Last week we saw that Jesus gives us a second chance at love – no matter what our past looks like – we get a second chance to love and be loved by God and to love and be loved by others. Today we are going to see that God also gives us a second chance to make sure that we are loving the right things or that we have the right priorities and drivers in life. What is it that drives us in life? What are those deeply held convictions, beliefs and passions that determine what we do and shape who we are? Some people are driven by money, some by a need to succeed. Some people are driven by a need to be loved and others by a need to experience always new and changing things.
While these drivers and many others are often good and healthy, they can also have a dark side that if left unchecked can lead us away from God and destroy our lives. But what we have been seeing is that God is the God of the second chance which means that God is always willing to give us another chance to make sure our priorities are healthy and that the primary drivers of our heart are good.
Jesus encountered three men who all had similar drivers in life – money, power and position and these drivers began to corrupt their hearts and lead them away from God., but Jesus gave them all a second chance. The first man was a rich ruler who came to Jesus with a question. Mark 10:17-23
While there is not a lot we know about this man, what we do know is that he was a rich man who had gained some kind of position of power in his community. It says he was a ruler and that he was very wealthy and while money and power may have been the drivers in his life – he was still feeling empty inside or perhaps unsure so he came to Jesus searching for something more. We know this man came to Jesus searching because of how he approached Jesus. He ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees before him. Wealthy men who had status and power in their community didn’t run, it was beneath them. And rulers didn’t kneel before others unless that person had greater power or position – which Jesus, a carpenter from Galilee certainly did not have. That this man runs to and kneels before Jesus tells us that he thinks Jesus might have something for his life which tells us that he might be feeling like something is missing.
The basic question the man asked is – how do I please God? How do I make sure I am experiencing the life God has for me? Am I living life the right way? This man had given his heart and life to money and power and position and now he wonders if there is something greater or something more. Jesus begins his reply by telling the man that he needs to be faithful to the word of God – which he says he has done his entire life. Then it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus loved this man. Jesus wanted him to experience all the fullness of God and all the fullness of life so Jesus looked into his heart and realized that the primary focus of his life needed to change, it can’t be money and it can’t be power and position and so Jesus gave him a second chance.
Go sell all you possessions and give to the poor. Then come follow me. Jesus can see that the primary drive of this man’s life is wealth. It is money and possessions and all he has accumulated. This man trusts his money, position and power more than God and so in love Jesus gives him a second chance to get his heart right. He gives him a second chance to fill his heart with things that will last and will lead him to a life of meaning and purpose. He gives him a second chance to set aside the things of this world and set his heart on the things of God. Go sell all you have – give up what your heart is pursing and follow me.
For many of us, this teaching makes us uncomfortable. Is Jesus really telling this man to sell everything he has? Won’t he then just become a burden to his family and friends and need someone to take care of him and provide for him? Did Jesus really mean this and does he expect us to do the same thing? Last week we saw that Jesus often used a style of teaching called Prophetic Hyperbole where he would exaggerate a statement to make a point. The point Jesus is making here is that this man’s heart and life are being driven by money and if he wants to experience the fullness of God he needs to break free from the hold wealth has on him and set his heart on God.
This teaching needs to make us uncomfortable but not because Jesus is asking us to give away all our money – this was never a teaching Jesus used again and it was not part of his call to all people. What should make us squirm a little is that Jesus is asking us to confront the primary drivers and priorities of our lives to see if they are standing in the way of our relationship with God. Do the passions and purposes and motivations of our heart lead us to God or push us away from God? Do we trust our money more than God? Do we trust our assets and investments and ability to make money more than God? Are we motivated primarily out of a need to be the top, the best and always in control? Are we more concerned about what others think of us than what God thinks of us? What are the primary drivers of our life and what would we be our response if Jesus asked us to give those things up in order to follow him?
It says the man went away sad because he had great wealth. We have no idea if he sold everything or anything or if he ever followed Jesus – but we do know this – Jesus gave him a second chance. Jesus gave him a second chance to get his heart right, to set the right priorities and to put God first. And we are all offered that same second chance – will we take it? Will we examine our own heart and set its focus on Jesus?
Two other men were given a similar chance and they did take it. One was Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was also a rich ruler. We know he was rich because he owned his own burial plot – something only the wealthy could do, and we are told that he was a member of the Sanhedrin which was the top ruling class of Jewish elders. Joseph was part of the Sanhedrin that tried and condemned Jesus but we are also told that he was a secret follower of Jesus. We don’t know if Joseph was there the night Jesus was tried and condemned to death and just remained silent of if he wasn’t there, but he never spoke up to stop the crucifixion. Joseph was more concerned about what people thought of him and how being known as a follower of Jesus might affect his position. He was more concerned about what others thought of him than taking a stand with Jesus, but he was given a second chance.
At some point during the crucifixion, Joseph rethinks all that has happened and changes his heart. Instead of being afraid that others might see him as a follower of Jesus he steps out as a follower and asked Pilate for Jesus’ body so he could give it a proper burial and the tomb he choose to place Jesus in was his own. Joseph had been given a second chance to examine his heart and what it was that drove him in life. Up until the death of Jesus, Joseph had been driven by his image and position among his peers, but as he encounters Jesus on the cross he now realizes that it is more important to stand with Jesus so he takes this second chance and very publically asked for Jesus body. Joseph is named in all four gospels which means everyone knew who he was and what he had done. Joseph knew he was taking a big risk but it didn’t matter because what was driving him now was being faithful to God. Joseph had been given a second chance to do the right thing and he took it.
Again – we are all given a chance to examine our hearts and lives to make sure that our priorities are right, our motives reflect God’s heart and that our actions are faithful. While we all fail at times to get it right, just like Joseph, God gives us a second chance. Joseph was silent at the trial but he spoke up at the cross and did the right thing. He took the second chance God gave him.
Another rich ruler who got a second chance and took it was a man named Saul. Saul was one of the leading Jewish rulers of his day. He came from Tarsus which was one of the leading centers of learning, second only to Rome and Alexandria, and he had studied at the feet of Gamaliel, one of leading Jewish rulers. Saul was a leader and full of pride and ambition – he had it all going for him and he was going for it all. Saul told the Jewish leaders that he had a plan for solving the problem that the growing Christian church presented, he would simply persecute them and kill them. Acts 8:1b-3
Saul travelled throughout Judea persecuting those who followed Jesus. The motives of his heart were ambition, pride and power. Saul was driven by these things and was blind to the darkness that had invaded his heart. He was killing people to get ahead and make a name for himself, but God gave him a second chance. As Saul was travelling to Damascus to kill more Christians he was confronted by Jesus and given a second chance. Acts 9:3-6, 17-18.
Saul got a second chance to get his heart right. He got a second chance to turn his life around and go from persecuting the followers of Jesus to becoming one of them. Saul, who become known as Paul, was still a man of great ambition and pride and position – but he now used those drivers in his life for God. He made it his life’s ambition to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to Rome and then to Spain, which at that time was the end of the earth.
Paul is perhaps the greatest person in all the Christian faith, maybe the most influential person in all of history next to Jesus. His teaching and letters helped shape the church which has had a huge impact on our world and it was his ambition that helped spread the gospel all over the Roman Empire which helped it spread all over the world. God didn’t remove Saul’s ambition – he just gave him a second chance to get it set right. And Saul took it and got it right. In his letter to the Philippians he said, Phil 3:7-8.
God gave Saul and Joseph and even an unnamed rich ruler a second chance to evaluate what drives them in life in order to help them set their heart right and God gives each of us a second chance as well.
So let me ask – what is it that drives us in life? We are all driven by something. What are the priorities that motivate us and the passions that lead us? If we don’t know what drives us then we can easily be led away so we need to identify the drivers of our heart and life and if we can’t see them then we need to ask God to reveal them. If we ask, God will shows us because God’s desire is for our hearts to be focused on him. Today Jesus looks at us and loves us and so is willing to point us to what it is that drives us in life.
If money drives us – are we using our money for good? Are we helping the poor and supporting those in need. Are we using our wealth to support the work of God’s kingdom here and around the world and are we willing to give it to God if he asks?
If power drives us or ambition and position – are we using our power, position and ambition for God’s kingdom and purpose or our own? Are we using the platform God has given us at work or in the community to be the heart and hands and voice of Jesus? If we are using our position only for ourselves – are we willing to give it up for God?
The passions and priorities of our heart are not all bad, but they all need to be in line with God’s will. If they aren’t, if we sense that our heart has gotten off track or we are feeling empty and unsure, then we need to come to Jesus and get a second chance. Let us kneel before Jesus, the one who loves us, and give him the ability to be the primary focus and driver in our hearts and lives.
A Second Chance for the Heart
1. What were the primary drivers in the three men we read about in:
• Mark 10:17-31
• John 19:38-42
• Acts 8:1-3 and Acts 9:1-9
2. Identify the drivers in your own life. Are you driven by money, power, position, ego, adventure, purpose, family, being liked… ?
3. How do these priorities and passions lead you closer to God? How do these priorities and passions lead you away from God?
4. If you were to ask Jesus, What must I do to inherit eternal life? What would his answer be? Are you willing to do it?
5. When has God given you a second chance to set the right priorities for your heart and life?
6. Jesus often talked about the dangers of money. In what ways has money and wealth become a primary driver in all our lives? In what ways has money taken hold of your own heart and life?
7. To be set free from the hold money has on our heart we need to give.
• How is God calling you to give away more of your money and wealth?
• Where is God calling you to give?
• Give this week.