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The Rich, Young Ruler

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 18, 2024 12:01 am

The Rich, Young Ruler

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 18, 2024 12:01 am

Jesus was approached by a man who had youth, wealth, and influence--but there was one thing he lacked. Today, R.C. Sproul uses this encounter to remind us of God's standard of goodness and what is required to enter His kingdom.

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The standard by which God determines goodness is the character of God Himself. As Calvin once said that when we keep our eyes on the horizontal level fixed on this earthly plane, we begin to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We begin to flatter ourselves and consider ourselves as slightly less than demigods until once we turn our gaze to heaven and contemplate just for a single second what kind of being God is. If we do that for an instant, suddenly our self-image is shattered, and we realize that if we examine ourselves in light of the character of God, that we must repent in dust and ashes. People tend to think that they're good, not perfect perhaps, but compared to others, compared to people they see online or on the news, that they're doing okay. But that's because they have distorted the definition of moral goodness, moral uprightness. It's good to have you with us for another week of Renewing Your Mind, as this week we consider several people who encounter Jesus face to face.

Can you imagine what that would have been like? Well, as we look at these encounters, R. C. Sproul will help us see what they tell us about Jesus and what they reveal about us. This is a 13-message series titled Face to Face with Jesus, and you can add this series to your Bible study library when you give a gift of any amount at Today we jump into this series with the rich young rulers encounter with Jesus, a man who, like many people even today, have a wrong view and a wrong standard of goodness.

Here's Dr. Sproul. I want to remind those who are listening that in the course of this series we're doing a little experiment in terror that while we're doing the broadcast for the radio audience at the same time, we're videotaping these programs, and the bane of my existence for videotaping is to have some woman come beforehand and put all kinds of makeup all over my face and put powder on me, and I don't know how people can stand to do that sort of thing on a regular basis, but on this occasion the woman who's in charge of makeup also does this sort of thing for the new Golf Channel, and we were talking about that Golf Channel and about how people are responding in this country to unique opportunities for instruction by some of the greatest golf teachers in the world who are now made available to the public at large through the magic of television. As we were speaking about that, I thought of the one question that golf professionals are asked more frequently than any other question, and that question is simply this, what am I doing wrong?

You know, most of us are loathe to look for criticism, but the one group of people who are masochistic enough to seek criticism are people who play golf, and they go to their golf teacher and they'll say, tell me what I'm doing wrong, the standard reply from the golf professional course in that circumstance is to say it's not so much what you're doing wrong, it's what you're not doing right, and then they take that opportunity to begin to give them instruction. But when we ask questions because we're looking for solutions to problems or ways to get where we want to go, we ask these questions like what, when, why, where, how, and so on. Now the person we're going to look at today who came face to face with Christ is a man who asked Jesus probably the single most important question that a human being could ever ask of Jesus. You might ask yourself the question, if you had the opportunity to meet Jesus face to face and ask Him one question, what question would you ask? Well, this man was in a hurry to ask Jesus his question. He pressed through the crowd and apparently rushed up to Him with great enthusiasm and flattered Jesus with a few nice words of formal address saying to Him, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Other translations put it this way, good teacher, what shall I do in order to inherit eternal life? Now to ask a question like that is to ask the ultimate question, and let's take a few moments to look carefully at that particular question. This isn't a matter of improving one's golf swing, but we have the same first part of the question, what? And we'll take the second word, take the second word, must or shall I do?

It's an obvious question. What does it take to get into the kingdom of God? There are obviously different things that people do do for certain objectives and to reach certain goals, and that's the question on this man's mind.

What do I have to do? He's asking, what are the requirements for getting into the kingdom of God? He's not asking Jesus, Jesus, what do you have to do in order that I might get into the kingdom of God? He doesn't ask, what does God do to make it possible for me to get into the kingdom of God?

But he wants to know what he has to do as a human being. Now in that regard, we're not interested in this person who is usually referred to as the rich young ruler because of the implications of this question simply for him, but let him represent every man today because, as I say, he is asking of Jesus the ultimate question. Well, Jesus as the master teacher rarely answered questions that people posed to him in a direct manner. Frequently when a question was posed to Jesus, Jesus would so shape and formulate his answer as that he would use the question as an occasion for teaching people something that was profoundly important.

Now we notice in the text, let's look, if we will, at Mark's record of this beginning in chapter 10, verse 17. Now as he was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before him, and asked him, good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? Now again, here is an eager person, a seeker, if you will, at least who gives the outward appearance of seeking truth from a man that he regarded at least as an outstanding teacher of the things of God, perhaps even as a prophet. And so he runs up to Jesus and he kneels before him. Now this is a man of great wealth, of great education, and of great social standing, and yet he humbles himself before Jesus and says, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? On the surface it seems like this man is the most humble creature that Jesus has met to this point in his ministry, and he extols the virtue of Christ, calling him good teacher. Well Jesus answers the question indirectly.

The first thing he does is respond to this description of himself that had come from the mouth of the rich young man. So Jesus said to him, why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is God. So we see that Jesus, for the moment at least, evades the question and raises a question of his own to this young man. He says to him, why do you call me good?

And there's a thinly veiled rebuke in this that what is implicit in the question now becomes explicit in Jesus' explanation for why he gives this rebuke. Don't you know that there is only one who is good, namely God. Now that may offend our sensibilities in this day and age because we live in a culture that has been so pervasively influenced by the philosophy of humanism that we've heard it said so often we begin to believe the idea that human beings are fundamentally, basically good. We may do things that are wrong. We grant willingly that no one is perfect.

But in the main, we are basically good basically good. A recent Gallup poll was given among professing evangelical Christians in America where over sixty percent of them affirmed the statement that human beings are basically good. Whereas Paul in the New Testament tells us there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who does good, no, not one. And so we have a collision here between the evaluation of human performance and virtue by our own philosophies and by that view that is uttered by Christ and by the teaching of sacred Scripture. But it seems such a dire thing for the Bible to say that there's none righteous, no, not one.

There is none who does good at all. What if I said to you, you're simply no good? How offensive would that be to you? That would be a terrible insult for me to say to you, you're just plain no good.

Well, you aren't any good. So I say it with a smile, but that's the point that Jesus is trying to make with the rich. My man, this man, you know, he wants to know how to get to heaven.

What do I have to do? Good teacher, tell me please. And the good teacher said, why do you call me good? Don't you know that only God is good? Now I know that the word good is a word that is a relative term.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not embracing moral relativism, but something can only be deemed to be good or bad against some standard, some norm. Now when we say that we're good, and we think that we're good, what's the standard by which we are judging ourselves? The Scriptures indicate that our tendency is to judge ourselves by ourselves and judge ourselves among ourselves, and then adds the evaluation of that, which is not wise, because that's not the standard that God has established.

But we try to grade ourselves on a curve. I look around and I take comfort if I can see somebody behaving in a more godless manner than I do, and I will say, compared to that fellow, I'm a pretty good guy. But the standard by which God determines goodness is the character of God Himself. As Calvin once said, that when we keep our eyes on the horizontal level fixed on this earthly plane, on the terrestrial sphere, we begin to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We begin to flatter ourselves and consider ourselves as slightly less than demigods until once we turn our gaze to heaven and contemplate just for a single second what kind of being God is.

If we do that for an instant, suddenly our self-image is shattered, and we realize that if we examine ourselves in light of the character of God that we must repent in dust and ashes. Now there are critics who say, well here Jesus is denying His own sinlessness. He's denying His own perfection when He says to the man, why do you call me good?

Don't you know that only God is good? Jesus is not talking about His own character. Jesus understands that the rich young ruler has no idea really to whom He is speaking. He does not know that He's face to face with God incarnate. He does not know that He's talking with a sinless teacher, not just a good teacher, by His own evaluation. And so Jesus is challenging the man's assumption of goodness, because Jesus understands that the man who wants to go to heaven is relying on his own perceived goodness to get there.

That becomes plain in the conversation that follows. Jesus now answers the question that He asked in the first place, first place in a somewhat strange manner. The man has said, good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus first rebukes Him for calling Him good, and then He said, you know the commandments. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery. Do you notice anything strange about that answer?

There's lots of things that are strange about that answer. The last thing we would expect Jesus to teach people is that the way to heaven is through the law. If anyone understood that the law was capable of saving no one, it was Jesus. So why does He say to the young man, you know the law?

Now that's strange, number one. Number two, when Jesus starts to give His recapitulation of the law, where does He start? Does He start at the beginning of the Ten Commandments?

No. He starts with the second table of the law. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery. Now, how does the rich young ruler, as some think was an attorney, respond to this, being the Philadelphia attorney that He was?

He breathes this massive sigh of relief. Oh, is that all I have to do to inherit eternal life? Just keep the Ten Commandments. All I have to do is not kill anybody, not steal from anybody, and not commit adultery. That's what Jesus said. You want to know how to get to heaven?

You want to know how to inherit eternal life? Keep the law. So the rich young ruler looks at Jesus and says, Oh, all these things I have done from my youth. Listen to that.

I mean, you see a man get himself in trouble and fall into the mire, and the more he struggles, the deeper he sinks into it. This guy is killing himself. He's having a conversation with Jesus on how to get to heaven, and Jesus tells him, You have to keep the law. Don't kill. Don't steal. Don't commit adultery. And then he says, Oh, great.

I've kept all of these things since I was a little boy. Now Jesus doesn't argue with him. He could have. He could have ended the discussion right there, but this is an example of Jesus teaching sort of like a Socratic dialogue, where he leads the student to try to come to the right answer on his own with a little help from the hints that are being supplied by the teacher on this occasion. Jesus could have said to him, said, You've done what?

You've kept all these things from your youth? You must not have been there when I gave the Sermon on the Mount. You must have missed that one. And if you're impressed with my teaching, maybe I ought to give you a tape, cassette tape of that sermon where I explain what that law really means. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not commit adultery. And let's put you to the test. Let's put you to the test. Let's put you to the test.

Let's put you to the test. You maybe haven't killed anybody in the sense of taking their life, but have you hated your brother without cause? Have you been angry unjustly towards anybody?

Have you lusted after a woman in your heart? You don't steal? Were you ever late in paying a bill? Oh, well, yes, I was late in paying a bill once, but I never stole money from anybody.

So, well, wait a minute. When you agree to pay somebody for goods or services rendered by a certain date, that money belongs to that other person. And if the day comes and goes without your paying it and you use the money that belongs to that person to buy something for yourself without paying your bills that you owe, what's the difference between that and just going into that person's house and helping yourself to their money that's there and going out and using it to furnish your own house?

It's stealing nevertheless. This is how Jesus explained the deeper implications of the law of God. And obviously the rich young ruler didn't get it, but that's not what Jesus did.

That's what I would have done head on, you know. Let's go for the gusto and get right at the point, but Jesus doesn't. Jesus is gently trying to get this man to understand the answer to the most important question he could ever ask. Jesus doesn't even argue with them. He says, oh, okay, you don't kill, you don't steal, you've kept all the law of God since you were a child. It's just one thing you lack.

It's one little problem, one little shortcoming. Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor and follow me. Now what's Jesus doing here? Jesus is not setting forth a universal law that any person who ever wants to get to heaven or any person who wants to enter the kingdom of God or any person who is to be a Christian has to divest themselves of all personal property and give it away.

That's not the point. What is Jesus doing here? This young man had deluded himself into thinking that he was good enough to satisfy the demands of God's law. This man actually believed that he was keeping the Ten Commandments.

He glibly said that he had kept three of the commandments from the time he was a child. And so Jesus is now going to put him to the test. And what I hear Jesus saying, what I see Jesus doing in this situation is this, is that, okay, you keep the decalogue, you keep the Ten Commandments. Let me see.

What's the first one? Thou shall have no other gods before me. Young man, let's see if you have any gods before God. Seems to me that you worship and serve your money, that the whole inclination of your heart, what you invest your passion is, is in your wealth. Let me see if you're willing to love God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your might.

Let's see if you have any other gods that rank ahead of him. Go and sell all that you have, give it to the poor, then come and see me and we'll go to the second commandment and see how you do on that one. And we are told something very sad.

The rich young ruler walked away sorrowfully for he had great possessions. Jesus was teaching him a lesson he didn't want to hear. And the lesson was this. He was a law breaker, and there was no way that he or anybody else who had ever broken the law of God can inherit eternal life by the law.

That was R.C. Sproul on this Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind. But unlike the rich young ruler, don't walk away sorrowful. I encourage you to read Dr. Sproul's short book, What is the Gospel?

You can download it for free at I can still remember vividly when I was walked through the commandments of God, following the example that we saw today. And in that moment, God graciously allowed me to see my own sinfulness, granting me repentance and faith and allowing me to see the sweetness of the one who kept the law in my place.

And I'm grateful every day for that salvation. If you'd like to explore the earlier encounters with Jesus from the beginning of this series, Face to Face with Jesus, you can request this 13-part series on DVD for a donation of any amount at In addition to the DVD, which you may choose to share or donate to your church library, you'll receive lifetime digital access to the series and the study guide.

So give your gift today at or by calling us at 800-435-4343. Before we close today, I'd like to ask you to please pray. This week, Stephen Nichols and I will be traveling to Canada to teach at an Always Ready Youth Apologetics Conference on Wednesday.

The need throughout Canada is great and the demand for Ligonier's teaching continues to increase. So please pray that these teenagers will be better equipped to defend their faith in a hostile time and a generation filled with confusion. Thank you. Next time, we'll meet a ruler of the synagogue who had a young daughter who was dying and begged Jesus to come to his house. That's tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-18 02:15:03 / 2024-03-18 02:23:29 / 8

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