Treasure in Heaven

Do you recall the story of the “rich young ruler” in Chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel?  As Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem, a wealthy young Jewish ruler came running after him and
knelt down before Him asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?’  While that appears to be the right question, there is evidence in the story that it was deeply misguided.  This young, wealthy, and influential Jewish man was accustomed to getting what he wanted, either with money or power.  “What must I DO? is the wrong question.  Because when it comes to eternal life, you can’t do anything.  It’s a gift from God.  He alone can work the impossible grace that will give you eternal life.  Wealth tends to blind its owner to the true means of salvation, the grace of God.
Don’t miss the fact that the story tells us that “Jesus loved” this unnamed, wealthy, first-century millennial.  “For God so loves the world,” period.  Rich and poor.  It’s just that the poor often seem more prepared to receive the good news in humility.  If you resent rich people, you don’t have the heart of Jesus.  He loves them as much as He loves the poor of the world.
Incredibly, this young man claimed that he kept the 10 Commandments from his youth.  That’s one admirable and honourable achievement.  In the right context, it deserves to be praised.  But when it comes to the Gospel, it can easily be a boast that reveals self-righteousness. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians Chapter 2, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
Jesus instructed him, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”  Then, he would have eternal life.  That’s the only way to follow Jesus.  You must sell everything, so to speak.  I don’t mean to literally cash in your life’s savings.  I mean what Jesus meant.  There is only room for one Lord in your heart.  It’s cash or Christ.  The encounter with Jesus revealed that wealth had become an idol in the heart, holding this young worshiper in its death grip.
Ever the master teacher, Jesus used a now famous illustration to highlight His point.  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  As the story reveals, Jesus was not saying that it’s impossible for wealthy people to be reconciled with God.  But it is impossible for wealth to pay the giant debt of sin or purchase the gift of eternal life.  Sadly, wealthy people often view their wealth in ultimate terms.   The true enemy is not wealth but the idol it becomes in our hearts. 
The disciples responded to Jesus’ teaching with astonishment asking, “Then who can be saved?”  To which Jesus spoke His famous words, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Inheriting eternal life by your own wealth and power is impossible.  Not only can God give it to you, He delights to give it to all those who are “poor in spirit.” 
Church family, “keep yourselves from idols(1 John 5:21).  Keep Jesus as Lord in your hearts! (1 Peter 3:15)
Shalom for another week,
Pastor Deric

BALANCE:  Grace & Truth

My first major pastoral crisis came about because of the tension between grace and truth.  My early ministry training included a strict disciplinary approach to divorce and remarriage, leaving no room for either, under any circumstance.  Thankfully the first pastor that hired me as an “assistant” pastor (an old term for Associate Pastor) took a less stringent position.  He never required me to agree with him, but he did create the freedom to ask pertinent questions as it relates to the on-the-ground shepherding of divorced and/or re-married people.
Not long after serving under this gracious pastor, I was called to shepherd my first church in the western foothills of the great State of Maine, USA.  Lo and behold, the thorny issue of divorce and remarriage landed at my office door.  It was during those days, and all the 36 years in between, that I have learned that the tension between grace and truth is the lifesaving balance that the church must model, in every circumstance, especially in matters related to this emotionally charged doctrine.

The truth is that God hates divorce. Life-long, monogamous union was His plan from the beginning.  But grace needs to be extended even to the sinning party.  Take the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John Chapter 4 as an example.  Jesus began that conversation with grace, addressed the truth about this woman’s marital status (she was currently living with a man to whom she was not married), and then concluded with grace.  It’s a winning formula.  Grace plus truth.  Truth plus grace.  “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Jesus was the grace giving, truth telling Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world.  He was able to confront sin and error, but always do so with grace.  He was able to call out the destructive patterns of sin in people’s lives while modeling grace in their brokenness.  I’m eternally thankful that God knows how to balance grace and truth.  As Tim Keller recently tweeted, “Truth without love really isn’t truth.  Love without truth really isn’t love.  They have to be together.”

In practical terms, balancing grace and truth means to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).  If all we do is affirm what others claim without bothering to tell them the truth, we have not in fact followed Jesus’ example and teaching.  On the other hand, if all we do is correct others without loving them, we have fallen short of what the Lord desires for us. 

So, how does one know if they are achieving the balance of grace and truth?  The answer is quite simple.  Tension.  If you feel delight in telling others their faults, you probably are not experiencing grace.  If on the other hand you feel disappointed in yourself that you did not say what needed to be said, you have probably compromised truth.  Relationship cannot be achieved without the freedom to speak the truth in a culture of grace.  Marriages are not apt to survive without the beautiful blend of truth and grace. 

My prayer for you this week church family is that you will personally experience and freely share grace and truth.   In this way you are a follower of Jesus. 

Pastor Deric