There are so many portions of the Gospel of Matthew that are incredible. Narrowing down a study of Matthew to only 12, means we have to leave out some marvelous portions. But it also means that we can focus on some monumental passages, and we’re going to do that again in this message. I want you to take your Bible and I want you to look with me at Matthew chapter 19 verses 16 through 22, one of the great, insightful, informative, benchmark portions of this amazing record of the life and teaching and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Beginning in verse 16, we read these words, “And behold, one came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?’” That’s the question. This section is Jesus confronting a man who asks how he can obtain eternal life. Over 50 times in the Bible the issue of eternal life is brought to the forefront. Over 50 times the terms eternal life, everlasting life are recorded. In fact the most famous verse in the Bible focuses on that issue, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal” – or everlasting – “life.” And the message that God has for the world is that there is available to sinners eternal life. God’s people, through all the ages, have borne that message to the ends of the earth. There is eternal life for sinners. That’s the theme of this great text. In fact, it’s quite remarkable that someone would walk right up to Jesus and ask Him that question. That’s rare.
I remember flying from St. Lewis to Los Angeles one day and I was sitting there preparing some notes for my sermon about 15 minutes into the flight. And a young man moved into a different seat and sat next to me. He had been seated elsewhere, and I guess he felt there was more room, and so he sat down next to me. He watched me for a moment. I could tell as I was reading my Bible and writing down some things. And then he said to me, “Excuse me, sir. I don’t want to bother you, but you wouldn’t happen to know how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, would you?” If there had been a hole in that plane, I would have fallen through it, I’m sure. What a shocking thing to say. “Well,” I replied, somewhat with a stammer, “Uh – uh – uh, I certainly do know how you can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” and I told him how and baptized him right here some weeks later. It’s rare though. That’s the only time anyone has ever walked up to me and so frankly asked the question.
That’s exactly what happened here. A man walked up to Jesus and asked him precisely the right question. “What do I do to have eternal life?” By the way, that question appears in one form or another about half a dozen times in the New Testament. It’s a very key question. And he’s not the only person who asked it. But it opens up a marvelous opportunity to see what Jesus does with somebody who asks the right question. Now here is evangelistic training at its best. And I’ll tell you right now, and you’ll discover it as we more along, this is the hottest evangelistic prospect that appears in the New Testament. I mean, this seems like the most ripe potential convert of anybody. There’s no need to convince him about the voracity of Scripture – the truth of the Bible. There’s no need to convince him about God. He’s already passed all of that. He just wants to know how to have eternal life. This is the evangelist’s dream inquiry, a man coming to seek eternal life.
The amazing part of this story is that in the end the man walked away without receiving what he asked for. Now somebody might conclude that the hottest prospect in the New Testament confronted the most able witness, namely Jesus Christ. How in the world did Jesus miss this opportunity? In fact as we will read, Jesus not only missed the opportunity – that’s not probably the proper way to say it – but Jesus actually set up in front of that man an insurmountable barrier to the very eternal life which he wanted. You would say, if you were teaching an evangelism class, that Jesus flunked. What kind of evangelism is that where you have the fish on the hook and in the boat, and he somehow gets away? What happened? Well we’re going to find out as we open the Word of God and see how to obtain eternal life.
And I might add also, that we need the truth of this text in our day, because in our day Christianity abounds with unbiblical methods of evangelism. Now we have a lot of methods that do not square with what the Bible teaches about evangelism. We’re big on decisions and walking aisles and praying prayers and things like that. But we may miss the whole import of this text in such endeavors and may only imagine that the person has obtained eternal life, when the truth is they haven’t. Walter Chantry, writing a book called Today’s Gospel some years ago, said this, “On the shallow ground of man’s logic, large numbers have been led to assume they have a right to everlasting life and have been given an assurance which does not belong to them. Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the diluted with a perverted gospel.” And they are contributing to that group of people who someday will say, “Lord, Lord,” and hear, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.” Here was a man who came to Jesus, asked the right question, went away without the eternal life he sought, and that is compelling to me, to make me want to know, what in the world did Jesus do with this man? How did He handle this man?
Let’s go back to our basic question, how to obtain eternal life, and use that as the key to unlock the passage. Let me give you several elements to that. How does one obtain eternal life? First, you have to know you need it. Right? You’re not going to come looking for it if you don’t know you don’t have it. You have to want it. You’re not going to come seeking it if you have no desire for it. So we begin at the point that if you’re going to obtain eternal life, you have to know you want it. And there we go to verse 16, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” Obviously, the man wanted it. No one seeks eternal life unless he knows he doesn’t have it and unless he wants it. This man wanted eternal life.
Matthew tells us down in verse 20, that he was a young man. Put him in the category, say, of 24 to 35, 24 to 40, something like that. Luke, recording the same incident in Luke 18, tells us he was not only a young man, he was the archē or the ruler of the synagogue, which meant that he was sort of like the lay-chairman of the synagogue. He was a very highly esteemed, religious man, evidently a leader, evidently a man of some substantial means in the community, a man highly respected to be elected as the ruler of the local synagogue. He was a devout religious Jew, rich, young, prominent, influential, moral, respected, or he never would have had that position. As far as the Jewish culture of his day, he had it all.
In fact Matthew says, “And behold one came to Him,” to express some level of shock, a word of startled wonder. Because it is so amazing that an accomplished, respected Jew, who was so well versed and practiced in his religion that he’d been named the ruler of the local synagogue would even come and pose a question like this. But he was honest and he knew that though he had religion, he didn’t have eternal life. He didn’t have a soul at rest. He was fearful of death. He was deeply troubled. He didn’t have permanent peace and joy and a settled hope. That is obvious. I mean, the very fact that he would come publicly and publicly ask the question in the community where he was the ruler of the synagogue, indicates that he didn’t mind people knowing that whatever he had achieved in terms of his religion, it wasn’t eternal life. That was honest, and it was something he wanted so profoundly that he didn’t mind the embarrassing moment of publicly stating what he lacked. It was the absence of this life which made him restless. It was the absence of this life which made him anxious and unfulfilled. And that’s where all effective evangelism begins, with the recognition of an emptiness in the heart, a recognition that you’re missing the thing you need the most. And you see, we preach first of all and we witness first of all to tell people what they don’t have in case they aren’t aware of it. That’s where it starts.
Now when he mentions eternal life, what is he talking about? What does he mean by that? Well he means more than just an unending existence. That’s not what he means. What he means is the life that is characteristic of eternity. What he’s really talking about is living with God forever. He’s talking about the life of the eternal age to come, the life in God’s world. God is the eternal God. God’s life. Eternal life is in fact the life of God in the soul of man. He wanted something that wasn’t earthy and temporal. He wanted something that was heavenly and permanent. He wanted that kind of life that allows the soul to possess of the life of God, and with the life of God, peace and power and joy and hope. It was a life principal he was talking about that makes one spiritually alive. He wanted a new life, a life not so dominated by sin and fear and doubt and shame and remorse and anxiety. And he didn’t have that life and he knew it. He didn’t have peace. And he didn’t have rest. And he didn’t have purity. And he didn’t have hope. And he didn’t possess the very life of God and confidence that he would live in the age to come. He didn’t know God. That is eternal life. You see, it was far more than just existing forever.
The story is told of Aurora, the Greek Goddess of Dawn. And in Greek mythology, Aurora fell in love with Tithonus, the mortal youth. It was bad for a goddess to fall in love with a mortal, because it would be a short-lived relationship. Well Zeus wanted to be kind to Aurora, the Goddess of Dawn, so Zeus offered her any gift that she might choose for her mortal lover.
She asked that Tithonus might never die. But you got to be careful when you’re messing around with Zeus, because she forgot to ask that he might remain young forever. So Tithonus, according to Greek legend, lived forever, getting older and older and older and more and more decrepit, and the request became a terrible and intolerable curse. Life is only of value when it is nothing less than the life of God. And that’s the meaning of eternal life. So it all starts when you want eternal life.
The second way that you obtain eternal life is to feel deeply that need – to feel deeply that need. Some people might say, “Ah, it’d be nice to have eternal life, but I’m not really into it that much. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t happen.” That’s not where this rich young ruler was.
Some people know they don’t have eternal life, and that’s really okay. Some people know they don’t have the life of God in them, and that’s really okay. They’ll find their peace through materialism, through pride, through a bottle, through human love and relationships, or wherever it might be. But not this man. He knew he didn’t have eternal life. He wanted the life of God and he felt the need very strongly. In fact, it was crying out. He had lived an outwardly exemplary life. He had avoided outward sins. He was moral. He was religious. He was strong in terms of his ability to conform to the standards of the law outwardly. He was the ruler of the local synagogue. But there was a huge vacuum in his heart.
This even makes him a better prospect, because not only did know he didn’t have eternal life, but he desperately wanted it. And there’s another component I would add here. You have to seek for it diligently. You see, we are preaching and calling people to salvation who, first of all, know they don’t have eternal life; secondly, who want it; and thirdly, who will seek for it with all their – what? – their heart. And Matthew says he came, verse 16. Mark adds, by the way, in Mark 10, that he came running – running. Now there’s urgency in that. There’s eagerness in that. He was running. He was running down the aisle before there were any aisles. He ran to Jesus before anybody even wrote Just As I Am or before there was organ music. He was in enthusiastic pursuit of eternal life. That’s why I say he was such a great prospect.
Our Lord, at this time, was walking along the road to Peria, having left the house where He taught the disciples about marriage and children. The crowd was certainly accompanying Jesus as He walked along. And here this man comes, feeling no embarrassment, even though they would have known him as their local spiritual leader. He comes running to Jesus. And the Gospels tell us he even knelt down. He comes running to Jesus, and he sort of slides in in front of him on his knees. And this is the best indication of his strong desire. He was really seeking eternal life. He was serious, motivated, anxious for eternal life. I tell you, there’s not a better prospect in the New Testament. What an opportunity. He was rich, too, and God’s people can always use a few of those folks. And he was a leader. And he had a lot of influence. This is a can’t-miss convert.
And as I said, Mark 10:17 says he kneeled, which shows his respect, his honor of Jesus. And so in order to obtain eternal life, you have to know what you want, feel deeply the need, and seek it diligently. You remember that Jesus said it’s hard to find the narrow gate. And people are pressing into it. You must seek it with all your heart.
Fourthly, you have to come to the right source. I imagine that there are people who know they don’t have eternal life, feel deeply the need of eternal life, seek it diligently in the wrong place. There are many of them, aren’t there? They’re loaded into the false religions of the world. This guy came to the right source. I mean I’m telling you, he couldn’t have come to a more right source. First John 5:20 is a good verse to indicate that. Listen to this, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true” – listen to this – “in His Son Jesus Christ this is the true God and eternal life.” There John says, “Jesus is the eternal life.” He came for eternal life to the One who was eternal life. He came to the right source.
No doubt, he had heard of the power of Jesus’ life. There’s no reason to assume that he believed he was God. But he knew he was a powerful person. And he probably had seen or heard Jesus and seen the tremendous composure, the great profound faith and trust in the living God. And he was in total awe of this man Jesus, who obviously had obtained eternal life, not knowing that in fact He was that eternal life. He came to him.
He says to him in verse 16, “Teacher” – or better Master – didaskalē. He recognizes Him as one who can be a source, one who knows what he doesn’t know, one who can teach him, who can lead him, a teacher of divine truth. And by the way, Mark and Luke both, in giving us the same account, tell us he said, “Good master” – agathos, good in essence, noble, moral, inward goodness is depicted in the word agathos. So he came to the one who was genuinely good, to the one who taught the truth of God, to the one who proclaimed eternal life, and the one who actually was eternal life. First John 5:11 says, “And this is the record that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” He came to the one who could dispense eternal life. How does one obtain eternal life? First, you have to want it, then you have to feel the need deeply, seek eagerly, and you have to come to the right source. You can chase eternal life in the wrong place and you’ll never find it.
Let me take you to a fifth element in this. This is also remarkable. You need to ask the right question. And the right question is, how? How? Verse 16, “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” That is the right question, friends. That’s the right question. And he didn’t ask, how can I be more religious? How can I be more moral? How can God like me better? He said, there’s something I don’t have. I need it. How do I get it? Now you say, this guy is so ready, all you got to do is say, “Pray this prayer with me,” and he’s in. I mean, he’s so ready. Just give him the DE deal. Just give him the four spiritual laws. Just give him anything. I mean, he’s ripe. Just pick this fruit. Sign him up. All you have to say to this guy is, “Believe, my brother. Believe. That’s how you have eternal life. Just pray and just ask Jesus to give you eternal life and it’s over and you’re in, man.”
I mean, I daresay that is, presumably, what we would say. Well, we’d say, “Oh, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you’ll have eternal life. Just pray this prayer and ask Jesus into your heart and it’s a done deal.” Is that the right answer? That’s not the answer Jesus gave him, because there were some other issues that had to be confronted, some very, very important issues. Now some people have made a big issue out of the fact that he said, “What good thing shall I do?” But you know, at the first pass on that, it’s a fair question. I mean, it really is a fair question, because the man would assume that he had to do something. And we could say to him, “Repent and believe,” and that is something he had to do. So it’s not really an unfair question. But in his case, no doubt it was loaded with the works-righteousness system. And he probably did assume that he would have to merely do a few additional good works to be added to the long list of wonderful things which he had already achieved. So in this man’s mouth, “What good thing shall I do?” may well have been tied to a legalistic system. And he probably thought there was just maybe one other thing he could do that would sort of kick him over the hump, and he would get eternal life. He was convinced that eternal life comes to those who do good things. He knew there was some secret he was missing, some good thing that he hadn’t done yet that would give him peace of mind.
And Jesus’ response is quite amazing. Jesus starts to put up barriers immediately. Verse 17, “And He said to him, ‘Why are you asking Me what is good?’” Boy, that’s a turnoff, isn’t it? What are you asking Me for? And we would look at that and say, who better to ask? Who’s going to be as good at the answer as You? Jesus says, “Why are you asking Me? Why are you asking Me for this information about eternal life?” What kind of an answer is that? Well, Jesus goes on to say, “There’s only One who’s good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” What? This sounds like salvation by legalism. Why does Jesus say, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good.” What is He saying? What He’s saying is this, “Why are you asking Me for this information about the source of eternal life? Why are you asking Me? There’s only One who can give you that information, and that is God, and you already have His divine revelation.” He’s calling the young man to task for a failure to recognize what the Old Testament has taught, that salvation comes to those who repent and those who submit in humble repentance and contrite heart before God. God alone is good. And God has revealed the promise of eternal life and the means of eternal life. He’s already done it. You have divine revelation. You’re a well-taught Jew, a ruler in the synagogue. Why are you asking Me? And then He gives it to him. “If you wish to enter in to life, keep the commandments.”
You say, is that the divine standard for eternal life? Yes, yes. He’s saying, “Look, God has already told you what the standard is. Keep the commandments.” I don’t have any secret information. I don’t have any other standard than that. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “I didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.” You already have this revelation. You must keep the law. You must keep the commandments, and then you’ll enter into eternal life.
You say, that is a strange answer. That is a very confusing answer. No, Jesus knew this young man, and He knew what had not yet been addressed. So He’s going to smoke out this whole matter of sin. And that’s why He reacts the way He does. And that’s takes us to the sixth component in obtaining eternal life: You must confess your sinfulness. You must repent. You see, it is essential that the man know that he needs to repent. He needs to acknowledge his utter sinfulness and turn from it. You see, all he had felt – and this is very important – all he had felt up to here was the personal lack. If I might borrow a contemporary term, he was in touch with his felt need. He felt anxious. He felt insecure. He felt doubtful. He felt shameful. He felt fearful. He lacked peace. He lacked joy. He lacked confidence. He lacked assurance. He lacked hope. And it was all of that sort of emotional vacuum, that sort of personal emptiness that he felt, which we would classify under the sort of psychological term felt needs. But he needed to go beyond his own anxiety and beyond his felt needs and deal with his sin. That was the issue.
And in any kind of evangelism, you’ve got to get to that point. And just to respond to somebody who’s articulating felt needs and give them a prayer to pray is to give someone a false assurance, because unless sin is dealt with, that’s a sham prayer. You see, you’ve got to go beyond the recognition of a felt need to the recognition of an offended God.
And so the Lord takes the focus off his felt need and puts it on God and the revelation of God’s holy person. And our Lord makes salvation impossible to this man based on his own definition. And He injects into it the reality that you must put yourself up against God’s Law and see you have fallen short. And that has dire consequences, and this young ruler knew it because he knew the Old Testament. Law without penalty is only advice, and God never gives advice. He knew the Law of God. And he knew the consequence of violation. Jesus is saying to him, you know the divine standard. Keep the law. Keep the law. Cursed is everyone who breaks any part of that law. That’s the standard. And all Biblical evangelism goes back to that point. It goes back to a holy God with a holy Law that is absolute and if ever violated, eternal life is forfeited. And evangelism – listen carefully – which only deals with people’s felt need, never deals with the real issue. Evangelism involves bringing people up to the Law of God and showing them how desperately short they fall.
It’s not just salving their wounded hearts. They must have a knowledge of God’s holy Word. They must have a knowledge of God’s holy Law. The seeker must know who he is violating and how he has violated Him and how he is worthy of judgment. He must come to a comprehension of law and judgment or he will never understand forgiveness and grace. The rich, young ruler had no remorse. He had no penitence. He had no sense of offending holy God and God’s Word, and he had to be brought to see that he had done that. He didn’t need to hear that God had a wonderful plan for his life, until he heard that God had a terrible plan for his life, eternal hell. Evangelism must bring the sinner to that recognition. A holy God has given a holy Law and that barrier Jesus erects, and it is an impassable barrier. Jesus takes him on His legalistic ground and puts up a wall that he cannot climb.
Notice his response in verse 18. He said to Him, “Which one?” He knew the law. He knew the Ten Commandments. He knew what was written in the Old Testament. So He says, “If you wish to enter into eternal life, keep the commandments,” Jesus does. And the rich young ruler replies, “Which commandments? Which laws?” You see, in the pharisaic religion, they knew they couldn’t keep them all, all the time, so they sort of whittled it down to keeping a few on the outside. And if you kept a few on the outside, you were okay. So Jesus responded by just giving him a few. “You shall not commit murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Now remember that the Ten Commandments is divided into two parts. The first part had to do with violations of God, and the second part had to do with violations of each other in human relationships. And Jesus picked the easier part, the second part, which has to do with how we deal with others. And then He threw in one additional one about loving your neighbor as yourself, which comes from the supreme law. And He said, try those. And you say, why in the world wouldn’t Jesus just preach grace? Why wouldn’t He just preach the free gift of salvation? Because a person cannot be saved unless there is a recognition and a turning from sin. And this man needed to know that he was a living, breathing offense to God. And grace cannot be discussed until law is understood. The cross means nothing apart from the law. Without knowledge of the condemnation from God’s holy Law, the cross will only draw sympathy, but not saving faith.
Did you get that? Without knowledge of the condemnation to the one who violates God’s Law, the cross will draw sympathy, but not saving faith from sinners. What sense was there in offering the man salvation when he had only a vague awareness of his crimes and what he stood in danger of? He was a moralist, unprepared for the gospel because he didn’t understand how wicked he was. And it’s easy to see that. Look at verse 20, “The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept. What am I still lacking?’” Now that shows you, he understood nothing. He thought he’d kept the whole Law of God. Samuel Bolden wrote, “When you see that men have been wounded by the law, then it is time to pour in the bomb of gospel oil. It is the sharp needle of the law that makes way for the scarlet thread of the gospel.”
This man was not wounded by the Law. The Lord gives him the impossible divine standard. And we know that when the Scripture said, “You shall no commit murder,” that included hating anybody. “You shall not commit adultery,” included never looking on a woman to lust after her. Not stealing included not coveting. Not lying included not holding a wrong thought towards someone, because this was the heart, not just the exterior. And honoring your father and mother meant more than never striking them. It meant loving them and respecting them from your heart and so forth.
He had violated all of these things repeatedly. But without blinking an eye, without so much as a flinch, he says he’s kept it all. Here is a sample of moralism, legalism, pharisaic thinking which cuts a man off from salvation. He had so externalized the Law that he was convinced he was righteous.
As Romans 10 says, “Not understanding the righteousness of God genuinely, he went about to establish his own righteousness.” He could never experience grace, because he wouldn’t acknowledge sin. The Lord, you see, had tried to get into his heart and wound him with the Law. And he comes back with this incredible self-righteous statement, “What am I still lacking? I’ve looked all through my life, and I just can’t figure out what I’m lacking. I got to be close. I’ve achieved so much.” And if our Lord had allowed him to pray some kind of prayer, it would have been a superficial meaningless act. Listen, Jesus weeps over the lost. He is not willing that any should perish. But He doesn’t want sham converts either. And He still puts the barriers there that stop those who will not genuinely repent. What do you do to obtain eternal life? Know what you want, feel the need deeply, seek earnestly, ask the right question, and confess your sinfulness in repentance.
Then one other essential element – submit to the Lord. Verse 21, and Jesus really hits at the heart of this guy, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect’ – that is to have eternal life, to be acceptable to God – “go, sell your possessions, give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.’” Now the first time you read that, you’re going to say, what? You got to be kidding. Jesus told the guy that salvation was through charity, philanthropy. You give your money away to the poor, you’re going to be saved. Poverty equals salvation. But if you give your money to the poor so you can be saved, the poor just got damned because they got your money. Is salvation only for those who give everything away? Then what happens to the people who get it? What’s He talking about? If you went to bible college and the quiz came from a professor in the class and he said, “If someone asked you how to have eternal life,” and you wrote down, “Tell him to give all his money to poor people,” you wouldn’t pass the course.
What in the world is Jesus saying here? Well, simply this, He is commanding him to do something that involved total abandonment of his entire lifestyle in an act of submission to the lordship of Christ. Will you give up everything to follow Me? I remember reading years ago about a black slave in the south who had become a Christian. And the slave owner or the master of the plantation knew this particular gentleman, and he saw the transformation in his life and he went to see him one day. And he walked in his little hut, and he had on his best Sunday clothes, his white suit and his white hat. And he said to this black slave, he said, “I want what you have. I want the peace and the joy that you have.” And the story says that the black slave said to him, “Fine, you can have it. First you got to go over there and roll in the mud in your white suit.” The man said, “I’d never do that.” “Well then,” he said, “you can’t receive it.”
Months passed, and he came back again, and he was still so drawn to this converted slave, he asked him the same question. He got the same answer. “Go roll in the mud.” “Well,” he said, “I’d never do that. That’s beneath my dignity.” Some months later, he came back. He said to that wise slave, “Please, sir. What do I do to have what you have?” He said, “I told you. Go roll in the mud.” He said, “I’m willing.” He said, “Good. You don’t have to do it.” You understand the point. The test here was just a test to find out if the man would do what Jesus commanded. Because when you enter into salvation, you better count the cost. What you’re basically doing is signing up to obey. Right? Signing up to be under command all the time. You’re literally giving away your will and your plans and your purposes and your choices, and you’re subjecting everything to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And that’s what Jesus was after. He was giving him a test. “Are you going to be willing to obey Me no matter what I ask?”
You see, salvation comes down to those two things. You can get all the way down through the first five. It’s when you get to six and seven that the issue is decided. Will you acknowledge your offense against God, your violation of His Law? And will you turn from your sin and beg His forgiveness? Secondly, will you leave your present perishing priorities and follow Jesus no matter what He asks? That’s how to obtain eternal life. There is a faith that does not save. It requires no turning from sin and no obedience to Christ. It is shallow. It is unacceptable. It is damning. Jesus said a man found a treasure in a field and sold everything to buy it. Jesus said a man found a pearl of great price and sold everything to buy it. Jesus said, “What will you give in exchange for your soul?” It’s all that you have. It’s all that you have. Salvation comes to those who are willing to turn from their sin and submit to Christ no matter what He asks. When that happens, eternal life comes.
In this case, verse 22 is the sad end. “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.” Two things he wouldn’t do: Acknowledge his sin; submit to Christ. He came with the right question. He came with the right attitude, came to the right source, felt his emptiness, and went away lost, because he never met the conditions of repentance and submission. Alfred Plummer, the great commentator on Matthew, said – and I close with this quote – “Disciples who may come upon their own terms are easily won and easily lost. If Christ had lowered the terms for the sake of gaining this man and his wealth, He might have, for a time, had one more enthusiastic follower, with the risk of having later, a second Judas.” Don’t refuse God’s terms. They’re the only terms on which you receive eternal life. Let’s pray together.
As we think about this profound insight into the matter of how we receive eternal life, Lord, may it find its way indelibly into our hearts. And as we go out to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to sinners, as we speak to them about the forgiveness and the eternal life that You offer in Jesus Christ, may we be certain to go beyond their emotional needs, their felt needs, to bring them to the place where they recognize that far more important, far more significant than anything they feel is the reality of what they have done to offend You and how they have violated Your Law and deserve only eternal hell. And may we call them to a recognition that they have violated Your Law, and must turn from that and repent. And may Your Spirit grant them repentance. And Father, may we drive that sinner to the place where they recognize that they must be willing to walk away from any priorities, sell everything for the pearl. When these things happen, the sinner doesn’t walk away lost, but is found and embraced in Your eternal arms. Keep us faithful, Lord, to preach that true message. And may You use us to lead many to salvation for Your glory. In Christ’s name. Amen.
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