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The Key To Unlocking Yourself

Mark 10:17-22

Most of us, I suspect, are familiar with the name of Lewis Carroll. But even if we are not familiar with his name, we are certainly familiar with the story he wrote which we know as “Alice in Wonderland.”

However, I would be willing to wager that few of us are familiar with another story of Lewis Carroll’s. It’s a fascinating tale about a padlock of all things. An ordinary padlock, which happens to be alive. It had long, thin arms and legs and was always very nervous, moving hither, thither, and yon – and it always had this anxious, fretful look on its face. One day someone stopped the twisting, turning, wiggling, moving padlock and asked: “What in the world is the matter with you? Why are you so agitated and desperate and unhappy?” Waving his thin arms in the air, the padlock shouts: “I am seeking the key to unlock myself.” Type that into your mental teleprompter. “I am seeking the key to unlock myself.” I want to come back to that in a bit.

But let me take you back now to the time and the place where Marilyn Monroe died. Just before the overdose of drugs she had taken deliberately began to shut down her life-systems, she turned on a tape recorder which recorded the last hour of her life. A young newspaper reporter listening later to the tape was puzzled by what he heard. As her life ebbed away, Marilyn Monroe had cried out over and over these words: “Tony, Tony, oh Tony, where are you?” Apparently, there was no one in her life at that point named “Tony.” So the young reporter began researching her background, looking everywhere for this “Tony,” but to no avail. Eventually, the reporter went back to the record shop where Marilyn Monroe had worked before she became famous. One of the clerks who had worked with Marilyn Monroe many years before was still working in that record store. As the reporter interviewed the clerk, asking all kinds of questions about the famous actress, he asked something to which the clerk responded: “Oh, Tony would never have thought of that!”

The young reporter was shocked to hear the name “Tony.” He said to the clerk: “I’ve been looking for this ‘Tony’ for more than a year. You are the first person to mention him. Tell me, where can I find him?” To which the clerk replied: “Oh, I thought you knew. ‘Tony’ was Marilyn’s nickname when she was young. We all called her ‘Tony.’” Suddenly, it dawned on the young reporter that Marilyn Monroe’s cry for “Tony” had been a painful cry for her true self.

Think of it. Here’s a young woman who in a flashy and sensational way had reached the top in the world’s terms. Wealth, youth, beauty, fame, success, power, adulation – she had it all. Yet somewhere along the way she lost “Tony.” She lost the true meaning of her own life. She lost herself. There was nothing left but emptiness and meaninglessness and worthlessness and death by her own hand.

Reminds me of a young man in the Bible who had it all – or so it seemed outwardly. But inwardly, where it really counts, it was a different story. Outwardly, he was the Rich Young Ruler. He had “the big three” – the three things our world so much admires: wealth, youth, and power. But inwardly, inside of him, something was missing. Despite having all that he had, there was a restlessness, a hollowness, an uneasiness, a lostness down at his center.

To his credit, he realized that he had a problem, and he realized that the answer to the problem could be found in Jesus. He came to Jesus in search of life, real life, eternal life. He came to Jesus saying in essence: “I am seeking the key to unlock myself.” You see, there is a sense in which the Christian Gospel says: “There is a key to unlock you and me, and that key is Jesus Christ.” There is a key to unlock you and me, and that key is Jesus Christ. There is a Christ-shaped vacuum at the center of our lives, and only Christ can fill it. There is a spiritual hunger in our souls, and only Christ can satisfy it. There are heavy chains in life which shackle us and hold us back and hold us down and only Christ can break them. There is a padlock of fear and anxiety and insecurity which only Christ can open. Wealth won’t do it. Fame won’t do it. Youth won’t do it. Beauty won’t do it. Power and possessions won’t do it. Ask Marilyn Monroe. Ask the Rich Young Ruler. Here is what is true, my friends. Jesus Christ is the key to life – and He is the key to your life and mine. He can set us free from the things that lock us in and hold us down. And until we come to terms with Jesus Christ, we will never know life as God wants it to be. Let me spell out what it means to understand Christ as the key to unlock us in life …

First, He is the key of truth. The truth of Christ sets us free.

In March of 1995, one of the major television networks presented a TV movie on the life of Huey Long. It was entitled, Kingfish: The Story of Huey P. Long. Actor John Goodman played the lead role of the ambitious, autocratic Louisiana politician of the 1930s who was assassinated before he reached his goal of becoming President of the United States.

Huey Long was a colorful character who did some good things, but who played fast and loose with the truth in his politicking. He would tell stories about his family and his upbringing that really weren’t true in order to win votes and influence people. In one particular scene, Huey Long came back to his hometown for a funeral. He and his father had been estranged for sometime, but suddenly they came face-to-face in the cemetery and this conversation followed:

Huey Long says: “Daddy, why is there this distance between us? Why, Daddy?”

The father replies: “Because you’ve told wrongful things about our family. You made us out to be poor, ignorant, born-in-the-backwoods people – and that isn’t true. You know how I worked for this family.”

And Huey says: “Aw, Daddy, that’s just politics. People want to believe that. They love that.”

His father counters: “But it’s a lie.”

Huey then says: “People need lies, Daddy. People want to hear that sort of thing. Life is so hard they want to believe in a life like that.”

His father, shaking his head in disgust, turns and walks away. Huey shouts after him: “I’m going to be President – President of the United States! I’m going to change the world, Daddy, and you don’t even know it.”

The father wheels around and cries: “Son, the only thing that will change the world is the truth!” With that, he turns and leaves Huey Long standing alone in the cemetery.

Huey Long’s father was right, wasn’t he? The only thing that will change the world in a lasting, significant and meaningful way is the truth. Mark this down. Jesus Christ is the truth of God wrapped up in a person. You want to know the real truth about life? You want to know the real truth about what is right and good and moral? You want to know the truth about God’s will for this world and for your life? Then look to Jesus. He is the truth, and His truth can set you free.

Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler the truth that day, and that truth could have changed the young man’s life forever. The truth was that this young man was imprisoned by his desire for wealth, held captive by his position and power, shackled by his pride, and held back by his self-centeredness. Jesus knew that the only way he could commit himself to the Christian life-style was to walk away from all of that. Instead, the Rich Young Ruler chose to walk away from Christ.

Here’s the bottom line. Is Jesus Christ first in your life? Does He have your unwavering, unflinching, unshakeable allegiance? Or is there something in your life holding you back? Let me tell you something. Right now you have a choice. You can make a fresh, new commitment to Jesus Christ in your life, or you can turn sorrowfully away – and that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth of Jesus Christ is the key to set us free in life, but we have to hear it, accept it, and respond to it.

Next, there is the key of love. The love of Christ sets us free.

Not long ago, a young woman named Amy flew to Pullman, Washington to interview for admission to graduate school at Washington State University. At the airport, she rushed up to the rental car counter to pick up the car she had reserved. To her great dismay, her credit card was not accepted. She had sent in her payment five days before and was certain that it would clear by the time she arrived in Washington – but it didn’t. She didn’t have enough cash either – not enough even for a cab ride. She was in danger of missing this crucial interview. She called the university to try to explain the situation, and as she talked, she became more and more upset. She began to cry. A man using a nearby pay phone walked over to Amy, tapped her on the shoulder, and without saying a word, pressed a one hundred dollar bill into her hand. He quickly walked away and disappeared in the crowd. Amy never got to find out who he was or to thank him. Later, she said: “Because of that dear man, I made it to my interview and was accepted into graduate school. I will never forget that gracious, generous man who so quickly sensed my predicament and then reached out to me with such extraordinary lovingkindness.”

I believe that if we could find that man and ask him why he helped the young woman, he would say: “Because I am a Christian. I serve the One who gave His all for us.”

Albert Schweitzer was asked once to name the greatest person in the world at that moment. He replied: “The greatest person in the world at this moment is some unknown individual in some obscure corner of the earth who at this very hour has gone in love to be with another person in need.” Why did Schweitzer say that? Because he was a Christian. Because he understood that the love of Jesus Christ can set us free in life and give our lives meaning and purpose.

And then there is the key of faith. Faith in Christ sets us free.

I love the story Rod Wilmoth tells about a mother and her teenage daughter who were getting on each other’s nerves. Among other things the mother felt that her daughter was spending too much of her allowance on perfume, and it was frustrating the mother. “Didn’t I tell you not to use so much perfume? I can smell it a mile away,” said the Mom. The perturbed teenager replied: “Oh, Mom, come on. I love this perfume. It’s called ‘Gorgeous,’ and when I wear ‘Gorgeous,’ I feel gorgeous.” To which the mother responded: “I wish you would wear one called ‘Obedient’!”

Faith in Jesus Christ, my friends, means committing to Him, serving Him, trusting Him, loving Him, believing in Him, revering Him – but it also means being obedient to Him. The prayer of Christian obedience is “Thy will be done” – and that kind of faith unlocks us, liberates us, gives us real life. The Rich Young Ruler didn’t have that kind of obedient, trusting faith. He knew that Jesus held the key to unlocking his life, thus setting him free to become everything God wanted him to be. The problem was that he couldn’t bring himself to respond to Jesus in obedient faith, and consequently he not only missed his moment, he missed out on glory as well.

Please don’t let that happen to you. Let the truth of Christ, the love of Christ, and your faith in Christ set you free and give you life –

Life here and life hereafter.

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