God doesn't judge us by the standards of this world, does he? The mandate he gives to his creatures is this, be holy as I am holy.
And when we are judged according to that standard, we miss it by a mile. We fall short, far short of the glory of God. In a world that seems to have forgotten eternity, I would love it if a stranger came up to me and said, How do I be saved? What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Well, someone asked Jesus that question, and his response might surprise you. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thanks for joining us for this Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Each Sunday, you're hearing sermons that R.C. Sproul preached from Luke's Gospel at St. Andrew's Chapel in central Florida. And today we find ourselves in Luke 18, and we meet a man who seemingly had it all, wealth, influence, power, but he didn't have eternal life.
So let's hear from Dr. Sproul, because in this encounter, we learn a lot about the Gospel and where we should place our trust. Now, a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And so Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God. You know the commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness.
Honor your father and your mother. And he said, All these things I have kept from my youth. So when Jesus heard these things, he said to him, You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
And come, follow me. But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, he said, How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God, for 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. And those who heard it said, Well, who then can be saved? But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
And Peter said, See, we have left all and followed you. So he said to them, Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time and in the age to come eternal life. Again, what you've just heard comes to us from the lips of Jesus, the supreme authority over all things on this planet as He reigns as the King of kings and Lord of lords. And He has thus spoken for our instruction and for our sanctification. Please receive His words as such and be seated. Let's pray, shall we? Again, our Father and our God, we are helpless and hopeless to understand the depths and riches of your Word unless you stoop to our weakness by sending the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit to illumine the text that we have just heard for our edification. And so we plead with you in that regard for your help in this hour, for we ask it in Jesus' name.
Amen. Of course, Jesus was used to thundering multitudes thronging about Him and pushing, shoving, trying to get close to Him, people screaming out of their agony of afflictions, the leper calling, Lord, help us, the blind and the deaf crying out to Him in their need. And if we look at this story, not only in Luke's version of it, but compare with it the account given to us by Matthew and Mark, we see that this man, who is known as the rich young ruler, comes to Jesus not in a casual manner, but he races to Him, running as fast as he can with an intensity about Him. He doesn't come asking to be healed of a certain malady.
He's not sick as much as he is curious. And so he comes with a question, and the question is this, Luke tells us, Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? What in the world would prompt a man like this to rush to Jesus with this particular question? The Bible tells us that he's exceedingly rich, that he is young, and he is a ruler with a significant amount of authority and power. From an earthly perspective, this man has what everybody else wants and seeks to attain to.
He has all the wealth that he will ever need. He has his youth, which is not departed from him, and he has what Friedrich Nietzsche called the highest aspiration of any human being, power and authority. But he's not satisfied. Do you know people like that who are wealthy, young, and in a place of fame or authority, and they're not satisfied? In one sense, this young man was wise beyond his years because he realized that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, he would never be able to keep his youth. No one does.
No one can. He also knew that with respect to his wishes, he was subject to the fluctuations of the worldly markets and vulnerable to the thief who would come and steal from him. So whatever wealth he had wasn't enough.
It never is. And the position of authority that he enjoyed could also slip out of his hands or be taken away from him overnight. But he at least had this going for him. He knew that he did not control his future absolutely.
He knew he did not have security that would last forever. Now we don't know how much he knew about Jesus. We don't know whether he had heard Jesus preach or seen him perform miracles, but I suspect from the context of this account that he must have heard Jesus preach and probably on more than one occasion because the most popular subject of which our Lord spoke in his teaching was the kingdom of God.
And this was the man's burning question. How do I get in the kingdom of God? What do I have to do to gain the greatest inheritance that a human being could possibly have the possession of the kingdom of God?
And so this man is not going to be denied. He runs. He pushes. He gets to Jesus. And he falls on his knees before Jesus, pleading with Jesus to answer his question, What do I have to do to inherit the kingdom of God?
Good teacher, tell me how I can do this. And Jesus offers a strange response. He doesn't say to the young ruler, well, first of all, you have to do this, and second of all, you have to do that, or give him a list that he would have to follow in order to secure the inheritance he was seeking. Rather, Jesus stops him in his tracks for the way he was addressed. He said, why are you calling me good? Don't you know the rudimentary principles, the elementary precepts of good theology? I know Paul hasn't written Romans yet, but you ought to be able to anticipate it, that there's none righteous, no, not one. Don't you know that there's none who is good except God?
So why do you call me good? Well, some critics look at this and say, well, see, Jesus here is denying that he is God, because he says that only God is good, and since he rejects this appellation from the seeker that he is good, he must be therefore denying his deity by no means. Jesus knew very well that this man did not know very well who Jesus was. Jesus knew that the rich young ruler did not know that he was asking this question of God incarnate. From the young man's perspective, Jesus was merely a sagacious human being, but a good one.
Jesus, no, no, no, no. Don't call me good. You don't have the first idea of what goodness is. And so he challenges the man for his loose understanding of goodness. No one is good but one, that is, God.
Now again, let me pause. The rich young ruler didn't understand that, and my guess is that 99 percent of the people in this room this morning don't understand it either. We're still used to flattering ourselves as being good people. At least we're not as bad as the next guy.
We're still back there in the temple like the Pharisees saying, I thank you, Lord, that I'm not like that wretched tax collector over there. And we, disobeying the teaching of the Apostle Paul, judge ourselves by ourselves and judge ourselves among ourselves, and therefore we're not wise. We say, wait a minute, goodness is a relative term.
And relative to the standards of this world, we're pretty good. But God doesn't judge us by the standards of this world, does He? God judges us by His own standard of holiness.
The mandate He gives to His creatures is this, be holy as I am holy. He doesn't lower the bar of judgment to accommodate us. He doesn't grade us on a curve. He grades our goodness according to the eternal standard of His own nature. And when we are judged according to that standard, we miss it by a mile. We fall short, far short of the glory of God.
But the rich young ruler was smug about it. He said, Jesus, good teacher? Jesus said, no one is good but God, so why are you calling me good? And then he begins to give him a little bit of a pop quiz to test his understanding of what goodness is and how it's considered. He looks to the Decalogue, to the Ten Commandments, and he says, okay, you know the commandments. Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother. Don't ask me why Jesus changes up the order of the Ten Commandments here from the way they appear as they are given by Moses and repeated in the New Testament.
And don't ask me why He starts where He starts without starting at the beginning of the Ten Commandments. But He just says to the fellow, you know, you know the commandments. You went to synagogue. You did your bar mitzvah. You know you're not supposed to kill, you're not supposed to commit adultery, you're supposed to honor your father and your mother.
The man's unimpressed. Is that all? Is that all I have to do to inherit the kingdom of God, keep the Ten Commandments?
It's duck soup. I've been keeping those things since I was a boy. Keep them every day. Now, this is a shortened account, I'm sure, of the conversation that Luke gives us, but if I can speculate a little bit, which is a dangerous thing, I can hear Jesus saying to this fellow, I guess you weren't there when I gave that sermon on the mount when I explained the depths of the implications of each of these commandments because if you were there and if you were listening and if you were honest, you would know that you didn't keep one of those commandments since you got out of your bed this morning. Don't you realize that if you have one thought of lust, you violated the law against adultery and if you've hated somebody without just cause or been angry with somebody without just cause, you violated the law against murder?
But he doesn't do that. He just selects a few of the commandments and mentions them to the young man. All these things, he says, I've kept from my youth. Fast forward 50 years, 60 years, whatever it was, the man dies, and he stands before God, and God said, well, how'd you do? Oh, you should have saved me, Lord. I kept every one of those commandments from the time I was a young boy. Can you imagine anybody saying that to God? No, on the judgment day, everybody's silent.
Nobody's going to be claiming that they worked perfection in their lives. So Jesus listened to this humble statement from the young man, and He said to him as if to say, that's great. That's a fantastic accomplishment. You've kept all these commandments. And since you were a little boy, that's just one little thing that you lack.
You just missed the mark slightly, excellent performance otherwise. You've almost attained the goal, but there's just one little thing that you lack. Sell everything that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and then come and follow Me.
Just a little thing. Give everything away, all of it, all of your riches. Empty your pockets. Throw away your wallet.
Give everything that you own to somebody else. Why did He say that to him? Jesus does not set down a rule that everybody has to embrace poverty to be a follower of His. God did not require of Abraham that he divest himself of his possessions. Joseph of Arimathea was welcome in the kingdom of God without giving away his wealth. And so why does Jesus give this commandment to this man?
Well, if I can guess a little bit, I think it's this. The man had just said, all these things I have done from my youth. And so Jesus starts the checklist. Commandment number one, thou shall have no other gods before Me. He said, I think I'll put this young man to the test about his other god that was before Me, his riches. He said, you obey the commandments? Let's see.
Let's try number one. Give it away. So the man said, I'll do anything to inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus.
I'll give all my money to the poor. It's not what happened. Now, when the young man heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. I used to teach a course in communication at the seminary and talk to young men who were having aspirations of writing books or speaking publicly. And I said, when you write something or speak, do a little word search on your manuscript and every time you come to the word very, circle it because it's a crutch. It betrays a poverty of vocabulary. If you have to say someone is very angry, why not instead say he's irate or apoplectic? Why just pump up the word with this cheap little word very?
But sometimes you have to. And here even the Holy Ghost stoofs to the use of very when he sees a link between the man's sorrow and the man's riches. He said he was very sorrowful because he was very wealthy. There was a link between his sadness and his riches.
And it's pathetic to see what happens. He ran to Jesus, joyous anticipation. He walked away from Jesus, totally disappointed. What would you do if Jesus said the same thing to you this morning? Would you say yes, Lord?
Or would you head for the door, weeping? This man kept his money and he lost the kingdom, the stupidest transaction he ever made in his life. His value system was absurd. We should be able to give everything we have, do anything we could if it means inheriting the kingdom of God. Jesus said, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? This man walked away and he left his soul back there with Jesus. Now, when Jesus saw it, he became sorrowful.
In fact, very sorrowful, the Bible says. And he remarked by saying, how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
What a strange comparison. What an interesting metaphor. You know, some have looked at this and they've said, well, in the ancient world they had a real narrow gate among the gates around Jerusalem, and this gate was so small it was called the eye of the needle. And sometimes the merchants would come with their camels and try to get the camel through this narrow gate into the city. They'd have to take all of the merchandise off the back of the camel and use the stick to get the camel to kneel down into the dirt and then slide his knees forward to get through this gate.
Well, there's probably no truth to that at all. I think what Jesus is saying was he was taking the largest animal that he knew that the people knew in the area and one of the smallest apertures that he could think of, a tiny opening of the eye of a needle. And what he's saying is that it is harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God than it is to get that camel stuffed through that needle.
What he's saying is it's impossible. The more riches you have, the lower the possibility you have that you'll ever be saved. And those who heard it were astonished. And they said, well, if that's the case, who then can be saved? It would seem like nobody could be saved, for even with the meager possessions I have, I hold them tightly to my chest and I long to make them increase. And Jesus answered, the things that are impossible with men are possible with God. It's not just riches, but it's good works and good intentions.
None of yours are good enough to get through the eye of a needle. Impossible to work your way into heaven. But what's impossible with us is possible with God. That's one of the greatest definitions of grace that Jesus gives us, that God's grace does for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves. God's grace overcomes our sin and gets us safely home.
I love that definition of God's grace, that God does for us what we couldn't possibly do for ourselves. You are listening to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. What you just heard was a sermon that R.C. Sproul preached to the congregation at St. Andrew's Chapel here in central Florida. He's walking his way through the Gospel of Luke.
It was actually 113 sermons by the time he finished this sermon series, and it formed the basis of his expositional commentary on Luke. And today, for your donation of any amount, you'll receive digital access to the e-book edition of this commentary. So I encourage you to visit renewingyourmind.org and give your gift today. And thank you for your generosity, because your support today is helping Renewing Your Mind reach millions of people every year with the truth of God's Word. So please, give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. What should be our response when we receive mercy and grace from God, particularly the salvation of our souls? I encourage you to join us next Sunday as Dr. Sproul continues preaching through the Gospel of Luke, here on Renewing Your Mind. Amen.
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