Well last night we were reminded from Isaiah of God’s infinite greatness. You can read the passage here: Isaiah 40:12-31. We really can’t comprehend how…
I want to begin this morning with a question. And I don’t want you to raise your hand – I’m not going to make you discuss this in small groups or anything. But I just want you to think about it. Here’s the question:
Do you consider yourself to be a success? Are you living a successful life?
And that might be a difficult question to answer depending on how you define “success”.
The dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose, so when I ask you “Are you living a successful life?”, I imagine you have some sort of check list in your head that you run through.
Have I done this? Have I accomplished that? And you go through to see if you have accomplished your aims and your purposes.
But I guess before we can answer if we are living a successful life, perhaps the real question is, by which aims or purposes do you measure your success? What sort of things need to be on that checklist?
Because by most North American or western standards – success is measured by how much stuff we have and how nice that stuff is.
We look at the house we live in – the salary we make – the car we drive – the vacations we take – and if we’re about at the same level as our neighbours – (maybe a little above) then we’re a success. Right? Isn’t that how it works?
We might not say that out loud – but isn’t that underlying value system that we live by?
In fact, that’s been the underlying value system of mankind pretty much since the beginning of time. We’ve bought into this idea that gathering nice stuff makes us successful.
But this morning, as we continue to look at the parables of Jesus Christ we’re going to see how Jesus completely turns that value system on its head.
The parable that we are going to look at this morning is found in Luke chapter 12 – and we’re going to start at verse 13. On this particular day, Jesus is teaching a massive crowd – verse 1 tells us that there were thousands of people there – so many that they were stepping on each other. I don’t know how Jesus ever taught out in the public spaces like that with 1000s of people milling about – I have a hard enough time focusing simply being outside with 50 of you. I can’t imagine the distractions that would come with 1000s of people. And actually, this whole parable begins with one of those distractions. Jesus has just been talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and how we show fear God not man – and how much God values us and how He will take care of us, when we read in verse 13….
13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Luke 12:13
Now this really seems like an out of the blue comment – it doesn’t really seem to fit with what Jesus has been talking about at all. But this guy just shouts out this request to Jesus. And the Bible doesn’t give us any details on his situation – whether there was some unfair dealings going on – whether the brother was in the right or in the wrong. And I guess it doesn’t really matter.
But Jesus recognized that the motive behind his request was based on that value system that we’ve being talking about – where success is measured by our stuff. And so Jesus replies to the man in verse 14.
Well, believe it or not, the story we just watched comes right out of the Bible – although this video gives it a more modern…
Who here had $100 in 1997? Anybody? I think I probably did. That was the year that I turned 18, so I’m pretty sure I could have scraped together a hundred bucks. I think most of you guys would be right around that age as well, so a little older – some a little younger. But probably most of us could have scrapped together $100. And I was just wondering, if we had made some different financial choices back then, how different things would be for us today? So I did some figuring this week, and I found out that if you had taken $100 in 1997 and just deposited it in the bank – the interest rates were about a 5% back then – so today, with the compound interest, that $100 would be worth $270. To be honest, that’s not really that great. I think I’d rather just have spent that money 20 years ago.
But then I thought, well, then instead of putting that money in the bank in 1997 – what if we had instead invested it in gold – Well, had we bought gold with that same $100 in 1997, today that gold would be worth $447. That’s a little bit better isn’t it? That’s nearly twice as much as you would have made from the bank. That would have been a much better investment.
Now back when I was 18, I never would have even thought about investing in gold – but I might have invested in the stock market. So let’s say instead that we invested in a good stable company like Walmart. That same $100 invested in 1997 in Walmart would now be worth some $1,381.00. Now that’s starting to be a pretty good investment! That’s three times as much as gold, and 5 times as much as the bank – 13 times as much as our original investment. If only we had know this back in 1997.
But you know, back in 1997, the dot com craze was just starting. People were investing in tech companies like crazy. What if we had been a little more risky and invested in one of those tech company? What if we had invested in Microsoft? I think that would have been a good idea, because that $100 invested in 1997 in the Microsoft Corporation, would now be worth… over $5,500. That’s just from a little $100 dollar investment. Isn’t that incredible? Just by investing $100 in 1997 – you could have over $5000 today. That’s a good return! If only we had been wise enough to invest in Microsoft 20 years ago.
But let me give you just one more scenario. Back in 1997, there was another struggling tech company – that year this company lost about 1 billion dollars. That’s a pretty huge loss! But they hired a new CEO that year named Steve Jobs and things turned around for them. So had we invested just $100 in the Apple company in 1997, today that $100 would be worth $734,906.67 – nearly 3/4 of a million dollars! Imagine if you had only had the foresight in 1997 to invest $100 in the Apple company! You could retire and live pretty luxuriously on that $100 investment.
Isn’t it incredible how a simple little investment can grow into something amazing! Well, that’s just exactly what Jesus is talking about in a parable that we’re going to look this morning.
For those of you who missed last week, we’ve just begun a new series on the parables of Jesus Christ.
And just in case you don’t know what a parable is, last week we defined a parable as a parallel. It’s a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. The story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you can compare the two to help you understand the spiritual truth.
Jesus actually starts off many parables by saying something like “The Kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” and then he goes on tell the parable – which illustrates the spiritual truth that He’s trying to explain.
And that’s just what we see in the parable that we’re going to look at today.
“One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” Luke 8:4
Now we’re just going to stop right there. Before we go any further, we need to talk about this verse – specifically about this word “parable” that we just read. Now if you don’t speak Christian-ese, this word “parable” might seem a little foreign. It’s not really a common, everyday-language kind of word. The guys at the shop don’t usually tell ‘parables’. But Jesus did. And lots of them. In fact the count in my Bible says that Jesus told 46 different parables. And I’m sure He told many more than that – they just weren’t recorded in the Bible.
So what exactly is a parable? Simply speaking, a parable is really just a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. For example, Jesus would tell a story about something very common like a farmer planting seeds – something that everybody in that time would understood and know what it was all about – many of his listeners would have been farmers themselves, so they knew about planting seeds. But within that story of a farmer planting seeds, Jesus would have a hidden spiritual truth that would be illustrated by the characters and events that happen in the story.
You could almost think of a parable as a parallel. You know how parallel lines run directly beside each other? Well, in parable, the story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you could compare the two. In fact quite often Jesus would begin his parables by saying something like “The kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” – then He would tell this story – drawing a parallel between the story and the spiritual truth about the Kingdom of heaven that He wanted His listeners to learn.
So when we read in Luke 8:4 that…. “One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable…” we know that Jesus is about to tell us a story about something very common and very familiar – something we already know all about – and that in that story will be a parallel, hidden spiritual truth that Jesus wants us to learn and understand.
So let’s try this again: Luke chapter 8 – starting at verse 4:
One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out,“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Luke 8:4-8
So you can see that the story in itself is not all that profound. It’s just a farmer tossing seed around – some of it grows – some of it doesn’t. There’s no unexpected plot twists along the way. No surprise endings. It’s just a boring, mundane event of life. But there are some significant spiritual truths that are hidden within this story. So let’s see if we can wrap our heads around what those parallels might be.
Last week we looked at the story of Paul & Silas, and we were reminded that the Bible never promises that following Jesus will be easy. In fact, it tells us to expect trouble and persecution and hard times. The good news is that the Bible does promise that it will be worth it.
Paul and Silas had to endure some pretty rough stuff – being arrested and beaten and thrown into jail. But God was with them. And even in that dungeon, God gave gave them hope for the future, joy in every circumstance, and an unusual love for the people around them – even the ones who hurt them. And because of that joy and that hope and that love for others, Paul & Silas were able to sing and praise and worship God even in their suffering – which is pretty incredible! Its a great example for all of us!
And as God always does, He took their lousy situation and He turn it all around and used it for good. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Paul & Silas were able to tell the jailer how to be saved and he and his whole family where baptized and became followers of Jesus that night.
It was a great reminder that God can redeem any situation and use it for his glory.
Now today I want to follow this train of thought a little further as we look at the cost of following Christ. You see, the Bible teaches us that while salvation is a free gift from God – following Jesus always comes with a cost. I think we tend to emphasize the free part, but we neglect to talk about the cost. But both sides are important. It’s important to understand that there is nothing we can do to earn our Salvation – it’s was completely paid for by Christ’s death on the cross. Romans 6:23 says…
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Salvation is certainly a free gift from God, but accepting that free gift comes with a cost.
It’s like winning the Stars Home Lottery! You win the gigantic mansion of a house – and it’s totally free – but owning a giant home will cost you in heating, repairs, insurance, and all those other things that come with owning a home. The house is a free gift, but there’s certainly a cost that comes with it.
Following Christ is like that. Salvation is absolutely a free gift, but following Christ comes with cost. You can’t have one without the other.
So this morning, I want to look at the story of the rich young man as found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, to see an important crossroads in his spiritual journey. You see, he was pretty excited about gaining the free gift of eternal life, but he wasn’t so sure about the cost that went with it.
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Matthew 19:16-22 NIV
So that’s the passage I want to look at this morning. It’s not a very long or complicated story – but there’s a lot packed in there, so let’s see if we can work our way through this.