HOW MIGHT I EARN ETERNAL LIFE?
Jesus is headed to Jerusalem where he will save the world by allowing himself to be crucified between two thieves. On the Cross he will defeat the powers of sin and death by absorbing their fury. And three days later the wonder of all wonders is going to happen. God is going to raise Jesus from the dead to die no more.
As he sets out, he is approached by a man who kneels at his feet. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Something in the request rankles Jesus. “Sir, why do you call me good, only God is good.” As their encounter unfolds, I believe that Jesus is saying, “No one is as good as God.” lest anyone think they are good enough to be called good in this life. All are imperfect.
Jesus does not stop. He gives his answer. “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”
The man wants to know what he might do to earn eternal life, and Jesus tells him do the second table of the law, our duties to each other. Could he be attempting to help the man think more about the needs of other people than just himself?
The man sticks out his chest and tells Jesus he has done these things since he was a youth.
The text tells us that Jesus loves him and so what he says is out of his love for him. “You lack one thing. Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.” The man is devastated, because he was a very rich man. With tears in the eyes of both men; filled with grief he walked away.
What is happening here? Money and possessions are wonderful. I love my car, my home, the size of my mortgage, and the ability to buy a steak from time to time.
But money also can be a master. I need to honestly ask myself; “Do I own my possessions, or do they own me?” “Is money a tool I use to purchase my basic needs or does my money own me.”
I remember the time I took at a church not because I believed God was calling there, but because I believed I needed the money. That ministry never got going, and at the end of seven months I had resigned.
Money can also be an important powerful force for good. Back in the sixties the Lutheran Church surveyed this area and decided there needed to be planted two churches, one on Skeet Club Road, and one in Archdale. They purchased the land, called a mission developer pastor, and the architect who conceived this building and supplied the funds to make this ministry possible. Over the years as this congregation developed the congregation became able to supply its own finances to conduct this ministry.
But this ministry would not be here if the LCA had not decided to plant one here. This church is a gift to make and grow disciples.
But if ever the day comes, we think we own this ministry, or this is our church we are in trouble. It is a gift of grace from Almighty God.
Going to college and seminary is expensive, especially since it took ten years for me to do both before I was ordained. Once I got to seminary the LCA through benevolence dollars paid half the cost of all my living and tuition expenses. There was only one rule. If I were in the ministry full time for at least five years, the money was a forgiven loan. But really it is a gift that I can never repay.
So, the very fact I am a pastor is a gift from the Lord through His Church.
As for salvation that is a gift from God I cannot earn. It is an inheritance.
Inheritances are most often gifts from the previous generation given to us when they die.
The inheritance of our salvation was given the day Christ died on a Cross for us. We do not earn the gift.
Most of the time when we receive a gift it is appropriate to say, “Thank you.”
This gift of salvation frees us to be a disciple of Jesus. We care for the sick, the empty, the lonely. We reach out to people who need our help because it is a joy to be able to give.
This week on TV I saw a story of a woman in Arlington, Virginia who got her neighbors to give their stuff to a yard sale. The sale earned over $12,000. She took the money and did random acts of caring. One gift she gave a graduating senior was the clothing to be able to go to her high school prom. You could see the joy it gave it to give random acts of kindness.
The same is true here. Our church gave to Open Door ministry last week, food and clothing. You should have seen the joy of the folks who were able to deliver the food and the clothing.
We are getting ready to put a ramp in front of a man’s house so he can get his wife to the car in a wheelchair. Tom is working hard on this project. Just ask him how much he is enjoying his work, except for the delays getting the material.
Our past, present, and future are in the hands of God. Our salvation is assured. Enter the joy of giving of yourself and your possessions to those in need because you know you have more than you ever realized to share with others.
Thank you, Jesus for salvation and opening our hearts. Amen.