Riches to Rags
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich”. 2 Cor 8:9
Until you understand something of the Riches of God, the unequalled wealth and glories of Heaven, you’ll never understand the sacrifice that Jesus made to come down amongst us as a Babe to Bethlehem. In my Sermon today entitled
Riches to Rags
I will endeavour with the help of the Holy Spirit as we ponder the Scriptures to show you something of that great sacrifice.
God had to step down from the royal diadem of Heaven, lay aside His Heavenly vesture, and put on a robe of flesh. Step down from the Angels worship and service, to wash the feet of the men who followed him on the dusty and dirty earth. God literally put off his Riches and put on our Rags. He was eternally rich in substance – rich in power, authority, might and ability; there was nothing that God ever thought of that he could not do, no question He could not answer, and no place he could not go.
Known as the Ancient of Days, He was full of wisdom, He never needed to ask a question about anything, He knew everything absolutely. He claps his hands and the mountains move, He spat out the oceans, and marked their boundaries. He was God all by himself. He was God before anyone ever told him He was God. He Praised himself before any man Praised him, before any choir sang him hymns, He praised himself and said; “it is all good”. There He was sitting on the circle the earth, God of the earth and God of the universe, God of the solar system, and God of the very atmosphere. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and owns the hills as well. He says “if I were hungry I would not tell you”. Psalm 50:12
He owns absolutely everything that we think is ours. He is never tired and he never sleeps. He never needed a light switch, He never needed a meal, He never needed a drink of water. He never needed help to reign, and He rules and controls the universe. When he was ready to build he did not need a carpenter or a stone-mason, not even a shovel or a nail! He said “let there be what I am thinking and it became what he said! John says “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God, all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was light and the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness had to roll back.”
I am trying to tell you that our God is awesome, invincible, mighty, sovereign, He can fix anything, He can move anything. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omni-Present. Many of you don’t pray to him, because you don’t know who he is … yet your future is in the hand of God. When see this God who had a discussion with himself “let us make man….” this God who did not need any substance outside of himself, reached into his own divinity and pulled out our humanity and caused the world and its systems to spin and they never lost a second! Your watch moves, your weeks move, your months move, your calendar is set by the spinning order of God and you’ll be a young man and an old man and time will never loose anything of its beat or its accuracy. When I start taking about who God is I start getting excited. Thank God I learned a long time ago that my God is an awesome God.
The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8 verse 9 …
“Ye know that though he was rich (talking about Jesus) He became poor.” Look at what he had to give up to come here. Look at what he had to do to make himself available to you to be your redeemer and saviour. He emptied out himself of all that heavenly glory and honour; he shook out his pocket book of every last penny, gave up his state and his stuff, gave up his majesty and his crown, humbled himself that we might be exalted, and stepped down so that we could step up!
Left the royal diadem and throne-room of heaven, left his unlimited resources and limited himself to become a traveller. God has never travelled neither coming or going, he just simply IS. Left it all to take a ride somewhere in the dark night of this world, riding on something he himself had created and waited three days to get where he was already in his divinity. All, so that he could look at you eye to eye, and talk with you man to man. There are some who think that His sacrifice began at Calvary, but such are not well read, ignorant of the purposes and plans of God.
For long before Calvary, before they ever drove a nail into his hands, it was a sacrifice for him to have hands for those nails. Picture him, coming as a baby and cry for the milk he had created, a sacrifice for him to allow a woman to teach him when he was creator of the one he would call Mother. A Sacrifice to play her Son when he really was her Father. Think of the sacrifice of the place to which He came. Laid in a cattle trough and wrapped up in milk rags. Yet remember that He did not become poor to glorify poverty (let us fix this erroneous theology) the idea that makes you think that he came to make you poor? We were already poor when he came. He did not come in poverty to make us believe that Poverty is the key to Holiness. Let us be careful not to build a theology around what was a temporary inconvenience. Rather let us remember that he became poor for a purpose. He became poor that we might become rich. Sometimes God asks his children to become poor for a purposes. I have been Poor to the point where I couldn’t buy anything, and at other times I have been Poor where I could have bought it, but I didn’t, because I was saving for a purpose.
Never forget that he was God incarnate, lying there in that Cattle trough, He could have called 10,000 angels to assist him at any moment, all of heaven was on tip-toe ready for his beckoning. Yet because he was poor for a purpose, he remained subject to His parents and to their control. Sometimes you’ve got to be silent for a purpose. You may be Gifted but its not your time, you may be Anointed but its not your season, you may need to let others Teach (even when you know more than they do), but you must hold your peace for you too may be poor for a purpose?
Jesus taught us not to cast our pearls before swine. God is never in a hurry, and God has his time as well as His purposes. Be careful that you “Don’t put everything in a depreciating asset when you can put something in an appreciating asset.”
Sometimes you’ve got to wear rags for a purpose. He could not come to redeem us as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, a Lion is too strong, but in order to redeem us he had to become a lamb, a helpless lamb, stripped of his dignity and divinity and nailed to a Cross. John the Baptist could say: “Behold the lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world” John 1:29
Look at the difference between the Lion and the Lamb, look at the jaw, look at the teeth. He gave up his teeth, and became a lamb so that he could submit and die. He stepped down to surrender. He stepped down to Sacrifice, He stepped down to Save!
In the book of the Revelation, in Chapter 2, God speaks in condemnation to the Nicolaitans. A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel,
to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication”
Rev 2: 14-15.
Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” Rev 2:6 and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching Rev 2:15. Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who called herself a prophetess”
God says he hated the Nicolaitans. Tradition informs us that they introduced Pulpits to Christianity. God never envisaged that a man should stand ABOVE the people He leads, The real Gospel is not based on how high you can stand, but on how low you can stoop. Jesus stooped down to lift us up. We were as one having fallen into a well, and there in the depths of the well of trouble chaos and confusion, Jesus came down where we were to lift us out.
Now if this is a New Testament REALITY, then it ought to have an Old Testament TYPOLOGY. If you go away back to the story of David & Jonathan, you will see the type there. In 1 Samuel 17 & 18. David has slain Goliath and Saul had brought him into the Kings Palace. David, you will remember was the youngest son of Jesse, born to the field and to tending sheep while his brothers were soldiers trained and trimmed for war. But the family had suffered loss, no longer had they any real prestige, in fact the family had come to nothing and David was looking after just “a few” sheep on the hillsides around Bethlehem. (1Sam 17:28) David was the rejected son, rejected by his brothers, taking care of the sheep and living out in the field – but God often has another plan for the rejected and the outcasts of our world and He had a plan for David’s life. It was this
David who came down to the battle one day to face and fight
Goliath and through that victory God changed his life.
There may be a giant coming against you right now, and you may not feel like a fight? Let me remind you that the giants we often face in our lives are not opposition, but opportunity. If like young David you can face, fight and defeat these giants, God may bring you too into the palace. At this time, David was not a man, but a boy with only a rag and a rock. He had no budget, no help and no support, no prayer partners, and no plan for the future, – He was living a day at a time. But God doesn’t wait till you are all grown up to choose you. He chooses you in your mothers womb and sets you aside for His Divine purpose.
No one but God might know about it, no one but God can bring it to pass. God places the gifts and resources within, – in the soul of the man or woman he chooses. So here comes the boy, his gift has opened up a door for him. His gift brought him before great men, all of a sudden he is snatching their hero killing and cutting off his head with his own sword. I like that – using the enemy sword? God might not have given you a Sword yet, you may only have a sling and a stone, but there is no rule that says you cannot use your enemies own stuff against them. His next step is into the Kings house, the Palace, the grandeur and wonder of it all amazes him. When you are called and gifted by God, your gift will take you into arenas, places you never thought possible. and you gift will open doors for you that only God can open. But remember that your Gifts may put you in positions that your mind cannot handle? What is this ragged sheep-dipping boy doing in a place like this. You gift will bring you into places where you have no training and no background for, and David was certainly not dressed for the occasion. He came in in his Rags, yet he is being treated like a prince! The King, Saul, loves him, and says “We wont let you go back home, we want you to stay here.” (yet Saul’s love was only a temporary love)
God may allow someone to love you, and favour you, for a while- until you can get into the place of his choosing. But God had another love for David, a strong and faithful friend whose heart was overflowing with kindness and who made a covenant with David. Jonathan, Prince Jonathan, Saul’s Son, who could not give David authority over the Armies of Israel but Saul could. Yet Saul’s Authority was invested in Jonathan, so Jonathan in a sacrificial covenant, declares David to be Joint heir with him.
How does he do it? Picture these two young men. One is covered with his past History, while the other is covered with his future Destiny. David has nothing to invest, but Jonathan has everything. So Jonathan strips himself in a covenant gesture (a sacrifice with a purpose) so that He can take off who He was, and lay it on David, (Helmet, Sword, Shield & Robe)
Now David looks like the Son of the King.
David walked in looking like a Pauper, Jonathan walked in looking like a Prince, but when it was over, Jonathan walks out looking like the Pauper, and David walks out looking like the prince? David now has respect in the Palace because he is wearing the clothes of the Prince. But you may ask,
“What does all that have to do with me”?
When Christ came to Bethlehem, and 33 years later went to the Cross for you – He stripped himself of all of his Divine and Kingly Glory. The Second Adam, became Naked so that the First Adam who was naked could become clothed. Now all of the descendants of Adam, you and me included, can get all dressed up in somebody else’s clothes. Look at me now, this righteousness that I wear is not mine, but His. When he saw my wretchedness and nakedness he gave me his righteousness
so that I could stand Rich in the Palace of Heaven, and faultless to stand before his throne, now I am Rich, I never had it so good.
He didn’t give me what I deserved, instead He traded places with me.
I should have been dead, and in Hell for my transgressions, but he traded places, took on himself my transgressions and sins, and died and went to Death and to Hell for me. But wonderful as His Sacrifice was, and Precious as His shed blood is, it is only because he rose again from the dead, that I am saved.
To God be the Glory, great things he has done.
Paul could say:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” Gal 2:20 and again
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”. Romans 10:9
Now Jesus says to me … “I’ve got you looking so much like me, wearing my clothes, using my name, bearing my nature, so that when you do go to the Father in Prayer, don’t use your name, use mine. The Father will recognise me in you, and since you’re wearing my clothes, my righteousness, you can ask whatsoever you will in my name, and he will give it to you”
Jesus came and put on Our Poverty, so that we might put on His Riches.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
2000 years ago a tiny child was laid in a cattle trough in a stable
in Bethlehem. Another small and seemingly insignificant addition to the human race; but that child who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman; worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant Preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never travelled, except in his infancy, more than two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompanies greatness. He had no credentials but himself. While he was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through a mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on him, his seamless robe. When he was dead, he was taken down from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave through the courtesy of a friend.
2000 years have come and gone, and today he is still the centre-piece of the human race and the leader of all human progress. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of humanity upon this earth as powerfully as has this, one solitary life…
“who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich”