Meaning of Life?

When people ponder the question “What is the meaning of life”, in my mind the answer is very simple. Jesus. Now, that may not be a satisfactory answer for many, but it is the true answer. Amos says exactly the same thing this morning – Seek the Lord and Live! What is my purpose, what is my destiny, what is my reason for being on this earth – well, the final answer is Jesus – and when we discover this and embrace this then we discover how that works out in our various roles as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters; careers and education. The question of who we are and what we are can only be found in Jesus. It was one of the frustrations in doing evangelism; spending time with someone you have never meet before – listening to them talk about their struggles and fears of life and then still rejecting Jesus and the message of the gospel – rejecting the key, the answer to their struggles and fears. Now I have said many times to the point ad nauseum, that becoming a Christian does not mean you have no problems or difficulties in life – or that you are shielded from the tragedies of life. What it does mean, aside from the wonderful message of reconciliation with God and the forgiveness of our sins and our adoption as His sons and daughters is that we get a heavenly and spiritual perspective on life which allows us to see beyond what we are experiencing – to see to our future, assured destiny which is to be with Jesus – and this enables us to walk through the dark valleys of life with peace. But in order to get to this place we have to have faith. Now faith is more than just hoping something might happen. The Bible speaks of faith far more factually – Hebrews 11:1 says Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Now, when you break this verse down, you can paraphrase this it this way – Faith is the reality of things fully expected, the certainty of things not seen. In other words, people with faith in Jesus have a view of reality which is different to anyone else; an expectation of what is to happen different to anyone else; a certainty about the outcome of the world different to anyone else. And in order to become a person of such faith – to truly enter into this place requires that we fully let go of everything and fully grasp onto Jesus. There is a story of a little boy who got his hand stuck in a very expensive vase. His parents tried everything to remove without breaking it. Finally the father said: “Son, now listen to me – you need to stretch out your hand as fully as you can”. The boy said: “I can’t”. “Why” said his dad. “Because I will have to let go of the penny”. To some extent this is exactly what is going on with Jesus and the rich man in our gospel reading this morning. This man comes and asks Jesus “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” We know this man is young, he is a ruler of some sort – in charge of people, has influence – and that he was wealthy. His question reveals much of where he was coming from: He firstly flatters Jesus – rabbi’s did not allow the word ‘good’ to be applied to them. Only God was good. Now Jesus’ response is not denying he was God – in fact he is affirming it. He does rebuke the man for calling him ‘good’ – he asks the man if he understood why he had called him good, did the young man know what he was saying – or was it just out of flattery. This young man believed he had a right to obtain eternal life. He uses the word ‘inherit’. He was a Jew – a son of abraham – therefore he had a right to it. And yet – by asking this question, the young man knew he did not have it. He did not have assurance that he had eternal life and he is asking Jesus what must I do to get this assurance – this guarantee I will have eternal life Finally, this first question shows that the young man had a very superficial view of sin, and of salvation. He believed that by doing a few religious works, he could settle his account with the Holy god and be set right. His success and and his wealth gave him a false believe that he could accomplish anything either by his own ability or by paying for it. Jesus’ response was to say to him “Let go of the penny”. Jesus says this in two ways to this man. Firstly he tells him some commands, which the young affirms that he has utterly kept. The commands Jesus lists is important – he chooses all the ‘verifiable’ commands – the commands which show outward obedience. And here Jesus is saying – you have kept all these visible commands and yet you come to ask me how to inherit eternal life. The keeping of the law has not given the young man any assurance of salvation. In fact – the law acts like a mirror – it should show you that you are a sinner. This man had kept these commands but has no assurance, no peace that he had eternal life. This man does not see himself as a sinner and he wants salvation on his own terms. Secondly, Jesus then shows him the command he has not been able to keep – it is the final commandment and the one that comes after this list that Jesus quotes – the command not to covet. Jesus does not say it outright but challenges the young man – “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus loves this young man. He sees this young ruler utterly lost – unable to see the truth which was right before him – that you cannot receive a gift if you are holding onto something else – you have to let go to receive. And here is the choice confronting the young ruler – do you really want eternal life? Do you really want to receive it – well you need to let go of everything else to get it. The mans love for money broke the commandment of covetousness. And because he had broken a command he needed to repent and be set free. The issue here is not wealth – it’s not an attack against being wealthy – or that Christians should not have wealth – the issue is the internal state of this young man. Was he willing to let go of everything to grasp onto Jesus? Jesus asks this of us. Will we seek God and live. This requires that we grasp onto nothing else but Jesus. Too many Christians have a view that God will one day hold up their good works and their bad works and if their good works exceed their bad works they will get into heaven. No. The scriptures show very plainly that this is not what God says. God says that we must let go of everything – and receive Him completely. The answer to life, the answer to eternal life is Jesus. This wealthy young ruler believed that because he had success and was able to create for himself his success that he could achieve salvation – all he had to do was achieve something – pay for something – his world focused mind set, which said “you can achieve anything”, made him believe he could achieve salvation on his terms. And Jesus’ response to this approach to life is an emphatic NO! In fact it is as impossible as trying to thread a needle with a camel – ridiculously impossible. The irony of this young man is that his wealth robbed him of God’s blessings. Faith requires a huge culture and worldview shift – and it is only possible to do that by the Holy Spirit in us – and that happens when we utterly surrender ourselves to Jesus – coming to him not with clench fists holding onto something but with open hands ready to receive FROM him. Notice that Jesus’ words effect the disciples. The disciples were also still steeped in the worldview of the rich man. They believed that wealth was a sure sign of God’s blessing. Jesus refuted this. Wealth and success is NEVER an indication that the Lord is with you. It may be – but the factors of wealth and success alone are not guarantees that God is with you. And then Peter asks the question – it’s the question which was on the mind of all the disciples – it’s the selfish question of a person who has yet to receive the Holy Spirit – Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.” In other words what will we get! Notice Jesus’ words: Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” The disciples needed to be re-focused – there is a great reward to come – and along with all the blessings notice what Jesus slips in there – persecutions BUT the end is eternal life. The disciples did reach that point – of letting go of everything in order to embrace Jesus and all that he has to give us. So, my encouragement to us this morning is to open our hands to the Lord – lets let go of the penny – lets receive the gift Jesus has for us – to embrace him with open hands, willing to let go of anything which might be holding us back. Now, lest any of you misunderstand me – I am not saying to sell everything you have – or give away all your money. Jesus’ words to this young man were directed at what this man needed to do to inherit eternal life – it focused upon what this man was holding onto and would not let go to receive God. The ‘penny’, the thing we are letting go of may be very different to money – it may be a career – our pride – our reputation – that we think we are better than everyone else – even our very life. God’s call to us is to let go and trust in God completely. Also, God is not a God who desires to see us poor – or struggling – he wants to bless us – Jeremiah says he has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. God may bless many of us with wealth and abundance – but he wants our hearts to be embracing him and not our wealth – and embracing god by saying – Lord use what you have blessed me with for you. We cannot receive God’s gift – His blessings – all that he has for us while holding onto other things. Let’s let go of the penny and embrace the riches God has for us.


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