Seek Good That You May Live

October 10, 2021 Speaker: Ray Lorthioir Series: Sermons 2021

Passage: Amos 5, Mark 10:7–10:12

Sermon 10-10-21

Pastor Ray Lorthioir

Trinity Lutheran Church

Based on the first lesson and Gospel for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; and Mark 10:17-22


Seek Good That You May Live

The Attorney General of the United States is a man named Merrick Garland. This past week he threatened to sic the FBI on parents protesting Critical Race Theory and mask mandates at school board meetings across the country. Some of these board meetings have become unruly, loud and ugly. But the American form of government posits that government doesn’t rule the people. Rather, it serves the people. And since more and more parents have been awakened to the Marxist infiltration of our public schools, there’s considerable action at school board meetings. But what will the threat of FBI involvement do? Is not its purpose to stifle the very dissent and protest that make the American system work for the people?

There are two disturbing things about all this. First, there is an organization called the National School Boards Association claiming to represent school board members across the country. This organization is adamant that Critical Race Theory is not being taught in public schools and is subject matter beyond the K-12 curriculum.

Yet, some enterprising reporters have re-discovered that Merrick Garland’s son-in-law is co-founder of a company called Panorama Education that from its own literature boasts that it can provide “schools and districts with a clear picture of how students, teachers, and staff are thinking and feeling about diversity, equity, and inclusion in school” through something called the Panorama Equity and Inclusion survey. If you don’t know it, the words, diversity, equity and inclusion are Critical Race theory code words. Panorama Education also brags that the student questions on the survey “are designed to be developmentally appropriate for grades 6-12.”

So, the School Board Association claims that CRT isn’t taught in schools. Yet Merrick Garland’s son-in-law runs a company that provides CRT resources to public schools. Someone is lying. That’s bad enough. But because of his family’s involvement in promoting CRT, the attorney general himself is compromised with a distinct conflict of interest in this matter. I wonder what will become of that? In a leftist administration, I’m guessing, nothing.

So, will the all-consuming legal powers of the FBI be launched against parents who are being labeled domestic terrorists? Merrick Garland says so. And what will be the effect? Will it not be to establish a lie — that there is no Critical Race Theory training in public schools, when there is — by using the unlimited resources of the FBI to suppress dissent and establish the lie?

This is only one incident. But if unopposed, where do such things lead? One of the most thorough systems ever built on lies was that of the old Soviet Union. Writing of his experience in Stalin’s Russia and beyond, Soviet dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote: “And the lie has, in fact, led us so far away from a normal society that you cannot even orient yourself any longer; in its dense, gray fog not even one pillar can be seen.” In China the present Marxist leader, Xi Jinping is again doing precisely that to his society, wrapping it ever tighter in lies.

A system built on lies is actually very brittle. Only massive repression can prop it up. As Soviet dissident and later Czech Republic president, Vaclav Havel, once wrote: “If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth. This is why [the truth]  must be suppressed more severely than anything else.”

And in so writing, Havel revealed the enormous power of this one little thing called the truth. If just enough individuals will live the truth, eventually a whole monstrous edifice of lies comes crashing down, like the Soviet system finally did in Eastern Europe.

But the best thing is not to allow a system of lies to be built in the first place. And at this point in U.S. history, that’s the juncture we find ourselves at. For instance, will the lies and false history of the 1619 Project take over public education and our national life or will the historic general truth about America prevail?

As another example, there is a provision in a bill before the present congress that the federal government be permitted to examine the activity of all bank accounts over $600. The lie is that it will prevent crime and tax fraud, while its real purpose is control — allowing the government to suppress the rights of its citizens on any charges that might be imagined by clever prosecutors. Indeed, it’s becoming ever more clear that the Lord permitted the present administration to be elected as a punishment upon America for ignoring Him and as a test to see if truth still matters to us.

Prophesying at a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen deeply into a system of lies, the prophet, Amos, wrote this in this morning’s first lesson. Amos 5:12-13, “12 For I [the Lord] know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. 13 Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.”

Yes, the times are evil and growing more evil. In the face of lies and threats, it would be prudent to hunker down, say nothing and not draw attention. But that will only permit a system of lies to be installed piece by piece until we’re entirely lost in the fog.

Marxists always project on their opponents what they are in fact doing. It’s not the moms protesting at school board meetings who are a terrorist threat to America. It’s people like Merrick Garland using the FBI as a political weapon to defend and promote Marxist Critical Race Theory who are the terrorists. That’s the truth.

So how did the Lord advise Israel in its situation, and how does He also advise us in our time? Amos 5:14-15, “14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” If we do this, perhaps He will also have mercy on the U.S. and deliver us from the Marxist conspirators.

Scripture consistently insists that only Yahweh, our Creator, has the truth about the universe He has created for us. Only He has the truth about life. And for our sake Yahweh put His truth in a personal form — a form we can understand. That truth is the man who said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” That truth is Jesus. If we seek Him, we are seeking the good in ways that go far beyond our understanding.

So, let’s discover the truth in Jesus as it’s displayed in this morning’s gospel lesson. Mark 10:17, “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?’” This is a serious question for all those who know that physical death doesn’t end everything. It’s a serious question for all who know that there is a Creator God to whom we are responsible. It’s a serious question for all who recognize the spiritual realm hidden behind material reality. It’s a nonsense question for Materialists and Marxists who recognize nothing but this material reality.

Mark 10:18, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good — except God alone.’” Jesus’ question to the man is important. Indeed, why did the man call Jesus, “good?” Obviously he saw something in Jesus. Therefore, was the man’s statement a statement of faith? Did he recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? We’re not really told. Instead, Jesus left Him and us with the tantalizing statement that only God is truly good. Therefore, if Jesus is really “good,” as the man confessed, is He God? Is that what the man thinks? We’re left to tease that out for ourselves.

Mark 10:19-20, “19 ‘You know the commandments: [Jesus continued], ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’” What’s striking about this part of the conversation is that Jesus only named commandments from the second table of the Law — the commandments that deal with our relationships with our neighbors, the people around us. Notice that Jesus did not name any of the commandments that deal with God. And this man claimed that he had obeyed the “love your neighbor as yourself” commandments since childhood. This is more evidence that Jesus knew what was in a man.

Notice also that Jesus was satisfied with the man’s answer, more than satisfied. For, we read in Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” The word translated “love" here is agape. That’s the love that stops at nothing and clears all the obstacles out of the way in order to have relationship.

But now we get to the hard part. Mark 10:21, “. . . ‘One thing you lack,’ he [Jesus] said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” Again, Jesus knew what was in a man for He correctly identified the one thing this man lacked in order to inherit eternal life, and it only indirectly had anything to do with the man’s wealth. This man lacked a relationship with Yahweh. 

To cure that problem, Jesus reached out to Him with the overwhelming love that clears all obstacles out of the way and said, “Follow me.” In other words, if you think I’m Messiah, if you think I’m the Son of God, then come close to me. I’m making room for you in my inner circle so that you may finally be able to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and spirit by being close to me. Come. Don’t let anything stop you. I’ve cleared everything out of the way to come to you, clear everything out of the way to come to me. If I am the Messiah, then I am your way your truth and your very life.

Here we have to ask why Jesus ordered this man to sell everything he had. It’s simple. Jesus had invited him into His inner circle. To be in that inner circle the man was going to have to get used to letting Yahweh supply all his immediate needs for the rest of his life as he proclaimed to the world the good news of relationship with Yahweh through forgiveness of sins in Messiah Jesus.

On the other hand, when Jesus visited the house of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, we read in Luke 19:8-10, “8. . . Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’” Notice that Jesus was satisfied that Zacchaeus gave only half his wealth away. For, Jesus said salvation had come to his house. Why didn’t Jesus demand that Zacchaeus give away all his wealth? It’s because Jesus did not invite Zacchaeus into his inner circle. Apparently, one tax collector in the inner circle, Matthew, was all Jesus needed.

But here in Mark 10, the wealthy young man was being called into Jesus’ inner circle. To do that, everything else would have to go. For this man the everything else was his wealth.

In Jesus’ time, wealthy people were considered favored by God. Indeed, King Solomon prayed to the Lord in 1 Chronicles 29:12, “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” Thus, this young man would have considered his wealth to be evidence of his good relationship with God. But, Jesus invited the man to chuck wealth as the definition of a good relationship with God and to take on a new definition of relationship with God. That definition is Jesus Himself.

Indeed, we read this in John 6:28-29, “28 Then they [the people] asked him [Jesus], ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” That would be Jesus.

Jesus also invited the man of Mark 10 to provide himself with treasure in heaven by giving away all that he had. We get a handle on this by what Jesus said in a general sense in Luke 12:33-34, “33 ‘Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’” Yes. Our hearts connect to treasure. So, if our treasures are in the attic, that’s where our hearts will be. If our treasures are in the bank, that’s where our hearts will be. But physical death will disconnect us from all our treasures. They will be someone else’s to use or throw out.

Therefore, Jesus is correct. The only permanent treasures are beyond this life. And Jesus assures us that there is life beyond this life where treasure can be stored. Only, the treasure stored in God’s Kingdom is measured solely in Yahweh’s righteousness and goodness. And, therefore, the treasure is ultimately Yahweh Himself. By urging the man of Mark 10 to store up treasure for Himself in heaven, Jesus was urging the man into a relationship with Yahweh where Jesus Himself would be the treasure.

 But we read in Mark 10:22, “At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Jesus knew the man lacked one thing, namely Yahweh Himself. Jesus offered Himself to the man so that the man would have Yahweh. But, the man could not give up the teaching he had lived with all his life — that wealth and honor are evidence of a close relationship with Yahweh — in exchange for Jesus, no matter how good the man thought Jesus was.

To this day wealth remains an obstacle to Yahweh, but for a different reason. Wealth can become an idol — a substitute — for Yahweh. And it’s not just gold and silver that can become an idol. It’s the whole created order itself. Indeed, the creation itself is the idol of the Materialist Marxists. They think it’s all that exists. For them there is no God, no spiritual world, no life after death, no nothing other than the material universe itself.

Scripture proclaims that this universe and this earth are under the reality of Yahweh’s Genesis Judgments because of human sin and rebellion. So, because Marxists deny Yahweh’s existence, they hate the reality of Yahweh’s just judgments upon His creation more than anything else. In their hatred, they believe they can overthrow Yahweh’s reality and instead weave it into a genuine utopia of their own making. But because this utopia is a fiction of their own making, Marxists must found their utopia upon lies, and sustain it with lies to the point where they must believe their own elaborate lies. Therefore, this material world becomes the idol that Marxists refuse to let go of in order to find Yahweh’s way, truth and life.

So, the U.S. and the entire world has its choice. Like the man of Mark 10 we can let the material world come between us and our Creator in one way or another. Or we can acknowledge that this material world is just one little part of our Creator’s vast domain — a domain that includes realities far beyond what our mortality binds us to. And because our Creator is all righteousness and goodness, there is nothing greater than a relationship with Him through His Son and His Son’s Church.

And as His Church we not only have an invitation from Jesus to follow Him, He has granted us grace to see this material world for what it is, to repent of our attachment to it, to have our rebellion forgiven and actually follow Him into life in Him and through Him. In Messiah there is life beyond death and ultimately resurrection into the Kingdom of God.

And while we remain in this world, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life who does not lead astray. He is the one thing we lack. He is Yahweh and our connection to Yahweh. Therefore, may we see the devil’s lies for what they are and cling instead to the life-giving cross of Christ forever. Amen.


All Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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