Tom Hinkle - Salem, Oregon Gospel Meeting - March 28, 2003

(not verbatim)

I have been reading back in the Old Testament again and second Kings 2:19 says, "And the men of the city said unto Elisha, 'Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.' And he said, 'Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein.' And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, 'Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.' So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake." It was not what he took out of the water, it was what he put into the water that made it safe.

I think that we can get the picture pretty easily.  This was probably not a very big city, and Elisha, the servant of God, came to it.  I don't know if he had ever been there before or not. For there even to be a city there, it had to have been there for a period of time. The men of the city said, "There is just one thing wrong with this city."  It is a pleasant situation as you can see. This would be a place that would be nice to live. They liked living there. But they said there is just one problem, and that is that the water is no good, it causes there to be death and barren land. I know exactly what they were putting up with, because I have seen it in Montana and Wyoming many times. You could not use well water on the land to even water a tree. It would just kill it. You could not have a garden because the water would be more detrimental than helpful. So here the men of the city said, "This would be a great place to live, but of course, without water. it is a hard place to live."  I went for many years to the convention in Montana, and every drop of water to drink or to do dishes or bathe or to do anything, was hauled their from about 20 miles away. That was common, and in some places it was hauled even further. Apparently that is what they had to do here, bring their water in. That was pretty inconvenient. It did something to them, like, "OK, this is a great place to live, except, except."  The point that I was getting out of that was that, life would be great for just about everybody, except, except. I think that everybody could look on natural life, and sometimes we might think that life just couldn't get any better, but you know, there is always something missing.

There is a man in the book of Luke that I have often looked at his life. It just calls him a rich man in chapter 18, it doesn't give his name. He reminds me of this city every time I read about him. In verse 18, it says, "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, 'Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'  And Jesus said unto him, 'Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.'  And he said, 'All these have I kept from my youth up.'  Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, 'Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.'  And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich."  Jesus pinpointed the fact that there was one thing lacking. The man had a good life, apparently a very good life, because he was very rich. And yet, he knew that there was something lacking and he knew it had to do with eternal life, because he came to Jesus saying, "What can I do to have eternal life?"  Jesus related to him the commandments and he said, "But I have already done that."  I am sure that the reason that Jesus brought that into the picture was so that everybody would understand that the Ten Commandments do not save anybody, they do not bring salvation. They do not bring eternal life into a person's experience. There apparently were there, those that did think that the commandments would bring eternal life, if they just keep this set of rules. Never has a set of rules brought salvation. When the man said, "But I have done that, but I still don't feel that I have eternal life," then Jesus said, "Well, there is one thing that you are lacking."  He said, "You go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me."
I have puzzled over that quite often. It seemed that he was inviting him into the ministry because the only other place that you read about selling all and giving it away and following Jesus was what he said to the apostles that went out to preach. That was the same thing that he was asking of this man and yet, I don't know if that was exactly what he was desiring for the man, but nevertheless it could have been. He really was asking him to take something out of his life and then he asked him to put something into his life. It wasn't taking out of his life the riches. He said, "You go and sell everything that you have and give it to the poor."  If you give it to the poor, you'll never get it back because they will have it spent pretty fast. Jesus said, "You give everything that you have away, your wealth, and come follow me and the man went away sorrowful."  Well, what he didn't have was Christ in his life. What Jesus was asking him to do was to put out the thing that was keeping Christ from coming in. In other words, something else had first place in his life. Until Jesus has first place in a person's life, they are not going to have salvation abide in their life.

When Elisha came to that city they said, "We have just one problem here."  Elisha said, "You go get a cruse of salt and dump it into the spring."  How could that fix the water, that will only make it worse. Places where I have been, the water would kill plants because it already had too much salt in it. You can see that there would be a lot of skeptics when he said to do that. I remember telling a man, who was complaining bitterly about all of the things that were wrong in his life, and mostly it was about others and things that were around his life. I told him, "You know, what you need to do, you need to come to our Gospel meetings."  I told him that two or three times. Finally he said, "That will not help."  He was this same sort of skeptic. He did not believe that he could receive something that he could put into his life that would make any difference. I'll tell you something, today he is just as ornery as ever, just as malcontent as he ever was. The man has put a lot of things out of his life, he is a good man. He doesn't do near what a lot of the world does, he is very conservative, he is a good person. He doesn't go in for a lot of things that would lead to problems in life, but he still is not happy. He is not content with life because life is not giving him what he wants. It isn't giving him what God meant for it to. God meant for there to be something in life that would make us content, that would feed our souls. If we leave Christ out, contentment is not going to be there. There is one thing lacking. God made it that way from the very beginning.  Without Him, there is not going to be true contentment, true satisfaction. God realizes, like the rich man, that if this is going to come first in your life, you are going to have to get rid of it. So, he just put his finger on the very thing. It could be other things.  I don't know what is first in your life. I hope that it is Christ, because I know if that is the case, you will be content and you will be satisfied with life, because that is the purpose of life. No one will ever be satisfied until they fulfill the purpose of life.

We can make ourselves think that we are satisfied with our riches or whatever it is that we have gone after in this life, but there really is no satisfaction in this life without the one thing that God has planned for it. Your life could be the most pleasant situation, with everything going your way, just like the people in that city that Elisha came to, but it is not going to satisfy. It is only when we put something into it. So many of us have been so concerned that if we let God have first place in our life, that He would change so many things in our life and he would take away from us so much of what we have in life already, and we have worked real hard to get what we have. We think, "If I were to allow God to control my life, if I were to allow Jesus to have first place in my life, He would not want me to go here, He wouldn't allow me to do this or that."  We immediately start looking at what we think is the cost, the things that He would take away. I can assure you that in my experience that has not been the case.

If you look in the scripture, you will see that those things that God seemingly took out of a life, were really taken out by the people themselves. He did not take it out, they took it out and it was because there wasn't room when they wanted more. You just fill anything up and if you what to put something more into it, you have to take something out first. OK, you have a life that's full and I have a life that is full, so many of us have lives that are full of nothing but something has to come out for something to go in. That is what Jesus was pointing out to this rich man. He said, "Your life is full, your riches are taking up all of your time and effort and you are not getting anything out of it."  If you will take that out and put this in, there was no room for Jesus until something came out. God will not take anything out of our lives. He will offer us something that we can put into our lives that will bring satisfaction, peace and contentment. The only way that it will ever fit is if some other things come out. The more we enjoy the peace and love of God, the more room that we are going to make for it. We will be saying, "I like this better and would want some more of it, so what can I get rid of to make more room for it?"

It has been interesting to me to have been in the position to know people before they had heard the Gospel and watch them listen to the Gospel and then begin to make these choices that make a difference in their life. Their homes change, they change, and all of these changes keep coming. If you had told them that this would happen before, they would not have believed it. It was not that God made them change or made them take these things out of their lives. It was that what they got, they enjoyed more, then it was very easy for them to take out something that they enjoyed less.

At one time that is what they enjoyed the most and would not have thought of taking it out. The rich man could not think of parting with his riches, because there wasn't anything that he enjoyed any more than that, that was his chief joy. But he had never experienced the joy of having all in Jesus. If he could just have followed Jesus, even one day, it would have been enough to experience the joy and he would have thought, "Well, that is even better than the riches."  That is what is offered to us today, it hasn't changed a bit. If we want the joy and satisfaction that God has planned for us in this human life, it is only going to come when Jesus is there. It is going to come by what we add to life, not what we take out of it. In the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments that we have been studying about, that told people what to take out of their lives. Thou shalt not do this that or the other thing, take away these things out of your life, but that is not going to bring satisfaction. God never planned that would bring satisfaction, but Christ in a life will bring satisfaction. That is the way that God has planned it and it is still that way today.