What is at the Center?
Mark 10:17-22 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
So, I want to give credit to another pastor for part of this message. He is a Baptist minister whose sermon I viewed online as he dealt with this same movie. I am going to steal three questions he used in his message. They are:
In what is your security found?
In what is your significance found?
In what is your salvation found?
Think about those questions as we move through the message. How many of you have seen the current movie, “Minions?” Minions are yellow pill-shaped creatures that look a lot like Twinkies were created to serve the purposes of evil. They were made to serve villains, so their goal was to find the most evil villain to serve. So they were on the lookout for a master, a boss, to work for. Every time they would find one, something would happen to their evil boss and they would have to be on the lookout for a new master to serve. They wanted someone to follow in order to give their lives meaning.
In the film the narrator disclosed that without a master to serve they had no purpose. They became “nameless” and depressed.
Watch this video clip:
A biblical parallel or at least a biblical opposite of this scenario isn’t hard to find. We all need meaning and purpose and security in our lives. Scripture tells us that before we came to Christ we were “not a people.” (I Peter 2:10) We didn’t have an identity. But now we are the people of God. We have an identity. We have been made into a royal priesthood, a holy nation that we may serve God and reveal who He is to the world. We have a master. We have a purpose. We don’t have to live nameless and depressed. People who know God and walk with Him have the meaning and purpose and security we all need. It is what the minions were searching for in the movie.
In our text for today, there was a man called the Rich Young Ruler who was looking for something more than he had yet experienced. He had a lot going for him. Just in the way he was described you could say he “had it going on.” He was rich. A lot of people pursue riches but don’t wind up wealthy. Either he had worked very hard or things had just fallen the right way for him to achieve that kind of financial status. He was young. I remember when I was young. I felt great. I had lots of energy. I had lots of dreams and goals and plans. Life was exciting. I guess you could say this man was in the prime of his life. And he was also a ruler. He was a young person who had been given a place of authority. He had risen to the top of some facet of life.
Yet something was missing in his life. Though he was successful, though he had lived a good life and had made good choices, something was still missing. It bothered him. It drove him to pursue what he needed to do. Notice in verse 17 of our story that the man ran up to Jesus. There was a sense of urgency in his spirit. He wanted answers, and he wanted them fast.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with riches, but riches without the right Master will be disastrous and empty. It is great to live life to the full and to seek to climb the corporate ladder or to advance in your chosen career, but a career pursuit without Christ will leave you wanting. It is exciting to be young, but youth is fleeting. We can’t hold on to our youth. We can’t age and retain the same agility, mobility, ability and stamina. Life has a way of humbling us all.
Without Christ, what we can do or attain isn’t enough. If money, or career, or some status in life is what we are living for, if that is what is as the center of our lives, we will be disappointed at our core. Let’s look a little closer at this story of the Rich Young Ruler and ask God to show us what is at the center of our lives and how we can make sure we allow Him to be.
The Rich Young Ruler left this encounter with Jesus sad. He didn’t have to leave sad, but he left sad because he didn’t like what he heard. He didn’t like the answer he received. He didn’t like what Jesus said about what needed to be at the center of his life. As a pastor, I see that a lot. I see a lot of people leaving an encounter with Jesus sad because they don’t want to embrace what He says must be the centerpiece of our lives in order for us to truly live this life to the full and for us to possess eternal life in the next. It is hard for me to understand why anyone would want to live life sad, but many people who have heard the truth still make that choice. They do simply because they don’t want to allow God to be the center of their lives.
In verse 20 the Rich Young Ruler told Jesus he had been living right. He had been living well. He had been following the Law and had been keeping the commandments. You’ll notice that Jesus didn’t dispute that the man had been living a good life. Jesus didn’t fault the man’s morality. But there was no need to discuss the man’s good life because moral goodness won’t save us. Being good isn’t enough. The fact that the man went away sad proved something was still desperately wrong. If a good life, if clean living, if working hard and attaining earthly success was enough the man wouldn’t have gone away sad.
Jesus challenged the center of the man’s security. Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Jesus said, “Let go of what you have made the center of your life and make me the center by following Me.” I don’t know what Jesus would ask you to let go of this morning. I don’t know what you have made your center, but I do know the centerpiece for all of our lives is supposed to be the same. What we need to surrender may be different for each of us, but we are to embrace is the same. We are to follow Jesus.
The Rich Young Ruler had placed his SECURITY in what he could do for himself and what he had attained. Not everyone would be asked to sell everything they had in order to follow Jesus, but if your riches have been your center, you would have to surrender those as the center of your life in order to make Jesus your center. The Rich Young Ruler had been trusting in His riches.
In a world where money talks, where money is power, where money buys you not only what you need to survive, but where it buys you privilege, it is easy to conclude that what Jesus was asking was a big ask. No doubt it was, but let’s not get too focused on what Jesus was asking the man to walk away from. Let’s think about what the man would be getting in return. Let’s think about what Jesus was offering the man!
Jesus was offering the man real security! Money is here today and gone tomorrow. There is no real security in wealth. He offered the man the opportunity to be one of his disciples, to live and walk with Jesus, to witness miracles first-hand, to walk right beside the Son of God, to be taught day in and out by Him, and most of all, eternal life. Listen, there is no security for anyone without the assurance of eternal life. He who dies with the most toys still dies, and if he dies without Jesus he goes to hell. Heaven is only promised to those who allow Jesus to be their center. God wants to be our security! Why not surrender to the One who is above all and can take anyone or anything that seeks to come against you and threatens your life?
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
REFUGE. What do you think of when you hear that word? Do you think of a castle with thick walls? Do you think of doors that bolt and lock? Do you think of a hiding place or safety in a crises or storm? God IS and wants to be our safe place. He is our Protector. The Bible says He is our Shield. He is our Defense. If your security is in money or possessions what happens when the stock market crashes? What happens when your home is destroyed by fire? What happens when someone breaks in and steals from you?
No matter what you are facing, the safest place to be is in the hands of God. Proverbs 18:10 tells us “The name of the LORD is a strong tower. The righteous run into it, and they are safe.” Safety is peace of mind! I want safety, how about you? Is Jesus YOUR Source for Security? Or is it something else? Where is your security? Is it in looking a certain way? I saw a show recently where two girls were talking with the show host about how their goal in life is to be forever beautiful. They were all about their makeup, their hair, their nails, their clothes, etc. They spent lots of time and money on looking good. What they would wear and how they could improve their looks was the topic of many of their conversations. The host finally looked at both of them and said, “You realize you are fighting a losing battle, right? Because we all age, and you can take care of yourself, but you can’t keep up with what the passing of time does to all of us.” If your security is in your looks just wait a few years, right?
Where do you find your security? Is it in being in what you perceive to be the “in crowd?” Is it in an educational or career pursuit? Is it a 401K you are building? If the center of your security is anything other than Jesus Christ, you don’t have real security.
The second question for this morning deals with SIGNIFICANCE. The first question deal with feeling safe and confident. The second question deals with how we feel special. From where do you gain your significance? Your worth? In today’s movie, the minions wanted to feel special, valuable, and like their lives mattered to someone. We all want that, right?
Perhaps the thought of walking away from his wealth not only made the Rich Young Ruler feel insecure, but perhaps he thought it would make him insignificant. Perhaps people only followed him or got close to him or were nice to him because he had money and power. Without those things, who would notice him?
We all have a need to feel important or like we belong or matter. What is it or who is it that we look to for validation and significance? When we take that selfie of ourselves in a new outfit and post it online are we doing so in hopes of getting so many “likes” or so many compliments or in hopes that a certain someone or several someones will comment that we look good? Do we crave the attention of others? Do we crave the applause of others? Do we crave attention from members of the opposite sex in order to feel special?
Are we building our identity and worth around being part of a sports team? What happens if we don’t make the team? Or what happens if we make the team, but then get injured and can’t play? Is it academic achievement that gives us a sense of worth and value? If we don’t get the “A” how does it impact us? If we don’t qualify for the elite college how does it change how we feel about ourselves?
Is our significance found in the number of friends we have or the kind of friends we have or in getting invited to certain events? Are we crushed when someone doesn’t go out of their way to tell us we did a good job or that they think we are talented or smart?
The minions in the movie had one thing right. Even though they were on a quest to serve an evil villain, they were correct that we have been created to serve. In fact, our significance comes from serving others. You see, as Christians we are in an upside Kingdom of sorts. Christian life is lived much the opposite of the way the world would choose to live. For example, if you want to find your life, Jesus says to lose it. If you want to be first, learn to be last. And if you want significance, serve others. Matthew 20:26 says, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
You see, significance comes from doing what we have been created to do. We have been created to serve. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared works of service in advance for each one of us to do. When we aren’t doing those things, we lose a sense of value, worth, meaning, and purpose and we begin to feel insignificant. And in a scramble to feel significant we look for a quick fix. A new car. A new outfit. A new boyfriend. A new career. And we start to fantasize. If only I looked like her, I would be significant. If only I could have a job like him, I would be significant. If only I could be married to her or him I would gain worth and value. If only I could have children I would matter to someone. If only . . . and the list goes on and on and so does the empty search for significance.
The Rich Young Ruler needed to answer a question within himself. Did he want to be successful or did he want to be significant? Success, you see, is about achieving status, fame, or notoriety. It is a personal pursuit to be lifted up and applauded. It is a “look at me” life.
Significance, however, isn’t about self at all. It is about adding value to other people’s lives. It is about looking for ways to make an impact, to make a difference, and to elevate others. It is a “look at Christ” life. For as we serve, we are lifting up what the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ, did on behalf of the entire world when He paid the price for the world’s sin on the cross.
People who choose significance over success aren’t looking for earthly rewards. They are living with Christ at the center, seeking to serve as He did, with the gifts and talents God has given them. They are people who realize God rewards those who serve Him in unexpected and often unseen ways with the greatest rewards to come when we reach heaven’s gates.
The final question we need to consider is in what is our SALVATION found? A lot of people don’t want to talk about eternal life and what happens when we pass from this life. But it was at the front of the Rich Young Ruler’s life. That was his question. Kudos to him for that because delaying that conversation or trying to dodge that question doesn’t change the reality that each one of us will pass away from this life. Every young person in this room hear me, none of us knows when our time on earth will be finished. The fact that you are young doesn’t mean you are immune or that it couldn’t happen to you sooner rather than later.
The most critical and best decision anyone can ever make is to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Even with his successful career, big bank account, and youthful age the Rich Young Ruler realized none of those things had taken care of the most important thing. What would happen to him when he died? How would he make it into heaven? Jesus’ answer was simply, “If I am not at the center you cannot come and be with me in Heaven.”
Acts 4:12 is so clear. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” You see, the Rich Young Ruler was going down his check list. He had “career.” Check. “Financial freedom.” Check. “The strength of youth.”” Check. He was marking every box, but when he started thinking about what happened when life was over, he realized he hadn’t checked that box off yet. He was looking for a way to add eternal life to all of his other accomplishments.
What he didn’t realize is that eternal life isn’t just an add-on. Becoming a Christian isn’t just adding eternal life to our portfolios. It doesn’t mean we do life as usual and add Jesus on. No, life with Jesus involves Jesus at the center of EVERYTHING. He is to be the Source for our Security, our Significance, and our Salvation. He is to be the center of the way I spend my money, for the pursuit of my education and profession, the center of my family life and other relationships, and He is to direct how I will live to serve others.
What is in the center of your life right now?