Sermon April 22, 2006 : The rich, young man

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Gregory Bishop
  • Date: April 22, 2006
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

“.....Teacher, what good things must I do to get eternal life?’ Why you ask me about what is good? Jesus replied. There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter life obey the commandments’. Which ones?, the man inquired. Jesus replied ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself’. ‘All these things are kept’, the young man said. ‘What so do I lack?’. Jesus answered ‘if you want to be perfect though, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’

When the young man heard this he went away sad because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’.

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, and asked: ‘who then can be saved?’ Jesus wrote that down and said ‘with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’, Jesus answered him. We have left everything to follow Jesus, what then will there be for us? Jesus said to them ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal all things, when the son of man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel and everyone who has left houses, or brothers or sisters, or a father or a mother, or a child, or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first”.

Father, we come before you and recognize that studying your word is a holy thing and your people are holy. And so, Lord, we come before you with reverence tonight, recognizing that you speak and God we want to be good soil, we want to be people who listen to you, who don’t just listen with our ears, but listen with our hearts, and our lives and our actions and even our check books. And so, Father, we come before you tonight. We pray God speak, even if it hurts, even if it’s scary. We want to hear what you’ve got to say. So we come in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I will be brief tonight and if anyone, by the way, as I speak has a testimony, a story from your own life, that you feel within you as I speak, and you want to share it briefly afterwards, you let me know and maybe we can do a little bit of that. ¿Ok?

This is an amazing story, the rich young ruler, he comes to Jesus and have you ever noticed that he comes up and says: ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’, and then he says ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?, Jesus replied, ‘there is only one who is good…’ I’ll stop right there.

He says ‘Teacher, what good thing do I have to do to get to enter into eternal life?, and Jesus says, ‘you know, you’re asking me about what is good in life. There’s only one who is good’. Jesus is implying ‘you know what? You’re coming up to me as a teacher to give you advise about how to live, but there’s only one who’s really good, and I think you don’t really realize who you’re talking to.

This guy came up to Jesus as someone who could give him advice about how to live and how to do what you have to do to fulfill his religious responsibilities. And Jesus realized that he didn’t really know who he was talking to. And a lot of times we do that with God or we do that with Jesus. We come to him for advice about how to live or for things to go better, but Jesus said: ‘you don’t understand. There’s only one who is good. I don’t think you realize who you’re talking to. You think I’m just a good guy. Only God is good and if you think I’m good, you don’t know nothing, because you don’t realize you’re talking to God in the flesh.

And I think a lot of times we come to Jesus wanting to negotiate in a certain way. And I see this man coming to Jesus without a real recognition to begin with, of who he was talking to. And so Jesus starts with that little comment that like ‘ok, wait a minute, let’s get things well here’ and then he says ‘if you want to enter life, obey the commandments’. What does the man say to this?

So Jesus says ‘if you want to enter life you have to obey the commandments.’ What does the man say to him? Remember the text, it’s in verse 18. What does the man say?

What’s behind that comment? What’s behind that question? I heard someone put it in one way that the ten commandments are not a multiple choice exam. Which ones? It reminds me of the lawyer who comes to Jesus and says, you know, what do I have to do then to enter eternal life?. Jesus says, ‘Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ And then he says, ‘ok, but wait a minute, who’s my neighbor?. It’s not him, is it? Not him. Anyone but him.

Which ones? Behind that question lies the desire to know what’s the minimum I have to do to be good enough. Ok? What’s the minimum here? You’ve ever done that in a class when you’re in school and you look over the syllabus, and you look over the requirements, very precisely because you want to know what’s the minimum I have to do to get the maximum grade I’m willing to live with and where it connects, that’s the goal. Minimum effort, maximum grade. That’s the way we live. And so many of us bring that to church. We bring it to God, and we say ‘God, I want to do the minimum I have to do to be ok, to not get in trouble with you. Just tell me the basics.

Jesus says ‘ok,’. Jesus says, ‘do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ You know, he leaves out a couple of commandments there. Jesus plays a little trick on him, to gives out a bunch of the commandments.

How many people know their commandments? Which of the ones that we’re looking at verse 18 and 19, which are the commandments that Jesus doesn’t mention here? Anyone noticed. Well, he doesn’t mention, Sabbath. That’s one of them, and there are some others. Do not covet.

What does covet mean? I really want that. I coveted, I coveted seats at a Red Socks game this week on Thursday and it was a beautiful afternoon and I saw everyone going and I was coveting, was envious. That happens, we covet.

And it says, it’s such an important one that God says, he’s very specific. He says ‘don’t covet your neighbor’s ox, your neighbor’s donkey, your neighbor’s goat, your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s fence, the grass and your neighbor…. He goes down …..basically he said or anything belonging to your neighbor, don’t covet it. Don’t want it as if I want that for myself, and then the first he mentions, puts number one: and do not covet thy neighbor’s wife. That’s the …., right?

But then all of these…. He doesn’t mention the coveting one, the envying, the desiring and why do you think Jesus leaves that out? What do you think? Why would Jesus leave that particular commandment out when he’s talking to this guy?

We know the man is rich. Is it that Jesus doesn’t want to offend him? Is that it? That will offend him. I know this guy is rich, he says I don’t want to step on any toes here. Why do you think he does that? Well, we’ll see. We’ll see why. Because he’s leading this man along a certain path. He wants to show this man something about himself.

You’re going to see that the Jesus is the Bible, you see, most of us want a Jesus who can be comfortable with, a Jesus who does nice things, who says nice things, who makes us happy, who pretty much acts just the way we want him to act. But Jesus in the Bible is not like that. He’ll break any box you try to put him in. Jesus says the things that are offensive to people sometimes, the things that challenge them, the things that he hits you on the nerve where it hurts.

Today we were doing a Bible study upstairs and right when we talked about a particular sin in this Bible study, one of the guys got a horrible backache, oh, my nerve starts pitching as if we really hit the nerve, didn’t we. Literally, and he had to be taken out… like, did we say something that really got….. But Jesus looks for the nerve and he goes for that. And it’s not because he’s mean, it’s because he loves you.

You know, that’s a really good point and I know…. Don’t assume I will explain it. I never would have thought of that, but I think you’re right. That’s one of those sins that’s not as noticeable.

Murder, you know, if someone is a murderer you know that’s bad. It’s bad to kill people, that’s obvious. If you steal, if you do….. but envying is a real internal, it’s a hard attitude. And you know that a lot of people think in the Old Testament that the Old Testament law was just about the externals. But that’s not true. God cared about the heart from the very beginning. He sees our heart and our thoughts as much as he sees our actions. And he cares about our attitudes, our inner workings, it’s as if the way I described it a couple of weeks ago, it’s as if he got a TV screen right there and he can seen what’s projected and he wants that internal meditations of our hearts to glorify him. So I think not covet has a lot to do with it.

You see, he knows that that’s a harder one to see so he left it out and he was going to come back to it later. So Jesus goes down the commandments and what does the young man say after Jesus goes down all the commandments, what does he say? All of these I have kept and in another gospel it says since I was a young child. Come on! Give me a break! Don’t you love that?

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve done all that. Yeah, yeah, I’ve obeyed all the commandments since I was a little kid. Right, come on, give me a break! This guy needs a mirror. He needs to look at his life.

You know, in college a hall mate of mine, I would share the gospel with him. He said, ‘Greg, I don’t understand what you’re saying about me being a sinner. I’m a good guy. I’m a good guy. I don’t do bad things. I don’t steal, I, you know, I share stuff when I have a chance. I try not to say bad things. I’m a good guy.

Bueno, after a couple of months I don’t know what happened, the Holy Spirit got hold of him and he said: ‘you know, Greg, remember how I said I’m a good guy? I was full of it. I am not a good guy. I am such a jerk. I’m so insincere, I play games, I do this, and he went down a whole list of……. He was much harder on himself than I ever would have been, because God had opened his eyes to see what was in his heart and what he was really like.

This man thought he was good. He thought he was good enough and a lot of us are like that. We think, yeah, I’m a nice person. I’m nice. I’m a good person. Jesus knows you’re not as nice as you think you are and I’m going to show you your hearts. And here we go.

And then he says, ‘if you want to be perfect go and sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’ We know how the man reacts. The Bible says that this man ‘heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth’.

Now, what’s the inclination? You’re sharing the gospel with someone and then the person can’t accept what you’re saying and just turns and walks away sad. What would be your inclination to do as you see this guy leaving? What would you want to do? I know what I would do. He’s leaving, he’s sad. He wanted to be a follower of Jesus. He’s really a good guy, he’s a nice guy. What’s our inclination? What would you want to do, pastor Sam?

Wait, wait, wait….. let’s talk about this. It’s not so bad. I would want to run after the guy and say ‘no, no, no, don’t go so quickly. Let’s talk about this, really.’

What does Jesus do? He lets him go. This man wanted to come to Jesus with certain conditions. He wanted to come on his own terms. And Jesus will not accept us on our terms. He insists on us coming to him on his terms. And if it’s not on his terms, he’s ok with you walking away. Because it’s either going to be for real or it’s not going to be. And so with this man he lets him go away sad.

I heard a story once of a man who was sharing about Jesus with a person who wasn’t a Christian back in the sixties, or early seventies, and this guy had big hair, big hair. He had a big froe. I don’t know if you have any exit recovering hippies in the room, I don’t know, from way back. Yeah, big hair, big guy hair, you know, and the guy says ‘if I become a Christian, do I have to cut my hair?’. And the guy who was with him says ‘yes, definitely’. And the guy………. my God…you guys are….. Well, ok, if that’s what it takes, ok. I’ll cut my hair.’ And the guy said ‘you don’t really have to cut your hair. I don’t care about your hair, but you have to be willing to cut your hair and if your hair is a condition of following Jesus, then that’s not for real. There can’t be any contract that you’ve written saying ‘Jesus, I will follow you on the following conditions.’ Jesus said ‘No, we’re talking unconditional surrender’, you know, you raise your hands, you put everything on the altar and you say ‘here I am’. That’s becoming a Christian and it’s hard. It’s a full thing.

And so, then he looks to his disciples and says ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.’ He says ‘it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.’

Why is it hard for the rich to go to heaven? And you’ll see this. You go to countries that are poorer and generally there’s deeper spirituality. And then you go to countries that are wealthier and generally there’s more superficial spirituality. It’s a generalization. Don’t get me wrong. I know some very Godly rich guys. Thank God for them, because they give us a lot of money. Now, thank God for that. We need it. There’s some very, very Godly wealthy people and there’s a very ungodly people who don’t have any money, ok? So it’s not an automatic, but as a general rule you see that. Why is that so?

What do you think? Why does it usually work that way? Where your treasure is…… there your heart is. Well you noticed that, when does it hurt if you lose something like…. or sometimes they’re good things, you know, family things you love for good reasons, you should love and there’s pain if this is involved in losing, ‘cause your treasure’s there and some of it, that’s ok.

But I’ve noticed, you know, sometimes I care way too much when a sport team I’m following loses. And I know, I put my heart…. I’ve invested myself way into the minute ……. or something like that, they have let me down.

So easy, isn’t it? It’s such a natural inclination to trust in our situation, our comfort, our provisions, the things we have. It’s almost impossible not to. It’s such a struggle and so that’s what Jesus says. It’s difficult, he doesn’t say it’s impossible, because he says ‘with God all things are possible’, but it’s difficult when you have more and so that was…..

So what was the issue with this man? Why did he ask this man in particular to sell everything and give it to the poor? What do you think he…? Why did he do that to this guy?

That was his treasure. And Jesus loves him too much to let him worship a false God. When we worship money, the problem is it can’t save us. It can provide for a lot, but it will kill us. If that’s what I’m expecting to save me, it will fail me, because it’s not trustworthy. It comes and goes….

And Jesus loves us too much to let us make an idol out of something. An idol is something you set up in the place of God and worship it and trust it. And Jesus knows that our natural…. that human heart is an idol factory. If you don’t have an idol, you’ll make one. You’ll take something or someone and you’ll set it up. It could be a dream, it could be money, it could be your reputation, it could be your job, it could be a person, it could be some particular thing you’re hoping for, and you’ll set that up as the thing that you’re hoping will give you meaning in life. And you invest yourself into it. And if we don’t have a God we’ll make one, because our human heart very naturally wants to make idols. Because we need something bigger than ourselves. And so Jesus knows it.

And in the gospel of Mark, I love the way this reads. It says that Jesus looked at the man, and in the gospel of Mark it says, ‘he loved him’. I love that! And then he says, ‘if you want to be mature, perfect, Jesus looked at him with love in his eyes’.

You want Jesus to look to you with love in his eyes? Think about what he said next, though, before you answer. Jesus looked at the man and he loved him so much that he said there’s something that you love, there’s something that you treasure too much and I need you to be willing to give that up. You need to. And so it was with love.

Sometimes, we challenge people with like….. ‘you’ve got to change!’, you know. Have you ever said that to someone? A spouse, a kid, a friend? You’ve got…. You’ve got to change! Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus looks at you with love and says ‘I love you so much.’

I have one friend. His idol, his God was music. He was a musician. He was a really good pianist and he was a really….. and the guy who was evangelizing them said ‘man, you know, you’ve got to give your music to the Lord if you want to be a Christian.’ ‘Oh, what are you talking about? You guys are a cult. You guys are a cult, I’m not coming here. I’m going to…… but eventually, one day he’s playing music, he’s playing his piano and he says ‘why am I holding on to this?’, and he just stopped and he said ‘God, I give it to you. If you never want me to play another note, if that what it costs, whatever. I’ll follow you wherever you go’.

And at that moment, that’s where he really was born again, or he became a Christian in his heart. He felt the Holy Spirit fill him and just flow through him and he actually, at that moment, spontaneously wrote a song… bang, bang,…… We called it The Battle of St Andrew. His name was Andrew, Andy Springman. And he wrote this song, and he’s a Christian musician now. He really is. But he needed to put his guitar and his keyboard on the altar and say ‘God it’s yours’. That means you can take it, if you want, I’m not going to hold on to it too tightly.

And God knows what our idols are. He knows where the things are that we love, perhaps too much. And he says, he looks at us with love and he says ‘give me that. Give me that’. That’s what he did with the man.

And look at what he says later. ‘Cause Peter says, ‘hey, look at us. We’ve left everything’. I love Peter, he just says what he’s thinking, no matter how stupid it sounds. He says ‘hey, look at us, we’ve left everything to follow you. What’s in it for us? You believe that? He had the gall to ask that. But you know Jesus doesn’t chew him out. Jesus sees that he’s just telling him what he’s thinking and he says ‘you know, there is a lot in it for you, but you’ve got to trust that it comes…..

Look what he says ‘I tell you the truth, when everything is renewed there’s going to come a time when this whole world is going roll up like a scroll and it’s all going to be renewed and it’s not going to go the whole creation. See, let’s put is this way, because it’s going to go from minor key to major key and everything is going to be beautiful and different. When everything is renewed, guess what? The son of man will sit on his glorious throne. You who have followed me, will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

You know, heaven is not going to be a boring place. It’s not going to be a passive, floater. How do you picture heaven? You picture it kind …. You’re kind of a floating angel…. You don’t have a body and you’re floating, you’re kind of floating around. Maybe singing, you know, worshiping, we talk of worship…. But we’re kind of floating around…. Hey man, they’re going to be sitting on thrones judging tribes and stuff, I don’t know what that means, but it certainly sounds like a very dynamic thing to be doing. Heaven is going to be a dynamic, powerful, interesting. There’s going to be a lot of action. I don’t know what it’s going to be, because there are not going to be any sin up there, but there’s going to be a lot of good action in heaven.

And God wants us to think about heaven, because he is inviting you to take a risk. He’s inviting us to make a gamble. You know, when you gamble, and you put money on the table, of course I’ve known….. thank the Lord, none of us ever will have this experience, but just imagine, you know, from movies you’ve seen, you know, you’re in Vegas now and you’re one of those cool guys with the sunglasses and you got the hat… and you push all those chips….. Just imagine you’re pushing it all on the table, I’m going to bet it all and you take out your keys, ‘I’m betting my car, my house….’. You put it down there and everybody said ‘ah…..! and you know, there’s a big crowd around to see what card gets turned over.

Jesus is inviting us to make a gamble, to make a bet. He’s inviting us to bet, that he’s telling the truth, that there really is a heaven and there’s really blessing there. And he’s inviting us also to trust that everyone who has left houses or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or a field, or he’s making a long list leaving everything for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.’

He’s saying ‘I’m inviting…. You have to take a risk. You have to put it on the table’. And that’s the question: do you trust him? Do you trust that this is really for real, that this isn’t just some religious thing we do to feel better, that this really, really counts, and if I stake everything on Jesus and his calling, and I take chances that he’s going to come through to me and he’s going to take care of me and he’s going to provide and there’s going to be blessing in this life and in the next. But I’ve got to put everything on the table. Are you willing?

And that’s why the Christian life is all about trust. Do you trust that Jesus is telling the truth? Do you trust that he is worth it? Do you trust that he’s going to come through for you? if you really sign over your life to him, that’s what Jesus is calling us to.

And he says, ‘many who are first will be last, and last will be first’. He’s saying, you become last and you trust that I’ll make you first. But you’ve got to let go. We hold on so tightly, you’ve got to let go if you want to trust God to take control of your life. And do you trust him? Do you trust him? That’s what we’re going to end with tonight.

I’m going to invite Micky and the musicians to come on up. And I want to leave that with you: what are the things that we’re tempted to hold on so tightly? What are the things in your life; it could be a relationship, it could be….. I think for all us it’s money to some extent, whether you’ve got it or you want to have it. I think for all of us that’s an issue, but there’s other things. It could be a talent that you have. It could be your reputation. It could be….. I don’t know. It could be something you like to do. It’s a dream you have. Maybe it’s a particular activity that you’re in, that you know is sinful, the Bible says it’s sinful but you just won’t let go, because for whatever reason it gives you comfort. It’s what gives you peace in life.

God is saying: look, he’s looking at you with love in his eyes and says ‘I love you, let go, let go. Give this to me.’

I’m going to invite you to stand up and we’re going to dedicate this to the Lord. We’re going to… come before him and personalize this word.

Father, in Jesus’ name and I don’t separate myself from this word, Father, we are all in this together. The heart is deceitful above all else, Lord God. Who can possibly understand it? Father, we come before you and we admit that our heart is an idol factory. We are so inclined to hold on to other things rather than trusting you with everything. It could be wanting to have a certain dream come true, a certain career be successful. It could be wanting people to like you. It could be wanting certain possessions. Whatever it is, Lord Jesus, we let is go.

Today we take our hand, this fist that we have in our heart, you’re looking at us with love in your eyes and we let it go, we let it go to you, we let it go to you. We want to be radical followers of Jesus. And we thank you God that you promised that no one who leaves things for you will be left empty handed. We know that if our hands are empty you will fill them. God you won’t leave us. You’re not going to leave us high and dry. You will come through for us. Oh, God, we don’t want to serve you half way. We don’t want to pick and choose which commandments we want to follow.

God we come before you tonight. We want to follow you, Lord Jesus. We don’t want to follow you, but we do want to follow you. We don’t want to let go, but we do want to let go because you are good and we have found you to be trustworthy. We know that you are the most beautiful thing in this universe. You are the most precious, precious jewel in this universe and there is nothing that can satisfy us like you and because you’re the shepherd we follow you today. We follow you. We come before you.


Sermon delivered by Gregory Bishop taped April 22, 2006 at Congregation Lion of Judah Listen | View (100K) | View (400K)

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