Reversal of Fortune
Three times Jesus says "The last will be first, and the first will be last." In the first great reversal, Jesus speaks about fortune on this earth.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are starting a NEW series here this morning called, “The Great Reversals”
I became a Christian when I was 18 years old, and for the 6 months leading up to my conversion, I would go in my room, lock my door, and secretly read the Bible every night.
I started in the New Testament with the stories about Jesus.
And I can remember countless times going, “HUH? That seems sort of backwards, Jesus.”
It’s like you reversed it or something.
And at the time, I just read on and thought, “Well, Jesus must be wrong on that one…oh well, can’t win ‘em all.”
Because there are a few times in the Bible where Jesus seems to completely reverse the way we think things should be.
It’s like he completely flips it around.
In fact, there are three stories in the Bible where Jesus ends his teaching by saying this phrase: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
It’s Jesus’ reversal statement. It’s his reversal catchphrase he makes after he explains each reversal
So, what we’re going to do in this series, is we’re going to look at three different stories, narratives, or teachings of Jesus where he ends with this reversal catchphrase: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last”
We’re going to take a look at the reversal of fortune, the reversal or religion, and then finish up with how he can even reverse what we’ve done in “The reversal of fairness”
Good stuff. Interesting stuff.
OBEYING THE COMMANDMENTS
Today’s great reversal is from the book of Matthew. The first gospel, the first book we have about Jesus in the Bible.
If you have a bible/phone, we’re going to camp out here…
(Matthew 19:16-20) – NIV
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do 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?”
Okay, let’s pause there for a moment.
So a man comes up to Jesus. We know from the other Gospels that this is a young man…probably in his 20’s or 30’s…and that he is some sort or ruler… Maybe a religious ruler…And we’re going to find out in a moment that he’s quite rich as well.
But, we can see right away that this guy is focused on being religious…on making sure to obey EVERY commandment.
He’s searching for the good “Thing” he can do to inherit eternal life. To live in heaven forever with God.
Jesus then immediately redirects him (as he often does)…In another Gospel, he even says, “Only the father is good”
And Jesus is not denying that He is good or that He is equal with God, but what He’s doing is he’s trying to get the rich young man to realize that it’s not about doing “Good things,” it’s about surrendering to the one WHO IS GOOD.
But then it gets confusing…I think anyway…and Jesus says in verse 17…”If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
But I thought entering enteral life was about faith…not about just doing all the right things?
Here’s the deal: Jesus is just saying that those who are entering eternal life are people whose lives reflect a change, and thus they really obey the commandments.
The Bible always advocates though that we are saved by faith…not by piling up a list of good deeds.
But this rich young guy maintains that he has obeyed all of the commandments…and not just the 10 commandments, ALL the commandments
“Love your neighbor as yourself” isn’t even one of the 10 commandments, so they’re talking ALL the commandments of the OT
And even though this guy THINKS he obeyed all of them, he still senses he lacks something because he says, “What do I still lack?”
If he thought that doing all the right things was enough, he wouldn’t have asked that question. He instinctively knows there’s got to be more than just rote obedience.
Because what does God really want afterall???
Does He want obedience, or your heart? Well, kind of both…But he wants your heart first. Because he knows if He gets your heart…He gets your life.
Think about this from a parent’s perspective. If you are, or were, a parent, what would you want from your children?
Do you want your children to just obey you and not love you?
Yes mom. Yes, I will go wash the dishes. Yes, I will go mow the lawn. Yes, I will go clean up every single piece of dog doo-doo in the back yard. No I will not give u a hug. I don’t do hugs.
I think parents joke a lot about having kids that mind them and do everything they ask for, but deep down, you’d rather have a kid that loved you with all of their heart first.
And that’s what God wants… He wants your heart first. Not just for you to obey a bunch of religious rules.
I go to church… I read the Bible… I don’t swear.
He wants your heart.
And that’s what Jesus is trying to get across to this guy.
It’s also possible that this guy, deep down inside, knows that he hasn’t REALLY obeyed all of the commandments…and he knows something’s off. He knows that’s not going to be good enough.
But watch what Jesus does…he doesn’t just point out to the guy all the commandments he’s actually failed…it wasn’t about that
What it was about…….was following Jesus.
The passage continues…
THE BABY BLANKET
(Matthew 19:21-30) – NIV
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. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, 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. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
A Great Reversal
So the rich man asked the question…What do I need to do? What do I really need to do to inherit eternal life? To live forever in heaven? To be forgiven? To be with God forever?
And Jesus answered it for him: Come follow me. Follow Jesus.
But Jesus doesn’t just tell him that. He tells him how to follow Him.
In a way, it sort of reminds me of kids and their baby blankets.
It doesn’t happen for every kid, but often kids develop an attachment to their baby blanket, and it eventually becomes their security blanket.
And they carry it around everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And the thing just gets disgusting. It’s been through the mud, to the pool, full of drool, and much worse.
And despite how many times it’s been washed, it’s still nasty…and even worse, they start to just smell nasty.
But to the kid…they still carry them around.
Some kids even to 5, 6, 7 years old.
But there comes a point when you have to let go. You’ve got more important things to do. There are better things to follow. It’s time to leave the blanket behind.
You don’t want to be bringing the blanket with on the first stay of high school.
And often, it gets to a point when even the kids come to an awareness of this, but they’re still not ready to let go.
I’m going to be transparent with you if I can…listen, I’m a manly man, but when I was a kid, I really liked stuffed animals. Care bears to be exact.
Listen, don’t hate on me because I’m manly enough to admit that.
But I can remember going to a North Stars game once, and I told my mom that I really wanted to bring a stuffed animal with
And my mom tried to convince me that I shouldn’t.
But I just wanted to…so I did.
And, as odd as it is, I can vividly remember sitting there while everybody was chanting “Norm Green Sucks,” and all I could think about was…I shouldn’t have brought my stuffed animal here
I’m too old for this.
But yet I still did.
And why do kids hold on to things like that?
Because it gives them “security,” right? They call it a security blanket for a reason.
And for the rich young ruler, money was his security.
It was probably the means to his personal identity (he was the rich young guy…that’s how people knew him), it was the means to his power, purpose, and meaning in life.
In a way, it had become his god.
But Jesus calls him to exchange the god of wealth for following Him, the one true God.
But the man says, no, he can’t bear to let go of his security blanket.
There’s a really important distinction to make here by the way. The man’s main issue was NOT that he had to get rid of his money. The main issue was that he needed to follow Jesus.
And IF he was going to follow Him, he needed to get rid of his money because that was getting in the way.
But the MAIN issue, the way he inherits eternal life, is by following Jesus.
The money thing is a secondary issue. Not a primary.
This passage is about people following Jesus, not about giving up money.
And each one of us has different things that get in the way of us following Jesus…different security blankets. Different idols.
Cuz God’s not calling everyone to get rid of their money. Look at what he said in verse 26, “with man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible”
There are people who’ve been blessed by God financially and the dumbest thing they could do would be to give away all their money right now.
Because they are already giving it away in a smart way. They are using their blessings to bless other people and using it for the kingdom of God…. And that’s awesome!
However, I would like to point out…It’s rare.
Jesus is right, for most people, money is a major distraction.
It is a major idol. It’s why Jesus says, a rich person going to heaven is like a camel walking through the eye of a needle.
Statistics even prove this. The wealthier a country is, the more likely it is for people to NOT believe in God.
But maybe you’re thinking, David, why are you talking about getting rid of money? We just came out of a recession! I don’t have any money to get rid of.
First of all, I’m talking about getting rid of what hinders you from following Jesus…not money…
But secondly…if I was talking about money (which may BE the idol for some of you), remember, money is relative.
Travel with us to Haiti in the Winter…more details to come…and tell me you’re poor.
The average Minnesotan is richer than 96.25% of the world. Recession or not.
And thirdly, money can have a grip on you…and can be a distraction to you…an idol to you…a security blanket that keeps you from following Jesus…EVEN IF YOU DON’T THINK YOU HAVE IT
We chase after money and possessions like we should be chasing after God.
And even when we get some of it, and we realize, it DOESN’T satisfy, we just keep chasing after it.
We’re nothing but cats chasing after a stupid laser dot on the wall.
Even when we get to the dot…and we touch it…and it was completely worthless…we’ll chase after it again.
WHO ARE YOU RELYING ON?
But God’s calling you to something else. Something with a lot more life behind it. With eternal life behind it.
And this is connected to that risk-taking vision we’ve been talking about as a church. That we want the vision for our lives to be so big that it’s intimidating to us. So big that we would have to rely on God.
But here’s the problem with that in Suburban America:
Often, money fills in the reliance gaps for us. The more money we have, the less we have to rely on God.
We don’t HAVE to trust in Him…because…well…we can trust in ourselves. We provide for…ourselves.
And often, Jesus challenges us to radical giving…not just because people need help…but because if we hold on to too much money…it turns us inward. And away from him.
I don’t know if you’ve seen or read the Voyage of the Dawn Treader…one of the Chronicles of Narnia...but there’s a part in there where they discover whatever they dip in the pool of water turns to gold.
Which they think is great…till they learn that if they touch the pool…they will turn to gold…literally…which is a problem…cuz if you turn to gold…guess what? You’re dead. J
Now, like I said before, there are indeed people who have that spiritual gift of touching gold and they won’t die inside spiritually.
But for a lot of us, that’s not the case. It turns us inward.
Take a look at what our passage today is preceded by:
(Matthew 19:13-14) – NIV
13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 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.”
Because that is what we are to be to God. Children. Children who need to trust him to supply their needs.
Think of how helpless kids are. It sounds like a mean thing to say, but it’s true.
What if you left your five year old at home by themselves for a month? What would happen?
They’d probably just binge on m&m’s and be fine right?
No… It’s not like they’re gonna go out and get a job.
They need you. They need you to feel safe. They need you to provide for them. Shelter. Food. You name it.
And our lives were meant to be lived by us trusting God in that way
Now, that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be foolish with our lives so we’re forced to trust in Him.
Absolutely not…please live your life with wisdom and responsibility.
BUT…there’s a difference between trusting in Him for life, and trusting in money for life. Which one are you trusting?
Trust in Him like a little kid fully trusts in their daddy.
WHAT LIFE ARE YOU LIVING FOR?
And besides, why would you want to live for green paper anyway? To live for money in your bank account?
There’s so much more.
It just sounds crazy doesn’t it?
Wanna know what sounds even crazier?
That people like us, would give up the life of this world, say, “I want to follow Jesus, and then decide to go back and follow money (or whatever our idol is) again!”
That’s crazy! But it happens.
The very same world that we once shook off, rises up again to beckon us away from Jesus.
And we fall for it.
And I gotta tell you…no, in fact, I gotta warn you…when you go back to the idolatry of your security blanket, your father just might take it away from you.
Because that’s what dads do, right?
When they’ve decided it’s time for their kid to stop bringing their security blanket everywhere, they take it away.
And they handle it different for different kids. Sometimes they just slowly take it away…
“Now, honey, you can’t take this to 4th grade, but I’ll let you have it at home…but after the school year…we’re gonna take it away”
Or, sometimes, you know what dads do? When their kids go off to school, they take the blanket out back, and burn it in the fire…and burn the 300 different viruses off of it.
And if that’s what it takes to win your heart back, don’t think your father in heaven won’t burn down your idols.
So, it begs the question? Which life are you living for?
Because I hope you saw it in the passage. There’s going to be a reversal on judgment day.
A great reversal.
The first will be last.
The ones who lived all of their lives just for this life here on earth. Just to accumulate treasures on earth…but weren’t willing to follow Jesus.
Weren’t willing to follow God’s son whose purpose was to come to earth and die in their place…
The one’s that were “first” here on earth…will be last…
So what are you living for?
In fact, let’s do an exercise.
Let’s pretend the rest of your life = eternity
Now, that’s a somewhat unfair metaphor since eternity goes on forever, and you all have different amounts of time left to live…so let’s pick some fixed numbers
Let’s pretend everyone in this room is going to live another 50 years…
For some of you, that’s maybe a bummer. Especially if you’re 12.
For others of you, I hope you enjoy being 115.
Now, since eternity goes on forever, let’s pick a fixed number and just say the next 50 years of your life represent 10 billion years.
If that was the case, if 50 years equals 10 billion years, then how long would equal a normal life span on earth?
That would be it. That was your time on earth. (snap) And the rest of your life is you being in either heaven or hell.
Which, by the way, is based on what you decide in the (snap)?
Now, let me ask you again, what are you living for in the (snap)?
Don’t get caught up in the shiny deception of this world. There is a great reversal coming. And many who thought they were first here, will simply be last.
Which by the way is EXACTLY why we must do everything we can to reach as many people as we can as quickly as possible.
But choose to follow Jesus. Don’t walk away like the rich young ruler just because you want to enjoy the world for a (snap)
And honestly, I’m not going to sugarcoat anything for you…if you decide to follow Jesus in this life, you will face some persecution. Some opposition.
You’re signing up for a battle. A battle to get out and reach the lost. To reach more people who need to know Jesus. And that’s a messy battle. And with it often comes suffering.
In fact, in this same passage in the book of Mark, it says with the blessings, you will receive persecution in this life as well.
But there is a great reward as well. The end of our passage today said that those who sacrifice for Him here will receive 100 times more than what they have lost. It’s a reversal.
The last WILL BE first!
But let me be clear…Too many people confuse the blessings of God. He WILL bless you…But He’ll bless you by moving in your life…letting you know love…know His forgiveness…and then the huge blessing…the continued blessing comes afterwards. It comes when we die. And our fortunes are reversed…when our sacrifices are rewarded.
“But listen…hear me clearly…we don’t do it for the reward. We do it because of His sacrifice.” “Because he gave his life.”
And because we’re so thankful that He reversed our fortunes…and allowed us to trade our filthy rags from this world for a lifetime of eternity with Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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