace and genuinely understands the price paid for new life will be deeply appreciative. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:14-15)

B. Grace is not cheap or easy. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

C. Paul’s transformation from Saul the killer to Paul the saint is possible for others. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

D. The alternative to grace is too horrible to contemplate. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;” (Hebrews 2:3)

E. Paul was saved to be the pattern for those who would come to grace later. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

F. Salvation brings glory to God, not to the saved sinner. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

III. Each Generation Builds on the Past

A. A faithful believer such as Paul will entrust the story of grace to the next generation of believers as a precious treasure. This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;” (1 Timothy 1:18)

B. No solid foundation can stand when guilty consciences undermine it. Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:” (1 Timothy 1:19)

C. Testimonies of disaster in consequence of turning from Christ serve their own educational purpose as well. “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:20)

D. Knowing the implications, concentrate on maintaining and displaying a good conscience. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

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