Two Flowers, Two Paths
This morning I brought some flowers. Some are in the vase, and others are in the pot. They both are beautiful. They both have a nice fragrance. If we look at outward appearance, we can’t tell the difference. But there is a significant difference between the two. What is it? One is connected to the root, the source of life; the other is not. One is alive; the other is dead.
A Rich Young Man
We have just heard a story about a rich young man. He is like a beautiful flower in a vase. He was a good man. He was a moral man. He was a rich man. In Jesus’ time the rich were believed to be rich because they were blessed by God. Besides, the rich had more time to study the Scriptures so as to better know God’s will. The rich also had more resources to give to the temple and to the poor. And people believed the rich would gain greater favor with God, a greater chance to get eternal life. The problem of the young rich man was not that he was rich. The problem was he was not poor in spirit. The problem was his spiritual pride and complacency. When this young rich man came to see Jesus, he had confidence. When Jesus told him to obey God’s commandments, he said, “I have kept all of these. What’s left?” Deep down in his heart there was pride: “I am good.” He was rejoicing in his own security based on his wealth, his good reputation, his morality, his charity works and good deeds, but not necessarily on God himself. He was trying to get eternal life through what he has and what he does. Jesus said, “With man this is impossible!” Although this man was seeking very hard, from Jesus’ point of view he didn’t hunger and thirst for God. His possessions gave him false security and made him think, “I am ok. I am good. I am enough.” So Jesus wanted to help him to remove that false security, but the man was not willing. He chose his own security rather than Jesus. And he went away sad, although he still had everything – his money and his status. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:2). Let me ask you, how hungry are you for God?
A Man Who Collects Pearls
The Bible tells us another parallel story. In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” The man in this parable is like a flower in the pot, a tree planted by streams of water. Let me paraphrase this parable. There was a man who collected pearls. One day, while walking downtown, in a store window, he sees the most beautiful, magnificent pearl he has ever seen. He knows he must have it. He enters the store and an old man comes out from behind the showroom. “I must have that pearl. How much is it?” he asks the storekeeper. “How much do you have,” the old man asks. “Well, I’ve got $300 in my pocket.” “Good. I’ll take that. What else do you have?” “Well, I’ve got a BMW outside, low mileage, two years old, paid off.” “Good. I’ll take that as well. What else you got?” “Well, I’ve got two CD’s worth about $22,000.” “Good, I’ll take that too. What else you got?” This goes on and on until the guy has given away his house and even his family. Then finally the storekeeper says, “OK, here. The pearl is yours.” The man is relieved that the ordeal is at last over and that he finally owns the pearl. He turns to leave the store, but as he is walking out, the storekeeper stops him and says, “Hey, you know what? That family of yours? I don’t need a family. I’m going to give them back. But remember, they are mine now, not yours. You must take good care of them.” “And that house in
don’t need a house so I’m going to give it back to you. Although it does belong
to me, I want you to take care of it. As for the stocks and bonds and that BMW,
and even the $300—you can have it all back. But remember, it is mine. Take it.
Use it wisely. Care for it for me.” So the man left with everything he had when
he walked into the store—plus the pearl. But there was a big difference.
He walked into the store owning everything he had. He walked out owning
nothing. Instead, everything he had before was now a gift. Connecticut
The Exchanged Life
“We own nothing, Jesus owns everything.” This is the secret to eternal life. This is the secret to an abundant life. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal ). Hudson Taylor, missionary to
, called this the “exchanged life” – I no longer live, but Christ
lives in me! As his position became continually more and more responsible, China got stressed
out. He wrote, “I prayed, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the
Word more diligently, sought more time for meditation––but all without avail.
Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness sin oppressed me.” When his
agony of soul was at its height, God used a missionary friend, named John
McCarthy, who wrote a letter that transformed Taylor ’s life. It
said, "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but
by resting on the Faithful One." Taylor said, “As I
read, I saw it all! I looked to Jesus and saw, and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!” The
Christian life is a life of abiding in Christ. It is complete dependence
and surrender of our whole being to Jesus. Taylor
As long as we own something, we constantly swing back and forth between pride and insecurity, between “I am good” and “Am I good enough?” But when we abide in Christ, when we surrender everything to Jesus, true rest and joy flow, and we praise him, “Jesus, you are good. You are beautiful. You are enough!” Let us not strive nor struggle as the rich young man did. Instead, let us abide. Let us trust Jesus and rest in his love moment by moment. “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing” (John 15:5, MSG). Amen.