Sell All/Take Up The Cross/Invest

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-22

This post boasts all the subjects that I have listed in the title above.

One would need to write whole books and more to dissect this small portion of scripture, so I will not attempt to do that here. Instead, I will just home in on verses 21 and 22. The Bible says that Jesus beheld this young man and He loved him. That singular fact is of great importance to us in understanding God’s heart for us.

When Jesus loved this young man, it is clear from scripture what Jesus did. The account says He told this young man:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

We cannot assume that, if Jesus truly loved us, that He would tell us anything less than what He told this young man. But the first thing is to be sure that Jesus does love us. Does Jesus truly love us? You bet He does. He gave His life on the cross for us. But the flesh has a problem with the love of Jesus for, when Jesus says He loves us, the flesh would want Him to shower us with American dollars and houses and lands; and the occasional private jet. Unfortunately, this is the prevailing gospel in the church today. But it is a worldly gospel, of the flesh, and demonic.

But, on the contrary, when Jesus turns His loving gaze upon us, He only has one thing to say to us:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Jesus asks us to sell all that we have, to take up our cross and follow Him!

Now, we might not be rich like this man was, and we might have a problem with the “sell whatsoever thou hast” when we probably have nothing to sell. Not all of us have things to sell. But “selling all” here does not necessarily mean giving away or parting with our material riches. More importantly, it means denying ourselves for the sake of the gospel. When you deny yourself, you have “sold all”!

And the poor here might not be referring to the materially poor. But what if the poor here refers to anyone who might need something from you; say, for example, someone feels they need to rob you, or to insult you, or to hit you on the cheek. That’s a poor person right there, and you need to “sell all” and let them have their way with you. Actually, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that demanding.

The gift, or joy, of denying ourselves! The pleasure is all mine, said the Apostle Paul:

“9… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

The flesh is against the cross. There is nothing in all what Paul writes here that the flesh can rejoice in. But Paul, who in the Spirit saw the beauty of the cross, rejoiced in these contrary states of affairs, things contrary to everything that the flesh stands for. They were the things that would make him spiritually rich.

Denying oneself means exactly that: denying your rights! That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

In all what Jesus said to do here, there is a denying of self. In the Spirit, you gain your life by losing it.

Finally, let us see something slightly different but equally important. Scripture says that Jesus beheld this young man and loved him. Now, even in ordinary life, when you love someone, you want the best for them, don’t you? Jesus saw this man, He saw in the Spirit the worldly wealth that this man had and Jesus immediately knew that He could turn this young man, whom He had taken an instant liking to, into one of the top “billionaires” in God’s heavenly Kingdom. All the young man needed to do was… invest. In the Spirit, Jesus saw what this man’s worldly riches were worth in heaven if he could invest them wisely. Jesus decided to inform the young man of the Good News.

“Friend”, He said. “I have for you the best investment proposition that both heaven and earth can offer.

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor”.

Jesus said,

“… and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”

But, sadly, the rich young man could not see in the Spirit. Unfortunately, he did not see things as Jesus saw them. He did not see the great reward that would be his in heaven if he followed Jesus’ advice to sow in the flesh and reap in the Spirit. He could see only in the flesh; and all he saw was his valuable wealth – and someone (Jesus) trying to take it away from him.

[A woman and a young man meditating]

Image18763

Paul’s Thorn in The Flesh

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10

I remember in my early days after I became born-again, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. As foggy as my memory is, I do seem to recall that no preacher seemed to have a grasp on this one, nor did I receive much help from the many books that I read. Looking back now, I find that to be incredibly strange because the answer to this question is right there in these very verses. Paul says in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake”.

These things, “infirmities… reproaches… necessities… persecutions… distresses”… these were what constituted Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

By infirmities Paul is not referring to physical illnesses, no. He is referring to something far more profound, a forfeiture in the inner man.

In this post, however, I want us to go beyond there and attempt to see why God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh, and why this thorn would accompany him throughout his earthly life. It is clear from the scriptures that God allowed this thorn in Paul’s flesh for just one purpose: so that Paul could serve God the way God wanted him to serve Him. These are the kind of things that make me root for God – that God is God and that He will always work things to the end that He alone receives the glory.

God made it clear to Paul that the minute that thorn was removed from his flesh, he would cease to serve God in exactly the way God wanted him to serve Him. And so God put Paul permanently “in the stocks”, so to speak.

That is a far cry from how many of us serve God. Yes, we serve God all right, but without the thorn in the flesh. We serve God with too much freedom in the flesh. Which translates to the fact that we do not serve God effectively.

But the things that Paul endured in the flesh enabled him to serve God more effectively than any of the other apostles: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10

You don’t want to think that something for which a man like Paul prayed three times to have removed from his life was a small irritation. No sir. I can say with all confidence that Paul most likely was involved in a life-and-death situation every day of his life. And God told Paul he would have to endure this state of affairs all his life here on earth.

To paraphrase God’s words to Paul: “Paul, I cannot allow you to be not without this thorn. This thorn is what will confine you to Me. It is impossible for you to serve Me without this thorn. If I allow you to serve Me without this thorn, you will easily boast in your achievements for Me, and not only will I not receive the glory, but you will lose your reward in heaven.”

And so God sent a messenger of Satan to buffet Paul.

in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses…”

In Paul, God had found a willing servant. Having accepted this thorn as God’s will in his life, Paul was ready for God to invest in him the fullness of His revelation of the cross of Christ.

Many people are in church today, not to partake of the thorn in the flesh, but to seek reprieve for the flesh!

Many people are in church today because they want God to put food on their table, to help them pay their bills, to prosper their businesses, to heal their bodies, to provide them with a marriage partner; the list is endless. In short, many are in church to have God solve the many problems they are facing in the flesh.

The single reason there are so many un-Godly doctrines in church today, including the doctrine of prosperity, is because people went to church in the first place to seek for something other than the life of Christ. But Christ’s church has only one thing to offer: the cross. But men do not want to hear of the cross. The minute men saw the cross, they fled Christ’s church and started another church right across the street. And there, they comfortably allowed in every doctrine that would cater to the flesh. As they sang, “Glory, Hallelujah!” they consoled themselves that they were in the perfect will of God!

Every doctrine in church, apart from the singular doctrine of the cross that the Apostle Paul preached, is there because men have a hunger for things other than the righteousness of God.

But praise be to God for men like Paul who, in the face of God’s thorn in his flesh, said, “I rejoice!”

God had told him, “There is only one way you can serve me: it is by carrying this thorn in your flesh!”

That is a question we should all seriously ask ourselves. Where is the heart of Christ in Christian ministry? It can only be there when there is that thorn in our flesh.

[Below: Despite the thorn in Paul’s flesh, yet he was the happiest of men!]

Image6225