Thursday 10 December 2009

True riches

The coming days lots of people will chant “King of kings and Lord of lords.”. They praise themselves lucky, happy and rich in the gift we received. We are rich in that we have received the gracious gift of a Saviour whom ’s birth many people are going to remember these days.
Brother D. Pickering gave this exhortation:

Who was or who is the richest man ever to live on this earth?
Abraham, King Solomon perhaps? Or nearer our life time, Rockafella, Carnegie or perhaps an oil Sheik or Russian billionaire? No, none of these, it is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ whom we are once again calling to remembrance in the emblems of eternal life.
 The Apostle Paul identifies Him as recorded in 2Corinthians 8: 9
 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Yes, our Lord was greater and richer in every respect than King Solomon and all the other rich men past &
present. As Yahweh’s only begotten son, our Lord Jesus had all the wealth of the earth available to Him but more importantly he had the True Riches from His God and Father, namely The Holy Spirit of God given to Him abundantly without measure.

A quick look at any English Dictionary at the words rich, or riches, we find the meanings given for these as wealthy, abounding in money and possessions, having plenty or opulent. Obviously these definitions refer to worldly wealth and possessions. We note that Christ Jesus, although He could have been rich in worldly possessions more than any man born on earth, He became poor instead, so that one day we could become spiritually rich through His sacrifice.

He had no estate or house to call His own, no flocks or herds of animals like Abraham once had, no enormous treasury of gold and precious things like King Solomon had, no wardrobe of clothing to choose from like the High Priests of Israel. All he had were the clothes he stood up in and even these were stripped from Him at His crucifixion.

Yet although He became poor in worldly possessions, He not only had Yahweh’s Spirit in abundance, God along with this, promised Him Eternal Life including an incomparable future both of riches and glory, plus a name and titles higher than any other living being.

The highest of the titles being, Word of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords: 

“His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Rev: 19:12-16

 Through Him we can share in His riches & also reign with Him on earth, so Paul writes:

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14.

What is this high calling? John supplies the answer

“They sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,  And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." Rev: 5: 10

So for a short while we shall consider a few examples from Scripture to encourage us to seek spiritual riches rather than worldly riches and how to properly use any worldly riches that we have been blessed with in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ to Yahweh’s glory.

While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with riches as such, we are counselled to focus our attention rather on God given riches of grace and righteousness.  Our lord states just that in His Sermon on the Mount:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6: 33 (NIV)

Yes, God is aware of all our needs and provides for each of us according to His Grace and undeserved kindness. God uses riches to both bless and to test us.
The first example I have chosen from many in the Bible is Abraham. Abraham was a pillar of faith, and is held out to us as a tremendous example of strong unwavering faith, trust, and unreserved obedience to Almighty God. At the direction of Yahweh he left his home and was uprooted from his dwelling place to go to a land that was unknown to him.

From that time onwards he became a permanent tent dweller of no fixed abode. However Abraham was very wealthy and had many possessions including servants and huge herds of live-stock. Never the less he put obedience to God first in his life. This is an example of how to use what God provides us with, for His praise and for His Glory. This we must do with a trusting, loyal, grateful attitude in faithful, humble service.

Paul’s record regarding Abraham is as follows:

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” Hebrews 11:8-10 (NIV)
Next we consider Moses.  Moses was adopted into Pharaoh’s household in Egypt and as a prince he was in line for vast wealth, property, land and immense power. However just like our Lord Jesus who lived centuries later, he also chose to be poor, choosing to serve the Living God and creator of the universe, Yahweh. He, like Jesus did this at risk to his own life. It is of note that Egypt is used also in Scripture as a figure for the world and a symbol for its ways, riches and vices.

Paul refers to Moses like this:

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be ill treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. Hebrews 11:24-26

We now turn to King Solomon who in his days was of course notorious for his vast possessions, riches and power, as well as his God given exceptional wisdom knowledge and understanding. Among his inspired sayings worthy of our attention are the following:

“A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common Yahweh is the maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:1-2 (NIV)

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich, have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. “  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV)

Solomon’s attitude to the love of wealth, power, and possessions is summed up in his famous words of wisdom, meaningless; all is vanity, a chasing after the wind.  His closing words in Ecclesiastes are:

“Now all this has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter, Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NIV)

The large book of Job is of course an account of a man who also had vast riches, power and possessions, lost everything including his children and his health but later because of his total faith and trust in Yahweh received back twice as much as he lost. His wise words are excellent guidance for us, and just like Solomon’s words perfectly summarise the correct attitude we should have regarding worldly riches:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21 (NIV)

There is wise counsel from Yahweh recorded in the book of Jeremiah:

“This is what the LORD says; Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this that he understands and knows me, that I am Yahweh who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

Before we move on to consider the Apostle Paul who enjoyed a measure of the world’s riches and goods, we will hear some wise and timely inspired advice from James another of God’s servants: 

“For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant, its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”  James 1:11

“Listen, my dear brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him.”   James 2:5

Now we will also hear Paul on this matter of riches:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s.” 1Timothy  6:10

These words are frequently misquoted as “Money is a root of all evil” whereas Paul warns against THE LOVE OF MONEY, not money itself. So here are just two more quotations from Paul’s writings expressing his correct attitude towards riches:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”  Philippians 3: 7-8

“Although I am the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”   Ephesians.3: 8

We cannot conclude this subject of true riches before we consider some words from the one we have once again gathered to remember and share the emblems of Eternal life with. The Lord Jesus taught about True Riches throughout His short ministry on earth. Listen to what He says when He was asked to arbitrate and divide up an inheritance between two brothers:

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, a mans life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Then Jesus told the people a parable:
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there, I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.” Luke 12:16-21

In another parable the Lord Jesus spoke about a dishonest servant, who although being dishonest was shrewd when it came to dealing with material riches. Here is the lesson our Lord teaches:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with True Riches.” Luke 16: 10-11

Later a rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked what he should do to inherit eternal life. Asked if he had kept Yahweh’s commandments, he replied that he had kept them since he was a boy. To which answer Jesus said, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the rich man heard this he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. So Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed 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.”

The lesson is clear the love of worldly riches can exclude us from Yahweh’s Kingdom. True Riches are those spiritual riches stored in heaven where they cannot be corrupted or removed from God’s safe keeping. They are held in trust for us as part of our inheritance in Yahweh’s kingdom on earth. These are riches that cannot fade or be stolen. Jesus encouraged His disciples saying:

“Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been glad to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”                                 Luke 12:32-34

We have been exhorted from scripture this morning to use this world’s material riches and possessions wisely, whether we are blessed with a little or with much.
We are to help the poor and afflicted ones in The Household of Faith, and help with the preaching work to further Yahweh’s purpose on earth.

We are to follow the example of Christ Jesus who shunned worldly wealth to become the richest man to walk the earth when He was raised to Life Eternal. It is Jesus who commands us that we are to, “Seek first Yahweh’s kingdom & His righteousness.”
 Yes, true riches are spiritual riches, founded on God’s love in and through Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul lists them for us:

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

He also instructs us as to what our attitude should be, as we once again, and yet once less, partake of the emblems and call to remembrance our Saviour. Paul first reminds us about the greatness and humility of Christ Jesus:

“who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”

And then Paul tells us what our reaction must be:

“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11

So it is time now to bow before the Lord Jesus and confess Him as both Lord and Christ to the glory of Yahweh. Further words from Paul conclude this morning’s preparation, before we share the bread and the wine together in Christ’s presence to remind us of our hope:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians4:19

(Bro D. Pickering)

1 comment:

  1. About the time of gifts in December we have for our Dutch speaking readers a linked up extended article on the most precious gift in the world.

    Nederlandstalige lezers kunnen een verder aansluitend artikel vinden over het meest kostbaarste geschenk dat ons zo maar gegeven is.

    > Op zoek naar het kostbaarste kerstgeschenk