Lies Christians Believe (Part 5): The Stuff Mart

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  August 7, 2011
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We are in the middle of a series that I've called, "Lies Christians Believe." Lord willing, this fall we will return to our verse-by-verse study and going to be going to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 to 7. But this summer I've chosen to sort of take us through how we are influenced by the world around us; how our thinking is shaped by the world in which we live.

I think, in many ways, our society is captured in the original opening scene of Donald Trump's reality show the apprentice. A large plane, with his name emblazoned on it, lands of the airport in a ridiculously expensive Mercedes comes racing up the runway and screeches to a stop at the plane. And out of plane steps the essence of human success and achievement, the Donald. The music track for all of this was the OJ's song, "Money, money, money." That really is the backdrop for the culture in which we live. It is the prevailing mindset and attitude of American life. It is symptomatic of what our culture has become.

Recently, the Pew Center for Research asked 18 to 25 -year-olds what are the important goals of their generation. Eighteen to twenty-five with life ahead of them. What are the important goals which lie before you? The top two answers were at 81% of 18 to 25-year-olds say becoming rich. The second important goal that 18 to 25-year-olds at 51% was becoming famous. Rich and famous. 'That's what life is all about say the 18 to 25-year-olds of America today. By the way at 81% wealth was two times more important than helping people. It was four times more important than becoming a leader in the community. And it was eight times more important in the survey than becoming a more spiritually deep person. The culture we live in has bought the lie. And tragically many Christians are inviving it as well.

We began our study of this series lies Christians believe by looking at Romans 12:2. If you weren't here, when we did that, I encourage you go back and catch up, go back and listen to that message because it really lays the foundation for what we're doing this summer.

But let me just briefly remind you that in Romans 12:2 Paul tells us because of what is happened to us, because of God's mercy in Christ, we are to resist the thinking of our age. Romans 12:2 says do not be conformed to this "ion," this age. Don't be conformed to the thinking of the age. The age, meaning from the time Jesus was here until He returns, but also, used more specifically of the specific mindset and values and attitude of our day. The day in which we live.

Don't allow the mindset of your age Paul says, to push you into its mold. Don't be conformed. And instead he goes on to say instead we are to embrace the thinking of our God. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Renewed how? According to the will of God. The revealed will of God and his Word. "Transform" refers to a metamorphosis, a radical inward change we must allow the spirit to radically change us by renewing our thinking with God's will, revealed in God's Word.

So, in light of, that passage, we are examining this summer some of the dangerous ideas that enslave the culture around us, enslaved their minds and could easily, if were not careful, reshape our own thinking. So, were looking at the lie, and then were looking at what the Scripture teaches so that we can allow our minds to be renewed by the truth of God's Word and His will rather than enslaved by the lie around us. So far, we have examined four of these dangerous lies.

Lie number one that we covered together, truth is relative. Truth is relative, there is no absolute truth.

Number two, there are no moral absolutes. You get to choose what you think is right, and you can live by your own standard.

Number three, life is random. There's no meaning, there's no purpose. There're just random events that occur.

Lie number four, we looked at a couple weeks ago, my last time with you was the goal of life is my personal happiness. We saw instead that the goal of life is the glory of God. I exist certainly, I find happiness, and I'm made to pursue that happiness, not in things, not in life here but in God and in His glory. Anything else is idolatry and to enjoy anything in this world without reference to God is idolatry. The goal of life is personal happiness the lie says.

Today I want you to consider a fifth dangerous lie. And it's this, "Possessions Will Make Me Happy." Possessions will make me happy. The goal of life is my personal happiness, and our culture says what's going to make you happy is the stuff you own. Now as we've done with each of these I want to begin with a basic definition.

What is this lie really saying? Well simply defined this lie says that my belongings are the source of personal fulfillment and personal happiness. By possessions by the way, I mean all those things that a person can own. Think in terms of real estate or property, a company or a business, money and cash equivalents, investments, a home, an automobile, and our personal belongings like our clothes and electronics, and furniture etc. All of those are our possessions. This lie says that one or more of those things that belong to me will either create or sustain a deep personal sense of joy, satisfaction, and contentment. It's the idea that happiness can truly be found at the mall or the stuff mart, in the stock market, or in real estate, in a business that I own and run, or in a home and its belongings. And like the other lies, this idea absolutely permeates and drives the culture in which we live.

Here a few of its popular expressions. Here's how you'll hear this lie expressed around you. You'll hear somebody say, ooh, I need one of those, whatever it is - the latest thing. It's like Jay Paul Getty, the oil tycoon once said, the best things in life are things. You hear somebody say, you know I'm going to get this even I can't really afford it because I deserve it, I deserve the best. I work hard, I've earned this. I have a right to this. By the way listen to advertising and you'll be shocked at how many advertisers appeal to you to buy something on the basis of your right, your deserved, what you have earned.

Another way this lie expresses itself is by the compelling need to have it now. I don't need to put it off, I don't need to wait until I can pay for it, til I can afford it. I deserve it and need it right now. There's no sense of deferred gratification; instead, it has to be mine today. You can take it home today. Another form it takes is, I deserve to have what everyone else has. My friends have it, I deserve to have it. Why shouldn't I have it if they have it. Everybody has one of these. This manifestation, by the way, of the human heart starts out very young.

If you were to go right next door here to our nursery this morning at our church and you were to watch the toddlers barely able to talk, you wouldn't be there a few moments until you saw a fight break out between two of them about something that doesn't belong to either of them. At that early age, they've already convinced themselves that their personal happiness is tied to the possession of that object. One of the first words they learn, my kids did, and I think your kids as well, if you have them: mine. And they like to say it multiple times. Mine, mine, mine. As our kids get older we see those same tendencies. They're still in a sense desiring toys, the toys just get more expensive.

Older kids believe that their personal happiness is intimately tied to the ownership of a certain brand of clothes or shoes. Yeah, dad that I know these two look exactly alike but one is made by this manufacture, and the others made by this manufacture, and it would be awful to have to wear that. Why? Because my sense of personhood, my sense of well-being, my sense of reputation is tied to that. Or a particular brand of shoes, it's amazing to see how that comes and goes. I wish I'd kept my old shoes because they just came back in style. Then comes the compelling need for a cell phone and an iPod and iPad and I want. Whatever it is.

But this problem doesn't go way with adulthood and its maturity. There are grown adults who drive around with a bumper sticker on their car that says, the one who dies with the most toys wins. And I think some of them believe it. The symptoms of the adult manifestation of materialism are rampant. The symptoms are rampant in our culture. Let me just give you couple to think about and I'm not railing against any one of these per se. I just want you to see the atmosphere in which we live. Take our larger homes for example. You realize that 40 years ago, in 1970 the average new home was less than 1500 square feet, new home, that was built that year, less than 1500 square feet. In 2005 it was almost 2300 square feet. That means in 35 years there was an increase of more than 50% in square feet. During that same period the size of the American family dwindled.

Another symptom of adult materialism is our packed homes and our packed garages and our packed closets. We have larger homes today in America than at any point in human history. But we still don't have enough space. As one resident of Chile noted, Americans are the only people on earth who actually rent apartments to keep their things. Of she was referring to storage facilities. Americans have you, are ready for this? 2.2 billion square feet of public storage space. That is the equivalent of over 8000 superdomes packed with stuff. Alive materialism whispers in our ears, I need that bigger house. I need that newer car model. I need, here's the one I'm especially susceptible to, that latest electronic gadget.

And to finance our craving for more things Americans are borrowing more than ever for nonessentials and luxury items. You realize the amount of personal consumer debt now stands at eleven thousand dollars per household. As of 2005, for the first time since the great depression, in the 1930s Americans spent more than they made in income. In the early 80s if you were to go back, now think about this with me. If you were to go back to the early 1980s just 30 years ago, Americans saved on average about 12% of what they made. Today people under 35 spend 16% more than they make on average. In 2006 before the recession, before the housing crash, the bankruptcy rate was ten times higher than during the great depression.

We live in a culture that has embraced hook, line, and sinker the lie that possessions will make us happy. Now I give you all those statistics because it's so difficult to look from outside our times at our times. We're like, you know, a fish who doesn't know it's wet because it's surrounded by water, that's all it knows. We're like that when it comes to this pursuit of things, because it happened slowly it's honest, we don't even notice it. But if you compare it just back within my lifetime, it is changed dramatically. Americans have bought the lie that they too can be rich and famous.

Now what's the background of this idea? The philosophical background, well the erudite sort of sophisticated name for the mistaken idea that happiness is found in one's possessions, is materialism. The Oxford Shorter Dictionary defines materialism like this: it is a tendency to prefer material possessions to spiritual values. A tendency to prefer material possessions to spiritual values. It is a way of life based on material interests.

Now unlike other lies that we've studied this lie didn't primarily began as an academic philosophy. Rather it began as a popular level, cultural philosophy. Because the root of materialism is really just the fallen human heart's desire for more. It just comes with being human and being fallen. Jesus points this out in Luke 12, He makes the point that pursuing happiness and one's possessions is simply a reflection of the fallen human heart. In Luke 12 He talks about those who pursue these things and He says that's what the nations do. In the words that's what people do that's who they are, and He tells His disciples, don't live like this.

You see this is a huge issue. The human heart struggle with materialism is such a large issue do you realized that two of the Ten Commandments deal with it? The first and tenth. What does the first commandment? Exodus 20:3 you shall have no other God's before me. God says you shall have no other objects of worship in place of me or in addition to me. Most Christians don't replace God. You're not a Christian if you don't worship the true God. What we do is we add something in addition to God. As John Calvin said, I'm afraid he was sadly right when he said, the human heart is like an idol factory. We can take all of God's good gifts and turn them into idols, one after another, after another.

And one of the God's that people substitute for or add in addition to the true God is wealth and what wealth buys. Jesus talked about this didn't he? You remember in the Sermon the Mount in Matthew 6:24 He's talking about wealth, and He says no one can be a slave to two masters. That's obvious, right? You can't be a slave to two different masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other. Or he'll be devoted to one and despise the other. And here's his point, you cannot be a slave to God and wealth. You got to choose. Who are you going to be a slave to? Clearly, we can make wealth an idle.

The Ten Commandment also addresses this issue materialism. Remember the tenth commandment? Exodus 20:17 you shall not covet what? You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife – that's sexual lust. Or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. This commandment is for bidding craving anything. But it's clear that one of the common manifestations of coveting is possessions.

What are the things we're told in that commandment not to covet? Your neighbor's house that is his household his belongings, and his home itself, and the people in it. In fact, Deuteronomy five in repeating the tenth commandment adds his field, his land, his property. And it also says his male and female servants his ox and donkey. Now I'm sure none of us here have never been tempted to covet our neighbor's servants or ox or donkey.

But undersand, we're talking about an agricultural society. And an agricultural agrarian society the typical standards of wealth, the typical expressions of wealth in that culture were, guess what? Servants, oxen, livestock. So, what this commandment is really forbidding is the craving or coveting of money and its possessions, money and what money will buy. We are forbidden from craving it, and we do, and it is insidious. It doesn't matter how much you have we can still crave more.

In fact, in the early 1900s John D. Rockefeller was the wealthiest man on earth. At that time, he had assets equaling one billion dollars. Economist have tried to figure out exactly what that would be in today's terms. In today's dollars they believe John D Rockefeller had the equivalent of fortune of 200 billion dollars. Perhaps the wealthiest man ever in American history. Someone asked John D. Rockefeller one time, so you got a large estate, a lot of wealth, how much money is enough? Perhaps you've heard his revealing timeless answer John D Rockefeller with two billion dollars said just one more dollar. Just one more dollar. You see materialism is vanity, it's chasing after wind. It never satisfies.

So, the philosophical background of the sin is not some recent idea, but rather it finds its root in man's falleness. And this lie, like the other lies, has also produced some lethal consequences in the church. Let me just briefly mention four of them. What has this done in the church? This lie that our possessions bring personal happiness.

Number one personal debt has created an impediment to the advance of the kingdom. Personal debt has become an obstacle to the advance of the kingdom. In what way? It keeps people from serving in the church because they need to spend more of their time working to pay off the value of the things that they bought, their homes their cars, their possessions. It also prevents men from pursuing missions and ministry because they have become the slaves of their lenders.

Al Moler over dinner at the shepherd's conference was telling me that more and more they're experiencing at the seminary guys who want to go to seminary who want to pursue ministry aren't able to because already at that age they've accumulated a great deal of personal debt. Either through materialism or through college debt.

Number two, another lethal consequence of this lie in the church is living beyond their means has caused many Christians to stop giving or to significantly reduce their giving to worthy causes and to the church. They just don't' have it. They don't have any money because they're spending it all on this stuff.

Number three, the desire for more and bigger and newer things has in some cases undermined Christian families by drawing both parents out of the home and out of their children's lives to fund their possessions. Now I'm not saying that it's always wrong for both husband and wife work outside the home. We've talked about that in another context. That's a decision that each family has to make. What I'm saying though is, there are many times, and I think we would all agree to this, there many times when that is simply to fund a lifestyle as opposed to a compelling need.

Number four, the extravagant lifestyles of the church's members has led churches to be extravagant as well. Many churches now regularly live beyond their means. They accumulate huge debts and they build extreme facilities. So, Christians have bought into the lie personally and churches have as well. What does the Bible say in response to the lie that our possessions can make us happy? What is the biblical teaching? While what the Bible teaches about possessions I think it can be reduced to three basic propositions. Let me he briefly walking these through with you, these are not new but I hope you'll think about them in a fresh way.

Number one, God owns everything. God owns everything. There are so many passages of scripture that make this point. Let me just give you a couple examples. Deuteronomy 10:14, Moses says to the children of Israel, "Behold to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it." No exceptions no exclusions. Everything on earth belongs to God.

Job 41:11 here God is speaking at the end of Job to Job and to us, and God says, who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. God says listen, you haven't given me anything. I don't need anything from you. Everything belongs to Me. Psalm 24:1 the earth is the Lord's. This planet belongs to God and all it contains, the psalmist says. In Psalm 50:12, God says if I were hungry I wouldn't tell you. I don't need anything from you. You understand that? God doesn't need me. He doesn't need you. It's amazing that He seeks us and He seeks us out its all grace. He says, I don't need anything from you. For the world is Mine and all it contains.

Although those are just a few representative samples of the number of times Scripture drives that point home. Let me ask you sitting here today as a professing Christian do you believe those verses? Do you really believe that everything in the universe belongs to God? That everything on this planet is His? Let's get more personal. That everything you call your own belongs to Him. It really is His. You see in the truest sense you and I own absolutely nothing.

That brings us to proposition number two. Whatever we do have, belongs to God, and He gives it to us as a stewardship for this life only. Whatever we have is His, because everything belongs to Him, and He gives it to us simply as a steward for this life only. You understand we came into this world with nothing. Go over here to the nearest hospital, and go into the maternity ward, and see how much those children come with. They come with dirty diapers, and that's about it, right? Nothing, and that's how you came into the world. That's how I came into this world, and we will leave this world with nothing as well.

First Timothy 6:7 says it this way, Paul says, we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. It stays right here. I was struck by that reality as my family and I toured, as maybe some of you did, the museum exhibit of all of the things that were taken from the tomb of King Tutankhamen - King Tut. You walk through there and you see all the stuff, all this beautiful gold objects, pictures of things they hadn't brought, of chariots and all his wealth filled his tomb because Egyptian theology taught you really could take it with you, And so, by putting those things in his tomb, in the afterlife he could use them. Didn't work out so well as one writer says, his stuff is now on a perpetual tour of the world like an aging rock group, no use to him.

Perhaps you heard the story of a wealthy Texas businessman who in his will demanded a very eccentric sort of thing, that he be buried sitting at the wheel of his Cadillac. As the story goes, his money bought him that privilege, and in fact it happened. And as the Cadillac was being lowered down in the grave, there were two men who were working there at the site and prepared it, standing on the side, and as the man was sitting at the wheel of his Cadillac, and its being lowered in the ground, one of them said to the other, man that's really living. You really can't take anything with you.

So, while were here we brought nothing in we leave with nothing. While were here where do our possessions come from? Ask yourself this question: do you believe that what you own is yours because of your own efforts, because of your hard work, because of your intelligence, because of your creativity, because of your ingenuity?

If you go back to the ancient world to the time of the patriarchs, one of the wealthiest men on the planet, and even some of his possessions are listed for us, is a man named Job. In a single day, God chose to take all of that wealth away, but the remarkable thing about Job is, he knew where it all came from. Go back to Job 1. This is why God called him one of the most righteous men on the planet. Job 1:20. After he'd heard it was all lost, Job arose, Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head as signs of his sorrow, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He lost it all, and he worshiped, and notice what he said. Notice, it's a poem by the way. Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. He got it. I came in with nothing, I'm leaving with nothing. So, how did he get all that stuff? Underline it. The LORD gave. He got it, he understood. It all came from God. It was an expression of God's providence.

Isn't that exactly what Moses said to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 8? He said it is God who gives you the power to make wealth. Job got it. He understood. His possessions came from God. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD

The Bible makes this point again and again Proverbs 10:22. It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich. Doesn't mean everybody who's rich is the particular object of God's favor. It simply means that they are rich is because God made it that way. It's not their ingenuity. He's allowed it.

Hosea 2:8, God talking about Israel says, for Israel does not know that it was I who gave her the grain and the new wine and the oil, and it was I who lavished on her silver and gold which they used for veil. Israel didn't get it. Job got it, but Israel did not get it. They didn't know it was God. If you have, what you have was given to you by God. Let that sink into your mind. You brought nothing in, and you take nothing with you, and what you have right now came to you by an act of God's providence.

Let me just say by the way, don't misunderstand, all I'm saying. Being wealthy is not a sin. Having belongings is not a sin. The sin comes in how you think about it and what you do with it. Abraham was wealthy. Job we've just seen was wealthy. Solomon was wealthy. Come to the New Testament, Joseph of Arimathea was one of Jesus followers and was wealthy, loaned his tomb for Jesus' burial.

There were first century Christians in whose homes the church met who were wealthy and used their wealth for the advance of the kingdom. But understand this, if you are wealthy and frankly all of us here by the standards of the world are wealthy. Every one of us in this room, when you look at the, the seven billion people on this planet, all of us probably fall in the top 20% at least and probably more than that. If you're wealthy it is from God and if he chooses he can take it away at his discretion. He has simply entrusted those things to you as a stewardship to manage while you're here.

Number three, the third proposition, money and possessions will never bring true joy or lasting, lasting happiness. Money and possessions will never bring true joy or lasting happiness. By the way, the Bible we're going to see in a moment clearly says this. But even unbelievers understand this. Tim Castor, in a book called the high price of materialism, writes that materialistic people, and this is statistically true, are less happy and more depressed. They are more likely to abuse substances of alcohol and drugs. Gregg Easterbrook, in a book called The Progress Paradox, how life gets better while people feel worse, writes this,

"The incredible rise in living standards for the majority of Americans and western Europeans has made them more affluent, healthier, more comfortable, and sovereign over ever taller piles of stuff; but it has not made them any happier." And these books are well researched and well documented.

In fact, materialism is a lot like drugs. It's a lot like crack cocaine. There is pleasure but the pleasure is very brief, the pleasure drops off, and then all you want is more. It's like drinking salt water. Initially, it really does feel like it satisfying your thirst, but in fact it only makes you thirstier.

The Bible makes this point again and again, that what a person owns will never bring true joy or lasting happiness. Let me show you several references, and there are more I have in my notes, and I'm even going to take time to show you, And there are a lot more that I have in my notes. But turn to a couple, Proverbs. Look at Proverbs 23. Proverbs 23 look at verse four, Here's the wisdom of Israel's sages,

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, [Don't strive for riches.] Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. [It will fly away from you, pursue it, and it'll fly away.]

This is how many people spend their lives on various get rich quick schemes, various questionable investments etc. You hear the advertisements again and again on the radio for how you can be rich, and nobody else really understands it. And they're people who buy it and go. They're chasing a dream. They're chasing a bird flies away. Look at Ecclesiastes 5, Ecclesiastes 5, Solomon again makes this point and he understood money he had plenty of it but he says in verse ten of Ecclesiastes 5, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income." [Whether it's money, or the stuff money buys, it's not going to satisfy you.] "This too is vanity." [It's like breath, its gone. Here today gone tomorrow.]

In fact, here's one reason why it won't satisfy. Verse 11 see if this describes your experience when good things increase, those who consume them increase. You ever gotten a raise, and you think well that's going to put me on easy street. Now we're going to be comfortable. And a few months pass, and somehow those who consume that money have increased. It's gone. So, verse 11, what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? You're a spectator, watching the money fly away. It doesn't satisfy.

But let's listen to our Lord. Turn with me to Luke 12. In Luke 12 Jesus really hammers this. It was a busy day. Look back, look at verse one of Luke 12, "Under these circumstances," [while he's just now pronounced his woes on the Pharisees, they're looking to kill him, there were verse 1 of chapter 12] "so many thousands of people [that] had gathered together … they were stepping on one another. [In that context,] He began saying to his disciples first of all beware of" [false religion. Beware of] "the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy."

But there's another warning He wants to get, and it comes in response to a question from the crowd. This is an important day in our Lord's ministry. In the middle of that comes, frankly, an asinine question. Look at verse 13. Someone in the crowd said to him, teacher tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me. I want you to arbitrate because my brother isn't treating me fairly and how this inheritance from our parents is being handled. Tell him to do right by me.

Now, obviously, it becomes clear Jesus knew this guy wasn't motivated by justice. He was motivated by greed. And so, Jesus' response to him is, listen that's not why I'm here. Look at verse 14, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" [I'm not here to settle petty family disputes, I'm here for much more important greater things, but he uses it as a teaching time for his disciples.] Notice verse 15, He turns from the man and says to them, that is to his disciples, "Beware, and be on your guard" [look out and guard yourself] against every form of greed;" [We're not even, here's why,] "for not even when one has an abundance" [when one has more than enough, more than he needs] "does his life consist of his possessions?"

There are two different Greek words for life, one is "bios" from which we get biology. It speaks of human life existence. The other is "zoe," it's the one used here. It speaks of real life, real satisfaction. Jesus here is saying, listen, even if somebody has far more than they need, his real life, his real satisfaction, his real joy does not consist in those possessions.

We need to learn this lesson don't we? As kids, we went to the toy store, and we saw that shiny new toy that had been advertised on our favorite television program. I remember thinking particularly about that colt cap-gun with the with the ivory handles and the real smoke that came out of the end. And I remember, I can remember thinking, and I might even have said this to God – you know God, if you let me get that I'll never want anything else again in my whole life. This will be so great! And you've done the same thing.

But were not that naïve anymore. So, we smile at our kids when they do that, but somehow, we still believe the lie. It's just that our toys have become more expensive. Whatever it is you think you have to have, understand this - it will not provide lasting happiness. Just like nothing you own today ever has. Won't happen? You know when you think about how we've responded to the stuff in our world, the stuff in our life, every single one of us has to admit that we are idolaters. We have put things next to God and sometimes over God.

That's why every single one of us needed Jesus Christ to come. We needed Jesus to live a life of perfect contentment and gratitude. He never sinfully craved anything. He said I don't have My own place to call My own. And yet He was never discontent, never lived for wealth and possessions, never coveted what He didn't have. And He never placed a desire for wealth and possessions above God or beside God. He lived, and when it came to possessions, like you and I should've lived, and then He died to pay the penalty for the materialism and covetousness that mars the heart of everyone who would ever believe in Him. We needed the gospel because of our materialism.

But what we do with what we've learned this morning? How we apply it? How do we apply the truth? Let me give you several ways very quickly.

Number one, beware the damning power of materialism; beware of the damning power of materialism. Look at Mark 4 ,in Mark 4 Jesus is giving the parable of the soils, descriptions of the human heart. And there's one kind of human heart that receives the gospel, and the seed of the gospel lands and it begins to bloom. It looks like the real deal. The person says, oh I love Jesus, want to live for him, want to serve him. Yeah, I've repented of my sins, I believe, looks like the real thing but something happens. Thorns choke out the seeds so that it never grows up, it never grows to full plant.

And Jesus explains it like this in Mark 4:18. Other kinds of soils or hearts are the ones on whom the seed was sown, the gospel was sown among the thorns. These are the people who have heard the Word, they heard the gospel and even responded favorably but the worries of the world and watch this - the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful. You know what Jesus is saying? This is a serious warning. He's saying you can hear the gospel and seem to respond to it. And over time its life can be choked out in your heart by your pursuing riches and other desires.

You say what does that look like? Reread Mark 10 that we read this morning for the Scripture reading, the rich young ruler. There was a man who looked like the perfect candidate for salvation. He came with the right attitude. He came to the right person. He came with the right question. But Jesus put his finger on the issue. It was his materialism, and he walked away from Jesus, refusing to follow because he loved his stuff too much, he chocked. That Word was planted. The same thing can happen to us. If you believe the lie. If you give yourself to the pursuit of wealth and what it buys, it can choke the gospel from your heart.

Number two, as a Christian, test yourself for materialism. As a Christian test yourself materialism. Let me just remind you that since God gives wealth, wealth and even belongings are not inherently sinful. They can be enjoyed for God's glory and used wisely. So, when does the right enjoyment of God's good gifts become materialism? Let me give you a little test. Just test yourself. Let me run through them.

Number one, do you crave money and what it will buy? Is one of your goals in life to be rich? Do you believe or feel that your possessions will actually make you happy? Is there a certain standard of living or certain possessions that you believe you deserve or have a right to? Do you feel cheated, get angry, or grow bitter if you can't have certain things? Do you have a significant amount of credit card debt? Do you consistently spend more than you make? Do you focus your heart and energy on your things? If so, you may very well be guilty of materialism. You need to turn from that. You need to repent of it. Repentance may mean getting rid of your debt. It may mean getting rid of some of the stuff. You look in your closet. If it's been there two years, and you haven't used it in two years, likely you don't need it, maybe someone else can.

Thirdly, ask God to give you a heart of gratitude and contentment in what you have and in Him. You understand materialism is a temptation for you whether you are poor or whether you are wealthy or anything in between. Materialism is not temptation comes with a certain financial status. On the other hand, you can be content and grateful and be poor or be wealthy or anything in between. It's not about your financial situation. Remember God is the one who determines that. It's about how you respond to your situation. Those who are poor can be tempted to covet what they don't have and buy what they can't afford.

Those who are wealthy can be tempted to love what they have, worship it, seek more, trust in their wealth and possessions as their security. Look at Hebrews 13. The writer of Hebrews gives us very practical advice you, Hebrews 13:5, make sure that your character is free from the love of money. How do you do that? Be content with what you have. Well wait a minute, how can I be content with what I have? Four here's why: God Himself has said I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you. It doesn't matter what your financial situation is, you've got God. That's enough. That's what the writer of Hebrews is saying. So, that, we may confidently say, verse 6 the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, He's my security not my portfolio. What will man do to me?

Whatever it is you wish you had or wish you had more of or whatever it is that you crave, this is the lie you told yourself, and the lie I've told myself. My problem, my discontent is because of my circumstances. If my situation were different, then I'd be content. Understand that is a lie. Discontent is not in our circumstances it's in our hearts. Ask God to give you a heart of gratitude and contentment in what you have, and ultimately in Him.

And finally, number four, use your wealth and possessions for the advance of Christ's kingdom. Use them for the right reason.

Look at 1 Timothy 6. Earlier in verses 6 -10 Paul has dealt with the issue of the love of money and the problems that can create, but he comes back to this issue of wealth in verse 17. And what I want you to notice in verse 17, he says to Timothy listen those who are wealthy in the church of Ephesus. He doesn't condemn them. He doesn't tell them to sell everything like you did the rich young ruler, that was a test of his repentance because that was the issue in his life, but notice what he does say, If you're here and you're wealthy, and again that's all of us by the world standards. Here is what we're to do verse 17 instructs those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited. Do not think that you are wealthy because of you. "God gave," Job said. Or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches. Don't think your security in this world rests on your portfolio or your real estate or whatever it is, your business, but on God because he's the one, fix your hope on God. He richly gives us all things to enjoy.

And use your resources like this verse 18, use them to help others, to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, and ready to share. Use your wealth to help others, and verse 19, use your wealth to advance the kingdom. Store up for yourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that, they may take hold of that which is life indeed. That's Paul's way of saying what Jesus said store up your treasure where, in heaven. Invest in the kingdom use your resources for the kingdom. It's seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Don't buy the lie. Possessions will not make you happy.

Let's pray together.

Father thank you for Your Word, thank you for the solemn reminders that everything we see around us belongs to You. And by Your mercy and grace You have given to us richly all things to enjoy but to use wisely.

Lord, keep us from being conceded, from imagining that it's because of who we are that we have what we have, because what we've done. Father, don't let us fix our hope on these things, but rather on You, who has given us these things to enjoy.

And Lord, help us to use our resources to help others and to advance the kingdom. Lord, help us to control and manage the resources you've given us rather than being managed by them. For the glory of Christ, the advance of His kingdom.

We pray and in His name, amen.