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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:True Riches
Text:Matthew 19:16-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2013
Added:2022-12-13
Updated:2022-12-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Not What My Hands Have Done

Lord, Thou Hast Searched Me

Jesus, Priceless Treasure 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


08/18/2013
“True Riches”
Matthew 19:16-30
 
Most of you have probably had this experience: You meet someone who is a genuinely “good” person, someone with many notable characteristics and attributes, but they do not have saving faith in Christ.
 
This rich young man who approached Jesus was like that. He was a likeable person; he had many commendable attributes: He came to Jesus at a time when the Pharisees were making every effort to test and trap Jesus. As Matthew pointed out earlier in the chapter, the Pharisees tried to make divorce a divisive issue that would alienate the crowds against him. (Matt. 19:3)
 
The Pharisees were disrespectful of Jesus. To say they were rude would be an understatement.  Their hatred and disdain for the Lord bubbled to the surface even when they tried to hide it with subtle traps. By contrast, did you notice how this this rich young man approached Jesus reverently and respectfully?
 
First, he sought Jesus out. He had to make an effort to get to Jesus. He had to get through the crowd, but he had high respect for Jesus and he was willing to press through the crowd to approach Jesus. And when he approached Jesus, he did so reverently. We know that from Mark 10:17 where Mark describes how this rich young man fell on his knees before Jesus. Mark also describes how “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (Mark 10:21) 
 
The man had wealth, he had a degree of honor, and he held a position of authority. Luke describes him as a ruler (Luke 18:18), quite possibly he was a ruler in the synagogue. But there was none of the disdain that most of the other Jewish leaders had for Jesus. Instead, the man sought Jesus out and knelt before him reverently as he asked his question. And his question was the most important question any of us can ask. He asked, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?”  
 
This man had wealth, he had a position of authority, he was still young with his life out ahead of him. Yet he recognized an emptiness. He recognized that what he had, although great in the eyes of the world, could not give him lasting satisfaction and happiness. Yet, in the end, ironically, he turned from the only One who can give lasting satisfaction and happiness – true comfort in life and in death.
 
In contrast to this man’s interest in eternal life, many in the great crowd that followed Jesus were looking only for temporal blessings. They were looking for blessings only in this life, not the life to come. They wanted Jesus to heal the sick; they yearned for miracles such as the feeding of the 4,000 and the feeding of the 5,000 where they could satisfy their desire for food. And they wanted Jesus to establish a political kingdom here on earth. They wanted Israel to have worldly power so that they could dominate the Romans and no longer be subject to them.  
 
The same motivation is found in many people today. They approach Jesus for what they believe Jesus can do for them here and now. As perhaps most of us have seen and heard on television, there are many “prosperity preachers” who present Jesus as the key to health and wealth; their focus is on how he is the key to temporal blessings here and now. 
 
While it is true that all the blessings of this life are from God’s hand, the blessings of this life pale in comparisons to the blessing of eternal life. And this man, though he was wealthy, recognized that there was something more important. He asked Jesus, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
 
Unfortunately, although he had lived a moral life, he failed to see his sin. When Jesus told him that he must obey the commandments, he immediately asked which ones. 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.’” (18b-19)
 
The young man replied instantly, in verse 20, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”
 
There is little doubt that he was a decent, moral, considerate, kind person. But as with so many other nice “good” people, there was a complete failure on his part to see his sinful condition. It never dawned on him that each commandment in the second table of the law, which Jesus gave him, has an internal as well as an external application. What he lacked was his failure to comprehend that hatred is murder in the heart, just as that lustful look equals adultery in the sight of God. (Matt. 5:22, 28)
 
The response of Jesus is an interesting response, in part because it is so completely opposite of how most evangelicals would respond to this man. We might expect that Jesus would hold this man up as an example to the crowd. We might think that the Lord would immediately commend the man for asking the most important question of his life. Perhaps many would expect – looking at this encounter through contemporary evangelical eyes – that Jesus would explain the gospel to him, get a commitment from him, have him pray the “sinner’s prayer” and then leave with the assurance of salvation, “once saved always saved.”
 
The Omniscience of Christ
 
But that is not at all what Jesus does! His response to this rich young man, which many might find unusual, reveals, first, the omniscience of Jesus Christ.  Did you notice his question back to the man, there in verse 17? The man had asked, “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.’”
 
The reference to only God being good shows that Jesus knew this man’s thoughts about his own self-righteousness before he even spoke. And it was not unusual for Jesus to do that. For instance, Matthew 9:4 describes how Jesus knew the thoughts of the Pharisees, of how he knew that they were thinking that he was blaspheming because he told a paralytic that his sins were forgiven. Matthew 9:4: Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’”
 
Likewise, John 2:25 describes Jesus this way: He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”
 
We also read of how Jesus knows our thoughts even before we express them with words in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Imagine her shock when she said she had no husband and Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:17, 18)
 
There is no hiding our inward thoughts and motives from our omniscient God. As David says in Psalm 139:4, Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.”
 
The Law and the Gospel
     
The response of Jesus to this man also shows us the importance of the law in revealing and condemning sin. But in order for the law to bring conviction of sin, the Holy Spirit must work. The Holy Spirit, in sovereign grace, works through the law in the lives of God’s people so that they see their sin, and thus their need for the only Savior, Jesus Christ. But those who hear God’s law and are not cut by the Holy Spirit, presume as did this rich young man, that they have kept the law and are right with God.
 
John Bunyan in his classic work, Pilgrim’s Progress, describes a room that was full of dust because it had never been swept. A man came into the room and began to sweep and the dust flew everywhere; it was so thick that it was hard to breathe. Then a girl came and sprinkled water on the floor and the room was swept and clean.
 
Christian asked Interpreter what the meaning of that was.  Interpreter answered, “This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel.”
 
We will not see our need for the Savior until our heart is cut by the conviction of the Holy Spirit; it is then that we see our sin in the light of God’s law. The law, as used by the Holy Spirit, makes us see the dirt – the dust – in our lives swirling everywhere. But the Holy Spirit, having convicted us, brings the blessed assurance of salvation through saving faith in Christ. It was Charles Haddon Spurgeon who succinctly pointed out the relationship between the law and the gospel. He wrote: 
 
“I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man's heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make way for it.  If men do not understand the law, they will not feel they are sinners. And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering.  There is no healing a man until the law has wounded him, no making him alive until the law has slain him."
 
This rich young man knew about God’s law intellectually – it was in his mind – but he had never been convicted in his heart of his transgression against the law.  
 
Not only does the law reveal our sin to us, as the Holy Spirit works conviction in our hearts, but the law is also a measurement of sin. It is, in a sense, God’s “yardstick” to which none of us can measure up. For instance, this man, although he claimed to have kept God’s law, condemns himself by his self-righteous statement, “All these I have kept.”
 
Romans 3:19-20 explains it this way: Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
 
The man’s guilt was revealed in that he idolized wealth and made it his god, breaking both tables of God’s law. When Jesus said to the man, “Go sell your possessions and give to the poor” he was essentially giving him the challenge of the two greatest commandments which summarize God’s law and on which the law and the prophets depend. The greatest commandment is to love God above all else and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:34-40)
 
The rich young ruler showed by his response that he had made his wealth his god and idolized his riches above all else. He loved his wealth more than he loved God, and he loved his wealth more than he loved his neighbor. 
 
As Jesus had said in Matthew 6:24, No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” This rich young man went away sad, for he loved money, which cannot satisfy, and he refused to serve the only Master who can satisfy, Jesus Christ.
 
Third, we see that the response of Jesus shows us that our salvation is all of God’s grace and not our merit. We should be able to relate to the disciples’ response to Jesus’ statement in verse 23 and 24. Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
 
“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’  Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (25, 26)
 
Just as it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, so it is impossible for any of us to be saved apart from God’s grace. Our works can’t save us; instead they condemn us because even our best work is tainted with sin, with impure motives, and often with an underlying apathy.
 
Our perceived obedience to the law of God cannot save us.  Most of us are painfully aware, I trust, of what this young man totally missed: That we have broken every law of God, if not externally, then internally. And even if we could somehow keep nine of the commandments perfectly but failed to keep just one command we would be disqualified. James 2:10-11: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’  If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
 
Likewise, our church membership, our baptism, taking the Lord’s Supper – as important, precious, and necessary as they are – can never save us. Nothing that we do can save us; our salvation is all of God’s grace, even our “decision” to believe in him. The only reason any of us make the choice that Joshua eloquently made, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” is because the Lord graciously gave us spiritual eyes to see our need for him as the Holy Spirit convicted us of our sin and gave us new birth from above. 
  
Did you notice the difference between verse 16 and verse 29?  In verse 16 the rich young man talked about “getting.”  He saw salvation – eternal life – as an object that we get by some effort of our own. 
         
But in verse 29, as Jesus explains things to his disciples, he tells them how God blesses those who commit themselves to him. He describes eternal life as an inheritance, they will inherit eternal life.”
 
An inheritance isn’t earned; it is given. The same is true with our salvation. It is not earned by us, or bought by us, or credited to us because of our obedience. It is all of God’s grace through the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ; we are recipients of God’s grace as his adopted children.
   
Some of you may have heard the common explanation of the illustration that Jesus gave of the camel being unable to go through the eye of the needle. It is said that it is a reference to a narrow gate in a city wall. A camel can only pass through the gate on its knees and with the burden removed from its back.
 
That type of explanation teaches the opposite of what Jesus is teaching. A camel cannot go through the eye of a needle. Jesus often used exaggeration and hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point) to drive home his teaching. And he is teaching here that we cannot be saved apart from God’s grace.
 
The disciples recognized our inability to save ourselves. Verse 25 describes how “when the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’”  Verse 26 records the reply of Jesus: Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
 
No Satisfaction from Riches
  
It is ironic that this rich young man who came to Jesus left sad. It is a graphic reminder that worldly riches can never satisfy but there is great spiritual reward in serving God wholeheartedly.
    
I read once about a wealthy man who could only think about himself and his own empire. Yet he was miserable. One day a friend stopped by, and this wealthy man who was so miserable asked him, “Why is it that all my wealth doesn’t buy me any happiness?”
 
His friend had him look out the office window.  “Who do you see on the street?” he asked.
 
 “I see women and children, other businessmen and shoppers, all sorts of people,” he replied.
 
His friend said, “Now look in this mirror on the back of your office door. Who do you see?”   
 
The wealthy man said, “Well, of course, I see myself!” 
 
His friend, who was a Christian, said, “Both the window and the mirror are made out of glass, but the mirror is glass covered with silver. When you add the silver, you only see yourself.”
    
One of the reasons why the Bible speaks so often about money is that worldly wealth is one of the biggest stumbling stones to Christians. We can so easily get enamored by wealth that the pursuit of wealth and possessions quickly dominate our lives. That’s why Paul pointed out to Timothy that “…The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10)
 
J.C. Ryle, a gifted Anglican pastor and commentator from a previous generation, notes how we should pray for wealthy people since it is harder for a wealthy person to enter heaven than for a poor person. His observation is also put into words in the Anglican prayer book, “In all our time of wealth, good Lord, deliver us.”  Jesus also gave this memorable warning, given in the penetrating question: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
 
Incidentally, this doesn’t mean that having wealth is wrong.  God often blesses his people with material wealth, as evidenced by the lives of Abraham, Job, Joseph of Arimathea, Lydia, Barnabas and numerous other people of sincere saving faith. 
 
The point of Jesus telling this young wealthy man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor is not to teach communism, as some have tried to twist this passage to teach. Rather, this passage shows that either the world will separate us from Christ, or we will, by God’s grace, be separated from the world through our faith in Christ.
 
The great tragedy for this young man who came to Jesus is that his wealth separated him from the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…” (Col 2:3). Christ is the One who holds the keys to eternal life and also will pronounce the final judgment on those who have refused him in order to pursue the trivial pleasures brought by earthly wealth.
 
By contrast, Jesus assured the disciples – and all of us who believe in him – that the rewards of heaven and the gift of eternal life far exceed any earthly treasure.  He concluded by saying, “But many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.”  It is a reference to how many who are not looked up to – respected – in the church are yet precious in God’s sight and first in his kingdom.
 
As an example, a prominent minster may not have the same place in heaven as a poor widow who gave a small offering – pennies – because, despite her poverty, she had wholehearted faith in God and pure motives in giving. (Mark 12:41-44) There will be many surprises in the final judgment and in the culmination of kingdom of heaven. But regardless of our place in heaven – the size of our “mansion,” or the size of “our cup” – we will have perfect joy without envy in the eternal presence of our Lord.
 
If any among us are like the young man in this encounter with Jesus – trying to satisfy ourselves with worldly treasure or relying on our own works and obedience – then we will leave this building as the young man left Jesus, sad.  
 
And we will go into all eternity sad – with “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42; Luke 13:28) – unless we see, by God’s grace, that Jesus is the greatest treasure, and that in him alone we have true riches. 
 
By God’s sovereign grace and Holy Spirit’s power may you have saving faith in Christ alone, recognizing that in addition to salvation, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ! (Col. 2:3) Amen.
 
 
sermon outline:
 
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing
must I do to get eternal life?” – Matthew 19:16
 
                                     “True Riches”
                                  Matthew 19:16-30
 
I.  The rich young man who approached Jesus had much to be
     commended for:
      1) He sought Jesus out (16), and knelt before Him (Mark 10:17)
 
 
 
      2) He recognized the importance of eternal life (16b)
 
 
 
      3) He lived a moral life, though he failed to see his sin
 
 
 
II. The response of Jesus reveals:
     1) His omniscience: The reference to only God being good (17)
          shows that Jesus knew the man’s thoughts about his own self
          righteousness before he even spoke (20)
 
     
 
      2) The importance of the law in revealing sin: The man’s guilt was
           revealed in that he idolized wealth and made it his god, breaking
           the first and second commandments and both tables of God’s law
           (22; Matthew 6:24; 22:34-40)
 
 
 
      3) Our salvation is all by grace (23-25, 29)
 
 
 
III. Application: Worldly riches can never satisfy (22), but there is great
       spiritual reward in serving God wholeheartedly (27-29)
 
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Ted Gray

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