17 March 2024 – Lent 5 - completely4giving - #5 giving completely

Published On: 

Sun 17 Mar 2024 — 2:35 pm

Ephesians 3:12-21/Mark 10:13-34

This is the fifth and last in the current sermon series – completely4giving – responding to God’s love – with the title of giving completely.

During this period of Lent we have been looking at a:

giving creator  - God is the Creator of all things and the Lord of all history.

giving redeemer  - in Jesus Christ God made himself known and acted to save the world.

giving enabler  - through the Holy Spirit, God is at work in the Church and in the world to fulfil his purposes.

giving generously – our skills and abilities, our money and material wealth are all gifts from God.

giving completely – God has enabled us to experience life in all its fullness; we are called to make Jesus Christ and the Gospel known.

Before I look at our Bible passages I want to ask you a question – ‘Why are you here today?’

Ask yourself the question ‘Why am I here today?’

For what reason have you come?

Is it out of habit, because you always do?

For fellowship or friendship (to meet other people)?

Because you’re paid to come (some of us are!)?

To worship God, to meet with Him, to seek his will for your life, to serve God and his church…?

Why are you here - for what purpose…?

A challenging question for all of us, but an important one as we look at the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians.

We discover that the basis for Paul’s prayer was his knowledge of God’s purpose for his people. And what is that purpose?

If we look at the opening verses of chapter 3 we learn that it is to make Jesus known in the world.

The message that God brings is about transforming our lives, transforming his church and transforming society, so that our worship is more authentic, our fellowship more caring and our outreach more considered.

Like Paul, we should be more ready to pray, and also work to turn this vision into a reality - and why…?

Because of what God has done through his Son, Jesus Christ, revealed through the scriptures and worked out on the cross, in his death and resurrection…

And we have the certainty that God will provide us with the gifts to serve him, which is the substance of Paul’s prayer:

Strengthened by the indwelling of Christ through his Spirit – Christ in our hearts our lives strengthened

Rooted and grounded in love – love is to be the soil in which our lives are rooted – this is to be the foundation of our lives and God’s church

Know Christ’s love in all its dimensions – strength to love and power to comprehend Christ’s love – by loving we learn the meaning of Christ’s love

Filled right up to the very fullness of God – grow in faith and maturity of faith – being made perfect.

And the conclusion of Paul’s prayer relates to the fulfilment of God’s vision for our lives, his church and society…

The infinite ability of God to work beyond our prayers, thoughts, and dreams…

God doing more than we can ask or imagine…

Jesus Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith…

The power of God within us and his church…

The same power which raised Jesus from the dead and enthroned him on high…

God loves us so much he has given us everything we require to complete the work that Jesus has already begun.

But, there is a cost, as we need to trust God and we need to be prepared to give all that we have, which is brought out in our gospel reading.

Jesus’ ministry takes him to the region of Judea where he is teaching and healing.

And it’s here that Jesus teaching affirms the young children, stressing their importance:

‘the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’, he says.

What Jesus is highlighting is the total trust that forms the centre of their existence…

…their trust on those who look after and care for them, who provide for all their needs.

It follows, then, that total trust must also be at the centre of our faith, to put our whole trust in God.

We cannot earn salvation – that is, God’s rescue plan - and we certainly don’t deserve it, but we need to accept it thankfully as God’s gift.

This, of course, isn’t easy, because it means letting go of the self-reliance that can dominate our lives.

Who we are and what we have got can be a hindrance to our total trust, relying on ourselves and not on God.

This was the experience of the man who came to Jesus, described, not only here in Mark’s gospel, but also in Matthew and Luke. Mark describes him as ‘a man’ with ‘great wealth’. Luke describes him as a ‘a ruler’ and ‘a man of great wealth’, and Matthew tells us that he was ‘a young man’.

It’s from these descriptions that we are given the image of the ‘rich young ruler’. And it’s with him that the conditions for salvation are discussed.

There’s something very likeable about this man in the story – he has youth, status, and riches, but he lacked one thing – eternal life.

We should notice his eagerness as he approaches Jesus – he runs and falls to his knees in the dust in front of Jesus.

He has seen in Jesus the one thing that is missing from his own life.

As he greets Jesus he describes him as ‘good teacher’, which was not normally used of rabbis in Jesus’ day…

Was it flattery, or an attempt to ‘butter him up’?

This would seem out of character for this young man.

He doesn’t need to ‘butter anyone up’ because he has everything.

It seems more likely that it was an honest comment, but he didn’t understand the full implication of what he was saying.

Indeed, Jesus stops him in his tracks…

‘Do you realise what you are saying?’

‘Do you really understand what goodness is?’

‘Do you really understand who I am?’

The young man’s mistake was to think that he could be good enough to earn acceptance from God.

This is in direct contrast to the children described in the previous verses.

‘Eternal life’ or the ‘kingdom of God’ is a gift to be received with child-like trust, not a reward for personal goodness.

We have no reason to doubt the honesty of the young man and his claim to have kept all the commandments listed (v20)…

…but eternal life is not something that can be achieved by human effort – it must be received by faith.

God’s standard of goodness is perfection, a standard that even the very best cannot reach.

The rich young ruler had to learn that it’s simply not possible to work your way to heaven.

Jesus then goes on to point out where the blockage is in this man’s life (v21).

His great wealth stood between him and the surrender of his life to Christ.

The issue was, ‘what comes first?’

The fact was, he was breaking the first and greatest commandment…

‘you shall love the Lord your God with all you’ve got’.

It’s not the actual wealth that’s the problem - it’s just that his possessions were an idol to him.

So, in order to truly follow Jesus, they would have to go.

He has to go back to being a child, to the time before he inherited his wealth…

The same challenge remains for us, for all who would follow Jesus – are we prepared to put him first?

To truly follow Christ is to put everything at his disposal…

Sadly, rather than give up his wealth this young man gave up Jesus, and he walked away.

His love for his possessions was greater than his love for Jesus and his desire for eternal life.

In contrast to so many other situations described in the gospels this man goes from the presence of Jesus disappointed and miserable, and in spite of his love for him, Jesus lets him go…

Jesus is not willing to compromise the standards of the kingdom of God, even for such a promising candidate.

For this man, the price was too great – he wanted eternal life on his terms rather than God’s.

Clutching his possessions, he wanders sadly off, still lacking the one thing that really counts…

In verses 23 – 27 Jesus reflects on this incident.

How difficult it is to hold onto riches and enter the kingdom, like trying to get a huge camel through the eye of a needle!

So, where do we put our trust…?

Is it in ourselves, in the gifts and skills and the time we have been given…

in our possessions, in the money and wealth we might possess…

…or in God?

Everything we have has been given to us by God – so are we willing to give completely to God so that his Vision can be accomplished?

Responding to God’s love and giving completely will enable God’s Vision and the vision of this Parish to be realised as we seek God’s will for our lives, His Church, and the world in which we live…

Before the end of next month, I ask you to prayerfully consider how you will take action in terms of your relationship with God, and as you fill in the response sheets from the c4g pack.

Make an assessment of how much you are currently giving to God in terms of your skills and time and think about how God is calling you to serve Him.

I also ask you to review your existing financial giving and consider how you might further God’s work through His Church by giving more.

Our response to the God who creates, saves and equips us, is to offer Him everything and this must mean a measure of sacrifice.

As Isaac Watts has put it in the last two lines of his well known hymn:

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.


Mike Lodge

17 March 24