“Do You Realize How Rich You Are!” ( September 1, 2019)

Sermon Text: Luke 12:32-40

Pastor Philip Bigelow

 

It is one of the most powerful emotions of a human being.  It is an emotion that when channeled can make you do things that you didn’t think possible.  Just to show you how strong this emotion is I have some unfortunate news today because I was in church last night practicing my sermon and I didn’t have anyone to listen to me preach so I brought over my pet python for some sermon feedback except when I said Amen I couldn’t find him.  Don’t worry, I know he didn’t go far.  He didn’t make it out of the building so he’s somewhere under the pews and if you find a 6-foot python could you kindly return him.  Now, before you run out of the church with the speed of Usain Bolt, I don’t actually have a pet python and I didn’t accidently lose him under the pews last night.  And I’m guessing most of you knew that I wasn’t serious about that scenario, but even with that being the case some of you probably had a little bit of the powerful emotion slither into your mind called fear.  Fear is a strong emotion. Fear is a motivator.  What are you afraid of?  Things that go bump in the night?  Shadows that lurk in the darkness?  Are you afraid of 8 legged arachnids that crawl across the kitchen floor or slithering snakes through the green grass?  What are you afraid of?  People have wrestled with fear for a long time and for most of recent history there were two fears that always topped the lists: death and what I am doing right now: public speaking.  But lately some studies have given those two front runners a run for their money. Some studies have shown, especially for the Baby Boomers that there is a new fear on the block that has taken the top spot for some.  The fear of outliving your retirement funds.  That is a unique fear for Americans and the fact that it has started topping some of the lists of greatest fears tells you something about our priorities.  Today we are going to get a lesson in that.  We are going to get a lesson in our priorities and then see that means something for us as we get out of bed each day and live to God’s glory as his children.

So, Jesus starts our lesson by telling us, “Do not be afraid…”. So, he says, no fear.  I don’t know about you but I’m dying to know what I shouldn’t be afraid of.  Why does Jesus say that?  What came before this that results in Jesus tells us this? This is all part of the same conversation that Jesus had from last week.  The crowd listening to Jesus is so big they are running out of room and pushing on one another.  The disciples are there intently listening to Jesus and throughout this chapter of Luke (12) Jesus is slapping warning stickers all over the place.  He tells them be on guard against hypocrisy.  He tells them to fear God because he is the one that judges if you don’t take these warning seriously.  He tells them to be on guard against greed that we heard about last week.  He is slapping all of these warnings up and what do warnings produce?  They put a little fear in you.  One of the jobs I had when I was in school at the Seminary to be a pastor gave me the opportunity to run some heavy machinery.  Every time I climbed into the cab of the crane there were all kinds of warnings and if you didn’t follow them it always said, “Could result in serious injury or death”  It made you fear and respect what you were doing.  But after all of the warnings Jesus gives the comfort, “Do not be afraid, little flock…” (Luke 12:32).

The warning from Jesus is: apart from me be afraid.  You better be afraid of these things if you aren’t connected to me. You better worry just like the world. And what does the world worry about? He told us just before our lesson the world fills its time worrying about what am I going to eat and drink today, what am I going to wear, what is going to happen when the sun comes up tomorrow. Jesus interjects in all of that and says, “No fear, my little flock.”  The world fills its calendar with worry and fear.  Not so with you!

This is a really easy question, but so important to understand what Jesus is saying to us today: Why?  It’s the question every two-year-old asks early and often.  Why can Jesus say, “No fear”?  Listen again to what he is saying to you and me today, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  I’m sorry, what?  What did Jesus just say?  That statement, apart from the Holy Spirit, is beyond our grasp.  The Father has given you the kingdom.  This is the Sweet 16 birthday moment when the daughter walks outside to the driveway and mom or dad hands her the keys to the brand-new car followed by the ear piercing and crystal shattering screams and shrieks of joy. But what God gives us is better than that!  This is if a realtor came to you this morning and said, “Meet me at 35308 Pabst. Rd. on Oconomowoc Lake, which happens to be the Minnowoc Mansion that is for sale for $10.5 million, and by the way here are the keys, it’s yours.”  After you picked yourself off the floor because you fainted in shock you would call the closest people to you and tell them the news. Could you imagine that?  I don’t think we can.  It would be that shocking.  As shocking as it would be to be given the keys to the 16,000 square foot, 6-bedroom, 10-bathroom mansion the reality is God has given you far greater! He gives you his kingdom and it doesn’t cost you $10.5 million.  It doesn’t cost you sweat equity.  It cost Jesus.  It cost him his sweat as he poured out his soul to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane because it would cost him his blood the next day on the cross because he loves you.

What is Jesus telling you in that short verse?  You have everything.  The kingdom is yours.  Do you realize how rich you are!Jesus has been building to that statement.  The problem with the story of the rich man that we heard about last week wasn’t that he was blessed with much, it was that his priorities were wrong.  His priority was on bigger barns to hold more stuff.  That’s what was important to him.  What’s important to you?  Is it worrying about and fearing what am I going to eat and drink, wear, build, etc.? Sometimes it is.  Sometimes our response to what Jesus says today that we have the kingdom is, “Thanks, but that’s not quite enough.  If you have given me the kingdom then why am I staring at the ceiling all night filled with worry and fear?  If you have given me the kingdom, Lord, then why does it feel like I don’t have enough?”  Our sinful nature wants no part of God’s promises and wants to knock God’s kingdom off the top pedestal and replace it with all the stuff you don’t have so you can worry and be afraid.  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”  God has given you all.  In his love for you, God has washed you clean of your sins of doubt and fear, of the times when we think he hasn’t given us enough or what we need.  You and I deserve punishment for that.  We deserve death forever for those sins and many more, instead God says, “I give you the kingdom.”  Jesus took the punishment.  Jesus took the pain.  Jesus took the suffering.  Now you get the kingdom.  You get the eternal riches.

So, what does this mean for us?  Jesus doesn’t leave us scratching our heads about that.  “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:33, 34).  What a contrast to the rich fool from last week. He wanted bigger barns.  Jesus says, sell your possessions.  Give to those in need.  Do you see the real change that takes place in those that the kingdom has been given to?  The world wonders what am I going to eat and drink, what am I going to wear, what am I going to get?  Since we have already been given everything in the kingdom of God our focus is not I, I, I, but now it’s how do I serve God and my neighbor?  How do I help my neighbor with his or her needs, how do I help someone who is hurting, how do I use what God has given me to be of service to others because God has already taken care of me for eternity?  That only happens when we realize where our true treasure is.  It’s not in our back pocket.  It’s not in our purse.  It’s not in a bank account with a bunch of zeros behind a number.

The day will come when all of that is worthless.  Whether we’ve spent it all, someone takes it, or it rusts and decays, or we decayed and aren’t here anymore to enjoy it.  The time will come when that isn’t worth anything to us and isn’t useful to us.  But Jesus tells us today that isn’t our treasure.  Our treasure is heaven.  Our treasure is the gift that we are saved in Jesus.  Our treasure isn’t the little kingdom we can build for ourselves on whatever street we live on in Oconomowoc or the surrounding area.  Our true treasure is the kingdom given us by our gracious God that can never decay or be taken away.

So, be ready.  Serve. Be ready for Jesus to come.  There is urgency in the kingdom work of God. There is no time and energy to waste on the world’s decadence that only decays and priorities that have the wrong things on the top pedestal.  We don’t know when the time will end to do that kingdom work, but we do know we have time now.  Do you realize how rich you are!  You do. God has given you the kingdom. So, be ready by sharing that kingdom with others and the joy of getting to tell them, “Do you realize how rich you are!” because God has given them the kingdom too!  Amen.