Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 26 July 2015
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Last time we looked at Jesus’ teaching that in order to get to heaven we have to become like little children.
Now Jesus uses an encounter with a rich young man to further develop the theme of getting to heaven. What does this story teach us about getting to heaven?
Luke 18 v 18-30
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
What does this story teach us about getting to heaven?
So, we have a rich arrogant young man who wants to know how to get to heaven. But, to his credit, he is asking the most important question in the world for each of us. What do I have to do get to heaven?
Notice the way Jesus answers…playing the game that the man is playing. What do I do? The assumption of the young man is that there is something he can do to get himself to heaven. And Jesus skilfully exposes the flawed logic. Note the breathtaking arrogance – the young man says in effect, “yes, I’ve kept all the rules”. Billy Graham once said that the hardest task in evangelism is not to get people to get saved, but to persuade people that they are sinners who need to be saved. Jesus does this, even in the face of the man’s self-righteousness, by showing that in fact he is not perfect. He still loves his wealth more than God. And when the disciples conclude that it is impossible to be saved – Jesus concurs. With man, salvation is impossible…but with God…
Here we have a tantalising glimpse of the salvation that would be revealed when Jesus had gone to the cross – the fact that God himself would make it possible for sinners to be saved, that God would deal with the sin problem once and for all, and make it possible for sinners to come into a relationship with Him.
Peter then talks about the step needed to become a Christian – saying that they had left all they had to follow Jesus. Jesus promises that those who do so need have no fear that leaving all to follow Jesus will cause them to be unhappy. Rather, they can be sure that even in this life they will be given far more than they ever give up. And, eventually, they get eternity with God. What a deal! Would it not be extremely foolish to turn it down?