In this sermon, missionary Brian Shortmeier looks at the account of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-31 to challenge you as to whether you really are going “all in” as a follower of Jesus. Brian also takes some time to explain his current ministry with Ethnos360 and how you can be a part.
Good morning. I was thinking, as we were singing, oh, this is nice. I want to just settle in here and listen to the speaker. Oh, it’s me!
My wife wishes she could be here. We’ve had some family issues at the moment, and our son needed some additional help. We said, hey, we’re going to do what we can. She’s with him right now up in Schenectady, and I’ll be going up there tomorrow and get her and bring her back down here. We’ll be in this area for about a week, and then we’ll be back up to Schenectady again. That’ll be my fifth time up there in a few weeks. So, it’s been back and forth.
Before I forget, because I always do, there are some handouts there on the back table if you’re interested in finding out more about ethnos360. Looking for an opportunity to serve in some way on short-term mission trips, volunteering, and various things. Please help yourself. Well, it’s back there.
With the verses that we read this morning, you might think, oh, I’m waiting to talk about that and explain that one. Or what about that? You probably won’t get that. I think my take on this is maybe a little different here. So, if I miss your favorite part or didn’t explain something that you’ve thought, I’ve always wanted someone to explain that one. That’s probably why I left it out.
I have a question for you. Would you like to have seen Jesus face-to-face and sat under His teaching? I’m not sure I would’ve liked that. I’m afraid that I would have naturally gravitated to either the Pharisees or the scribes. I wonder, would I recognize Jesus for who He is? What would I have done about it? In that era, would I have been rich or poor? Would it have made a difference? Well, throughout history, the rich had more opportunities available to them. They heard more things.
We have a story in the Gospels of a young man who found himself in that situation. As far as you know, he was not a Pharisee, a Sadducee, a scribe, a tax collector, or a zealot. He had not been caught in some compromising situation.
He was a young man who apparently inherited a great deal of wealth at a young age. From what we can read, we can assume he’d been instructed in the scriptures and had a heart inclined toward God. As Jesus’s notoriety and popularity grew, we’re guessing he heard a lot about Jesus, and then an opportunity presented itself.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The first thing I want you to notice is that this man ran up to Jesus. This is not something that the rich ordinarily do. They expect you to come to them. You come to their office, and you wait on them. Obviously, this person had been looking for Jesus and didn’t want to miss this opportunity.
He had heard about Jesus, and I think he believed what he’d heard. He believed Jesus had truth, and he wanted to know that truth. He was serious about eternal life, and he knew he needed to know God’s perspective, not his own.
I thought, was his question like many of the other questions posed to Jesus during His ministry? And I had to answer to myself, no, it wasn’t. So many others tried to catch Jesus in something that they could trap Him in and turn the crowds against Him. He wasn’t challenging Jesus. In fact, he fell on his knees in humility, honoring Jesus.
Throughout the Gospels, many people addressed Jesus as teacher, master, and rabbi. This man went further. He was the only one, you can look through the Gospels, who called Jesus good teacher. This man was sincere.
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.
Now Jesus’s response is interesting. Have you ever pondered it? I do not believe Jesus was challenging the use of the word good. Good was a very appropriate word. I believe Jesus was trying to get the man to think. What was it in Jesus that made that word appropriate?
Jesus wanted the man to connect the dots. Jesus stated clearly that only God is good. Therefore, if Jesus is also good, then what could you conclude about Jesus? If the man could realize who he was really talking to, then he would stand a better chance at being able to understand what was going to be behind Jesus’s answer and able to follow through in response. Whether the man had a chance to stop and think about that or not, we don’t know.
Jesus continued His answer with a list from the ten commandments. Mark 10:19,
You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”
Have you wondered why Jesus gave the man that list? I mean, He knew better than anyone that following the law could never earn eternal life. In fact, Jesus was asked another time about what work is it that I need to do in order to be saved? How did Jesus answer? In John 6:28-29, Jesus replied that the only way appropriate work is to believe.
What was Jesus doing here in this conversation? Jesus was challenging his thinking. In doing so, quite honestly, Jesus was challenging the entire mindset of the Jews and the prevailing culture.
When the young ruler heard the list, I don’t know if that encouraged or discouraged him. I mean, if he felt that he was already doing his best to observe all these instructions, then Jesus’s answer might’ve been encouraging. Or he might’ve thought, hey, wait a minute, I’ve been obeying those laws, and so far, it hasn’t given me any assurance, or I wouldn’t have asked the question.
In Mark 10:20,
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
You know, whatever was going through his mind at that moment, he declared that he had been trying to keep those commandments since he was a boy.
In Matthew’s account of this same meeting, he writes that the young man then asked, what was it he still lacked? Which makes me think that, in his heart, he knew keeping the commandments was not enough. The thing that we know for certain is that Jesus knew this man’s heart. Jesus could sense his desire to know the truth, the desire to be certain, and the desire to please God. But the man was still bound by his own culture and probably by his own desire for comfort.
What about us? How often, if ever, do we think about how we might be bound by our own culture? How much are we bound by our own desire for comfort, to get rid of any of those things that might be unpleasant? Anything that might cause us doubt. Like, will we have enough to pay this or to do that? We just want everything to go smoothly.
Do we critically examine each purpose, or each expectation, or each interaction in light of scripture? In light of what God wants in this world? Or do we just go about acting and behaving all the way our Christian friends around us are acting and behaving because it’s what we do?
In Mark 10:21, we read that Jesus looked at him and loved him. So, Jesus went further because the battle wasn’t over. Jesus was still sowing truth into this young man, and there was more that needed to be confronted.
If you all notice, Jesus left out one of the Ten Commandments in the previous list He had given to the young ruler. Did anybody catch it? The commandment about coveting.
At least one commentator feels that the coveting was the main issue in this young ruler’s life. If it was, and maybe it wasn’t, in the conversation, Jesus is now going to challenge him to go all in.
Finishing the rest of verse 21,
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Jesus told the young man to sell all of his possession, and give everything to the poor, which would result in him having treasure in heaven as opposed to having treasure on earth. But He didn’t stop there. There was more to this invitation. He also said the young ruler could come along with Jesus.
Let’s back up. Just giving away all you own does not earn one a place in heaven. Jesus knew that. No one could work their way to heaven, so what was Jesus doing? Jesus was offering this young man a chance to grow in understanding and faith. He was actually offering him an opportunity to be one of His disciples and to eventually earn or hear about the way of salvation. Far more of an opportunity this man had asked for.
The conversation with the young man finishes with verse 22,
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
At hearing what Jesus said, this man became sad and went away. It says because he had great wealth. Obviously, this implies that he wasn’t willing to give up that wealth. Does that mean he wasn’t saved? Well, my guess is he wasn’t, at least not at this point.
You’ve got to ask yourself. How many of the other disciples do you think were saved at this point in the ministry? I think maybe none of them. They were on a journey, and there was a lot they didn’t understand, at least not yet.
That the disciples didn’t understand either is obvious from what the response to what Jesus said next. Mark 10:23-26,
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
Look at this next sentence.
24 The disciples were amazed at his words.
Why would they have been amazed? It’s their culture.
But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eyes of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
You know, when Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, what was the disciple’s response? Then who can be saved? Does this indicate despair on their part?
It was a common belief in the Jewish culture that material blessing was a sign of God’s favor on a life. Jesus had a lot of correctional teaching to do, and we know that the Holy Spirit had to continue that correctional teaching even after the resurrection.
I doubt that Nicodemus was saved when he heard what we’ve referred to as John 3:16. Yes, he was saved eventually, but I’m guessing that took a while.
I wondered if this rich young ruler eventually understood what Jesus was talking about and got saved in the early days after the resurrection or after the day of Pentecost. We know that all of the disciples, except for Judas Iscariot, were saved eventually. But like it is for all of us, it was a process. I thank God He doesn’t give up on us in the middle of the process.
Think about the Parable of the pearl of great price. Giving away all you have to secure the most valuable thing in the world? Obviously, Jesus was not talking about trading our earthly goods for salvation. No, that Parable and this story of the Rich Young Ruler both challenge us to consider what we would do if we were given the chance, or the opportunity, to be a part of the greatest thing heaven could offer us.
As Christians, we’ve already been given the gift of eternal life, bought by the blood of Christ. So, salvation isn’t the issue, not for us. The issue is the degree of commitment. Jesus was giving the rich young ruler more than he asked for.
I’ll tell you, which is better, to be a fan of a team or to be on the team? Jesus was giving him a chance to become one of His disciples, to be on the team that was going to turn the world upside down.
In verse 21. Jesus’s answer, the one thing you lack. This implies that look, you want to be perfect, mature, and complete, which is what that means, and if you want to be all in, then set aside all other distractions and join with Him.
Now, all of the disciples’ thinking was still fuzzy in a lot of areas, and they were still bound by the same culture as the rich young ruler. They caught the implication of being all in. On behalf of all of the disciples, in Matthew 19:27,
Peter answered him, “we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Back in Mark 10:29-31, Jesus sought to assure the suddenly worried disciples by telling them, look, God will care for them in this life, and they will have eternal life in the age to come. But even then, after saying that, He ended it with: But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. I am sure this left the disciples shaking their hands again. We thought we were with you, and then He ended on that.
Are you all in? It’s a question those who follow Jesus need to answer. Jesus gave other examples of the necessity of being all in. We know that following Jesus can cost a lot. Following Jesus very closely can cost you a lot more. It’s as true now as it was then.
To the rich young ruler, it meant giving up a comfortable life. That’s what his riches were going to give him—a comfortable life. He wasn’t willing to do that. He had great wealth that he wasn’t willing to give up in order to be all in.
You know, the pivotal factor for each one of us can be different. Wealth is just one example of something the Lord might be asking you to give up. It could be a great education. It could be a great job. It could be a great reputation, or a great family life.
I remember reading biographies of Christians in previous centuries who gave up all of those things to serve the Lord full-time. I don’t think God sees decades and centuries in the same way we do. You think, oh yes, I’ve read some of those biographies too, but that was a different time, and God doesn’t act the same way today. I don’t know about that. We’ve been given so, so very much in this country. Unfortunately, so much of it we spend on ourselves.
Back then, many gave up great wealth, education, power, or fame. And just like I believe that God hasn’t changed, that the word of God hasn’t changed, the opportunity that God is offering His people has not changed.
How close do you want to be to Jesus? How involved do you want to be in the way He is working in this world? How closely do you want to be identified with Him? He might ask you, what are you willing to give up? His Spirit will prompt your soul in some way, and it isn’t the same for everyone. What He asks us to do doesn’t look the same for everyone.
You know what? His promise to each of us is the same. Everyone who’s left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or fields, or farms for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
My wife became a believer when she was about five. I didn’t become a believer until after I graduated from Rutgers at 22. Wanting to be all in, to do whatever Jesus was leading us towards, we both took steps toward that. We had no idea where that would lead us, but we knew Who we were following. We wanted to join a team that would bring the life-saving message of the Gospel to people groups who had never heard it.
For sixteen years, we served at a school for missionaries’ children, followed by ten years in administration for New Tribes Mission in Papua New Guinea, which was followed by eleven years in administration for New Tribes Mission USA here in the U.S. In the middle of that time in 2017, New Tribes Mission changed its name to Ethnos 360. And in 2020, I volunteered to add to my ministry, which no one else was willing to do, to take over the leadership of the homes of Ethnos 360. I was able to step down from my position as Chief Administrative Officer of Ethnos 360 USA and concentrated on the ministry at the homes retirement community just last December.
You might say, wait a minute, you’re talking about reaching tribes overseas. You know, giving all in. What has that got to do with the retirement community?
Fair question. We have a retirement community because in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and even into the early 80s, missionaries went into the fields as fast as they could with the encouragement of local churches, sometimes with hardly enough support to live on, let alone save for retirement. I could remember in the early 80s, you didn’t dare mention the idea that you were saving for retirement to a church. They thought that you have enough money already if you could save for retirement. It wasn’t something you did.
Realizing that many of these missionaries would eventually return permanently to the United States, our mission leadership decided to build a retirement community to provide affordable and efficient housing for Ethnos 360 personnel to at least return dignity. The whole team from beginning to end. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide a nurturing and caring environment to attempt to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of our residents within the staff, facility, and state licensing capabilities. The majority of our residents are in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
Now two years ago, right after I started the position of the director of the home, I did a little research. I discovered that, not including our staff, and just including our retired missionaries within the property, our 130 missionaries at the time represented over 5,000 man-years of active missionary service, averaging over 39 years per missionary. 5,000 man-years from those 130 residents.
To help you understand what it is, I’d like to show you a quick presentation to give you an idea of our ministry at the homes of Ethnos 360. We’ll be coming back to the message here.
We work at the homes here, a community for retired missionaries of Ethnos 360. Well-maintained and very inviting. We’ve got 102 private residences for retirees. We also have 10 single family homes for staff and maintenance buildings. A facility in the middle of the property for those needing extra care, an RV court, and landscape grounds and property.
The 102 residences for retirees are built in side-by-side duplexes. Most of those duplexes are on cul-de-sacs. Most of them have two bedrooms, a laundry area, a living room, a bathroom, a kitchen, a dining room, a screen porch, and a covered car porch. Sometimes your neighbors are people you served with on the field.
There’s plenty of shade, which is really nice in Florida in the Summer. When taking walks, there’s plenty of landscaping for beauty. Many flowers and trees bloom year-round. Our chapel was the last section to be built and our main facility. Our chapel comfortably seats over 400 people. Our industrial kitchen with the Florida department of health.
We have 18 private rooms for those who can live independently, and another 8 rooms registered as an assisted living facility. There’s a large lounge for sitting with a fireplace. Tables for work projects and a pool table.
The smaller lounge, connected with the ALF, works well for sing-a-longs, birthday parties, and for playing games. We even have a screening gazebo for events during the Fall, Winter, and Spring.
We have an exercise room. A no-judgment zone, which doesn’t get much use as it should. We have a library. We have a nurse’s station, and we have a beauty parlor. There are offices for administration, and our chapel is where we have our prayer services.
We encourage our elderly residents to walk as much as possible, and we try to provide extra care for those needed, such as taking residents to doctor’s appointments and shopping with them as they wish.
The far end of the property is our RV court, next to our maintenance buildings. One of which contains a clubhouse with showers, laundry machines, a stove, and refrigerators for our snowbirds. We couldn’t exist, we wouldn’t be able to exist, without our snowbirds who come from all over the country. Some stay for a week, and some stay for four months. Some paint, some help with outdoor fixtures, and some do electrical work.
We always seem to have a lot of projects going on, some of which are extensive and some of which don’t require any particular training. We use mechanics, seamstresses, those experienced with concrete, and lots of general laborers. One of our big projects was building a back gate for the back of the property, primarily used for exiting and not for entering.
Throughout the Winter, we have special days of fun, like our Country Game Day. We play shuffleboard, ping-pong, cornhole, horseshoes, and other games. We also have an annual staff/volunteer picnic at a local park. We also have an annual volunteer appreciation night. We have other visitors, too, from time to time, but as long as you keep your eyes posted, you watch where you walk and watch where you fish, the vultures won’t get you.
Many residents ride around the property on their bicycles or just take a daily walk. They enjoy the scenery and the palm trees.
We have our own website for those interested in learning more and possibly coming down to volunteer for a bit. You say, you went through all of that? Yes, because as much as I am looking for people to go overseas and work in tribes, we also need volunteers. We probably have less than half the staff we need.
It’s not a very sought-after position to work in the U.S. It’s not a very sought-after position by churches to want to support missionaries who work in the U.S. The only way we keep functioning every year is by all those volunteers who come on down. They bring their RV, set up in our RV court, and we’ve got complete hookups and everything. You know what, there’s not a lot I can do, but I can help. And we get two-thirds of our yearly work done during the three and four months of the winter when all of our snowbirds come down.
So, if you’ve ever thought about that, actually, you might not want to come to Florida during August and October because there’s these nasty things called hurricanes that show up. But January, February, March is a great time to come. So, come on down.
After telling His disciples how difficult it will be to live the Christian life in this world, Jesus gives some more of those all-in statements that I referred to earlier. He then talks about the team in a way never expressed before. Matthew 10:37-42,
“Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward,
You got to wonder, what are they thinking here? What is He getting to?
and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
There are a lot of different parts of a team, and they’re all needed. The number of missionaries being sent by this country has been decreasing rapidly in the last ten years. Yeah, we can blame a lot of things on the baby-boomer generation, but they’re not getting replaced. There are not many from the generations that follow them that want to go overseas. There’s some, praise the Lord, but there’s less and less all of the time. Those willing to work here and be in full-time ministry are less and less all the time.
I mentioned this during the Sunday School class, but there are not that many Christian parents anymore who say to their children, man, I hope at least one or two of you want to enter into full-time service as a missionary or as a pastor. It’s just not common. What’s common among Christian parents is, look, I want you to walk the straight and narrow. I want you to get good grades in school and buckle down so that you can go to a good college and get a great education and have a good job when you get out. It kind of sounds to me like maybe the parents of the Rich Young Ruler.
They want to make sure their kids have a comfortable life. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, nothing wrong with being rich. Jesus and the disciples depended upon some women with means to support their ministry while they were here when they were doing their ministry for those three years and afterward. But if God is calling you to something else, or calling your children, don’t hold them back. Don’t hold yourself back.
God promises to reward every act of service. He remembers and rewards every one. He’s calling members to join His team here and be all in. I want to thank you for being part of our team. You, too, will share in the rewards of the church planting efforts that Susan and I have supported.
In the 39 years that Susan and I have been members of the New Tribes Mission, and then Ethnos 360, we’ve had no salary. Now that’s not a plea for help or a point of begging or bragging. It’s just simply a fact.
We have depended upon the Lord to give us what we need when we needed it. He did that faithfully in a number of ways, and one of the ways is through the sacrificial giving of this church. Your gifts and prayers have provided for our needs and help to sustain us through our own trials, discouragements, and times of rejoicing. But the point is, I say that because of what He’s done for us, He’ll do for everyone who trusts Him for it. He’ll do it for others. He’ll do it for you.
If God has ever prompted you about going all in full-time, don’t rationalize it. Don’t say okay, after or when the time is right because if He’s prompting you, then there’s a reason. Don’t be afraid to go all in.
Parents, don’t be afraid for your children to go all in. Yeah, it might mean that you won’t get to see them as much. You might not get to see your grandchildren as much. Could they have any better life?
Church, don’t be afraid for some of your people here that say, maybe, I am thinking about going all in. See, yeah, but we need you here. I’ve heard that from churches, too. Yeah, God, take one of those people—they don’t do much, but don’t take them because we need them here. I don’t think that’s the way the team is supposed to work.
I don’t want you to mistake this for a farewell speech. We’re not done. We’re still going on. But we never know when the Lord will call any of us home. Therefore, we want to take the opportunity to say, as Paul said to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 1:11. I’ve got this in the Bible in Basic English. It says,
You at the same time helping together by your prayer for us; so that for what has been given to us through a number of persons, praise may go up to God for us from all of them.
Please think, God has so many things to do here in this area, and if you’re staying here, be involved in every bit of it. Sharing the Gospel, being a part of building up the body of Christ here, but at the same time, challenging each other and others as to who it is God might be prompting to leave here and go elsewhere because the work is not done.
Remember, at the end of the age, what does He say about the Church? The bride hath made herself ready. I ask you, how does the bride make herself ready? She’s clothed in the righteousness of Christ. That’s not it. Can’t do anything to make herself worthy.
Well, Jesus gave one command to the Church when He left the bride. Go into all the world, preaching the Gospel, baptize them, teaching them all that I have taught you. Right? That’s how the bride makes herself ready. That’s how the Church finishes the job through the power of God.
Again, we thank you. If you want to know more about any of it, then I’ll be glad to share with you. We thank you. And if you disliked anything that I had to say today, then it’s my wife’s fault because she’s not here.
Let’s pray. Lord, I thank You so much that Your offers to us, Your offers to Your church, have never changed. Lord, there are so many things that You’re wanting to do through us, but first, in us. We thank You for that. We thank You for Your faithful to always reward acts of service and to always be there with every grace, everything that’s needed, for us to do what You want us to do. Lord, again, we thank You for this church. I pray that You just continue to guide them, bless them, and use them to be a light on a hill, a lamp set on a lampstand, for all to see in this area. Lord, I pray especially that you will raise up two or three more people from this church in the next five years to enter into full-time service as a pastor or a missionary, Lord, not afraid to follow You. Lord, we love You, and we praise You. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.