Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. – (Matthew 19:16-22 NIV)
Today’s passage of Scripture is that powerful story of the rich young ruler. It is a story I have incorporated into my personal testimony that I have shared with millions over the past 14 years through live appearances, television and radio broadcasts, print interviews, and over the Internet. What makes this encounter between the rich young ruler and Jesus so moving is that it does not have a happy ending. When forced to choose between Jesus and the world, sadly, this rich young ruler chose the world. Today, many of you are being confronted by Jesus, and just like this rich young ruler, you have to choose. Jesus, or this world.
The encounter between this rich young ruler and Jesus is the same encounter people have with Christ every day. No doubt this was a man who was very successful by the world’s standards. He had all you could ever want in this life. However, deep down, he knew something was missing in his life. He had obviously heard about this teacher named Jesus and approached Him one day, asking the Lord what good deeds he must do to receive everlasting life. This makes sense since successful people are usually very goal oriented. They are used to performing. So it only makes sense that even in spiritual matters, they are looking for the bottom line, what do they have to do to succeed.
This is why a cult like Scientology flourishes and appeals to successful people, especially people in the entertainment industry. It is a cult strictly based on works and money. Successful people are used to buying their way into the best clubs, the best restaurants, buying the best cars, the best homes, the best of whatever this world has to offer. They understand the mentality of work hard, achieve a goal, and purchase whatever you want. So when it comes to the spiritual side of their life, they are ripe candidates for a lie from the pits of hell like Scientology that tells a person that with enough good works and enough money, they are assured of being part of the spiritual elite, just like they are part of the elite in this life.
Jesus shared with this rich young ruler some of the commandments and the young ruler affirmed he had followed those commandments. Then Jesus shared with this young man the price of following Christ. He told this young ruler to go sell all that he had, give it to the poor and then come follow Him. Now I have heard many people over the years incorrectly use this passage of Scripture as an indictment against having wealth. That is NOT what Jesus was saying. Christ in His omniscience knew that as long as this rich young ruler had all of his possessions, he would never put Jesus first in his life.
You see my friend, when you have been blessed with lots of material possessions, lots of money, the trap so many fall into is thinking they are sufficient unto themselves, that they don’t need anyone else, even God. When you have the ability to do whatever you want, go wherever you want to go, buy whatever you want to buy, you get the false sense that you are in control. While having money and possessions does give you a certain amount of control over your life, there is still so much that you are NOT in control of and never will be. Your faith and trust is in yourself and in your money, not in God. In most cases, it is not even the money as much as it is the power, the ego, the pride that comes with having wealth and possessions. Those things are actually more difficult to let go of than the money.
The sad ending of this encounter comes in the 22nd Verse when the Bible says, “He went away sad.” The bottom line, He rejected Christ and chose the world. When it came time to make his choice, he chose his money and possessions over Jesus. This story is personal to me because there were many times, not just once, during the decade of my life that I was running from God and enjoying all of the success this world could offer, when I had this same encounter with the Lord. In my case, He was not even saying sell all I had. He was simply saying, leave the business world and come and follow me. Time after time, Christ gave me the opportunity to turn from the things of the world and surrender my life to Him. Time after time, I chose the world over following the Lord.
I was blessed that God loved me enough to allow things to happen in my life that caused me to finally surrender to Him. Sadly, it took losing everything, including my freedom for that to happen. How much easier my life would have been if I had only listened to the Lord earlier. A short version of my testimony is on my website at http://www.liveprayer.com under Founder’s Testimony. Also, here is a link to a story done by a secular publication a year ago that gives a very fair and detailed account of my life, http://www.weeklyplanet.com/2003-12-04/cover.html . We don’t know whatever happened to the rich young ruler. I pray that at some point before he died, he did make the choice to follow Christ.
I love you and care about you so much. I know many of you reading this today are like the rich young ruler. You know deep down inside that something is missing from your life. You have heard about Jesus. In many cases, you have done your best to follow God’s commandments but I am here today to tell you that isn’t enough. You see my friend, you will never be good enough to earn everlasting life, that is God’s gift to you. You can’t earn it, you can’t buy it, it is only available by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. When you ask Christ into your heart and life by faith, you are surrendering your life to Him. The Bible proclaims that it is no longer your life, but His. He gave His life in payment for your sins, and you in turn give your life to Him.
Like the rich young ruler, like Bill Keller many times, you can choose to reject Christ and hold onto your life. But think about it, what are you holding onto? The reality is, your life will be over one day, sooner than you think. At that point you will pass from this short journey into eternity and those who don’t know Christ as their Savior will spend that eternity forever separated from God your Creator. What you do when you reject Christ is forfeit the treasure of eternal life with Christ for a few days of whatever scraps this world can offer. Clearly not a wise choice.
Today, you are having an encounter with Jesus just like that rich young ruler did we read about in Matthew 19. You have a choice to make today, since the Bible proclaims “today is the day of salvation.” Will you choose Jesus, or go away sad. If you want to choose Jesus today, pray and ask God to open your heart, then read the words at:
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In His love and service,
Your friend and brother in Christ,
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