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Who Can Be Saved?

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Many of us love those action movies or TV shows…the ones that build up suspense…even for a moment we find ourselves immersed in the story…having real feelings about the characters. We want the hero to win…and though we know most of the time he does indeed win…we still feel the tension as he’s hanging onto the side of the building 40 stories up just with his fingertips. We wonder if he is really going to make it.
Great action stories shock us with the impossible being accomplished. Just think about the hit show 24 from a number of years ago. Jack Bauer was able to accomplish more in 60 minutes than I’ve accomplished in 60 days. The storytellers bring us to the point of believing the impossible, then showing us the hero can really save the day.
We love impossible stories. We don’t like to be told something cannot be done.

Kingdom:Impossible

Henry Ford’s V-8 engine
Slide rules story

Kingdom:Impossible

v 23-25
Imagine the scene…Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler doesn’t end in a miraculous conversion. Instead, he goes away sorrowful. You can almost sense in the text a quietness and stillness among the disciples as the man is weeping as he is walking away from them. No one knows what to say, they’re all just left standing there.
Imagine the scene…Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler doesn’t end in a miraculous conversion. Instead, he goes away sorrowful. You can almost sense in the text a quietness and stillness among the disciples as the man is weeping as he is walking away from them. No one knows what to say, they’re all just left standing there.
So Mark tells us Jesus looks around (the word there means to take a commanding survey), sees their expresssions and begins to teach further. Mark has shifted the focus from the rich young ruler to the disciples. Not only is wealth and prosperity a thing that keeps many from coming to the kingdom, they can also be hindrances to people already in the Kingdom.
Jesus’ first statement in v 23…the disciples react by being astonished. It is fearful amazement. They cannot believe what they just heard. Why? We have to understand the cultural implications of what Jesus is saying. In the ancient world…even today…many people saw material weath as a sign of God’s blessing being upon someone. To the Jews in Jesus’ day…a man like the rich young ruler was considered to be a man who has been greatly blessed by God. So for Jesus to say what he has just said flys in the face of everything they know. You can feel the tension in their amazement…you can feel the buildup to the question that ask very shortly.
But as they are standing there in their amazement, Jesus brings a left hook and repeats again with slightly different wording in v 24. Now Jesus is speaking in more general terms. Remember, Jesus has been studying his disciples the whole time. He is intentionally building them up to their bursting point that they come to in a couple verses. To hammer home his point even more he comes up with an illustration.
He says…it is easier… What Jesus is doing here is hyperbole again…exaggerated speech for the purpose of making a point. Remember hyperbole like “I could eat a horse” or “I’ve told you a million times” He has taken the largest land animal in the middle east…a camel…and compared it to the smallest hole in any home…the eye of a needle. Two very common items that make an extraordinary point.
You may have heard an interpretation in the past that Jesus is referring here to a small gate in the city wall of Jerusalem that in order for a camel to enter it they needed to essentially enter on their knees. This gate was supposedly called the eye of the needle. This is patently false. No such gate existed in Jesus’ time and this interpretation didn’t exist until the 9th or 10th century.
Additionally, such an interpretation misses the point entirely. If the gate is what Jesus meant than Jesus’ teaching means entering the kingdom means doing so by great effort…but that’s not what he is saying at all is it?
No, Jesus is using hyperbole here to highlight the impossibily.
Jesus’ words drop like a bomb…we see it in the disciples reaction. They were exeedingly astonished. Imagine what is racing through their minds. Think of the implication here…Jesus has just said it is impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom…impossible.
Why the rich? Because as good Bible readers we know Jesus’ words have a much broader impact. Its not just impossible for the rich, it is impossible for anyone. Yet, in a culture that values wealth as a blessing from God…Jesus is highlighting the impossibility in light of those who should be “shoe-ins” for the kingdom. See, highlighting the rich casts the impossibility across all walks of life. If they can’t get in…there’s hope for no one. That’s what the disciples are thinking anyway.
But, what is Jesus thinking? What is it about wealth that is specially hazardous to spiritual health? Wealth tends to lead to two things:
Self-sufficiency
Independence from God

Kingdom:Possible

v 26b-27
Miracles…story of Gideon
Now we come to the breaking point for the disciples…they ask in 26…Jesus again looks at them…that same commanding survey…and says, With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.
Jesus answers their question with perhaps the most provocative statement yet in this conversation. He confirms what they had thought…they had not misheard him or misunderstood him. He actually meant what he said…with man it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God.
Then enter those three wonderful letters in our Bibles…three letters that change everything…b-u-t. But not with God…for all things are possible with God.
See instead of leaving the situation hopeless…Jesus’ words immediately show that he has a much greater point to make. That what is impossible is possible only by God’s grace.
What his disciples needed to continue to learn was the seriousness of sin. Their questioning of Jesus indicates that they did not have a robust understanding of depravity. They really hadn’t completely understood the human condition. This isn’t surprising…in fact I’m sure you’ve seen in your own life if you have trusted in Jesus…the awareness of your sin actually increases the closer you get to Jesus.
Jesus is highlighting here the reality of human depravity. We would call it in our tradition total depravity…man is totally depraved. What that means is simply this…there is no part of an human being that is not marred by sin. It does not mean everyone is as “bad” as they could be in a human sense…but that everyone is sinful to their very core…and because of that depravity…we are enemies of God can incapable of entering the kingdom on our own.
None is righteous, no, not one;
11  no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” rom 3 10-12
 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God rom 2 23
Results in spiritual death
BUT GOD
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Luke 19:9-10

Kingdom:Bountiful

v 28-31
Hindsight is 20/20...”I never would have thought...” Buying stock in Amazon.
But there is no system on earth that gives rewards like the Kingdom of God.
Now Peter speaks up…what about us?
One of the wonderful things about the Kingdom is we don’t learn how we truly got there until after we’re in. We don’t evangelize with a fully-loaded systematic theology.
So, Peter’s statement reflects what he is thinking…how did I get here? We left everything to follow you…but that’s not really why we’re here…You can almost smell the smoke coming off his brain as he is thinking out loud…he’s realizing the grace of God in bringing him to where he is…he is discovering God’s grace in new and exciting ways.
He’s realizing what really happened to him and his friends. It was by God’s grace that Jesus called them…and by God’s grace they are recipients of all those kingdom promises.
It was by God’s grace that Jesus called them…and by God’s grace they are recipients of all those kingdom promises.
Here’s why I take that interpretation more than just Peter being hardheaded…because of Jesus’ response. Jesus doesn’t correct him…so I don’t get the sense that Peter’s heart is in trying to prove his worthiness by his sacrifices. I truly think Peter is seeing the evidence of God’s grace in what Jesus has called him to do since he’s been with him.
Jesus answers...
Let me sum up his words very clearly… Jesus is saying essentially what he gives is always better than whatever we leave behind for his sake.
Is Jesus calling for every disciples through the ages to leave behind home, family, children, etc? Of course not. But remember this is in the context of idolatry. The point is that whatever must be given up for the sake of the Kingdom…much more will be given.
Not only is Jesus competely sufficient for every need…he goes beyond that to give us a spiritual family in the church.
Peter…be watchful…no idol can give you what I’ve promised to give you.
Note the addition Jesus makes to the list in verse 30…with persecutions…the Kingdom of God as it is manifested in the world between jesus’ first and second comings is no utopia. It is not a promise of a life free of care and concern. In fact, quite the opposite. It is a promise of a life of suffering for the sake of Christ. Yet, even with that is the promise of extravagant blessing and the promise of eternal life to come.
The lesson for the rich young ruler is the same for Jesus’ disciples…idols are death, only Jesus is life. For the rich young ruler…the idol of money sat on the throne of his heart…despite all his law keeping…his problem was his heart was dead and money was his true God.
Jesus’ disciples needed to hear it too…to remind them of the grace of God that had been extended to them. Yet, the threat of idolatry loomed over them.
For some of you here this morning…you identify with the rich young ruler whether you see it yet or not. You say you believe in God…that you want to spend eternity with him…yet when push comes to shove…its not really the God of the Bible you want…you want that idol you’ve created in your mind. See, the God you’ve fashioned in your mind is ok with letting something else share the throne of your heart. For the RYR, his idol God allowed him to have a greedy heart…to love money as much as he loves that God. The truth is, you wince at the thought of being confronted face to face with your own sin. You dont want to admit you’re a sinner through and through and you certainly don’t want to admit youre helpless. You don’t want to admit there’s no possible way to be saved on your own. Surely your good deeds will count for something you think… Listen to me…stop trying to justify yourself…it is an impossible task. You owe a sin debt to God that is far too large to pay…you’re utterly bankrupt. Yet, payment still has to be made…so who is paying?
Christian, for you this morning I exhort you with the words from the Apostle John in his first epistle…5 21…little children, keep yourselves from idols. See John, writing this letter to believers, understands that idolatry is an ever-present concern even for Christians. The old man wants to keep chasing after idols instead of keeping the Lord at the center. Calvin famously said that the human heart is a factory of idols. He’s right…so we need to be idol destroyers…walking around with figurative sledge hammer smashing to pieces the idols we see show up in our lives.
Maybe it is:
Wealth - American society
Security - unwilling to take risks
Comfort - never wanting to be challenged…lack of trust in God
Control - pride
The idol of busyness
We like to be busy because we love telling people we’re busy.
the deception of busyness is that we can be so engrossed in doing things…yes even “good” things…but those things can take us away from what we really should be doing.
The idol of busyness is often an idol of distraction…of pride…of self-sufficiency.
But here’s the beauty of what Jesus is saying…none of those things that take the place of preeminence God demands will ultimately satisfy. They’re always going to leave us lacking. Only Jesus can satisfy the longings of our hearts. Idols lie…they tell us they can make us happy, make us fulfilled…give us joy and peace. They can’t…they always lead to destruction. But Jesus, oh Jesus he satisfies our longing hearts…he gives abundantly…he supplies the grace to give us the greatest source of joy and peace in the universe..to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Are you enjoying God? If not, its time to do some idol smashing. Like that comedian with the giant mallet that smashed watermelons…we need to be smashing idols when we see them in our hearts.
Brothers and sisters…you have been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You have been forgiven and you enjoy real peace with God because of the righteousness of Jesus.
And because he has done that for you…he has given you his grace through the ministry of the Spirit to be unseating idols…to repent of our idolatry and go back to the cross…to see the ultimate crushing blow to idolatry.
Your idols distract you…your busyness, your wealth, your need for comfort and control…they’re all fighting for your attention. The reality is…you’re not strong enough to resist. Its too alluring... But God…But God…in his grace has given you the Spirit to focus your attention on Jesus. Oh how we need the ministry of the Spirit! As you look to Jesus…those idols show their worthlessness…those idols melt away in the presence of the radiant brilliance of the glory of God in Christ.
Fix your gaze upon your hope…upon the true love of your soul. If you are truly God’s child…Jesus is the true lover of your soul. Turn from your idols and remember that love you had at first. Turn and trust in Jesus who will never leave or forsake you in the fight against idolatry.
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