************ Sermon on Luke 9:25 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 22, 2016

Luke 9:18-27
Luke 9:25
"Is it Worth it to Gain the World?"

The theme of our Bible reading is the cost of following Jesus. This morning, with Profession of Faith and Baptism, we looked at cross-bearing. Tonight we look at gaining the world but losing the soul.

Let me introduce tonight's subject by asking 3 simple questions. I will pause after each question so you can think of the answers:
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the President and Vice-President nominees of the last five elections.
3. Name the last five teams to win the Super Bowl.

Was anyone able to answer all three questions? Was anyone able to answer any of the questions? The point is, none of us remember those who made the headlines and gained the world. You see, the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Yesterday’s achievements are forgotten. Statues and certificates and prizes are buried with their owners. Money disappears.

If all you live for is gaining the world, you know what you are? You are a secularist -- a word I called one of my fellow cyclists yesterday. He asked about the meaning of life. His answer involves a road bike, a mountain bike, a kayak, a new pickup truck, a fifth wheel and things like that. I called him a secularist and asked him about denying himself.

Let's look at what the Bible says in my second sermon today on following Jesus.

I Secularists in the Bible
A In the Bible there is a woman named Eve. She took fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and ate it. She also gave some to her husband and he ate it (Gen 3:6).

In the Bible there is a man named Lot. His herdsmen were fighting with the herdsmen of his uncle Abraham for grass and water. So Abraham proposed a parting of the ways. Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom while Abraham chose to live in the land of Canaan (Gen 13:10-12).

In the Bible there is a woman whom we simply know as Lot's wife. Two angels came to warn her and her family that the city of Sodom was about to be destroyed. The angels pulled her and her family out of the city and one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" (Gen 19:17). But what did Lot's wife do? Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26).

In the Bible there is a man called Achan. He was one of the men of Israel who marched around Jericho and surrounded Jericho. When the trumpets blew and the walls of Jericho fell he marched forward into the city with every other man in Israel. In the ruins he saw a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels. He coveted them and took them and hid them inside his tent. He took what belonged to the Lord. He stole from the Lord (Joshua 7:20-21).

There is a man whom the Bible identifies as the Rich Fool. His fields produced a good crop. So he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones in which to store all his grain and goods. And he said to himself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry" (Lk 12:19). But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself" (Lk 12:20)?

In the Bible there is a man simply identified as the Rich Man. He was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. The beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried and ended up in hell. Somehow, in some way, he was allowed to see across the chasm that no one can cross that separated hell from heaven. In agony the rich man cried out for pity. But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony" (Lk 16:25).

B Why do I mention Eve, Lot, Lot's wife, Achan, the Rich Fool, and the Rich Man? What do they all have in common? They are all guilty of secularism.

Secularism means to live exclusively and think exclusively in terms of the present age and the present world. Secularism says that this world is all that there is and this age is all that we have. The secularist says we might as well eat, drink, and be merry because this life is the only life there is. Secularism rejects the concept of another world, another life, another plane of existence. Secularism rejects the possibility that God is involved in any sense with the universe as its Maker, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Judge. We are all there is. We have all there is. We are secular men and women. And we must make the best of what we have and what there is. Secularism thinks only of the present and the physical and does not consider the future and the spiritual.

Though Jesus doesn't use the word, He warns us against secularism in our text. The secularist that Jesus is thinking of lives and works and plays as if the only thing that is real is the world. He concentrates on the world and material things but neglects his soul. The secularist's center of gravity is the self instead of God. The secularist continues to say "No" to God in order to say "Yes" to self. The secularist practices self-idolatry. The secularist's motive is profit or some sort of personal gain instead of a desire to serve God and man. Jesus says to the secularist what He one day said to Peter: "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Mk 8:33).

This morning I told you what it means to bear a cross. After the message someone asked about the other part of this morning's text: what does it mean to deny yourself. We hear the answer tonight: do not be a secularist. Don't say NO to God in order to say YES to self.

C From this point-of-view we would have to say that Eve was the first secularist. Why did Eve grab the forbidden fruit? Eve grabbed the forbidden fruit because she thought only in terms of the present and the physical. The fruit seemed to be good and attractive to eat. It was delightful to the eye. Eve forgot. She forgot God had planted that tree. She forgot God had said she could eat from any tree in the Garden but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There, in the Garden of Eden, the center of Eve's existence was a tree instead of God. Instead of living in the very presence of God, Eve began to live in the presence of a simple tree. Eve focused so much attention on the tree that she forgot God's Word, God's glory, the reality of the world to come, and the possibility of divine judgment. Eve ended up worshiping the Creation rather than the Creator. Eve was a secularist.

Lot was exactly the same as Eve. Why did he pick the Jordan River valley? Why did he end up pitching his tents right by wicked Sodom? Because he thought only in terms of the present and the physical. The plain was well-watered. His sheep and cattle would thrive on its grass. He would gain in wealth and riches. In his zeal for riches, Lot forgot. He forgot the promise of the land was for Abraham. He forgot that as the heir of the promise Abraham should have chosen first and chosen the best. He forgot God's covenant was with Abraham. Thinking only of the here and the now, Lot ended up moving his family into the flesh-pot known as Sodom. Lot was a secularist.

Lot's wife was told not to look back. She was told to flee like a bird to the mountains. But she looked back. Why? Her heart and mind were on all that she was leaving behind. She didn't think of God's coming judgment. Maybe she didn't think it would really happen. She thought of her nice home, the furnishings, the rugs, the beds. She thought of the good life she had in the city. She thought of their money, her clothing, her jewelry, her makeup, her hairdresser, the men she loved while her husband sat at the city gate. She thought of her neighbors -- mothers who had raised children alongside her own, young men who were her sons-in-law, shopkeepers who knew her by name. She forgot. She forgot about the Lord. The Lord was far from her mind. His judgments were far from her mind. All she could think about was Sodom. Sodom and its pleasures. Sodom and its riches. Sodom and its parties. Sodom and its fun. How sad! You see, Lot's wife had been in the household of faith. She had been involved in the worship of God. She had counted herself as one of the sand of the seashore people or as one of the stars of the sky people. But no longer. She was a secularist.

Achan too was a secularist. He too forgot. He paid no attention to the Word of God, the curse of God, and the ban of God. God had declared that Jericho and everything in it was devoted to the Lord. God had warned the people to keep away from the devoted things, so that they will not bring about their own destruction by taking any of them. God had specifically said that all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze were sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury. But Achan had eyes only for the beautiful robe, the silver, and the gold. He no longer saw eternity. He no longer heard the Word of the Lord or the warning of the Lord. He thought nothing of the Lord's judgment. Achan was a secularist.

The Rich Fool too lived only in and for the present. "Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry." He forgot. He forgot about eternity. He forgot that there is more to life than crops and barns and riches and pleasures. God did not enter His thoughts and played no part in his consciousness. The Rich Fool was a fool because he was a secularist.

The Rich Man was as foolish as the Rich Fool. He lived for the present. His soul belonged to the present. His goal in life was to enjoy the present and to accumulate wealth in the present. He too forgot. He forgot about eternity. So he made no attempt to store up treasures in heaven. No attempt to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness. No attempt to share his wealth with a needy man like Lazarus. No attempt to be a force of good, to be the salt of the earth, to be a light set on a hill. The Rich Man too was a secularist.

II Secularism: Something to Guard Against
A Secularism. As followers of Jesus, we should be alarmed by it. We should be on guard against it. We should fear it.

We need to be on guard against secularism, says Jesus, because the secularist may gain the whole world but he loses his soul. You see, if you concentrate on the physical and worldly side of life but ignore the spiritual and heavenly side of life you lose far more than you gain. Yes, the secularist may gain the wealth of Donald Trump or a Bill Gates, she may be the most popular girl in high school, she may be the best dressed woman in town, he may have the choicest piece of real-estate for his home or business, he may have the latest in home entertainment equipment, she may have the promotion at work she has been working towards for years, he or she may be the star on the track or soccer or basketball or volleyball team. He or she may have all of this. He or she may gain the whole world. But the bottom line is he or she has lost. For, there is nothing in this life that is equal in value to the human soul.

Let's take a look at the balance sheet of the secularist. On the asset side we can list all that the secularist has gained in this world: riches, wealth, position, honor, glory, pleasure, wisdom. But on the liability side we have to write this down: "one soul -- lost." In that case liabilities far exceed assets. In that case the balance sheet is covered in red ink. In that case the secularist has operated at a loss instead of at a profit. In that case the secularist is bankrupt.

B What you need to realize, my brothers and sisters, is that no earthly asset can begin to compare in value to the loss we suffer if we have lost our soul. In Mark's gospel, Jesus asks, "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mk 8:37). You need to realize that Jesus gives no answer to this question. Jesus gives no answer because there is no answer. Jesus gives no answer because there is NOTHING that a man can give in exchange for his soul. You see, Jesus and only Jesus can give something in exchange for a soul. Not you. Not I. But only Jesus. And He gave His precious life-blood upon the cross. No matter what we have gained in this life -- regardless of how much it may be or how big it may be or how precious it may be -- we cannot give it in exchange for a man's soul. Because our soul is the most precious and most valuable thing that we have. Nothing in this life can compare in value to the cost of our soul. If you have lost your soul -- even though you may have gained the world -- you have lost the only thing that counts for anything. A life of secularism ultimately means death -- eternal death in the fires of hell.

III Secularism in the Church and Christian
I want you to look into your heart and ask if secularism is there. And, I want you to ask if secularism has crept into the church of Jesus Christ. To help you do this, I am going to ask you a series of questions that focus on different areas.

First, I want to ask you about your worship. Is your worship focused on yourself or on God? There are people, for instance, who always want something different in worship, something new, something exciting. Their focus is NOT God but themselves. There are those who don't want to be told about sin; rather, they want to leave worship feeling positive about themselves. Again, the focus is NOT God or His will or His holiness but man. There are those who treat worship as entertainment. They come to worship wondering "What is in it for me today?" All of this, my brothers and sisters, is secularism.

Second, I want to ask you about your thinking. What do you think about when you have nothing in particular to think about? Does your mind soar to God or does it droop to sin? When you have nothing in particular to think about, do you think about earthly things or heavenly things? Are you a Christian or a secularist in your mind?

Third, I want to ask about your devotional life. Those who are earthly-minded secularists make no time or place for devotions. So let me ask you: what is your devotional life like?

Fourth, how do you spend your money? Do you give God the first-fruits or the leftovers? And, how do you spend your time? Again, do you give God the first-fruits or the leftovers? And, how do you use your gifts and talents? Again, do you give God the first-fruits or the leftovers? Secularists give God the leftovers.

Fifth, what is in your last will and testament? Do you pass on all your goods and possessions and wealth to your children or does your last will and testament reflect that even in death you must seek God and His Kingdom and its righteousness? Does your last will and testament reflect a Christian or a secular attitude towards the wealth God has blessed you with?

Sixth, what are your priorities in life? Is it money, sports, pleasure, work, school, or is it God? What do you live for? What are your goals? Are your goals Christian or secular?

I can mention many more things but let me end by asking about your leisure activities: the books that you read, the magazines that you subscribe to, the music you listen to, the TV programs and movies that you watch, the places that you go to in order to rest and relax -- do they encourage a life with God or a life of sin? Are you a Christian or a secularist in your leisure time activities?

To a certain extent, secularism is something we all struggle with and against.

As Christians we should be alarmed by our secular neighbors, our secular government, our secular public schools, and our secular society. We should be even more alarmed that we, as God's children, are becoming secular.

What can we do, what should we do, to overcome the secularism of our neighbors, our government, our public schools, and our society? What can we do, what should we do, to overcome any form of secularism in ourselves or in the church of Jesus Christ?

I would like to read four texts which gives us God's cure, God's antidote, to secularism. They do not require any explanation so I will let them speak for themselves:
(1 John 2:15) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

(Col 3:1-2) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

(Rom 12:2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(Mt 6:33) Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness ...
When you live out these texts, then you are overcoming the secular spirit of our age and society.

My prayer is that God will give us the grace, the power, and the wisdom to battle secularism in our communities, our schools, our nation, our church, and ourselves!
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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