True Delight (Luke 18:18-34)

Benjamin Franklin was one of our revered and honored founding fathers. He is known for his incredible intellect and numerous inventions.  His wisdom has endured through the ages in his pithy, wise sayings.  For example, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Or “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  He was the founder of the University of Pennsylvania where I received my undergraduate degree, so I have heard many of his sayings.  A common Franklin quote is actually a misquote taken from a letter he wrote to André Mollett in 1779 saying,

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.[1]

Of course this would be one of the favorite quotes among college students, and most Americans have modified this quote by saying, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” 

            Franklin believed that God wanted humanity to be happy. The pursuit of happiness was one of the reasons he loved America. He said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”  America was founded on the idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The question for us is “what makes us happy?” Franklin had his own ideas of what people should pursue to find happiness, and he is not alone.

            In a quick internet search of happiness, it seems that everyone has their own idea of what people should pursue to be happy: organic foods, chocolate, laughter, spending time outside, watching sports with friends, family, exercise, sleep, etc. It seems everyone has their own ideas of what brings happiness.  We all want to be happy, and we spend most of our lives pursuing things to make us happy only to discover they live us empty.  The truth is many of us do not know what makes us truly happy.  Is there a pursuit that will not leave us empty, but help us attain true and lasting happiness?  That which will fill us with true delight?

            We all have different activities we may enjoy, but there is only One true pursuit that can bring lasting happiness, and that is the pursuit of God.  Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  The Lord is the only one who can give us what we truly desire, because He is the one who made us and knows the deepest desires of our hearts. In this passage, Luke shares how Jesus tries to help one man find true delight, and I pray that through his life we may also discover how we can find true and lasting joy. In looking at his man’s life, let us ask three questions of our own lives in the hopes we will be led to pursue true happiness.

Are you Distorting your Righteousness?

            A rich young ruler came to Jesus with the right question, verse 18, “And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This indeed is a great question.  If you are not a Christian, how would you answer that question? Be a good person.  Do more good things than bad things.  Love people.  Go to church. Jesus responds in verse, 19,

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” (Luke 18:19-21)

Jesus tried to expose how this young man had a distorted view of his own righteousness by stating that only God is good.  He was judging himself with the wrong standards.  Like the Pharisee in the passage above, he trusted in himself and his own righteousness. 

            The rich young man believed he was acceptable to God because he believed that he had not broken any of the commandments Jesus referenced. Notice how his reply, “All these I have kept from my youth,” reveals his distorted righteousness.  In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus deepens these external commands to that of the heart.  Has this man ever been angry? Then, according to Jesus, he has committed murder of the heart (Matt 5:22).  Has this man ever had a lustful thought? Then, according to Jesus, he has committed adultery of the heart (Matt. 5:28). Jesus was trying to help this man see his distorted righteousness and to see his desperate need for a Savior. 

            It is almost as if he asked, “what he must do to inherit eternal life?” expecting to hear, “You’ve got it covered. Way to go. Well done. Eternal life is yours.” We all have asked questions expecting to get a pat on the back.  “How did those steaks taste?”  (Thinking they were grilled to perfection) “Do you like my new haircut?” (Thinking this is the best I’ve looked in years). Jesus does not give him the answer he was expecting, but says in verse 22,

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

The man still lacked one thing.  His wealth was keeping him from following Jesus. He had false hope in his good works and false trust in his riches.

            Notice that Jesus answers the rich man’s question with three words at the end of verse 22, “Come, follow me.” Eternal life is found only in coming and following Jesus Christ. Jesus graciously told this man exactly what he needed to hear.  He exposed the idol of his heart and said lay down the one thing that is keeping you from following me.  Lay down your riches and give it away, and you will have treasure in heaven. Give it away, and come, follow me.  Jesus is offering this man true happiness.  Psalm 16:11,

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

True pleasure is only found when we loosen our grip on this world and pursue the presence of God where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. 

            So what’s your one thing?  What are you gripping so tight that it is keeping you from coming to Christ and following him? Before you can hold fast to Christ Jesus, you have to let go of lesser things.  What are you holding on to so you cannot hold onto Christ?  A relationship?
Your reputation? Your riches? Can I plead you this morning to let go of that one thing and cling to Christ?  Please know that you cannot hold on to that one thing and hold on to Christ. Imagine a rope connecting two cliffs with you hanging in the middle with one hand gripped to the rope and the other firmly grasping that one thing that is keeping your from Christ. Suddenly your hand that is clinging to the rope is starting to slip and the only way you are going to survive is if you loosen your grip on that one thing, letting it fall so that you can cling with two hands to be saved from death. 

            Let go of whatever is keeping you from Christ. Jesus wants to give you eternal life, but you must forsake all, come and follow him. 
Are you Deceived by Present Riches?

The rich young man was given the answer to his question.  He was given the truth, but would he listen?  Verse 23,

But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:23-25)

This man was extremely rich and yet he went away sad.  Money cannot buy true happiness. Even Ben Franklin wisely states,

Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants.

It is hard to loosen the grip to riches.  The wealthy will not enter the kingdom of God because the pride of their riches inhibits them from receiving the kingdom like a child. 

            Have you ever noticed that those who are extremely rich feel they are above the law? They believe that their wealth entitles them to a certain level of respect and privilege. It is hard for the wealthy to walk in humility. Riches are not the problem, but the deception that comes with riches.  Prosperity trains us to believe that we do not need God. God warned his people of the seduction of prosperity in Deuteronomy 8:11-14,17-18;19-20

“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God; Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

Prosperity can deceive us and cause us to worship other gods besides Jesus Christ. 

            How you spend your money is a great barometer of your spiritual health. None of us may be extremely rich like this man, but that doesn’t mean we are not deceived by our riches. I quoted the statistic last week, but 12% of evangelical Christians give 10% of their income to church or a charitable organization. This means that 88% of Christians do not tithe.  If you do not tithe, why not? It could be that you are in a rough financial situation and trying to correct things so that you can tithe.  It could be that you just think you couldn’t make it by tithing. It could be you don’t think you need to tithe.  Listen to my heart, this is not me trying to boost our giving, but me trying to care for your souls.  The way you handle your money is a reflection of your heart, and an indicator of whether you are finding your happiness in God or in other things. 

            Giving is an act of obedience and a display of love to God.  It is not natural for us to loosen our grip on our riches.  It is an act of God.  Verse 26, “Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” We are not saved by our wealth, but in our faith in Christ.  We give because we believe that God loves a cheerful giver. In giving we are storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven which means we are putting our faith in the resurrection from the dead.  So it could mean that a lack of giving is a sign of deception and a lack of faith. Do you know the number one way to grow your faith?  Exercise faith.  If we want to grow our faith muscles, then we have to exercise them.  And what is a better way to exercise our faith than through our checkbooks?  

Are you Delighting in Future Rewards?

            The Christian life is geared toward the future.  We have faith that God exists and he rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). We are banking our lives on God’s promise of future reward. Peter wanted to remind Jesus how much they were losing now, but Jesus reminded him how much they were gaining for the future.  Verse 28-30,

And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)

Jesus does not minimize the sacrifice, but he maximizes the future reward. 

            At 25 years old, Jim Elliot left the United States to work with the Quichua people in Ecuador.  They were known as cannibals with no gospel witness.  Elliot chose to leave his house, parents, and friends for the sake of the kingdom of God.  Elliot made contact with this remote tribe with four other missionaries.  They had several positive interactions with a few of the tribe’s members so they decided to visit the village.  Upon their arrival near the village, Elliot and his four companions were met by 10 Quichua warriors and were killed. On January 8, 1956 Jim’s wife, Elisabeth Elliot, was widowed and their daughter Valerie was orphaned.  Jim gave up his life for the sake of the kingdom of God.

            In a journal entry on October 28th, 1949, Elliot, a then 22 year old wrote about how he wanted to labor for Jesus in his life because he was delighting in the hope of future rewards in the next life. He famously wrote,He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot wrote when he 22 and lived it until he died at 28.  Are you focusing on what God is asking you to give up or on what God is promising to give you? How you answer that question will determine if you are able to loosen your grip on that one thing.

            Jim Elliot is a great example of one who lost his life for the sake of the kingdom of God, but we have an even better example.  Verse 31-34,

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Jesus Christ has given up more than any man. Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He is perfect in every way, full of grace and truth.  The Creator became like his creation in every respect.  He humbled himself taking the form of a man.

            Jesus asks a lot of His people, but He does not ask what He Himself is not willing to give.  Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be mocked, spit upon, flogged and killed.  This Jesus who came to die is the same one who says, “Come, follow me.” Hebrews 12:1-3,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Jesus took the cross for the joy that was set before Him.  He was forsaken, suffered and died because he knew on the third day, He would rise.  He gave up everything in death, but gained everything in the resurrection and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

            It can be difficult to live in the promise of future grace.  And when it becomes hard and we are tempted to turn and grab our “one thing,” we must consider Jesus who endured and conquered death so that we may not grow weary and lose heart. Jesus has been exalted to the highest place and has been given the name that is above all names. And when turn from our sins and trust in His righteousness purchased through his blood, we are united to Him. We are perfect in Christ, holy in Christ and happy in Christ. The only pursuit that will lead to true delight is the pursuit of coming and following Jesus Christ.  He invites you to come, and to follow him. 

            I don’t know what makes you happy, but I know Him who has promised to give you true happiness now and in the age to come eternal life.  Pursue true happiness. Come, follow Jesus. Delight in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart.

[1] Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. p.374.
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