Sermon title:  JESUS RE-SHAPES OUR ATTITUDES

 

Luke 18:15-30   

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 23, 2019

 

 

 

 

We’ve all grown up in this world,

and so, naturally, this world had a part

in shaping our attitudes.

 

But, in order for us to fit in

when we go to heaven, we need new attitudes—

like those of our heavenly Father. 

 

So, our Lord Jesus re-shapes our thinking

through his teaching in the written Word of God. 

 

At Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul tells us

that we have a part,

working along with Jesus

to voluntarily re-shape our attitudes.

 

Paul writes there,

 

“Do not conform

to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed

by the renewing of your mind.

 

Then you will be able to test

and approve what God's will is—

his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

 

The lessons we’ll look at this morning

are important parts

of Jesus’ teaching to re-shape our attitudes.

 

These particular lessons are so important,

that God had them included in all three synoptic Gospels—

Matthew, Mark and Luke—

a three-fold repetition to get our attention.

 

In our Responsive Reading

we read the account found in the Gospel of Luke,

because it was short enough to fit on one page.

 

But the account in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10,

includes a few more details

that we can benefit from.

 

So, let’s turn there,

beginning with Mark 10:13.

 

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus

to have him touch them,

but the disciples rebuked them.

 

Wouldn’t that be every young mother’s first thought?

 

Let Jesus bless my little child.

 

The Gospels of Mark and Luke

both speak of Jesus ‘touching’ the children,

but Matthew tells us a little more about it.

 

Matthew 19:13 says,

“Then little children were brought to Jesus

for him to place his hands on them

and pray for them.”

 

So, it was more than just casual touching—

although elsewhere we read

of a chronically ill woman

who was healed miraculously

when she just touched the edge of Jesus’ garment.

 

But, in this case,

parents were bringing their children

so that Jesus could lay his hands on them

and pray to the Father in heaven for them.

 

These young parents hadn’t yet learned Christian theology,

but they knew, somehow, in their spirits—

as so many others did

who threw themselves at Jesus feet—

they knew in their spirits

that Christ could impart a blessing.

 

What greater blessing could a mother or father seek,

than for Jesus, in person—God in the flesh—

to bless their baby or little toddler!

 

But all three Gospels tell us

that the disciples “rebuked” the parents.

 

We don’t know what they said,

but it must have been something like,

“This is no place for children.”

“Don’t disturb the Teacher.”

“He has no time for babies and toddlers.”

“Get those children out of here!”

and “Go away!”

 

Why would the disciples act like that?

 

Why would Peter and Andrew and Thomas and John

and the rest of them

rebuke and chase away

parents who brought their little ones to Jesus?

 

It was a cultural thing.

 

Little children were

at the very bottom of the ladder of importance

in that First Century society.

 

It was a male-chauvinist, male-dominated society

where women were second-class citizens

and children didn’t rate at all.

 

Important men like Jesus

couldn’t be bothered

to take time for babies and toddlers—

at least, that’s how the disciples viewed it,

because they had grown up

with the value system of that society.

 

But God’s value system is different.

 

And Jesus let them know that.

 

Continuing in Mark, Chapter 10,

 

14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.

 

He let the disciples know

that he was upset with them

and displeased with their behavior.

 

He said to them,

"Let the little children come to me,

and do not hinder them,

for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

 

And then our Lord went beyond

just allowing children

to be brought to him for a blessing.

 

He told the adult disciples—

that they needed to become like children themselves:

 

15 I tell you the truth,

anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God

like a little child

will never enter it."

 

Little children are trusting and obedient.

 

They trust their parents,

and they depend on their parents for everything.

 

We need to be like that, to follow Jesus.

 

As we grow in the Lord,

we learn more theology

—more of what the Bible tells us about God,

and we learn more of church history

and God’s dealings with mankind

throughout the Old and New Testaments,

and we learn more about prophecy—

how fulfilled prophecy strengthens our faith

and how current events

are fulfilling Bible prophecy—

but all of that knowledge

is useless without simple faith.

 

And that’s how we can

“receive the kingdom of God

like a little child”

--with the simple faith and enthusiasm

of a little child.

 

Children trust and obey their parents.

 

And we need to trust and obey our heavenly Father

with simple, child-like faith and enthusiasm.

 

After saying these things

to re-shape the attitudes of his disciples,

our Lord demonstrated his words through actions.

 

16 And he took the children in his arms,

put his hands on them

and blessed them.

 

After blessing the children

our Lord set out to move elsewhere.

 

The next verse tells us,

 

17 As Jesus started on his way,

a man ran up to him

and fell on his knees before him.

 

"Good teacher," he asked,

"what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

 

18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered.

 

"No one is good--except God alone.

 

19 You know the commandments:

 

'Do not murder, do not commit adultery,

do not steal, do not give false testimony,

do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' "

 

Matthew’s Gospel mentions that Jesus also included,

 

“and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' "

 

 

20 "Teacher," he declared,

"all these I have kept since I was a boy."

 

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him.

 

"One thing you lack," he said.

 

"Go, sell everything you have

and give to the poor,

and you will have treasure in heaven.

Then come, follow me."

 

Did the rich young man really

love God more

than he loved his possessions?

 

Did the rich young man really ‘love his neighbor as himself’?—

including the poor among his neighbors,

who were in need,

and who could be helped and blessed

by sharing in his wealth?

 

Did he really ‘love his neighbor as himself’?

 

Besides encouraging this wealthy man

to do this good deed,

Jesus may also have been showing him

that he really didn’t keep all God’s commandments—

didn’t keep them perfectly—

and so needed a Savior,

since his own goodness

wasn’t enough to save him.

 

And that’s a lesson for everyone—

that we can’t gain salvation

through our own efforts,

but only by trusting Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

-------------------

Now, Jesus is NOT asking each of us

to give all we have to the poor.

 

We need to remember the circumstances.

 

This was a rich young man

who evidently didn’t have a family of his own

to take care of.

 

At 1st Timothy 5:8,

the Apostle Paul wrote,

 

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives,

and especially for his immediate family,

he has denied the faith

and is worse than an unbeliever.”

 

So, the Lord does not ask Christians

to give their money away

and leave their own families destitute.

-------------------

 

How did the rich young man respond

to Jesus’ invitation

to donate his wealth to the poor

and come, follow Jesus?

 

22 At this the man's face fell.

He went away sad,

because he had great wealth.

 

He wasn’t willing to give up that great wealth.

 

So, he showed

that he had made an idol of his riches.

 

By rejecting the invitation to “come, follow me”—

to become a follower of Jesus—

he showed that he

loved his riches more than he loved God,

and that is a form of idolatry.

 

23 Jesus looked around

and said to his disciples,

"How hard it is

for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

 

24 The disciples were amazed at his words.

 

But Jesus said again,

 

"Children, how hard it is

[ for those who trust in riches ]

to enter the kingdom of God!

 

Notice, Jesus said “those who trust in riches”

—which could also apply

to those who aren’t wealthy,

but who trust

in their possessions, rather than in God.

 

Besides the very rich,

an average person can also be stingy, mean-spirited,

and a selfish hoarder of what they do have.

 

So, we can all learn from this.

 

---------------------------------------------------

 

I wonder if Charles Dickens

may have been inspired by this passage of Scripture

when he wrote his famous story

titled “A Christmas Carol.”

 

You may have read it,

seen a movie based on it,

or a stage play.

 

“A Christmas Carol” is performed each year at the Zeiterion.

 

The rich and stingy business man Ebenezer Scrooge

has a frightening visit

from the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley,

who had lived and died

just as miserly and stingy as Scrooge himself.

 

Scrooge saw that Marley’s ghost

was wrapped in heavy chains,

struggling to drag along a safe and strongbox.

 

The ghost explained

that he, and others like him,

were condemned to walk forever through the earth

weighed down by the heavy burden of

the treasure they could have used for good.

 

In life, their own greed blinded them

to the needs of those around them.

 

But now in death, when it was too late,

their ghosts were condemned

to invisibly come face to face

with people in need—

when the treasure chests chained to their bodies

could not be used to benefit

themselves or anyone else.

 

These ghosts were tormented now

with the desire to reach out and help the living,

but with the opportunity to do so gone forever.

 

Charles Dickens, of course,

invented such a story from his own imagination,

not from the Bible.

 

There is nothing in the Bible

about ghosts wandering the earth

in heavy chains.

 

But Dickens may have been inspired,

partly by Jesus’ parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus,

where the rich man is in torment after death

and is unable to warn his living brothers,

and partly from Jesus’ words here

in this encounter with the rich young ruler.

---------------------------------------------------

 

In Mark 19:25, our Lord went on

to tell his disciples,

 

25 It is easier for a camel

to go through the eye of a needle

than for a rich man

to enter the kingdom of God."

 

26 The disciples were even more amazed,

and said to each other,

 

"Who then can be saved?"

 

27 Jesus looked at them and said,

 

"With man this is impossible,

but not with God;

 

all things are possible with God."

 

The Twelve Apostles and other disciples

had grown up in a culture

where great wealth was seen

as evidence of God’s favor.

 

And now they were having a hard time

leaving behind those false beliefs.

 

 

They would have expected the rich

to be the first in line for heaven.

 

But Jesus taught them the opposite:

 

25 It is easier for a camel

to go through the eye of a needle

than for a rich man

to enter the kingdom of God."

 

So, the disciples wondered, in amazement,

 

"Who then can be saved?"

 

Jesus knew, of course,

that we are saved by faith in him—

another lesson the disciples had not yet grasped.

 

So, Jesus answered them,

 

"With man this is impossible,

but not with God;

 

all things are possible with God."

 

Yes, God can save

even a wretch like me,

because our salvation depends on Christ,

not on us, or our own good works.

 

The disciples were all listening in amazement,

slowly absorbing Jesus startling words.

 

But Peter, who was often the first to act

or the first to speak,

spoke up and said to him,

 

"We have left everything to follow you!"

 

Matthew tells us more of what Peter said:

 

“We have left everything to follow you!

 

What then will there be for us?"

 

We remember reading earlier in the Gospel accounts

when Jesus first called his disciples:

 

He called Matthew

to leave his tax-collecting job, and follow him.

 

And he called

Peter, Andrew, James and John

to leave their fishing business

and become his full-time followers.

 

29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied,

 

"no one who has left home

or brothers or sisters or mother or father

or children or fields

for me and the gospel

will fail to receive

 

a hundred times as much in this present age

(homes, brothers, sisters, mothers,

children and fields—

and with them, persecutions)

 

and in the age to come, eternal life.

 

When we respond to the invitation to follow Jesus,

we, too, may have to leave

home

or brothers or sisters

or mother or father

or children or fields.

 

We may find ourselves no longer welcome

among family members or relatives

who oppose our Christian faith.

 

We may lose our job in the medical field

where we would have been required

to embrace abortion.

 

We may lose our job in the field of public education

that required us to teach godless evolution,

or that required us to teach sex-education classes

that approve homosexual conduct and

switching gender from male to female

and vice-versa.

 

To follow Jesus today,

we, too, may have to leave

home

or brothers or sisters

or mother or father

or children or fields of employment

for Jesus and the Gospel.

 

We may need to do

what Jesus called that rich young man to do—

to give up everything we have,

to follow Jesus.

 

But Christ assures us

that we will receive

 

a hundred times as much in this present age

homes, brothers, sisters, mothers,

children

here in the church

where we receive a new church family

who love us with godly love.

 

And, yes, we will also have,

along  with them, persecutions.”

 

But we can endure those persecutions,

because we know

that we will receive

“in the age to come, eternal life.”

 

The parallel account at Matthew 19:28

adds that Jesus told the Twelve Apostles,

 

"I tell you the truth,

at the renewal of all things,

when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne,

you who have followed me

will also sit on twelve thrones,

judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

1 Peter 2:9 tells us that all of us believers

constitute “a royal priesthood.”

 

Revelation 5:10 says Christ

will make us to bekings and priests:

and we shall reign on the earth.”

 

Our losses and persecutions in this world are temporary

but our eternal life in the age to come

will have no end.

 

So, our Lord Jesus prepares us now

for eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

 

He re-shapes our attitudes

to prepare us for that heavenly Kingdom.

 

He helps us develop childlike faith

to trust and obey.

 

And he helps us to value our treasure in heaven

above anything

we may lose here in this old world.