The Most Important Question: A Freedom Problem

BIG IDEA: This sermon looks at the story of the Rich Young Ruler. It is a PARTIAL recording as the introduction did not record. There is one thing this very religious good moral young man lacked, and it was freedom from his financial resources. Jesus loves him and wants to give him eternal life and life to the fullest, but something is holding him captive.

SERIES: The Most Important Question Ever Asked – A Study in the Gospel According to Mark: John Mark, a traveling companion of the Apostle Peter, wrote this gospel. We trust his writing because of that tie to Peter, an Apostle of Christ. He writes this gospel by taking down Peter’s account of Christ. It’s written likely because the Apostles were aging and their stories needed to be told for the coming generations. These are essentially the memoirs of Peter written to a group of Christians in Rome, and it’s written with a sense of urgency. Jesus came to accomplish a mission and to do so with a remarkable sense of urgency. Throughout the entirety of the gospel, there is the most important question ever asked: Who do you say Jesus is? Fist gospel written.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 10:17-31
17 uAnd as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and vknelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to winherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: x‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, yall these I have kept  from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, zlooking at him, aloved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, bsell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have ctreasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 dDisheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus elooked around and said to his disciples, f“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter gthe kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples hwere amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, i“Children, jhow difficult it is2 to enter gthe kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter gthe kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,3 “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus klooked at them and said, l“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, mwe have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, nthere is no one who has  left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and ofor the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold pnow in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, qwith persecutions, and in rthe age to come eternal life. 31 But smany who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Over the next several weeks, we will jump around the gospel according to Mark instead of continuing our chronological journey in order to address what we’re calling the Heart of Generosity. We’re going to take a look at what it means to be generous and to steward our finances well.

When Sideris started in 2014, we embraced a financial model where external supporters of our mission would provide start-up capital and pledge ongoing financial support over our first three years as a church. We envisioned a model where these external donors would diminish as the population of Sideris grew both in number and generosity.

For 2017, our goal was to support 70% of our budget through internal giving. As we project our internal giving through the end of the year, we may be shy of that goal (somewhere around 65%). Because we always envisioned being a financially self-sufficient church by the end of 2018, we are hoping to see the continued growth of our internal giving over the course of the coming year.

  • The Nature of the Problem: we often approach this text presuming that the rich young man has a money problem. That if only he could just get rid of his wealth, he would be alright. And we walk away from the story unsure of what it means for us because we don’t struggle with money. We assume it’s all about the money. But we get the nature of the problem wrong. It’s not a money problem, it’s a freedom problem.
  • A Freedom Problem: We have the exact same problem that this rich young man had. We are, every one of us, held captive by something. That something is, in the broadest sense, sin. But specifically, it plays out in completely unique ways in our individual lives. We don’t actually know what it was specifically for the Rich Young Man, but for some reason, due to something that had a hold on his life, he was unwilling to sell his possessions.
  • Money Problem vs. Gold Problem: not everyone with a money problem has a gold problem. The latter is someone who just likes money. But that’s just a type of money problem; it’s a subcategory.
  • What does your money represent to you? We can help determine that by asking this hypothetical hope statement, “If I could only afford to live in this neighborhood….”
    • “…then I’d have a cool house with air conditioning and a three-car garage” – a possessions problem
    • “…other people would see me as successful, accomplished, a hard worker.” – a status/appearance problem
    • “…it would mean that I could do what I want when I want, and I’d be connected to the ‘right’ people.” – a control/power problem
    • “…then I would be right near all of the great restaurants and the best places to hang out, and I would meet a lot of cool/fun people, who might invite me into their experiences.” – an experience/fun problem
    • “….then my family and I would be safe.” – a security problem
    • “…it would be confirmation that I’ve made great decisions in my life to bring me to this point, and it would be a good investment” – a confirmation problem
    • “…then I could use the extra space in my house to help others and get really connected with the neighborhood” – a helpfulness problem
      • It all comes down to what motivates you and drives you.
    • Why is generosity/giving so important? When we learn a pattern of generosity, it breaks the ties that bind us to whatever we idolize. It forces us to come to terms with that which holds us captive. Money becomes a magnifying glass. Every time you choose to give, you say “that thing doesn’t own me, and I choose instead to serve my God.”
    • Again, what does your money represent to you? Adventure, security, predictability, autonomy, control, power, pleasure, happiness, status, helpfulness, spontenaity, better stuff, bigger stuff, newer stuff, faster stuff, slower stuff?
      • None of these are inherently bad things: what’s bad is when they steal your freedom to follow Jesus, which is the greatest thing we could ever be offered.
    • Look at Mark 10:13: this is the story about the Jesus calling the children unto him, so when Jesus calls the people listening in Mark 10:24 “children” he’s referencing this moment before, and reminding them that children, the most dependent people in society, follow Jesus with much more ease than anyone else. And guess what, the rich are the least dependent.
    • Dependency: we have, most of us, forgotten what it means to depend on others, let alone depend on God. If you don’t know how to be dependent, then you can never fully receive the grace of God. You have to depend on Jesus. It’s the only way.
    • Are the wealthy doomed? Of course not. What’s impossible for man is possible for God. But it’s going to be really hard.
    • Dependency Practices: We need to help ourselves learn dependency on God by practicing dependency.
      • Next time you go on a trip, instead of staying in a nice hotel room that you can afford, find a local connection (even if it’s a distant one), and stay at that person’s house. Sleep on their couch and don’t offer to pay them anything.
      • Don’t take an Uber or a Lyft next time you have to go to the airport. Depend on a friend, and don’t pay them for the gas. Accept their generosity.
      • On your next vacation, let your kids decide what you’ll do.
    • …goes away sorrowful: the Rich Young Man doesn’t question Jesus, he doesn’t ask for more information. He decides right then and there that he cannot give up what holds him captive in order to gain eternal life through Jesus. He was looking for an add-on, but Jesus doesn’t do add-ons.
    • Radical Identity Change: Choosing to follow Jesus requires a radical change in your identity. Jesus doesn’t ask everyone to give everything, literally everything, away. But if you hear that and you sigh in relief, then maybe you’re one of those people who needs to give it all away. Maybe your identity is too wrapped up in your wealth and possessions, or whatever it is that money represents for you.
      • What’s your identity wrapped up in? Your title, degree, career, sexuality, philosophical system, politics, family name, morality, trophy case, bank account, autonomy, independence?
      • An Exchange: Jesus, when he calls us, tells us that we have to kill our old identities and take up his identity. Will you do it?
      • How? You might need to change your career, you might need to move, but whatever it is, identity goes deep, and it often takes radical action in order to change it.
    • Receive a hundredfold: This is not prosperity gospel. This is the hundredfold principle, and Jesus is talking about in this world, not the next.
      • How does that work? If you give up those things to follow Jesus, immediately, you get the family of God at your disposal. You can travel anywhere in the world, and if there’s a believer in Jesus in that country, you have a place to stay. You are part of the family of God. When you follow Jesus, you get everybody that’s connected to him.
    • “Am I Lord over your finances?” Jesus asks us this question. How do you answer it?

Want to study this topic more?
Click here to read about a Biblical understanding of giving: Giving & Tithing Theology
Click here to listen to the sermon
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