THE PERFECT DAY
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 28, 2012
 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples  and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”  And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it.  And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”  And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.  And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.  And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
-- Mark 11:1-11, ESV
Have you ever had a perfect day? Maybe it was a day off, like Saturday. The weather was perfect, close friends came over for a barbeque, the Hawgs and the Dawgs both won, and you went to bed early dreaming about the long, expository sermon your pastor would preach on Sunday. What a perfect day!
Jesus walked the earth for about a thousand days during His public ministry. Every one of them was perfect, as far as the perfect Son of God is concerned. But not all of them were perfect from His followers’ point of few. Some were tense, like those days when Jesus offended the religious rulers of the day. Some might have seemed boring, when Jesus would go off alone for hours to pray. Some were exciting, when the Lord performed miraculous signs in front of everyone’s eyes. But a few, maybe just two, were just about perfect.
All four Gospels record the same two days in which the people proclaimed Jesus Christ as King. One event is called “The Feeding of the 5,000” (ref. Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6) and the other is called “The Triumphal Entry” (ref. Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12). After the miraculous feeding of five thousand men (plus women and children), the people intended to make Jesus their King, forcibly if necessary. Jesus declined and thwarted their political strategy, thus putting a damper on this otherwise perfect day. Later, at the outset of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people clamored for Him to be King. This time, Jesus seemed to oblige.
This would be the perfect day! Three years of rumors could prove to be true. The messianic secret was out of the bag. The Messiah came out of the Galilean closet and on to the Judean stage. God was marching, people were singing, and Jerusalem was ripe for a long awaited revolution. This would be the perfect day! Or, would it? Read Mark 11:1-11.
The Perfect Plan of the Perfect God
God is perfect every day in every way. So, this day would be no exception. It was part of the perfect plan of the perfect God.
As the perfect ending to His perfect ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ planned to ride into Jerusalem on “Palm” Sunday as a prelude to “Good” Friday. For three years He had stirred the hearts of Galilean pilgrims while alienating the brass of the Judean theocracy. The conflict would conclude with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, leaving people to decide who He really was, is, and will be. In this careful plan it is not the devil, but the Lord God Almighty, who is in the details.
Jesus planned the exact way in which He would ride into Jerusalem. It was a perfect fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Furthermore, King David had riden into Jerusalem on a donkey after quelling the rebellion of Absalom and ushering in the golden age of Israel (ref. 2 Samuel 19). This fulfillment of biblical prophecy and parallel to the throne of David could have been pulled off by a shrewd imposter; or, it could have been the perfect plan of the perfect God.
Jesus chose the specific animal on which He would ride into Jerusalem. The specific donkey belonged to an unspecified resident of either Bethphage or Bethany, two tiny villages near the Mount of Olives and the eastern gate of Jerusalem. Somehow this little donkey was available in the exact spot where Jesus predicted it would be; and, for some reason the owner just let two men he did not know walk away with it and take it to Jesus. This was either some type of weird mind control, some slick way of stealing a donkey; or, it could have been the perfect plan of the perfect God.
The Perfect Praise of Imperfect People
After God initiated His perfect plan of entry, the people responded very well. Actually, it was a perfect response. They honored and praised the Lord, which is the perfect thing to do on any occasion.
They honored Jesus with cloaks and leafy branches (John identifies them as branches of palm trees, thus the enduring reference to “Palm” Sunday). Jesus was too poor to purchase His own donkey, let alone a saddle, so the people saddled up for Him by giving Him the very clothes off their back. Laying down palm branches was a sign of royalty, a means of paying homage to a king. Giving Jesus you all and acknowledging Him as King is always a perfect way to honor the Lord.
They praised Jesus with their lips, singing “Hosanna” and “Blessed.” Their praise made it perfectly clear that they were crying out to deity, to God, and foreshadowed the words of the Apostle Paul who would write, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (ref. Colossians 2:9). The person riding on that donkey was indeed God of very God, King of all kings, and Lord of every lord, and the people praised Him as such.
There was, however, one imperfect mistake in this otherwise perfect moment. “Hosanna” literally means “Save us, now!” Christ had indeed come to save, and in the number of days you can count on one hand, would do just that. But the people, imperfect as all people are, were not calling for spiritual salvation from sin and death. They wanted military deliverance. They wanted a political king. They wanted earthly freedom and political peace and material prosperity, and they wanted it right now. But, this was not God’s perfect plan. So, in spite of some pretty perfect praise, everyone would just have to be patient.
The Perfect Patience of the Prince of Peace
In a perfect Hollywood ending, verse 11 would have read something like this: “And Jesus the King took out His sword, slayed all the evil Romans, restored Jerusalem and all the land of Israel to its people, and lavished them with gold, silver, and precious stones.” Instead, Jesus took a quick peak inside the city, which was as quiet as a church on Monday, then retreated with His close friends back to the suburbs. This seems like an anticlimactic, seemingly imperfect ending to an otherwise perfect day, doesn’t it? Not if you can appreciate the perfect plan, wisdom, and patience of God.
Christians like to plan, Christians like to praise, but even Christians (at least this one) do not like to be patient. But our eternal God does not worry at all about time, except for making it perfect. The original Palm Sunday was not the perfect time to bring peace to all the earth. But be patient, that time will come. The original Palm Sunday was not the perfect time for God’s people to be exalted and His enemies destroyed. But be patient, that time will come. Jesus knew what He was about to do, then, for the spiritual salvation of His people. He also knows what He will do, two thousand years or more from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when He comes to earth again. Let God do the planning while we do the praising, and let us all wait patiently for that day to come.
Some Perfect (or at least Appropriate) Application
God has a perfect plan for your life. We say this so much that it has become a cliché, but it is gospel truth. And, God’s plan includes all the details. I’m sure that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “The hairs of your head are all numbered” (ref. Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7). If Jesus could plan to have a certain donkey in a certain place belonging to certain people at a certain time for a certain ride into Jerusalem, then He certainly can handle the details of your day to day life. God is sovereign, so He is always in control. God is provident, so there are no accidents that can mar His plan. And God is loving, gracious, merciful, and kind, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ref. Romans 8:28). Every day may not seem like a perfect day. But if you are a child of God, every day is part of the perfect plan of God for your life.
Always honor and praise the Lord, even when you have an imperfect understanding of who He is and what He is doing. For, on this side of Heaven, you will always have an imperfect understanding of who He is and what He is doing. The more you worship, the more you study the Scriptures, the more you pray, the more you will know. But at the end of even a perfect day, you never know fully what God is up to. He’s just too big and too good. So honor Him every day, and praise Him in the sunshine and the rain. Be like the perfect man, Job, who said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (ref. Job 13:15), and the great forerunner of Christ, King David, who wrote during a crisis, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (ref. Psalm 34:1).
Finally, in the words of another Psalm, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (ref. Psalm 27:14). God will come through, today, for you. And God will one day mount another animal and ride into Jerusalem. Wrongs will be made right, freedom will be fully realized, corruption and oppression will cease. Only this time, it will go something like this:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (ref. Revelation 19:11-16).
This will be the perfect day, as is every day, when Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords in your life.
BELIEVING IS SEEING
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 21, 2012
 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”  And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.  And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
-- Mark 10:46-52, ESV
There are some things in life you just have to see to believe. If someone reports to me that aliens from outer space have landed on earth, or when my teenage daughter tells me her room is clean, then I will just have to see it to believe it. On the other hand, there are greater mysteries in this world, particularly spiritual truths, which you just have to believe in order to see.
During the three year ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, He gained quite a reputation for being a miracle worker. Most people, like one of the twelve disciples named “Doubting” Thomas, had to see them to believe them. On the other hand, some people came to Christ believing before they could see. One of them was named Bartimaeus, and his story is told in Mark 10:46-52.
Seeing is Believing
This is the last event Mark records before taking us on Jesus’ walk to the cross. By my informal account, it is the eighteenth miracle story in Mark and it occurs eighteen miles away from Jerusalem in the city of Jericho. If you had been there, whether you believed in Jesus or not, this story records what you would have seen.
First of all, you would have seen a blind man begging. Blindness exists, and in Jesus’ day there were no remedies, no special training, and no economic safety net for the blind. A blind man had to beg, because he was not able to do any meaningful work for himself. Bartimaeus was legally, organically, obviously, and verifiably blind. If you had seen it, you would have believed it.
The next thing that happened is something you would have seen and heard. Above the noise of the crowd, Bartimaeus shouted so loud that everyone could hear him. The peculiar thing, however, about Bartimaeus’ shout, was that he was shouting out loud to God. Jews, even blind beggars, did not cry out for mercy to any mere man. “Son of David” and “Have mercy” were obvious messianic cries made to Almighty God. That’s why people rebuked blind Bartimaeus, they thought he should be called blaspheming Bartimaeus as well. Yet, Bartimaeus would not stop. It is said that the blind have their other senses heightened. Certainly Bartimaeus had a heightened sense about Jesus Christ, that He was more than a man. He sensed that Jesus could do what no one else on earth can do. If you had seen him, you would have believed that Bartimaeus was a physically blind but spiritually determined person. And what you would see next would be hard to believe.
Jesus stopped, called Bartimaeus front and center, and asked him an obvious question, but one that required foresight if not real sight. Though Bartimaeus could not see, he believed that Jesus was sent from God and imbued with the divine power to perform miracles, even to give sight to the blind. What you would have seen and heard was Jesus calling Bartimaeus to Himself. What you would have seen and heard was Bartimaeus calling upon the name of the Lord (literally Rabboni, which is Aramaic for my Rabbi, my Teacher, my Master, my Lord). What you would have seen and heard is a blind man recovering his sight through the miraculous ministry of the Messiah. You would have seen it and you would have to believe it.
The last thing you would have seen, by the way, is formerly blind Bartimaeus following Jesus on the road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem. This is the road that led from the last days of Jesus’ life to His death upon the cross. This is the road that leads from life to death and from death to life. But that is another miracle entirely. And the latter miracle is greater than the first. The first miracle you have to see to believe. The greatest miracle is one you have to believe in order to see.
Believing is Seeing
I often like to point out that in the Gospels, every parable is a miracle and every miracle is a parable. This miracle is a parable about the greatest miracle of all, the salvation of a soul by grace (and mercy) through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the good way and good works that God has chosen for His children. Look at the story again and, if you believe it, you will see it.
Believe that human beings are totally depraved. On one hand, depravity sounds worse than it is, for it actually means inability. On the other hand, no word can do justice to the desperate spiritual plight of the entire human race. Just like Bartimaeus could not see physically and perform meaningful work, no human being can see nor seek God and do any work that could earn us a right relationship with Him. Consider Romans 3:11, “No one understands, no one seeks for God,” and Ephesians 2:1 which notes lost people are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Blind people can’t see nor seek and dead people can’t do anything. If, by grace, Jesus does not choose to pass our way, or put us in the way of parents or preachers or people to tell us the gospel, we will take our spiritual blindness and death into a Christ-less eternity with no hope of salvation.
Believe that grace imputes faith. When Jesus passes by and we effectually hear the good news of God’s compassionate love, faith beckons us to beg. Beggars would not cry out to God and say, “Reward me God for being a great person.” However, “Have mercy of me, God, for I am a sinner” will do the trick. Beggars would not cry out to God and say, “I don’t need Your help.” But, “I need you, God, only You and you alone can save me” are true words, indeed. Beggars would not shun God and say to Him, “Leave me alone.” But by grace through faith a beggar would say to God, “My Lord and my Savior, forgive me of my sins and give me abundant, eternal life.” Such beggars are believers, and believers can see the promise of Romans 10:13 is “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Believe that believers become followers. When grace enables you to see the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is and what He has done, when faith calls upon the Lord and the Lord saves, you cannot just sit there. You cannot remain in spiritual blindness and death. You rise up, you see and understand, and you follow the Lord Jesus Christ on the road, carrying your own cross, all the days of your life. “Follow Me,” is Jesus’ oft repeated general call of salvation, and those who believe can see the way to follow the Lord in worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and missions.
The greatest biblical, theological explanation of salvation states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, crated in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ref. Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace brought Jesus to Jericho to face Bartimaeus, and grace brings God into your life and mine. Faith is the gift of God that enabled Bartimaeus to believe before he could see, and faith causes us to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah of Israel and Lord of the church. And grace through faith restored Bartimaeus’ sight, and gives sight and life to any blind and dead sinner who trusts in Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation. Then we become a workmanship or masterpiece of God, regenerated and restored in the image of God to be His worshipers and workers on earth now, and in Heaven forever.
Can you see this, or are you still blind? Please don’t think that you can wait until you have more visible evidence. Please don’t say to yourself, “If I see Jesus coming back like all the Christians say He will, then I will believe.” If you have to see to believe, I promise you it will be too late. Believe now, and you will see. Jesus Christ is all this story says He is and so much more. Love Him, believe in Him, then you will see. Believing is seeing.
CHRISTIANS HAVE NO CLASS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 14, 2012
 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
-- Mark 10:35-45, ESV
One of the most interesting classes I took in seminary was a class on class. It was a communications class on communicating to the classes of society (and each subdivision within each division of class). I never knew before that virtually every citizen in our society can be classified by class, as either lower-lower class, middle-lower class, upper-lower class, lower-middle class, middle-middle class, upper-middle class, lower-upper class, middle-upper class, and upper-upper class. That’s classy, don’t you think?
Classifying people sociologically has been done for years, but what about classifying them theologically? Does Christianity have a class system? Roman Catholicism has a hierarchy that descends from pope to cardinal to bishop to priest to parishioner. Some Protestant denominations have a similar scale with slightly different titles. Low churches, like the Baptists, have a more horizontal plane, yet sometimes the pastors and more often the deacons receive elevated authority.
Are Christians supposed to have class? Are there levels in the church like seating on an airplane? Apparently, among the first Christians, at least James and John thought so. You can read it in their request, and learn from Jesus’ response, in Mark 10:35-45.
The Climb for Class
Whether or not we’d admit it, we all want to climb into the upper class. They get all the glory and live glamorous lives. They get to call the shots in politics, business, even sports (those Yankees are in the playoffs every year simply because they have the biggest payroll). It is human nature to strive for glory and authority in this earthly life, and often it blinds us to the priorities of the Christian life.
James and John wanted the honor and authority of the upper class. Thinking Jesus was an earthly, military Messiah, they wanted the choice seats at the table after Jesus kicked Rome’s backside in Jerusalem. Do you remember when Osama Bin Laden was killed? There is a photograph of President Obama depicting him in a special war room as the event unfolded. On his right hand was the Vice President, a position of symbolic honor and importance. On his left hand was the Joint Chief of Staff, the highest military rank in the country, a position of definite power and authority. So that’s what James and John were asking for, the best seats in the house, the positions of honor and power, the best seats in the upper class.
There is a healthy ambition that can serve to make you and others around you better. Then there is selfish ambition that can make you think you are better than everyone else. James’ and John’s climb for the upper class in this text was selfishly ambitious and it caused great dissention among the disciples. It also earned them a sharp rebuke and dire prophecy from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Drop of the Cup
Those who selfishly seek to climb will inevitably tumble down. James’ and John’s selfish pride was exceeded only by their precipitous fall. After three years of following and imitating the Christ, they arrogantly confessed to Jesus that they could do anything that Jesus could do. While this was not true, Jesus did grant them at least a part of their wish.
The first member of Christ’s band of Apostles to be martyred was James, the same James who wanted to sit on Jesus’ right. The last one to die was John, after years of deprivation, persecution, and torture, a life that in no way resembled a lavish seat on Jesus’ left. They were not petulantly punished by God, nor did their fate deviate one inch from God’s sovereign plan for their lives. But, there is a lesson to be learned for Christians. Selfness will always make you suffer, if you are a true child of God. And, when it comes to positions in God’s church, lets find a way to allow God to do the choosing. After all, it is His church.
By the way, who will sit at Jesus’ right hand and left hand in Heaven? In the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared. Abraham and David were Old Testament big shots, too. In the Gospels, James and John, along with Simon Peter, were Christ’s closest friends. And then along came the Apostle Paul. In Christian history, perhaps Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon might be a good fit for those seats. More likely, it will be someone no one has ever heard of before, some quiet, humble, persistent, committed, loving servant of God.
One Class for Christians
I suspect it was James, the eldest, who wanted that seat on the right hand of Jesus, the first class seat. John would have been well content with the left hand seat in second class. Peter and the rest would have to ride in third class.
But Jesus taught them that Christians have no class. We are not to distinguish ourselves with levels of recognition and authority. While the biblical offices of pastor, elder, deacon, and member have different levels of credibility and responsibility, the reality of what Jesus said is this: every Christian rides in the servant class. We are servants, period. We are servants of God, servants of one another, and servants to the lost people in this world. Christ even refers to Christians as slaves.
In Christianity there is a sweetness to slavery. Slavery is a foul word in our age, and rightly so. However, Christ calls all Christians slaves in this text, at least those who would be great Christians in God’s sight. If you have been effectually called by the gospel of Jesus Christ, the path to greatness in your life in Christ is paved with slavery and servitude. But it is not the forced kind of slavery that was perpetrated upon the ancestors of our African American brothers and sisters. It is the free slavery that comes to a child of God when they lose their ambition for recognition and power and embrace the privilege of serving God by serving others with whatever gifts, talents, and treasure God has given to them. At the end of the day it will not matter how much money we made, how many degrees we earned, or how many positions of rank or authority we held, but how many people did we serve in Jesus’ name.
And in serving others, we become like our servant Savior in every way, except one.
Christ in a Class by Himself
Christ came to serve, and He calls His followers to a life of service. Christ came to die, and He bids us to die to self, take up our cross, and follow Him. But there is one thing that Jesus did that no other man can do, one thing that puts Him in a class by Himself.
He is the “ransom for many” (vs. 45).
The death of Jesus Christ is the capstone of the finest example of humanity ever set forth. Ever loving, ever sacrificing, ever serving, the life of Jesus touched so many lives in ways His followers seek to emulate every day. We preach the gospel, we help the poor, we comfort the sick and pray for their cure, we encourage one another, we make room for one more. Scattered throughout history are even Christians who died on mission fields because they were devoutly following Jesus. Jesus’ life and death serves as a supreme example, but an example is not enough.
The death of Jesus Christ is much more than a mere example. It is a ransom, a payment, a price of redemption, a means of release, to the many that have been called by and have called on the name of the Lord. I can serve you, I can even die for you, but my service and death will not satisfy the wrath of a holy God for the sins committed against Him. Only the perfect, spotless, sinless Son of God could offer His perfect, spotless, sinless blood on behalf of others, so that holy God could let them be forgiven and go free.
Have you been forgiven and set free by grace through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, what are such free men to do? We are to become slaves of Christ, for His glory and the good of all people. We are to be without class or distinction, for we are all one in the body of Christ. We are to serve and give our lives for the one who served and gave His life for us. Christians have no class, but we have a great ambition, to be true servants of God by faithfully following our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
THE THEOLOGY OF ETERNITY
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 7, 2012
 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,  saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
-- Mark 10:32-34, ESV
Two men were stabbed last Friday. One incident happened in the wee hours of the morning, the other in early afternoon. In the first case, a motorist took a wrong turn into a crime-ridden neighborhood shortly after midnight. He was robbed, carjacked, and stabbed with a knife. The latter case occurred not in the hood, but in the operating room of a local hospital. The surgeon inserted the scalpel in the abdominal area, and then proceeded to remove an infected gall bladder before it ruptured. One stabbing was a frightening crime, the other an amazing, life-saving operation. One stabbing was very bad, the other was definitely good. It all depends on the context.
Christians need to interpret their lives in the correct context. If you look at things according to the context of this earthly life alone, life can look bleak. You have no control over things as a child, you are riddled with anxiety as an adolescent, you struggle to make ends meet as a young adult, lose your life savings to taxes and medical bills in mid-life, then in old age return to the lack of control and anxiety you experienced as a child. But, if you look at this life as a brief opportunity to glorify God and do good to others as you prepare for your eternal reward, life has a deeper meaning. It all depends on the context.
Today I want to teach you, or share with you a lesson that Jesus taught, about the theology of eternity. Theology, or the study of God, is not something stuffy and impractical. It is the most interesting and practical study in the world. In the theology of eternity, we learn to look at life with Godward lenses, through the telescope of eternity, and in the context of God’s great love for His children.
Being a follower of Christ can be frightening, or the most amazing life possible.
In this text, the third time in Mark that Jesus predicts His death (ref. 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34), the disciples of Jesus were both “afraid” and “amazed” at the same time. If their flawed view of the kingdom of God was correct, a great battle awaited them in Jerusalem (identified in this text, but not in 8:31 or 9:31) for worldly power and riches. And though a successful outcome was guaranteed, there would be casualties of war. Fear would be a proper emotion. On the other hand, if Jesus’ view of the kingdom prevailed, with the King dying for His subjects, what would Rome do to the followers of the King after they killed Him? And, how could they get their hands on their “hundredfold” (ref. vs. 30) blessings after Jesus was dead? Such a thing would make any mind bedazzled, confused, filled with wonder, which is what “amazed” means.
The theology of earth says following Christ is frightening. The greatest commodity on earth is freedom, especially the freedom to do as one pleases. But followers of Christ give up that freedom to become bondservants of God. In an effort to please the Lord, we give up our time to build churches that become broken down by inept leaders and dishonest members. We give up our treasure in tithes and offerings and then don’t have enough money to buy the bells and whistles our neighbors own. Some of us surrender career and family to pursue full-time ministry or mission work, and all of us try to be pure in a sex-crazed culture, honest while those who spin it seem to win it, and serious about life while everyone else just wants to have fun. At the end of the day, if Christianity merely means being a good boy while the bad boys have all the fun, then it means nothing. Maybe that’s what Peter meant when he lamented, “We’ve left everything to follow you” (ref. vs. 38). Thinking his life might end in Jerusalem, Peter was “afraid.”
The theology of eternity says following Christ is amazing. What does it mean to be amazed? It means to be pleased at the outcome, even though you can’t figure out how it happened. It means to be pleased with the destination, even though you have no idea how you arrived. It means to trust that someone else has a better plan for your life than you could have ever drawn up for yourself. After following Jesus for three years, “amazed” is the best word that can describe the disciple’s feelings. I’ve followed him for thirty years now, and I feel the same way. Forgiveness for my sins, that’s amazing. Spirit-indwelling and spiritual disciplines I never thought I could do, that’s amazing. The fellowship of true Christians now and the promise of eternal fellowship with them and God, that’s amazing. I cannot explain it, but I gladly accept it. When I trust in Christ instead of myself, then in the theology of eternity, following Christ always makes me “amazed.”
Life is to be interpreted through personal experience, or according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the whole is amazing, how do we interpret the parts? Jesus gave His disciples a wonderful way of interpreting every episode in their lives. The first half of vs. 32 finds them in confusion over where they’d been and where they were going. They may have been second-guessing their entire lives, or at least the last three years in which they had followed Jesus. And instead of Jesus taking each one and explaining what happened to them, “He began to tell them what was going happen to Him.”
The theology of earth says life is about me. Me-ology is the primary philosophy of the day in today’s world and in the typical church. Church members are just as quick as club members to made career decisions based solely on money, make marriage decisions based solely on happiness, and make a myriad of other decisions based solely on what’s best for “me.” It is the spirit of the age and the theology of earth. If that’s what Simon Peter meant by his statement recorded previously in vs. 28, he would have been dead wrong.
The theology of eternity says life is about Him. Take the most painful episodes in your life – the death of a parent, the abandonment by your spouse, the rebellion of a child, or the collapse of your business – and now interpret it by grace through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it as unjust and unfair as the death of Christ? No! Is it as permanent as the death of Christ? Yes, meaning it is not permanent at all. There is resurrection. There is redemption. There is a resurrected, redemptive meaning in everything that happens in this life, although it may not be revealed until the life to come. Now, take the most wonderful episodes in your life – successful marriage, happy children, healthy grandchildren, job promotions, awards, etc. – and interpret it by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Are any of these things greater than gospel salvation? No. Do any of these things make you better than Jesus, or anyone else for that matter? No. Do any of these things make you an important person? Yes, for if you are important enough to God for Him to give His only begotten Son for you, you are important enough to receive a few blessings in this life and even more in the life to come! Now, what are you going to do with your sorrows and blessings? Use them, both, to glorify God and the gospel.
The death of Christ is an insignificant tragedy, or it is the most important event in the world.
All of life all boils down to what a person does with the information Jesus provides in this text. The Son of God and Son of Man deliberately walked into a machine-gun blitz of jealous Jewish leaders, corrupt Roman officials, and indifferent everyday citizens, who together conspired to put Jesus to death, according to the divine permission and intention of God the Father. After which, according to Jesus, and more than a few eye-witnesses, He rose again from the dead.
The theology of earth says the death of Christ means nothing. Most people, in human history, simply don’t care about the cross of Christ. If they believed it even happened, and most do not, it simply does not matter. Life is about freedom, life is about me, I am a good person, I am the captain of my own ship. “I am” is the theology of earth, which is ironic, because God is the great “I Am.”
The theology of eternity says the death of Christ means everything. Because of the cross, God has a way of showing me His eternal love. Because of the cross, God has a way of expending His holy wrath upon sin while saving a sinner at the same time. Because of the tomb, there is a monument to the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And because the tomb is empty, because Christ is risen, there is the hope that all of my problems are redeemable, all of my life is meaningful, and when I die I too shall ascend to Heaven and live forever in the glorious, never-ending kingdom of God.
I do not understand a lot of things in life. I do not understand how electricity turns on a light bulb. I do not understand how the late Neal Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969. I do not understand how a doctor stabbed Courtney Grace twice in the chest two years ago and caused her collapsed lung to heal. These things simply amaze me.
But absolutely nothing is more amazing than the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. It makes life worth living now and promises an unimaginable eternity ahead. So take the theology of eternity with you today, be amazed by God’s grace, let the Lord guide you through this life and beyond.
MONEY DOESN’T MATTER
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 30, 2012
 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult 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 person to enter the kingdom of God.”  And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”  Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,  who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
-- Mark 10:23-31, ESV
In this world, money matters.
Elections turn on it. Republicans make promises to lower taxes and cut spending, thus putting more money in certain people’s pockets. Democrats make promises to raise taxes and increase government spending, thus putting more money in certain people’s pockets. People vote with their pocketbooks, because it’s all about the money.
Sports turn on it. Every year some major sport is disrupted by a strike or lockout. In this week’s headlines, all NFL referees went back to work while all NHL players are out of work. What is all the strife about? It’s all about the money.
Marriages turn on it. Divorce has ravaged the American family for more than a generation now, and pastors and counselors have conducted many autopsies on the fatalities. It may surprise you to learn that at the root of every evil broken family tree is an unholy lust, usually not for sex, but for money. It’s all about the money.
And yes, churches turn on it. Mission work goes unfunded, budget needs are not met, and most churches today are in the red. Funds that should be set apart as tithes and offerings are spent instead on credit card bills, extra bells and whistles, and living beyond our means. The church suffers while the money goes to the things we love the most. Once again, it’s all about the money.
Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where money doesn’t matter? There is such a place, and you can live there now, and forever. It is the kingdom of God. Two thousand years ago, the King gave a speech that still stands true today. Enter a world where money doesn’t matter, in Mark 10:23-31.
Money doesn’t matter as the sign of God’s blessing.
This text turns on the hinges of the one before it, Christ’s encounter with the rich young ruler (ref. Mark 10:17-22). It was the shocking story of a man who would have been the envy of any synagogue or church being turned away by the Keeper of the keys. Ancient Jewish sensibilities gave preference to the rich, for they believed riches were a sign of God’s blessing.
Modern Christianity embraces the same false view. That’s why the fastest growing churches in every continent are those that promise health and wealth for all who choose to have enough faith in the things that money can buy. The great evangelical idiot Pat Robertson, an early spokesman for this broken branch of the church, has said verbatim that money is a sign of God’s blessing and poverty is sure proof of God’s displeasure.
Riches and poverty are ultimately in the hands of a sovereign God (ref. 1 Samuel 2:7). It is also true that a cursory reading of the Proverbs and a small dose of common sense tells us that hard word and integrity generally pays more than sloth and dishonesty. But nowhere in the Bible does it ever say that the ultimate sign of God’s blessing can be measured in gold, silver, dollars, or cents.
God’s kingdom is filled with many who enjoyed great riches during their pilgrimage on earth, like Abraham, David, Solomon, Zaccheus, and Joseph of Arimathea. Along the way there were even more poor, like Moses, Elijah, the widow with only two mites, the Apostles, and of course the King Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sakes became poor (ref. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Money doesn’t matter as the sign of God’s blessing.
Money doesn’t matter as the way of God’s salvation.
Warren Buffet is one of the world’s richest men. Not too long ago, he gave away billions of dollars to charity (while also retaining billions of dollars). When asked about his generous gifts to charity, he said, “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way” (Associate Press, 06/27/06). Either Warren Buffet or Jesus Christ is wrong.
Jesus said money doesn’t matter as then means of salvation. As a matter of fact, He said, it can be a great impediment. Camels can walk through the eye of a needle quicker than a rich person can walk through the pearly gates, according to Jesus. What does that really mean?
Through the years a tradition has developed that in Jerusalem, there was a certain gate to the city called the camel’s gate. Camels, loaded with cargo, had to stoop to their knees to squeeze through, thus giving Jesus the insight for this illustration. Actually, this is not true. But it may be truer than true.
Camels carry cargo, or stuff. And there were many gates and passages in Jesus’ day that a camel could not pass through unless you first took down all the stuff. So I think that Jesus was declaring that it is impossible for people to get to heaven when they love their stuff more than God. This was the case with the rich young ruler, this is the case with a lot of rich people today, and this is the case with the whole human race, rich or poor. When we love our stuff more than we love our God, Creator, Redeemer, and King, then it is impossible to be saved.
But with God, anyone can be saved, rich or poor. For salvation is not by money or merit, it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! Money doesn’t matter. Faith does. So how do you know if you have faith? You know it when you can say what Simon Peter said.
Money doesn’t matter as the measure of a godly life.
It is not what one has gained in this life that is the measure of a man, it is what one has given away. A true saint and servant of God is not one who has merely given much in this life, but one who has given all. “See, we have left everything and followed you” (ref. vs. 28).
Simon Peter could be impetuous, and some argue he erred in this statement. But I think he could not have been more right, or within his rights. Not only had Simon Peter left his fishing nets and everything else to follow Jesus, he was still following Jesus. In other words, he gave all he could to God, then let God control the rest, namely his life, his godly life.
The rich young ruler had failed this test on both ends. Peter correctly pointed out that he and the other disciples (with the exception of Judas, who clutched too tightly to the money purse) had passed it. They really loved Jesus more than their careers, their boats, their stuff, even their own families and lives. This is the measure of a true disciple, a true servant of the King, a true child of God. When grace melts your heart, it loosens your hands, it lets go of your stuff, it leaves your life in the hands of Almighty God. Money, and anything else save the glory of God and kingdom of Christ, just doesn’t matter that much anymore.
Money doesn’t matter as the source of God’s reward.
Money doesn’t matter than much to a child of God. Sure, we have some, need some, spend some, and give some away. It is a tool, not a treasure. Real treasure is the stuff money cannot buy. God gives it to His children, now and then.
Now, Jesus said, a true believer has riches greater than houses, holdings, and hands to hold. What are these things exactly? Jesus doesn’t say in this text. However, you certainly cannot put a price tag on the love, joy, and peace that salvation and fellowship with other saved people brings.
Now, Jesus said, a true believer has the great privilege of, persecution. Persecution is neither sought nor bought, and rarely is it seen as a treasure. But the platitude of the Beatitudes is the promise of persecution as a sign, seal, and blessing for the true child of God (ref. Matthew 5:10-12).
Then, Jesus said, “in the age to come,” Jesus said, there will be the great gift of “eternal life.” Now that is something no amount of money can buy, can it? And Christians will enjoy every eternal day, every first and last one of them.
Money does seem to rank us in this life. But in the life to come, we will fellowship with fellow believers who were first in line at the bank, last in line, and those who couldn’t even get in line. There will be professional athletes, wealthy businessmen, even heads of state. We will also see janitors, restaurant workers, stay-at-home moms and dads, and even a few Baptist preachers. We will all talk together about how we followed Christ in this life, some with a lot of money at their disposal and some with virtually none.
And while we discuss these money matters, we will all be sitting at Jesus’ feet. That is a place, I promise you, where money won’t matter, anymore.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org