bigger barns



Today’s message at Relevant Church in Williamsburg, Virginia



Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” 16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:15-21 NLT).


I’m a fan of time travel stories, and often wander what it would be like to go back in time and see how people reacted to the words that Jesus said. I suspect that the reactions were not “oh, how wonderful!” or “my, how profound!” No, I suspect that Jesus made most normal people scratch their heads in confusion, and he made most “important” people bang their heads against the wall in anger.

Today’s text is a good example of this. Two things prompt Jesus to tell this little parable. First, he had warned his disciples (with thousands looking on and listening in) not to follow the example of the Pharisees, because they were hypocrites. They were acting like they had right relationships with God, but they were really serving self. Their outward religion was a cover for inward corruption. Jesus told his disciples to beware of their leaven. In other words, don’t touch a Pharisee with a ten foot pole. They are unclean. The odd thing about that is that the popular understanding that people had in Jesus day was that the Pharisees were spiritual supermen. They were the ones who got it right, and that was why they were rich. Jesus said, no, that’s not right. The “normal” people scratched their heads.

The Pharisees themselves were convinced that they were following the rules. They saw wealth as a blessing from God, given precisely because they had followed the rules. When John the Baptist – and then Jesus – opposed them, they got mad. “How dare these ‘prophets’ condemn us. Can’t they see that we are blessed by God? They must be demon possessed.” The “important” people got angry at Jesus.

The second thing that prompted Jesus to tell this particular little parable is a request that someone from the crowd gave him.

“Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” (Luke 12:13 NLT).

Now, the Bible does not give us the details of that man’s issue. He may have had a legitimate legal grievance with his brother. Or, he may have been trying to get Jesus to intervene over his father’s wishes. Those details are not really important to Jesus right now. The point is, the man was trying to gain from his association with Jesus. So, Jesus asks “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” (Luke 12:14 NLT).

Jesus is not Santa Claus. We’re not going to get what we want just by sitting on his lap and spilling our Christmas list. That is not why he came to this earth. When we really start realizing this, a lot of stuff is going to be taken off our prayer lists.

OK, with that established, let’s look at today’s text:

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (15).

That statement is just as radical today as it was two millennia ago. Today the popular belief is that those who have the most stuff have the best life. The rich are idolized no matter what they believe, and no matter who they serve.

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”(16-19).

This was the man’s 401K – his retirement plan. He said “I got some good stuff. I’m going to make bigger barns, so that I can hold all my stuff. Then I’m going to kick back, go to Barbados, and get some sand between my toes.” Well, that was the plan. But God knew something that the would-be retiree did not know:

But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ (20).

The man was rich, resourceful, productive, and successful. He had made a plan that would provide for his needs and (presumably) those of his family. He would have been praised by the popular culture of his day, and ours. But in just one moment – one last heartbeat – he was going to lose all that he had ever gained.

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”(21)

This is the moral of the story. Jesus tells his disciples and the others who have ears to hear “don’t waste your life just collecting stuff. Bigger barns are not the answer.” So, what is the answer? The answer is “a rich relationship with God.” But how do we get that? Jesus told another parable that explained that:

“…the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it’ (Matthew 13:45-46 NLT).

The “pearl of great value” in Matthew 13 is that “rich relationship with God” of Luke 12. Once you discover that it exists, you also discover that it is going to take everything you have, and everything that you can ever get to obtain it. You then have a choice: you can be like the Pharisees, and just pretend to have it, but still keep building bigger barns for yourself. Or, you can invest in God. That’s a crude way of putting it, but it is what it is.

Big Idea: Invest in a rich relationship with God, instead of more stuff.

I started investing in my relationship with God when I was ten. I regret that I wasted ten years of my life on building useless barns. But, as long as you are alive, it’s not too late. What made the rich fool a fool was that he died before he got the chance to do what he was made for.

Here are a few investment tips:

1. Pay very close attention to what God says.

The Bible just happens to be God’s word. As such, we can find out what God wants, what he does not want, what he has planned – things like that. If you are serious about getting a rich relationship with God, start there.

For me, paying attention to what God says means spending regular quality time reading and studying the Bible. Some of you know that I write a devotional blog. I read a Bible passage every morning and comment on it. It was really hard at first, but now I cannot wait to do it every morning. Sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is not. This has been the hardest year in the plan, because this year covers the prophets of the Old Testament. These guys often had to give voice to God’s heart when his heart was hurt by his people’s sin. As a result, there are a lot of negative confessions, and threats of judgment. No one is comfortable with this because it goes against our cardboard cutout of God. God is supposed to be a peaceful good shepherd, not a wrathful, vengeful destroyer. But the more I pay attention to his whole word, the more I realize that he is both.

2. Spend quality time in conversation with God.

I’m still working on this one. I don’t pray as often as I should, but I suspect that everyone who is honest says that. Prayer is hard to do because it is like talking to the school principal when you are in the 3rd grade, and have just been sent to his office.

The good news is God is like a grandfather when it comes to prayer. I love to hear Jeffrey and Elena and Simon and Quenton speak. Even when they have been bad, I love to see them and hear them.

Notice what Paul told the Philippians about prayer:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

Paul is talking about what happens when we pray. Prayer is a way of exchanging our worries for his peace. We may go into prayer like a third grader expecting punishment, but we can leave the throne with a smile from grandpa!

3. get involved with the church.

Jesus Christ has two bodies. He has a body in heaven at God’s throne, and a body on earth: the church.

There are three foundational commands in scripture: Love the LORD, love your neighbor as yourself, and make disciples. In the church and as the church, we can obey all three of those commands.

As the church, we are gathered together for the purpose of intentional investment in God and his kingdom. A rich relationship with God includes fellowship with each other, and ministry to one another. John said: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16). Investing in God implies investing in our fellow believers too.


When we come to the communion, we celebrate Jesus’ willingness to give up his bigger barns in heaven and to invest in us. That investment cost him his life. As we take these emblems, we can celebrate and be thankful that he cared enough to invest his life in us. We can also remember his challenge for us to invest in a rich relationship with God.

ACST 61: The Advents


The patriarch Jacob, an old man, gathered his sons together and told them what would happen to their families “in days to come.”[1] He told Judah that his descendants would have the scepter, and the ruler’s staff, and to him shall be “the obedience of the peoples.”[2] It would be many days, indeed many centuries before that prediction became fulfilled by David. He would lead not only his own people, but many other nations (peoples) would obey him as well.

Yet David did not completely fulfill this prophecy. Jesus is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David.”[3] He will lead both Israel and the nations. By his blood he has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”[4] He has “made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”[5] So, Judah’s son is also God’s Son, and the King of kings.

When Jesus came as a babe in a manger, some recognized him as heaven’s king. The angels described him as a “Savior” and “Christ the Lord.”[6] The term “Christ” is Greek for anointed one: the title of a king. Even as a child he was recognized as Judah’s heir, and God’s king. The wise men went to Herod and asked “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?”[7] Herod recognized the threat that this child posed for him, and sought to destroy him. Pilate asked Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?”[8]


At the end of every year, much of the world celebrates a season which some call Advent. It is a season which church tradition has championed for the purpose of remembering the first coming, or advent of Christ. For Advent Christians, this season is all the more special because we celebrate not only our Lord’s first advent, but the promises it brought of his second advent. Much of the world celebrates Christmas without this hope. Like the Jews who missed their Messiah, much of the world sings “Joy to the World” without recognizing its future implications.

The first advent of Jesus Christ was predicted for thousands of years, in numerous ways, and detailed in hundreds of scripture texts. Yet many of the Jews who had access to the predictions either ignored them or misinterpreted them. Likewise, the second advent of Christ is detailed fully in both Testaments, but Christians differ widely on their expectations. A survey of the predictions and fulfillments of the first advent will yield principles that help us know what to expect as we read the predictions of the second advent.


The Christ expected was to be a real and completely human being, yet also God’s unique Son in human flesh. The eternal Logos, the second person of the divine trinity, would become a human being by being conceived miraculously (without a human male partner) in the uterus of Mary. Isaiah said “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel– ‘God is with us.’”[9] When told of this reality, Mary said “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”[10] Matthew explained “All of this happened to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).” Joseph … brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.”[11]

This incarnated Christ would be the unique seed of a woman, his human nature descending directly from Mary. God told the serpent that “From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”[12] Paul explained that “when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman.”[13]

This incarnated Christ would be the direct descendant of Abraham, the means by whom Abraham would bless the whole planet. God promised Abraham that he would bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him. He said “All the families of the earth will be blessed through” him and his family.[14] So, people had every right to expect this awaited Messiah to appear in Abraham’s family line. The first verse in the New Testament says “This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of King David and of Abraham.”[15]

As already mentioned, this incarnated Christ would qualify as ruler over the people of Israel (and all peoples) since he would legally descend from the ruling tribe of Judah. Jacob predicted “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey.”[16] Luke informs his readers that “Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of … Judah.”[17] Matthew puts it the other way around: “Judah was the father of … Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary was the mother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah.”[18]

This incarnated Christ would be a direct descendant of King David. Isaiah predicted that the Messiah’s “ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the LORD Almighty will guarantee this!”[19] The angel Gabriel told Mary that “He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.”[20]

From these predictions and fulfillments of our Lord’s first coming, we can derive this principle: the Lord’s advent will be a very real human presence, but will be the result of an unprecedented divine miracle. When speaking of his second advent, the New Testament uses two Greek words which also point to this principle: parousia, the word for a real visible human presence,[21] and epiphaneia, the word for a miraculous divine appearance.[22] Like his first coming, then, our Lord’s second advent will be a combination of physical visible presence and a miraculous, powerful event which defies the ordinary. It will be the same Jesus who came as a baby, but it will not be an ordinary day. He next coming will be noticed!


Christ’s first coming was not a single event. It was an era in which the newborn Christ grew to manhood, and prepared for his earthly ministry as a discipler, and as the divine atoning sacrifice. The entire era was orchestrated by God and revealed in his word. Micah predicted that he would be born in Bethlehem.[23] When the timing was right, the LORD orchestrated events so that Joseph and Mary moved from Nazareth to Bethlehem.[24] Mary gave birth in Bethlehem even though they had no home there, because God was in the process.[25]

The Holy Spirit continued to be involved in the preparation process, ensuring that Jesus would spend his early childhood in Egypt, out of harm’s way. Hosea had hinted at this move when he said “I called my son out of Egypt,” and that hint was made more clear by the Angel of the Lord at the proper time.[26] Mary and Joseph traveled and stayed in Egypt until after Herod’s death, and then returned.[27] By so doing, they escaped Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by ordering the deaths of all the young male children in the village of Bethlehem. That massacre had been predicted by Jeremiah.[28]

The Holy Spirit brought about the birth and orchestrated the ministry of John the Baptist, whose task it was to bring revival to Israel, preparing them for the appearance of their king. Malachi had predicted a coming messenger,[29] and Jesus admitted that John was “the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way before you.’”[30] John was the forerunner – who introduced an expectant nation to their true king. He was a part of what God was doing during that 33 year period.

God had in past ages declared the identity and unique relationship he had with Christ to the angels.[31] But at a crucial point in that 33 year period, God himself identified Jesus as his unique Son to the watching world. Matthew records “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw

the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.”[32]

One of the characteristics, then, of Christ’s first advent was that over a period of time and a series of events, the LORD worked out his plan and accomplished his purpose. Rather than being a singular event, the first advent was an entire era, consisting of a series of events in which the Holy Spirit prepared the world for its Savior, who had come. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the second advent will be a similar inter-related series of events.


During his first advent, Jesus showed the world who he is by what he did. His miracles demonstrated and affirmed the audacious claims he made about himself. He began by bringing God’s light to the darkest region of Palestine: Galilee of the Gentiles.[33] He brought his message of deliverance and healing to the enslaved and infirmed, proving his message by setting them free from demons and sickness.[34] The incidents of physical healing and deliverance themselves demonstrated the freedom Christ had to offer through his gospel message.[35] He preached that gospel by many means, including sermons, parables,[36] and fits of wrath against the hypocrites who opposed him.[37] By so doing, he demonstrated that he, himself, is the focal point of God’s plan. Those who refuse to believe in him will be rejected by God, no matter what nation they were born into.

In the same way, the second coming of Christ is described in the New Testament as a tremendous demonstration of Christ’s power, revealing his true identity. Jesus predicted that when he comes “all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”[38] He warned the Council (seated in judgment against him) that they will some day “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”[39]

Peter writes “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”[40] He is intentionally ambiguous. It is not clear whether he is talking about descriptions of Christ’s first coming in power, or predictions of his second coming in power. Rightfully so, because both of Christ’s advents will be characterized by a demonstration of power.

When he comes again, Christ will demonstrate his power over sickness and death not by raising some, but by emptying all the graves. He said that “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice.”[41] He had told Martha that he is the resurrection and the life.[42] We believe that by faith, but we also look forward to the day in which he will demonstrate its truth.

When he comes again, Christ will demonstrate his power over Satan and all his kingdom of darkness. He has delivered some from bondage, but he longs to set the whole world free. The battle is raging now, and we are fighting it by means of the victory won for us at the cross.[43] But when the king comes, he will demonstrate his power by defeating Satan, casting him into a bottomless pit,[44] undoing his corruption of this world, and ultimately throwing him into the lake of fire, which is the second death.[45] That snake will be revealed to be something entirely different than the immortal god he claimed to be. Christ will demonstrate his supreme power over him.


When Jesus first appeared and identified himself as the Savior of the world, he faced rejection, humiliation, and opposition from almost everyone. The more clear he became about what his kingdom entailed, the more people turned away from him. The psalmist had prophesied “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.”[46] Luke wrote that “The leading priests and teachers of religious law were actively plotting Jesus’ murder.”[47] Even though Jesus had demonstrated who he was, his own nation would not accept him. He was betrayed by one of his close friends.[48] They mocked and crucified him.[49]

Sadly, that is going to be the case on a cosmic scale as well. In the end, the vast majority of those whom Jesus died for will say “no thanks” to his salvation. They will take sides with the devil and his kingdom, and reject their Savior. Only, in the second advent, this choice will not lead to Christ’s death on the cross, but the second death of all sinners who rejected his love. The lake of fire is a very real event, and it will mean irrevocable destruction to all who have opposed its alternative: Christ, the life.


The Gospels do not end with the death of Christ on the cross, but they tell the amazing story of his resurrection and ascension. The psalmist predicted that the Messiah would say “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”[50] The Lord, once brought down low, would ascend on high.[51] The first advent ended with the exaltation of Christ to heaven’s throne. The second advent will see Christ exalted as king of kings and Lord of Lords.[52] His is the name above every name that is named in the whole universe.[53]

The prophecies fulfilled when Jesus came to this earth the first time set a pattern that help interpreters learn what to expect when the prophecies of his second advent are fulfilled. We know to expect a series of events in which the Holy Spirit works out God’s eternal plan, and exalts his eternal Son. We can expect mighty miracles, in demonstration of who Christ is, and his real physical presence among us. We will see the ultimate battle with Satan, and his ultimate demise. We will see heaven intervene in the affairs of men, and hell destroy the wickedness and evil in this world.

In the first advent, Christ came as God with us. In the second advent, the world will be transformed so that we will finally be with him. The “kingdom of the world (will) become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”[54] In the first advent, Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.[55] At the second advent, believers will put it on like a garment.[56]

One of the men who was privileged to see his first advent also heard him promise “Surely I am coming soon.” His response is ours: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”[57]

[1] Genesis 49:1.

[2] Genesis 49:10.

[3] Revelation 5:5.

[4] Revelation 5:9.

[5] Revelation 5:10.

[6] Luke 2:11.

[7] Matthew 2:2.

[8] Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3.

[9] Isaiah 7:14 NLT.

[10] Luke 1:34 NLT.

[11] Matthew 1:22-25 NLT.

[12] Genesis 3:15 NLT.

[13] Galatians 4:4 NLT.

[14] Genesis 12:3.

[15] Matthew 1:1 NLT.

[16] Genesis 49:10 NLT.

[17] Luke 3:23,33 NLT.

[18] Matthew 1:3, 16 NLT.

[19] Isaiah 9:7 NLT.

[20] Luke 1:32 NLT.

[21] Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6f; 10:10; Philippians 1:26; 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8f; James 5:7f; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28.

[22] Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10; 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13.

[23] Micah 5:2.

[24] Luke 2:4-5.

[25] Luke 2:7.

[26] Matthew 2:13.

[27] Matthew 2:14-15.

[28] Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18.

[29] Malachi 3:1.

[30] Luke 7:27.

[31] Psalm 2:7.

[32] Matthew 3:16-17 NLT.

[33] Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew4:13-16.

[34] Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:16-17.

[35] Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-21.

[36] Psalm 78:2; Isaiah 6:9-10; John 16:25; Mark 4:11.

[37] Psalm 69:9; Mark 11:15-17.

[38] Matthew 24:30 ESV.

[39] Mark 14:62 ESV.

[40] 2 Peter 1:16 ESV.

[41] John 5:28 NIV.

[42] John 11:25.

[43] Revelation 12:10-12.

[44] Revelation 20:2.

[45] Revelation 20:10, 14.

[46] Psalm 2:1-2 NIV.

[47] Luke 22:2 NLT.

[48] Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:47-48.

[49] Psalm 22:7-8; Luke 23:35; Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27.

[50] Psalm 16:10-11 NLT.

[51] Psalm 68:18; Mark 16:19.

[52] Revelation 19;16.

[53] Ephesians 1:21; 2:9.

[54] Revelation 11:15 ESV.

[55] 2 Timothy 1:10.

[56] 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.

[57] Revelation 22:20 ESV.