Online Text Sermon - A Serious Question, Mark ch.10 v.17
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||A Serious Question (Evangelistic Service, Carbost)|
|Text||Mark ch.10 v.17|
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"And when he [Jesus] was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17).
"Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (text). My very dear friends, I would like this evening to look at this question. "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" I do so because I am absolutely convinced it is the most important question which anyone on earth could ever ask. Why do I say that? Well let me give you a few reasons. First, because this is the question that people always ask when they see life in its true perspective and when they view life in the light of eternity to come. For instance, on the Day of Pentecost, you will recall that the apostle Peter had delivered a great sermon and when the sermon was finished, this is what the people said, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2, 37), which was exactly the same in its meaning to the question we have here in our text. What shall we do to get this eternal life? And then again, you will recall very well I am sure, that when Paul and Silas were in prison, in a certain city called Philippi in Greece, that there was an earthquake. The jailer came in trembling, and his question was, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16,30). It's the same question.
Why then do I say that this is the most important question in the world? Well, because this is really everything that matters to every one of us, to you, and to me and to all others. Shall we in the end get to heaven? That's what the question means. Shall in the end my soul be saved, or shall I be lost? If we could, for a moment, all be taken up into heaven to see the redeemed souls of our forefathers, beloved men from this island and elsewhere, and women, what would they be all speaking about or singing about? The answer - about entering glory, and heaven, and redemption, and Christ, and what He has done. So, if you were to be in heaven, here is the matter and the substance of the subject that everybody would be speaking of or singing about: heaven, eternal life, how to get there. More solemnly, my beloved friends, more solemnly, if we could now for a moment go down to hell and hear what they would be asking, and desiring more than anything else, I can tell you. They would desire to get back to this life, for five minutes, in order to read the Bible which they neglected, and to listen to Christians giving their testimony, which in this life they did not listen to; and to turn their eyes to Christ as the Redeemer, which in this life they failed to do.
The text is not chosen then, as it were, at random. I choose this text because I am convinced and persuaded it is the most serious and important question in all the world. And having said that, it shows what a mad world we are living in, because I ask you, how many people living in this world are asking the question that this man here asks of Jesus Christ? What are all the people busy talking about? Now they are talking about the stock exchange and how it goes up, and then comes down, and goes up again. Or else they are talking about political parties of the right, and political parties of the left, and political parties of the centre. Then they are talking about their pleasures; which footballer kicked it with his right foot and which with his left foot, and which with his head, and so on, and this most serious of all questions is being shelved by multitudes of people in the generation in which we live. I say we are living in a mad world today, a generation which has lost all sense of proportion and importance, and the seriousness and gravity of the things of God and of Jesus Christ. Our Fathers knew far more about these things than most of the people today do, and that is why I look at the question with you here this evening. Whoever you are - because it's not my privilege to know very many of you - whoever you are I say, this question will come back to you in a dying day, so that if you are able to say with a good conscience that you believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, then this question will come back in a dying moment to give you unspeakable comfort. If you are not able to reassure your conscience that you have come to a saving knowledge of Christ, I have to say to you with all tenderness, my dear friend, and indeed with tears, this question will come back to you in a dying day to fill you with terror and a sense of the futility of all that you have been and done, here in this vain world. So I bid you for a short time, consider the question here as it is put to us by a certain man who comes to Jesus Christ. What he means by the question, of course, is this; "What must I do to be saved?" - How can I get right with God? How can I be sure my sins are covered and that when I die, I shall enter safely into the glory of paradise above? That is the question.
The first thing I want to say about all that, is in these words, that the man who asked the question was very promising. Let me tell you why I put it like that. We are told a certain number of things about him. The first thing we are told is, he comes to Jesus Christ running - running - isn't that what it says? He comes running to Jesus and asks Him this question: "Good Master". Now that's very promising, isn't it? Why? Well because if a man comes running to ask a question like that, it shows he has great enthusiasm. People run to the bingo, and they run to the picture house, and they run to the public house, but how many people do you see running to church? Not so very many. But this young man was running, if you please. So, that's a very promising start.
What else can be said about him? Well, the next thing we know about him is that he comes before the Lord Jesus Christ and he kneels down - that's what we are told. He came to Him running, and he knelt to Him - he went on his knees - and he was before our Lord, on his knees, in the full view of everybody else. Most people would be very ashamed to be seen on their knees doing anything like prayer, or worship, or something of that sort. People are very sensitive about being seen in their devotions, but not this man. He goes down on his knees full of reverence, and awe, and respect. Of course, all of that was very good. I am sure you would agree with me, beloved friends, we need to get back to a bit more respect in this world, we need to get back to a bit more sense of honour due to those who are elderly for one thing, and those who are in places of honour and respectability. The day was when young people said to an older gentleman, "Sir", but of course those days have gone now. The day was when a man opened the door for a lady and said, "Madam". Those days have gone, and we need to get back to them. But this young man was exemplary, running, kneeling down. They say all of this gave everybody present the expectation that here was an ideal candidate for the Christian faith.
What else does he do? We are told in Luke that he was a rich young ruler (Luke 18, 18/23). All of that is also very promising. He was rich, young and he was a ruler; everything there is exactly as we would want it to be. He had money, and that means to say that if he became a Christian of course, he could influence other people; he would have money to give to the poor. These people are always very valuable, aren't they? They can help the cause in a material way. How much that is always needed in every generation. He was young, and there is tremendous emphasis always upon getting the young to come under the influence of the Gospel, rightly so, and this man had it - rich, young, and a ruler, if you please - a ruler. He wasn't just an ordinary citizen as most of us are; he was in a place of influence. If this man became a Christian, think of the good that he could do - rich, young - he had his lifetime stretching before him; a ruler, reverential, full of enthusiasm. Everything here was on his side. And to cap it all, he had a good understanding of what really matters in life, with this question. He knew that there was such a place as heaven, and he asks how he can get into it. The sad business today, of course, is that so many young people haven't any idea what happens to you after death. I am sure you would have noticed in the Witness magazine which came out a few weeks ago, which has some very good things in it always, and you would have noticed a very sad news item. There were two young girls in a city - Paris or somewhere? These girls were about fourteen years of age, and they went more or less to the top of a high rise flat - was it the fourteenth floor or something of the sort? Then they tied their wrists together, one to another, stood on the windowsill with a tremendous drop of course, outside, and shouted to their friends who were in another room, "Come and watch us." So these people innocently came in to watch these two friends dive down - to their deaths! They left a little note behind, which said something like this: "Life is just not worth living." Just not worth living. How tragic it is when people have no idea what happens to us after death. Was it yesterday, we heard of somebody from this country who had gone, I think, to Switzerland where you can have a terminal injection You have a pain or you have a disability, so you want to end it all; just let the doctor stick a needle in you and you can put it all out of your experience forever - so people think, not knowing that as soon as we leave the body, immediately our soul goes to heaven, or else to hell, and there is no return journey. You can't buy an air ticket to fly back to life. When you have done with this life you have done with it. When you leave this world you don't come back.
And yet this young man had all these promising things about him - rich, young, ruler, reverential, enthusiastic, had the very perfect question. Why, all our ministers would jump for joy if once a week somebody would come to them and say, "Good minister, what's the way to get eternal life?" Our ministers would be ten times as joyous as they are if people came to ask them questions like that. "What, Minister, am I to do to have eternal life? What am I to do to be saved?" Well, here is the young man, here is the rich man, and here is the promising man. He comes to Jesus, with all of this 'going for him', as we say.
My dear friend, I wonder if you, who are here tonight, are asking that question in your heart and in your soul. Did you come here tonight because you are hoping that you may find something to help you to get this eternal life? You understand that I am not privileged to know you individually, except for perhaps one or two whom I may have met before, but many of you I have never met in my life, and I don't know whether you are Christians or not. I don't know whether you have this eternal life or not, but I would say this to you: Oh my dear friend, if you haven't got Christ yet then pay attention now to his word, plead with God that He will give you grace to take this word of His into your soul, and into your heart.
The first thing I say then is that this man was very promising. Now the second thing. It's a sad thing I have to say to you. This man failed the test. You know that is what makes the Christian ministry so sad. People show promise for a while, and then they turn out to be a disappointment. They start to come to church, maybe for a year or eighteen months, and then they drop off. That is one of the sad things; that is what makes Christians often sadder than anything else. People show promise for a while, and then they go back to the world. Perhaps young people begin to listen to the Gospel, begin to attend the Prayer Meeting, and then they drop away, back to the world. It's one of the saddest things you ever saw.
That's exactly what happened to this man here. He had enthusiasm, but he lacked understanding. Jesus, in his dealings with this man, helps him to see what his problem of understanding is. Jesus said to him, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is God" (Luke 18, 19). Let me explain why our Lord said that. Some people have misunderstood those words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some people have incautiously imagined that Jesus is as good as saying that He really is not so good as all that after all. That is not at all true; our Lord was perfect, absolutely good. It was not that our Lord was confessing His own imperfections to this man. No, no, the reason why Jesus said that was, He was challenging this man to understand the standard of goodness that God requires for a person to have eternal life. So, you see, that brings us to see this point. If you and I are to have eternal life, how good must we be? That is what our Lord was doing. Let me say that again in case you missed it. When Jesus said to this man: "Why do you call me good? There is none good but God," what our Lord was doing was this: He was not saying there was anything not good about Himself - He did not mean that. What He did mean was this: "Friend," he was meaning, "do you realise how good a person has to be to get to heaven?" He was throwing the man back to self-examination. Now, of course, we have to examine our own hearts; there is no getting to heaven without looking into our own consciences and scrutinising our own lives; and that is what our Lord was doing. "How good do you think you have to be, friend, to get to heaven?"
That is very relevant because the man in the street - I don't know about Skye but certainly on the Mainland, I can tell you - they haven't the remotest idea about how to get to heaven, because we go into the open air with a microphone, as I think you do here in Portree and elsewhere, and when we go into the High Street in Inverness with a microphone and give out leaflets, and speak to them about how to be saved, and use a microphone to preach to them, some of the people think we are mad, and they don't accept the leaflets. "No, no thank you, we don't want to know about this. No, no we don't want it." So you see, they are not at all asking the question, "How good do we have to be?" But they have their own ideas as to how good we have to be. And when you corner people about how good they think they have to be to get to heaven, I'll tell you the sort of ideas they have. One idea is this. They say, "Well, I'm not perfect, but my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, so when God in the Judgement Day puts my good deeds on one side, and my bad deeds on the other side of the scale, and when they are weighed in the scales, my good deeds," they say, "will prove better than my bad deeds, so on that basis, I am sure I will get to heaven in the end. God is very kind, you see." That is what they say. "God is very merciful," and so on. Now, my dear friends, there are many people who think like that, but it is absolute nonsense! That is why Jesus puts this question to this man. Absolute nonsense!
Another reason why people think they are going to get to heaven is because they have no great sins. They say, "Well I confess I'm not perfect; I'm not as good as I should be but I am not a real sinner. I mean, I am not a murderer, and I haven't committed adultery, and I don't steal. Generally speaking, I tell the truth, with a few white lies here and there, but on the whole I am pretty honest." So they think on the basis like that they are going to be accepted with God. Jesus Christ challenges this man by saying to him, "You know the Commandments, don't you?" Now every Jew, more or less, would know all the Commandments, just as I hope we all know them. So Jesus puts the question to him, "What are the Commandments?" And then Jesus tells him, in case he is embarrassed. "Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, not to defraud," He says, in the passage here, "and all the others," summarising them in that way. This man responds in these words, he says, "All these things have I done from my youth until now." So you see, he thought that he was good enough. My dear friends, there are millions of people like that; they think they are good enough. This is the difficult thing which Jesus Christ is doing with this man; He is getting him to see that God's standard is far higher for getting to heaven than he has any idea of.
I wonder if I might be allowed to use an illustration. It may just make it a little easier. You know when we have athletic events, and people jump over a rope? Well, supposing we had one of these here. Supposing we had a rope somewhere here and it is one foot high, and if we can jump the rope, you can say, well, you are qualified, you can get to heaven. Just about everybody can jump over one foot! Never lift it to two feet. No, one or two can't manage that, they are getting elderly, but most people could get over that quite easily, so they will get to heaven. Lift it to three feet and not so many of us can do that. Lift it to six feet. Only expert jumpers can jump that, but God's standard is ten feet high - ten feet, Ten Commandments, which we have to keep absolutely, in thought, word and deed. That is the standard of getting to heaven.
Now this man didn't understand that, so the Lord Jesus Christ said to him, "One thing thou lackest," he said. "Go home and get your money and distribute it to the poor, give it all away, come back and follow me, then you will get to heaven." The man walked away, sad and disappointed because his money was his god, his money was his idol. That's what the Lord Jesus Christ said that to him, to show this poor man that God's standard is absolute perfection, one hundred percent righteousness, and he had never kept the Commandments of God at all because the Commandment says we are to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and our neighbour as our self, and this man's god was his money, and he didn't even know it.
Perhaps that is why one or two of you, for all I know, have never been able to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It's because you have an idol in your hearts; you have never sought Jesus Christ with all your strength. I have to be honest with you, dear friends, we will never get to heaven until we seek God with all our hearts. I know I have said some things that need explanation - I will explain them in a moment. I know very well I have said things which have left questions in your minds but I am going to come to that just in a moment, but the general principle is this: we seek God and find Him only when we search for Him with all our heart. You must be prepared to lose everything to get to heaven. You must be prepared to lose your money, your friends, your popularity, entertainments - all that belong to this life. You must be prepared to lose that, if necessary. That is the way. Jesus said to him, "Give it to the poor, come and follow me, take up your cross, deny yourself and follow me," He says. That is the standard.
You have noticed that when the disciples hear this they are a bit confused, aren't they? Jesus says to them things which make them more perplexed than ever. He says, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God." He said "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." That's of course a memorable way of saying: it's impossible. The disciples say, "Who then can be saved?" And our Lord says, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; with God all things are possible."
I have to explain some of the things I said a moment ago. I said something which was very strong indeed. I said that the standard that God gives us for goodness is one hundred percent, and nothing less will do. A man will not get to heaven unless his righteousness is one hundred percent. That's a terrible thing to tell you, because it means that the slightest mistake that you make in life disqualifies you from getting to heaven. You may say to me, "Well, in that case, there's no hope." Ah yes, there is hope, and this is where the hope lies: the Gospel not only demands one hundred percent obedience, but it provides it. God, who requires one hundred percent obedience to his law, also gives it as a free gift. You might say, "Where do I get that?" You get it by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, because Christ has done everything necessary to provide this righteousness which is one hundred percent. By His perfect, holy obedience to God He observed every detail of the Ten Commandments; He kept the moral law as no one has ever kept it in the whole course of history. Not only that, but He has died the atoning death of the cross. His blood atones, cleanses, removes and washes away the filth of all who believe in Him. So, we say, He has an active obedience, and a passive obedience. His active obedience is fulfilling the moral law in our name, on our behalf, for our sakes; and His passive obedience is suffering the whole weight of the wrath and curse of the damnation that I deserve, and you, and everyone. By His act of obedience and His passive suffering, He has woven a garment of righteousness - one hundred percent righteousness. It is offered to you, freely, in the Gospel, so that all that want it may have it. All a person needs to do to get to heaven is to have this righteousness, and to wear this woven garment which Christ has woven in time, and which His people will wear in eternity - one hundred percent righteousness.
You won't get to heaven any other way. You may be as decent, as moral, as religious, as conscientious, as scrupulous or as virtuous as you choose - and I hope you are - but that of itself won't get anyone to heaven. I ask again, "What then will get us to heaven?" It is the realisation which this young man did not have, the realisation that we will never get to heaven with anything we do; it must be by believing in the Christ who died for us as the Saviour of the world, the One only who was obedient, absolutely, to the will of God.
Let's use the illustration of examinations. We all know what examinations are, and not many of us have loved these experiences, but we all know what they are. We know some candidates do very well - they get ninety percent, and if they get ninety percent, they get a grade 'A'; and others get eighty percent, so that's possibly a grade 'B', we'll say; and grade 'C' a little bit lower, and so on and so on and down to the end. Some fail because they get only a small mark. But my friends, to get to heaven you must get one hundred percent, not by what we do, but by what Christ has done; and what Christ has done becomes mine, when I believe in Him, because it is imputed to me, a damnable sinner, is mine, when I believe in Him! He is my righteousness when I believe in Him. If I don't believe in Him, I can be as virtuous as I suppose I could ever be, but I will never, never have eternal life. This is the mystery of the Gospel.
What should have happened to this young man is this: he should have come to an end of himself. If he found his money was in his way, he should have said on his knees, "Oh Lord, I can't do that, it's too hard. I can't face it Lord, giving my money to the poor. Lord, give me grace to do such a hard thing." Our Lord would have given him power, and energy, and zeal, and ability to do what Christ required of him to do. If you today, here, are not a believer, and if you are worried about your own soul - and I hope you are if you are not a believer - and if you say the demands of the Gospel are too strong, here is the answer. In your heart say to the Lord, "Lord I can't do these things. Faith is impossible to me. Give me the strength, Lord, to believe!" And He will, because faith is impossible to us, and Jesus says that: "With men it is impossible." We cannot believe of ourselves! It's impossible! It's the gift of God. But what is impossible with men is very possible with God.
The great Augustine of Hippo in North Africa said a wonderful thing. Before I close, let me tell you what he said. His prayer was this: "Lord, grant what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt." So this young man should have said that. He should have said, "Lord, you have asked me to give up everything, and to follow you, to give my money to the poor. Give me the strength, Lord, to do it." And he would have got it! But the foolish man that he was, he walked away from Christ.
Where is that rich young man today? Well, he could not in this life ever have said, that he wasn't welcome to come. He couldn't have said that Jesus didn't like him. We are told here that Jesus loved him. Jesus was full of love for the souls of men! Jesus is full of love for your souls, and He wants you to be saved, every one, throughout the whole world. He wants you to be saved, and brought to salvation! Oh I know, none will come but those who are elected - I know that - but you are invited to come, all of you, and believe in Him, and when you come, if you come, you will discover it was God's work anyway, not yours. That it was electing love that brought you here in the first place; not your own will but His. That's not the thing to put your eye on. What you put your eye on now is this: God will save me if I believe in Christ. My friend, He will. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22, 17).
There is a lady with us in Inverness whom God has converted in the last few months we believe - nothing to do with any preacher. Preachers have their place, but nothing to do with any preacher; this is the work of God. She came to Inverness a year ago. She says, "When I came to Inverness I was wanting a social life; I was only interested in a social life." She wanted company, and chatter, talk and sitting round the television, and perhaps having a glass of something, you know how people are - social life. But then, God began to work in her soul, and after a few months she said, "You know, I don't want a social life, I want to go to church." Now she says, "I can't understand what's happened to me." She says, "I was keen on the social life a year ago but now I want the Lord's people, I want Bibles, I want Prayer Meetings." What has happened to her? Grace has given her the ability to be willing to believe in the everlasting Son of God. That's what's happened to her, we believe; and what has happened to her happens to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, as I announce the singing in a moment, let me leave you with this question, "What shall I do to have eternal life?" Oh! my beloved friends, make sure you have faced up to that most important of all questions.
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