Sunday, October 11, 2009
Ninety-Nine And A Half Won't Do!*
If you would like to hear Pastor Yolanda preaching this good news message, please click the link above.
Mark 10:17-31 (NRSV)
Teaching on wealth and reward
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age - houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
In today’s Bible passage we encounter a man who is desperate to inherit eternal life. He intercepts Jesus just as Jesus is setting out on a journey and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reminds him of the importance of the Ten Commandments, and the man assures Jesus that he has been faithful and obedient to them since he was a child. At his words, Jesus is moved with compassion and love and invites the man to sell all of his possessions and become a follower of Jesus. The man leaves shocked and grief stricken, unwilling to leave everything behind.
You know, it occurs to me that this man almost had everything right! So let’s look at the sequence of events together and see if we can figure out exactly what went wrong.
First of all, I notice that this man was filled with urgency and a strong desire to inherit eternal life. This is a good thing, right? The Bible says that he ran up to Jesus and knelt at Jesus’ feet.
Wow! The rich man wasn’t playing around, was he? This man believed that Jesus had the answer to the question burning in his heart and soul. He knew that Jesus could help him to secure eternal life with God. And although the man was presumably very rich, he knelt humbly at the feet of Jesus! And when he spoke to Jesus, he called him “Good Teacher.”
My heart goes out to this rich man. Don’t you know people just like this to varying degrees? I know that I do.
I know people who want to believe. I know people who think that Jesus was a good teacher or even a great prophet. I know people who desire faith but have none.
I know people who even go to church once in a while. They love the music, don’t mind the preaching, and feel drawn to Christian folks for reasons they are unable to articulate.
I don’t know about you, but I even have non-Christian friends who often ask me to “pray for them.” Whenever they are in trouble, they seek out Christians to “stand in the gap” for them and to make their requests known to God. I often invite these same people to pray with me and/or for themselves, but they just can’t find the courage to address God on their own.
More than this, I know a person who is dying. In the past she did not believe in God. In fact, she taught her children to be atheists. They did not go to church and did not celebrate any holy-days. But now that she is sick, she is filled with urgency and a strong desire to live forever. She is looking for answers, running to Jesus, and asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
All of these people remind me of the rich man in today’s Bible story. They all have an urgent desire to inherit eternal life and that’s a good thing, but it is obviously not enough.
So, let’s keep looking at the sequence of events, my friends. Obviously the rich man almost had it right! After all, Jesus invited him to become His follower.
So, let’s keep trying to figure out what went wrong.
The second thing that I notice about the rich man is that in addition to having a sense of urgency and a desire to inherit eternal life, he was trying to live a holy and righteous life following the commandments of God. Again, this is a good thing, right?
Let us remember, that in response to the rich man’s sincere and urgent question about attaining eternal life Jesus told him, You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'"
It seems that Jesus wanted to encourage the man to take a personal inventory of his life and his behaviors. When confronted with The Law the man actually said, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
WOW! Now, I know that I know folks like this. You probably do too.
This man reminds me of folks who say, “I don’t need to go to church. I lead a good life…I’m a nice person…I mind my own business…I never hurt anybody…I try to do right.”
Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to do the right thing. Most human beings instinctively understand the importance of the Ten Commandments whether or not they are Jewish or Christian.
I would hazard to guess that around the world—and in most societies—it is not okay to kill people, steal from a neighbor, cheat an associate, or lie on a friend.
In fact, if you watch the television, we learn that folks who obey The Law are the “good guys” and those who don’t are the “bad guys.” We base entire sitcoms, soap operas, fairy tales, romance novels and action/adventure movies on this good vs. evil dichotomy.
But, Jesus turned this entire narrative on its head when he asked to the rich man, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”
Isn’t it amazing that the rich man had ignored that comment so soundly? Jesus had said, “No one is good except God,” but in response to Jesus’ challenge about the Ten Commandments the man said in effect, “Yes sir! I am a good man!”
Wow! Here, we begin to see what it is that went wrong with the rich man.
See, he really wanted to believe that eternal life could be attained if he just earned enough “brownie points” for being good. He truly imagined that salvation could be his if he just tried to do right all of the time.
But, Jesus makes it clear that it is not our good behavior that earns us an admittance ticket into the Heavens. We simply are not capable of being “good enough” to deserve the forgiveness of our sin and the gift of eternal life.
That is why Jesus said, “No one is good except for God.” In other words, only God’s goodness makes provision for the salvation of our souls and it is only through a relationship with God that we will inherit eternal life.
And this brings us to our final conclusion. It is here that we will see why the rich man went away from Jesus shocked and grief stricken. Although he almost had it right with an urgent desire for eternal life and good behavior, the rich man learned that ninety-nine in a half won’t do when Jesus said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
My friends, this is one of the saddest moments in scripture! The rich man was actually invited to become a follower of Jesus. But, in order to take the journey with Jesus, the rich man was commanded to let go of all the stuff that will encumber his ability to be a faithful follower. In response to the challenge, the rich man went away shocked and grief stricken because he had many possessions and was unwilling to give them up!
Here is the missing component, dear ones. In order to inherit eternal life a person must be willing to put all of his or her hope in Jesus!
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved!”
In other words, scripture teaches us that we must know—and believe—that the only way to inherit eternal life is to put all of our hope in Jesus!
See, far too many people put their hope in people and things that are perishable. We place our hope and our faith in our money, land, belongings, family, spouses, children, jobs, cars, houses, cabins, boats, and other stuff.
We believe—like the rich man—that if we just have an urgent desire to be saved and live a “good life” it will be enough to get us into heaven. But we are wrong.
JESUS—himself—is the door that leads to eternal life. That is why Jesus said to his disciples, “For mortals [salvation] is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Salvation is not something we can attain through any behavior of our own. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…there is none righteous, no not one. It also says that the wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life.
Eternal life is a free gift from God. We can’t earn it and we can’t buy it. All of our money, connections, and stuff will not secure it for us. The only way to secure eternal life is to put all of our hope in Jesus, giving Him first place in our lives, as we follow Him wherever He may lead us!
Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age - houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."
Dear ones, do not be like the rich man. He almost had it right! But almost is not good enough when it comes to the salvation of your soul.
"99 in a half won’t due…Got to have 100. Got to have 100. Cause 99 in a half won’t do."*
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
There may be someone reading/listening today who is ready to give Jesus 100% of your life. If that’s you, won’t you please pray with me?
Dear God, I have tried to attain salvation all by myself. I have tried to be good. I have had an urgent desire to be saved. But, ninety-nine and a half won’t due. Today, I am putting 100% of my faith in Jesus. I believe that you gave Jesus to die on the cross to save me from my sin and gift me with eternal life because you love me. I know that Jesus did not stay dead, but rose on the third day, just like He promised that He would. Won’t you please forgive me of my sin and fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I can share the good news with others? I love you and I want to share Your love with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer for the first time, today, you are saved! Let me encourage you to tell a Christian friend that you just put all of your hope in Jesus. Ask him or her to help you find a Bible that is easy for you to understand and to find a good Bible believing church where you can be baptized and make new friends who will walk with you on your Christian journey!
I would be honored if you would take a moment to click “YES” in the poll located in the upper right hand corner of this blog in answer to the question, “Did God save you today?”
Congratulations and Happy Re-birthday! Your salvation is our GOOD NEWS, please go and share this GOOD NEWS with others!
*The sermon title comes from Dr. Feelgood’s song, “Ninety-nine And A Half (Won’t Do)”