Memphis Belle

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Luke 18:9-27


“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:  for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.  And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them; but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily, I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.  And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  none is good, save one, that is God.  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and mother.  And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.  Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing:  sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.  And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful; for he was very rich.  And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.  And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?  And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”   



“ ‘…you stoop down and you listen in when we gather and talk about you, and that you write all of our names in a book of remembrance.  Lord, we pray, as we look this evening at these scenes, Lord, that you have given to us, this history of your earthly ministry, that you would give each of us our portion.  Send us away, Lord, spiritually filled, we pray in Jesus name, amen.’


short review of previous verses covered last week


Luke chapter 18 is borne out of a very pointed teaching that Jesus gives about preparedness and the end of the age, that it would be like the days of Noah, like the days of Lot.  And then he specifically says that things will be corrupted to the point morally where God will have to move, just like vultures gathering over a carcass.  That there is a time when judgment will of necessity gather.  The thing that he says is that God will at that time know how to separate two that are asleep, in one bed, two that are grinding at the mill in the morning or the evening.  Two that are working in the field.  Very interesting, implying that he knows the earth is round, nighttime, morning, evening, day, that it will happen all at once.  And he says in light of that, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.  And it’s interesting, the word “faint” there means “to want to quit, to be discouraged”, it means “to be faint-hearted” is literally what it’s speaking of, “to loose heart.”  And what he’s saying is, particularly to us, in the light of the day that we live in, that we ought always to pray and not to faint, maybe those are our only alternatives in the day that we live in, that we should be men and women who pray, that seek him, so that we don’t loose heart, so that we don’t become discouraged.  Because we read of Lot, and how his righteous soul was vexed because of the wickedness of the generation that he lived in.  We look at Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and how alone he was, and how burdened he was for his generation, and how few that responded, of course, him and his family.  And Jesus then saying, that you and I ought always to pray, and not to faint.  And then he tells this parable about an unjust judge and a widow, and how this widow had a cause, she came to this judge and said ‘Avenge me.’  And it said this unjust judge didn’t fear God, the first commandment, and he didn’t regard men, the second commandment.  He was a man without fear of God, with power.  And this widow had not many advantages at all.  First of all, being a woman she wouldn’t normally even have rights in a court in that day.  Let alone she’s without a husband, she’s without the emotional support she needs, and she’s coming not asking for revenge, but ‘Avenge me of this injustice.’  And it says that she came night and day, and she wouldn’t leave this judge alone.  And the judge said to himself, ‘Well, you know, I don’t fear God and I don’t have any regard for men, but this woman is driving me out of my mind, and before I loose it, I’m going to get rid of her.’  And he yields to her cause.  And the Lord says, ‘How much more will God…shall not God avenge his own elect that cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them.  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?’  Now look, again, as we go through this, it’s a contrast, it’s not a comparison.  It’s not saying that you need to be like this widow, nobody caring about you, broken-hearted, no rights in this court, and you’re going to come to God, and God is really like a cranky old judge who doesn’t want to be bothered with you.  Some of you think God’s that way.  But if you hassle him enough, he’ll finally say ‘Aye, yay yah, just so you’ll leave me alone I’ll give you this!’  No, that’s not it at all.  It’s a contrast.  We are children, our Father is the Judge.  The Judge is our Dad.  That gives you a tremendous advantage.  Our Lawyer, the Advocate is our older Brother.  That gives you a tremendous advantage in a courtroom.  We are the Bride, not a widow.  And we come to the throne of Grace, not to a court of law.  And he’s saying ‘How much more will the Father give to you, as you come to him, and avenge you speedily,’ entaxia, once it begins, it will happen quickly, that when he steps in and interrupts human history, it will happen with such power and such force and such speed that all will wonder at it.  Jesus said that, if God didn’t stop human history when he did, there would be no flesh left alive on the planet, anywhere.  But he says, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Now, very important for you to take note, there’s a definite article there, what it says is “When the Son of man comes, will he find the faith on the earth?”  It isn’t just faith, because that opens the door to every coockaboo, you know, blab it and grab it faith confessor, you know, faith in this, faith trees, faith in butterflies, faith in the New Age, and the Spotted Owl.  No, he says “When the Son of man comes, will he find the faith on the earth?”  This is the faith talked about when Jude wrote, ‘I want to write to you about our common belief, but I was moved by the Spirit to write unto you that you would defend the faith that was once delivered to the saints, you would stand up for it and protect it.’  He’s talking about “the faith” that you and I appreciate so much every day, the fact that we can come to a public place, and we study the Bible, and we believe that we’re saved by grace, that God loves us, that we’re his children, he’s returning, and that justification is by faith, and not by works of the Law, you know the faith.  Jesus says ‘When he comes, will he find the faith?  And again, look what’s happening in the Church [Body of Christ] across America, look at the ordaining of homosexuals and lesbians, and the taking of illicit sex and making it something that’s justified in the minds of people, and people bringing this goddess Sophia into the church instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And look at all of the strange doctrines that are blowing through the Church, look at all of the insanity.  And if you just come here and you got saved here, and come here every week, don’t take it for granted that this is what goes on in churches across America, because it isn’t.  We are highly privileged that we can come and sing God’s praises in a genuine way, and then we can just open the Bible and study through it’s pages.  [Comment: It wasn’t always like that.  See:  And we could yet come into a time such as the early Separatists in England experienced.  As a matter of fact, that time is on the political horizon right now.]  It’s a privilege that we can do that, that there’s no dress-code.  I’m so thankful.  [laughter]  For more than one reason, it keeps the Pharisees away too.  And I’m glad the parking lot is crowded, because it’s a headache, and only the people that really want to be here will put up with it.  That’s a good thing too.  When he comes, will he find the faith on the earth?  And then he gives this next parable.  And I think again, it is a picture of what he’s talking about.


The Pharisee and the Publican in the Temple


“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:”---you know these guys, they think they’re better than everybody else, holier than thou, trusting in themselves that they’re righteous, and they despise other people.---“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.”---a tax collector, one that was despised of the Jews---“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”---that’s a big mistake to make, he was just like other men.---“I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”  This guy has got an “I” problem.  I mean, it’s obvious as you read through here.  And what he thinks is, you know, he’s looking at other people that he thinks, he’s measuring his righteousness, he thinks God grades on a curve.  He thinks that God looks at all the human beings on the earth, and he figures ‘I gotta be in the top tenth percentile, I’m not an extortioner, I’m not an adulterer, I’m not like this sap over here, this publican, and because God grades on a curve, I’m up there, I’m gonna get in, and I’m glad I’m not like these other guys.’  No, he doesn’t know that God looked down and said, “All man’s righteousness is like filthy rags.”  And when you read Zechariah chapter 3 when he says ‘Take the filthy rags off of Joshua the high priest,’ both of those terms, I won’t tell you what they mean, you go study them on your own, but they’re both gross, disgusting.  I won’t tell you what they mean, but they’re both.  Ah, maybe I’ll tell you what they mean.  Nah, I won’t tell you what they mean.  But it’s embarrassing.  But both prophets make the point that your righteousness, whether you’re a Pharisee or a tax gatherer, before God, is filthy.  That’s a good word, filthy.  You see, but what we want to do, particularly if you, again, remember, you can backslide, and you can frontslide.  If Satan can’t get you to backslide, he loves to get Christians to frontslide [and divide each other all up with legalistic yard-stick Pharisaic, judgmental attitudes toward your fellows Christians], and forget, like it says in Galatians, ‘When you first got saved, received ye the Spirit by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith.’  Colossians says ‘As you have received Christ, as a sinner, as undeserving, so walk ye in, remember his grace, remember the power of it.’  Paul would give us the definitive statement I believe, in Titus chapter 2 where he says, ‘that it’s grace that’s brought salvation to us, teaching us in this present world, that we should be denying ungodly lusts, and looking forward and hastening to the coming of our God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’  Paul says ‘Grace brought you to salvation, grace is keeping you and teaching you today, and grace is the only thing that can make sinners like us look forward to the coming of Almighty and All-powerful God.  And here, this Pharisee’s got it all wrong.  The problem with someone who gets legalistic, even a Christian, is they become judgmental.  They like to look around and find somebody else, because you can always find some sap that looks worse than you, if you’re a legalist.  [Comment:  And there is a huge distinction between being a Christian who is keeping and abiding by God’s Law to the best of their Holy Spirit inspired ability, and a legalist.  Throughout the New Testament the injunction to not sin can be found.  And the apostle John defined sin in 1st John 3:4 this way, “Sin is the transgression of the law.”  It’s not the keeping or abiding by the Law of God that makes you a legalist, it’s being judgmental of other people’s perceived obedience or lack of obedience to God’s Law.  It’s looking at and condemning others, rather than looking at your own self in God’s spiritual mirror (cf. James 1:22-23).]  But the thing is, you get aggravated with them.  They really bother you.  Because you don’t do this, and you don’t do that, you don’t do this, and you don’t do that, and you don’t go to a movie, and you don’t play poker, and you don’t do this, you got all these rules, and you’re basically kind of miserable.  And it really bothers you to see a happy Christian who loves Jesus, and is trusting him.  And when we become Pharisaical we always become judgmental [because one is the other], we always forget that we have a beam in our own eye, and that we’re not suited at that time to take a splinter out of someone else’s until we get rid of the judgmental attitude, which is the beam---then we’ll see clearly to help our brother.  Here, he, the Pharisee says, ‘I’m glad I’m not like these other guys.’  Positive self-talk doesn’t seem to be helping this guy any, in the picture here.  ‘I do this, I do that, I do that, I’m not like other men, I fast, I give…’  “The publican, the tax gatherer, standing afar off, would not even lift up as much as his eyes to heaven, but he smote, continually smote [is the grammar] himself on his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner” (verse 13).  Very interesting.  King James says “be merciful”, it is “be propitious towards me”, we get the propitiation, “be propitiated towards me.”  What he’s actually saying in this word, is he’s talking about the thing that satisfies the wrath of God, and that is, the atonement, and that is blood atonement, substitutionary atonement.  He’s standing outside this Temple, and in his word he’s realizing ‘that the death of an innocent substitute is my only hope, bloodshed.’  ‘Lord, be propitiated towards me.’  “Be merciful towards me, a sinner.”  Jesus says, I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:  for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (verse 14).  Now see, he’s saying, ‘when he comes will he find the faith on the earth?’  Two men, they come to pray, they come to seek God.  One guy is completely self-righteous, that is not the faith, putting stars on his own spiritual chalk-board, you know, keeping tract of his own righteousness, and another man coming, saying ‘Be propitiated towards me.’


You have to receive the Kingdom as a young child---with a childlike attitude


And then he goes on to say “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them;”---and bless them, is the idea.  For most rabbis this is below their dignity---“but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.” (verse 15)  You can see these guys, like Men in Black, sunglasses, black hats, ‘Ut-oh, they’re bringing the kids to him.  He’s too busy, our boss is too busy for this.’  “they rebuked them”, not the babies, the parents for bringing them.  Jesus, Mark 10 tells us, is much displeased with his disciples, it’s the only time in the Gospels it uses this word, ‘Jesus, with indignation, towards his disciples.’  Now he has indignation toward the Pharisees, he has indignation toward the Sadducees, calls them “whited sepulchres.”  And when he pronounces his woes on them, it’s heated, it’s scathing.  He never has indignation towards the sinner, the harlot, the tax collector, whose coming to him to hear his words.  But in this one place, in this one place he has indignation towards his own disciples when they try to stop the children from coming.  “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (verses 16-17).  So, you know, here they bring the little children to him,  it tells us in Mark he’s taking them in his arms.  And I kind of look at Jesus, for thousands of years throughout human history up until then, he’s been waiting, one of the benefits, the joys of the incarnation, now that he’s taken on human flesh, is now he can actually grab some of these little kids and put them on his lap and look into their faces, talk to them, and bless them.  And he’s only got a few short years, and now the disciples are trying to rebuke the children, and he’s saying, he gets heated with them.  And he says “Suffer the little children to come unto me…for of such is the kingdom of God.”  You know, we looked at that Sunday night in our study, in the book of Deuteronomy, God says to them there, ‘Your little ones, who you said would be a prey to the inhabitants of Canaan, who did not know right from wrong, they shall enter in, and your carcasses shall fall in the wilderness.’  God drawing a difference between those who have not reached what we maybe call the age of reason, not really a Biblical term, an idea that certainly is Biblical.  Again, or David saying when his first son from Bathsheba died, saying, ‘He’s no longer going to come to me, but I will go to be with him.’  David knew that child was in heaven.  [Comment:  His spirit was, the “spirit in man” of that child.  There’s a difference.]  ‘At thy right hand are pleasures evermore.’  I will be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness O Lord.’  [Which will happen at the 1st resurrection to immortality, cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-54.]  Or Jonah, bummed out because God wouldn’t kill the Ninevites, waiting outside of Nineveh under a gourd for the fireworks to start.  And he gets bummed out because his gourd dies.  And God says, ‘You’re bummed out because the gourd died, but you want me to kill all of the people in Nineveh, and you’re bummed out because a plant dies.’  He said, ‘Aren’t there 120,000 little ones that don’t know their right hand from their left hand in Nineveh?’  God noticing the children.  Paul said, “When I was a child, I thought as a child…”  He says children think differently.  “But when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  And Jesus here is saying, ‘Suffer the children to come, for of such is the kingdom…and unless you receive the kingdom as a child, you’ll in no wise enter in…’  Now that’s an important word there, “receive”, because if you have kids at home, you know they have no problem receiving, taking, using.  They don’t stand around and say, like we do with God sometimes, ‘I don’t feel worthy.  You know, dad wants to get me this Super-Soaker, it’s always been a dream, and I told him, ‘Dad, I’ll do anything you want me to do if you give me this Super-Soaker,’ and I’m almost afraid, I think he’s going to make me be a missionary to the Eskimos if I say that.’  And they’re not saying ‘The way we behaved this week, I don’t really know how we can expect him to pay the gas bill, you know, I feel so bad opening the refrigerator, there’s probably not going to be any food in there, we don’t deserve it.  And when next winter comes we’re probably not going to have heat in our room anymore, the way we act.’  No, they don’t even think like that a little bit, [laughter] a little bit.  In fact, the littler they are, the more relentless they are.  I had one of mine who would sit in the back seat when you were driving, and wanted something, and would say ‘Dad, DAD, DAD, DAAAAD, DAAAAAAD, DAAAD, DAAAAAAD, DAAAAD, DAAAAD’ and say that about a thousand times.  I actually had one of my other kids scream ‘SHUT UUUUPPP!’  Not even slow down in asking.  Kids accept their position, they’re not competing  with one another, or at least for your attention or love, or many other things.  But they receive.  They receive so readily and so freely.  You know, it’s interesting, even when I talk to my little ones about heaven.  You know, you talk to some adults about it, and they say, ‘How’s that gonna happen?’  ‘Well how will that happen?’   And it says in the City there’s no need of the sun or the moon, because the Lord God is the light of it [ie Pastor Joe is referring to the New Jerusalem, which will come to earth after the new heavens and new earth have been created, described in Revelation 21:1-23, when God’s throne, the Celestial City literally comes to earth forever, heaven on earth].  They [kids] say, ‘Oh’ and an adults says ‘Well, without the sun, the temperature would drop, and how could this possibly happen?’ and you know, you go through all this.  My kids just say ‘Oh, it’s never gonna be night there?  We don’t have to go to bed, right?’  [loud laughter]  ‘We’re ready!  Do we have to take a bath there?’  There’s no problem with going there, they just want to know the details.  They’re ready to receive the Kingdom.  And this sets the stage for the next person that we see.  I mean, because let me ask you a question tonight.  I don’t know where you’re all from, maybe you’re visiting tonight, maybe somebody’s brought you.  What do you know really in your heart, what are your thoughts about God?  What are your thoughts when you hear about the Kingdom of God?  The Kingdom that we’re talking about is a Kingdom that is set in contrast to hell.  The Bible says there’s a place called heaven [more literally, the Kingdom of heaven, which comes to earth at Jesus’ 2nd Coming---most Christians get that wrong], and there’s a place called hell.  And probably some of you think, ‘Well, when it’s time to die, good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.  And the way they tell is they get out those scales, and they put the good stuff you did on one side, and the bad stuff you did on the other side, and if the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff, you’re in!  And if the bad stuff outweighs the good stuff, you’re in deep trouble!  You’re out!’  Well then, if that’s true, why did Jesus die?  We didn’t need a Saviour, we got scales.  He died for no reason at all then.  He died because the Bible says, if we just lust after someone, we’re already an adulterer in the Kingdom, in the spiritual realm.  And if we’re just angry with someone, we’re already a murderer in the spiritual realm.  This Pharisee’s saying, ‘Thank God I’m not an adulterer…’  Oh yes he was, oh yes he was, he was just like other men.  He was a hu-man being.  And Jesus is saying, no, you have to receive the Kingdom as a little child, receive, not earn, receive, not deserve.  The Book of Revelation, the Bible ends by saying ‘Let whoever is athirst come and drink of the water of life freely’---the word is “undeservedly.”  You can’t deserve it.  If you’re going to think you’re going to deserve it, you’re never going to get in.  If you come and drink undeservedly, and just receive what you don’t deserve, by faith, the Kingdom is yours.  And if you’re here tonight, that’s what we’re talking about.  We’re talking about a God who loves you so much, that he wants to give to you eternal life.  What he’s asking you to do is admit you’re a sinner, and that you need forgiveness, so that he can give you salvation through his Son, that’s all he’s asking.  [Comment:  That’s what the Gospel of Salvation is all about.  See: for a full explanation.] 


The Rich Young Ruler---‘You Have the Wrong god’


Rich, Young, Powerful, what everyone in America wants to be


Jesus is saying ‘You have to receive the Kingdom as a child’, then look who comes along, “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 18)  Now, it’s interesting, because it tells us here in Luke that he’s a ruler.  It tells us in Matthew that Jesus looked at the young man, so we know he’s young.  And Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell us he’s wealthy.  So we’ve called this man ‘the rich young ruler.’  Now look at this guy, because this is everything that America worships.  Rich, young, ruler, rich, young, powerful---that’s everything that America worships.  I mean there’s no sense in being rich, if you’re not young.  If you’re rich, and you’re ninety years old, ready to kick the bucket, and you’re powerful, that don’t mean very much to you.  Or if you’re rich, and you’re young, but nobody knows who you are, you don’t care either.  Or if you’re young, and you’re powerful, and you ain’t got no money, nobody’s going to listen to you anyhow.  You know, rich, young, power, drives a lot of people.  You look on TV at all of these things, Creative Real-Estate Investing, you can be rich, all these Info-mercials, telling you how to be a millionaire, you get government this, you get this and you put these apartments up.  And they don’t tell you you’re going to have tenants, and they’re going to call you in the middle of the night to fix the pipes and take care of the place, and you’re going to have headaches, and you’re going to get ulcers while you’re trying to pull this off.  And then, this guy, Tony, he’s going to   teach you how to walk on coals, those two ideas go together, toe-knee, coals.  And if you can walk on hot coals, and you can master everything with your mind, you know, positive thinking, you can get rich, and you can develop into who you’re supposed to be, have your career.  You know, we are driven by wealth.  People want to be rich.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with wealth.  Daniel was wealthy.  Joseph was wealthy.  Abraham was wealthy.  It’s when it’s your god that it’s a problem.  It’s when it’s the driving force in your life that it’s a problem.  It’s a great servant, wealth, but it’s a cruel master.  Rich, young, America wants to be young.  People are striving to be young.  They’re buying carrot juicers.  I mean, I watch the TV, I’m amazed.  They have creamed, there’s whole shows on just with ladies sitting around talking about this cream that takes away the crows feet, you rub it on here, ‘Here’s my picture before, here’s my picture after’…‘Oh man!  Is that the same woman?  You need the cream, because you want to be young!’  Then they have cream that takes away the celluloid from your thighs.  You need that too, because if your face looks good and you got fat thighs, it won’t make any difference.  But then, you need the stuff that takes away the yellow stuff that grows under your toe nails when you get older, because if you’ve got thin thighs and no wrinkles, but everybody’s going to notice you’re old because you got that yellow stuff underneath your toe nails.  And then they have stuff that makes your hair grow, I see Carl Malone comes in, all the guys are going ‘Oh Carl, what happened to your bald spot?’  ‘Rogaine, just makes your hair grow.’  And the gym, and the step-masters, massage machines, we are obsessed, looking for the fountain of youth.  Because most of the time, by the time you get anywhere near rich, you’re already too old to…rich, young and power, you know, you see people in our society, when they finally become wealthy, they’re not satisfied.  They want power.  They want to put their hands in Washington, they want to determine legislation.  ‘I’m gonna pay this person off, and pay this person off, and that person off,’ and they want to effect things through the media, and they want to do this, and they want to do that.  This rich young ruler is held up in front of us, in contrast to a little child who can just receive without earning, without making his way, because he is what so many people want to be, he’s a rich young ruler.  And so many worship there at that throne. 


Being Rich Is Not All That It Appears To Be


And the interesting thing is, he’s saying ‘Lord, Good Master, what must I do’, now a kids’ not worried about what they need to do, so he’s a moralist, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  What he’s saying is, ‘I can’t enjoy being rich, young and powerful, because eternal life is bothering me.  I can’t enjoy my wealth, my good looks, my youth, and the power that I have, because there’s something that knaws at me day and night, and what do I have to do to have eternal life?’  And it comes to all of us.  You go to a funeral, whether it’s your grandparents or your parents, death comes by our doorstep on this journey.  Not often, but enough to be very strange, and enough to make us think.  And Hebrews tells us that people who don’t know Christ, they don’t know about resurrection, they don’t know about forgiveness, it says they are in bondage to the fear of death their entire life.  “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  none is good, save one, that is God”  (verses 18-19).  In the culture they called God, the LORD, The Good, sometimes The Good One, they had that saying, “None is Good but God.”  And Jesus is not saying to this rich young ruler, ‘I’m no good.’  Because he’s going to say to him by the time it’s over, ‘I want you to get rid of everything and follow Me,’ and in saying that, he’s saying ‘You’re right, I am the One that is Good.’  But he knows there’s pretense here.  This young man’s coming saying, ‘What must I do’. and Jesus knows ‘I’m going to ask you to do something, and it’s going to press your button and we’ll find out whether you’re really sincere about this question.  Why are you calling me Good?  There’s nobody Good but God.’  “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother” (verse 20).  Now an interesting thing is taking place here, because in one sense, I feel bad for this man, this rich young ruler.  He’s come to Jesus, it tells us in Mark, that he falls down in front of him and he kneels in front of him.  Now you have to give him something there, because John 9 told us, at this point anybody whose willing to own or have anything to do with Jesus of Nazareth would be excommunicated from the Temple.  So he’s got a certain level of courage and sincerity.  He’s willing to fall down in front of Jesus in plain sight of other people.  How many of you tonight are willing to fall down in front of Jesus?  How many of you are willing as Christians to do things for Jesus that put you in a spotlight in front of other people?  There’s certain admirable qualities to this young man.  And I think Jesus honours that, because what he does is he tells this guy the truth.  [Comment: And notice we’re never told not to keep the commandments of God, as part of our walk with the Lord.  And the Ten Commandments Jesus is quoting from are part of the commandments of God.  John defined sin this way.  He said “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1st John 3:4).]  And when I see someone whose wealthy, and powerful, even if he’s young, I kind of feel sorry for them, because they’re surrounded by that time with many leaches, and people who tell them what they want to hear, and with few people that tell them the truth.  And when someone who is wealthy and powerful has someone stand next to them that will tell them the truth, sometimes that’s a very important thing.  You know, from some of the millionaires, some of the wealthy people I know, it’s interesting, because I watch them, and I feel bad.  I remember, and I don’t know Mike Tyson, but I remember seeing Mike Tyson personally, I don’t know how many millions he had, in New Jersey, his mansion, and he’s out in the back yard at the pigeon coop, and here he is with this remarkable mansion, I would be inside the mansion.  I wouldn’t be at the pigeon coop.  And the TV guy is interviewing him, and he says, “What’s it like now, having all these millions of dollars?”  And Tyson said, “The hard thing is, I don’t know whose my friend anymore, because everybody wants something.”  And he’s remembering Brownsville when he was a kid, with the pigeons on the roof, and here he is, you know, out back alone with a pigeon coop, with what everybody thinks if they had they’d be happy, and saying ‘This wealth has isolated me more than anything else in my life.’  [There is a rich man who lives in the area of the state I live in, and he dresses in old warn out clothes. If he were to withdraw all his money from the local bank here, the bank would have to close its doors.  But to look at him, nobody knows he’s rich.  Now I know why he prefers it that way.]  And the interesting thing is, Jesus tells this guy the truth. 


Jesus Isolates This Man’s Problem, Sin


‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’  He says, ‘You know the commandments, Don’t commit adultery, Don’t steal, Don’t kill, Don’t bear false witness, Honour your mother and your father.’  “And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.  Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing; sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven:  and come, follow me” (verses 21-22).  Now, it’s interesting, what Jesus is doing is this.  Jesus is going to isolate his problem. This guy’s saying, ‘What is the need in my life?  I have all of this stuff, I’m even religious, and I still have this empty place.  All of the things that I have, have not given security’, and to the point of loss, he falls down in front of Jesus and says, ‘What do I have to do to have eternal life?’  And Jesus says, ‘Well, let’s eliminate some things here first.’  And what Jesus does is he goes to the second table of the Law [the Ten Commandment Law], in the two tablets of stone, the second table of the law dealt with man’s relationship with his fellow man.  And the first table of stone dealt with man’s relationship with God.  And what Jesus does first is eliminates the second table of the Law, the second table, Thou shalt not commit Adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not kill [Hebrew: “murder”], relationship with our fellow man, Honour your mother and father, Don’t bear false witness [lying].  And the guy says to Jesus ‘Well, all of these things have I done from my youth up.’    That’s pretty remarkable.  And Mark tells us, he says “Jesus looked at him, and loved him.’  I’m going to say something to you tonight.  If you’re here tonight, and you don’t know Jesus Christ, and your whole life you’ve been pursuing money, youth, power, making your first million before you’re twenty-five or whatever, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, he loves you.  As he looks at you, he knows you, all of these people here, he sees everybody here as an individual, and his eyeball is right on you.  And if you’re here tonight, and you have all that stuff, and you don’t know about eternal life, he knows who you are, and he’s the same, he loves you.  And I hope tonight he’ll eliminate things from you so that you can see clearly.  He says to this guy, the second table of the Law.  He says ‘I’ve done all these things from my youth up.’  That’s pretty remarkable.  Jesus looks at him and loves him.  And you know, it’s interesting, because often it’s very difficult for somebody whose been religious to see their need.  Somebody who could say ‘I’ve never committed adultery, I’ve never killed, I’ve never stole, I’ve never bore false witness, I’ve honored my father and mother, I’ve done all of these things since I was a kid.’  Sometimes it’s very hard for religious people to see what they need.  This guy is aware that he has a need.  The Lord looks at him and loves him, and says, ‘You lack one more thing.’  Man, that is remarkable.  How’d you like it even today as a Christian, if Jesus said to you ‘You know, you only lack one thing’?  I kind of think he’d look at me and say ‘You lack 437 things.’  He looks at this guy and says ‘You lack one thing.  Sell all that you have, distribute those things to the poor, then you’ll have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.’  [Personally, I think Jesus was offering this guy a discipleship.]  “And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful:  for he was very rich.  And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (verses 23)  Now, what Jesus has done is this, he’s eliminated the second table of the Law, and now he comes to the first table of the Law.  He says, ‘You want eternal life?  We’ve got rid of this whole idea of your relationship with your fellow man, you’ve done your best.  What about your relationship with God?  You really want eternal life?  Sell everything you have, get rid of your god, because your god, your problem, your idolatry is in the first table of the Law.  Sell everything that you have, give it to the poor, you’ll have great rewards in heaven, come and follow me.’  [Pastor Joe has not eliminated the Ten Commandments here, but backed up their authority in our lives.  He has just pointed out where this young man was not keeping the Ten Commandments, idolatry.]  And he’s put his finger right on the man’s god, because it says he was very sorrowful, because he had very many riches.  And though he had done all kinds of religious things, and he had helped all kinds of people, and he’d done all kinds of good stuff, and he went to the synagogue every Sabbath, yet there was a major problem in his life, he had the wrong god, he had the wrong god. 


Your god, Idol May Not Be Money


Now, let me say this.  “Sell everything that you have, and give to the poor” is incidental.  “Come and follow me” is universal.  Jesus may say something different to you, because your god may be different.  I mean, he doesn’t say to every human being ‘give all your money away, and come and follow me.’  There are Christian millionaires, who are well aware that the resources they have belong to God, and what they really are is stewards over those things.  And they are faithful to support missionaries and help do God’s Work, and money is a great tool to use against Satan.  [ie if all matter was created by God, and the gold and the silver, which he stated through one of his Prophets, are God’s, and even all paper is God’s, then all the money is God’s, because it is made of physical matter.  At the end of God’s Plan of Salvation, when the entire earth and universe have been burned up, melted down, and recreated, there will be a tremendous redistribution of wealth, to all of God’s children who have entered into eternal life.  All today’s money is a very temporary thing in God’s eyes.]  And because that money is not their god, but God is their God, then it’s not necessary there [to demand they give it up to follow the Lord].  What Jesus tells us to get rid of is incidental, the “come and follow me” is for all of us, it’s for all of us.  Jesus maybe saying to you tonight ‘Get rid of that relationship.’  And if that’s what he’s saying to you, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and you know exactly what he’s talking about, particularly if you’re in fornication, you’re in sin.  The Lord may be saying to you, ‘You call yourself a Christian, you go to church, get rid of that habit of gambling.’  He may be saying to you, ‘You can’t afford to send your kids to Christian school, you can’t afford to give anything to your wife, every weekend you’re out there in the driveway polishing that stinking Ferrari.  Get rid of that god.  Give it to the poor.’  I’m so poor.  [loud laughter]  No, get rid of that Ferrari, just a little humour, ‘Get rid of that god, and come and follow me.’  Do you understand what’s your god?  For some people, a hobby pushes Jesus out of the way.  For some people it’s a car.  For some people it’s a relationship.  For some people it’s money.  He saying, ‘When the Son of man comes, is he going to find the faith on the earth?’  There’s always going to be those people that are self-righteous, like the Pharisee, who don’t understand grace and forgiveness.  And there’s always going to be then those people who understand they need propitiation, who are going to say ‘Lord, be merciful to me, I am a sinner.’  And even you and I should always be saying ‘Lord, except for your grace, there go I.’  Because we are like other men, except that we’re saved, and we’re washed and we’re cleansed [and I might add, ‘in the process of being cleansed’], and we have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  But the bottom line is we have to be as a child, to receive it. 


He Had The Wrong god, And He Was Empty


Look at this man, he has everything that America worships, wealth, youth, power.  Why should you waste the time going there, when the Bible gives us a picture of him, and he’s falling down in front of Jesus saying, ‘I’m still empty.’  And Jesus is saying ‘It’s because you have the wrong god, it’s because you have the wrong god.  And the god you have is not going to serve you when you die, he’s not going to provide eternal life or produce it in you.’  You may be able to buy with your god the fanciest casket anybody’s ever seen.  You may be able to use your god to have the longest funeral procession anybody’s ever seen.  You may build the biggest mausoleum anybody’s ever seen, with your god.  But your god’s not going to get you eternal life in heaven [in the kingdom of heaven].  It’s interesting, because it says this young man went away sorrowful.  “And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful:  for he was very rich” (verse 23).  It doesn’t say he went away angry.  You know I hear a lot of people ‘Well, that’s the end of him.’  I don’t know if it’s the end of him.  Maybe he did turn, maybe we’re going to see him in heaven [in the kingdom of heaven].  Because, you see, I think he knew.  If he didn’t have any conviction at all, if he didn’t know, and Jesus said to him, and he was wealthy and powerful and was young, and Jesus said ‘Give away all your money to the poor and come and follow me’, he’d have said ‘WHAT!!!  YOU’RE A MENTAL CASE!  YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU’RE OUTA YOUR MIND!’  You know, there’s not anger, there’s just sorrow, because he knew, he knew.  And yet as a child, you can receive the kingdom [he means a childlike attitude], because God says to us, ‘the Lord is your Shepherd, you will lack no good thing.’  I’ve never seen God’s children begging for bread.  He cares for us, he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  It is much better to have God as our shepherd than to have hundreds of diplomas hanging on our wall, and Krugerrands and money in the bank and be the wealthiest man.  I’d rather have God as my shepherd, than to be the smartest sheep without him. 


Salvation Is Very Difficult for the Wealthy Because of What They Have To Get Rid Of


And when Jesus saw this guy walking away sorrowful, because he was very rich, and Jesus loved this young man, “he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.  And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?” (verses 24b-26)  And the other Gospels tell us they’re astonished.  Now you have to understand, in the mind of the Jew, they related physical prosperity to God’s blessing [which was part of the Old Covenant promises of receiving blessings for obedience to God’s Law some of which shows up in Malachi chapter 3].  Because in the end of Deuteronomy God says “pronounce before this day blessings and cursings, choose.”  So in their minds, when they saw somebody who was wealthy and prospering, immediately in their minds they thought ‘That is God’s blessing.’  And when they saw someone who was sick and poor, immediately in their minds they thought ‘Well that’s somebody God is dealing with.’  And that’s why Jesus told them about Lazarus and the Rich Man, because the rich man went into torment.  And yet, the way man would look at it, he would be the one everybody would think ‘This was God’s blessing.’  And the poor man that was suffering, Lazarus, went to Abraham’s bosom.  And Jesus is telling us there is something much different going on than you think.  And he said ‘It’s very difficult for wealthy people, because of what they have to let go of.’  You see, they’re going to say to him ‘We’ve left our families, and we’ve left our homes to follow you.’   And Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth, anybody whose left mother or parents or brother or sister or wife to come to follow me, is going to receive a hundred fold in this life, and in the life to come eternal life.’ (verses 28-30)…[tape switchover, some text lost]…


If You Can Give Up What You Can See To Embrace What You Can’t See---That’s Real Faith


‘If you are able to give up by faith what you can see to embrace what you can’t see, there’s a genuine evidence of faith.’  If you’re willing to let go of what people think is security, whether it’s a family relationship, or some other relationship, or wealth or some other thing, if you’re willing to let go of that and turn around and embrace those things you can’t see, you’ve exercised faith.  And he’s saying ‘It’s difficult for those who are wealthy, many times,’---not all the time, because there are millionaires that are Christians---‘but it’s difficult for those to enter into the Kingdom.  How difficult is it? He says, ‘It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.’  Now he’s presenting an impossibility.  And I’ve read the commentaries, they talk about, they say that there was in the walls of Jerusalem back then, because if you’ve been there, I’ve been there many times, at night they would shut the gates.  But they would say there was this little gate called “the eye of the needle”, and if you got to the city of Jerusalem from one of these cities after dark, what you had to do is take all the junk off of your camel, so he could fit through this hole, and the camel had to get down on his knees, and somebody would go through first, and they would pull the camel on the front end, and you would push the camel on the back end, and if you huffed and puffed hard enough, you could get your camel in.  And they say, ‘That’s what he’s talking about, the eye of the needle.  And the beautiful picture is you have to take all of the baggage off the camel like the wealthy man has to get rid of all his wealth, and then you can get in.’  Well, that’s not what it’s saying, if you squeeze into heaven [the kingdom of heaven], if you’ve got someone pushing you at one end, and pulling you at the other, and kicking you, you can get into heaven.  It’s just saying that you need propitiation, you need blood atonement, somebody to die in your place.  It’s not saying that most of us need somebody to die in our place and a few of us can squeeze in.  He uses the Greek word that means the eye of a sewing needle.  Now, fix that in your minds.  It’s easier to have a camel pass through the eye of a needle.  He’s presenting an impossibility.  It was before blenders.  It can be done, but it’s messy.  But back then, it was an impossibility.  How hard it is for those who have riches, because Jesus would say ‘Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be also.’  And he would say, ‘Don’t lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break in and steal.  But lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust never corrode, and thieves can’t break in and steal.’  Because, where your treasure is, that’s where your heart’s going to be.  Now you know it’s interesting, when we see folks in the church who have lost a son or lost a daughter or lost a godly parent that they loved, or a spouse that they loved.  You know, those are the ones in the truest sense who have laid up treasure in heaven.  And you know, they’re very different.  They have a very, a greater percentage of their heart set on eternity.  It determines very much the way they live here.  Because they long so much for a reunion.  Often times when they sit alone, the tears come, because they so miss that person.  But the thing that keeps them, and the thing that strengthens them, is they know, “I’m going to see them face to face, I’m going to throw my arms around them, and I’m going to feel their embrace again, and I’m going to hear their voice.”  And they hold onto this world loosely.  But those that are wealthy, those that have everything here, their treasure is here, that’s where their heart is.  These guys say, ‘Well then Lord, who can be saved?’  In verse 27 he says this, “And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”  He doesn’t say that they’re possible for God, or that they’re possible to God.  He says they’re possible with God, with the right God.  With the right God.  The things that are impossible to man, salvation is impossible to man.  How could we ever be saved, because we’re sinful by nature.  We’re sinful by nature.  And that largely determines our appetites as we go through life.  Those who become self-righteous and religious, they work as hard at that as somebody else works at attaining wealth.  And then because they’ve worked so hard to attain some religious standing, then they’re very judgmental about others who look sinful.  And Jesus said, that doesn’t make any difference, because to God both are the same, and the man whose repentant and asks for propitiation is the man who is justified before God.  Because like a child, he’s coming, not deserving but receiving.  [Comment: And by the way, not continuing in his previous sinful lifestyle either.  This is not an excuse or call to accept a licentious interpretation of grace.  Calvary Chapels don’t teach that.]  And Jesus says, look, the people who have attained the things that everybody in life thinks they want, wealth and power and youth, look at this man.  He’s empty, he has it all, and he’s the ruler of the synagogue, he has religion.  None of it has given him peace.  None of it has given him the ability to lay down his head on his pillow at night and close his eyes, and sleep peacefully.  You know, the Psalmist said, ‘I lay me down and sleep, because the Lord sustains me.’  You know, I go to bed at night, and I close my eyes, worst case scenario is I’m going to wake up the next morning.  Best case scenario I’m going to wake up in heaven.  I’m going to open my eyes, and I’m going to do a double-take, and I’m going to see the cherubim around the throne of God, and the Sea of Glass, and the angels and the saints.  [There is an interesting scenario about how we get on that Sea of Glass, which literally is part of the New Jerusalem.  See:]  I’m going to see my grandfather and my grandmother.  I’ll see Gene Davies and Frank Burk, the list goes on and on and on, we could just go down the list.  But some people, they’re tortured, they have it all, but they have nothin’.  Or they’ve tried to have it all, and they still have nothin’, and they can’t even rest at night when they close their eyes.  But you know what, when Jesus looks at those people, he loves them.  He loves them, and he speaks to their hearts.  And he clears away some of the rubbage so they can see clearly.  And then he challenges them, ‘come and follow me.’  And I hope for some of you tonight Jesus has been saying that to your heart, ‘What you need to do is follow me.’  I’m going to have the musicians come…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Luke 18:9-27 by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]


Related links:


What is the Gospel of Salvation?  See:  


How Do I Become A Christian?  See:


and scroll to the bolded paragraph titled “How to Become a Christian”  and read from there.


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