I am a bit short of ideas for the blog. So I am taking the easy option and giving you part of Sunday's sermon. I am preaching on Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10). The following are the introduction and the conclusion.
I remember one morning when I was in school walking past a shoulder-high window and looking into a room where the Christian Union were praying. Some of the guys that I was with thought that this was hilarious. Although I had made a decision to follow Jesus at a Scripture Union camp a few years earlier I did not want to be among those people in that room who were being laughed about. Looking back at that time I would have to say that I am not sure that I had come to the point where I could honestly say that Jesus was my Lord and king. In truth I was something of a coward who valued fitting in more that I valued Jesus and his people. You could say that fitting in was my ‘central impediment’ to following Christ.
A ‘central impediment’ to following Jesus is that thing (or things) that stop us whole-heartedly living for him. For some people their central impediment is popularity—‘if I became a Christian would my friends think of me?’ For others their central impediment is some obvious sin in their lives—‘if I became a Christian would Jesus demand that I forgive those who have wronged me?’ For many people their central impediment is their commitment to being respectable—‘I am a good person and I will not accept a message that tells me that I am in desperate need of God’s forgiveness.’
This morning we are looking at someone who had a central impediment that stopped him from following Christ. As we work through this passage we will see that no matter how attached we are to our central impediment it can never offer us the joy found in relationship with Jesus.
Here is the conclusion,
C. S. Lewis claimed that our problem is not that we seek pleasure but that we seek pleasure in the wrong places. He says we are like children content building sandcastles in the slums because we have never heard about a holiday by the sea. That rich man went away from Jesus empty because he believed that the pleasures of his wealth were greater than the pleasures found in a relationship with Christ.
Our passage ends with Jesus speaking about the rewards. Your family might laugh at you but you will find a whole new family among God’s people. You will put your wealth at God’s disposal but you become a part of a community of sharing each others needs. There will be persecutions—it might simply be that people think of you as a religious fanatic. But remember that no matter what God calls you to give up as you follow him you will never out-give him. He blesses both in this life and the next.
I started this talk telling you about looking into that room of praying Christians at school and thinking that I didn’t want to be the object of mocking. Well, when I went to college I decided that I needed to stand up for Christ. I didn’t lose as may friends as I might have because I was still shy about what I believed. I have found following Jesus to be a great blessing. While I have great friends who don’t follow Jesus I found that there is a friendship with Christians that is deep, because we share a belief in the same person. While I am no intellectual I have found Christianity to be intellectually satisfying, I have read far more books than I would have if I had not followed Christ. While churches can have their problems I have been blessed by both the local church and the universal church—I look forward to meeting with you guys on a Sunday morning and I have Christian friends in other parts of the world. While I have sometimes struggled to understand God’s ways (and the problem always lie with me), time and again I have seen God to be faithful. While my focus has not been heavenward enough, the truth is that all of us who follow Jesus can look forward to enjoying his goodness for all eternity.So my final plea this morning is not to cut off your nose to spite your face.Realise that your central impediment to following Christ can not offer you all the blessings that are found in a loving relationship with Jesus. Similarly, if you claim to be a Christian but you are stubbornly resisting his challenge in an area of your life then (as they say up north) ‘wise up.’ We all go through seasons where we resist Christ’s challenges but if you do so persistently and stubbornly then maybe you have not really submitted your life to Christ. The least that you are doing is robbing yourself of the intimacy that is found when we lean of Jesus in trust and seeking his help to obey. Your central impediment can’t give you as much pleasure as a relationship with Christ.