9 Minute Read + video
TODAY’S BIBLE READING:
TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Matthew 19:21 ” ‘If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ “
REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Matthew 19:16-22 could easily be misunderstood by a casual reader. In fact, a distorted view of the Gospel could be drawn from this text by someone who doesn’t dig deep to see what is actually happening.
So, let’s take a quick look at this encounter. A man came to Jesus and said he wanted to know how to get to Heaven. As we briefly look at these verses, we will see some key components of a biblical Gospel presentation.
Matthew 19:16 (CSB) “Just then someone came up and asked him, ‘Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?'”
How awesome is this?! A man came to Jesus and said, “Jesus, I want to go to Heaven. What do I need to do to get there?”
What would you do if someone asked you how to get saved? Immediately take them to John 3:16 and tell them that they need to say the “sinner’s prayer?”
That’s not what Jesus did.
Matthew 19:17 (CSB) “‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ he said to him. ‘There is only one who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.'”
In the first part of verse 17, Jesus asked why the man was calling Him good. When Jesus said, “There is only one who is good,” He was clearing referring to God.
So, what was Jesus doing here? He was seeing if the man was able to recognize that Jesus was God in the flesh.
This is a key component to a biblical Gospel presentation. We must have a clear understanding that Jesus is God who came in the flesh. We must realize that He is God but He was also a real man who hung on the cross to pay the sin debt of everyone who trusts in Him.
But, notice what else Jesus said to Him: “keep the commandments.”
What?! A man asked Jesus how to get saved and Jesus told him to obey God’s commandments?!
That would seem to fly in the fact of grace. After all, the true Gospel says that we are saved by grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB) “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.”
We are clearly saved by grace. It has absolutely nothing to do with works or effort on our part.
What was Jesus doing?
Taking the man to the law! He wanted the man to be faced with the biblical law and realize that he came up short. He wanted the man to be convicted by the fact that he had failed miserably at upholding the perfect standard that God had given. Only then would the man be motivated to plead for grace … and receive it.
But, the man had too high a view of himself. He was saturated with self-righteousness and felt that he was in very good shape when compared to God’s law. So, he asked which commands Jesus was referring to so he could demonstrate his self-righteousness with each command.
Matthew 19:18 (CSB) “‘Which ones?’ he asked him. Jesus answered: ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Jesus went to Exodus 20 and quoted some of the Ten Commandments, specifically the second half of the Ten Commandments that pertained to our relationship to others.
This man was faced with specific commands. How would he respond? With brokenness and conviction? Would he plead for grace? Hardly.
He maintained his self-righteousness. His heart was not prepared to receive grace. In fact, he didn’t think he needed grace and forgiveness. Just listen to his response…
Matthew 19:20 (CSB) “‘I have kept all these,’ the young man told him. ‘What do I still lack?'”
While this man started the conversation by asking, “How can I go to Heaven,” his heart demonstrated that he wasn’t prepared to receive the answer.
The only way to get to Heaven is by receiving grace. Further, we are only prepared to receive grace when we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we stand guilty before a holy God. Someone who has no conviction of sin and guilt is not capable of receiving grace. They don’t want it because they don’t think they need it.
This man’s words demonstrated his sincerity but they also clearly demonstrated that he was saturated with self-righteousness. There was absolutely no conviction. He hadn’t come to the end of himself. He was not prepared to plead for grace. He didn’t think he needed it.
So, what did Jesus do?
Jesus took the First Commandment and aimed it directly at the guy’s heart.
Exodus 20:3 (CSB) “Do not have other gods besides me.”
Jesus realized that the guy’s wealth was his god. So Jesus called the guy to a drastic step to see if he was willing to comply with the First Commandment. Was he prepared to demonstrate his compliance with the First Commandment by being willing to get rid of his wealth?
Matthew 19:21 (CSB) “‘If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'”
Jesus wasn’t saying that obeying the First Commandment would get the guy to Heaven. Jesus was simply trying to get the guy to be honest with himself – he was a sinner in need of a Savior. Jesus was using the Old Testament law to bring about conviction in the guy’s heart.
How did the guy respond? Did he recognize that he was breaking the First Commandment by making his wealth his god? Did he fall at the mercy of the court and plead for grace? Did he acknowledge that he was a guilty sinner in need of forgiveness?
After all, these are the only terms by which we are prepared to receive the forgiveness and eternal life needed to get to Heaven.
Matthew 19:22 (CSB) “When the young man heard that, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.”
Friend, this demonstrates that not everyone is prepared to receive the Gospel. This man asked how to get to Heaven but his heart was not prepared to receive the answer. Because he was self-righteous, and was not willing to acknowledge that he stood guilty before God’s perfect law, he was unprepared to receive God’s only answer of salvation.
But, there is another principle – when you share the Gospel with someone and they reject it, realize that you did not fail. You are in the company of Jesus who was sharing the first parts of the Gospel (to bring about conviction) but the man left Jesus’ presence unsaved.
But … and this is extremely important! … this man was actually in better shape when he left Jesus’ presence than when he came. Why? Because he came to Jesus’ presence saturated with self-righteousness. But, he left Jesus’ presence with the knowledge that his wealth was his god. It is quite possible that God used that knowledge to eventually break his heart of it’s pride and cause him to cry out for grace.
Friend, Jesus’ encounter with this rich man give us some very helpful, key components to a Gospel presentation. Don’t ever, ever, ever, simply get someone to say a “sinner’s prayer” and then try to convince them that they are saved after saying it. True salvation can only come when conviction, repentance, a cry for grace, and trust in Jesus is present.
If you want to watch a wonderful video in which these principle are elaborated, just click the play button below…