MARCH 6, 2024

Dear Friends,

First things first this week. You’re about to lose an hour. Sorry about that.

Now, on to weightier matters.

I’ve been thinking this week, ever since Cole’s message on Sunday, about Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler.

As Cole said, this young, powerful, wealthy man saw himself as self-sufficient. Whatever he needed in life, he was able to provide for himself.

But even rich young rulers have to deal with the big existential questions in life: Where did I come from? Why am I here? And What happens to me when I die? These are questions that, as hard as they may try, scientists cannot answer for us. Philosophers have speculated for centuries about them. And at some point, each of us has to decide what we believe about these matters. What we believe about these things will ultimately shape how we live and the choices we make.

The rich young ruler was grappling with one of these existential questions when he came to Jesus. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he wanted to know. Apparently, he believed that there is life beyond the grave. And apparently, he presumed that, as with everything else in his life, he had whatever resources were necessary to meet whatever requirement there might be for someone to spend eternity with God.

Jesus responds to the inquiry by pointing this young man first to the requirements of the law. The Bible teaches that eternal life is available to all who keep God’s law.

That’s still true today. Anyone who keeps God’s law will inherit eternal life.

But of course, we don’t. We all fall short. “There is none righteous,” the Bible tells us. “No, not one.” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The law lays out for us God’s standard. And anyone who holds up his life next to God’s standard should come away with the obvious conclusion: I can have no part in the inheritance because I, by nature and by desire, do not keep God’s law.

The law was given by God to help us see our need. To show us that we fall short. It was intended to create in us a sense of despair that would ultimately drive us to Jesus.

But when Jesus points the rich young ruler to God’s commandments, the young man responds with confident assurance. “I’ve kept them all since my youth,” he tells Jesus. As someone who has stood out among his peers throughout his life, this young man is confident that he is on the Dean’s List when it comes to righteousness.

The problem is, the law this man thinks he has kept perfectly is the law of God reinterpreted by the Pharisees. Over time, the religious leaders had both dumbed down and added to God’s commandments. God had given the law in part to show us that perfect righteousness was a standard we could not achieve. The religious leaders fixed the problem by adjusting that standard, leaving many in Israel smugly self-confident in their own self-righteousness.

The next part of the story is key.

When the rich young man claims that he has kept God’s law perfectly from his youth, Jesus doesn’t add a new requirement to the list. Selling all you have and giving it to the poor is not the 11th commandment.

No, Jesus goes right back to the source. To the law. What is the first commandment? You shall have no other gods before me. Let’s see, Jesus says, if you’ve kept that one.

As Cole pointed out on Sunday, Jesus was holding up God’s law to help this young man see his own sinful heart. This self-sufficient young man who thought he had it within his power and ability to acquire whatever he needed in life was brought face to face with the idolatry of self-sufficiency. He loved his money and possessions because they kept him from having to be dependent on anyone else – including God. This man didn’t need to pray for daily bread. He had the resources necessary to buy all the bread he wanted.

An idol is anything that you love or value more than God. An idol is where you run first when you face trials or hardship in life. Where you go to look for joy or peace in life is a great indicator of just who or what your god is.

This young man’s riches, which gave him his sense of self-sufficiency, were his idol. His god. If the choice was to depend on God as His provider or to depend on his own riches, he was going to hang onto his bank account. His whole life was a statement that he had at least one other god before the one true God. The man who claimed to have kept God’s law perfectly since his youth was tripped up by the first of the Ten Commandments.

John Calvin said that the human heart is a perpetual idol factory. We must be at war against this perpetual idolatry that seeks to derail us spiritually. We are drawn away from God to give our primary attention and affection to lesser things. In fact, as Tim Keller has pointed out, even good things can become idols.

“The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.

“An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

I trust you’re not like the rich young man in Mark 10, confident that in your own righteousness and self-sufficiency, you have what you need to inherit eternal life. I trust you are not blind to the idols, the “stuff of earth” that as singer songwriter Rich Mullins said “competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things.”

And I trust you are not only aware of the idols all around each of us, but that you are also fighting to resist their pull. You shall have no other gods before God. That’s a good commandment to obey today and every day.

The men’s retreat is this weekend! It looks like we’ll have good weather to go along with some great food, great fellowship and great Bible teaching from Pastor Trent Griffith.

If you haven’t signed up yet, we have five beds still available. And if money is an issue, we have scholarship funds available. At this point, contact Pastor Matt directly to let him know you’d like to attend. Or text him at (859) 771-6581.

Are you planning to attend our All-Church Business Meeting on Sunday? If not for the business, then for the Cheesecake Factory cheesecake?

We’ll be updating you on our current priorities and our finances, as we look back and look forward to what we believe God has for us as a church in the months and years ahead.

Sunday, March 10 at 4:00 pm. I hope you’ll plan to come.

Easter is three weeks from this Sunday. Here’s a reminder of what’s happening that weekend.

I hope you’ve started praying for two or more people or families you could invite to our Good Friday or Easter Sunday services. Or if your friends have elementary aged children, you could them to the Saturday Resurrection Rally.
One easy way to invite folks is by giving them a copy of my new Easter book as a gift.

The books, along with invitation cards, will be available at church again this Sunday. You can get two books for a total of $5. It’s a great gospel giveaway, and a great way to open the door for a gospel conversation with your friends.

You know there’s an eclipse coming, right?

Monday, April 8, the whole city will be shutting down midday for an astrological phenomenon that doesn’t happen very often. Kids will be out of school. Some businesses will be giving folks the day off. And people from all over the country will be coming to Arkansas to be in the path of the eclipse.

All over town, there will be eclipse watching parties.

So we thought “maybe we should have a party of our own!”

So here’s the plan. Bring the kids, bring your neighbors, and head to our playground area for the first (and only) Redeemer Total Eclipse of the Sun (not the Heart) viewing event.

We’ll cook hot dogs and have bags of chips and bottled water for you. And we’ll also provide you with the special glasses you’ll need to view the eclipse safely.

And that’s the tricky part.

To make sure we have glasses available for you that day, we need some idea of how many of you are interested in bringing the family and getting together for the eclipse.

Click here and let us know if you’ll be joining us. The deadline to sign up (and get glasses) is still a few weeks away. We need to know if you’re planning to come no later than March 23.

Eclipses are always more fun when you experience them with friends, right?

Thank you for your ongoing faithfulness and generosity in giving to support the ministry of our church. Here’s our monthly financial update, with more coming during the business meeting this week.

February Giving: $25,245
February Expenses: $90,891*
Year to Date Giving: $57,559
Year to Date Expenses: $131,796
Balance on Hand on 2/29/24 $165,510

* This number includes roughly $51,000 given annually to support international outreaches and ministry

Ladies. Get out your calendars RIGHT NOW and save this date:

And as long as you have your calendar out, mark this date down as well. A special dinner date in April for you and your sweetheart. More details soon. For now, save the date.

How can you tell if a church is dead or alive? Is it obvious to everyone? Jesus has a sober message for the church in ancient Sardis, a church that looked like it was alive but was really dead. What can we learn for our church from His letter to them? We’ll see this Sunday.

See you in church.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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