Many of us made New Year’s resolutions with the beginning of 2013. I made some resolutions for my devotional life and prayer life, and those resolutions so far I have kept, with God’s grace. I resolved to make prayer even more of a priority, and to take before God each day’s schedule and ask Him to order all the different ways I used my time. Another resolution I made, or attempted to make, was to rid my desks of clutter. I have a desk here at the church, and I have one at home. Both of them are cluttered. They are a little less cluttered than they were last month, but not much. My filing system needs improvement. I have a notorious method of “filing by piling.” Everything is rather haphazard. In general, I have a recent pile, a not-so recent pile, and an old pile. On occasion I go through the old pile and determine most of the things there I don’t need anymore, so I throw them away. Then the not-so-recent pile becomes the old pile, and I began a new recent pile. While it makes sense in a twisted sort of way, the truth of the matter is that my desks are a mess. When that realization hits me every so often, then I have much more motivation to order things as they should be. If I don’t realize my desk is a mess, then I’m content to ignore it. It is one thing to have a cluttered desk, or a cluttered house, or a cluttered car. It a far more serious thing however, to have a cluttered heart. In our passage, Jesus talks with a rich, young ruler. He challenges him to order his heart, to prioritize his life and to make Jesus more important than anything else. Rather than responding to the challenge, the rich young ruler leaves Jesus sad, because He couldn’t live with the priorities Jesus set for him. So from this challenge to the rich young ruler to clear the clutter from his heart, we learn at least three things in clearing the clutter from our hearts today.
First of all, to clear the clutter, we must face it. From the story in our passage we can gather that this young man is probably in his late 20s or early 30s. Jesus probably had a considerable crowd around Him when this conversation occurred. The young man asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This young man recognizes Jesus as having something he desires. He already has wealth, power and a prominent status. He was likely educated and had influence over many people. He had a solid morality – he says he had treated other people right according to the ten commandments. He probably loved his parents and his family. This young man would have been seen by many of us today as the ultimate success story – he had it all, and he was morally pure. All in all, many of us would say, “Wow, what a great guy!” Jesus responds to his question with a comment about morality, and he answers by saying he has all the moral bases covered. Then v. 21 says, “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.’” With this single statement, Jesus reveals to this young man the true, cluttered condition of his heart and life. You see, he had a lot of things, and he wanted one more thing – eternal life. He wanted to add Jesus to his list of accomplishments and make Him just one more treasure. Jesus to him was just one more thing. Jesus challenges the rich young man to make Him everything. Suddenly this young man was confronted with his cluttered heart. He had to face it. It was uncomfortable, it was unsettling, but if there was any hope of getting his life in order for God, he had to face his situation. We have to do the same thing today. God may confront us with our cluttered heart through a sermon, through a Bible study, through a Christian song, through a Christian friend. He may do it as we read His Word. Regardless of how it happens, when God challenges us to clear the clutter, we must first face it. Own it, take responsibility for it. Don’t play the blame game and say it is your parents fault or your boss’s fault or your church’s fault. A cluttered heart is a result of your choices to live life Your way rather than God’s way. To clear the clutter, we must face it.
Then, to clear the clutter, we must surrender it. Have you watched the TV show, “Hoarders”? People are confronted with their clutter, then are challenged to surrender it. Jesus knew what was standing in the way of Him being truly Lord in this young man’s life, so He calls him to sacrifice it. The Bible says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Jesus loved this young man, but he saw his heart, and knew there was an enormous pile of clutter that had to be surrendered. In his heart, he was a hoarder – he was clinging to all of these things that needed to go. Now it’s interesting that with Matthew, the tax collector, Jesus did not ask him to give away all his possessions. He didn’t ask Zacchaeus, who was also rich, to give away his money. Jesus knew that with this young man, his riches were more important to Him than anything else. He was attempting to make Jesus just one more part of his already cluttered heart. Jesus said if you want to follow me, you must face it, and you must surrender. As we watch the program “Hoarders” we may think, “That’s horrible! I don’t see how anyone could live in those conditions!” How often however, does God show us our heart, and reveals to us that our heart is even worse? Some of us may have a heart that is cluttered with money.
Some of us may have a heart that is cluttered with sexual desires.
Some of us may have a heart that is cluttered with sports.
Some of us may have a heart that is cluttered with resentment, bitterness or anger.
Whatever is cluttering your heart, Jesus is calling you to let it go. Stop the hoarding! It isn’t good for you, and it is destroying your life. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” In other words, when you make Jesus your everything, then you will have everything you truly need. The Greek word for “follow” in verse 21 could also be translated “stick,” like adhesive or glue. Jesus is saying, “I want you to stick to me, no matter what happens. You may think everything is falling apart, but I’m promising you this: following me will be awesome. I will take care of you and provide you with everything you need. Come, stick with me.” Jesus saw the tremendous potential in this young man. He had great plans for him. Unfortunately, the young man chose the mess of his cluttered heart over the clarity of the Master. Jesus is saying to each one of us today, “Come, follow me, stick with me. Stop anything else you’re doing, and follow me. I’m going to take your life somewhere great. It’s not about being religious, it’s about having a love relationship with Me. Let go of your clutter and cling to Me.” The wise response for the young man in our passage was not to walk away, but to fall to his knees and say, “Lord, free my heart from the grip of all these things. Clear the clutter, that I may cling only to You.” To clear the clutter, we must surrender it.
Then, to clear the clutter, we must celebrate it. Jesus said to his disciples in verses 29-31, “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, 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. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Jeannie and I have a saving account at the local bank, which is our emergency fund for when the big, unexpected expenses happen. Being a savings account, it earns interest. The interest rate however, is very, very low. Currently it is paying .05%. It’s tough to earn interest today with any kind of savings or certificates of deposit. If we invest our money in an aggressive mutual fund, we might expect as much as a 15% return. That kind of return would be high. We might get a little higher with a lot more risk. Still, it would be a very uncertain thing. Now Jesus in these final verses of our passage is not talking about the investment of our money, He is talking about the investment of our lives. When you clear the clutter, when you make Jesus first and let go of everything else that would rival His place in Your heart, the return is one hundred fold. It is not 100%, it is 100 times the worth of what you surrendered. So if you lose a boyfriend or girlfriend because you are following Jesus, you’ve actually lost some clutter. What you will gain is 100 times better. If you lose the ability to participate in a sport because meeting and gathering with God’s people is a greater priority to you, what you gain will be 100 times better. If you lose 10% of your income because you choose to obey God and to tithe, what you gain in financial wisdom and contentment in life will be 100 times better. When we clear the clutter, then we can celebrate it. It is then that we have opened the way for God to bless us beyond anything we’d ever hoped or dreamed. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The rich young ruler turned from Jesus and was sad – he wouldn’t let go of his clutter. God is calling you to clear the clutter, and follow Jesus in celebration.
What is your clutter?
Are you wasting time?
Are you a Christian who is dating an unbeliever?
Are you a young man who is viewing pornography of young women?
Are you a young woman who is being pornography to young men?
Are you living just to accumulate material possessions?
Are you more concerned about being an athlete than you are about being a disciple of Jesus?
Are you living just to have a good time?
Are you bitter, resentful or discouraged?
Whatever the clutter may be, surrender it to Jesus, then celebrate the 100 fold life He gives you in return.