The Rich Young Man (4-11-15)
Grab your Bible and let’s go deeper into Matthew 19.
Read Matthew 19:16-26:
Matthew 19:16-17 “And behold, a man came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.’”
Jesus (knowing the man’s heart and hang ups) is already trying to correct the man’s over belief that “man” can be and is good.
In other words, he is wanting the man to rethink his idea of what is good since there is no one who is ultimately good or righteous other than God as Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
This brings us to the root of our problem… our sin!
Every man… has sinned! Our sin… fully and rightly separates us from a holy God.
Our pursuit of Self Salvation
Matthew 19:17b-20 “’If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ 18 He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 20 The young man said to him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’”
Jesus directs him to consider the 10 commandments. The man is excited because this is an area he feels he has nailed.
Jesus being an all-knowing God, knows that this man feels he has earned eternal life because he has kept the laws well and is simply asking his teacher, “Did I get a passing grade on my test?”
Now, this is Religion 101. If there was a banner or phrase that described what religion is, it’s this.
“I obey therefore I am accepted.”
This is the mantra of a religion. “I do these things and because I do these things, God will accept me, God will forgive me, God will be nice to me, and God will bless me.”
In our sin, man has pridefully and self righteously tried to live their lives with the goal of achieving a certain identity, life of significance, level of security, purpose, and joy.
When we try to achieve these things on our own, it is called SELF SALVATION.
Life becomes about our achievement. We think, “ I have to be more, do more, and prove myself.”
Our sin tells us that we must achieve, on some level, to find a sense of identity, significance, purpose, or joy- job, friends, love, family being proud of you, family, house, car, bank account, recognition/awards.
It becomes, “Can I achieve to the point of self salvation?”
HEAR THIS: As long as you live in achieve mode you will live as a slave!
But there is good news…..
Instead of slaving away at trying to achieve, you can receive! Receive what?
RECEIVE the gospel, which brings us to a different way of salvation.
You need to turn Godward and receive the life of Christ who stands in your place to achieve all that is needed to be restored to the living God and who ultimately is your identity, personal significance, sense of security, and purpose for living. You need to find in him your happiness and joy.
You need to understand that Jesus came and achieved what you and I could not. He took upon himself our deserved wrath and died in our place so that we no longer have to achieve, but could be free to RECEIVE his life in our place.
IN Christ we RECEIVE an identity with God that we could never gain nor can we ever lose!
In achieve mode you can constantly search for self salvation but will never find it. All it will equal is eternal death. All your trophies, recognition, bank accounts, toys will be swallowed up and lost forever.
In receive mode we can have Christ’s salvation and truly receive from him all that we truly long for.
Let me be really clear- receiving Jesus is not coming to church long enough so that you are okay or obeying the laws of God well enough to get your life straight or rectifying the wrongs from your PAST.
All of that would just be more achieving by which you would claim some of the worship and glory.
The gospel is all together different because Christ achieved what we could not.
He makes us a forever part of the church. He empowers us to straighten our life to honor him. He rectifies the wrongs of our past on the cross.
Now, there is another way our sin causes us to deny the gracious gift of the gospel.
Back to our text in
Our Idolatry- Love for counterfeit gods
Matthew 19: 21-22 “Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Riches in this world are not necessarily the blessing many attribute them to be. Instead they often and quickly become a curse. Why? Because anything that the heart makes ultimate is a betrayal to the one who IS ultimate and is a disease that leaves the heart never satisfied as only God can satisfy.
The building blocks that erect our temporary kingdoms on earth are the very weights that keep the heart from embracing the eternal kingdom of God.
The rich young man thinks he has kept the commandments, but the commandments he has kept are only regarding other people. What he is omitting is the commandments regarding God directly. Like the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
This commandment basically says, “Do not make anything more necessary or fundamental or valuable than me.”
In our sin, we do this all the time. We lift up idols in our hearts and make them more necessary or fundamental or valuable than God.
A way we like to define an IDOL is: something within creation that is inflated to function as God.
–Richard Keyes says, ”All sorts of things are potential idols,
An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope,
an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero – anything that can try to substitute for God.”
Another way to define Idolatry is: taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.
Idolatry happens when you and I try to find our identity, personal significance, sense of security, purpose for living, happiness and joy in these things, people or status… INSTEAD OF IN GOD!
The rich young man’s two big problems were:
- He thought he could earn his way through obeying the laws in religious self- salvation.
- As Jesus helps him see, his greatest affection, his idol was his money. He loved his money more than God. And he walked away from Christ that day because if having God meant giving up his greatest love for his money, he chose his money.
Do you see how enslaved to his idol he was? We have to see we are just as enslaved to our idols.
The truth is, you become a slave to your idols and they begin to control you.
They become a functional counterfeit god in your life. They become your master.
Herein lies the irony for all those who intentionally say no to God because they don’t want to be to controlled by God.
What they don’t realize is: they are inevitably controlled by the idol of their heart.
Now, every one of us thinks we can control it in the beginning, but it gains power and priority over you and, in the end, controls you. So much so that you become a slave to your idol.
It looks like Jesus gives this guy a way to save himself- a work to complete. But this is not so. He is revealing his IDOL. He is showing him the reality found in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Jesus is using the man’s love for money to reveal where his heart is, where his treasure really is, and who his God really is! In the end, the man did what so many of us do. We want God’s kingdom for eternal security not because we want God.
The rich young man kept his possessions and his status in this world but in doing so, he never knew true life- life with God. Instead of his riches being just the beginning, they are his end.
Our Idolatry at work
Matthew 19: 23-24 “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’”
There are so many reasons that this is true.
Rich people have a lot of ways to distract themselves from the beauty of God’s grace.
When the wealthy feel lonely, when they feel afraid, they can easily go on a vacation or buy a new trinket.
And trinkets have an amazing amount of power, don’t they?
A new car, a new phone, a new television- they just make things better for a bit.
Here is what many of us must realize. We are incredibly wealthy by the world’s standards and the opportunity to do this is very much at our doorstep all of the time.
Now watch this, I believe it is God’s mercy on us when he takes away our idols or when he turns our life upside down because in those moments, we are freed up to finally embrace him and to see through the cloud of lies that have told us for too long that all we need is our idol. NO… all we need is Jesus. Anything else you say that you need is a lie, a distraction, and an idol that owns you.
Now, the crowd who just saw this happen is beginning to freak out. Here’s why….
Because if this guy isn’t saved, then what does it even look like to be a believer?
Here’s this guy- he’s wealthy, powerful, he looks blessed by God in all of his dealings, he is morally upright, he teaches Saturday school at the synagogue and if he’s not in… then who gets to be in?
This needs to be our burning question in the room today too….
How is one free of their deadly grip on self salvation and idolatry?
How does one inherit the kingdom of God?
How can this life not be our end or our best but instead be our beginning and the worst we will know forever?
Matthew 19: 25-26 “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
The truth is: it is impossible for man to set down their idols or for man to stop pursuing their self salvation.
Why? Because in our sin, man is spiritually bankrupt. Even worse, we are spiritually dead!
A DEAD MAN HAS NO ABILITY TO SAVE THEMSELVES- NO ABILITY TO UNSHACKLE THEMSELVES FROM THEIR SLAVERY TO THEIR IDOLS.
The good news is, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
We call this the act of regeneration – to be free from our slavish hold on sin and our idolatry.
God must free us. If we are ever going to see the gospel as TRULY good news, we must have our hearts awakened. We must be reborn. The only one who can and does do this is God the Holy Spirit.
In God’s divine providence, he awakens hearts to life when he decides. What this means is we are utterly dependent on God for this.
Now, we must understand that this is why the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the greatest news we can ever know. Because it is the NEWS that God has acted and provided a way for us to be redeemed. If God is opening your heart to him, then you will not respond like the rich young ruler who denied God to keep his slavish love for his money. You will be like the little children who run to be in God’s embrace and receive his ransom for your sin.
When God has opened your heart to him, you will respond with two actions- repentance and belief.
Repentance- a clear picture of the wickedness of your sin and a turn towards honoring God with your life or “taking up a new course in light of the gospel”.
Unlike the rich young ruler, you will give up everything to have God not because you have to, but because it is your joy to!
Matt 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Matt 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
These parables describe how someone is converted and brought into the kingdom of heaven.
A person discovers a treasure and is compelled by joy to sell all that he has in order to have this treasure.
The kingdom of heaven is the home of the King.
The longing to be there is not the longing for heavenly real estate, but for deep relationship with the King.
The treasure in the field is the fellowship of God in Christ.
I love how John Piper says this in his book, Desiring God….
“We must be deeply converted in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
We are converted when Christ becomes for us a treasure chest of holy joy—
a crucified and risen Savior who pardons all our sins, provides all our righteousness, and becomes in His own fellowship our greatest pleasure.”
The second part of our conversion, in addition to repentance, is belief!
Saving faith or belief is trusting Jesus with your life!
It is the confidence that if you sell all you have and forsake all sinful pleasures, the hidden treasure of holy joy will satisfy your deepest desires.
Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that He is desirable.
It is the confidence that He will come through with His promises and that what He promises is more to be desired than all the world.
Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”
So to review… How does one inherit the kingdom of God?
- Regeneration: regeneration is the work of God making our dead, sinful heart come to life. This work is impossible for man but possible for God!
- Conversion: conversion is repentance (turning from sin and unbelief) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).
Please don’t miss what is meant by believe!
We are surrounded by unconverted people who think they do believe in Jesus.
Drunks on the street say they believe.
Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe.
Elderly people who haven’t truly served God for forty years say they believe.
Belief about Jesus and a life-transforming belief in Jesus are two very different things.
All kinds of lukewarm, world-loving church attenders say they believe.
The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus.
Let me ask a different way: a way that relates to what Jesus asked the rich young ruler.
“Do you receive Jesus as your treasure?”
Not just Savior (because everybody wants out of hell, but not to be with Jesus).
Not just Lord (because you might submit begrudgingly).
The key is: Do you treasure Him more than everything else?
Do you agree with Paul and can say, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Although you may struggle with the practical application of this verse in your daily life, your salvation is real if God is your treasure and not your self salvation or idols of the heart.
Praise be to God that he makes this possible for us through the life, death and resurrection of his Son and by his saving grace. May we hold loosely all that He has entrusted to us so that he remains our treasure in all things!
For His glory and by His grace,
Soldiers for Jesus MC