August 21, 2011: How To Get Out Of Spiritual Bankruptcy

Let us pray: Dear Savior, impress upon each of us the value, the worth, the riches, and the incomparable wealth of Your gift of grace. Cause each of us to accept that gift with gratitude; to hold it front and center in our hearts; and to never, ever, take it for granted. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF ETERNAL SALVATION

TEXT: Matthew 13: 44-46

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

I freely admit that I’m frugal. I hold onto things past their prime. I have shoes that are 20+ years old and still look quite fashionable. I have a pair of hunting boots that are about 40 years old! And I occasionally fish with antique tackle. Technocrats routinely look at my computer and shake their head at how out-of-date it is.—But, it works, I know how to use it, and it’s paid for! In short, I’m one of those consumers that American retail hates. Plus, I almost never buy anything unless it is on sale. To me, that’s a point of honor.

Earlier this past week I did find myself doing a bit of shopping at a local men’s store. You see my selection of summer shorts has been getting a bit ratty. Some of those pairs are between 10 to 12 years old. It’s time to throw a few, relegate others to yard work, and a few to serve as “painting shorts.” So, I bought 3 new pairs of shorts—at 60% off. The only thing better would have been if they were free.

Americans love sales. People love spending money, especially if they can get an item on sale. Look at the booming retail figures stemming from the recent state sales tax holiday. If you want a crowd all you have to do is advertise a sale! Can you imagine what it would be like if Sears or Nordstroms put out the word that they would be giving away anything in the store for free next Sunday? The Burlington traffic jam would be so great I doubt you’d be able to navigate the road to church.

And right there is the crux of the conundrum I’ve wrestled with throughout my entire ministry. Every single week we give away, for free, the wealth of the universe. We give away, without costing any human being a single penny, complete peace with God, complete forgiveness for all sins, love that is eternal, and the gift of immortality. It’s called: the Gospel. It comes from Jesus Christ. He bought and paid for it with His life, His blood, His death, and made it our reality via His resurrection. And yet, the roads to church on Sunday morning are never jammed. We don’t have people camped outside the building all week waiting to be first in line to receive it. No, most people just yawn, turn over, and go back to sleep on Sunday morning instead. Just think: they’ll wait in line for hours to save $200 at Sears off a TV, but turn up their noses at getting eternal life for free from Christ! Why? Are people that obtuse? Are they mentally imbalanced? What’s their problem? Well, today let’s examine this problem under the heading:

HOW TO GET OUT OF SPIRITUAL BANKRUPTCY

I

Imagine life without having to pay bills. Think of never having to worry about where the money will come from to pay off your credit card, to pay off your mortgage, or to fund the vacation, the kid’s college fund, or even to assist your aged parents. Wait a minute!—That sounds a lot like the fantasy land of easy credit America binged on during the past decade.—Yes, we’ve learned the hard way, and many are still learning, that nothing in life is free. Not only is our nation monetarily bankrupt, we’re spiritually bankrupt, too. What are the symptoms of this spiritual bankruptcy?—Worry over the future, discontent with life, black moods, unhappiness, pridefulness that gets us into trouble, fear of death, fear of old-age and being debilitated, and inner anger at God for allowing it to happen to us. America’s antidote to this has been to adopt the “shop til you drop” mentality. Consumer spending fuels something like 70% of our economy. People get a chemical high from shopping because it’s their escape from their spiritually bankrupt reality. But, like little kids binging on candy, when the high wears off, the crash occurs.

Listen to what Jesus says about how to climb out of our spiritual bankruptcy. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. (More valuable at Christ’s time than anything else, because there were no cultured pearls and divers who held their breath had to take their chances to discover even one!) When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

II

To me the key words in those parables are these: “all he had” and “everything he had.” A parallel to this is when Christ says: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel, will find it.” You and I have no heavenly money. We possess nothing of value that we can spend in heaven. In fact, we inherently have nothing of any value here on this earth which can actually pull us out of spiritual bankruptcy. That’s not being “gloom and doom” it’s just a fact. And of course, that’s where Jesus steps in. He freely gives us forgiveness for all sins, peace with God, and eternal life as a gift! He offers it to us each Sunday for free and pleads with us to take it, enjoy it, live it, and thus become eternally wealthy thereby. So why? Why don’t people embrace Him and His “better-than-on-sale” deal?

Maybe they just haven’t heard the message clear enough so that they can really comprehend it? I used to think if I intellectually stood on my head and said it in 100 different ways, people would eventually get it. But, I’ve done that for years and they still don’t swarm the church. So, maybe they think: “It’s a scam, it’s just too good to really be true?” But, what do they have to lose by embracing Christ’s gift?—Nothing! We try out free samples of dish soap or shampoo in the store. We’re not out anything by trying it. Why not try out Christ and be surprised at how much better our lives become? No, I think, I know the reason people embrace retail sales but reject heavenly give-aways is that they don’t think they need it. They think they can live without it because they always have. They put on the rose colored glasses and swallow the hype about human happiness, even though inwardly they’re miserable. They do it because they’re afraid of genuine love. They’re afraid to get rid of their self-love. They’re afraid of surrendering themselves to God in repentance and faith. They’re afraid of, in the words of our lesson: “selling all he had.”

How does anyone get out of spiritual bankruptcy? Not by human works, human thoughts, or human intellect. No, when God’s gift of grace comes our way, we merely embrace it in faith, give Him our bankrupt hearts, take a chance on the truth of His resurrection, and suddenly heavenly riches flood our lives. This world says: “Nothing in life is free.” But God says: “The best things are free to you because Jesus’ blood has already paid the bill.” So, lose your life in Him and experience His riches beyond compare! Amen