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An Eternal Inheritance

Date: Jul. 17, 2016

Author: Michael Mark

Matthew 19:13-30

Key Verse: Matthew 19:14

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

You can keep the answer to yourself, but has anyone here ever received an inheritance?  Has anyone ever received an inheritance through a will?  A will is a formal legal document that specifies how and who gets the property when the author dies.  It is not necessary to have a will, and if a person does not have a will, the state will determine who gets the inheritance.  In any case, whoever receives the inheritance becomes the owner of the property, whether it’s something like land, a physical object, or bank accounts and money.  Inheritances are not earned, but they are given.  The inheritances I’ve been referring to are those that are given when a person dies.  When my dad passed away I received everything he had.  He didn’t have a house or bank account, but what things he left behind became mine, and I split what was valuable with my brother.  Many of you have parents who are still alive, so you haven’t received an inheritance yet.  Many of you may also have siblings who might inherit property, so some of you might not receive a large inheritance, and some may not receive an inheritance at all.  Regardless of who you are or what you have, God has offered to give you an inheritance.  Even if you have not or may not receive an inheritance from your parents, God is offering to give you an inheritance in his kingdom.  It is an inheritance far better than anything you might receive from your parents.  What you may receive from your parents will ultimately perish, spoil or fade, but the inheritance God has in store for you will last for eternity.  Today we will learn about how you may obtain this eternal inheritance that God has to offer, for free.

The passage begins in v.13.  Jesus made his way from Galilee in the north, and headed south along the Jordan river to make his way south to Jerusalem.  We are nearing the last few weeks of Jesus’ life, where he would enter Jerusalem and establish his kingdom through his crucifixion.  His kingdom was coming, and as he entered into Jerusalem he would teach his disciples about entering the kingdom of God.  He was now on the east side of the Jordan river in Judean territory, about 20 miles east of Jerusalem.  He had just finished teaching about marriage, and afterwards the people were bringing their children to him.  Look at v.13, “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked them.”  For one reason or another, the disciples were annoyed at the people bringing their children to Jesus, but how quickly they forget the lesson that Jesus taught in the preceding chapter!  In Matt 18:3-5 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” 

It’s no surprise then, when Jesus saw this he was indignant (Mark 10:14).  Look at what he says in v.14 (Matt 19:14), “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”  Notice that v.14 says “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  The kingdom of heaven is theirs.  It belongs to them.  The kingdom of heaven is owned by those who are child-like.  It is a possession that is theirs to keep.  It is nice to inherit property, if you are fortunate enough.  How much nicer is it to inherit property in a good neighborhood, with nice neighbors!  And these are your neighbors in the kingdom of heaven – child-like believers.  Some of you might be thinking, oh no!  They’ll ruin the peace and quiet of the neighborhood, leave their toys and get their fingerprints all over the place!  Now let’s take a step back.  I didn’t say childish, but child-like.  What are some of the good qualities that children have naturally?  They’re humble, innocent, pure, dependent and trusting.  Now combine these things with the maturity of an adult, and you have a really good neighbor.  One who is humble, and looks out for your interest above their own, who serves you before they serve themselves, innocent, without a wicked thought in mind, and trusting of you.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, pure, and trusting.

Jesus prayed for and blessed the little children, and went on from there, heading west toward Jerusalem.  Look what happens next in v.16, “Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’”  This man ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees before him (Mark 10:17).  This was an earnest, desperate plea.  Look at his question, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”  The Jewish people had a concept of the afterlife, but the details were often debated among the leading Jewish teachers.  The Saducees did not even believe in a resurrection, so this man was not a Saducee.  But the details on eternal life were not clear.  Some believed in eternal heaven and eternal hell, some believed hell was temporary and you would go to heaven eventually, and some believed after you spent some time in hell you would be annihilated.  Maybe that’s why this man was dying to know.  He believed in eternal life, and the Jewish belief about true eternal life, if they believed in it, was that it was a place of bliss, of peace and joy – of being one with God and enjoying him forever.  He wanted to go there, and he wanted to see what Jesus had to say.  He may have heard about Jesus’ healing of the paralytic and the blind man in Jerusalem, he may have respected Jesus as a man with authority so he pleaded for his answer on the question of eternal life.

This man did well in coming to Jesus.  If you are also interested in obtaining eternal life, this might be the first question that pops in your mind, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?”  “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?”  But that question has 2 fatal flaws.  Jesus will expose both of these flaws to give the correct understanding about how to receive eternal life.  Look at v.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.’”  The first flaw in the question is “good thing.”  Jesus says, “Why do you ask me about what is good?”  He is challenging the man, and making him think.  Why would you ask Jesus about what is good? Is it because he knows what is good, because he is good?  Jesus said, “There is only One who is good.”  That’s the first flaw in the question.  There is only One who is good, and that is God.  No one else is good, so they cannot do any good thing.  Isaiah 64:5-6 says, “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.  But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry.  How then can we be saved?  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”  All of our so-called righteous acts are like filthy rags.  When we want to do good, evil is right there with us.  I learned this week how utterly sinful I was.  Mary and I got into an argument over me trying to go above and beyond to help someone.  As I was trying to justify myself, I realized that sometimes I don’t give the other person the opportunity to help themselves.  I spoil them, so that they might even be rewarded for wicked behavior.  But why, why do I insist on trying to take care of every detail and over-extending myself?  While I want to do good, there is a selfish motive.  I want people to like me.  I want to be spoken of well.  I don’t want people to think negatively about me.  Often, it’s half out of love for them, and half out of selfish motives.

The rest of Jesus’ reply will expose the other flaw in the question.  The first flaw was doing good things.  The second flaw is “what must I do to get.”  Jesus will show that we cannot do what is required.  He will show that we do not have the ability to do what is required.  His reply in v.17 continues, “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”  This is true, as God says in Lev 18:5, “Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them.  I am the Lord.”  If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.  The only problem is, that’s a really high standard.  It’s like someone asking you, if you want to join our club, you’ll need an Olympic gold medal.  Now look at the man’s response in v.18, “Which ones?” he inquired.  The answer really is, “All of them.”  We are required to keep all of God’s commands, because if we break them at one point, we have broken them all (James 2:10).

But now look at how Jesus skillfully draws out this man’s sin by first exposing his self-righteousness, and then crushing it by exposing the point at which he disobeys God’s command.  It sounds harsh, but our self-righteousness needs to be crushed and our sins need to confessed in order to be healed.  Look at v.18-19, in reply to the man’s question: “Which commands must I obey?” “Jesus replied, ‘’You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’’”  Notice all of these commands are part of the 2nd table of the Law, the 2nd part of the 10 commandments, which are the last 6 commandments that deal with our relationships with each other.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” sums up the last 6 commandments.  There is one missing, however.  The 10th commandment, “Do not covet,” is missing from this list.  Jesus will use that to point out the man’s sin.

Look at v.20, “’All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’” Superficially, the man kept these commands.  He kept them as he understood them.  He understood these laws letter for letter, but he did not understand the spirit of these laws.  The spirit of the law was given in the sermon on the mount.  For example, even hatred is equivalent murder, looking at a woman lustfully is considered adultery.  If he understood the spirit of the law he would have broken the commands, but he only knew the laws by the letter, that is, only by exactly what they spelled out.  So he could definitely say, “Yes, I did not murder, yes, I did not commit adultery, yes, I have not stolen a thing, yes, I do not lie or gossip, and yes, I honor my father and mother.”  Here was a good man.  Here is an outstanding citizen.  A young man, and a ruler, and morally upstanding, especially in the eyes of men.  “All these I have kept,” he said, “What do I still lack?”  Either he wanted to know if there was anything else he needed to do, or he was looking for confirmation from Jesus that was all he had to do, but he asked, “What do I still lack?”

In v.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.’”  To be perfect means to be lacking nothing, to be complete.  To be perfect means to be 100% righteous, able to keep all of God’s commands all the time.  Jesus says for this man to be perfect, he should sell all of his possessions.  Jesus is not saying for all of us to be perfect, sell our possessions.  That might not be our weakness.  We might be generous, but have lustful eyes.  But for this man, Jesus challenged him to demonstrate generosity, and to love his neighbor, especially his poor neighbor, as he professed to do.

What happened?  Look at v.22, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  Instead of heeding Jesus’ call to follow him, he turned and went away from Jesus.  He was sorrowful, but he did not have godly sorrow, but worldly sorrow.  If he had godly sorrow, it would have led to repentance.  He would have been sorry about his love for money, and did as Jesus said and try to clear himself.  But he was sad because he was found lacking, it hurt him, but instead of going to Christ, he left.  Sometimes a rebuke or a true word might hurt us, make us angry or sad, but we should be careful not to wallow in our pain, but seek Christ and repent.  So here, Jesus found a good thing that this man would not do.  Ultimately, this man broke all of God’s commands.  He did not love his neighbor, because he refused to give to the poor.  He also did not love God, which is the highest command, because he loved his wealth.  Jesus exposed his greed, which is idolatry.  The man was an idolater.  And he would not follow Jesus.  To follow Jesus would require him to deny himself.  Again, for this man it was money and greed.  It may not be the same for us.  Sometimes to deny ourselves might mean to swallow our pride, or turn our eyes away from lustful images.  Sometimes it might be to turn off those games and do some chores.  Though specifics may differ, everyone is called to deny themselves and follow Christ.  To follow Jesus also carries a risk of persecution, especially in his day, when the Jews were looking to kill him.

After the man went away, Jesus used this opportunity to teach his disciples more about entering the kingdom of heaven, specifically the difficulty of the rich.  Verses 23 & 24 say, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”  Wow, these are strong statements against the rich!  But here Jesus says it is hard, not impossible, for someone who is rich.  There were rich men who were faithful: Abraham, Job, King David, and Joseph of Arimathea.  But they are the exception rather than the rule.  Why is it so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven?  It’s hard because money is deceitful.  People rely on money to solve their problems, and they look to money to give them comfort, but money never satisfies, and the more you have, the more you want.  People become less dependent on God and money becomes their god.  Those who have lots of money may be deceived into thinking that they don’t need God, and at the same time some people may not even want to submit to God because their money can give them access to illicit pleasures.  And the more they have, the hard it is, potentially, to break free from the love of money.  So Jesus reiterates, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.  The camel was the largest animal common to the Jews, and the eye of a needle the smallest hole.  It was a known expression used to say that something was extremely difficult.

Look at v.25, “When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’”  The disciples were shocked.  To them, riches were considered a blessing by God.  Especially in a society unlike ours today, where most Americans are considered wealthier than most of the population in the world.  The disciples, following Jesus, the Messiah and King, may have even expected some measure of wealth as Jesus’ closest disciples.  They were shocked because they saw this man, this morally good man, who was young and a ruler, and wealthy, put his head down and walk away in sadness.  He was kind of like religious Mark Zuckerberg (the founder and CEO of facebook) – leader in society, extremely wealthy, and had good morals.  To the disciples these men, especially Jewish leaders, were thought to be blessed in intellect and in wealth.  So after Jesus made that statement about the rich, the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Who then can be saved?  This is just like asking “Who is qualified to enter life?”  “Who can enter into the kingdom of heaven?”  Who can get eternal life, and receive an inheritance in the kingdom?  Who can avoid the punishment and the judgment of the Messiah when he comes in glory?  That’s what they’re saying when they ask, “Who then can be saved?”  Look at Jesus’ reply in v.26.  Can we all please read v.26, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  Jesus looked at them.  He wanted them to pay close attention to this solemn truth.  What is required to enter into the kingdom of heaven?  Perfection.  Obedience to all of God’s commands.  God’s commands are meant to keep order in his kingdom, just as we have laws to keep order in our cities and states.  And God’s laws are meant to be good, they are meant to preserve life.  They are the highest laws in the universe.  What happens if you break the law in Chicago?  You go to prison.  The same thing happens when you break God’s law – except prison is a curse.  Deut 27:26 says, “Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”  This is the curse of the law.  The penalty is death.  We are all under this curse, we are in prison.  In prison we cannot take up our inheritance.  It is just left there, with the grass growing wild.  But will you break out of prison?  Impossible!  You cannot escape God’s prison.  But God made a way out.  He came to take away your curse.  Gal 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’”  Jesus redeemed you, and set you free from prison, the curse of the law, by coming to hang on the cross in your place.  He saved you.  With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  He freed you from the curse!  You have been justified, not by works of the law, but by faith in Christ alone.  Repent, and believe the good news!  Your works cannot save you, but Christ can save you.  Christ can save you!

He is the way, he is the way, the truth and the life, and he has called us to follow him.  Some of you may leave your homes to follow him, as missionaries to other countries.  Some of you may leave your old lives behind, and live new lives in service to him.  Some of you may be forced to separate from your friends, families or jobs because of persecution.  But God, in his abundant grace and riches, will not fail to reward you.  Look at v.27-30, “Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you!  What then will there be for us?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.’”  Peter asked, “What then will there be for us?”  Maybe he represents all of us when he asks that question.  It’s an honest question, and Jesus was willing to answer.

He tells them that they will receive their reward at the renewal of all things.  There will be a time for a renewal of all things.  That’s why we don’t trust in this world’s riches, because they will be burned away.  That’s why we should eagerly anticipate an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, because this renewal will restore everything to its perfect state before sin entered the universe. This renewal has occurred when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  The renewal began with the church, and you were also reborn when you believed.  The completion of the renewal will occur when Jesus Christ comes again, and separates the righteous from the wicked and makes all things new.  The twelve apostles received what Jesus promised.  We follow their writings and teachings today, that they passed on from Jesus.  They have judged the twelve tribes of Israel when they preached the gospel to the Jews, cutting them to the heart.  And in the book of Revelation, in the new Jerusalem, the names of the twelve apostles are written in the foundation of the city (Rev 21:14).  So you too, all of you who have left houses, family, fields for Christ.  Not all are called to leave everything, not everyone is called to leave the same things, but all are called to deny themselves and follow Christ.  But what you have given up for Christ will be returned 100 fold.  That is the abundant riches and mercies of our Lord!  Some of those rewards may be in this life, as Job received double for his troubles, and some rewards may be in the next – but the principle of the promise is that God will reward lavishly his riches on his children.  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things (Rom 8:32)?”

The final verse, v.30 says, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”  This principle applies in several different ways.  Those who seem to be first in this world may end up being last, and those who are last, will be first.  Or how the disciples might receive their rewards last, though they were called to ministry first, and how the thief on the cross received his reward first, though he was the last called.  In connection with v.29, the principle is that God’s rewards are not based on works, but on God’s grace.  So whatever each may get, whether different rewards, or everyone the same, I don’t know, but it does not matter.  Each will be satisfied with what they receive, and all rewards we receive from God are by his good grace and pleasure.  So we don’t work necessarily for a reward, but we humbly serve a good and gracious God, giving to him what he asks, even our lives, knowing he has already given us more than we can ask or think by giving us his Son.

Each of us will receive inheritances from our families in a different way.  Perhaps some may not expect to receive an inheritance from their families any more.  And maybe even a few will receive an inheritance from their families through a will, a testament, a legal document specifying the distribution.  The Lord has seen fit to also write his will down on paper as a promise to all who will receive it.  The will of God is found in the Old and the New Testament, and it is his desire to give us an inheritance in his kingdom that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Pet 1:3,4).  And the will takes effect when the author has died.  So Jesus Christ has died for our sins, and though he rose from the grave, his will is in effect – and to those who believe in him, he gives the right to become children of God, and receive an eternal inheritance.  So those who might not have an inheritance from your families, don’t worry - you can receive an inheritance from a formal will, from God the Father!  1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  So what should we do, how shall we obtain the eternal inheritance?  Not by our works, as Jesus taught.  But let’s all read v.14 again, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”  Come to Jesus.  Go to Christ.  Look to Christ, day by day, look to Christ, believe in him and be forgiven, free from the curse.  By faith in Christ, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as you.  And I will close with a prophecy from Daniel 12:2-3 & 13, to show a glimpse of what this inheritance may look like, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever…As for you, go your way till the end.  You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

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I Will Spare Them No Longer

Amos 7:1-9

Key Verse: 7:8b

And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

  “Behold, I am setting a plumb line
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