What keeps people so distracted or tied down that they never embrace the cross of forgiveness?
• Is it pride?
• Is it lack of understanding?
• Is it ignorance?
• Is it selfishness?
• Is it unconcerned to future things?
• Is it hatred towards the things of God?
You could say yes to all those things mentioned above! But there is something that God has spoken against since the foundation of this world! Its covetousness which takes part in those things mentioned above! What does that look like? I came across a story that might help answer that question! "There was a man who had a problem with stinging ants....so he laid a small circle of poison around a hill of their home. Thinking the tiny granules of poison were food, the ants began to pick them up and carry them throughout the colony. He returned later to see how well the poison was working. Hundreds of the stinging ants were carrying the poison down into their hill. Then he noticed a hole in the circle of poison. Some of the poison was moving the opposite way—away from the hill. Some smaller, non-stinging ants had found this “food” and were stealing it from their ant neighbours. Thinking they were getting the other ants’ treasure, they unwittingly poisoned themselves.” See the warning of this story is that when we see someone with more than we have, we must beware. The hunger to beg, borrow, or steal our way into what is theirs may poison us spiritually. The bible says that covetousness:
ORIGINATES IN THE HEART OF MAN.......“So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain [covetousness].” Eze 33:31
IT NEVER SATISFIES......“He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.” Eccl 5:10
IT’S A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE WICKED [UNCONVERTED]........“For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD.” Ps 10:3; Prov 21:26 says “he covets greedily all day long...”
IT’S INCONSISTENT FOR BELIEVERS.......“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have....” Heb 13:5
FORBIDDEN BY GOD......"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's." Exo 20:17
IT IS HAS NO PLACE IN HEAVEN........“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Eph 5:5
I begin by saying this because we come to a very important passage of Scripture that tells us a story about a rich young man who had everything....but one thing he lacked [which was salvation] the most important ingredient to a person’s eternal state. It’s an encounter that speaks to my heart, more so today! Why? Because I see who I used to be in this passage of scripture. Jesus engages in a conversation with a sinner who needs salvation! It’s an encounter of a young man who came to him with one question that has massive eternal implications. It’s an encounter of a young man who was going to be faced with the biggest decision of his life. It’s an encounter of a young man who mistakenly thought he was good enough to attain eternal life. It’s an encounter of a young man whose decision would change his life forever. It’s an encounter that comes with a promise but ends in tragedy for this young individual. This passage of scripture is picture or a mirror into the hearts of many people around the world today....possibility some of you....here in this sanctuary today. So I want you to picture yourself in the shoes of this young man asking the same question! And after hearing the answer........What would your response be? So let’s enter this passage with extreme caution and ask the Lord to search our hearts as He speaks to this young man and us this morning.
Look at the opening verse of this encounter! (v16) This young man calls Jesus “Good Teacher” which wasn’t referring to His deity......but he was recognizing Jesus as a good teacher or a possible a prophet or a very righteous man! This young man acknowledged that Jesus spoke and had something that he wanted for himself. So he opens with a question! “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Naturally we would think this is a works base way of salvation question......but the main point of the question is about attaining eternal life! Remember! This was a well educated young man who would have probably been trained to think this way...so this is a legitimate question. See, the truth of the Gospel does require us to do something! Though it’s freely given by His unmerited grace and favour! John 6:28-29 it says “Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." By asking this loaded to the point question.... Jesus was able to reveal the truth of this young man’s heart! How by speaking the Gospel.
So Jesus gives him His answer! (v17) It’s interesting to point here that the Jesus correct him when he say “No one is good but One, that is God.” Jesus isn’t disclaiming His own deity, but rather teaching the young man that all but God are sinners. Apart from God.....Everyone else that has breath is a fallen sinner! “all have fallen short of the glory of God”. But it’s interesting that naturally man or woman think they are good! I did before salvation! If you don’t believe me! Go out and ask someone the question.....”Do you consider yourself to be a good person?” The answer that you receive will more than likely be....Yes I’m a good person! See this young man thought he was a good person.....as do many people today!
So what does Jesus do? He hits him with the only that convicts the sinner! The Law (v18-v19) You might ask yourself the question! Why did Jesus bring him the law? Was Jesus teaching a gospel that is different or contrary to us? Was Jesus teaching that it’s through works that man must inherit eternal life? No! Jesus was speaking directly to the conscience of the natural man! Paul wrote these words! “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom 3:20. Jesus wasn’t bringing the Law to show him how to be saved....but to show him that he needed to be saved. We always need to remember! The Law is a mirror that reveals what we were or what we still are...if you’re under the bondage of sin.
Sadly the blindness of this young man reveals his true heart as do many people today! (v20) This young man displays ignorance over his fallen state.....Look what he says to the King of kings.......” I’ve keep them all! What do I lack....what am I missing Jesus?” [Paraphrasing of course]. I’m a good person right!...............so I’m good for Heaven right? Wrong answer! It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t say the one commandment that held a tight grip on this young man’s heart and life......“thou shall not .....What? Covet...” Jesus knows this young man’s heart and especially knows that he loves his possessions and material wealth.
Why do I say that! (v21)... Jesus responds with this answer which is the pivotal moment in this whole encounter! Jesus wasn’t setting terms or a system that this young man needed to find eternal life....but on the contrary He was exposing this young man’s true heart! “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. Jesus was pointing out that this man was guilty because he loved his wealth and possessions more than Christ. He was blinded by the American dream of wealth, health and prosperity! Now Jesus isn’t saying that wealth is wrong...or having money is wrong! “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Tim 6:10. It’s not wealth that keep people out of Heaven. Abraham was a wealthy man but yet a man of great faith! But when things come first whether its money or possessions in a person’s life...... their wrong and you have failed the test to what it means to truly follow Him. The bible is very specific! "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? “Luke 9:23-25
This is the part that breaks my heart and it’s happening more and more today because we have so much stuff to keep us occupied! Look at (v22). This young man doesn’t even speak or question Jesus’ response to his question. The reason.....he didn’t believe because he loved himself more than Jesus....This was a call to faith and he rejected the free gift of grace that Christ offered. All because he simply didn’t want o give up what was his! “.....For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”
God requires something from each and every one of us! A denial of self and embrace of the Gospel truth found in the riches of Christ! Yes riches! “a treasure in Heaven” which is to called a child of the Living God through His great salvation. Can you picture the expression on Jesus’ face as this young man turned and walk away......it must have been heartbreaking! Think about it....You have a loved one who you care deeply about and they ask you the same question and you give the gospel answer and they in return turn around and walk away into a Christ-less eternity..... How would you feel? It’s so sad that people think what they have is more important than what they could have in Christ! J.I. Packer described the tendency to worship self or other things [gods] "What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as ’The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life’ (1 John 2:16). Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some. Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run their life becomes their god......."
I personally call this spiritual bankrupt-see..... Look at (v23-26) What is Jesus trying to tell us here? Is your stuff [your possessions, job, farm, house, friendships, hobbies, sports, horses] more important to you then Christ? If so, then it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then it is for you to enter Heaven. The reason! You love yourself more and your pleasures..... over Christ. This way of speaking was used, to signify difficulties or impossibilities. Just as its impossible for a camel to go through the eye of the needle It’s also impossible for man to attain salvation by his works or on their own terms. Whatever earthly treasures you have or think you have they are powerless before God. But with God...He is able to change the sinful heart....”God can do what men cannot do” .........Save!
We desperately need Him...not the other way around where He needs us! It’s not what I want and still live the by adding Jesus to the mix. Jesus Christ isn’t some accessory that you add to their wardrobe or a air fresher you hang from your rear view mirror! He is the first and last...the beginning and the end....and we are to worship Him as extremely valuable and worthy of praise for saving a sinner like you and me. We are the ones who stand before Him as broken vessels that need the Potter’s hand to repair the broken pieces. We are the ones who need have ourselves emptied, so that He can fill us with His grace and goodness. We are to come to Him as Jesus spoke about before the young man asked Him the question about eternal life. (v13-v14). We need someone who cares...protects...provides...nurtures...and directs our lives not just for now but for all eternity. This is what the Gospel that Jesus brings to you and me! This is what Jesus was trying to convey this young man who thought he had everything or thought he had it all together! John MacArthur said this......”Our Lord gave this young man a test. He had to make a choice between Christ and his possessions and sin, and he failed the test. No matter what he may have believed, because he was unwilling to forsake all, he could not be a disciple of Christ. Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” Are you willing to forsake everyhting if Christ asked you to? The only way that will ever be possible is by His mercy and grace! So the Sunday question is............Did you pass the test? Because this will determine what you love the most!