The Rich Young Ruler

Scripture: Mark 10:13-24, Matthew 19:16-22
Date: 08/23/2014 
The story of the rich young ruler is found in each of the Gospels. It is the basic story of the Gospel - what do we need to do to live forever?
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

Last week I think it was providential that this message was actually prepared to be presented, and I felt impressed before the service to ask our brother, Wes Peppers, to share. And I heard from so many people how it touched their hearts, and it was a blessing. But I'm not going to waste the sermon that I have studied for and so today we're going to be talking about the subject you saw advertised last week, which is the story of the rich young ruler, that is very important you find it in three different places in the Bible. And so anything that you find repeated three times like that in the Bible means that this experience really stood out in the minds of the apostles and the Gospel writers. Perhaps you've heard the story about a salesman traveling through a southern neighborhood years ago. He came up to canvas a house and there was a boy sitting on the porch one warm afternoon. And the salesman said, “Is your mother home?” The boy said, “Yes, sir.” So he went up to the door and he started to knock, and he knocked and there was no answer. He looked at the boy who was just sitting on the edge of the porch with his legs kind of dangling and said, “Your mother’s home?” He said, “Yes, sir.” He knocked again, no answer. He thought, “Well, maybe she’s in the back. I'll knock a little louder.” He knocks louder and then a dog that had been under the porch was roused and it came up and began to sniff the man's leg. And the man said to the boy, “Does your dog bite?” He said, “No, sir.” So he reached down to pet the dog, the thing nearly bit his hand off, snapped at him. The man jumped back and still nobody's out the door and he said, “Son, you said your dog didn't bite.” “Mister, that ain't my dog and this isn't my house.” He was asking the wrong person the wrong questions.

We're about to look at a story in the Bible of someone who asked the right question at the right time of the right person. So turn with me please to the book of Mark. You can find this in Luke and Matthew as well. I'll give you those references in just a moment. Mark 10; it's also in Matthew 19:16 and Luke 18:18. Now it’s always important when you find a story like this in all three gospels that you look at the comparative versions because this story is known as the story of the rich young ruler. You'll only find in one gospel that he was a ruler, and you'll only find in another gospel that he was young. And so you need to compare the three to get what has become the title for this story. And by the way, it isn't titled by me. Most Bible scholars have titles for the stories. The unmerciful debtor, this is not the title found in the Bible, but that's the generically accepted title. The Good Samaritan, that's not found in the Bible, but we all know what that means. And this is called the rich young ruler. Put the three stories together, you find out he was rich, he was young, and he was a ruler.

So it begins with; you really need to understand the context of this. You've got to read the prior verses. If you read in verse 13 of Mark 10, “they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them.” It's when Jesus blesses the little children. “But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. When Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and He said to them, let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. And He took these children up in His arms, and He put His hands on them, and He blessed them.” Jesus loved the children. Now there was someone who was watching this whole thing transpire from a little distance. And he had heard about Jesus; he had heard about this controversial teacher. And when he saw the tenderness with which He treated the children. You know, so many of the religious leaders and the ones who had position and degrees and sophistication, they wouldn’t be troubled with the children. They were too busy. They had an entourage of bodyguards that followed them around. But Jesus did not let the apostles ever keep Him from ministering to people.

It moved his heart. So we’re going to read that now. Mark 10:17, “As he was going out on the road, one came running and knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I might have eternal life?’” Now I think we'll all agree that is the big question. That is the biggest question. What shall I do that I might have eternal life? How many of you would like to know the definite answer to that question? That you might possess a life that is measured with the life of God in a world where there is no suffering or death, no pain, eternal bliss forever. Isn't that what you want? And who would better know the answer to that question than Jesus. If Jesus can't answer that question, I've got news for you, nobody knows. But I can assure you that Jesus does know the answer.

Now this young man, as you read on, you'll find out, he had a lot going for him. First of all, he's eager. He runs after Jesus. He saw that Jesus was going down the road, He’s leaving, He’s gotten done blessing the children and this man thought, “I talked to the scribes and the Pharisees and I've talked to the lawyers and the religious leaders. Something is missing in my life and I believe He’s really got the answer.” And he was not going to let Christ get away. That's good. When you see that Jesus has the answer don't let the answer get away. Go to Him and ask. So he did that. He was humble. It says, “running to Him and kneeling.” Even though he was a man of means and stature; he had position; he knelt before the Lord. He had courage. He wasn't ashamed to come to Jesus in front of everyone. Nicodemus is only found in the Gospel of John. He came to Jesus by night because, after all, what would people think. This young man had courage. He said, “I don't care what people think. I'm coming to Jesus in broad daylight.” He had spirituality. The question he asked was not about politics and taxes with the Romans. He is asking questions about eternal things, spiritual things. He was morally clean. He said that he had kept the commandments and nobody accused him otherwise. He was intelligent. A man who had some training. He had position. He had worked his way up. He had his whole life before him. He was young. He had influence. He had power. You can read in Matthew 19:20, “The young man said Him.” He was young. You read in Luke 18:18, “A certain ruler.” Now when it says ruler it may be that he was part of the Sanhedrin. He definitely knew the Pharisees. Based on his age it is very likely this young man knew the apostle Paul. Some have suggested that it was the apostle Paul and he was later converted. I don't think there's a lot of support for that, but just to give you an idea, he had a position of leadership in the nation.

He was rich, he was young, he had power, might have been good-looking. What does this world want? People in the world, when they advertise a product, what are they looking for? They think, “If I had more money. If I could have my youth again.” Do you know how many products are sold so people can try to recover an element of their youth? If it's not in their mind it’s part of their body, right? Everybody wants and worships youth. And others want power; they want influence. He had all of that, but something was missing. He wasn't happy. It didn't satisfy. This young man represents what the world wants, but something is missing. So he comes to Jesus. He did the right thing.

Now he calls Him, “Good Master.” And if anyone could be called good it would be Jesus. God is good. Mark 10:18 He said, “Why do you call Me good?” Now why would Jesus say that? Why would Jesus ask anyone, “Why do you call me good?” Was Jesus denying that He’s good? He goes on and He says, “Only One is good, and that is God.” Some other versions say, “Now one is good, only God.” Now the Bible teaches that, Psalm 73:1. “Truly God is good to Israel.” Matter of fact, in Genesis when it talks about creation six times God said everything He made was good. The seventh time He says very good. Isn't that interesting? Six times, “it is good, it is good, it is good.” Then He says the seventh time, “it was very good.” Why? “Every good and perfect gift is from God.” You can read that in James 1: 17. God is good. His gifts are good. And this is a big mystery for people. How can a good God make such a bad devil? How can there be so much evil in the world big made by a good God? This is a big mystery to people.

I was listening to a very prominent, well-known, well-educated doctor of theology on the radio teaching and he asked this question. I said, “Oh, good. I want to hear him answer it.” And he said, “No one really knows.” I thought, “How can you say that?” The Bible teaches what happened. People don't understand that God didn't make a devil. God made a good angel. Everything that God makes his good. I'm excited about The Cosmic Conflict coming out soon because it's explaining that the question, how a loving God can make a world where there's evil. People don't understand. So when Jesus said God is good He wasn't denying His goodness. He was actually connecting Himself with His Godness. When this young man said, “Good Master” Jesus was really saying, “I'm not just a good rabbi, or a good teacher. There's only one who's really good. Do you think I'm good? Only God is good. Do you know who I am?” It was really trying to connect with this young man something he didn't understand. He saw great hopes for him. Only God is good. Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, His forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance?” Do you know that God is good? Where do you best see the goodness of God demonstrated? I'll suggest at the cross is where you see how bad the devil is, and that the cross you see how good God is. And when you see the goodness of God in the context of the cross, and you realize that He has died for your sin, it is that goodness of God that leads us to be brokenhearted. It leads us to repentance.

Then He goes on and He answers the young man, verse 9, and tells them about the commandments. He says, “You want eternal life? Keep the commandments.” “Wait a second,” you might be thinking. “Why would Jesus say that?” Let me finish reading it. Mark 10:19 Christ said, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor your father and mother.’” In Matthew 19 says, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Why did Jesus point him to the law? Are we saved by keeping the law? I'll tell you how the law saves. The law saves in that it is a mirror. And when you look into the perfect law of liberty and you become aware of God's goodness and your badness. The Bible says the law is good, doesn't it? The law is good, it is just, it is holy. We look into the good law of God, we see that character of God, we see our sin. And in that sense the law can springboard us to Christ for salvation. We will not be saved by keeping the law, but you cannot be saved deliberately breaking it.

I like to reiterate this point. The children of Israel were not saved from the slavery of Egypt because they kept the Ten Commandments. They were saved solely by virtue of a lamb. Isn't that right? The lamb is what began their journey to freedom. As they moved out of Egypt, the land of slavery, into the freedom of the wilderness God said, “Now if you love me here's my law. I saved you out of Egypt.” Those who refused to obey never made it to the Promise Land. So you are not saved by keeping the law, but you can be lost by deliberately breaking it because by continuing in disobedience it demonstrates your heart's not right. If we really love the Lord, “If you love Me,” Jesus said, “keep My commandments.” He says, “I love my Father and I’ve kept His commandments.” It's all really about love. So that's why He pointed him to the law.

He was also trying to help this young man who had an element of self-righteousness. When he looked at the law He was hoping he would recognize He left one commandment out. Do you know which one it is? By the way, He left more than one out. He left one out of the second table. The Ten Commandments, every Jew knew they were on two tables. The Bible says that. The first four commandments deals with man’s relationship and responsibility to God. The last six commandments deal with man’s relationship and responsibility to his fellow man. Christ was quoting from the second table of the covenant. He left one prominent commandment out that dealt with covetousness. Now as you read the list in Matthew, Mark and Luke you know He says, “Defraud not.” And defraud not means not to take advantage of anybody by other means. Matter of fact, someone defines it this way, “Defraud not is a rule of justice not to advance or enrich ourselves by doing wrong or injury to another.” So He was basically telling this young man, “You know the law.” Before He got to the one on covetousness, maybe he interrupted Jesus. He said, “Ten Commandments, is that all? I’ve kept the law.”

Based on the prevailing idea of what righteousness was in the day he thought, “Well, I’m a good law abiding Jew. I haven’t murdered anybody. I haven’t stolen from anybody. I’m not a bank robber. I honor my mother and my father.” Probably by the world’s standards he was a good man. But are we saved by our goodness or by God’s goodness? And Christ needed to help him recognize his heart wasn’t right. So He pointed him to the law and there was one commandment that was a big issue for him. He loved the things of the world. You know, covetousness is one commandment that’s unique in the others in that it’s an attitude of the heart. If someone murders it’s something outward. Committing adultery, stealing, all of these things, but covetousness is really a prevailing attitude in the heart that sums up virtually everything else in the other commandments. His heart wasn’t right. He was longing for the things of the world. He had another god; it was money. And we’re about to find that out.

“So the young man said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth up.’” Paul thought that he was pretty good. He said, “I never really lived without the law until I saw myself through Christ’s eyes and then sin revived and I died.” Paul thought he was a good young man also until he saw Jesus, and then he realized that he wasn’t keeping the law because the law is not just actions it’s attitude. It’s not just not committing adultery. You can commit adultery in your heart. It’s not just not lying. Anything above yea or nay could be dishonest. It’s not just not committing murder. People sometimes commit homicide in their hearts because of the attitudes they have towards others. So the law was much more than an action, it’s an attitude. And when Paul saw that, when he saw Jesus he spent three days weeping and fasting. He realized he was a sinner. Jesus needed to help this young man realize what his true condition was. He had a lot going for him, but he did not have a complete surrender of his heart to Christ.

He said, “What do I lack?” When you pray that prayer and you say, “Lord, what am I missing?” Are you prepared for the answer? What do I lack? Now Jesus, He points him to the law. Christ said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” I left something out here. The answer this man was looking for was right in front of him. I think it surprised him that Christ quoted from the law because he was expecting something new or unique or different. A lot of people pop from religion to religion because they’re looking for something novel. And it’s often true that the answer that we need is right nearby. God’s truth is not very far from us. The answer is usually within reach. He said, “What’s written in the law?”

When somebody came to Jesus and this lawyer said, “How do I have eternal life?” He asked the very same question, what did Jesus point him to? “What is written in the law?” The same thing. It’s not that complicated. What law? “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” That was the answer that this lawyer gave and Jesus said, “You’re not far from the kingdom.” So all the Ten Commandments are summed up in what? “Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” The answer’s not very far.

Moses, the great law giver, he said in Deuteronomy 30:11, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too mysterious for you. Nor is it far off. It’s not in heaven that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us that we might hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

The key to everlasting life is in the Bible. How many people have Bibles, but don’t know what the key is? The key to everlasting life is in Christ. This is the word; Christ is the word. The answer’s so close. Moses said, “The word.” It’s not that you’ve got to take a long pilgrimage across the ocean and find out where is this missing relic. And if I just had this, if I could go on this crusade or this quest and find this oracle that I can consult. Or the Holy Grail, or people always talk about some magic potion you could drink or some key far off. Lot’s of stories, “Long ago and far away.”

Something about contempt that we have for something nearby. You’ve heard me say this many times. When I heard it I never forgot it. Some people eat kelp, seaweed, for health benefits. People in the Oregon health food stores buy Maine kelp. The people in Maine buy Oregon kelp. You really wonder if the people in the health food business are shipping the kelp across the ocean. People always think it’s something more exotic. Do you know how many products are advertised as “the European”? “That’s trendy, must be good.” And then you get to Europe and they’re saying, “American made.” Because it just seems like if it’s exotic, if it’s far away, then that must mean it’s unique, it’s true, I’ve been missing it. You might be missing it and having it right on your coffee table. It’s not very far from you. This young man knew the Ten Commandments. He grew up hearing them in Sabbath School. I’ll bet you that he could quote them from memory probably better than most of us. “Oh Lord, all these I have kept from my youth up. What do I still lack?”

Acts 17:27, “So that they should seek the Lord, in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, thought He is not far from each one of us.” How far away is eternal life? How far do you have to go to find it? Well you might have to come as far as church so you can hear a sermon. You might have to go as far as your bookshelf, take the Bible down. In our day and age you can at least log-on; there’s a thousand Bibles online you can read for free and find what the answer is. But even beyond all those tangible things it’s not very far from you because how far away is the Lord if you should kneel and pray? Right now, even while I’m talking, how far is the Lord from you? Yeah, He’s in this building. I believe that. “Where you’re gathered in my name, I am there.” He’s here. Isn’t’ that exciting? Do you ever think about that? Even if you forget, He hasn't forgotten. If you forget His promise to be here, He didn’t forget. He’s here. So how far away is He?

This young many ran to Jesus thinking that He was going to tell him something that only Jesus knew. And Jesus pointed him back to the stuff; they went back to the beginning. It’s really tragic when you think about how many people will be lost not because they didn’t have the message, but they neglected the message, that was very close to them. He’s not very far from each one of us. The word is very near to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it. It’s the love of Christ that we’re missing. This man looked at Jesus, Mark 10. I’m reading from Mark principally because this is unique in the gospel of Mark. You don’t find this in Luke. You don’t find this in Matthew. “And looking at him, Jesus loved him.” “And looking at him,” another translation says, “Jesus felt a love for him.” Now is there anybody here that Jesus doesn’t feel a love for? Why does it specifically say? When He called Peter, James and John it never says Jesus called Peter and Jesus loved Peter and said, “Why don’t you come follow me because I love you maybe a little more than others?” It says about this young man something it didn’t even say about the apostles. Why? Because this young man represents really, the world, the best of the world, the people in the world who’ve got all the success in the world, but they’re not happy. And He loves them.

Now I think it’s also true, Christ saw in this man all of the promise of anybody who could be saved. He had everything going for him. And if he and his youth and his strength, with his influence, would commit himself to Jesus there could be another gospel in the Bible named Albert. I don’t know what his name was. That was my grandfather’s name and he was Jewish, so I don’t know. If he had followed Christ. Jesus, looking at him loved him. It does say that Christ sent an angel to Daniel and the angel said, “Daniel, you are greatly beloved.” I don’t know. Is it possible that God loves some more than others? Can you have more than everything? Does the Lord love us with all of His heart? Would the Lord die for everybody? Did He die for everybody? Would He die for anybody if they were the only one? So it’s hard for us if the Bible says, “You can’t comprehend the depth and the height and the width and the breadth of God’s love. And nothing can separate you from that,” that He loves anybody less. I think when it says that He loved this man it’s saying that there were characteristics in this man that He loved because he had been searching after God. Does the Lord love that about us when we seek after Him? But He loves all of us. “Looking at him, He loved him, and He said to him, ‘One thing you lack,” Mark 10:21. “One thing you lack.” Now right there I want to pause.

How many of you would like to get on your knees and pray to the Lord and say, “Lord, what do I still need to do to have eternal life?” I don’t know about you, but I make lists. I’ve got lists on my desk of things I need to do and tasks on my computer. Some of you have those? I love when I can check something off my list. Karen even has lists for me. I’ve got a lot of lists. It’s so good to get the list down and when you can mark that last thing off the list and say, “Done with a task; done with a job; get it off the desk.” And when I think about my relationship with the Lord, and changes in my character, and defects that I’d like to overcome, I’ve got a list that’s longer than I want you to know about. And it would be really encouraging for me to be on my knees before the Lord and have the Lord say, “Doug, I’ve got good news. One more thing on the list, just one.” That’d be good news for me. Just to hear there’s only one thing left. Whatever it is it’s only one thing. Get rid of it and you’re home free, right? That’s how I think. Just one thing left!

“He said, ‘There’s one thing you lack.’” I would have been so eager to hear that. One thing. But then Jesus went on. “Go, sell all you possess, give it to the poor, you will have treasure in heaven: and take up your cross, and come and follow Me.” Wow. Go sell everything you’ve got. Now he’s wanting everlasting life. The real key would be, how long until I get everlasting life? That young man probably when he heard Jesus say that, I believe he believed Jesus, he began to think, I don’t know, but some of the thoughts that likely went through his mind, “Wow, my whole life, my wealth means a lot to me. And it’s nice having the prestige and the influence that comes with money and being able to buy something without having to double check the price, and have that freedom. Just to give it all to the poor and lose my position, my status and leave my seat on the different boards and committees where I sit and follow Jesus around? And look at the clothes His apostles are wearing. And they smell a little like fish. And I don’t know. This is a pretty big sacrifice. Who knows how long it will be until He establishes His kingdom. He’s been wandering around for a couple of years now. I don’t know, maybe I could wait a year and then sell it all and give it to the poor and follow Him.” I’m just guessing he was thinking some of these things.

If Jesus told you, “The world’s going to end tomorrow. Today I want you to sell everything you’ve got; give it to the poor. You’ll have treasure in heaven and follow Me.” How many would find that a pretty easy thing to do? I think if this young man thought that he would experience a new body and everlasting life the next day, this would have been a no-brainer. But you know what he was thinking? “Well, I don’t know how long; I might live another 60 years and while I’m young I’d like to enjoy my wealth. Maybe I could do this later. I need to think about this one. That’s a big step. I’d better hedge my bets and see if there’s some compromise that I can work out.” Whatever it is, he wasn’t ready because Jesus put His finger on the big issue in his life.

Is Christ asking everybody to do the same thing He asked this young ruler to do? Yes. “Pastor Doug, are you telling me that Jesus wants me to go withdraw everything I might have left in the bank, hand it out to people that might be at the intersections in town?” And heaven knows what they’ll do. I’ve got to tell you a story that just popped into my mind. Last week before the radio program, periodically people stop me as they do you and they ask for a donation and I really want to use opportunity. The Bible says so much about supporting those who don’t have as much and I try to be sensitive to that. But then in our culture you always, you don’t want to give a person money to go get drunk. Are we all on the same page? And so you have to use some wisdom and maybe at times even scrutinize a little bit people that are making these requests. I was at a gas station the other day and someone said, “Could you spare some money for some gas? We’ve run out of gas.” I said, “I won’t give you any money, but I’m filling my car. You bring your car over; I’ll put some in.” And they really did need the gas in the car. But I was going to a drugstore here in town. I won’t tell you where. And as I was entering the drugstore there was a healthy young man: shirt’s open, hair is disheveled. He’s standing there by the garbage can at the entrance to the drugstore and he said, “Would you have any spare change so I could get something to eat?” And it just didn’t look right. You know what I mean? I used to panhandle. When you’re panhandling in front of a drugstore—they don’t sell food. And I said, “Lord, I pray for discernment and this fellow to me looks like he’s not really interested in food and I don’t want to give him his last bottle of beer so he walks in front of a car.” And so I said, “I’m not going to help you now.” I went in and I got what I needed. I went out, went up the street two blocks, stopped at Chipotles to eat my burrito before the radio program. Looking out the window I saw this fellow walking. He had walked out of a fast food store and he had a bag of food. Someone had given him money and he took the money and he bought food. And I saw him walk down the street and I felt so overwhelmed with conviction. We always judge people we really don’t know do we?

So I’ve been grappling with that this week. I’m saying, “Lord, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to give to the poor because I’d like to believe everything I have has already been sold and given to you. And I’m just the steward to distribute as you direct.” But He’s really calling all of us to put everything on the altar to help spread the gospel. The gospel is summarized in “I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was in prison or sick and you visited me.” Right? Taking care of the needs of people. Now there’s a spiritual side of that. “I was hungry and you gave me the bread of life. I was naked and you provided the robe of Christ’s righteousness. I was thirsty and you gave me the living water. I was in prison by sin and you helped liberate me. You visited me in my prison. I was lonely, a stranger, and you took me in, introduced me to Christ. I was alienated from God.” All of those things have a spiritual. “I was sick with sin and you brought the balm from Gilead.” They all have a spiritual equivalent. You see that? All of us are stewards of God’s riches. All of us, if you have Christ, you are rich. All of us are to give everything and follow Him. And if you’ve got some resources that happen to be in your name, they’re God’s resources. You have to be open whenever He calls to say, “I lay this on the altar.” Or “I want this to go here or there or to this need or that need.” Is that right? Does that scare you? It scared this young man.

“One thing you lack.” You think maybe He’d say, “Ten things you lack,” Ten Commandments. Or maybe three things you lack. “He has shown thee, o man, what is good and what does the Lord require of thee.” What must I do for everlasting life? “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” You’ve got it down to three. Or maybe two things. “Love the Lord; love your neighbor.” But He said one thing. What is the one thing in that list that Jesus gave him? It’s called, one word, all. Have you surrendered all to the Lord? It requires total commitment if you want everlasting life. How much is Jesus going to give us? Everything. How much did He give us? Everything. What is He asking for? 50%? 10% tithe? 100%. Matthew 13:44, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” How much? All.

Luke 14:33, these are the words of Christ. “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” He doesn’t say My apostle. There are only 12 apostles. But we’re all called to be disciples. “Whoever does not forsake all that he has.” When He called Peter, James, and John they left their nets. They forsook them. When He called Matthew he walked away from the tax booth. He forsook it. When Elisha was called by Elijah, Elisha not only forsook the plow he burnt it and he sacrificed the oxen. That’s what it means when it says, “If any man puts his hand to the plow looks not back.” He forsook it all and followed Elijah. And if Christ is calling you to be a Christian.

We’ve got such an accommodating concept in America of what it means to be a Christian, to be really sold out for the Lord. It’s something we try to fit into our schedule. When it’s convenient, we’ll give God His time, and then we’ve got our time. If the truth be told, a lot of people, when the sun goes down after the Sabbath they’re thinking, “All right, God, I’ve put in my time, now I’m off the clock. And I’ve been holy as long as I can bear it. But now I’ve got Saturday night fever. And I’m going to go do something.” And we’ve got this mentality that we stop being; 1/7th of the week belongs to God and 1/10th of our income, plus there should be some offering in there. Churches often struggle because people feel conviction. They think they’re only robbing God when they don’t pay their tithe. But God says you’re robbing Him if you don’t pay tithe and offerings. The tithe is all sent away from Central Church. The only thing that stays here is the local offerings. It’s like the minimum. But Christ said you’re not going to get there with the minimum. If we’re going to get to heaven, it’s everything. He wants all your heart. And you’ll never be happy until you surrender all. That’s the other key. Christ said, “If you seek to save your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose it, if you let go of everything for my sake and the gospel you’ll find it.” “Take up your cross and follow me.” It’s a total commitment. That’s why Peter said, “We have left all and followed you.” They had. They’d left everything.

Now when Peter said, “We have left everything and followed you,” did Peter still have his house? How many of you know your Bible? In Mark 2, when Jesus is preaching it’s in Peter’s house. Remember, Jesus goes to Peter’s house and his mother’s sick and he heals his mother. Did Peter still have a home? I don’t know, maybe the bank still owned part of it. We don’t know what the mortgage status was, but Peter still had a house. So when Jesus says sell everything you have it doesn’t necessarily mean liquidate all your assets. It means provide everything for Jesus’ use. Did Jesus get to preach in Peter’s house? Does Jesus get to come to your house? Does your house belong to Him? That’s what it’s talking about, everything.

Now when He asked him to place everything on the altar was it a sacrifice or was it a trade? When He said, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor,” was this man being called upon to make a sacrifice? No. Because Christ was saying, “When you do I am going to give you something in exchange for that much better than it.” “When you do this I will give you treasure in heaven.” Did you read that part of the verse? He said, “You will have treasure in heaven.” So, we think it’s a sacrifice. A sacrifice is when you give something up and you may not get any benefit out of it. Jesus is saying, “If you do this and you follow Me I will give you not only eternal life, but treasure in heaven.” So the question He’s really asking this young man is, “Where do you want your treasure?

Do you want your reward and treasure here (and it will be temporary), or do you want your reward and your treasure to be eternal?”

If you think about it, if eternity. Picture if you will. I don’t have anything that I can point to other than your imagination to try to scope this. But let’s suppose that this point where I’m standing right now represents your entire life, about this wide. Whatever you might do in that life, that’s that time of your life. You know it’s temporary, even if you live to 100, it’s limited. So maybe you’re this wide. Christ is saying, “Look, if you’ll trade this I’ll give you eternal life, treasure in heaven.” How far does the line go that represents eternity? How much better will heaven be? Forget about the difference. Let’s suppose that you could have 70 years here; 80 years, 90 years here. I’ve got to remember I’m talking to a healthy audience. Or only 100 years in heaven. Which would be worth more? If heaven wasn’t eternal, but you could have 100 years here or 100 years in heaven which would you want? So God is not just offering you, “Do you want your threescore and ten here or do you want your threescore and ten in heaven?” He’s saying, “Do you want your limited life here, or do you want eternal life in heaven?” Why would anybody in their right mind want to trade all of that for this? And yet people do it every day. People do it all through the day. Christians are constantly trading. “What profit is it if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?” And this was really at the core of what He was dealing with with this young man.

God was offering treasure in heaven. Christ said, “Don’t lay up for yourself treasure on earth where moth and rust destroys, where thieves break through and steal. But lay up.” Up in Covelo, I was there last week, had to buy a new generator. The old one was 20 years old. It was a good generator, but it wore out finally. [I] bought a new generator, brand spanking new. Bought it a few weeks ago. God it all set up. Went back up there again last week, it’s got a mouse nest in it. That’s bad. You don’t want mice chewing on the wires in side your generator. I was so discouraged. All shiny and new and a stinking mouse nest in it. “Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth where mouse and rust corrupts.” Not just the moths. Not too many of us today have moth problems. We’ve got mouse problems. “But lay up your treasure in heaven.” Where it’s safe there. Especially in today’s economy, with the volatility and the markets and the banks. If you want a safe investment give it all to Jesus today. Put it all on the altar for Him.

Someday the Lord will declare to those with earthly means, “Your gold and silver are corroded and their corrosion will be a witness against you. They’ll eat your flesh like fire. You’ve heaped up treasure for the last day.” That’s James 5:3. You remember the parable Jesus told about the foolish man? God blessed his crops and instead of him saying, “Praise the Lord, I can help others,” he said, “Oh, good I can have more for me.” It was all about his earthly security. “I’ll tear these barns down. They’re not big enough. I’ll build bigger barns. There I can cram all my goods and say, ‘Soul you’ve got many goods laid up for many years. Eat, drink and be merry.’” And then God spoke to that man and He said, “You fool. This night is your soul required of you. Then whose will those things be that you’ve laid up?” And that’s the way a lot of us think. We’re so concerned about our earthly security we make no provision for real life insurance, eternal security.

Here’s the question. Did that man’s money make him happy? It says, Mark 10:22, “At these words his face fell.” He needed a face-lift. “And he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” Matthew 19, “But when the young man heard that saying he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The Bible tells us that with the increase of possessions sorrow increases. Did you know that? The more you have, the more you have to worry about. This young man became sorrowful, Luke 18:23 because he was very rich. This is amazing when you think about it. There seems to be; oil and water don’t seem to mix, and it seems like for the Christian riches and genuine Christianity don’t mix. But we all try to mix them. They don’t mix very well.

Now there are exceptions. There are people who can have wealth and Godliness. Are there examples in the Bible? Name some. Abraham. Was Abraham willing to distribute? He was. He was very generous. Job was an example. David, he stayed generous. He had problems, but. Solomon’s wealth, I think it started to change his heart later in his life. But there’s I think a pretty big track record in the Bible of where riches became an obstacle. Who was it typically that followed Jesus? Was it the wealthy or was it the poor? Matter of fact, the wealthy scorned Christ and said, “These ignorant masses, they don’t know.” There were exceptions. Was Nicodemus rich? Was Zacchaeus rich? Was Joseph of Arimathea rich? But you know what? They all laid all on the altar, too, didn’t they? You read about what happened there in Acts 5 and it tells you that. They were willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus.

This man had the opportunity to hear the truth from the lips of Christ Himself. He had the freedom to walk away from Jesus believing his old concepts. He turned from Jesus. You know, it makes me shudder just to think about that. That someone could have all the potential in the world for everlasting life; you’re in the presence of Christ who has the answer; you’ve asked the right question; He gives you the right answer. You’ve got to decide, am I going to go for it? And he said, “Oh boy, I don’t know. That’s expensive.”

A good deal on something you don’t want is not a good deal. [Have] you ever heard someone say, “I went to the store and I bought this contraption. It was a great price.” And then you put it on a shelf; you never use it. A good deal on something you don’t need is not a good deal. Being able to keep your treasure in this life and losing eternal life is bad business. And this young man, there’s no record in the Bible; I hope in my heart to see him in the kingdom, but he walked away and you never hear about him again. He went away sorrowful. He turned from Jesus. It’s all the more tragic to see this man, who one moment is running to Jesus; he’s eager; he wants everlasting life; he’s sincere. And you expect the story to end with glory, but instead he turns away. And Christ commenting on this, “Take heed, and be careful about covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.”

Turn back to Mark 10. “Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is.’” He doesn’t say impossible. “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at this.” Why were the disciples astonished? Because in their day the religious leaders taught that evidence of God’s blessing is prosperity. If you’re rich it’s because God’s blessed you. As if money was evidence that you were spiritual. Is that true? It is possible to have some resources and to be a spiritual person, but usually they don’t mix. There are exceptions. The problem is in God’s church today everyone wants to be the exception.

If God told you right now you could have increased wealth and increased risk of losing eternal life would you want the increased wealth? Well, I’ll just tell you right now the Bible is clear. With increased wealth there is increased risk that you could trust your money and not trust the Lord or you could become comfortable. When the children of Israel entered the Promise Land one of the main things that Moses told them was, “When you enter this land flowing with riches, milk and honey, and you’re going to move into mansions you didn’t build and you’re going to drink from beautiful crystal wells that you didn’t dig and eat from orchards that have been growing and producing for years, beware lest when you become comfortable and fat you say, ‘Oh hey, I’m pretty comfortable,’ and you forget about the Lord.” That was God’s counsel. Sometimes the Lord just pinches us enough to keep us spiritual. He just gives us enough trials to help us keep praying.

And on the other hand, sometimes the devil will cast prosperity in a person’s path to make them stop praying. Is that true? I’m quoting, by the way, The Spirit of Prophecy. Sometimes the devil will cast prosperity, the devil. Got a call at Bible Answers Live last week. And someone on the other end of the line sounded just a touch inebriated, I don’t know. He said, “Pastor, I don’t see where there’s anything wrong with gambling because I pray when I gamble and I win.” And I won’t tell you about the answer, but everyone was smiling in the studio when we heard that. It doesn’t work that way. Generally, it steals your money. Why would you want to support a business that makes everyone else poor?

“When the disciples heard this they were astonished. And Jesus answered again and said, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, ‘Who then can be saved?’” Have you heard the prosperity gospel that’s become so popular in North America? So many of the preachers, not all, there are some good people out there that are preaching a balanced message. But a lot of them are appealing to the carnal heart of people and saying, “Follow Jesus and you’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise. Follow Jesus and you’ll be rich. Follow Jesus and …” That’s not really what Christ said. It doesn’t sound like a good marketing program, but Jesus said, “Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow me. You’ll have treasure in heaven. But if you’re following me because you want treasure here.” God can bless you here, but don’t follow Jesus because you’re looking for earthly treasure. Follow Christ because you’re looking for, first of all, to live your life according to God’s glory. But you’re looking for the heavenly benefit. “And the disciples were astonished. They said, ‘Who then can be saved.’ And Christ said, ‘With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

You know, I’m thankful that after this experience in the Gospel of Luke the disciples are saying, “Who can be saved?” Then Jesus, in the next chapter, He commences to save a very rich man named Zacchaeus. What’s the first thing Zacchaeus does when Christ accepts him? “Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor.” You might say, “Fifty percent, Doug? Why that?” Because he had to use the other to pay back those he’d defrauded. He said, “Half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I’ve taken anything from any man by false accusation I’m going to pay him back fourfold.” He basically put everything on the altar when he found Jesus. Was he happy? It says, “He rejoiced,” that Christ was going to move into his house. There was a very rich man that Jesus saved.

All of us, if we would have eternal life, must do the same thing. We’ve all got a freedom of choice. That man turned away. How sad when you hear about it. You know what this tells us? Will Christ force you to follow Him? Will He force you to liquidate? Will He force you to put everything on the altar? You get to choose. How come Jesus didn’t chase after that man and grab him by the neck and say, “Look, you don’t understand what you’re doing! You’re walking away from me. You’re losing everlasting life! I might even make you an apostle. I’m asking you to follow me just like I did Peter, James and John. There could be a book in the Bible named after you someday. You don’t realize what you’re doing!” He didn’t harangue him. He didn’t harass him. He loved him; He told him, and then He let him choose. God gives us all freedom and He respects our freedom. It broke, I think, Jesus’ heart when He saw him turn and walk away. And each one of us is really faced with the same thing.

I also think this young ruler represents the Jewish nation. Because that young man represented the best of the Jewish nation. He understood the law; he was successful; he was prosperous; had youth. And Christ presented His kingdom. He said, “My kingdom is about loving your fellow man in this life and you’ll sit on thrones with me in the next world.” He said, “No, I don’t want that kind of Messiah. I want my kingdom here.” That young ruler represented the reaction of the Jewish nation as a whole. That they basically said, “We don’t want this kind of Messiah. We’re looking for an earthly kingdom.” And he went away with his money, but was he happy? He went away sad. Christ wants us all to be happy. Where does the blessing come from? By surrendering all to Him. By taking up our cross and following Christ. It’s more blessed, it’s more joyful, to give than receive. That’s when we’re going to get the real satisfaction. That’s when you’ll find fulfillment.

Who was it, Jim Elliot died as a missionary in South America who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to get what he cannot lose.” This young man sacrificed something he could not keep and he lost something he would never lose, eternal life. Christ is inviting us all to take our cross and follow Him, and that’s where real happiness and joy comes from. All of us are at that crossroads. And I’d like to invite you to make that decision; to say yes to Jesus. Turn with me to our closing hymn, 328, Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone? And why don’t we stand together as we sing this?


I’d be missing a great opportunity this morning if I didn’t provide a chance for you to respond to this gospel story. We all are coming to Jesus and asking that question, “Good Master, what shall I do that I might have everlasting life?” There’s something we need to do. First of all, come to Jesus like he did. Surrender all to Christ. You will have treasure in heaven. It’s that simple, to say, “Lord, I’m not just wanting to be a Christian one day a week. I want to be entirely yours. I want you to fill and possess every corner of my heart.” Maybe you haven’t made that decision and you’d like to make that decision now, that you can have peace and follow Jesus. Don’t walk away sorrowful. Come to Him and surrender all. If He’s speaking to your heart and you’ve not done this before and you want to do it now, come to the front as we sing verse two; we’ll pray with you.


This is a difficult story to talk about because it sounds like a sad ending. But it’s really a somber invitation of hope. That man came to Jesus and he asked about eternal life. He could have had everlasting life. And everything available to him, Christ is saying to us. There’s only one thing you lack. That’s good news. Only one thing. Place all on the altar and say, “Lord, I’m willing to follow you. I’m willing to take up my cross and follow you. I’m willing to trust you, to believe in you.” And in doing that, He says, “You will have treasure in heaven.” That’s the good news, friends. How many of you want to reaffirm your decision, to really put all on the altar for Jesus? He’s given everything for you. And I want to extend special prayers for those who have responded this morning. If you’d like to visit with one of our pastors or elders they’ll be down front to meet and to pray with you.

Let’s bow our heads. Father in heaven, we thank you for the gospel message that we can come to Jesus, kneel before Him, recognizing that only God is good, and hear Him tell us there’s only one thing you lack and you can have eternal life. You can have treasure in heaven. To just place all on the altar. Take up your cross and follow me. Lord, we’re thankful that that joy can begin right now. And maybe there are some listening who have wondered why their hearts are filled with sorrow and their countenance is fallen. It’s because they haven’t’ really surrendered all to you. There may be some area in their hearts or lives they’re holding back. Lord, help them to place that on the altar. I pray that each one of us can experience that joy that comes from knowing that eternal life is ours, and be willing to follow wherever you lead. Thank you, Lord, for your presence here this morning, for this Sabbath day. And I ask, Lord, that the church can be 100% yours all of the week; that we can be totally sold out for you. I pray, Lord, in a special way for those who have come forward this morning. Fill them with your Spirit. You know what the individual needs are in their lives; and help them to experience that gift of everlasting life. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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