October 6, 2022
Are you a “churchgoer”? Can you answer the following question honestly?
Since you joined a church as a “believer,” have you 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, vaccinated with a mild form of Christianity, never having 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 with me at a famous encounter in the New Testament when Jesus was confronted by a young man described in Matthew 19:21 as a “rich young ruler.” Jesus didn’t seek him out; He sought out Jesus. Mark chapter 10 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?”
All his life he’d done the right things, made the right choices, keeping Old Testament law, devout in his practice. When Jesus asked him about that, he responded honestly: “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” His sincerity drew Jesus to him.
But where was his heart? Where had he truly laid up treasure?
Probing deeper, Jesus said,
One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.
This encounter doesn’t have the happy ending we’d expect. The young man
went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto His disciples, ‘How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (v.22-23)
The whole scene shocked Jesus’ disciples (v.24).
I want to impress on you four important truths from this encounter. The title “Three Strikes and You’re Out” will made sense in a moment.
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.
· Eagerness. He came running, full of the strength of youth.
· Enthusiasm. Some folks come to church with a sign hanging around their neck: “Please do not disturb.”
· Humility. He had position, possessions, prestige and power at a young age, yet he laid aside his pride and knelt before Jesus, a peasant prophet from Galilee.
· Discernment. Something about Jesus was different. He knew worth and goodness when he saw it.
· Spirituality. His mind was on spiritual things. He asked a vital question.
· Morally clean. He’d kept the commandments. He’d make a wonderful neighbor or trustworthy business associate.
· Successful at an early age. The average church would welcome him—probably make him Church Treasurer.
But Jesus, who knew people’s hearts, did not praise or flatter him. Instead, He looked straight at him and responded
“There is none good but one, that is, God.” (v.18)
In this one sentence Jesus was saying, “I am God. You are a sinner.”
Romans 3:10 and 12 says, As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one…there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Not me, not even you.
Nobody has ever been saved until they see they’re a lost sinner in the sight of a righteous, holy God.
Some people joining 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.” 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 they substituted their self-righteousness for 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.
Nobody is saved until they see 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 themselves as a sinner 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:
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and
2. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)
When Jesus told him 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 do this one thing, and Jesus exposed that.
He’s not teaching you can buy your way into Heaven by selling everything and giving it to the poor. Jesus is exposing the sin in his heart, showing him the futility of trying to “behave himself” into Heaven. Salvation by law-keeping is impossible.
Jesus is not teaching “works righteousness.” He’s teaching, “No man can serve two masters,” saying, “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 hardly [with difficulty] shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (v.23-24)
Whatever you trust in is your god. Anything you love more, serve more, trust more, 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. I’m going this way, having this idol in my life. I repent, forsake that idol, turn from it, and follow 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 him 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.
And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved, 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,
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.
Why the title “Three Strikes and You’re Out”? Because everyone has three opportunities to go to Heaven.
1. You could die before the age of accountability. If you die as a baby or young child, you go straight to Heaven. If you understand what I’m saying, that’s strike one for you. You missed that opportunity.
2. You can keep the commandments absolutely perfectly. Never sin, anytime, anywhere, in thought or deed. That’s only theoretical, because no one other than Jesus has ever done that and no one ever will. Strike two.
3. Come follow Jesus Christ, who died upon the cross for you. If you fail to do that, it’s “Strike three and you’re out.”
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 sweetly, plainly, simply: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”