Finding Your Greatest Joy
sermon on Matthew 13:44 and Mark 10:18-25 by
Preached at the first public service of Desiring God Community Church, Charlotte, NC, 9/28/03
What gives you great joy?
What gives you joy?
A second question: When someone becomes a Christian, how does he change?
These questions may seem different, but hold on, and you'll see the relationship:
To answer these questions, this morning I want to read two brief stories from the Bible. One is the story of a Happy Man. The second is the story of a Sorrowful Man. After discussing these stories, we’ll compare these two men. At the end, we’ll answer the questions I just raised.
So Two Questions:
During the rest of today’s message we will consider three other sets of two:
The first story is found in the book of the Bible written by Matthew, one of Jesus' followers. In 13:44 Matthew records that Jesus said:
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field
Suppose you are a farmer, renting land. You would love to buy the land, but your credit rating is shot, and the price is so high that you would have to sell all you have to raise sufficient cash to buy it. So you rent some fields. Although you have an option to buy, you can’t imagine ever exercising that option.
But as you’re plowing, you hit something! Look, great treasure! Worth millions and millions!
Now yours eyes are opened: This field is worth far more than the purchase price, far more than all else you own. You then gladly go and sell all you have to get the field, to get the treasure.
What emotions do you feel as you sell all your goods? Would it make sense for you to weep and mourn, “Oh, my Pontiac Thunderbird! Oh, my in-home theater! Oh, my condo! Oh, my Gateway Pentium 4!”
No. What emotions did this man feel as he sold all his goods? “Ok, that’s sold! All I need is $2,000 more. There goes the Thunderbird! Great, take it for $5,000 under blue book, I’ve got the price now! Take all that’s left for a dollar; that home theater system might as well be junk – I’m running off to buy that field!”
Nothing compares to the value of the field. All that this man once held dear, all he once thought important, all that he once valued, all that he once had worked so hard to attain – all this he now considers rubbish compared to the tremendous worth of the treasure in the field. So WITH GREAT JOY this man disposes of all his property, and gets that treasure.
Did you catch that? He wasn’t sorrowful when he sold all his goods. He was JOYOUS.
What gave this man joy? Selling all that he had – so that he could buy the field worth far more than all he had. Having that treasure gave him great joy – greater than all his former possessions.
First question: What gives you great joy?
Remember my second question? When someone becomes a Christian, how does he change?
Keep thinking about that while I read a second story from the Bible that will shed light on it. This story appears three times in the Bible – in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each author uses different words to describe the man in the story. We’ll read from Mark, who just calls him a man. Matthew tells us he is young; Luke, that he is a ruler. All say he is rich, so he’s often called the rich young ruler.
A man ran up [to Jesus] 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 intently 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 Shocked by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
What do you think of this man? He has many very positive qualities and beliefs:
What would you call such a person today?
What would you call such a person?
Many today would call him a Christian. Indeed, many good members of many churches could be described by these phrases.
But what does Jesus say? Does Jesus say, “Oh, don’t worry about eternal life. You’re doing fine! You’re so sincere! I’m really impressed by your success in keeping the commandments! I’m sure when you die God will welcome you into heaven! Oh, and by the way - thanks for calling me good! I’m so pleased you recognize that.”
Is that what Jesus says?
Does Jesus say, “Oh, you’re obviously a believer. You’re clearly one of mine! Have confidence of eternal life!”
No. But neither does Jesus say to him, “Get away from me, you self-righteous prig. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.”
What does Jesus say? He says he LACKS something.
What does he lack? What keeps him from eternal life? Keep thinking, while we note what Jesus does:
Jesus does two things:
First, Jesus looks intently at him. The idea, I believe, is to get the young man to look at HIM and to quit looking at himself. This man is very wrapped up in what HE has done and what HE needs. Jesus already said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one: God.” Jesus Himself IS good; Jesus Himself IS God. This young man needs to realize that – if he is to have eternal life.
Second, Jesus “loved him”.
And SO – because He loves him – He tells him what is wrong. He tells him what he needs in order to have the greatest joy.
What does He need? To do a great deed? To live up to a list of rules?
Remember this now: Jesus does not give him a list of requirements and say, “OK, hotshot, you want eternal life? – Go and perform a great deed.”
No. Jesus does not tell him to do a great deed at great danger and sacrifice to himself
Instead, although Jesus gives him five commands, He does not even tell him to give up anything of value.
Rather, Jesus tells him HOW TO FIND HIS GREATEST JOY.
He says, “Go, sell, give, come, follow – AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN!”
Jesus appeals to his desire. He emphasizes the greatness of the reward.
This rich young ruler wanted eternal life – so Jesus tells him how to have it.
As C.S. Lewis said:
Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Jesus tells this man: “Give up your weak desires! Quit making mud pies in the slum! Come on the holiday by the sea – find your greatest joy in ME.”
So we’ve seen two questions and two stories. Now, two men.
Note the similarities and differences between the rich young ruler and the man who found treasure in the field.
What similarities do you notice?
1) Both have the opportunity of gaining a priceless treasure.
This is obvious for the man in the field. But what priceless treasure does this man running up to Jesus seek?
He says he wants eternal life. Maybe a relative has died, confronting him with his own mortality. Maybe he has heard reports of a natural disaster, or a war that has killed many people, and now he’s wondering, “What if that happens to me?” He wants assurance of ETERNAL life, life without end, life that will not end at the time of physical death.
This man wants the treasure of eternal life – and it was right in front of him! The most famous verse in the Bible says, . . .
For God so loved the world that He gave is one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
So both have the opportunity of gaining a priceless treasure.
2) Both must give up all they have to get the treasure
The man with the field must sell all his possessions to raise the purchase price. Jesus tells the other man he lacks one thing: he must follow Jesus to have eternal life. And in order to follow Him truly, this man must sell everything, give it to the poor, and come, follow Him. Jesus assures this man that his eternal treasure will be great.
So those are the similarities. Both have access to a treasure; both must give up everything else to get the treasure.
What are the differences between them? We can summarize those in one statement
One joyously gave up his possessions to get the treasure; the other mournfully gave up the treasure to keep his possessions.
As we noted, the first man sold his possessions OUT OF HIS JOY or BECAUSE OF HIS JOY. He knew the treasure was much more valuable than the cost of the field. He gladly sold his goods.
His desires were STRONG for the RIGHT THINGS. His desires for the treasure were stronger than his desires for his possessions. So he pursued his greatest joy by selling all his possessions and buying the field.
But the other man, despite his longing for eternal life, thought the cost was too high. He thought eternal life was valuable – but not more valuable than all his possessions. So he walked away.
But does this walking away lead to joy? No! He went away mourning!
Do you think this man enjoyed his possessions after this? Or every time he looked over his land, did he think, “My desire for this has kept me from eternal life.”
Two questions, two stories, two men: now two answers
Back to our second question: When someone becomes a Christian, how does he change?
But what do these stories from the Bible tell us?
When someone becomes a Christian, he values Jesus Christ more than everything else. Jesus Christ is the great treasure, and the joy of knowing Him far outweighs the cost of any sacrifice, of any loss. The true Christian has the greatest joy in the universe. The true Christian finds joy in Jesus Christ.
Indeed, Jesus Himself says:
This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3
As John Piper says,
Never, NEVER does God ask you to deny yourself a greater value for a lesser value. That's what sin is. On the contrary, always, ALWAYS, God calls us to surrender second-rate, fleeting, unsatisfying pleasures in order to obtain first-rate, eternal, satisfying pleasures.
This is what our new church is all about: Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things, for the joy of all peoples.
So a true Christian is not someone who obeys a set of rules. A true Christian values Jesus Christ above all else. A true Christian finds joy in Christ alone.
This has a sobering implication: If someone does not value Jesus Christ above all, he is not a believer.
He may be like that rich young man who ran up to Jesus:
But he is not a believer. And he does not have eternal life. So, ultimately, he has no joy.
So in the end there are only two choices.
We invite you to join us in the pursuit of your greatest joy – that is, the pursuit of God. For we know that God is the source of great delight, and you can know Him through His Word, the Bible. We want to work with you to learn of him together, to dig deep into His Word, and to spread this passion for God throughout Charlotte and the world.
And that pursuit of God BEGINS by recognizing that Jesus Christ is good, that Jesus Christ is GOD. HE is the great treasure. HE can be the source of your greatest joy.
So, back to our first question: Where do you get joy?
My friends, the joys we experience in the normal course of life are only a small foretaste of what we can experience through knowing Jesus. Every other joy pales to insignificance in comparison. He is the source of everything good, and He is the most beautiful of all.
So be like that man who found the treasure in the field. See Jesus for Who He is. Seek to know Him.
Join us in the pursuit of your own greatest joy.
This sermon was preached at Desiring God Community Church in Charlotte, NC on 9/28/03.
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