Jesus Probes the Heart of a Rich Seeker (Mark Sermon 50)
April 23, 2023 | Andy Davis
Calling, Imputed Righteousness, Idolatry
Jesus probes a man's soul and exposes his idolatry, but if God transforms the heart, the impossible becomes possible and accomplished.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Turn in your Bibles to Mark, chapter 10. We continue our account here, in verse 17 through 27. On November 8th, 1895, German physics professor Wilhelm Röntgen stumbled on x-rays while he was doing some experimentation on electrical tubes that were emitting radiation. Soon after he discovered these x-rays, he discovered the medical application, when he made a ghostly picture of his wife's hand on a photographic plate. The next century saw the explosion of non-invasive medical diagnostic devices and techniques, such as MRI, CAT scans, ultrasound, EKG, EEG, infrared imaging, and the like. Just ask my daughter, "What's that device that they roll you in and they surround you, and you're like claustrophobic?" She said, "That's the MRI. Oh yeah, I remember that.” Perhaps you've been through that experience. Non-invasive means that the body is not being cut, but something is passing through the body, able to give the physicians a sense of what's going on inside.
I have a sense of that happening in our text today. Jesus is the great physician of the soul. In Revelation chapter one, He is depicted as, radiantly glorious in his resurrection glory and having eyes of blazing fire. Eyes of blazing fire. The apostle John said, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet, as though dead." Jesus, very incisively, in Revelation 2 and 3, looks at the seven churches and seems almost to look right through them, and understands what's happening in the hearts and minds of each person. Now, Jesus, as the physician of the soul, says in Luke 5, "It's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
In today's account, we see Jesus looking right through the rich young ruler, perceiving what his genuine spiritual sickness was, probing to the very core of his corruption. And in so doing exposes, I think, one of the most common idols there is in the world, greed, materialism, lust for money, a common problem. But more generally, this morning, we have the opportunity effectively to lie under the eyes of blazing fire ourselves, and allow Jesus to look right through us and tell us what's wrong with us.
Perhaps no passage captures this process better than Psalm 139, 23-24, "Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there's any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." That's after the psalmist said, you already do that. "Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me." But he's inviting God to do that, he’s asking for it. For us to go to Jesus and say, "Would you please look at me? Look right through me with those eyes of blazing fire. Show me what is wrong with me.” Especially on this issue of materialism, of greed, to have that exposed is painful but necessary. To see ourselves in this rich young ruler, to realize that Jesus is demanding that we lie under his penetrating gaze.
If you look at the text, three times in the text, it is said that Jesus looked at someone. Verse 21, "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Verse 23, "Jesus looked around at his disciples and said." Again in verse 27, "Jesus looked at them and said." Three times, it's this idea of Jesus looking. I don't think it's an accident. It's a sense of the holy gaze of Almighty God, of Jesus, looking right at us.
Is there anyone here who's willing to make a statement like this? “I thank you, God, that I don't struggle with materialism. I thank you, God, that I look on my money exactly how you want me to look at it. I thank you, God, that I don't have a problem with greed. I don't suffer from that central idol there is in the human right. I thank you, God, that I'm not like others.” Is anyone here that wants to make that statement? I know I don't. So we need to allow Jesus that time to search us now in the text, to look at us and to look right through us.
I. A “Perfect” Seeker Approaches Jesus
We see it in the account of a seeker, a so-called perfect seeker, who approaches Jesus. All of us have a desire, a hope to be evangelistically active. Some of us might say, "Oh God, bring me someone just like this." I mean, talk about low hanging fruit. This is the perfect seeker, right? What made him seem like the perfect seeker? First of all, he's rich. We want the rich people to come. He had great wealth [verse 22]. Think of all the poor people he'd be able to help, all the missionaries he could send out, the church budget, he could support with his finances.
He was young. In Matthew 19:22, He calls him a young man, he had years ahead of him. All that youthful zeal, and energy, and health, and the vigor of his life still laying ahead of him, most likely. We're told in Luke 18:18 that he's a ruler, “A certain ruler came, and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’" He has a position of influence with which he could use to shape and mold the future direction of his community. He's a rich young ruler. Also, he's pious. He's deeply concerned about his soul. He says he's kept all of God's commandments from childhood. We'll get back to that in a moment.
He was seeking. He feels there's something missing in his life. He's not satisfied with his life or with his piety. He says, "What must I do to inherit eternal life, or what do I still lack?" Usually, a rich, young, powerful individual like this, doesn't feel that they have any lack. They have the world by the tail and feel very comfortable with where they're at in life, not this man.
He's respectful, even worshipful toward Jesus. Look at verse 17, "He fell on his knees before him and said, good teacher.", et cetera. He's not ashamed to be seen with Jesus. We don't know when it happened, but somewhere in here, the Jewish authorities, religious authorities, decided that if anyone said Jesus was the Messiah, they'd be put out of the synagogue. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, not wanting to be seen. This man has no concern about that. He openly falls down in front of Jesus, not ashamed. He's eager for eternal life. His eyes are on eternity. He's wise enough, finally, to come to Jesus for answers on this. There’s no better source of wisdom.
There's so many things about it. He seems to be exactly the kind of person we'd want to talk to about spiritual things, right? But Jesus takes a very surprising approach with this man. Like I said, he seems to be low hanging fruit. That shows how wrong we can be about people. 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” We see that, don't we, in this text? We see Jesus looking at this man's heart, and finding a serious problem there. Randy Alcorn, in his book, Money, Possessions, and Eternity, talks about this exchange, of this encounter.
"We would certainly handle the situation differently.", Alcorn writes. “First, we would probably commend the rich young ruler for his interest in spiritual things. Then we might tell him, just believe, that's all. Just ask God into your life. You don't really have to do anything. When he said, "Okay, I believe.", which no doubt he would since it cost him nothing, we would consider him at that moment a follower of Christ. Think how blessed we would feel knowing that God's kingdom was greatly enhanced by the conversion of this well-known wealthy young man. Soon, there would be articles and books about him. He'd be on TV and radio talk shows. He'd be put on mission and church boards. He'd speak at rallies, and receive invitations to share his testimony in churches and conferences across the country, likely making him a richer young ruler. Notice that Jesus didn't tell the young man to give 10% to the poor. If he was truly an obedient Jew, he already did that. Neither did Jesus say, set up a trust fund, keep the principle intact and give the interest to the poor. The young man would gladly have done that. Instead, Jesus stopped him dead in his tracks by telling him to ‘give up everything and follow him.’”
So at least a sidebar here is, we need some help on our evangelism. We need to learn how to handle people differently. Jesus must perform deep surgery on this man's soul, in order to bring him to salvation. He must expose and excise the idol of greed in his heart, and even deeper than that, he had to show him his corruptions and his deep need of salvation.
II. Jesus Probes and Exposes His Soul
He begins by attacking this man's conception of goodness. “Good teacher," [verse 17], he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’" We throw this word “good” around all the time. He's a good man, we say very easily. In one of these accounts, he also speaks of good deeds for salvation. Matthew 19:17, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" So putting it all together, what good deed must I do to get eternal life? It's rich in the word “good.”
One of the most common misconceptions that people have, is that they can earn salvation by their good works. That they can pay for their sins by doing good things that God will be impressed with. The concept is that if our good deeds outweigh our bad, then we'll go to heaven. It's a complete lie from Satan. There are fundamental problems with it across the board. So Jesus has to address his conception of goodness and ours too. "Why do you call me good?", Jesus answered. "No one is good, but God alone."
First of all, Jesus is not claiming there, to not be God or to not be good. He asked him, why do you call me good? Jesus is good, perfectly good, and He is God. But that's not it. He's not saying I'm not God, and He's not theological nitpicking. He's actually going to the core of this man's conceptions and corruptions, and also ours. We tend to think of ourselves as basically a good person. Would you call yourself basically a good person? You could imagine talking to somebody about that, and they'd probably say, "Yes, I'm a good person. I occasionally do some things that are grossly out of character. I mean, from time to time,” they would say, "But I'm basically a good person.” What do you think that's going to look like on Judgment Day? Basically a good person? What a lie. As though we're 98% there, and just need a little more to get us over the hump. Do you get the sense this rich young ruler feels that about himself? He’s mostly there? Is there something I lack, some last thing, that could polish it up, like put a ribbon on the box, finish it off, something like that?
But the goodness that Jesus conceives of here, I could think of in terms of perfect purity, an absolute perfection of character. That's how Jesus is conceiving when He says no one is good but God alone. I think of it in terms of like 1 John, 1:5, "God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all." I think that's the way Jesus is thinking about goodness here. God is pure goodness. I don't think there's anything wrong with using the word good the way we usually do, the Bible does. It speaks of Barnabas as a good man full of the Holy Spirit. There are other verses that use it, but here Jesus is zeroing in on that sense of perfect purity. God is light and in him there's no darkness at all, and no one is good, but God alone. What that means then is, that none of our works are good. Not really.
Picture in your mind, a pig farmer coming in from mucking out the pigsty. He's caked in nasty smelling mire from head to toe. Imagine coming in like that, and offering to help his wife by folding the laundry or cook dinner, or iron her clothes for Sunday morning. Or wrapping a gift that they're going to give for a wedding reception that evening, or doing anything at all. Do you even want him in the house? Picking up and fondling his kids, picking up their toddler and hugging him or anything at all? How disgusting. He can't help but soil everything he touches with his filth.
That's what the Bible says of us, when it comes to our good works. Very famously, Isaiah 64:4, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags." They are all defiled by us. We defile everything we touch. Jesus is saying to this prideful man who thinks of himself as basically good, the standard for heaven is perfection, perfect goodness, and you don't have it. The only ones then, who will be welcomed into heaven, are those who know that they don't have perfect goodness, who are spiritual beggars. As Matthew 5:3 says effectively, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs of the kingdom of heaven. We're not standing there saying, "I thank you, God, that I'm so good."
We see how Jesus wisely deals with each person according to their needs, which He alone knows. He doesn't deal with everyone the same way. There's not a cookie cutter approach to evangelism. For example, in John 6, when a crowd comes to Jesus, and asks him basically, the same question, "What good deeds must we do to get eternal life?" The very common questions, the way people tend to think. Jesus said, "The work of God is this, that you believe in the one he sent." It's a different approach there. Same doctrine, but he just handles people differently.
"Jesus wisely deals with each person according to their needs, which He alone knows. He doesn't deal with everyone the same way. There's not a cookie cutter approach to evangelism."
In this case, what Jesus does is, He applies the law. He takes the law of God and applies it to this man. He needs to humble him and show him his need for a savior. I don't think this man thinks he needs a savior, and so, he takes the law and he applies it. That is the purpose of the law, to show us our need for a savior, to expose our corruptions. So in verse 19, Jesus says, “You know the commandments. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false testimony. Do not defraud. Honor your father and mother.” So just pause, just a lesson for evangelists, which should be all of us. Use the law of God to show people their sins, and in order to use it, you have to know it.
I would commend that you memorize a simple listing of the Ten Commandments. Memorize also, the two Great Commandments. The ten and the two get the job done. Especially, Jesus's commentary on some of the Ten Commandments in his Sermon on the Mount, which He'll mention in a moment. That law, the Ten Commandments, and then his summary of all the laws, the two commandments, will catch every sinner, if you know how to use it, and we need to be able to do this. We need to do law work. The Puritan's called it law work. Without that law work, people will not seek a savior. They'll not seek salvation. They don't think they need it.
It says in Romans 3:20, "Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law, rather through the law we become conscious of sin." Through the law we become conscious of sin. That's what the law does. Notice that Jesus zeroes in on the horizontal laws. I find that interesting. He goes horizontal, “the love your neighbor as yourself” aspect, not vertical, “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. He's just very wise. He knows what He's doing. He goes horizontal with this man.
Four of the laws come from the Ten Commandments, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.” Those commandments come from the Ten, but one of them do not. Defraud does not. Where's that come from? That's an interesting addition. Please don't imagine Jesus didn't know the Ten Commandments. He knew the Ten Commandments very well, and He doesn't say, "Let me quote the Ten Commandments." He doesn't say, "By the way, this is coming from the Ten Commandments." He just quotes them. But He says, "Do not defraud." I wonder why He adds that in with these other very famous laws, which do come from the Ten Commandments. It is possible that this guy got rich by dealing improperly with other people in business dealings, that he is defrauding people. It is possible.
If you look at that list, is it really possible that he has perfectly kept all those commandments? Can we even imagine that that could possibly be true? But this is exactly what he says. Look at verse 20, "Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy." Wow. The Jews of that time tended to look on the laws, something that you could keep. It was an external standard that only the worst people violated. The religion of the Pharisees and the Scribes was of this sort, the whitewashed tomb religion that was external. This rich young ruler really did believe that this was true. He actually felt he had kept these commandments from childhood. But think carefully, had he perfectly obeyed these?
Look at the one that says, honor your father and mother. Let's zero in on that one. Should we bring in mom and dad? Should we talk to them about how it was with this rich young guy when he was growing up? Perfect? Besides which, what part of your body do you use to honor, to honor your father and mother? It's done in the heart. It's a heart religion. Like the tenth commandment, which He just doesn't list here, but He's going to get to, “you shall not covet.” What part of your body do you use to do that? It's your heart. Jesus knows very well that these commandments are meant to search our hearts, not just our external behavior. Jesus takes these, this heart focus, and applies it to murder in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder.’, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, that anyone who is angry will be subject to judgment.” You've murdered with your heart. How many times have you done that, murdered somebody in your heart? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, that if you even look at a woman lustfully, you've committed adultery in your heart.’”
Is Jesus wrong to go so far with the law? No. The 10th Commandment, coveting, is a heart prohibition. It's a heart issue, so is honoring. Honoring your father and mother is something you do with your heart. He's just being consistent, and they were being inconsistent thinking they could obey, “you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery”, just by external patterns. This guy thought he had them. But did he have, as Psalm 24 says, “clean hands and a pure heart”? Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Who has clean hands, that's right behavior, and a pure heart? That's how Jesus applies the law.
I would say in your evangelism, you need to do the same thing. Probe their heart with the law. Use the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ legal opinion on the Ten Commandments. Would you say that Jesus' legal opinion on the Ten Commandments is relevant to you? It is, because He's the judge that will be sitting on your case, and his definition of the law matters, because He's going to be evaluating His law, his way, and He's looking at your heart. Jesus can do that. Jesus has this ability. He has this spiritual diagnostic, these eyes of blazing fire, not X-rays, not MRI, not CAT scan, not ultrasound, just His eyes. He just looks at you, and He knows you.
Remember in John 1, that encounter with Nathaniel? When Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, he said, "Now here is a true Israelite in whom there's no guile." There's no treachery. No trickery. "How do you know me?", Nathaniel asked. "I saw you while you were under the fig tree." Whoa. I looked at you and I know you, eyes of blazing fire. It says later in John 2, that Jesus would not entrust Himself to all these people that were coming clamoring after Him at the feast. He would not entrust himself to them, because He knew all men. He didn't need man's testimony about man, because He knows what's in a man. How? By looking at them. So Jesus, by looking at this man, knows him.
Jesus decides to work with him. Look at verse 21, "Jesus looked at him." Again, that significant phrase, but then He says, "and loved him." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack.", He said, "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me." I find the statement, Jesus looked at him and loved him, to be amazing and significant. It connects with what I just said. Jesus knows a person's true state, true heart condition, eyes of blazing fire. It also is significant to me, that it says Jesus loved him. Jesus doesn't just throw around His love. This actually gives me hope for this man. Though I have no proof at all that the man later changed his mind, it's always possible, isn't it? Even in our text here, Jesus is ultimately hopeful. He doesn't end hopeless, He ends hopeful. With man, this is impossible, but not with God. With God, all things are possible. That's a very positive ending to this story. I have some hopes. Maybe we'll find this rich man in heaven, having later repented of his sin and walking away from Jesus. I'll circle back on that more in a few moments.
He gives this diagnosis, “one thing you lack.” We should not imagine the only thing he lacked, but it's the key issue. He's going to go to the key issue, “one thing you lack.” You lack faith enough to love God with your possessions, and to love your neighbor with your possessions. That's what you lack. Your fundamental problem's a lack of faith, and then He gives this shocking command, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor.” His materialism is essentially selfish, horizontally toward the poor, and even worse, vertically toward God. It's idolatrous.
Greed is idolatry [Colossians 3:5]. This command is similar to the treasure hidden in the field. Remember, the man went and sold everything he had and bought the field, or the pearl of great price. That man sold everything he had to buy that one pearl. It's also clearly related to the call, the general call of discipleship, which Jesus gave in Mark 8:34 through 37, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." What good would it be for a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul? Or what could a man give in exchange for his soul? It's the same thing. You've got to give up worldly things and follow me, and He makes him a promise. If you do that, if you sell everything you have and give to the poor, you'll have treasure in heaven. How beautiful is that? What is that? What is that, “treasure in heaven”? I don't know. But it sounds good, doesn't it? That sounds like something we should want. I'm going to talk about it more, God willing, coming up, not in this sermon, but just beautiful treasure in heaven.
He's kind of calling this man's bluff. “You really care about inheriting eternal life, things in the future? Okay, let's go with it. Sell everything and you'll have it. You'll have something you can inherit eternally, treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me. So you'll get treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not and thieves do not break in and steal. That treasure will be with you for all eternity.” As Randy Alcorn said about money, you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. I love that. So you'll have treasure in heaven. Then, the beautiful invitation, “come follow me.” The real treasure is intimacy with Christ, a relationship with Christ, an exciting lifetime of following Christ, "Come, follow me".
III. The Man’s Tragic Decision
But then the man made that tragic decision, he became despondent. He became dejected. There's different translations. His face fell. He was sad. “And he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Now, this is the opposite of the guy with the treasure hidden in the field. Remember, he in his joy sold everything he had and bought the field. This guy is the opposite. Why? Why is he sad? I mean, he's getting what he wants, right? But it doesn't make him happy. He's holding onto his money, but he is not happy with it.
He was forced, by Jesus, to make a choice. No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and money [Matthew 6:24]. He forced this guy to choose, and he chose money, and that was sad, it's tragic, and the fact that he went away is even more tragic. It's one thing to be sad and effectively say like that man did, "I do believe, help my unbelief." I want to do it. Help me. Help me do that. That's hard. It's a hard ask. He doesn’t, do that, no. Instead, he walks away.
Now, as I said, is it possible he later changed his mind went? Jesus told a parable about that. There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, "Son, go and work in the vineyard." "I will not", he said. But later, he changed his mind and went. Then he went to his other son and said, "Son, go and work today in the vineyard." "I will, sir.", he said, but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? That's the whole parable, the parable of two bad sons. It's not a great parable. We don't look good in that parable. It's like, which am I? Which would you rather be? But he did ask in the end, which did the will of the father? So I have at least some hopes, that this guy had time perhaps to change his mind. Many assume that this rich young ruler's in hell now, because of his bad choice, and he may well be. But in that Jesus looked at him, and loved him, and spoke so hopefully about God's power to change people's hearts, I have at least some hopes.
Then Jesus teaches us about wealth and salvation. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God." The disciples were amazed at His words, but Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. 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." The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God.”
VI. Jesus Teaches Us About Wealth and Salvation
This is a teachable moment. He wants to address their faulty views of worldly wealth. First of all, again, He looks around at them with that penetrating look, the eyes of blazing fire, “search me, oh God, and know me.” Jesus is looking right at them. Then He teaches on the difficulty of the rich entering the kingdom of heaven. Now, why? Why is it hard for the rich? Hard, difficult, significant obstacles, Jesus is saying. Why is that? Money is a substitute savior. That's what an idol is. It's a substitute savior. It's a counterfeit God.
Why do I say that? Rich people trust in their money rather than God to protect them from harm, it gives them security. Rich people delight in their money rather than God, it gives them pleasure. Rich people focus on getting more money rather than seeking God, it gives them purpose. That's what an idol is, something that gives you security rather than God. Something that gives you pleasure rather than God. Something that gives you life, direction, and focus, rather than God. And money is the number one thing there is like that in the world. So rich people often think they don't need anything else. As Jesus said to the people of Laodicea, in Revelation 3, "You say, ‘I'm rich. I've acquired wealth and I don't need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked."
The disciples are shocked. They're stunned. Like most Jews of their day, and we saw this in the Book of Job, they assume that material prosperity is a surefire sign of God's blessing. So the wealthier you are, the more blessed by God you are. Jesus actually seems to say the rich people are in a worse condition. It's harder for them. And when they're stunned by this, Jesus double down. "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Now, some preachers have sought to explain this and reduce its impact. One theory is, that there was a particularly narrow gate in Jerusalem called the Eye of the Needle, that a camel could get through, only if it unloaded all its pack and stooped down. But there's literally, no archeological evidence that such a gate existed. Furthermore, it makes no sense. There's like 14 gates into Jerusalem. If you're a merchant, are you going to take the time to unload your camel, and get your camel to crawl through this tiny gate? Go around to a big gate. You don't have time for that.
Another theory is that it's a mistranslation. The Greek word for camel is kamílos, and the Greek word for rope, rope or cable is kamílos. As if the idea is you have to pair down the rope strand by strand until at last, it can fit through the eye of the needle. Where do people come up with this stuff? Jesus is not talking here about something that's difficult. He actually is talking about something that's impossible. So just stick with that. It's impossible.
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" If rich people can't be saved, who can be saved? Jesus looked at them again, that third time in the text it says, looked at them. Jesus looked at them and said, "With man, this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God." Only by God's transforming, supernatural, sovereign grace, and energetic work in your soul, will you be saved. That's true of everybody, rich and poor alike, everybody. There is no one righteous, not even one. No one who understands, no one who seeks God, they all have turned away. They have together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one.
That goes back to my earlier statement. If my good deeds outweigh my bad. . .. You don't have any good deeds of yourself, none. There's no one. That's Romans 3, 10-12. Therefore, it is impossible to come to God unaided. Jesus said it in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." It's impossible. No one just ups and decides, I'm going to come to Jesus. It just doesn't happen. However, when God works on you, when God grabs hold of you with a grip of his sovereign grace, determined to save you, you can't not come to Jesus. You're going to come. He says in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives me will come to me." So it is impossible to come if the Father doesn't draw you. But if the Father draws you, it's impossible not to come.
Though it is hard, in one sense in the text, even impossible, in another sense in the text, for the rich to be saved, God is able to work the change in human hearts, so they can see the emptiness of wealth and turn away from it toward God and toward Christ. Friends, didn't that happen with Zacchaeus? Isn't that exactly what happened with Zacchaeus? Wasn't he every bit as covetous? Wasn't he swindling people and defrauding people, and using the power of Rome behind him to take from his neighbors? And didn't salvation come to that house that day? Jesus said it did. That's good enough for me. So it is possible for a rich person to turn away from the wealth, and to trust in Christ. Has this happened to you? Has the grip of sovereign grace taken hold of your heart, driven out idols and made you focus on Christ as your true treasure? Have you been saved through faith in Christ, knowing you don't have any good works? Knowing you have no other hope. Have you trusted in Christ for the salvation of your soul?
"Has the grip of sovereign grace taken hold of your heart, driven out idols and made you focus on Christ as your true treasure? "
The lessons come from this. Just look at the phrases and let's learn the lessons. First of all, no one is good, but God alone. Understand the depravity, the natural depravity of your own heart and of human hearts. No one is good, but God alone. Understand the perfect moral beauty of God. God is perfectly good. Meditate then, on the pervasiveness of sin in your life. Cry out to the Lord for grace. God's grace is the only force strong enough to make an evil person like you or me, good. Worship the God who is good. Meditate on his goodness. Meditate on the perfection of his character, the beautiful moral character of God's goodness. Then look at the phrase, “if you wish to enter life.” You have to enter life. You have to repent and come to Christ. You start outside life in spiritual death. You have to come. You have to enter life through repentance and faith in Christ. Are you alive or dead spiritually?
Sell your possessions, give to the poor, and you'll have treasure in heaven. We know this is not a universal command given to everyone. He doesn't give it to everyone, but it's here in the Bible. The accounts in all of the gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we have it again and again. The Holy Spirit wants us to look at it. Too many Christians are caught up in the idolatry of wealth. I think it's one of the most dangerous spiritual forces facing First Baptist Church of Durham. We're a wealthy church. We give a lot of money to the church and the missions, and we could be prideful.
But is there a searching here of our hearts that needs to happen? Is there a great danger that we are in concerning money, concerning materialism? How could we excuse ourselves from the force of this text? So quickly say, well, I know He is not calling on me to sell everything I have and give to the poor. But is He calling you to do anything differently with your money? Anything differently at all? I would commend Randy Alcorn's books. The Treasure Principle is a shorter version than Money, Possessions, and Eternity. He's got EPM, Eternal Perspectives Ministry, in which he can give good counsel on this.
Jesus said it's hard for a rich man to be saved. 1 Timothy 6:9 and 10, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation, into a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs Good counsel, 1 Timothy 6. Read it. 1 Timothy 6 is a good chapter for rich Christians. Be generous. Store up real treasure in heaven by giving money away. Don't let money grab hold of your heart. Be honest about materialism.
And finally, with man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. Realize, our salvation didn't originate with ourselves. We can't save ourselves. But God has sovereign power to save sinners like you and me.
Close in prayer. Father, we thank you for the truth of this amazing encounter here. Thank you for the things that it teaches us and how it probes us. I thank you, that you have the diagnostic ability to just look right through us with eyes of blazing fire, better than an x-ray, better than MRI, or a CAT scan, or ultrasound. Lord, you have that power. Search us, oh God, and know us. And show us, especially on the issue of materialism, on the issue of money, help us to be generous to the poor in need, generous to missions, generous to others that are going through trials and need financial help. Help us, oh Lord, not to be enslaved to money. But more than anything, oh Lord, help us to realize, you are the only one who is good, and only in you can we be good. In Jesus' name, Amen.