The "No Zone"
If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and turn to Mark 10:17-34. For those of you astute listeners who have been with us over the past few weeks, you might realize that as we’re going through the Gospel of Mark, last week we ended with Mark 9:50, and so today, logically we should jump in to Mark 10:1. But we’re jumping all the way to Mark 10:17. For some of you Type-A personalities, you want an explanation. For those of you who are like my wife and just go with the flow, you’re fine as long as I’m preaching out of the Bible. And others of you are probably thinking—O, I didn’t even know we were in the Gospel of Mark!
But there’s a reason for this slight change, nonetheless. And the reason is that next week is Orphan Sunday—a call for all of us to realize that religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world (Ja. 1:27). So, we’re going to hit on this next week and have 15-20 resource booths set up for us to learn more about how all of us can engage in making a difference. We’ll have a special movie "Becoming Sons & Daughters" shown next Sun. at 10:45 am and 12:15 pm in The Hall. And I’ll be preaching from Mk. 10:13-16, since it fits more with our overall theme. And then, next year I’ll be preaching a series on truth and tolerance, and in part of that series, I’ll be preaching from Mk. 10:1-12. So, we will get everything covered, but that’s why we’re jumping ahead today to Mk. 10:17. Probably more information than you cared to know, but I wanted to keep you in the loop.
OK—Mark 10:17-34. If you would, let’s stand together out of respect for the reading of God’s Word.
You may be seated. OK—quick recap. A rich man comes to Jesus and asks how to inherit eternal life. Jesus says he has to sell all he has and give to the poor, and then come and follow Him. And the rich man goes away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Jesus tells the disciples how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples ask, “Then who can be saved?” And Jesus says, “All things are possible with God.” Peter points out that they left everything behind to follow Jesus, and Jesus says that those who have done so will receive so much more…including persecutions…but in the end, eternal life.
Now, there’s a whole lot more in this passage, but unless we want to spend the next few hours going through it all, I want us to hit on the main point of Jesus’ interaction with the rich man, and then I want us to look at what difference this makes in our lives.
So, here’s the rub in this whole thing. And this is what I get asked more than anything else about this passage of Scripture. Is Jesus saying that in order to follow Him we have to sell all our possessions and give to the poor? If the answer is “yes,” then we’re all in trouble, because according to the world’s poverty index, even if you live on welfare in our nation, you are wealthy compared to 2.4 billion people in the world who live on less than $2/day. 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25/day.
But if the answer is “no”—Jesus isn’t saying that we have to sell all our possessions and give to the poor—then are we interpreting Scripture just to fit our American middle-class, comfortable Christianity?
To help us wrestle with this a little bit, I’m going to throw out a couple of big words, and you’re going to feel like you’re in more of a class setting than a church service, but it’s important that we bore down into this for a few minutes. This is going to help us, not only with this passage, but with other passages that you read from the Bible. I mean, who hasn’t opened up the Bible and thought, “What on earth is going on? This doesn’t make any sense.” And so you just put the Bible down and lose interest. OK—here are the two words: Exegesis and Hermeneutics. Exegesis comes from two words: ek—“out of” and hegeisthai—“to guide or lead.” So, basically Exegesis: “to guide or lead out of”. In other words, when we study the Bible, we are drawing out of the Bible the meaning of words. What does the Bible say? We haven’t done the work of interpretation yet. We’re just doing the best job we can to get at the actual message from the biblical text. THEN we do the work of hermeneutics which comes from hermeneuein which simply means Hermeneutics: “to interpret”.
Exegesis: “What does the text say?”
Hermenuetics: “What does the text mean?”
Here’s why this is such a big deal. Many people jump right to interpreting a text before they take the time to really look at what the words of the text are saying. In exegesis, you do the hard work of looking at historical context, setting, authorship, word studies, genre and so forth. Then we start looking at what that means.
Here’s a perfect example, and you may have heard me use this before. My granddad who preached for over fifty years used to say that you can prove from the Bible that it’s wrong to peel a banana. How? Because the Bible says, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Poor exegesis (the study of God’s Word) leads to poor hermeneutics (the interpretation of God’s Word).
So, how does this apply to this text in Mk. 10? First, exegesis. Jesus is speaking to an individual who was rich. Jesus knew the heart of this man. He loved him, v. 21 says. And Jesus went right to the heart of this man by telling him he had to choose between his riches and following Him, and the man chose his riches (v. 22). From that conversation, Jesus then teaches His disciples a principle that is applicable to all people in vv. 23-31 that riches can be a stumbling block to our relationship with God.
Exegesis—What does the text say? Jesus made this rich man make a choice: riches or follow Jesus?
Hermeneutics—What does the text mean? What has the potential of coming between you and Jesus? More specifically, are you holding on to your money MORE than you are holding on to Jesus?
I was talking with someone about a month ago who said that oftentimes the last part of our lives that is submitted to the lordship of Jesus is our pocketbook. This is a matter of discipleship. Big principle of discipleship, Jesus said back in Mk. 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Are we denying ourselves? We live in a culture that teaches us to indulge ourselves. Is our money coming between us and Jesus? Are we holding onto our money MORE than we are holding on to Jesus?
One thing I’ve learned through years of preaching is that once I get into a passage like this on money, then people move into The “No Zone”. Don’t go there. My money is my business. This is personal. “And it’s so typical of you preachers, anyway. All you want is my money!”
So here’s the struggle. On the one hand, Jesus talks about money more than any other single topic. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21). Jesus understood that money provides security, power, comfort, control, and it can very easily lead us away from our ultimate trust in God to provide us security and away from our ultimate hope of heaven more than seeking the things of this world. This ties in directly with what it means to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. So, on the one hand, how we deal with money is reflective of our commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
But on the other hand, my preaching on this topic from passages just like this one in Mk. 10, has had very little impact on changing lives. I’m just being honest. Maybe it has a lot to do with the preaching. But maybe part of it is because discipleship, which leads to attitude and behavior change, doesn’t happen best in a 25 min. sermon. It boils down to this: How can we most effectively help people follow Jesus in this area of discipleship?
That’s why we’re moving towards Momentum as a church-wide initiative that we will launch the week of January 19. You have already heard me give bits and pieces about Momentum, but I want to take some time today to go into more detail, because TODAY IS OUR FIRST DAY OF REGISTRATION! We have a serious problem in our nation today that’s also present right here at E91. People are hurting and marriages are crumbling. You may be hurting. Your marriage may be in trouble. You may desire to be more generous, but just can’t because there is nothing left to give. You feel tapped out. 70% of people are living paycheck to paycheck. The ave. American spends $1.26 for ever dollar earned. The ave. credit card balance per household is over $10,600, and almost half of all American cardholders make only the min. payment on their credit cards. Financial difficulty still remains the #1 cause of divorce in America today! Remember our text in Mark 10? What has the potential of coming between you and Jesus? For many, it’s money!
Well, we want to be a part of the solution! Momentum is about BUILDING HOPE AND CHANGING LIVES. Momentum is a church-wide initiative with a goal for our entire church family to go through a nine-week study together beginning Jan. 19. This is about us discipling and equipping one another through a tool called Financial Peace University to help set people free from the bondage of debt and financial burden and to help them steward and pass on their legacy to future generations. Now, hear me in this:
• This is NOT a fundraising campaign.
• This is NOT to guilt church family members into giving more.
• This will NOT change our Sunday morning worship services.
This is about:
• Helping families and individuals.
• Changing our culture.
• Reaching into our community.
• Partnering with Mercy Seat.
• Unity in the body of Christ. (For nine weeks, this will be our focus as a church. Our ministry leaders have already been planning on this and are hitting the pause button on their regularly scheduled activities to encourage everyone to participate in this.)
• Preparing us as a church for the future.
• Raising up additional leaders & connecting the “unconnected.”
• BUILDING HOPE, CHANGING LIVES.
How will this work? Well, starting today we are opening up registration for you to plug in. Hopefully as you came in this morning you received a handout with more info. And on your way out today, you’ll see all of the registration tables—and we encourage you to stop by right after the service and sign up! We have nine tracks —two on Sunday mornings, one each night of the week except Friday/Saturday. One on Sat. morning. Two on Sun. night. Wed. night is our big community outreach where we’ll have dinner and child-care available. Whichever time slot fits best for you, here’s what you can expect to happen when you show up: you’ll be in a large group setting, potentially with 100-200 people. You’ll watch a 60-min. teaching video together, then break into smaller groups for a 30-min. discussion and review. You’ll receive one of these kits that will guide you through the nine-weeks. Yes, there’s a cost for the kits, which is normally $105, but because we are doing this as an entire church, we were able to receive a huge discount which lowered the cost to $75. Folks, WE’RE NOT MAKING ANY MONEY ON THIS! We’re passing all of our savings directly on to you. And, YES, WE HAVE SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE AND SENIOR DISCOUNTS. We don’t want anyone to be left out due to financial hardship! Some within our church family have already been giving to help provide for scholarships, and some of you might even be willing to provide financially for others.
Your whole time investment is about 1½ hrs. each week in your class and small group (13 ½ hrs. total through the whole program) and then time for you to process and do your homework during the week. That’s right—HOMEWORK! Folks, we’re talking about behavior change, not some simple, little quick fix. There is no quick fix! It is about submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ every day! This is a great investment of your time for you, your family, and the Kingdom.
Now, some of you are sitting here saying, “I’m tired of churches talking about money!” #1—for the record, we hardly EVER talk about money. #2—Jesus, on the other hand, talked more about money than any other single topic! Why? Because, as I mentioned earlier in the message, Jesus knew that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. #3—How can we help people if we don’t provide teaching and tools? Some of you are saying, “But I’m o.k. financially, and I don’t need this.” Folks, we need to change our mindset. If you’re doing o.k., praise God for that! But then you need to help us help other people. This is about us uniting as a church to serve other people. Our vision: become an equipping and mobilizing church that transforms our world for Jesus Christ!
If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t want to make a nine-week commitment. I’m too busy!” Folks, it’s nine-weeks, not even a full semester! It’s time to raise the bar! You get out what you put in. Most of us invest more time in front of the TV than we would ever invest in our spiritual formation. Churches have babied people and lowered the bar for far too long. And what has that gotten us? Churches full of underdeveloped people who look no different than those who don’t follow Jesus! It’s time to raise the bar, not in a legalistic, harsh way. But we’re losing our kids, we’re losing our culture, we’re not experiencing the powerful, life-change that Jesus brings. And all this is—all Momentum is—is another step to help us be the church and the people God calls us to be.
Ultimately Momentum is about us submitting everything to Jesus, so that we can serve and make a difference in other people’s lives. For what purpose? So that things like this can happen. Let’s watch this together.