Constantly throughout life, we are called upon to make a choice.
At times we get it right, but other times we make a wrong choice and have to suffer the consequences.
Can you think of a specific occasion when you made a wrong choice with dire consequences?
Making a wrong choice can have far-reaching consequences.
- An unwise choice of friendship could result in being led into unlawful activities.
- Entering a business partnership with someone who is inclined to be involved in underhand business deals could land you in hot water.
- Marriage to the wrong person could result in a very unhealthy, unhappy relationship.
- A wrong career or job choice could cause dissatisfaction, frustration, or missing out on developing your God-given gifts.
Man’s inclination to make wrong choices has its roots right back in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve made a wrong choice when they decided to go with Satan’s advice and not observe God’s words of warning. As a consequence, sin was introduced into God’s perfect world. And as a result, the first couple were banished from the beautiful garden of Eden.
In our reading, we are introduced to a man who made a wrong choice. Read in your Bible, or follow along with this link.
In this series of messages, we have been looking at people who had an encounter with Jesus which proved to be a life changer for them.
So far we have looked at:
- The call of the first disciples—Gone Fishing
- Matthew a tax collector—Dinner Invitation.
- A married couple’s dilemma—Wedding Mishaps.
- Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus—A Cost to Worship.
- Nathanael one of the 12 disciples—Under the Fig Tree.
- Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night—The Need to Belong.
- Simon Peter’s inner healing—Deja vu.
- Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner—The Discourteous Host.
- Thomas the doubter—Are You a Doubting Thomas?
- An unnamed lawyer’s question—Question Time.
- A woman caught in adultery—Caught in the Act
In this session, we meet another unnamed man who made contact with the Messiah. In modern terms, one might call him John Doe.
What do we know about this man?
A CONCERNED MAN
This man had a very similar question to that raised by the lawyer. (Luke 10:25) “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16b CEV)
Unlike the Sadducees who did not believe in life after death, this man sincerely believed that when this earthly life draws to a close eternal life awaits us. However, he also believed that eternal life was a reward that one received for having lived a good life.
So his question in effect was,” What good things do I need to do to be sure of eternal life?” He was looking to Jesus to provide him with a list of does and don’ts.
Unfortunately, there are many, both outside of, and also in the church, who are relying on living a good life to earn them a place in God’s kingdom.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians,
“You were saved (for eternal life) by faith in God, . . .This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about. (Ephesian 2:8,9 CEV)
Jesus picks up on the man’s use of the word ‘good’. “Why do you ask me about what is good?” No one can claim to be good. Don’t you know what the scriptures teach?
“Since the time of our ancestors, all of us have sinned.” (Ezra 9:7)
David the man after the heart of God humbly admitted,
“I have sinned and done wrong since the day I was born”. (Psalm 51:5)
Jesus added, “Only God is good. If you want to have eternal life, you must obey his commandments.”
A CLEAN-LIVING MAN
In response to Jesus speaking about obeying the commandments, the man asks a further question. “Which ones?”
“Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Respect your father and mother. And love others as much as you love yourself.” (Verses 18,19)
- How do you score on these commandments?
With total confidence that he has lived a good life the man replied, “I have obeyed all of these. What else must I do?” Not a problem. I sincerely believe I can tick them all off, “What else must I do?”
Did you notice that Jesus had said nothing about the first five commandments which speak about one’s relationship with God?
- Do not worship any god except me.
- Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth.
- Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love.
- Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
- Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. (Exodus 20:3-8)
This concerned clean-living man did not expect what came next, If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower.”
A RICH YOUNG MAN
This is not what he expected or wanted to hear, so we read, “When the young man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.”
Commenting on this passage F B Meyer wrote, “Youth, with all its fervor and impetuosity, is very beautiful in itself and very dear to Christ. Here youth was combined with station, wealth, and noble character. It is not necessary that all should sell their goods, and distribute the proceeds. . . But it was necessary that the Master should prove to this young man that he was not fulfilling the Commandments quite so perfectly as he had supposed.”
Mark tells us, “When the man heard Jesus say this, he went away gloomy and sad because he was very rich.” (Mark 10:22)
The answer that Jesus gave was certainly not what he had expected, but it was what he needed – “Sell everything that you have and give to the poor… Then, come, follow me.” (Verse 22)
Rocked back on his heels. He “became very sad…” his wealth had become his god. To be saved and have eternal life he needed to turn his back on his wealth. He was confronted with a choice to change the focus of his life from his possessions to serving Jesus.
Unlike many others we have looked at who had an encounter with Jesus and whose lifestyle changed dramatically, this concerned rich young man seemingly was less concerned about eternal life than the fortune he had amassed or perhaps inherited,
He was guilty of not observing the most important of the commandments, “Do not worship any god except me.”
THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMAND
A Pharisee who was an expert in the Jewish law once asked Jesus “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”
Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:36,37 CEV)
Two weeks ago under the title “Question time“, we noted in response to the lawyer’s question, which was similar to this young man’s question, Jesus responded, “What is written in the Scriptures?
The lawyer responded with those same words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (Luke 10:26,27)
The young man certainly could not claim to have observed this command to any degree. His wealth had taken the place reserved for God in his life.
In our modern society, we may not create idols made of wood, stone, metal, etc., to worship. But take a look around. Do you have a statue of Buddha in your home? African ancestral masks? An ornament of a sacred cow bought as a souvenir on holiday? It is surprising what you can pick up unthinkingly. Because you don’t actually worship it, doesn’t make it safe. If it was created as an object of worship, it has no place in a Christian home.
It is also so easy to allow people, friendships, occupations, careers, activities, prospects, and sports, to become the focal point of our lives, leaving very little room for the things of God.
I wonder how many of us can honestly claim that we “Love the Lord your God with all [our] heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (Luke 10:26,27)
Is the Lord perhaps speaking to you about something that has been taking His place in your life?
Has He told you to remove it from its position of importance in your life, but you are finding this hard to do?
Close this session by confessing anything you have allowed to take the place in your life which should have been reserved for Jesus. Ask for His forgiveness. And invite the Holy Spirit to help you remove that idol, be it physical or not, from its position of importance.
Why not make a re’-commitment of your life to Jesus by joining in this song ‘ I surrender all’.
If you haven’t yet read the Introduction to Encounters with Jesus, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.