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Great Possessions

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The books of Matthew, Mark and Luke each record an account of a rich man who comes to Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Here is Matthew’s account, found in Matthew 19:16-23 WEB (R))

“Behold, one came to him and said, “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?(Eternal life is the subject of this entire conversation)He said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. (Right away, Jesus challenges this man’s perception of what constitutes “good”). But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ ‘You shall not steal.’ ‘You shall not offer false testimony.’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” The young man said to him, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?” (He and Jesus knew the keeping of law can never make one perfect (literally: “fully mature” or “complete”)). Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect (complete/mature), go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Following law is one thing, but only following the way of Jesus leads to “perfection” or full maturity). But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty” (Jesus compares having “eternal life” with “entering the Kingdom of Heaven”). 

This can be a troubling passage for those with wealth, such as most Americans (did you know if you make $25,000 per year, you earn more than 90% of all people on earth?)1  But is Jesus really saying that if you own anything, you can’t follow him, can’t inherit eternal life or enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  The answer is obviously no.2

To understand what Jesus meant, it’s important to remember that in public, Jesus always spoke in parables, as Matthew 13:34-35 says.  This is why Jesus so often said he who has ears to hear, let him hear, which essentially means “only those with spiritual understanding will apprehend the meaning of my words.”  So, let’s look beyond the obvious, surface interpretation to the spiritual.

After the man goes away, Jesus tells his disciples a rich man will “enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty.”  So, somehow poverty helps one enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  This reminds me of Jesus’ earlier sermon on the mount, in which he said: Blessed are the poor in >spirit<, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”3  As I’m going to try to demonstrate, it wasn’t this man’s material riches that were the issue, but his spiritual ones!  To those with ears to hear, to “sell all you have” isn’t speaking of physical/material things, but inward things, of our heart – things like our own understandings, our own ways, and anything of our own which give us a feeling of security and confidence before God.  These are the “great possessions” which hinder us from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  We have to become poor in spirit, to do so, which I will explain.

Matthew 13:44-46 records a couple small parables Jesus told about the Kingdom of Heaven: “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”  Do you see that?!  The price quoted to the rich man for eternal life and the price these men paid to get the kingdom of heaven is exactly the same – all you have!  Whether you have “great possessions” like the man who approached Jesus, or possess very few things, the Kingdom of Heaven is still going to cost the exact same price – everything! 

Those who own “great possessions” are those who, in their own eyes, are secure and confident before God based on their obedience, their doctrines, or any number of their own ideas or ways.  They are like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17 of whom Jesus said: Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…”  This man’s “great possessions” were based on his strict adherence to the law.  He said that though he had kept the commandments from his youth, he still “lacked” something.  What he lacked was poverty of spirit.  

Jesus said “a rich man will enter into the Kingdom with difficulty  because those who find security, confidence, and comfort (i.e. “riches”) before God based on ANY of their own understandings, ways, or behaviors, will feel they have the most to lose. Both outwardly and inwardly, the more you have and the more valuable it is to you, the harder and costlier it is to give it up.   Very often it is religious and devout people who have the hardest time “selling what they have,” because they feel their possessions are divine and of the utmost value and importance.  Also, in many cases, forsaking one’s religious ways will also mean losing one’s family and friends.  But we CANNOT follow Jesus, inherit eternal life or enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless we do so.  One reason for this is that nothing “carnal,” that is, nothing which has it’s origin in our human nature inherited from Adam, can exist in God’s spiritual presence.  Trying to follow Jesus and worship the Father in spirit and truth while holding on to Adam’s ways (though we may see them as divine) is like trying to make yourself lighter by picking up bags of sand. 

Notice the stark difference in the two men.  The rich man who approached Jesus “went away sad” at the prospect of selling everything, while in the parable about the Kingdom of Heaven above, the man joyfully sells all he has.  This is simply because the rich man felt he had a lot to lose, while the second man did not, realizing how valuable the treasure is and how empty his possessions were in comparison.  When you see that, selling everything becomes joyful!  What Jesus told the rich man here is basically the same thing he said in his famous statement in Matthew 16:25: “For whoever desires to save his life (holds on to his own ideas and ways (religious or otherwise)) will lose it (God’s spiritual, eternal life), and whoever will lose his life (sells all he has, gives up his own ways) for my sake (in order to follow Jesus’ way) will find it (eternal life and the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven).”  You could say that to “sell what you have” is to lay down down your very life.  That’s why it’s also referred to as “all you have.”  

I also noticed an amazing similarity between all this and what Paul said about himself in Philippians 3:6-9:

…concerning the righteousness which is in the law, (I was) found blameless (in other words, he had great wealth). However, what things were gain to me (the things that made me rich), these have I counted loss for Christ (he sold all he had). Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him (because he recognized the far greater worth of eternal life and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, he sold all he had with joy), not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law (his own riches), but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (being rich by virtue of union with God in Christ, receiving eternal life and entering the Kingdom of Heaven)…”

Sell what you have, go ahead and file for bankruptcy and become poor in spirit.  It’s ok, your Father is extremely rich and will take care of you.  He’s been waiting for you to return to the family business, and your business was actually losing money anyway.  Mourn if you need to, but know that bankruptcy is necessary and is the beginning of a spiritual walk.  You will end up rejoicing and walking in deeper spiritual places than ever before, without having to fake it or stifle the persistent feeling that something is missing.  

I can’t give you an exact guideline of what to do, or say just how it will look in your case.  Let the spirit of God lead you, seek and trust him to do so.  The Kingdom is within you, the spirit of God is within you – trust that fact and if you need to, start over!  It’s ok   : )   God bless you…

 

 

  1. http://irememberthepoor.org/3-2/
  2. The early believers owned homes and had possessions (though they willingly shared them with each-other).  At times, the apostle Paul would collect financial offerings, so we know believers had money to give.  Additionally, in 1 Timothy 6:17-18, Paul’s counsel to wealthy believers isn’t to sell everything and give it away, but to not trust in their riches and to be willing to share.
  3. Matthew 5:3

 

 

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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Father’s Good Pleasure (Rich Toward God pt. 3)

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“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”1  -Jesus Christ

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”2

Jesus and the first apostles said often that God’s children are not to fear.  The ultimate reason behind that exhortation is always the love of God the Father I believe fear and love are opposites.  Fear is a driving force of the blind soul (mind, life) of man, while love is a driving force of man’s divine spirit.  Fear is rooted in insecurity and leads to self-focus of a million different forms.  Love is rooted in being secure in God and is absent of self-awareness. 

*Note: You can skip this paragraph if you’re familiar with the parable I examined in parts 1 and 2 of the “Rich Toward God” blogs.  If not, here’s a quick refresher: a man has fields that produce a harvest larger than his barns can hold.  He reasons within himself and decides to build bigger barns, store up all his produce, and take it easy for years to come.  God then visits him and tells him he’s foolish, because his life is being taken and all he planned or worked for will not benefit him at all.  Jesus says this is how it will be for everyone who stores up treasure for themselves and are not “rich toward God,” meaning to have an abundance of the spiritual things God finds valuable. 

The verses immediately following this parable (22-34 or so) are probably more well-known to most Christians, but many (like me until just recently) don’t seem to realize they are a continuation of the train of thought which began with the preceding parable.  It’s important to note that while the parable was given to the crowd that gathered around Jesus, the teaching that followed is said to be given exclusively to his disciples; to the few who truly and consistently followed him.  Therefore what he said doesn’t necessarily apply to those on the “broad way” who claim to follow Jesus but in reality just want their needs supplied.

In these verses, the first thing Jesus instructs his disciples is to “take no thought” or “do not be anxious/worried/preoccupied” regarding physical needs such as food and clothing! He then reminds his disciples that life goes beyond what is sustained by physical food, and the body goes beyond the physical shell we clothe.  Jesus said that though we are worth much more than birds or flowers, His Father yet provides food for the birds who have no barns (unlike the rich man) and He beautifully clothes the flowers though they don’t toil (unlike the rich man again).  Worrying about and trying to prolong or benefit our natural life (like the rich man did) is contrary to the way of a follower of Jesus, and storing up earthly treasures for ease or security will actually tie down one’s heart (awareness, devotion) to the earth.  That’s “no bueno” for a someone seeking to follow the spiritual path of their master.

Here’s Jesus conclusion: 

“For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”3

It’s interesting, there are two different Greek words used for “seek” in this passage.  The nations of the world “epizeteo” selfish needs such as food, clothing, ease and security.  Epizeteo means to seek selfishly, in order to satisfy a desire or craving.  Jesus said that instead, or differently, his followers are to “zeteo” the kingdom of God, which means to seek with no strings attached, simply for the worth or beauty of the thing sought.  Zeteo is actually a form of worship.

Again, God is well aware that His children have physical needs, and His kingdom (rule, dominion) includes them.  Therefore, Jesus can say this next:  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.4

Isn’t that beautiful and exciting?  God found it good and fitting to give the kingdom to the “little” flock that followed Jesus.  In the first chapters of Acts, we can see some of what the spirit of Christ in them began to do, under his headship.  There are two types of seekers: needers and worshipers.  I think still today it is God’s “good pleasure” to give the kingdom to those who seek it as worshipers, as those who want God to be glorified regardless of their own ease or security.  Those who seek the kingdom and righteousness of God in order to know and worship Him don’t need to fear or worry about their physical needs. 

Do you ever find yourself, with no ulterior motive, stirred to know, worship and give glory to God?  Do you have even a small desire or inkling to be free of religion, pat answers and bland doctrines?  If so, I pray that desire is fanned into flame.  However small or weak your desire may seem, use it.  I think the “flock” of true disciples today is still relatively little, but I also hope and believe this flock will grow.  It will require a revolution, though.  Come, Lord Jesus.   

 

  1. Luke 12:32 NASB
  2. Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV 
  3. Luke 12:30-31 ESV  
  4. Luke 12:32 ESV  

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Rich Toward God, pt. 2

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I believe all Jesus’ parables are given to believers, and each time a man is spoken of, he represents a group of people.  This rich man represents a “church” which is carnal, or led by her darkened mind.  Immediately after making up his mind to build bigger barns to store up his grain and goods, God addresses him directly: You fool! (literally: “one without perception!”) This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’  To be seen as a fool by the God you claim to worship is truly sad. 

Jesus concludes this parable by contrasting two ways of life, which I believe are mutually exclusive:  “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  The foolish rich man planned and labored to “lay up treasure,” i.e. to get ease and security, for himself.  As I mentioned before, it’s possible to, by all appearances, be very good in doing this, but the real issue is the SOURCE of the plan and action.  In this case, the source was this man’s own mind/soul. 

Being “rich toward God” is entirely differentRich toward God” literally translates “rich toGod,” meaning to be rich in God’s sight, or: “to possess and be that which God finds desirable.” The “rich toward God” have an inward ownership of spiritual riches such as wisdom, understanding, and fruit.  They are those who have been given eyes to see, ears to hear and have used these senses.  They have nourished the seed of God’s Word and life in them, and are producing a crop of spiritual fruit.  The independent soul of man cannot and will not value the things God finds desirable. No amount of success in any plan or goal which came from one’s own reasoning will survive the testing fire of God, thus the result will be “poverty toward God!”  We have to be so careful and diligent on this issue, because the transition from soul to spirit/Adam to Christ is not instant or easy, and many in their blindness continue to walk foolishly and will lose everything they worked for.

If we want to follow Jesus, we MUST NOT live from and according to that life and realm which is done away in Christ,1 which God has no desire for or dealings with.  Again, this can be called many things with fair accuracy: the old man, the carnal/fleshly/natural mind, the Adamic nature, soul, ego, self, natural life. This is the realm which in Christ has been done away, and what we must continue to reject.  It’s this we are to be set free from.  There is no other option – to follow Christ’s way requires rejection of self/flesh/Adam/soul/carnal mind/”reason.”  Jesus said so himself.  To persist in blindness and carnality, no matter one’s behavior or beliefs, will result in the loss of everything.

I think everyone is either storing up treasure from and for themselves, or coming to possess spiritual wealth in God’s eyes by seeking His word, heeding it, and humbling themselves (in other words, by following the way of Jesus).  If you sense truth in this, sincerely ask God to lead you to true wealth and seek Him diligently.  Repentance is always step #1, and it’s simply changing your mind to conform to what God is showing you by revelation.  I am leaning towards making a part 3 sometime in which I look at the famous teaching Jesus gave immediately following this parable, which makes more sense when you keep this parable in mind.  Maybe I’ll do so in a video.  I hope this blog is something the Spirit of God can use.  God bless you.

 

1. 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Rich Toward God, Pt. 1

 

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The words of Jesus are unparalleled, just as Jesus is unparalleled.  They are the foundation for those who would follow him. Everything else, including bible verses, must be filtered through his teachings.  If we are building our walk and understanding on the teachings of Paul, Peter, popes, pastors, presidents, preachers, or anyone else, we’re mistaken.  I would like to look at one of Jesus’ parables.

Luke 12:15-22 NAS77 And (Jesus) said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (16) And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a certain rich man was very productive. (17) “And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ (18) “And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ (20) “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ (21) “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (22) And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.

I am convinced every parable of Jesus has an ultimately spiritual meaning and application. Therefore, I don’t think he is really concerned with whether people store grain up or not.  His concern is much deeper – where our awareness is and the source of life we are drawing from.  (More on that in a bit).  It’s very important to notice the very first thing this man does – he begins reasoning to himself.This literally translates he reasonedwithin himself.” Then, he begins consulting his own “soul” (self) for guidance. These two actions underlie the whole meaning of this parable.

I realize that reason and self-consultation may seem harmless enough in the eyes of man, but spiritually, these things are absolutely fatal. Remember, in Romans 8 and elsewhere, Paul taught that the carnal mind (our natural, rational, non-spiritual mind) is hostile to God, and can’t know Him.  Consulting his non-spiritual, carnal mind for guidance was this man’s fundamental error, leading directly to his demise.  What’s scary is he seemed to think he was being wise, having no idea he was off track at all. 

Because God sees spiritually and men see fleshly, many who profess to believe in Christ have been occupied with the wrong problems and ignorant of one of the fundamental problems, which is fairly simple: our fleshly mind and natural life, whatever form they take, are at enmity with God, period.  Behavior and correct beliefs are secondary issues at best. What matters to God is the substance being presented to Him; flesh or spirit, Adam or Christ, shadow or reality, tradition or truth, reason or revelation, pretense or humility.  Jesus makes it very clear the rich man is aware of and living from his blind carnal mind and soul, which is the “old” God now has no dealings with.This man’s wealth reminds me of Revelation 3:17, where Jesus summarizes the Laodicean church’s attitude as: “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing…”  But where man sees wealth, God sees destitution.

Immediately before telling this parable, Jesus gives a warning which also has to do with this parable’s meaning: Beware, and be on your guard against all covetousness; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”  Here’s an alternative translation: Be seeing, (requires spiritual light/revelation and rejection of the fleshly mind) and be guarding against all covetousness, because abounding life doesn’t come from the things one possesses.” Covetousness = a desire to have more. In verse 18, this man decides to build bigger barns to store up his “grain” and “goods.” I think these represent whatever our soul takes pleasure or finds security in. Perhaps “grain” specifically represents material possessions (food, money, houses, etc), while “goods” represent the good works we do which we feel endear us to God and ensure our place in heaven. The human soul is very fearful. Consulting his soul brought a fear of lack, leading to covetousness, leading to blindness, which led to a hard heart and being cut off from God’s spiritual, eternal, vibrant life.  What is more valuable than that?  This is why Jesus warned not to connect possessions and “life.”  In reality, they have nothing to do with each-other. 

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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“Mammon” and Adultery

As I’ve said before, and will probably say again, Jesus doesn’t waste words.  Everything he said has meaning and was for a purpose.  Therefore, overlooking something he said, no matter how small, will at best lead to a loss of the full meaning and impact of what he was saying.  I want to look at one example of this.

In Matthew 6:24-26, Jesus states:  24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 

25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

Jesus discusses two masters (God and mammon) that compete for our devotion and love, and then immediately tells that worry is to have no place in our lives.  In connecting the devotion to one master and the worries of life, Jesus uses the phrase “for this reason…”  It’s easy to gloss over that phrase, but it actually tells us that the inability to serve two masters – God and mammon, is the reason that we shouldn’t worry.

So what is “mammon?”  You can study this further, but essentially mammon is the confidence that accompanies wealth.  “Confidence” appears to be the root meaning of this word.  The pursuit of confidence by means of riches and the pursuit of confidence by means of daily relationship with the spiritual God and Father are opposed to each-other.  Not only are they opposed, but devotion to one of these means of confidence will lead to a despising of the other.

That was Jesus’ point.  If one finds confidence and assurance in wealth, then one essentially becomes the servant of mammon – because mammon is what your trust in and pursue.  By default, you cannot at the same time be a servant of God – dependent upon and pursuing Him.  To trust in God alone takes faith, which is a spiritual confidence.  Mammon is the confidence of the soul of man, which is based purely on the world’s system and is devoid of any knowledge of God.  Jesus later says the “Gentiles,” the peoples with no knowledge of God, seek mammon.  But to those who know God, this is tantamount to idolatry, if not worse, because mammon replaces God as that in which we trust and serve.  No small thing.  Jesus reminds us that God provides for even small creatures, and certainly we are more valuable than they.

Faith is spiritual confidence, based on relationship with God and hearing His voice.  Mammon is worldly confidence, based on the principles of the world and totally absent of God-awareness. 

I may talk more about faith and it’s origin soon.  Seek to know God and hear His voice, which I am becoming more and more convinced is the basis for the life of a child of God.  Seek desperately and you’ll find Him.  Any other pursuit and source of confidence is probably mammon, and will cut you off from relationship with God.  God bless you.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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