Sun, Oct 14, 2001

THE GREATEST FORTUNE! MATTHEW 19:16-22

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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THE GREATEST FORTUNE!
MATTHEW 19:16-22
 

Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Matthew chapter 19, as we are going to be looking at the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus seeking that abundant life. And as you are turning there, listen to this true story of General John A. Sutter. It goes like this:

Sometimes the sources of our happiness contain the seeds of our own destruction. Consider General John A. Sutter. On January 24, 1848, one of his workmen, building a grist mill [a mill for grinding grain] on the south fork of the American River, found a small yellow stone that appeared to be gold. The next morning at daybreak, the man rushed forty miles down the canyon to Sutter’s ranch house with the exciting news. Sutter was elated, his heart filled with ultimate happiness. Gold on his land! Pure, yellow nuggets that would make him literally the richest man on earth.

Sutter tried to keep his discovery a secret, but within a day all his ranch hands had left their tasks in a mad frenzy, digging and panning and scratching for gold. Within a week, the whole countryside was in turmoil as ranches, towns, and villages were abandoned, everyone rushing to Sutter’s ranch in search of gold.

Telegraph wires hummed, and soon soldiers were deserting from the army, fathers from their families, employees from their jobs, farmers from their ranches. By 1848, it seemed that half the country was camping on Sutter’s ranch, digging for gold. Ships had no sooner docked in San Francisco Bay before the sailors jumped ship and headed for the hills.

John Sutter could only look on in helpless rage as his ranch was ransacked, his barns torn down, his crops trampled, and his cattle slaughtered. In time, he fought back by filing what was, at that time, the biggest lawsuit in history. He claimed that both San Francisco and Sacramento had been built on his property. He won the suit, but never received a penny. Mobs, enraged by the decision, burned the courthouse with its records and blew up Sutter’s houses and barns with dynamite. They murdered one of his sons and drove another to commit suicide. A third son, attempting to flee the madness by going to Europe, drowned. John A. Sutter himself, staggering under these cruel blows, lost his reason.

For twenty years after that, he haunted the Capitol in Washington, trying to persuade Congress to recognize his rights. Dressed in rags, the poor, old, demented man went from one senator to another pleading for justice, and the children in the street laughed and jeered him as he passed.

In the Spring of 1880, he died alone in a furnished room in Washington, alone and despised. He didn’t have a dollar when he passed away, though he did possess a legal deed to the greatest fortune on earth.

- Dale Carnegie, Little Known Facts About Well Known People, pp. 6-10

People today, as well as back then, are striving for riches, for in them they think they will find happiness. But like this rich young ruler that we are studying this morning, they keep coming up short and they end up dying totally empty even though they may have attained much physical wealth. It is as Jesus said, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"Matthew 16:26. It is amazing what we hold onto with all our might, and yet, when looked at through the eyes of eternity, how silly, how foolish it is to do. With that said, let’s read through our text starting in verse 16 of Matthew chapter 19, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 19:16-22

As we combine what the other Gospel’s record of this encounter, we find out that this person is described as a rich young ruler, probably a ruler in the Synagogue. He had it all at a very young age and yet, he still felt his life was missing something. It was great to be young, having his whole life in front of him. It was great to be rich, able to get whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. It was great to be a ruler, in charge of others. But his life was still empty, it was still missing something, and when he came to Jesus, he saw Jesus possessing what he wanted, and yet he had no idea of how to obtain it.

So he asks Jesus want he needs to do to obtain eternal life. And please understand that he is not just talking about a quantity of life. I would not want to live in this body of flesh forever, with diabetes and all the other things that will go wrong with it. He is talking about a quality of life that he saw in Jesus and he himself did not possess! Now Jesus is going to try and stretch this man’s faith. You see, by calling Jesus "good" was he calling Jesus God? That was His question to this young man, which he does answer, at least part of the question, the one about keeping the commandments, he doesn’t acknowledge that Jesus is God, and that obviously is a problem.

For this rich young ruler, his life was based on keeping the commandments to be accepted by God. And so Jesus brings him to the second table of the Law, which deals with man’s relationship with man. Why did He do that? It seems that Jesus is teaching a works salvation? No, not at all! He is trying to stretch this man’s faith and to do that, to see his deficiency, he must see himself as a sinner. And please understand that you will not be able to treat your fellow man the way God wants you to, unless you first have a relationship with God. And we are going to see that in a minute.

Now I don’t believe this man was lying here when he said that he has kept the Law of God, I think he was very sincere. He was trying to keep the Law of God according to the way he was taught, just as the Scribes and the Pharisees felt it should be kept, all outward. You see, this man, like the religious leaders of his day, and like many today, refuse to see that lust is a form of adultery, hatred is a form of murder, and-so-on. It is a matter of the heart, and what is manifested in our life is just what comes out of our heart! You see, it never occurred to him that "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10.

So this man, in trying to keep the Law, is only frustrated, missing that peace, that joy, that hope, that assurance, and he recognizes there must be something else he needs to do to obtain this eternal life. So he asks Jesus "What do I still lack?"

Now this is tough. Jesus says to go and sell all of his goods, and follow Him! Sounds like a works theology, that if you have any money, any possessions, you must sell them and be poor to get into heaven. Some do believe that, you need to suffer in this life so that in the life to come you will get out of Purgatory sooner. There is no such place as Purgatory, except for the ski resort in Colorado. Of course that is silly and it is not true, you don’t have to be poor or rich to get into heaven.

Now, first of all, with this young rich ruler, if he was loving his neighbor as himself, the second table of the Law, then he would have been giving to the poor, to those in need. Secondly, Jesus takes him back to the first table of the Law, and shows him his failure there also, that he broke the Law that says "Thou shall have no other gods before Me." What gods did he have? His wealth!

And it was his wealth that got in his way of obtaining eternal life, of following Jesus. He came to Jesus with great hope, great anticipation, he longed for God’s blessings, to receive that which he was missing, and yet, he went away grieved, he went away empty, he went away lost. He wanted God on his own terms, in his own power, and it was not going to happen that way and it won’t happen that way. We never find out if he did turn to Jesus, but what a tragedy if he didn’t. That close and yet, he is so far away!

You see, to obtain salvation you must recognize you are a sinner and that you can’t do anything about it except acknowledge it, forsake your sin, and follow Jesus, asking Him to be Lord and Savior of your life. It is as Peter said, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit." I Peter 3:18.

Now there are two main points I would like to focus on this morning. The first is the way we evangelize, the way we share Jesus with people. And the second, how we as Christians can let things, possessions, property get in the way of truly serving the Lord!

Many people today are looking for a quick fix to their problems. They are going through a illness, a tough time, a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, they are just empty and hopeless, and so they come to get that problem taken care of. And when they come to us, we are more than willing to tell them "Come to Jesus, He will take away all your problems. Life will be like a box of chocolates. You won’t have any problems if you just come to Jesus!"

Baloney! I have had more things come my way since I have become a Christian than I ever had before. And if that is the way you evangelize, it is wrong. That is not going to bring them to a true salvation just as it didn’t bring the rich young ruler. Don’t give them the wrong message, give them the right message and then it will be their choice to either follow Jesus or to walk away as this rich young ruler did, leaving that eternal life with Christ, He just walked away.

You see, it is not that they come to Jesus for this problem or that problem, and once it is over they are gone again. That is what will happen if that is the reason they come to Jesus. During the Gulf War, Desert Storm, and after the terrorist attacks in Washington D.C. and New York City, churches were filled with people. There was an anxiety, so people came to church to be comforted until the crisis is over, and then they are back to their routine, and God is not part of it. If you are expecting Jesus to be a good luck charm for you, if you expect Him to help you financially or physically, socially or vocationally - you will be disappointed when things don’t go the way you thought they would.

We need to realize that Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and to pay the price for our iniquity. If He never does anything else in this life presently, that is more than enough to merit our loyalty, our affection, our devotion. If He never does another thing for me, if He never gives another blessing to me, I owe Him my life because of what He did on Calvary. Thus, proper evangelism must show the person their failure, that they are a sinner separated from God and there is nothing they can personally do to rectify that condition on their own. They can’t work their way into heaven and they can’t be good enough to get there. It is impossible by our own efforts! Once they see their deficiency, then they are ready to see the Savior, to receive Jesus!

One way of doing this is taking them down the Roman Road. No, I am not talking about all roads leading to the Vatican, but Paul’s letter to the Romans. Let them read the Scriptures for themselves and see what God has to say, not what man is saying. You see, they need to understand that they can’t come to God on their own conditions, but upon His! You could be a moral person like the rich young ruler, but that will make no difference, you are still a sinner separated from God. You may want to write these down as we go through them, maybe even marking in your Bibles the next verse to go to. And again, this is one way to share with people, be open to God’s Spirit, but in saying that, you can’t take away our part, being a sinner, and His part, saving us. Without that, there is a empty message.

Starting in Romans 3:10 we read, "As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’"Notice that "none" means none and "not one" doesn’t mean maybe a half, maybe just me! Do you see, it can’t be interpreted any other way, none are righteous!

Next, in Romans 3:23 we are told, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."Notice again that all have fallen short of the mark of perfection. Some may get closer than others, but all have missed the mark. So we are in trouble at this point. None of us are good enough to make it into heaven, all of us have sinned, and it does seem hopeless, it seems impossible to rectify the problem, and it is by our own efforts!

But, Paul tells us in Romans 5:6, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Notice, Jesus died for us not because we were worthy, not because we were cute and adorable little creatures, not because we were good, but we were ungodly, sick in sin. What did His death and resurrection do for us?

Look at Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." If you want to try and work your way to heaven, the payment for all of your efforts, no matter how sincere you are, is spiritual death, being separated from Jesus. You will have eternal life but there will not be a quality to it, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth! But, if you receive the free gift of God, the free gift of life that is in Jesus, you will have a quality of life for eternity!

Then we read in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." You see, in Christ we are seen as perfect, His blood has paid the penalty for our sins. And thus, we are no longer condemned to eternity apart from Him, but we will be with Him for eternity!

Lastly, in Romans 10:8-11 Paul says "But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’"

Now some may not like that, but it shouldn’t stop us from proclaiming the truth. Yes, God can help us through our difficult situations we find ourselves in, He can see us through the storms of life, but that is not the reason we come to Him. We come to Him because He is God and we can not obtain salvation any other way. He is worthy of our praise. But, because of possessions, things, many will hear and walk away, not receiving the free gift of life that is in Christ Jesus! You see, it is as Jesus said "...‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’"Matthew 19:21.

There is one other point that I would like to deal with and that is our own walk. You see, like this rich young ruler, I believe we can allow things to get in the way of what God wants to do in our own lives, we can allow possessions to possess us instead of allowing God too! And I think we can miss out in what God wants to do with us.

I have seen this happen not only in my own life from time to time, but also in the lives of others, where we let the enemy rip us off of what God wants to do. And I wonder what would have happened if we would do as Jesus said, "...‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’" Matthew 16:24.

What are you holding onto that is getting in your way of serving the Lord? What is holding you back? You see, this is not the time to get wishy washy in your faith. More and more freedoms we once enjoyed we will see slowly taken away from us, and if your faith is shaky, are you going to be willing to stand for what you believe?

God is not looking for perfect people, but people that are available that He can work through. But, if you are busy doing this and doing that, and you have time for God very rarely, then how is God going to work through you? It is as Hanani the seer said to king Asa, "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him..." II Chronicles 16:9. God is looking, are you too busy to respond?

Let me give you an example of what I mean, what you can do if you are available for God to use you for His Glory. The story goes like this:

Christiana Tsai was born into a wealthy home in China and raised in a deeply devout Buddhist home. As her parents sent her to a Christian high school run by missionaries, her father told her, "Just be sure you don’t eat [fall for] Christianity!"

But that is exactly what happened. She went on to become one of the most famous Christians in China, largely due to her fascinating autobiography, Queen of the Dark Chamber, in which she gives two illustrations of true happiness:

  • When Christiana told her family of her conversion to Christ, they reacted with fury and horror, persecuting her. They snatched her Bible, tore it to pieces, and threw it in her face. Yet some time later, her "Eighth Brother" approached her. "Tell me about Christianity and why you became a Christian," he asked. "I have noticed that in spite of the way we treat you now, you seem much happier than you used to. I think I would like to believe, too." In time, Christiana’s happiness paved the way for her sharing the Good News of Christ with her entire family.
  • Christiana’s closest friend was Mary Leaman, the principal of her school and her mentor. In 1944 during the Japanese occupation of China, Miss Leaman, by then elderly and sick, was forced into a concentration camp. She paid a final visit to Christiana on the day she was to be interred, and afterward souls were saved because of her attitude, which Christiana describes in no more than a dozen words: Not to cry! Not to faint! Just a smile and a prayer! That was all. But that was enough to make the Chinese ask, "What religion is this that gives such power to Miss Leaman and Miss Tsai, to enable them to smile under such conditions?" Happy hearts are a powerful witness in unhappy times.

- Christiana Tsai, Queen of the Dark Chamber, pp. 73, 173-175

God wants us to be available, no matter where we are, what we are doing, what we are going through, so that we may be used by Him for His glory. He is searching, He is looking for men and women by which He can use, He can work through, and may we be those people!

When we truly let go of those things that get in God’s way of working in us and through us, we will shine the light of Jesus to those around us. And some will hear and receive the message, receive eternal life, and others won’t. Don’t let that stop you from being a Jesus freak, totally sold out to Jesus. Like John A. Sutter, all have the legal deed to the greatest fortune on earth, eternal life! The problem is that not all have received that free gift into their lives and they have died spiritually, they are spiritually bankrupt. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let Satan rip you off, thinking he has something better for you, he doesn’t!

Let me leave you this morning with these admonishing words from Peter. Turn in your Bibles to II Peter chapter 1 and let’s begin reading in verse 2. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth." II Peter 1:2-12.

Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and you will not walk away grieved as the rich young ruler did, but rejoicing in our Lord!

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