The Gospel of Mark

How to LOVE the religious? (Mark 10:17-22) Part 2

The Gospel of MarkDownload Sermon Outline

Sermon Manuscript . . .

How to Love the Religious?

Sharing the true Gospel, seen in how Jesus deals with the rich young ruler

in Mark 10:17 to 22, part 2


Kids are full of excuses. I remember hearing comments like, “I forgot” . . . “I didn’t hear you” . . . “it’s too hard” . . . “it makes me nervous” . . . “God didn’t help me do it right” . . . “Satan just wanted me to do a bad thing.” Have any of your own favorites?

Adults are good at excuses too–especially when it comes to car accidents. Like these actual insurance claims. “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.” And, “I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.” Then there’s, “To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.” And finally, “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.”

Christians too, have developed some compelling excuses. A lot of them surround the practice of evangelism, like “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” Yet in Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You shall be my witnesses.” And true evangelism is the spontaneous overflow of a glad heart in Jesus Christ, not a program, nor a gift. “Well, God is sovereign in salvation–He’ll save His children, whether I speak or not.” Yet, God has also chosen the sovereign means of communicating His Gospel, and that is through Christians to bring believers blessing and joy.

“I’m too busy,” meaning, “I see evangelism as merely an event,” instead of a lifestyle of being a witness everywhere I normally go, to everyone I meet, and for those I know who are lost. Others believe their priority is to help the poor, stop immorality, and change our government. In other words, instead of fishing, they believe it’s more important to clean up the fish bowl. Yet friends, ultimately, what good does it do to help the poor live in a better house for thirty years if they still spend eternity in Hell?

Some don’t share because they “don’t know what to say.” Friends, if you know enough of the Gospel to become a Christian, then you know enough of the Gospel to share with a non-Christian. And if you really want to know what to say, and get it right, then open your Bibles to Mark 10, and take the outline found in your bulletin as we continue in our verse by verse study of the gospel of Mark, and now the Lord’s interaction with the rich young ruler.

Stand with me as we read verses 17 to 22, “As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”’ 20 And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.’ 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”

Let’s pray. Father, open our eyes to the glory of your Gospel. Cause us to fall in love with Christ, grow more obedient, and know you better as a result of today.

In contrast to the “just pray this prayer to receive Christ,” Jesus shows us how to share the Gospel the way God intended–the narrow gate that few find, the great struggle that few win, the costly choice that few pay. This young man failed the greatest test of his life. He was offered a choice between himself and God, between fulfillment here and fulfillment in the life to come. And the rich young ruler chose here and now, not God and Heaven.

This interaction is loaded with truth we desperately need. This event teaches us what the true Gospel is. This passage shows us what we must say when we share. These verses demonstrate the heart of a genuinely saved believer. This discussion shows us the error of today’s evangelism methods, and shows us the essentials of the Gospel message–what has to be said. Do you really love your religious unsaved friends? Then . . .

#1  Not being FOOLED by an external show  Verse 17

Verse 17, “As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” Jesus is headed to Jerusalem via Jericho, but is interrupted by a very rich, young ruler. In front of a shocked crowd, this young man runs up to Jesus and kneels in front of Him, asking Him what action he needs to do in order to gain salvation. He calls Jesus “Good Teacher”, and in Matthew 19:20 adds, “What am I lacking?” He wants eternal life, as if he’s saying, “I have the life that belongs to man, but I want that life which belongs to God. I want that life which is God’s life. So what great action can I do to accomplish this?”

He’s asking Jesus, “What great task is remaining so that I might gain salvation? I’m a good guy, and I want to know what final good deed I need to do in order to get into Heaven.” If he’d showed up here today, some of us might have invited him to make Jesus his personal Savior, pray a prayer and join an RMG–which he would have done.

But Jesus isn’t fooled by his public zeal and sincere question. He thinks he can be saved by doing a task–through his own works. The rich young ruler’s heart is wrong, and the Lord is now going to try to help him see his own heart–how? By . . .

#2  Pointing to the true CHARACTER of God  Verse 18

Verse 18, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.’” Jesus is now trying to help him see he’s not a good guy. The Lord is attempting to help him see that people are not good. The Lord is showing him that God alone is good, and compared to God’s white purity, we are all sinfully black. Christ is telling him, all real goodness has its source in God, and anything truly good is ultimately from God. So don’t keep kneeling there, thinking you’re a good person.

Jesus is giving the rich young ruler, and all of us, a wakeup call. The rich young ruler thinks he’s good, his grandma Nancy is nice, his uncle Bob is blameless, and everybody in his synagogue is sweet. And he thinks he is affirming Jesus by using the word good of Him. And though Jesus is genuinely the only one who is good, the rich young ruler isn’t seeing Christ as God. No one is good except God alone.

Jesus is telling the rich young ruler goodness is absolute, not relative. Good is an unmovable standard of perfection. There are relative degrees of bad, but no one is perfectly good, except for the one whose person is perfect. God is perfectly good. So when sharing with the religious, ask—“Are you a good person? How good? Are you as good as God? How good is God? How far do you fall short of God’s goodness?”

The rich young ruler needed to see God as perfectly good, and to see himself as not good at all in comparison. He needed to see God accurately–see God’s character clearly. Without a knowledge of God, a sinner doesn’t know whom he’s offended, or who threatens him with eternal torment in Hell, or who is able to save him. But this young man doesn’t get it. So Jesus takes the next step–let’s test your goodness by comparing your life up against God’s perfect law.

#3  Exposing SIN through the law of God  Verses 19 to 20

Jesus uses the law to show the rich young ruler his sin in verse 19 to prove he’s not good but sinfully corrupt, morally twisted, and full of selfishness and pride–just like every person in this room. Verse 19, “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” Jesus says, “You know the commandments.” Matthew 19:17 adds, “And keep the commandments.” You’ve known them, and currently know you’re supposed to keep the commandments. He gets that.

So the Lord gives the rich young ruler examples. “Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your father and mother.” All of those except one are taken out of the second half of the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20. The first four deal with our relationship to God, the second six deal with our relationships to people.

So Jesus says, “First of all, just examine your relationships and see how well you’re doing with them–how good are you?” Let me ask you the same–how many of you have taken something that was not yours at any time? Thieves–do not steal. How many of you have hated someone in your heart? Do not murder. How many have lied about someone to someone else? False witness. How many of you have underpaid someone, or not given them what they were due? Defrauders. Ever disrespect your mom or dad? Not honor. And how many have lusted in their hearts? Perverts.

Ask those questions of the religious. Jesus says, “Compare yourself with My Law, the perfect law that reflects My person, so that you’ll see your own sin, and then see your desperate need for a Savior to rescue you. Does it work with the rich young ruler? No–look at Verse 20. “And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.’” Wow! That’s why he sees himself as good. He thinks he’s good, because he kept the Law externally.

You know what that shows you? The rich young ruler is deluded, and only understands the surface of the Law but not the depth of the Law, because the Law goes much deeper than the surface. He has the externals down, but he is ignoring the internals. But that is not Christianity—and that is not salvation. This is why in Matthew 5, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says, “’You have heard it said, . . . you’ve been taught this, but I say to you . . . ‘”

And He said it over and over again–you’ve heard . . . but I say. You’ve been taught, if you don’t murder you’re good. But I say, if you hate someone in your mind, you’re a murderer in your heart. You’ve been taught, if you don’t commit adultery, you’re good. But I’m telling you, if you look on a woman with lust in your heart, you’ve committed adultery.

The rich young ruler didn’t understand the true depth of the Law. If he understood the depth of the Law, he’d know hatred and lustful thoughts were a part of his life–proving that he was not a good man, but a fallen sinful man. He’d know desiring to steal, covet, lust, hate, even telling little lies were a daily part of the core of his wretched heart. And do you know what’s scary? When the rich young ruler says, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up”—that very day he’d broken the very commands Jesus listed, because no sinner can live without impure thoughts. He had shattered God’s Law that day with his attitude toward others.

He was a law breaker–and as a law violator, he was worthy of death. Which is what the Law is supposed to do–kill you, sentence you to death, and prove to you that you deserve divine judgment. If God is just, He must eternally punish anyone and everyone who violates just one of His perfect laws. Remember James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

You feel fine because you’ve managed to control your behavior on the surface. You think you’re good because you’ve had compassionate thoughts, or you’ve said nice words, or you’ve done good works, or you attend a good church. You’re not. And the rich young ruler was not. He didn’t grasp the heart of the Law.

But there’s more–the rich young ruler was not only a violator of the second half of the Ten Commandments, directed towards others. But he was also a flagrant violator of the first half of the Ten Commandments, directed towards God Himself. You know the first half of the Ten Commandments. You shall have no other gods before Me, make no idols, don’t take My name in vain, and remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

On the surface, it seemed that the rich young ruler was worshiping God. He didn’t take God’s name in vain. He observed the Sabbath. And he certainly seemed to put God first in his life. But not really–he is a blasphemer and a blatant hypocrite. You ask, “Chris, how do I know?” Because the foundation of the entire Law is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” In other words, don’t worship anybody but Me. God demands exclusive, comprehensive, all-in worship.

Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And to accomplish that, you can’t have any idols–there cannot be anyone or anything you might worship more than God Himself. And the rich young ruler had an obvious admitted idol in his life–an idol he loved more than God, that He worshiped above the Lord.

How bad was the rich young ruler? How far from good was the rich young ruler? He lived a life of blasphemy where he worshiped another god. Every time he worshiped, he violated the Law and was a hypocrite. And every time he went to a synagogue or to the temple to observe a Sabbath, he was a blaspheming hypocrite. Why? Verse 22, he loved his possessions and money more than God. This young man’s heart is saturated with sin deserving judgment.

Yet he says, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Notice, the adjective “good” is now dropped–Jesus is no longer a “Good” Teacher after the Lord’s discussion on who is truly good. (I’m not gonna say that again–that’s no good.) But the rich young ruler literally says, “I myself have kept all these commands from my youth.” And beyond this hypocritical boast, understand he made this claim from a heart filled with personal disappointment.

The rich young ruler wanted to know what difficult task he had left to do in order to secure eternal life, but Jesus merely gave him the commands, which in his mind he’d been following since twelve years old. He’s telling Jesus, “I have sought to keep,” meaning guard God’s law and honor God’s law in every way, “since my Bar Mitzvah.” He sincerely believed he kept God’s Law, and wants to know in Matthew 19:20, “What am I still lacking?”

Like Paul who, before salvation, thought he was blameless, the rich young ruler thought he had obedience to the commandments wired. “I’ve got these commands down!” Can you picture someone saying, “I’m a good person, I’ve kept God’s commands, and I’ve not sinned.” Ouch! Yet the fact that we know that the rich young ruler loved his possessions more than God Himself makes the Lord’s response to him shocking.

#4  Showing LOVE in spite of sinfulness  Verse 21a

Look at what Mark tells us in verse 21, “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him.” Christ could’ve expressed disdain for this man’s pride. Christ could have harshly confronted his delusion—“You fool!” Jesus could’ve turned away in disgust over this man’s sin, but Jesus felt a love, meaning Jesus had a great affection for this young man.

Far beyond mere affection, the Lord fell in love with the rich young ruler, and now wanted to give him the true solution to salvation. Some think “felt a love” describes a heart-driven deep pity, in the same way the Lord shed tears over Jerusalem, even though the people of the city had rejected him. The Lord was possibly sad because this man was a blasphemer, but didn’t know it.

But as Jesus was looking at the young man, He directed His gaze at him and looked him in the eye, and our Lord thankfully saw him through the lens of love, as well as the lens of truth. The Lord genuinely loved him. Jesus was drawn to him–possibly because of his approach, or his sincere questions, or his inner desperation wanting to know for certain if he was bound for Heaven.

One other possibility–it could be that the Lord felt a love for this young man because the Lord knew this young man would one day in the future actually get saved. There is a possibility this unnamed rich young ruler is actually the gospel writer, Mark himself, who we know to be a wealthy young man. That could be the reason why only Mark, out of all three gospel accounts, is the only one who tells us Jesus felt a love for him.

Don’t miss this—look up here. The Lord showed agape–how? By trying to help him see his vile sinfulness–you are bad! How–by sharing the Gospel with this rich young ruler . . . that is love. Friends, are you willing to show love to others by telling them the bad news, so that they might hear the good news? That is love!

People know when you love them. And when you share with the lost, share and show the love of Christ with those enslaved to sin, the love of God is already shed abroad in your heart (Romans 5:5). The love of God was already shown to you as a twisted sinner. Remember what you were before Christ loved you. The love of Christ is yours through the filling of God’s Spirit daily, so show the same love given you as a sinner, to them as a sinner.

But love didn’t force Jesus to push the young man into Heaven. Love didn’t cause Jesus to cheapen his evangelistic offer—“Just accept me.” Love didn’t violate the need for the young man to see himself as a sinner who must repent from his sin, and follow Christ with his life. Christ’s love didn’t make the young man’s love for his possessions okay. No, this superficial, smug, yet struggling young man needed to be . . .

#5  Pointedly calling for genuine REPENTANCE  Verse 21b

The rich young ruler worshipped an idol. He loved something more than he loved the one true God. Sin filled his heart, and the Lord lovingly exposes it now in the second half of verse 21, as He seeks to call him to repentance. Listen to what Jesus commands.

Verse 21b, “One thing you lack [an on-going lacking], go [command] and sell [command] all you possess [all you are possessing] and give [command] to the poor, and you will have [in the future] treasure in heaven.” Four commands—1) GO, 2) SELL, 3) GIVE, and one more, 4) FOLLOW . . . all designed to expose the sinfulness of the young man’s heart, and to bring him to sincere repentance.

Notice verse 21–Jesus says it is just one thing you are lacking. Jesus says to the rich young ruler, there’s just one thing that’s missing–only one thing. Sell everything you possess and give it away to those who’re poor, and you’ll get what you asked for–eternal life. Give up all your treasure on Earth, and you’ll have treasure in Heaven.

How can it be that simple? How can it be one thing? Because the problem is not all his many possessions, but it’s one thing because his many possessions make one big idol in his heart. Verse 22, “he owned much property.” And Luke says, “He was very rich.” He had one big idol–his wealth, possessions and money. He didn’t love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul and mind, and that’s the one thing Jesus asked him to do.

Jesus asks, “Let Me have you do just one thing–get rid of the idol, the singular idol of your money, your wealth, your possessions. Now you don’t get saved by lowering your bank account. You get saved when you get rid of your idol and you embrace the one true God, who is standing in front of him. Earthly wealth–temporal satisfaction in this life was his god.

You remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and wealth.” The rich young ruler must turn his back on his “green god”. And he was serving his wealth. Whenever you serve something else or someone else as your god, because it’s not a god, you are actually serving yourself as god. And he refused to repent, to turn from sin, to follow Christ.

He never got to the point where he would depend on Christ alone. He never got to the good news. Do you know why? Because the rich young ruler never embraced the bad news. He never got to the good news of what Christ will do on the cross, because he didn’t see himself as sinfully bad, and God alone as good. He didn’t embrace his fallen sinfulness exposed by God’s Law condemning the internal sinfulness of his heart. And he didn’t come to the place where he was ready to repent of the idol in his heart–loving his wealth more than God. He never embraced the bad news, so he never got to hear the good news of what God accomplished through Christ.

“But Chris, sell all you possess? That seems like a lot, doesn’t it?” No, the Lord said the same thing in Luke 14:33, “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” And the point of both passages is not giving up of all you have, but the willingness to give up all in order to gain Christ. Our Lord just taught us the same truth two chapters back in Mark 8:34, “’If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’” Deny yourself, be willing to die, lose your life to gain the life of Christ, you give up your life, including your wealth.

The rich young ruler needed to repent–that means to change his mind, which always leads to a change of behavior. He needed to do what the Thessalonians did, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “For they … report … how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” He needed to turn from his idol of wealth to the true God. He needed to understand that by not seeing himself as a condemned sinner, he’d remain condemned now and forever. He needed to embrace the fact he could not be good enough, perform enough works, or obey enough laws in order for God to be pleased with him. He had to turn from his sin, and get this, even turn from his own efforts to live good enough in order to get saved.

Second Corinthians describes repentance this way, 2 Corinthians 7:10 and 11, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.  11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”

True repentance is always seen in a 180-degree change, from self to Christ, from sin to righteousness, from pride to humility, from independence to dependence–repentance is demonstrated. Just like Acts 26:20 affirms, repentance always produces fruit, “kept declaring …that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” Repentance is seen in behavior.

Jesus says, repent of the wealth idol in your heart. Show you love Me more than money. Prove you worship Me more than wealth. If he’d do just one thing, just get rid of the other god, then love the Lord with all his heart, mind and strength.

Do you have an idol you need to repent of? What do you worship, who do you serve, what do you love, who do you follow more than Christ? Do you have an idol–an idol that’s actually keeping you from genuine salvation? Many people attend church these days who’ve made Christ “their personal Savior”, but have never repented of their heart idols. They’re not truly born again, but are self-deceived, thinking they can have Christ and Heaven, and still worship their idol. “I love Christ, but not above my friends, my team, my family.”

Talk to your religious friends about their idols–when you call them to Christ, it’s to serve Christ as Master, worship Him exclusively, love Him supremely–or they can’t be saved. I asked our elders and ministry leaders, “What are the idols found in the ranks of the army of FBC?” They said comfort, money, pleasure, sports, family, children, leisure, fitness, ministry, career, friends, reputation, self-reliance, being all together. Jesus says, “If you’re going to follow Me, you have to be willing of heart to completely give it up, surrender it, make it #2, love it less, hate it, sell it all, turn from it”–meaning repent, and . . .

#6  Pointedly calling to FAITH by following Christ  Verse 21c

You just want to say to this young man, “Don’t you understand that the goodness you can’t achieve can be given to you as a gift? The righteousness you cannot attain will be given to you free, through the sacrifice of Christ? He was made sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God in Him?” So our Lord points him to the only person who can save him. Verse 21c, “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Here is the fourth command in this verse, “Follow me,” meaning accept my guidance, embrace my teachings, walk where I walk, and come with me. Now understand, “follow me” is not merely . . .

ascribing to the same beliefs as Christ

loving Christ as a sacrificial Savior

affirming Christ as the Lord of all

doing what He would do in everyday life

embracing Him as Lord, and you as His slave

To follow Christ is all of that, and it also involves being indwelt by Christ, and having your entire inner nature transformed by Christ so that you want to follow Him in everything, demonstrating He lives in you by wanting to please Him. Though you will be tempted with other idols, and will stumble–no genuine Christian wants another god besides Christ alone.

Listen, my family–becoming a Christian doesn’t merely mean you now stop sinning and living bad. It means you turn from your sin, yes–but now you also follow Christ. There are far too many church-attenders who appear to have turned from their sin, but they are not following Christ. They are nice people, like the rich young ruler, but they are not obeying Christ.

You follow Christ by obeying the commands of the New Testament, like attending church for corporate worship not RMG meeting, serving in ministry, cultivating intentional relationships for the purpose of growth, giving financially and sacrificially, studying His Word, prayer and more. It’s not just what you don’t do, it’s also what you pursue. You’re not godly merely by not sinning, the rich young ruler was that–but by being like Christ, loving Him and following Him.

It’s repentance from sin, and faith by following Christ. Repentance and faith are Siamese twins–where one is found, the other will not be absent. They’re always together in genuine salvation–just like Acts 20:21, “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” And those who truly know Christ will do what He says. They will go where He leads, and will desire to follow His Word.

As Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “’Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?’” Jesus could not have made it more clear, when describing His true sheep. He said in John 10:27, “’My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they [what?] follow Me.’” Christians follow Christ, depend on Christ, serve Christ, worship Christ, and love Christ more than any other person or item. True believers exchange all that they are for all that He is. Genuine Christians rely on Jesus for everything first above all. He is their first love, their only God, and their greatest joy. Sadly, the rich young ruler would not follow Christ.

The religious are difficult to talk to. How do you share with a highly respected religious man . . .

who sees his own wealth as a sign of God’s blessing and favor

who sees his position in a synagogue as evidence of his own virtue

who sees the Law as only addressing his outward behavior

who sees himself as good enough, and ultimately

who worships himself for all his external, pretend goodness

How do you tell him that he’s in real, sinful, spiritual trouble? You do what Jesus did, and trust that in time God’s Spirit might crack through the hardness of his heart. Trust me, I know—I had a member of my family who was just like this—and you can’t make them respond to Christ. And if they do genuinely respond to Christ, you can’t talk ’em out of it. That is why Jesus calls us to be . . .

#7  Trusting in God’s SOVEREIGNTY to save His own  Verse 22

Verse 22, “But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” Mark alone tells us how the rich young ruler reacted emotionally–he’s saddened. An expression of deep gloom clouded his face. He literally became dark and was shocked by verse 21. The words of Christ to him were hard, and caused his eagerness to give way to a feeling of deep disappointment. Mark says he went away, his outward response—and grieving, his inner feeling.

Apparently in silence, the rich young ruler left. He didn’t object, fight, argue, question, or debate–he merely continued to grieve, describing a continual feeling of sorrow caused by the unexpected demand of Jesus. Do you realize, this is the only instance in the gospels in which the Lord’s invitation to “follow Me” failed to win a positive response? We don’t know whether his worldly sorrow later led him to repentance and obedience–we hope it did. Maybe it was Mark.

Nicodemus’s meeting with Jesus at night did not lead him immediately to genuine faith in Christ, but the later part of John and Church history point to the fact that Nicodemus did submit to Christ. So with your religious friends and family, do not give up! Don’t offer them a quick and easy and errant path to salvation. Use the points of this sermon as a check list–memorize them.

Don’t say, “Pray this prayer.” Don’t offer Christ as a personal Savior, but make certain they own the bad news of their sinful, condemned state. Make certain they understand who God is. Call them to turn from their sin in repentance. Make certain they want to worship Christ above all, that He’ll be their first love, and call them to follow Christ as Lord. All the while you tell them what Jesus did–God become a man in the person of Christ in order to be the substitute for His children, pay the price of sin, and become the righteousness we need in order to stand before a Holy God.

If they are not ready to turn to Christ, don’t force the issue. Remember, it’s God who calls His children to Himself. Remember Lydia in Acts 16:14, “Lydia … was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 13:48, “As many as had been appointed to eternal life, believed.” It is God who saves sinners. It is God who is sovereign in salvation. And friends, if Jesus let this prime candidate go, then you can wait for Christ to work in the lives of those you love, as long as you continue to be a faithful witness to them.

Why did the rich young ruler walk away from life now and eternal life with God? The end of verse 22 says, “for he was one who owned much property.” Another version says, “for he had great possessions,” apparently estates and lands. The demand upon the rich young ruler was costly, but his response proved that the Lord’s diagnosis was correct. He preferred his present earthly possessions to his future spiritual possessions in Heaven. “He wanted God, but not at the cost of his gold; he wanted life, but not at the expense of luxury; he was willing to serve, but not to the point of sacrifice.” So let’s . . .

1  STOP the BAD invitations

I know you agree. We are not to evaluate Christ’s methods, but Christ is to correct our methods. And His approach to evangelism here and in the New Testament exposes some bad practices in our day. Stop inviting people to accept Jesus, to make Jesus their personal Savior. Stop saying, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Don’t ever say, “Just choose Jesus.” Call people to submit to Christ, surrender to Christ, and to turn from their sin to follow Christ.

2  OWN the INGREDIENTS of evangelism from this event

Point to the goodness of our perfect God, and His offense over sin. Show people where they’ve failed externally and internally with their obedience to God’s Law, which reflects His perfect character. Call the lost to repent, to turn from their sin, to depend on Christ. Call them to serve, worship, love Christ first above all other loves or idols.

3  LOVE the LOST like Christ did

In the midst of all his self-righteousness, Jesus loved the rich young ruler. If Christ can love a lost sinner, so can you. Give gifts, write letters, express care, and serve as you share the Gospel. Then trust God to change hearts in time. Love the deluded religious by sharing the Gospel.

4  MAKE CERTAIN you are genuinely SAVED

Second Peter 1:10, “Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.” Do you see God as perfect, and yourself as sick with sin? Are you a massive lawbreaker? Have you turned in repentance from your sin? Are you following Christ in obedience? Really? Have you forsaken your idols to worship and serve Christ alone? And is all that the desire of your heart? If not, turn to Christ today. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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