2-12-23 Kasey Campbell: The Rich Young Ruler

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Last week, Pastor Autumn talked about idols and how we need to be actively tearing down the things in our lives that keep us from fully pursuing Jesus. The Lord wants to be our highest priority, and as we follow Him first, He’ll make sure we have everything we need. This goes back to Exodus 20:3 NKJV “You shall have no other gods before Me. Today, I want to take us back to the story of the rich young ruler and talk a little about the cost of following Jesus. Next week or the week after, I will get into specific idols we can have in our lives, but today I want to talk about what following Jesus costs. It does cost a lot, by the way, if you measure it by what this world values; but life in God’s kingdom is totally worth it. It doesn’t actually cost that much if you view it in light of eternity. LET'S PRAY. As we look into this story, Jesus is traveling down the road to Jericho, and a rich man runs up to Him and asks Him a question. Mark tells us that he’s a young man and that he kneels in the dirt before Jesus. Luke leaves that part out. Luke does tell us that he’s a ‘ruler’ of some kind. He was probably in his late teens or early twenties, and most likely has some political position because he comes from a wealthy family. I imagine a young hotshot celebrity or businessman who comes from old money. Because he is young and rich, it’s most likely that his family has had the money for quite some time. He’s got the looks, he’s got the influence, and he’s got the money. Well, maybe not the looks - the bible doesn’t say that. But this rich young man asks Jesus a question. Mark says he comes running up to Jesus. I can hear him panting now, out of breath as he tries to get his question out. Mark 10:17 NKJV 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?” Rich young ruler | 1 Most likely, he heard Jesus speak to the crowds and the Holy Spirit is convicting him. The Holy Spirit is moving on his heart and saying, ‘your eternal soul, your salvation, your relationship with God is at stake here. You need to listen closely to Jesus and make some choices about who you’re going to be and where you’re going to go.” A few verses back, prior to this point and the rich young man’s question, Jesus talks about eternal life and judgment. I’ll bet that this kid heard Jesus and started thinking about life, death, and purpose. You know, the big questions we humans tend to ask when we feel unfulfilled with life. And He hears Jesus preach what I guess is a fire & brimstone message. I call it that because Jesus talks about the fire and brimstone that destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. This is what Jesus said: Luke 17:26-33 NLT “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 27 In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 “And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building— 29 until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day a person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return home. 32 Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! 33 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. It’s not hard to imagine what kind of person would be enjoying banquets and parties and weddings, eating, drinking, buying and selling, ‘doing business as usual.’ It sounds like the party life of a rich, famous person, doesn’t it? Rich young ruler | 2 I don’t know if this man was a big ‘party boy’ or not - he’s a ruler or a supervisor over some area, so it’s possible that was a very responsible and well-thought-of young man. That actually makes more sense, considering he was trying to get close to Jesus. But he hears Jesus talk about God’s judgment. God’s judgment is a big topic, so I’m not going to get too deep into it today. That sounds like a fun sermon series, though, doesn’t it? But God has to judge evil because He is righteous. Genesis 18:25 AMP Far be it from You to do such a thing—to strike the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right [by executing just and righteous judgment]?” Now the bible talks about multiple judgments (seven is one accepted number), but I’ll put them into categories. There’s the judgment of believers, which includes the cross of Jesus and His blood shed to cover us, our judgment of ourselves (this has to do with the continual, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit), and our rewards ceremony which include crowns; crowns of rejoicing, righteousness, life, and glory. Then there’s the judgment of the nations. Thats from Matthew 25:31-32 NKJV “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” This is at the end of the great tribulation. Third, there’s the judgment of the wicked dead, or those who didn’t accept Jesus’ work on the cross. This is a judgment based totally on a person’s works. It’s also called ‘the great white throne judgment.’ Acts 17:31 CEV He has set a day when he will judge the world's people with fairness. And he has chosen the man Rich young ruler | 3 Jesus to do the judging for him. God has given proof of this to all of us by raising Jesus from death. And the fourth category is the judgment of satan and his demons. Revelation 20:10 NLT Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. That’s the 2 minute theological flyover about God’s judgments; but my point is that this young man hears Jesus talking about the last days and he gets concerned. He is probably thinking, ‘hey I need to make sure I get right with God before all of this stuff happens!’ He hears Jesus say that just like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, with business going on as usual, the end will come, and God’s judgment will be poured out and people will be destroyed. They will lose their lives. And Jesus goes on to say that if you lose your life ahead of time (or you follow God, dedicate your life to Him, and live His way) then you will save it. In other words, repentance and faith in Jesus bring you into the fullness of life that lasts forever, even though you have to die to yourself and your fleshly human desires while you’re living on this earth. So this young man is worried about where He stands with God. And he asks Jesus a question because he wants to get this stuff right. If there is a judgment, if we don’t just become dust or get reincarnated as a dog or cat, if we really do keep on living after we die and there’s a possibility of a real hell, then I’d better figure this out and make sure I get it right, because I’m betting my life on it. Let’s see what this young man asked Jesus. Luke 18:18-23 NKJV Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the Rich young ruler | 4 commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. Jesus answers this man’s question with another question. The young man asks, “good teacher, how do I get eternal life?” and Jesus responds with ‘why are you calling me good? Only God is good.’ Some people misinterpret Jesus’ response here. He’s not saying He’s not God or that He’s not good. That’s a double negative, but Jesus is fully God, and He is fully good. And He knows He’s good and God. He’s not confused about Himself. Jesus is divine and He is sinless. He’s not denying that here or implying anything else. He’s actually speaking to the heart of this young man’s wrong thinking about getting into God’s kingdom. The reason this young man calls Jesus a ‘good teacher,’ is because that’s what he thinks Jesus is. He thinks Jesus is just a ‘good man’ who has God’s approval because He’s lived a good life. Even his response when Jesus asks about the commandments speaks to this idea that we can get eternal life or good standing with God by living a good life. This idea about ‘being a good person’ is often a big blockage to people coming to Jesus. In other words, people don’t think they need Jesus because “I’m a good person.” Have you ever heard that before? “What do I need Jesus for? I’m a good person, I contribute to society and don’t do too much bad stuff, so I’m sure I’ll be fine when I meet God.” But Jesus first says, ‘hey, no one is good but God.’ Rich young ruler | 5 In other words, the only person who has ever been ‘good,’ really (and by good I mean sinless and perfect) is God. Often the counter-argument, or apologetic argument to this ‘I’m a good person so I can make it on my own,’ thing is ‘no, you’re not a good person (not really at your core) because you were born with a sin nature; and because of that, you need Jesus’ sinless, perfect life to cover yours.’ And that is totally and completely true. In fact Romans 3:10- NKJV As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. I think most of us understand this point. But I don’t think when people use the phrase ‘good person,’ they think that means perfectly sinless. They tend to mean people who are generally kind, healthy, have good boundaries, good discipline, and have productive lives. I think it’s sometimes difficult for that kind of person to come to Jesus because they can’t point to anything specific in their lives that they’ve done that was horrible. None of the ‘big sins’ stick out in their minds, and they don’t feel like they have much in their lives to ‘be sorry about’ so to speak. It can be easier to realize you need a savior if you’ve done a lot wrong. It reminds me of the story of the little kid who wanted to accept Jesus, but he had to go out and do some ‘sinning’ first so that the cross would be worth it. Think about people who grow up in church, or have good parents that teach them how to ‘be good,’ so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with a life well lived, obviously; it’s just that ‘living a good life’ isn’t what saves us. Jesus saves us. Crying a lot or being remorseful over what we’ve done wrong isn’t what saves us. The Bible talks about the difference between godly sorrow leading to repentance and following Jesus and ungodly sorrow, which just leads us into sadness, but doesn’t involve any change. True repentance, true salvation is when we accept Jesus’ work on cross in faith and we surrender to God’s rule over our lives. Rich young ruler | 6 My point here is that this rich young ruler was most likely a ‘good person,’ as far as society was concerned. He followed what he had been taught since he was a kid; he felt like he had treated people well generally and had followed the commandments. Luke 18:20-21 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.’ 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” But being a ‘good person,’ or following all the commandments, doesn’t get it done, doesn’t make us right with God. Paul gets pretty passionate about this. Philippians 3:4-11 NKJV though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. He says, ‘I was doing all the right stuff. I had it together; I came from the best family, followed the rules better than everyone else, studied more, got better grades, got clout and influence and some level of fame - and it’s all garbage. Rich young ruler | 7 It doesn’t matter at all because the way into the kingdom, the way into eternal life, the way we inherit the promises of God is by way of the cross, it’s by faith in Jesus and through a relationship with Him so that by the Holy Spirit’s power we can be conformed to His image and see His kingdom move. And this young man doesn’t understand. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t realize that 1) he hasn’t really followed all of the commandments, because God’s requirements for perfection under the law are impossible for everyone except Jesus, and 2) He doesn’t realize that he’s standing in front of the God of the universe, the One who brings salvation, and 3) he doesn’t realize that even though he’s feeling his need for God, he feels the drawing of the Holy Spirit, that he has bondage in his life. He has idols that he isn’t ready to tear down yet. This young man doesn’t realize he’s in bondage to his wealth; he doesn’t realize he’s constructed idols in his life, or things that take the place of loving the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And notice, that in His response, Jesus doesn’t come back immediately with the first two commandments. He could have done that, He could have just said, well, you need to actually love the Lord with all our heart mind soul and strength. But He didn’t because he wants this young man to see that even though he has been doing ‘an ok job,’ so to speak, that he hasn’t really loved the Lord with full abandon, he hasn’t really loved God with his whole heart or his neighbor as himself, even though he has done some good things. Jesus is going to challenge his love for God and his love for others; He’s going to press a little deeper and see what happens if that love costs this young man what’s important to him. But before Jesus issues this challenge, He does something very important. He looks at; he gives His full attention to this nice, honest rich kid struggling to understand God and He loves him. He loves him. Mark 10:21 NKJV Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, Rich young ruler | 8 sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Jesus looks at him (or studies him) and He can tell this guy is not a hypocrite. He’s trying. He’s tried his whole life to follow God and do right by God, his friends, his family, and his nation. He’s trying really hard! He’s just trying wrong. And Jesus loves him. Don’t miss that point today, because Jesus loves people, even mixed people, even people who are confused about how to be in a relationship with God, people who mess up in major ways and people who don’t mess up quite as much; Jesus loves us all and has a compassionate heart, wanting everyone to come be a part of His kingdom. And because Jesus loves him and sees his potential, he actually calls this rich young man to be a part of his disciples! Remember that ‘one thing,’ we’ve been talking about? Sitting at Jesus' feet? The one thing He calls this young man to is to walk with Him. He wants him to sit at His feet and learn and sit at the foot of the cross, just like He called Mary and just like He showed the disciples as people brought their children to Him. Because of where Jesus was (as far as His ministry timeline), He is literally calling this young man to sell everything He has to come to watch Him get arrested in Jerusalem and die on the cross. But if this young man would would have said yes, he could have been a major part of the early church. Jesus sees this young man’s potential, He sees his heart for God, and He loves him and calls Him to come to join His disciples. Jesus is challenging this young man to love his neighbor as himself by selling all of his possessions and to love God with all of His heart by following Jesus as his disciple. Not one of the 12, as He has them set already. He’s not getting rid of any of them. Rich young ruler | 9 But Jesus challenges this young man at his point of bondage; He challenges him to let go of the idols of his heart and of the things of this world he’s placed above God. The young man was in bondage to his wealth and position. Because he probably inherited a lot of his money, he would have been under a lot of pressure from relatives and friends to manage it well. His money and property had probably been in his family since the days of Joshua - and to get rid of your ancestral wealth and status just to go follow a man to death would certainly bring criticism and ridicule. It’s possible the money was less important to him than his reputation. Either way, this young man finds out that he doesn’t really love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, or else he’d gid rid of the money and reputation and follow Jesus. The young man said he wanted eternal life, and Jesus said ‘come with me because the time is short.’ And this young man that Jesus loves is shaken up by it. Mark 10:22 NKJV But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. The word ‘sad’ here has to do with storm clouds gathering before the rain. His face is shocked - it’s a stormy mixture of grief and anger and misunderstanding and sadness. The young man who had run up to Jesus in excitement, who had caught up to Him and His disciples on the road doesn’t say another word and walks away with a heavy heart full of sorrow. He’s realizing how deep his money and the opinions of others have on him. He’s realizing that he might not love God as much as he thought he did. Or, he might have thought that the cost of following Jesus was impossibly high. But the cost of discipleship is to lay down our idols. We all have them. We all have something that we don’t want to give up, that God calls us to lay down at His feet. Money or reputation was this young man’s specific point of bondage. Jesus didn’t call everyone who followed Him to sell everything they have, but He did call them all to die to self, to follow Him to the cross, and to surrender Rich young ruler | 10 their lives to His care so He can give them eternal life. He called them to lay down their idols. The young man was sorrowful because he wasn’t ready to give up his idols; the word ‘sorrow’ here has to do with grief, heaviness, and with distress. Luke 18:24 NKJV 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! 25 For 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.” 26 And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” What is impossible with men is possible with God. If that young man would have chosen to follow Jesus, God would have helped him lay down his idols. Jesus loved him and would have helped him learn to be dependent on the Lord as he sat at his feet. The young man didn’t understand that if he would have chosen to follow Jesus, he would have been set free from his bondages. He would have not only received eternal life, but he would have had true riches and true freedom that could never be taken away by anyone. 1 John 5:20-21 AMP And we [have seen and] know [by personal experience] that the Son of God has [actually] come [to this world], and has given us understanding and insight so that we may [progressively and personally] know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true—in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children (believers, dear ones), guard yourselves from idols—[false teachings, moral compromises, and anything that would take God’s place in your heart]. In other words, we know Jesus is the Son of God. He gives us spiritual understanding about how, even though it hurts sometimes, giving up our idols, and Rich young ruler | 11 surrendering to Him, leads us deeper and deeper into His freedom, His eternal life, and His kingdom. And we get to live in Him; we get to know the truth and live in the truth; we get to be with Jesus day by day and moment by moment. Jesus is the true God and has eternal life. Little children, believers, dear people loved by Jesus just like the rich young man; give up your idols and guard against them, because they only end in sorrow. But surrendering to Jesus, walking in the Spirit, daily conversation and prayer with Him, abiding in Christ, and not losing that connection leads us into His kingdom life and kingdom freedom. Rich young ruler | 12
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