Called to Follow

Jesus is always calling us to focus heavenward by living in a kingdom mindset. (Matthew 19:23-30) After Jesus has shared how freeing it is to let the things in this life go, he turns to His disciples to tell them how difficult it is for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23~And Jesus said to his disciples, Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV) Make sure you understand that Jesus isn’t saying it is impossible for a rich person to enter into heaven, only that it is very difficult because of the security and temptations that accompany wealth. 

Our Lord is sharing that there is a very real spiritual danger in prosperity. Material prosperity can cause us to forget that God is the true source of all of our earthly blessings. We see this happening in the U.S. today, just as it happened in ancient Israel. Listen as Jesus describes the difficulty in Matthew 19:24~Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (ῥαφίς rhaphis) than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. (ESV) 

A camel was the largest animal in Palestine and the eye of a needle the smallest opening. The word translated needle (ῥαφίς rhaphis) probably refers to a sewing needle, not a small gate. Though you and I have probably heard it preached both ways. In either case, Jesus is using hyperbole, which is exaggerating for effect. It is difficult for rich people to be saved because they are often consumed with their bank accounts, investments, and possessions. Jesus is not saying rich people can’t be saved, rather He is pointing out riches are a formidable obstacle in our lives. 

After some pretty extensive looking, I struggle to find genuine or credible evidence of the night gate that would have been dubbed the eye of the needle. Yes, the city gates were in fact very large and heavy. Once locked they would not have opened them for just anyone because of the danger it would pose for the city. So there would have been some smaller doors that may have been utilized. If it is, in fact, the night gate that was referred to as the eye of the needle, then it would have been a true feat to train your stubborn camel to lay down, so you could take off all of the luggage being toted and then have the camel to crawl on their belly as though they were graveling. 

This does offer us a wonderful visualization of what it means to come to Jesus. Where we must unburden ourselves of everything, letting go of the baggage of life and then with nothing of own we crawl through the door of Jesus Christ to find salvation. (John 10) Both the sewing needle and the small door for a large animal to get through take God’s amazing grace. Thus, they share the picture of salvation for us by grace as we let go.

Understand that there are many righteous men in the Bible who were very wealthy, such as Father Abe, Lil Joe, Job, Gideon, even Joseph of Arimathea. But Jesus is addressing the false assurance wealth can bring. For example, Paul tells Timmy to warn people in 1 Timothy 6:17 ~Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (NIV) 

When the disciples hear Christ Jesus’s warning about wealth, they’re astounded Matthew 19:25~When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” (ESV) The disciples apparently are influenced by the prevailing Jewish view that wealth is an indicator of divine favor, it’s not. James said in his letter 2:5~Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? The prosperity gospel did not begin last as some may believe, but with the Pharisees, who had no TV to watch or use as a preaching tool. Matthew 19:26~But Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (ESV) Again if it is a sewing needle you are not getting through, without God. And know that you will have to let everything in this life go one day.

Why not make that day, today? You can let go of the hurts and pains that weigh you down. You can let go of the events that have marked you, the words that were spoken to you by others, or the absence of what you knew for certain was yours, though you did not ever get it. Know that with God all this and so much more is possible in Jesus. If we will just allow Him to work in our lives, giving to Him any and everything that weighs us down. 1 Peter 5:7~Cast all your anxiety, worries, cares on him because he cares for you. (ESV)



TRYING TO SERVE TWO MASTERS

In the middle of Matthew 19, we find our Lord in dialogue with a young man who is rich and prominent. Matthew 19:20~The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” (ESV) If you feel pretty good about your spiritual walk you may have thought that also. So, Jesus reveals his problem by telling him what he must do to be perfect and have treasure in heaven. Matthew 19:21~Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect (τέλειος teleios), go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (ESV) 

In this context, the word perfect (τέλειος teleios) is a synonym for salvation. This man has said in front of everyone, I do everything asked of me, and no one objected. He seems to be a good man. Charles de Gaulle said The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men. Those are great men and women who did great things and yet this is not what Jesus is saying. Our Lord is not about this life, if this young, or any man, woman, or child really wants eternal life, they must prove it with their sincerity, by following Jesus. You and I, we cannot let stuff own us and that is what is taking place in the life of this young man. That is why Jesus says let go of what is holding you back. You have been doing good, giving, sharing, helping, but all of that was down in your own effort. So Jesus says, sell. Why, because selling his possessions would not buy him or us, salvation, rather it would prove he understands who Jesus is and desires the eternal life Jesus is offering him, even more. 

The real issue is whether this young man is willing to do what Jesus Christ asks, no matter the sacrifice. Will he allow Jesus to be Lord over all, or not at all? His disciples have given up their occupations, and all but one will die a violent death. Will this rich man give up his money? No, he will not, so he goes away sorrowful. Matthew 19:22~When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (ESV) Apparently, the young man loves his wealth and the prestige far above salvation. The point being made is found in Luke 16:13~No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (NIV) Obstacles to the kingdom of heaven aren’t just material possessions. For some, it might be a career, a position, a sinful relationship, a habit, or a hundred other things. Many poor people are just as far from the kingdom as this rich young man. If we desire to find our place in eternity then, we must realize that salvation is obtained by grace alone, and not of works, so you and I, cannot boast or work our way to heaven. Eternal life requires us to abolish any and all obstacles that stand in the way of us making Jesus Lord over all.

Today, is there anything in your life that you have an ongoing struggle with? If so, the Lord may be telling you to let go, to offer up, or take it to the market place on the book of faces. Whatever it is, you will not be truly free until you let go of the hold it has on you. This is a terrific time, the perfect place, for you to take the ideal inventory of what God has for you, by letting go.



6…David —Confessions of a King — A Character Study of Refusal — 1 Samuel 31 & 2 Samuel 1…Handout

God’s word is filled with_______. Promises of salvation, hope, and a_____. Scripture reveals how God delivers, provides and establishes those who trust in and seek Him. Each of God’s promises come with a_______. Part of the premise to all of God’s promises includes obeying all of God’s Word. Joshua is told God_____ times to be strong and courageous, carefully following all Ole Mo’s law Joshua 1:7~Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey____the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. (NIV) As the first king of Israel, Saul starts out really well. However, the Evil ____ continually tries to devour us and destroy our good character. We are reminding in 1 Peter 5:8~Be _____ and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls…(NIV) A Character Study on Refusal: Resent, _________

1) Refuse to Resent (1 Samuel 31:1-13) It should be noted God’s name is not found in 1 Samuel 31. This is a __________ of Saul’s sin. As a result, he and ____sons will die at this battle. Severely wounded Saul asks to be finished or ________. It didn’t have to end like _____. Saul’s decline began with his jealousy and resentment. (1 Samuel 18:9) Saul’s humiliation is summed up in Job 5:2~For________ (כַּעַס ka`ac) kills a foolish man, And envy slays a simple one. (NKJ) Saul lets resentment grow and cover his life, like ________. Can people who commit suicide like Saul go to heaven? 1 Samuel 28:19~The LORD will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. (ESV) The next day Saul commits suicide, after being injured during a battle with the Philistines. God knows all things (2 Samuel 14:20, John 16:30, John 21:17) God still had Samuel to tell Saul he would be with him in heaven the next day. This is God’s business, because ____________ is totally by grace. Romans 11:6~And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

2)_______ to Demean (2 Samuel 1:1-27) An Amalekite arrives to report Saul’s death with his crown. He tells David Saul asked him to kill him, and he did, probably looking for a _______. 2 Samuel 1:14~David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed? (ESV) David cannot let the killer (liar) go unpunished. Remember David never kills Saul though he had the opportunity. Regardless of Saul’s sins, only God could ________ him from office. Like David, to win God’s applause & hear well done, requires obeying the command of Proverbs 24:17~Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company; (NIV) So, how do we speak over those who have fallen? David says in 2 Samuel 1:22-23, 27~…the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied…in life, they were loved and admired, and in death, they were not parted…swifter than eagles…stronger than lions…How the mighty have fallen! (ESV) Few things can reveal our character and nature like how we treat the fallen. Take-A-Step: ______________________________________________