Presentation on theme: "Presentation 31. Introduction How good are you at asking questions that are of vital importance? Many will attend a job interview armed with countless."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction How good are you at asking questions that are of vital importance? Many will attend a job interview armed with countless questions... yet they are still able to avoid asking life’s big questions; "Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? How can I get to know God? Can I be sure of life after death?" Thankfully, there are brave souls like the young ruler in our story, who are prepared to ask important questions. Perhaps he would not have been so brave had he anticipated Jesus’ reply. Often, in our approach to God, we are not given the answers we hope for.
Presentation 31 A Crucial Question In v17 we encounter one of life’s big questions, "What must I do to gain eternal life?" The questioner was concerned about his spiritual condition and his relationship with God. His arrival must have come like a breath of fresh air to Jesus. Here was a genuine enquirer. He had not come to complain or criticise, to test or entrap. We are not told what motivated his enquiry! But we know that God has a way of writing questions on the blackboards of our minds, which otherwise would not see the light of day. That can be an intensely disturbing experience!
Presentation 31 A Crucial Question Many seek to escape from such questions by diving into a sea of alcohol or drug abuse or, by incessant activity at work or, involvement in a mad roundabout of hobbies and social events. Others seek to avoid these questions by losing themselves in religious ritual and service. A number of people seek psychiatric explanations for the distress that God’s questioning produces in their minds. The rich young ruler did none of these things. He revealed a good spiritual sense of direction by bringing his question to Jesus. "What must I do to gain eternal life?” It was a crucial question!
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding Jesus replied by gently clarifying an obvious misunderstanding. It was clear that this young man had a superficial view of goodness and so Jesus asked, "Why do you call me good...?"v18 Jesus was not denying his own absolute goodness but he wanted to know if this man was using the word "goodness", loosely and thoughtlessly. Did the ruler understand, what real goodness was in God's sight? Jesus knew that if a man holds a superficial view of goodness, then it will affect the way in which he thinks about himself.
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding This young man clearly thought he was, "a good chap, a commendable person". But like so many people today he had never truly begun to measure his life against the absolute goodness of God. We tend to allow our understanding of goodness. To be shaped by the society in which we live and by the people who surround us. We like to be able to say, “Compared to John Smith I live a very good life”. But no society can be an absolute guide for morality and, if we take time to think about it, we need a reference point for goodness that lies outside of ourselves.
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding Let me illustrate. The story is told of a man who stopped outside a clockmaker's shop every morning on his way to work to synchronized his watch with a large clock standing in the shop window. One day, the owner of the shop asked him what kind of work he did. Rather sheepishly, the man told him he was the timekeeper at a local factory, one of his tasks was to ring the closing bell at 5 o’clock every evening. As his watch kept poor time, he synchronized it each morning with the clock in the shop window. The embarrassed clockmaker replied, ‘Unfortunately this clock doesn't work very well either, so I adjust it every time I hear the factory's closing bell!' When men set their moral compass according to current social trends they gradually loose touch with ethical integrity? Goodness is diluted!
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding Jesus pointed the ruler to the commandments citing only those that dealt with human relationships... Would he realise that Jesus had asked him nothing about the commandments that dealt with his relationship to God? Now the commandments cannot be kept perfectly. Indeed, part of their original intention was to convince us of our lack of goodness, as God measures goodness. The young man thought he had kept God’s commandments perfectly. ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy’. Like many of Jesus’ contemporaries he would have externalised the commandments. Jesus consistently applied them to our thoughts and the attitudes in our hearts.
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding Did this young ruler feel smug about his goodness? After all he wasn't a murderer, a bank-robber, an adulterer - he was ‘a good man’. He was no rogue! He was earnest, sincere, religious, devoted and doubtless was held in high esteem by the community. There was a lot that was very attractive about him. Now Jesus ‘looked at him and loved him’v21, but there was something missing. Something that amounted to everything. His life was self-centred rather than God- centred! I imagine that he was hoping, as many today hope, that Jesus would say, ‘You have nothing to worry about on the strength of your moral performance you can be sure of eternal life’?
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding What a shock he must have got, when Jesus delivered his knock-out blow. Jesus did not contradict the man's reply as he could have done. He did not drive the commandments inwardly as he had done on other occasions. Think of the way that he told his hearers in Matthew 6. that if they hated their brother, they had broken the commandment not to kill, and that if they looked lustfully after another woman, they had committed adultery in their hearts. Instead, Jesus said, "You still lack one thing, sell everything you have..." thus immediately identifying the real stumbling block in this man's life - his unhealthy attachment to his wealth.
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding His attachment to his wealth had caused him to break the tenth commandment not to covet, and the first commandment that requires us to give God first place in our lives and the second commandment that forbids the worshipping of other gods. There was a god in his life that he prized more than even a relationship with the true and living God, 'he had great wealth’ v22. Jesus is not teaching that wealth in itself is wrong, but in this case, it stood as the great competitor for a heart allegiance that rightly belonged to God. One sentence was enough to reveal to the young man, the truth about himself. A truth that had remained buried under the surface of his life for years.
Presentation 31 A Profound Misunderstanding It is surely no accident that all the gospel writers, who record this incident, do so immediately after Jesus’ words, "I tell you the truth anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" v17. The qualities of childlikeness to which Jesus referred include a dependant and trusting spirit. But this young ruler would not relinquish his independence. He refused to trust Jesus with his future. He would rather live independently of God than cultivate a dependant, childlike relationship with him. His wealth guaranteed his independence. He put his trust, not in God, but in his wealth. As long as he had money he saw himself as master of his own destiny.
Presentation 31 Searching Instruction Jesus was not surprised when the young man turned his back and went away sorrowful cf. v Jesus knew the power that material wealth could exert. Possessions can gain such a hold on us that instead of being our servants they become our masters. We begin to live for what we own and trust in what we own to deal with all our problems and to give us security for the future. And so Jesus says, ‘it is easier for a camel to go thro the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Some try unnecessarily to soften the radical nature of Jesus’ metaphor by saying it is a reference to the camel gate in Jerusalem. The only way for the camel to get through was to unload it!
Presentation 31 Searching Instruction Jesus vivid metaphor quite understandably causes the disciples to ask, “Who then can be saved?” The rich man thought he could save himself and by his moral performance and so secure eternal life. But what he couldn't do was change the tide of affection and the bias of his heart which drove him away from God. He could not thread the needle! This is the human dilemma! People can long for eternal life but yet are aware of being driven remorselessly further and further away from it. Jesus answers his disciples question saying, "What is impossible with men is possible with God“ v27. God can transform the tide of human nature. Man cannot save himself. Salvation is a miracle of grace. God does what man cannot!
Presentation 31 Searching Instruction Some think Jesus treated this man harshly. He was a powerful leader, a good man to have on your side! Why not make an exception, lower the standards and make room for such a man? Because Jesus loved him! True love is neither, indulgent nor, afraid to correct. Therefore, Jesus did not shout out, "Come back, I’ve changed my mind". Love tells the truth and so Jesus exposed the young man’s defiant independence of God. This ruler needed time to ponder the superficiality of his own goodness, for only then, would he be prepared to exercise a dependant childlike trust in God for salvation. I would like to think that after mature reflection he did put God first in his life.
Presentation 31 Searching Instruction The story of this young man is powerfully relevant in a society that has made a god out of wealth. Whether it is the pursuit of the American Dream or the Dubai Dream, for many the accumulation and possession of wealth is all-absorbing. We are reminded here that in this life we can possess everything but if we do not posses Christ, then we possess nothing of value. When the young man turned his back on Jesus he demonstrated that his arithmetic was flawed. He could not grasp this simple equation: Possessing everything - Christ = Nothing. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8v36
Presentation 31 Conclusion Can we identify with the rich young ruler who brought a serious question to Jesus? Do we think that we can make ourselves good enough for God? Does Jesus’ answer disturbs our lifestyle and challenges the first love of our life? Will we also go away sorrowful and return to a life of trivial pursuits? For life, without an eternal dimension, is precisely that! Or, will we with childlike trust commit our lives to Christ. He died on the cross in order that abundant, eternal life might be ours? Will you ask God to bring about the spiritual transformation of which Jesus spoke? ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God, all things are possible with God.’