October 7, 2022
Do you consider yourself a “churchgoer”? Can you answer the following question honestly?
Since you joined a church as a “believer,” has your life been radically, dramatically, eternally changed?
If you can’t honestly answer “yes,” we need to talk.
Many people attend church but are never radically changed. They have religion, but they’ve never met God. Churches are filled with people who are baptized pagans, people who are vaccinated with a mild form of Christianity but have never caught “the real thing.”
The church may be full, but the people are often empty. They go through the motions, trying to live a good life outwardly, but they’ve never been converted.
Look at a famous encounter in the New Testament when Jesus was confronted by a young man whom Matthew describes as a “rich young ruler.” (See Matthew 19:16-21.) Jesus didn’t seek him out; he took the initiative to seek out Jesus. Mark chapter 10 also tells the story. The young man literally came running to Jesus and kneeled at His feet, asking, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17 KJV)?
All his life he’d done the right things, made the right choices, kept Old Testament law, and was devout in his practice. When Jesus asked him about that, he responded honestly: “Master, all these have I observed from my youth” (Mark 10:20 KJV). His sincerity drew Jesus to him.
But where was his heart? Where had he truly laid up treasure?
Probing deeper, Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, 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” (Mark 10:21).
So far, things are going well. In fact, Mark records that Jesus loved this young man. But the encounter doesn’t have the happy ending we expect. The young man “was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God’” (Mark 10:22-23)! The whole scene shocked Jesus’ disciples. (See Mark 10:24.)
I want to impress on you four important truths from this encounter. The phrase “three strikes and you’re out” is what’s happening here.
You may not see it on the surface, but the young man was quite proud of his achievements. Outwardly, he did have much for us to admire.
But Jesus, who knew people’s hearts, did not praise or flatter him. Instead, He looked straight at him and responded, “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Mark 10:18).
In one sentence Jesus was saying, “I am God. You are a sinner.”
Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one…. There is none who does good, no, not one.’
Not me, not even you.
Nobody has ever been saved until seeing himself as a lost sinner in the sight of a righteous, holy God.
Some people who join churches today are religious but have never seen their own sinfulness contrasted with the holiness of God and His wrath against sin. God is merciful; God forgives. But the Bible also says He will “by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7).
If God were to tolerate or overlook sin, God Himself would become guilty. He would topple from His throne of holiness. As the saying goes, “When a guilty man is acquitted, the judge is condemned.”
Jesus said that prostitutes and crooked tax collectors were going to Heaven before the Pharisees because the Pharisees substituted their self-righteousness in the place of God’s mercy.
Jesus begins to talk about commandment-keeping to help the young ruler see he’s a sinner. He isn’t keeping the commandments like he thinks he is. Jesus is not teaching salvation by commandment-keeping. Commandment-keeping never saved anybody. He’s teaching just the opposite: that God gave us the law so we can see that we’re sinners in the sight of a righteous, holy God. God’s grace would mean nothing to him until he saw himself as a sinner in the sight of God.
No one is saved until seeing this. The law doesn’t save us; it gets us ready to be saved. Many people don’t have any concept of salvation because they’ve never seen the absolute holiness of God and seen themselves as sinners in the sight of God.
This young man had a superficial knowledge of the law, but the law deals with the heart. Jesus, like a skilled surgeon, is about to take a scalpel and lance an infection.
All the commandments can be summed up by these two things:
When Jesus told the young man to sell what he owned, give it to the poor, and “Come, follow Me,” Jesus touched on the sin in the young ruler’s life. He had an idol: greed. He loved money more than God and more than his neighbor. He had broken all the Commandments by failing to love, and Jesus exposed that.
He’s not teaching us that you can buy your way into Heaven by selling everything and giving it to the poor. Jesus is exposing the sin in the young man’s heart, showing him the futility of trying to “behave himself” into Heaven. Salvation by law-keeping is impossible.
Jesus isn’t teaching “works=righteousness.” He’s teaching, “No man can serve two masters,” so “Come, follow Me.”
Most likely Jesus hasn’t asked you to sell all you own, so why did Jesus ask him to do it? Because an idol lurked in his heart: He was trusting in his riches. To have eternal life, he needed to repent of that idolatry. After he sorrowfully turned away, Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23)!
Whatever you trust in is your god. Anything you love more, serve more, trust more, or fear more than God is an idol. In your life, it may not be money, but whatever it is, repent. Turn from it. One god is enough for anybody.
Here’s where many people miss salvation. They want to go to Heaven holding onto their gods, just adding Jesus in as one more god. But you must repent.
No repentance, no redemption. Repentance is not salvation by commandment-keeping. It’s a change of mind that leads to a change of life. Get the picture: I’m going one way, having this idol in my life. I repent, forsake that idol, turn from it, and start heading in the opposite direction, following Christ.
You cannot hold your god of greed with one hand and your God of grace with the other. You must turn from idols to serve the living God. Whatever you trust, if you’re not trusting Jesus, you’re not going to make it to Heaven.
Jesus gave the young man a choice, the same choice He gives us. Your eternal destiny depends upon this.
One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Mark 10:22. Jesus now had struck a vital nerve. “But he [the young man] was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
He said no. Jesus let him go. And He’ll let you go, also.
Forsake (by repentance) your old master; follow (by faith) your new Master. Repentance and faith are linked. Faith is not merely nodding your head to a series of theological facts about Jesus. It is enthroning Jesus. Turn from sin; turn to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit says to you, “You can’t be saved by keeping the commandments. And you can’t keep your wealth, either. Jesus is not talking about losing everything. He’s talking about finding everything. He’s talking about having treasure in Heaven. Give your heart to Christ.”
Whatever master you choose will master you. When you give your heart to Jesus, Jesus becomes your Master.
The saying “three strikes and you’re out” applies here because everyone has three opportunities to go to Heaven:
The rich young ruler struck out. He couldn’t keep the commandments and he failed to give his heart to Christ. If you will receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He will save you and keep you saved. The Bible says plainly, simply in Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
If you’re not certain you’re saved, I want to guide you in a prayer right now, and you can ask Christ to come into your heart.
Pray this prayer: Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that You love me and want to save me. Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God, who died on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe God raised You from the dead. I now turn from my sin and, by faith, receive You into my life as my personal Lord and Savior. Come into my heart, forgive my sins, and save me, Lord Jesus. In Your name, I pray, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, let us help you with the next steps. Please click here for free downloadable resources or allow us to send you material in the mail to help you get started.