My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Come Like a Child" - (03/14/10)

In July 1955 Walt Disney opened his famous theme park, Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA.  Since then several other Disney parks have been opened around the world but all of them are called “The Magic Kingdom.”   Disney’s dream was to create a make-believe world where children and adults could come together to enjoy the fantasy world that he had created.  He believed that the world would be a better place if we could just see it through the eyes of a child.  He created a “kingdom” with castles, characters, and attractions where for a few dollars a person can lose himself for a few hours in a magic wonderland of make-believe. (Show the slides of Disneyland.)

It has been said that children come into this world as a “tabula rasa”, which means, “a blank slate.”  That is not completely true because, according to the Scriptures, children have a sin nature, but in many ways they are a story waiting to be told. 
Children look at the world differently from adults.  They see things from a different perspective.  Jesus said that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we must come as little children; but what does that mean?  Hopefully, our text for today will shed some light on that question.

Verse 13: People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 
  • This scene is in such sharp contrast to what we see today.  Nowadays, young mothers don’t want any man touching their children.  We have become so paranoid about child sex offenders we figure that any man who likes children very much must be some sort of pervert.  It was not so in Jesus’ day.  The times were different.  The culture was different.  But also, Jesus was different.  The parents sensed it.  The children sensed it.  They mobbed Him wherever He went.  The mothers had reverence for Jesus and wanted Him to touch their children.  He hugged the children.  He held them on His lap.  He put His hands on their heads and prayed over them, blessing them.
  • So let’s recap… Jesus was OK with what was going on.  Moreover, the children were thrilled, and the parents thought it was wonderful too.  So who was against it?  The disciples of Jesus.  They got angry and peeved, and told the parents to take their children away and leave Jesus alone.  They probably thought the Lord’s time was too valuable to be wasted on kids.  But where did they get such nerve?  And why did they act so bossy?
  • Personally, I think that they didn’t like for Jesus to show so much attention to other people.  They were jealous of His affections and attention.  They thought that they had a special relationship with Him and didn’t want to share Him with anyone, even with a bunch of kids.  They still had a lot to learn.  They still didn’t understand that they had been chosen by Jesus specifically to share Him and the Good News about Him with the whole world.  They were going to have to get over their self-important, selfish attitude if they were ever to function as His witnesses.

Verse 14: When Jesus saw this, He was indignant.  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.” 
  • A moment before the disciples were indignant.  However, now Jesus is indignant against them.  The tables have been turned.  There are only a few times in Scripture when we see Jesus really angry.  He got very angry at the moneychangers in the Temple, and chased them out with a whip.  Another time Jesus showed anger was in the synagogue of Capernaum.  When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, Mark 3:5 says, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.”  I believe He was also angry when He rebuked Peter saying, “Get thee behind Me, Satan.”  But here in Mark 10 His anger was directed at all 12 of His boys.
  • His response to them was, “Let the little children come to Me, and stop hindering them!”  That is the force of the verb: “STOP IT!”  The reason He gives them is interesting: “…for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  That must have burned the disciples’ bacon because they thought that the Kingdom of God belonged to them.  After all, Jesus Himself had told them that they would reign with Him, and that one day their names would be engraved on the foundation stones of the Heavenly City (Rev. 21:14).  He had said that they would be seated next to Him on thrones in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 19:28).  Now He was saying that the Kingdom belongs to a bunch of snotty-nosed little kids!  That was totally unacceptable to them!

Verse 15: “I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 
  • So how does a little child receive the Kingdom of God?  The same way a child learns to obey its parents—simply and uncomplainingly.  Here Jesus uses the little child with his trusting, simple, loving obedience as the model for adults in coming into the Kingdom of God.  However, this does not mean that children are automatically in the Kingdom.

Verse 16: And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them. 
  • The age of these children is suggested by the fact that Jesus gathered them into His arms.  This was a direct and visible rebuke to the selfish and over-zealous disciples.  It was also a reminder of what He did back in 9:36 when He taught them the lesson about servanthood and who will be considered greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • The construction of the sentence in Greek means that He in turn blessed each child.  Imagine the joy of the parents, and the stories they must have told they children for years to come about the day that Jesus held them, loved them, and prayed over them.

Verse 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?” 
  • This is a fascinating story and Mark gives us some details that both Matthew and Luke leave out (Matt. 19, Luke 18).  This rich young ruler was a man of power, substance, and influence.  People like that do not run, ever, to get anywhere.  They might run at the gym, or while playing sports, but never to catch up with a shaggy back-woods rabbi from Galilee.  Secondly, a man like him would never throw himself at the feet of another man.  How unseemly!  How degrading!  Yet this young man ran to catch up with Jesus and then knelt at Jesus’ feet to ask Him a life-and-death question: namely, “How do I get saved?  How can I go to Heaven?  How can I inherit eternal life?” 
  • Apparently the man had not found the answer in power, fame, influence, inherited wealth, education, athletic prowess, sexual fulfillment, or the praise of men.  He had searched for the answer with no luck.  But somewhere along the line he had heard about Jesus.  Peter said it this way in John 6: “You alone have the words of eternal life.”  So the young man ran to Jesus to find the answer to the question that was gnawing at his heart and keeping him up at night.
  • From his question, however, it is obvious that he conceived of eternal life as something to be earned by doing good works.  He said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”   How many people today are operating under the same misconception?

Verses 18-19: “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.’” 
  • This must have seemed to the rich young ruler like a very strange answer.  Jesus responded to his question with another enigmatic question related not to the man’s core question but to the greeting he had used to address Jesus: “Good Teacher.”  But you see Jesus’ question was aimed at leading the young man to consider His true identity.  Jesus was trying to bring the man around to understand that it was all about Him, and what the young man thought of Him.  Our inheritance of eternal life is not based on what we do or how many good deeds we perform, but rather on who we believe Jesus is.  That’s the thing that will take you to Heaven or lock you out—Who do you believe He is, and what have you done about that belief?
  • The young man was hoping that Jesus would give him a prescription—“Take two aspirin, do 10 Hail Mary’s, work 3 nights in the kitchen at the Rescue Mission, go on two short-term missions trips, give $1,000 to the Haitian Relief Fund, sponsor 5 World Vision children, and go to church every Sunday.  If you do those things you will inherit eternal life.”  Not easy to do, but still doable!  A list that I can check stuff off of until I get to the bottom of the list.
  • Instead, Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Good’?  No one is truly ‘Good’ except God alone.”  This seems confusing to us but it helps if you understand the word the young man used for “good.”  In Greek there are two main words meaning “good.”  One is kalos (καλός), which means good or beautiful in an external, physical sense.  The other word is agathos (αγαθός), which means good in character, in constitution, and in essence in an internal, moral sense.  This second word is the one the young man chose when he addressed Jesus as “GOOD Teacher.”  So Jesus played off the fact that only God is truly good in the purest sense.  Jesus was forcing the young man toward a conclusion about who He really was.  We know, in fact, that Jesus was God in the flesh, and therefore truly good (agathos) in every sense.
  • But then Jesus seems to tell the man that the way to obtain eternal life is to keep the commandments.  Is that really what He is saying?  No, of course not.  He is simply reminding the young man of something he already knows from experience—that man is incapable of keeping the Law perfectly.  Man is occasionally kalos, but he is never truly agathos.  For all his trying, man cannot get to that level of goodness.  We are fundamentally flawed on the inside and all the good works in the world can’t fix what is broken in us.

Verse 20: “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 
  • I can hear the frustration in the young man’s voice.  He had been trying so hard, for so long, to be so good.  But he had failed to live up to the standard of perfection that the Law demands and he was desperate to find another solution that would get him to Heaven.  His righteousness was merely an external obedience like that of the scribes and Pharisees and that’s not enough to get anyone to Heaven.  However, the good news is that he had come to the right place for help.  The bad news was that he was not yet ready to throw himself completely on the grace of God and to believe in Jesus as his perfect sin-bearer.

Verse 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.” 
  • This is a precious verse to me.  This wealthy young man had a problem.  Jesus could see it right off.  He could see into the guy’s heart, and He knew his whole life-story.  He knew that the young man’s priorities were all messed up.  And yet, Jesus loved him anyway.  “He looked at him and loved him.”  This is an observation that only Mark includes.  He uses what is called an ingressive aorist participle and verb construction, which literally would be, “Looking upon him He began loving him.”  Jesus fell in love with this charming young man.  I’m so glad that Jesus loves us in spite of us being a mess.
  • But Jesus also knew the real issue in this man’s life, the thing that was holding him back from believing in Jesus—his love of money, his devotion to his wealth rather than to God.  So Jesus very gently put His finger on that hot button.  The Lord said, “Here’s what you do.  Go out and sell everything you have and then give all the proceeds to poor people.  Then come back and follow Me.”  But notice, Jesus says, “then you will have treasure in Heaven.”  He does not say “you will inherit eternal life” by giving your stuff away.  He was not promoting a doctrine of salvation by good works.  Jesus could see into that young fellow’s soul and He knew that the guy’s possessions were the roadblock to him coming to Jesus.  The Lord was trying to get him to see that anything that keeps you away from the Savior must be jettisoned ASAP.

Verse 22: At this [comment from Jesus] the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 
  • I love stories with happy endings.  I love movies with happy endings.  I hate stories where the hero dies.  The movie “Braveheart” comes immediately to my mind.  However, in this story here in Mark 10 we don’t have a happy ending.  Upon hearing the Lord’s request, the young man grew sad, turned, and slowly walked away.  I imagine that his countenance dropped and the furrowed brow returned.  When he came running up to Jesus and fell at the Master’s feet his voice was filled with hope that he would hear from Jesus exactly how he could find peace with God and the assurance of a home in Heaven.
  • What is sad is that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the Way to Heaven.  But in order to come to Him we have to leave our baggage at the door.  This young man was not yet ready to do that.  He wanted to come while still holding onto the possessions of his old life.

            All of us struggle with certain things in our lives that try and hold us back from following after Christ with our whole heart.  Our flesh and the devil use these things to keep us weak and of little use to the Kingdom of God.  It may be a besetting sin that you have been unwilling to give up.  It may be a load of unforgiveness that you have held onto for years.  It may be a habit or a vice that has robbed you of joy and been like an albatross tied around your neck.  It may be fear.  It may be the love of money and possessions as in the life of the young man in our text.
            The answer for all these things is found in Hebrew 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The Lord calls on us today to lay aside every encumbrance and every entangling sin so that we can serve Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and bring others to know Him.

            What stands out to you from this text?  What should we take home with us today to help us live a more committed and dedicated Christian life?

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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