The Crossroads of Conversion

Mark 10:13-31 | November 3, 2019

Overview

More than a decree against divorce, Mark 10 is a plea for the kind of heart-felt followership that affects our closest relationship—to our spouse. Find out why every marriage demands deep discipleship in this message from Mark 10:1-12.

Take Home Truth

“Biblical conversion occurs when we respond to Jesus like a poor child with nothing to offer, not like a wealthy ruler with credit.”

Introduction

In what ways do children think differently than adults?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being wealthy?

Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?

Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.

Read the Text

Mark 10:13–31 (ESV)

Let the Children Come to Me

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The Rich Young Man

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 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!” 24 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! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 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, 30 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention, so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.

Why do you think the disciples were resistant to parents bringing their children to Jesus?

As we noted in a previous lesson when we saw Jesus take a small child and place him in the midst of the crowd to make a point about who is the greatest (cf. Mark 9:33-37), children had no status in the culture at this time. They were on the level of property and considered to be a liability more than an asset. They contributed nothing to society.

The word used to describe the disciples’ actions toward the children is “rebuke,” which comes from the word epitimao. This is a strong word that means they were actively hindering and reproving the people, physically holding the parents and pushing them back to stop them from bringing their children to Jesus.

Why were the disciples doing this? There are probably several things at play here, but two worth mentioning:

  1. The crowds were a problem at this point in Jesus’ ministry. Throughout the gospel of Mark, we see an attempt by Jesus and the disciples to balance ministry with the growing crowds of onlookers. Yes, it is true that many came to Jesus with genuine needs, but many were also there to see the miracles and get a look at this radical rabbi from Galilee.
  2. The children could be viewed as an unnecessary distraction from real ministry. Remember the status of these children—they had no status. From the disciples’ perspective, any time spent focused on these children was wasted time.

What are the benefits of bringing a child to Christ?

I’ve been in many settings where folks were asked to share their testimony of how they became a Christian. Many times, and I have been guilty of this myself, we describe our testimony as boring. Why? Because we accepted Jesus as our Savior when we were children. While this does often lead to a rather boring testimony, what a tremendous blessing this is in comparison to someone who lived a tumultuous often destructive life prior to coming to Christ.

The benefits of bringing children to Christ are innumerable. Just a few major ones are as follows:

  • A child learns love: that he is loved by God and by all who trust God, no matter how evil some in the world may act. He is even taught to love those who do wrong.
  • A child grows, learning power and triumph: that God will help His followers through all trials and temptations. He learns there is a supernatural power available to help, a power to help when mother and dad and loved ones have done all they can.
  • A child grows, learning hope and faith: that no matter what happens, no matter how great a trial, we can still trust God and hope in Him. God has provided a very special strength to carry us through the trials of life (no matter how painful); and He has provided a very special place called heaven where He will carry us and our loved ones when we face death.
  • A child grows, learning the truth of life and endurance (service): that God has given us the privilege of life and of living in a beautiful earth and universe. The evil and bad that exist in the world are caused by evil and bad people. But despite such evil, we are to appreciate and to serve life and the beautiful earth. We are to work and work making the greatest contribution we can to both life and the earth.
  • A child grows, learning trust and endurance: that life is full of temptations and pitfalls which can easily rob us of joy, destroying our lives and the fulfillment of our purposes. The way to escape the temptations and pitfalls is to follow Christ and stick to Him, enduring in our work and purpose.
  • A child grows, learning peace: that there is an inner peace despite the turbulent waters of this world, and that peace is knowing and trusting Christ.

A child’s mind is molded by those he is with, whether the loose and immoral or the disciplined and moral. If the child’s mind is not molded by godly parents, it will be molded by the worldliness of the parents and the carnality of those who walk in selfish and corrupt ways.

What do we know about the young man described in Mark 10:17-22?

This young man is often described as “The Rich Young Ruler.” He is so called because of the combined picture gleaned from all three gospels.

  1. He was rich (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23).
    • Matthew 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
    • Mark 10:22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
    • Luke 18:23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
  2. He was young (Matthew 19:20).
    • Matthew 19:20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”
  3. He was a ruler (Luke 18:18).
    • Luke 18:18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

John Phillips makes this observation about this young man:

Luke, in recording this incident, calls the young man by the word archōn, “a first one,” that is, a man of prominence. The word was used to describe the ruler of a synagogue or an outstanding Pharisee (Matt. 9:18; Luke 14:1; 18:18). It seems also to have been used to designate a member of the Sanhedrin, a great man, or a prince. Evidently, the young man was someone of importance, which makes his homage to the Lord Jesus all the more remarkable. Many people in positions of authority, especially those who were connected with the Jewish establishment, were becoming increasingly hostile to Christ. Even those who were not actively His enemies tended to be patronizing. This young man, however, was eager to learn. As young as he was, as rich, and as influential as he was, he sensed a need in his life and had the good sense to come to Christ. He addressed the Lord as “Good Master,” and doubtless he was sincere. The goodness of Jesus was self-evident to all who had eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear. It was probably in this very area of goodness that the young man sensed his own lack. He did not come to Jesus seeking some material benefit, as did so many other people. Rather, he came wanting to know what to do to inherit eternal life. He had inherited wealth, position, and influence—all of the things that people covet—but he had not inherited eternal life. So as rich as he was, he was poor, and as great as he was, he was lost.1

How do we perceive people of wealth today from a spiritual perspective?

It is an unfortunate reality that for many Christians in our culture today, they equate material wealth with spiritual blessing. This false equation is at the core of a recent film by Brandon Kimber called “The American Gospel: Christ Alone.” (NOTE: This film is available from Amazon.com and is worth the investment of time to show during one of your Small Group meetings. The film is 2 hours and 19 minutes long but is broken into two parts and can be show in two separate meetings.)

The thesis of this film is that American Christianity has merged the gospel with the American Dream to create an American Gospel. This blended gospel is best seen within the Word of Faith movement or Prosperity Gospel prevalent in many of the so-called “televangelist” ministries.

The film’s creator, Brandon Kimber, identifies three aspects of the prosperity gospel important to our understanding of this false gospel:

  1. The first is the belief that it is always God’s will that a Christian is healthy and wealthy. The danger here is that the true gospel promises suffering, and calls disciples of Jesus to deny themselves and take up their cross (be willing to die for the gospel). Instead of denying yourself, the prosperity gospel encourages you to come to Jesus to get what all people want in the desires of their sinful hearts–to be wealthy, healthy, and prosperous. This causes people to come to Christ in order to get these idols, instead of coming to Jesus for Jesus–to be reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sins. God becomes a means to have my best life now.
  2. The second belief of the prosperity gospel is called the “little gods doctrine.” This belief teaches that we are essentially spiritual beings made of the same substance as God and, therefore, our words have the same creative power as God’s words. So, if we want to be healthy or wealthy, our positive confessions about health and wealth will create those realities. Faith is viewed as a force (that even God uses in his creative acts) that we use to unlock blessings in our life. Biblical faith is trust, and that trust is placed in Christ alone for salvation. But the prosperity gospel twists biblical faith to be about how our “words of faith” can change our reality. In sum, it’s a deification of man.
  3. The third distortion of the prosperity gospel attacks the person of Jesus by demoting him to being merely a man with the Holy Spirit, instead being both fully God and fully man. This view connects back to the writings of E.W. Kenyon, who taught that “the believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” Many (not all) of the prosperity gospel preachers believe that Jesus laid aside or emptied himself of all of his divinity in the incarnation, and that he was merely a man with the Holy Spirit and did all of his miracles and lived a sinless life as a man, not as God (therefore, we can do the same miracles and live sinless lives like he did). Preachers like Kenneth Copeland have gone further and taught that “Adam in the garden of Eden was God manifested in the flesh” (essentially saying that Jesus Christ was in essence the same as Adam in the incarnation). This teaching is heretical because it’s teaching that our salvation was accomplished by a man, not God. The true Jesus remained fully God in the incarnation (Colossians 2:9 says “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”) but added a human nature to himself. He is the one mediator between God and man and must be truly God and truly man in order to accomplish our salvation.2

All of us need to be cautious of permitting the lies of the Devil to infiltrate our thinking and our theology. There is something that “seems right” from a human perspective about one who is right with God spiritually and is therefore blessed by God monetarily. Clearly, Jesus teaches the opposite to this false belief in Mark 10.

Does this mean that money and wealth are evil?

It seems clear within the New Testament that the Christian must be wary of money and wealth, but money and wealth are simply material things and have no inherent evil within them.

What is clear from this teaching in Mark 10 and from other passages of Scripture in the New Testament, it is easy for us to place our trust in money and wealth rather than in Jesus Christ.

The King James Version draws a better understanding of what Jesus is teaching in this passage3: “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24b KJV). The problem is not riches, but one’s trust in those riches to enter the kingdom of God.

This is consistent with Paul’s teaching from 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Why should you inherit eternal life?

This should cause us to examine our own faith: what do we place our trust in as we look towards eternity? Do we look to our own moral goodness? Do we look to the fact that God has blessed us with material wealth? Do we look to the faith of our parents the fact that we were raised in a Christian home, attended church regularly, and do all the right things according to today’s culture?

Go back and look carefully at the Rich Young Ruler’s question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Note the little word “do” in the question. Like all of us today, this young man wanted something to do. What can I do? And, truth be told, this is the question that most of the world’s religions seek to answer. In order to inherit eternal life, you must do …

Christianity is different. In effect, there is nothing anyone can do to earn eternal life. Why? Because there is nothing we can do that would be enough. No matter how hard we work or how hard we try, we would never be able to stand in front of our holy and righteous God and say, “that is enough. It is finished.” That is why we need a Savior. All of us, no matter how good we think we are, fall short of the glory of God.

In Romans, the Apostle Paul tells us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Yet, as simple as that sounds, the reality is that most will never do it or believe it. The world is constantly telling us we must do something to be saved, and the Bible tells us that it is already done.

When Jesus gave up His life on the Cross of Calvary for you and for me, he said once and for all, “it is finished.”

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame,
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Chorus:

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
It’s shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then he’ll call me someday to my home far away,
Where his glory forever I’ll share.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.

Personal Reflection Questions

  1. What about the behavior of children does God want us to copy?
  2. How can we have the same attitude toward God that children had toward Jesus?
  3. What does Jesus’ display of emotion in this account tell you about Him?
  4. In what specific ways do you need to change your attitude toward God?
  5. Why could the man not obey Christ’s instructions? (10:22)
  6. In what way can money stop us from doing what God wants?
  7. How can wealth interfere with a person’s Christian faith?
  8. What have you ever sacrificed for the sake of following Christ?
  9. What interferes with your walk with the Lord?
  10. What can you learn about Jesus from His actions in this story?
  11. What practical steps can we take to ensure that we place value on eternal things and not merely on material things?

Becoming A House of Prayer

“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.

Prayer is an important part of being in a small group. Group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines.

  • WE PRAY FOR ONE TOPIC AT A TIME – Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
  • PRAY MORE THAN ONCE – Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about. No one is required to pray.
  • WE KEEP OUR PRAYERS SHORT AND SIMPLE – Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group. No one is required to pray out loud.

Notes:

  1. John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009), Mk 10:17.
  2. “An Interview with Brandon Kimber,” by Angela Roe. Published on Deeply Rooted, accessed at URL: https://www.deeplyrootedmag.com/blogs/blog/interview-with-brandon-kimber-of-american-gospel on October 30, 2019.
  3. Whether or not Jesus actually added the explanatory words for those who trust in riches (the MSS are fairly equally divided), this is obviously the meaning. The shorter and simpler textual reading, How hard it is to enter the kingdom, makes good sense, for it at once removes the ‘rich’ from being in a class by themselves. It shows that entry is hard for them, not just because they are rich, but because entry is hard for all. Perhaps such a generalization is not so suitable here, however, for verse 25, immediately following, resumes the ‘special’ subject of the rich, and the ‘general’ subject does not reappear till verse 26 and after. The fuller text, then, seems preferable as the sense in verse 24, reading for those who trust in riches. Notice again that the ‘riches’ are not blamed in themselves; it is the trusting in riches that is blamed, just as trusting in anything else would be. (Cole, R. Alan. Mark: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 2. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989.)

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