This sermon is part of the sermon series "The Ripple Effect". See series.
There's good news and bad news about our gospel passage. First the bad news: this is one of the most difficult, disturbing, and surprising stories in the entire New Testament. It's not a "nice" story. If you don't read this story and scratch your head and squirm in your seat, then you don't get it. You will learn that Jesus is very dangerous to our conceptions of spirituality, Christianity, and what defines a "decent life." But there's also good news: as we walk through this story, we'll find an offer from Jesus that leads to real life and real freedom. This story leads us away from a decent life and into the best life.
Here's the story in a nutshell: A very rich and decent man excitedly approaches Jesus and asks a simple question: "How do I live a decent life? I'm pretty close, so just tell me how to close the deal." Jesus says essentially, "I love you, man, but you aren't even close. So here's what you need to do: give away all your money, your stuff, your stock options, your cars, your homes, and your status, and focus completely on following me. Then you'll have real life." That's not the answer the man was looking for; crushed and sad, he walks away from Jesus.
The decent life
This story makes me squirm. First of all, I'm rich, and so are most of you. There's an Internet tool that allows you to plug in your annual income, and it will place you in a percentile for wealth across the world. Our family is fairly average for this area in the United States, but we placed in the 99.4 percentile for world wealth. So, yes, we're rich.
Secondly, we'd like to think that we're fairly decent people. Of course, good people don't brag about this, but if God divided the world into two camps?good people and bad people?most of ...
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Matt Woodley serves as the Editor for PreachingToday.com and the Pastor of Compassion Ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also the author of God With Us: The Gospel of Matthew (IVP).