Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim. You know, one of the hard lessons I have had to learn in and throughout my Christian walk is how easy it can be to be religious and yet at the same time completely miss the presence of Jesus. I face this temptation often. And I think that this is because the presence of Jesus is uncomfortable (at least until we surrender to Him) because Jesus is always interested not just in changing my eternal destination, but in changing me; moving me to lay down my wants, my addictions, my own plans for what I think my future ought to be. I think I am like a lot of Christians, where I sometimes want Jesus to be a part of my life but I don’t want Him to take my life and BE my Life. But one thing Jesus never lets us escape, in all His preaching and teaching, is that the way to life is found in following Him; and He states directly and unabashedly (to the dismay of many a prosperity gospel prophet today) that that will involve our carrying our cross; laying our lives down (participating in His death in how we live our lives) in order for us to experience His life. And if we don’t every come to that point of surrender, we will miss the very saving presence of Jesus. That is why I would like to begin a study today on a passage many of you may know well. It is perhaps one of the saddest encounters Jesus experienced during His ministry; and that is His encounter with a rich young ruler. It says in…
Mark 10:17-31 (ESV)-- 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit 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: ‘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, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Roosevelt and Non-listeners— [The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir." It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, "I'm sure she had it coming.”] Listening makes all the difference. And this is especially true when it comes to our relationship with God. And it’s not just about hearing audibly, but listening to what we have heard by changing our behavior or obediently following Jesus in the direction He wants to take us. Now in Jewish culture, one of the things you would recite on a daily basis was the Shema. And the main passage of the Shema comes from Deuteronomy 6...
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV)— 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Shema— And the reason this is called the "shema" is because "shema" is the Hebrew word for "listen" or “hear". It is an interesting word because it conveys (in one word) the concept of hearing and doing. So every day, the Jews would remind themselves of the simple fact that they are to hear and obey Yahweh.
To Whom God Reveals Himself-- Now God tends to reveal Himself to those whom He knows will obey Him. And often times God will cease communicating with and withdraw Himself from those who habitually fail to act on what He has told them to do.
Hundreds of Them-- Once an old man was driving home from work when his wife called him on his cell phone. "Honey", she said in a worried voice, "be careful. There was a bit on the news just now, some lunatic is driving the wrong way down the freeway”. "It's worse than that", he replied, "there are hundreds of them!”]. This story illustrates the importance both of having an outside voice that is wiser than we are, and the importance of listening to that voice; Shema. If we don’t obey and turn, we’re in trouble.
Even the demons practice Shema— And, in coming to our passage today on the rich young ruler, it is amazing to me that, in looking at the the previous chapter (where Jesus casts a demon out of a young boy), we find that this story takes place within a context where demons are hearing and obeying Jesus immediately in coming out of people at His command. And yet the people around Him are (like the rich young ruler) failing to obey. And we often times think of failure to obey God as demonic; but actually it is worse than being demonic because the demons obey. What amazes me in looking at the text is that the demons are practicing Shema and the rich young ruler (obviously Jewish because of his reverence for the Ten Commandments); a Jewish man who recites the Shema every day; fails to practice Shema. Now he wants to. He wants to be pleasing in God's eyes; he wants eternal life. So he comes to Rabbi Jesus and asks Him what he needs to do to obtain eternal life.
Mark 10:21 (ESV)— 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
all that you have-- Now what is interesting here is Jesus doesn’t say, “Give ten percent.” He doesn’t say “Give 30, 50, or 75 percent.” Jesus says, “go, sell all that you have”. And this reminds us of what true discipleship really costs; Jesus demands everything. Now we are pretty quick to say, “Well, the only reason Jesus said this to this rich young man was because He knew that to be this man’s particular idol. And so maybe Jesus commanded that from him, but surely Jesus doesn’t want me to give up all my stuff. Does He?” And so you see we water it down, telling ourselves that what Jesus wants is for us to, while still keeping our wealth, make sure that He is our focus and not our wealth. We say, “It is ok to have wealth as long as we put Jesus first.” Now I think that may be true. But I wonder if Jesus were to give to you and to me the same command He gave the rich young ruler, how we would respond? Would we take off faster than a wig in a fan shop? Or would we Shema? Does Jesus expect everyone to sell everything they have? Probably not. But might He expect that of you? Absolutely. You see, when we come to passages like this, instead of talking about forsaking all things, we talk about prioritizing Jesus above all our stuff. And the reason we do this is often grounded in our own reluctance to embrace the abandoned life that Jesus is pointing to; a life that has let go of everything in abandon to Him. “I can keep my money, my habits, my current occupation, and my dreams as long as I love Jesus more.”; though we never ask what we mean by “more”. What defines our “more” or what defines our “love”. More importantly, we never clearly define how we are going to measure the “more” or the “love”. How do we know how much of my own life I can still cling to? The answer is simple.
The language of this story, which is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels, is not to prioritize, but to abandon; not to reduce, but to utterly forsake. This means that everything I have and everything I am and ever will be is surrendered without reservation to Him to be used by Him for whatever He wills whenever He wills it. This includes our hopes, our dreams, and our deepest desires; and ultimately the direction our lives are headed. It may be the job you think you should have; or that thing you have been saving for that you think you need or have a right to. Christ wants it. It involves our television time and what we read; what we shop for and look at on the internet. Christ wants it.
This surrender even impinges upon the confines of our minds and hearts; what we think about, what we dwell on, and what we love. Do our hearts truly belong to Jesus? Have our dreams been surrendered to Jesus? In a society that cries out for us to embrace its thinking, Jesus calls us to have the mind of Christ. In a culture that beckons us to grasp what it has to offer, Jesus calls us to live as strangers in a foreign land and to set our hearts on things above. In a commercialized world that terms us “consumers”, and which calls us to accumulate more for ourselves and our kids, Jesus says to abandon all things. But why? I once read a touching story…
Your Hand Is Bigger-- A little boy and his father visited the country store, upon leaving the store the owner of the store offered the little boy some free candy. "Get a hand full of candy", the merchant said to the boy. The boy just stood there, looking up at his father. The owner repeated himself, "Son get a hand full of candy, its free." Again the boy did not move, continuing to look up into the face of his father. Finally, the father reached into the candy jar and got a hand full of candy and gave it to his son. As they walked back home, the father stopped and asked his son why he did not grab a hand full of the free candy. The boy, with a big smile on his face, looked into the face of his father and said, "Because I know that your hand is bigger than mine.”
Jesus’ command here to this man in this situation is not to simply try to rearrange his priorities. Jesus tells him to give up his wealth; to sell it! And it’s not so that he can have less, but so that he can have more. Because Christ’s hands are bigger. And then comes the man’s response. It says…
Mark 10:22 (ESV)— 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
What a tragic verse. Just think of all that he missed out on; and for what?! Stuff that (sure enough) passed away. Everything he had has passed away. Note how although He is a rich young ruler; an important figure (apparently); not even his name survives. We don’t have any idea who he was. And that’s the point isn’t it. The only life that will last is the life we give to Jesus. And that is why I want to say to you: today don’t hold back from Jesus. If there is anything that is keeping you from following Jesus with ALL of your heart, give it to Him. Maybe there is an area of your life that He wants control of. Maybe He is calling you to invest in eternity with your time, your resources, or even your life. If so, don’t water down what He is trying to say to you. Don’t make the mistake of clinging to that which will pass away. Hear what the Lord is saying to you. And don’t just hear, but listen. Shema Him this week. Hear and obey, so that in Christ you might reap a reward that will not perish or fade away. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.