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Moving From Ruler to Steward – Book of Mark

By Pastor Marcus Brown

Table of Contents

How many of you guys have been excited about Living in the Word this year? We’ve been going through the Gospel of Mark, and it’s like we’re climbing a mountain together.


We’re going to summit that mountain together around Easter when we get into Mark 16. But along the way there have been a few prizes and a few things that the Holy Spirit continues to reveal to us. And I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before that I’m going, “Oh!” Have you ever read the Bible and said, “I didn’t know that! I never saw that before!” A lot of times I’ll read through the Bible every year and get to something and think, “Oh, I’m seeing it for the first time.” 


There is something God wants us to get today. This one is going to be a hard passage because it’s going to hit about 99% of the people in this room.


This is one of the strongest teachings by Jesus, and for you to receive it, you’re gonna need to receive it like in the presence of God, not distracted, letting the Lord deal with your heart and give you a vision around money and possessions. 


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?” 


How many of you know you can’t do anything, right? It’s a free gift. Look at what Jesus says; I love him!


“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.


He just got to the first part. That wasn’t even the question. Do you know that sometimes you ask Jesus a question, and He doesn’t answer you? He just gives you a question right back to you. You ask him a question. He asks you a question because there’s something for you to learn instead of something for you to get answered. Jesus continued:


“No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.” “Teacher,” he declared. “All these I’ve kept since I was a boy.” 


He’s like, “I got it.”


Jesus looked at him and loved him. 


This is a genuine love. This isn’t like, “Bless your heart!” You know what I’m saying? “Bless your heart” is a southern way of saying, “You’re a little stupid.” 


“One thing you lack…”


Isn’t Jesus a gentleman here? But then it’s like he’s gonna take the knife and stick it in his belly! 


“Go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you’ll have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” At this, the man’s face fell. 


Can you get this image? He’s like, I did this when I was a boy. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor. 


It was like his countenance fell, his body language changed, and his face fell. He went away sad. 


That means he’s walking in a cloud of gloom. He went away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around at the disciples and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 


The disciples were amazed at his words, but Jesus said again. “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” 


It’s easier, now that you’ve heard this phrase, this is Hebrew humor, so to lighten what is going on, this guy leaves sad, there’s tension, and this would be, the Hebrews, they would just bust out laughing.


It’s easier for a camel, how many of y’all heard this growing up? It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. And the disciples were even more amazed and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus said to them, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”


Then Peter, I love it, he just opens his mouth all the time. Who relates to Peter in the Bible? Raise your hand. Some of you are like, I relate to Jesus. Alright, shut up. Alright, so, Watch, 


Peter spoke up. “We have left everything to follow you.” 


He’s just saying, “I’m better than that guy, you know.”


We’ve left everything to follow you. 

Now watch this, 


“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much In this present age, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields.” 


Watch, he’s gonna name something you don’t get on Christian television, along with persecutions, right? 


The Dogtown translation says, mo money, mo problems, y’all know what I’m talking about? Along with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are last, many who are first will be last, and the last will be what? First. 


Y’all have a seat and let’s dive into this. When I grew up in the dirty south, we had Easter egg hunts at Easter.


And you have some religious people get mad at Easter egg hunts, “It’s pagan!” But that’s what we did. If your community, you had a community wide Easter egg hunt. If your church, you know, wanted to reach people, we’d do an Easter egg hunt. Now the Easter egg hunts are lame and tame because they, they’ve moved to plastic eggs.


And that’s where it started going downhill. The plastic eggs with candy in them. When I go to an Easter egg hunt and there’s plastic eggs, I just eat the candy and throw the egg back down. Amen? Let the kids know the tomb is empty. Praise the Lord. But when I grew up, Mamaw boiled the eggs in ink. It was sour ink, and it was ink that was banned in every other nation but Louisiana. And so she would boil them in the sour ink, and then we’d draw on them, and then we would hide them. Then, we’d pick up all the eggs, but some were prize eggs. Y’all remember prize eggs? Raise your hand.


And the elders, they always hid the prize eggs in ant beds and yellow jackets nests. They’d be on top of an electric pole. Like, if you wanted a prize egg, you had to be willing to lay your life down for it. As it should be, and all the men said, “Amen.” I’m hiding the eggs this year. Alright. Here’s the eggs. I want you to see the Easter eggs God has for us. 


Watch how this guy approaches Jesus. 


As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 


When you are reading the Gospel of Mark, time after time, the people who have an encounter with Jesus have two things that you cannot miss. Watch! This is important: They have pursuit and they have posture.


You don’t encounter Jesus because you need Him. The needs were everywhere. The people who had a divine encounter with Jesus, they got pursuit right. That meant they go, “I’m gonna get as close to Jesus as I can possibly get to Jesus.” So you see this terminology. They ran to Him. The woman with the issue of the blood worked her way through the crowd and got to him.


The demoniac ran and fell at his feet. The leper ran from the gates and worshiped him at his feet. You’ve got to see this because the things they have in common are not age, gender, or need. There were people there who needed a miracle, people who needed healing, people who needed to be delivered from demons and demonic strongholds in their life, people who needed salvation, and people who needed wisdom.


And the people who got it are doing two things right: Pursuit and posture


So here’s my question for you. How is your pursuit of Jesus in 2024? 


We’re not just getting started. Fifteen percent of the year is gone! Did you know that? I just felt like it was just January. I just wrote down my resolutions.


15 percent is gone. How’s your pursuit? Do you still have a drive to get close to Jesus, to be in His presence, to be as close to Him on earth as you possibly can? Not waiting to heaven to get a little bit of something, but get a little bit of heaven here on earth. How’s your posture? 


These people knew how to pursue Jesus and get low when they got to Him. That meant they would fall at his feet, touch the hem of his garment, get on their knees and worship. This is a posture of humility. This is in our life, when you need Jesus, go after Him. When you need Jesus, humble yourself before Him. I’m gonna humble myself, or I’m gonna be humble. How’s the pursuit? How’s the humility? 


I once had a teal green Ford Taurus. It had character! You see, it was in a hailstorm, and then I drove that thing for years because it was paid for. How many paid-for people we got in here? It’s paid for. I hate car notes! I’ll drive a hoopty any day. It’s just got to be paid for. 


What I loved most about that teal green Ford Taurus was when I took a hard left turn, the trunk would pop open! I loved it! And that’s why Brooke would say, “Marcus, take the kids to school.” And the kids would say, “Mama, we’ll wait on you.”


And I would jump in, “No, I got you today!” Because I knew the thing I loved the most in this gift that Jesus gave me was when I made a hard left turn into the school! Boom! The trunk would pop open! So I would intentionally get up to about 20 miles an hour, hit a hard left turn, the trunk would pop open, it would go up, and the kids would go down. Praise the Lord! You’re one hooptie away from humility.


So in this story in Mark 10, this guy needs something from Jesus. He’s pursuing him. He’s getting it right. He’s humbling himself. He’s falling at his feet. And Jesus is going to talk to him about possessions, finances, the things that get attached to our hearts, and, therefore, the things that must get detached from your heart.


Jesus gets real with him, but this guy does not get it! And this is what made me pray all week long. I wonder how many people don’t get this right because not everybody who gets into the presence of God are better off because they got into the presence of God. 


It’s the people who get into the presence of God and then let God do everything He wants to do. Those are the people who are better off.


So, you can say, “Hey, I got in the presence of God today.” But if you didn’t answer the whisper of the Holy Spirit, you can walk out of here worse than you walked in because that’s what happened to this guy. He’s got his posture right. He’s got some pursuit right. But Jesus has got some things to tell him.


This man is known as the rich young ruler. It’s in three of the Gospels. Mark calls him a rich man. Luke calls him a ruler. He was probably a ruler in the synagogue. Matthew calls him a young man. That’s how we put it together. He is a rich, young ruler. He is really advancing in life. He’s moving quickly through life.


I’ll tell you what I think. I’m in a gray area, meaning that I can’t prove it biblically, but I think, through church tradition, that this is John Mark writing about himself. So he gets it right later. But Jesus looks at him, and he loves him. When Jesus, listen to me. When Jesus talks to you about the things in your life, He’s not trying to get something from you. He’s trying to get something for you. 


So Jesus looks at him, and before He teaches on this subject to this rich young ruler, He loves him. He has compassion on him because Jesus wants something far greater than our possessions. He wants our hearts. Either i is going to have our hearts, or possessions are going to have our hearts. Something is going to rule our hearts. 


This is a huge message for all of us. This is why: you need to change the way you see yourself. 


1. I am Rich.


When you read this story, you might wonder, what character am I in the story?


I am the rich young ruler. 


You might be thinking, well, I’m not young. A lot of people immediately think, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m not rich. Being rich is a moving target! When I was making 30 grand a year, I I thought, if I could make 50. I would never even pray for anything else again! Then I made 50. Then I thought, God, how about 75? You know? Then I thought, If I ever made 6 figures, If I ever made 100, I’d be so rich that people would hate my guts


When Brook and I got married, we didn’t have kids for six years. We were doing ministry, and we were running some businesses, and we had seven streams of income coming into our home with no crumb snatchers eating it up. We just had money after money. We really had more than we needed, and it was accumulating fast, and I was thinking, “I’ll never make more than I’m making right now.”


One day in my quiet time, the Lord whispered to me and just challenged me. He said, “Every time you see a missionary, I want you to give them this figure.” And I thought, Great! I don’t know any missionaries! 


But I remember, day after day He kept laying this on my heart because it’s not the way I see myself! When we see people who are more wealthy, or significantly more wealthy, we nod and say, “They’re the ones who are rich. I’m not the one who is rich, but maybe if I ever got to their level, I would be rich.” The whole time, God looks at us sitting in this building and says, “No, you’re rich.”


Ecclesiastes 5:19 says: 


Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.


If you’ve got money in your bank account, things you own, and the ability to enjoy having those things, you’re rich, all right? Now, some of you aren’t there yet, so just say this, “I might be rich.”


Listen to me. We are all blessed by God. Blessed! You might not be happy where your lot is in life, but I promise you, there are about 7 billion people who would trade their life with yours, sight unseen, right now, and they’d have a smile on their face. I am genuinely blessed by God and rich. Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:


Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 


You’re not commanded to get rich, but you are commanded by God to be rich. What does it mean to be rich? He says to be rich in good deeds. And to be generous and willing to share. I love that!


In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.


In this passage, he’s talking about three things you have: wealth, possessions, and the ability to enjoy what God gave you. I’m rich, and I’m the guy in this story. So when you look at your life, you go, “If I’m the guy in the story, (or the lady in the story), then what gets scary is that Jesus said, It’s hard for people like me and you to enter the kingdom of heaven.”


And there is a big miracle that stands in the way from us fully giving our lives over to Jesus. And here’s the miracle. God has to detach our hearts from the things of the world. So, observation number one, I’m rich. Observation number two: 


2. I must move from ruler to steward. 


This is my favorite part of the story, when Jesus explains to the disciples what happens. You see, if the rich, young ruler would have been open to Jesus, he could have walked away as a disciple who was a rich, young steward. That’s what I have to move. This is my discipleship. This is my spiritual maturity. 


At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “It’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children…”


Do you not see how funny this is? Alright, this would be like me talking to Robert over here, and I say, “Robert, alright, you know, it’s hard for people in the kingdom of heaven.”


And Robert goes, “What?” And I respond, “Alright, child.” Like, Jesus looked at these full grown men and called them “children.” Nobody wants to be an adult at the table and God goes, “Alright kids, I’m gonna have to take the cookies and put them on the bottom shelf where you can understand this.”


This is unforgettable language. The disciples would reflect on this later, “You remember that day Jesus told us we were babies? Do you remember that day?” Why did Jesus have to say it this way? Because Jesus was saying, “You’re grown men, but on this subject, you’re so immature that I’m going to have to start down here and build your spiritual maturity around stuff.” So he calls them kids. 


Now I had a 6th grade History teacher, Miss Henry. In History class, Miss Henry was a sweet old lady. Well, sweet is debatable, but she was, she was a lady. And when she got frustrated with our class, she would be writing on the board, and Miss Henry would turn around and she’d say, “Class! Class, I’ll slap ya.” And I loved it! Every time. “Class, I’ll slap ya.” 


I still tell it like that to my kids today. “Class, I’ll slap ya.” Unforgettable language. Jesus would do this at times when they weren’t getting something. Do you remember that Jesus turned around to Peter one day and he goes, “Get thee behind me. Satan.”


Do you think that Peter ever forgot it? I would have never let him forget it. I would have said, “Peter, remember that time he called you the devil?” I mean, it was so great! I would have nicknamed him El Diablo. Everywhere he went, it was just like, “Peter!” No matter whatever else he did great in his life.


I mean, the church’s birth through his ministry, I would go, “Peter! You’re like this far from being the devil, right?” This is unforgettable language. And this is what Jesus was saying. You can be fully grown and still be immature when it comes to money. Just because you have a lot doesn’t mean that you’re mature around the issue of finances.


You can be rich and a child when it comes to Jesus around this subject. The way you look at money, the only way that you can be mature is to say, “I’m going to look at my wealth and my possessions, everything I own, the way that Christ Jesus looks at it.


Here’s the first test on whether you’re a ruler or a steward: 


It’s all God’s. 


It’s not just 10 percent that belongs to God. All of it is God’s. It’s all God’s. I can have wealth, but wealth cannot have me. I can have it. I can earn it. It cannot dominate my thoughts, my life, the direction of my life, how I make decisions. It cannot have me. 


I’m an obedient steward. I know how to earn it, plan it, give it, spend it, save it, invest it. I’m not a ruler, I’m a steward, I’m not a reservoir, I’m a conduit. Brook and I have practiced this since we’ve been married. We just said, “We’re gonna be tithers.”


I see tithing before the law, during the law, and after the law. So we’re going to tithe. Then we’re going to plan, budget, save, listen to those whispers of the Holy Spirit, and give. But let me tell you something, I know you guys think that I’m really spiritual all the time, but it’s Brooke. It’s a little annoying, but it’s her. 


On the other hand, for me, about once a year, I have to move from being ruler again. What my flesh wants to do is climb back on top of the throne of my life. It takes me about one year to where God and I have a long conversation, and I just get this right. It sounds something like this: “Okay God. I know my flesh is wanting me to rule, so this is what I’m going to do, God. I’m going to be a steward and submit my finances and this part of my life to you.” 


We want to help you do that around this house. At New Life, I see a lot of people who think (and some even say), “I just, I want to give, but I can’t.” For most of you who are living this way, it’s not because you’re stingy; it’s because you’re strapped. And then it gets embarrassing to let everybody know, “I cannot do this, I’m in bondage. I’m barely making it week to week.” 


If that’s you, let us help you. Get a Connect Card, and put your name, address, and phone number on it. We’re going to start a Financial Peace class around here, maybe in a classroom, probably a Zoom online. All of your financial problems are addressed in this book. 


When you line up your finances according to the Word of God, and you move from ruler to steward, this is the way you walk in freedom. It’s not too late. If you start walking in freedom, this will have an effect on your kids, and then they’ll walk in it. And then their grandkids will walk in it. But at first, it takes you admitting, “I need help.” Put the Connect Card in a box or in a bucket, and we’ll get in touch with you. Let us help you walk in freedom. 


Observation number three:


3. I must live a life of surrender. 


Watch how the rich young ruler starts this conversation: “Good Teacher,” he asked. Doesn’t that sound great? He calls him “good teacher.” I like it! If you walk up to me and say, “Hey, I love you, good Pastor!” I’d think, “Alright! Let’s go!” It sounds cordial! It sounds Southern. He’s been raised with manners!


He falls down at the feet of Jesus. He says, “Good Teacher.” But one thing Jesus will never do in your life is put up with flippant flattery. He doesn’t put up with token respect. I believe that a lot of people have token respect towards Christ; think they’re saved because they have this little flippant type of respect for Him. 


And Jesus responds, “Why are you calling me ‘good’? No one is good except God alone.” So Jesus was saying, “I don’t want to just be a good teacher. I want to be God.” This whole conversation was about Jesus challenging him to move from token respect to lordship, and the only way he could do that was to surrender. That was it. Jesus was saying something like, “I’m gonna test this respect, and here’s how: sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” Then, for him to obey, he would have to think that Jesus is God. 


Just because Jesus is good to you, that doesn’t mean that He is God to you. He might be good to you in your mind, but He’s only God to you when you have Christ-centered surrender in your life. Just because He’s good to me, that doesn’t mean that He is God to me. 


Here in my pocket is my key fob to New Life Church. This is my favorite thing in my pocket because when I show up on the property, I can go into the student building. I can go into the Little Life area. I can go into the offices. There are secret passages into the building that you don’t know about. I can go anywhere around here. Now there are different colored ones, but this one right here: it gives me access. It makes me feel important


When I have a bad day, I just hold it in my hand. I think, “I am somebody.” But when I got this blue key fob, the guy that issued it to me was in a hurry. He said, “I’m in a hurry. I gotta be somewhere.” And I said, “I gotta be able to get in the church!” And he said, “Okay,” but he was in such a hurry that he gave me a key fob that I can get into all the campuses at New Life Church! Eighteen different locations! 


“Beep, beep.” That’s my favorite sound in the whole world. “Beep, beep.” I get in. Sometimes I just pull off the road and go to a campus I’ve never been to. “Beep, beep.” I just love it. I think I’m somebody. I taught at NLC School of Ministry at Cabot. I’ve never been to Cabot, but as I walked up, somebody was gonna open the door for me. I said, “No, no, no need.” And I went, “beep, beep.” They didn’t even know who I was, but they know I’m a big deal, you know, because I got this key fob.


Here’s surrender: It’s that you say, “God, You have the master key fob of my life. There are no rooms in my life that You can’t walk in and be the biggest deal in that room. You can walk into any area in my marriage, in my personal life, in my thought life, in my financial life, in my work life. You have total access to every area of my life. And if you want to walk in that area and boss me around, you can. Because my life is surrendered to you.”


And that’s what He’s going to do. He’s going to put you to a test. You’ll make a decision between God and money. Between God and personal ambition. Between God and worldly love. And when you move Jesus to second place, and the third row, and the back row, then He’s only good; He’s not God


When He’s God in your life, you’re saying, “I’ve given You the key fob to every area of my life. I fall at your feet. I’m pursuing you, and I’m humbling myself, but I’m doing that one extra thing that gives me a life transformation. I’m surrendered to you.” 


We get this so wrong in the South. We have full lives, and we try to add Jesus to a full life, but that’s religion. But when you come to Jesus and say, “I empty my life before you,” He responds, “Great! Now I have something I can fill.” 


This guy was being invited into discipleship. I think he had an invitation to be one of the disciples. A lot of people say, “Well, Jesus would never ask us to do that.” NO, people left everything and followed Him. Peter did. James did. John did. Zacchaeus did. But this guy walked away with a cloud of gloom.


My challenge for you is, if you want to be a disciple of Jesus in this house, then where is that full surrender? Get your pursuit right, get your posture right, and get surrender right. 


Maybe today you would say, “Yes, this is a battle for me. I’m under financial pressure; there’s a lot in my life right now.” It’s keeping you up at night, your mind is spinning in the morning, and it’s the topic of some of the arguments in your house. I want you to surrender, yet this sermon is more than money and possessions. 


Or, you may have money and possessions in order, but there may be other areas of your life where Jesus doesn’t have access, where you haven’t surrendered, where you don’t allow Jesus to boss you around. There are no private parts to your life, when you’re surrendered to God. There are no locked doors to the Holy Spirit. Everything is open and laid bare before Him.


Father, God, I pray for those who are in financial tension, pressure in their life. Your word says, “He who the Son sets free will be free indeed.” So I pray freedom as they surrender their lives over to You. I pray for your wisdom and freedom to come into their lives in the name of Jesus. It’s not going to be all at once, but this is the first step towards that freedom. In Jesus name, Lord, we surrender our lives to You. 


Put your hand on your heart. If you mean that, just whisper that prayer to the Lord. 


Jesus, I surrender my life, I surrender my home, I surrender everything to You. I choose today to live a life in obedience and submission to You.


You’ll never regret it. You’ll get free. There are so many people that you’ll be able to bless and reach. Your life will be a ministry here, around the state, all over this nation, in the world. God is going to use you. We’ll get to heaven and say, “That day, on February 25th, it was worth it, God, living in surrender to You.”

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