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You Must Know His Meaning to Know His Will
Scripture: Mark 10:17-31
Track 6 of 8 in the Inside~Out: Discovering the Will of God series
Running time: 38 minutes, 09 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"You Must Know His Meaning To Know His Will" November 4, 2007

Thousands of them, by some estimates hundreds of thousands of them, coming down out of the foothills and gullies, converging on absolutely anything that was green. 1934 Dust Bowl. Rabbits, jack rabbits to be exact. Thousands of them. To the place that they started having jack rabbit drives. Now, it sounds like the kind of thing that had I been -- and I wasn't -- back then, I could have enjoyed that. I loved to chase jack rabbits when I was a kid. I actually caught one once. He must have been sick, because I'm just not that fast.

They would herd them into a place, and they would start to kill them. They would take clubs -- they started shooting at them with shotguns and discovered that when you're surrounding a herd of jack rabbits, a herd, whatever you call it, bunch, shooting at them was probably not smart because people on the other side are kind of in the way. So they started clubbing them to death. You can just see it, can't you, a frenzied bunch of kids out there with sticks going after a whole bunch of rabbits that had been eating what little crops were available because of the Dust Bowl?

April 14th, 1935, a Sunday morning, right after a jack rabbit drive. Everything started out to be just a normal regular day. In fact, it looked to be absolutely beautiful there in central Kansas, when all of a sudden there was the light but unmistakable presence of wind, and the next thing you know off in the distance is a cloud. That particular date in history has come to be known as Black Sunday. The dust cloud suffocated a number of people. People ran for cover. They found themselves in cellars, in homes, in cars, anyplace that they could get to try to be safe.

And here was the interesting assumption. God is punishing us because we killed the jack rabbits. Somewhere in their biblical interpretation they had decided that because they had been unfaithful, unkind, cruel individuals God was exacting his punishment. They even made reference to Deuteronomy Chapter 28:24 when God says, "I will send the dust down on you like a powder, and it will cover you up."

One particular family had decided as they were trying to get out of the path of the dust storm that they would stop by the neighbor's house. This is actually a PBS special, and they have this documented in an interview. Her name is Clella Schmidt of Spearman, Texas. "My dad thought we should stop and pick up this neighbor and her baby, and it hit just about the time we were getting out of the car to go in the house."

"This woman was hysterical. She thought she should maybe just go ahead and kill the baby and herself, because it was the end of the world, and she didn't want to face it alone. And so my dad quoted bible scriptures to her to prove to her that it was not yet time for the end of the world. He didn't know what it was, but it wasn't the end of the world." That's an interesting conflict. Some people are saying the bible says this must be the end of the world, and somebody else says, no, the bible says that can't be the end of the world.

Of course, we could reproduce that from yesterday, I guarantee, because the e-mail came. Eleven pages of explanation of Daniel 11 unsolicited from somebody. I don't even know who it was, but he decided that I needed to know the explanation of this particular passage, and he gave me 11 pages of explanation as to what it meant. I don't know what he said.

Some of you are familiar with Woody Guthrie, the country western singer. He actually turned the Dust Bowl into a successful career with such hits as "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You." That was Black Sunday. That's the song he wrote as a result of Black Sunday.

Interpretation is such an interesting thing. You remember the story in John where Jesus tells them to, you know, throw the nets on the other side, and it says that they caught 153 large fish. Had to be a fisherman telling this story. I mean, why else would you say 153 large fish. Well, why 153? Well, some people would say because that's how many there were. Well, that would make sense. But there are others who have said there was 153 fish in the catch because there were 153 different known species of fish and there was one of every kind that came out of the Sea of Galilee and that those 153 fish not only represented every kind of fish available to mankind but represented one of every nation. And so the real story behind the 153 fish is that Jesus was predicting that there would be a person from every nation in the world who would come to faith in him.

You know what I think? There were 153 fish. You know, I just have a hard time thinking it's probably any more than that. But I'm in the minority on that, I want you to know. Because 153 fish according to Augustine, the great church father, 153 fish -- are you ready for this? Is the triangulation of 17.

There is not a math major in the room nodding their head like you know what I'm about to tell you. Anybody recognize that terminology the triangulation of 17? It means that if you add 17 and 16 and 15 and 14 and 13, etc., all the way down to 1 you come up with 153. And you're thinking, so? Well, Augustan's point was this: Ten commandments, seven spirits of God, 17. 153. So fish represents the Old Testament and the New Testament.

You got that, right? It's as clear as day. What's the matter with you? Not even a dust storm could make that confusing. Well, maybe it could. At least for people like me who have a hard time trying to sort this thing out. Because, you know, sometimes this stuff gets to be really confusing.

St. John -- I'm not sure which one. There were lots of them. But some St. John in the history of the church decided there was 153 fish because of the triangulation that Augustine did and came up with 17, and 17 represents the 12 baskets of bread that were left over after the five loaves were broken.

I got to thinking about this. You could just about make 17 anything you wanted. Just get a 12 and a 5 or an 11 and a 6 and you got it. But that's been the history of interpretation in the church. You probably have read some of this stuff.

Origen, one of the early church fathers, interpreted the Good Samaritan for us. You know the story of the Good Samaritan. There is a guy going down the road and he gets beat up and there is a bunch of thieves and they leave him for dead and there is a priest and a Levite and a Samaritan, and the Samaritan puts him on his donkey and he carries him down to the inn and he leaves him in the inn to be healed and he gives him a couple of coins to take care of him and said, I'll come back and pay the rest later. You got the story? You remember that story. If not, trust me. It's in there.

Here is Origen's explanation. The man who was going down is Adam. Not just any Adam. Adam. Jerusalem is paradise. That's where the fellow started. Jericho, the place where he is going, is the world. The robbers are the hostile powers, the priest is the law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience. The beast is the Lord's body. The inn is the church. The manager of the inn is the head of the church.

Now, if you haven't been following carefully, let me go back and recap just a little of that for you. The Samaritan is Christ; the donkey is the Lord's body, Christ; the inn is the church; and the inn keeper is the head of the church, Christ. So far we got Christ in here in three different places. That's a good way to interpret because that way you just never lose him. And the fact that the Samaritan promises that he is going to return represents the savior's second coming. Oh, you want more?

Bishop Long in Atlanta, Georgia -- I can even give you the date for this because a good friend of mine, Eddie Sanders, sent me this the other day. The summer of 2001 in a sermon in East Atlanta he said in a sermon based on Ezekiel 37, which is the story of the valley of dry bones, which the little kids song comes from, you know -- well, I don't know the song, so I won't even go there. Here is the line from the sermon. "Speak to your checkbook like Ezekiel spoke to the valley of dry bones. Tell your checkbook to arise and live." I tried it. That rascal is just as dead as a doornail, man. I am as broke yesterday when I tried it as I am today. It was -- it didn't work. And Eddie's comment is great rhetoric and great presentation. Bad theology.

But you can get that theology almost anyplace in town. No offense to my fellow preachers. You can get that anyplace on the radio or the television. The whole health and prosperity gospel is all over the place, that if you're a believer and you really are serious about it, you are going to be healthy and wealthy. Well, either I'm not real faithful or I'm an exact representation of the opposite of that, because I've had cancer and I'm poor. So you know, what's the deal here? What do you got to do to get in on this thing?

Well, how many of these do you want? I have a list of these about as long as my arm. Some of them actually are really quite humorous when you think about it. Some of the things that people have said the bible means is just enough to make you sit down and chuckle. Some of it's tragically sad.

Did you follow this? I didn't see this. Somebody had to tell me about this. I haven't seen the news here recently, but the -- let me find it here. The Westboro Baptist Church has been assessed an $11 million fine by the courts because they were there protesting at the funeral of Matthew Snyder, one of our fallen soldiers coming back from Iraq. They have been doing this now for months at various cemeteries and funeral homes. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have been parading with placards outside of these funerals saying that our soldiers are dying because God has condemned America because of homosexuality. Well, I don't think so.

I grant that I'm interpreting my bible just like they are interpreting their bible. We are both coming at it trying to understand it hermeneutically from a science of interpretation. But, you know, the bible while it says that homosexuality is not something that God approves, it would be really hard to connect the death of a soldier in Iraq with that. But you see how painful that could be to a family who's trying to bury their son with some dignity and some honor and they look out the window and all of these people are across the street with their placards and you're trying to think to yourself, what did we ever do to deserve this?

Misinterpretation can be funny, but misinterpretation can be painful. But worse than that, misinterpretation of scripture can be deadly. To you. Come to the text that we're actually looking at this morning, Mark Chapter 10. It's a text that we've seen from time to time over the time that I've been preaching here. We're not going to spend a lot of time exhausting the text. I just want to show you from this text an illustration of how significant it is when we don't pay attention to just generally important rules of understanding the bible. That's the whole point of the day. If you're going to know the will of God, if you're really going to understand what God wants for your life, you have to be able to interpret scripture, because scripture is the revealed will of God.

Now, I'm not denying that God has other ways of helping us sort things out. He opens doors. He closes doors. He judges us. There are acts of providence in our lives that I think direct us in certain ways, but none of those ways will ever contradict the revealed will of God. The first thing that a person has to come to grips with in their life is understanding the revealed will. Once you know that and you get that down pat, then God might want to work with you on the other stuff. But as long as you're standing in disobedience to what he has already told you, why would he want to tell you more?

Last week the text was Matthew Chapter -- now, don't leave this text, but last week the text was Matthew Chapter 4, and it's's the temptation of Jesus, and three times Jesus responds to the temptation by saying -- you weren't listening, huh? "It is written." He kept coming back to the revealed will of God. When he was faced with temptation, he didn't try to sort it out. He didn't try to argue it. He didn't try to somehow rationalize. He didn't try to think His way through it as the first step. The first thing He did is He said, has God spoken on this topic? Because if God has already spoken on this topic, I'll just go to there and figure it out from here.

And when Satan came along in the second temptation, he actually quoted scripture also. But he miss -- well, when I say he misquoted, I mean, he got the words right. He just didn't get the interpretation right. And so Jesus corrected the misinterpretation of the text that Satan quoted. Interpretation is incredibly important.

So you come to Mark Chapter 10, and here in this context of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus we have this rather interesting story that starts in Verse number 17. "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he said, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'" It's not a bad question. That's a pretty fair question. In fact, I wish the whole world would ask that question.

I'd love to be walking down the street, people know that I'm a preacher. If you don't know, my car has MPCC 1. I mean, you know, it's just an invitation to know that I'm the preacher out here, or at least that I belong here. I'm just waiting for somebody to run up, crawl on their knees, not that they need to do that, but say, what do I have to do to be saved? You know, it's been at least a couple of days since anybody did that.

But this is a great question. What do I have to do to inherit eternal life? And he calls Jesus good teacher. "And Jesus turns around and says, 'Why are you calling me good? There is nobody good but God.' And I think I'll skip that verse and move on, but that's a head scratcher. Well, what is the answer to my question, then? He says, "'You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' 'Teacher,' he said, 'all of these things I have done since I was a little boy.'

Aah, man, he just missed it, that's all. If I am good, shouldn't that be enough? I mean, I do all the right things. I keep the law. I am a good person. Well, the problem is nobody is a good person, except God. He sets the standard. Jesus says, now, you might be an all right guy, pretty nice lady, but when I stack you up against God, suddenly the scales begin to tip. And when you make God the standard -- Now, don't misunderstand me. You can do good. Honest, you can. Lots of people do. They do good things. They are nice folks. They are good neighbors. They are the kind of people you want for a friend. They stop on the side of the highway and they help you. They are good people. And if you looked at them, they would be good people. The problem is the answer to the question, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life, has nothing to do with whether or not you stack up as a good person. But, see, that's been the false interpretation of the way we have interpreted our understanding of God for generations. This is where most people are. If I do enough good things, it will tip the scale and God will have to honor that. Let's see, how many bad things have I done? Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm stuck.

We have this mentality that says, you know, if we're close to God at the moment that he comes or the moment that we die -- kind of like a yo-yo on a string. Up near the hand of the string holder we're okay, but God forbid that if we're out on the end of that string kind of somehow, you know, sort of out there not doing what we should be doing or we just got done saying a swear word or we did something really bad or we weren't nice to our wife or whatever sin you want to put into that category, I mean, real sin, and the string breaks, you die, whoop.

I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm going to. I just don't know how to say it nicely. You are all sinners. It's just the way it is. You don't all do bad, sinful, nasty deeds. You're just sinful. That's who you are. And your thoughts are not always good and your heart is not always pure and sometimes you're greedy and sometimes you're lustful and sometimes you're just not nice, and you don't always say it, but you think it. And if you do good for the whole of your life, you will never outweigh one fundamental problem, not knowing Jesus. Because on the scale of 1 to 10 that's a hundred, because that's the only one that matters.

And so the disciple is told. You got one more thing you need to do, young fellow. "Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven. Come follow me." This isn't about doing one more thing. This is about a heart attitude of, I will follow Jesus whatever he says. And you know what the text said? Did you read the next line? "He went away sad, because he had a lot of wealth."

Well, you just plug yourself in there. What is it that keeps you from doing what it is that God wants you to do? It may not be that you want to give everything you have because you have a lot of wealth. Maybe you don't want to do what God wants you to do because you're too proud or because it would mean walking away from something you used to think was important when you were a kid, or maybe it would be because it would get in the way of what your family thinks, or maybe it would mean that the guys at work would give you a really hard time or the people at school would make fun of you. I don't know what it might be for you, but I'm telling you that in every one of us there is the place at which Jesus, if He were here today, would reach down, hone in, and say, one more thing. This is not about doing. This is about trusting, and you're not trusting me in this area. Now, I'm not smart enough to know which one it is for you, I just know that most of us have one, and Jesus would hone in on it pretty quickly.

Now, I've tried. I don't claim to have succeeded. I have tried to put you in a place where you are feeling like (end of tape).

Well, if that's true, what's the use? Not only could I have used that extra hour of sleep, I could have just gone ahead and slept a couple more hours or gone out to breakfast or something because this is -- boy. Well, the disciples felt exactly the same way. Verse 23, "Jesus looked and said, 'How hard it is for the rich to get into the kingdom.' The disciples were amazed. Jesus said, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. 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.' And the disciples were even more amazed, and said, 'Well, then, who can be saved?'" What's the use? Nobody can do this. Well, that's right. Nobody can do this. You have to let it be done to you. You got to be willing to take your hands off, lose control, and let God run your life. That's the bottom line. Now, all of that only matters if you care what God wants, because, see, misinterpreting scripture has lots of implications. Let me just give you two or three very quickly. Misinterpreting scripture can cause you a great deal of difficulty because it can absolutely destroy your peace. You can be just moving along down through life just as happy as a little clam, although I don't know that they necessarily move down through life. They probably lay down through life. But you think everything is fine until some tragedy comes along.

You know, one of the most misinterpreted verses in christian radio is Jeremiah Chapter 29, Verse 11. "I have plans for you. I have plans to prosper you." Prosper who? Who is the you? Well, in Jeremiah 29 it's a bunch of exiles living in the City of Jerusalem. I don't know if it has anything to do with me. I haven't been to Jerusalem lately and I'm not exiled there and it's not 600 years before Christ. But, see, we have got this mentality that we can just grab that verse, stick it over here, plug it onto our life, then God is obligated to bless us and to give us great plans and to have a good future for us. Well, God may or may not have that good future.

The problem is we have allowed that kind of mentality to say that if something bad happens God must be angry. Could it be, is it just remotely possible that when something bad happens all it means is this? Something bad happened. That's life. We live in a fallen universe, and it's tough. And rather than getting angry at God and having your peace all turned around and you becoming distraught and not knowing why God isn't on your side, maybe what you ought to do is ask, is there something in this where I can see God, see His hand, learn from Him, and gain from this experience so that I am a more mature person who looks like Jesus, the son?

But I wish I could count -- well, I'm sorry that I even have to count. The number of people who in bad circumstances turn their back on God is almost limitless, because we have misconstrued what the bible says about God's faithfulness and we have turned it into a giant box on the shelf. And if we do all the right things, God owes us something. God doesn't owe you anything. But he does want to come alongside you and walk with you during hard times. He does. That's what he wants to do.

You know, it's distinctly possible that misinterpreting scripture can cause you a great deal of pain in your life, in your family. See, the Proverbs are proverbs. They are wisdom literature. They are general statements of what should be normally the way things turn out, but they are not promises, and they are not guarantees, and yet as a parent I find myself still to this day going back to this Proverb. "If you raise up a child in the way he ought to go, when he is old he will not depart from it." And I want to know how come that doesn't always work. Why in a family of three or a family of five might you have one raised in exactly the context of every other child and one of them turns out to be a scoundrel? Same parents, same context, same church, same everything, and one doesn't turn out right.

That text is not a promise. That text is a general rule of thumb, if you do it right, God will honor that and that person will be faithful. But you have no control over a person's heart. They make their own decisions. And a lot of parents have beaten themselves up for a lifetime because they misunderstood a simple text of scripture about what it means to be a faithful parent.

This misunderstanding of texts really is a struggle when it comes to this area of outreach to the world. I mean, it's a confusing sort of thing. I don't even have time to delve into this much. I'm going to do this very quickly, but here's the question. If you can't get to heaven without knowing Jesus, what about all those people out there who have never heard about Him? Out of the six plus billion people on the face of the earth, two billion of them live in a christian context like ours, and I mean that loosely, but it's not far to a church, it's not far to a christian. The gospel is available. The bible is out there, christian radio and television. Another two billion live in a part of the world where at least the gospel has had some penetration and it's possible at least to hear the gospel.

But there are two billion people in the world who do not live anywhere near a bible, anywhere near a christian, and they have never heard of Jesus. What happens to them? I have a list here of eight possibilities. Under 7 of the 8 there is a list of scriptures, and under number 5 that everybody is given a chance just at the moment of their death to respond to the gospel, the response is there is not a lot of scripture to support that. Yeah, I'd say that's true. But the other seven have lots of scripture. You want them? I've got them right here. Lots of them.

Some people would say, don't send missionaries into the world because if you send missionaries into the world and they talk about Jesus and then people reject Jesus, those people will be lost, but as long as you leave them alone they will be okay. Other people would say, no, they are lost anyway. It doesn't make any difference whether they hear the bible or not. If they don't respond to Jesus, they are in trouble. So we got to send missionaries. Do you see the implications of that? And it's all based on interpreting scripture. How do we interpret what happens to the uninformed about Jesus? And, by the way, I just opened up a great big topic I'm not going to try to solve. I'm just illustrating for you the importance of interpretation and understanding what does the bible really say.

But the one that troubles me the most is the fact that misinterpretation can have huge implications on your personal salvation. This was a news report, CBS News, Associated Press article June 27th, 2006. The summary of the article is this: June of 2006 Warren Buffet, the world's second richest man at that time, announced that he would donate 85 percent of his 44 billion dollar fortune to five charitable foundations. In the interview when asked about this extreme level of generosity, this is what Buffet said. "There is more than one way to get to heaven, and this is a great way." I hate to tell Mr. Buffet that's not the way, and if he is counting on his generosity to be a ticket into heaven, he is going to have an extremely rude awakening, because that's not the way we do it. You can't be good enough. You can't be generous enough. You can't do enough to get on God's good side.

Can I let you in on a little secret? You're already on God's good side. He already loves you. You don't have to do anything to earn his love. You don't have to do anything to impress him. You don't have to try to win his favor. All you have to do is respond to His son. Just don't reject his son.

Every Sunday we come to this table. We hold in our hands the solution to our sin, the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and all God asks is that you respond to His son. He says in John Chapter 18, "If you will receive my son, I will enable you. I will give you the power to become a son of God." Now, don't misunderstand me. Receiving Jesus does not make you a son of God. That's not what the text says. Read it carefully. John 18 says, if you receive Jesus he gives you the right to become the son of God.

So what's my response? It's a response of faith, and in faith I come to Jesus, and I identify with him. I identify with his death, I identify with his burial, and I identify with his resurrection. I put myself to death by repenting of my sin. I stop following me, and I say I want to follow Him, and I die to myself. But that's not the end. You know what you do with people who die? You bury them. You put them away. You get rid of the old. And so in christian baptism we identify with the death of Jesus, we identify with the burial of Jesus, and we put our old man away and we rid ourselves of that old person. And when we come up out of that water, we come up new people in Christ, and we identify with his resurrection to new life.

And every Sunday we hold in our hands the blood and the body of Jesus which reminds us of the commitment we made to Christ to identify with him and to live for him and to experience him, and we are going to do it again today. Now, listen carefully. The folks are going to come and they are going to distribute these. I want you to hold them. Do not do it the way we normally do it. Take them in your hands and allow the song that we're about to sing together to help you meditate on the meaning of what you hold in your hands. And as you hold this, if you have not yet responded to Jesus at some level, can I invite you to make the decisions you need to make today, whatever that is, to identify yourself with Christ? After you have had the emblems distributed and we have sung together, I'll come back and we are going to take this together in unison as an act of a body together celebrating our life in Jesus Christ. Come and serve us and let's sing.