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THE RICH YOUNG RULER
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Now this morning I want you to turn in your Bible to Mark chapter ten, verse seventeen. This is the account of the Rich Young Ruler. It is such an important event that the Holy Spirit recorded it in all three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. More space is given to the Rich Young Ruler than to any other person in the Gospels except Peter. That shows the importance of what happened to this young man. And I believe it is one of the most important stories in the New Testament for the time in which we live today. Please stand and listen carefully to it.
“And when he 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? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:17-27).
You may be seated.
We know quite a bit about this man. Matthew 19:20 tells us he was young. That would mean he was under the age of thirty. Luke 18:18 tells us he was a “ruler.” Dr. Gill said this means he was a civil magistrate, “perhaps one of the Sanhedrin.” Mark 10:22 tells us he “had great possessions.” Now we can see why Matthew, Mark, and Luke take so much space to tell about him. He was a rich young man, who had a very high position. Almost any preacher today would bend over backwards to get such a person to join his church!
This young man came running to Jesus. When he got to Jesus he kneeled down. Then he asked Jesus, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). He came to Jesus. He knelt before Jesus. He asked, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” He did the right thing, by coming to Jesus. He came at the right time – when he was young. He asked the right question, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” He came with the right attitude – in humility. He got the right answer – exactly what to do. But he did the wrong thing – he turned away from Jesus, went his way, and was never saved.
Why did he turn away? The reason is simple. He said, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him what to do, and he rejected it. That’s why he was sad, and went away grieved.
The Bible says, “Jesus beholding him loved him” (Mark 10:21). Please don’t tell me Jesus gave him a hard answer because He didn’t care about him. Please, don’t be so shallow! No, Jesus gave him a hard answer because He loved him. “Jesus beholding him loved him” (Mark 10:21). I have found that the “hard” preachers are the ones that tend to love people. It’s the “soft” preachers that don’t love you. It’s the soft preachers that really don’t give a darn about you.
Nobody was a softer preacher than Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral. When John Wayne was dying he asked Schuller to come and see him. John Wayne asked Schuller what he needed to do since he was dying. Schuller told him that he didn’t need to do anything, that he was already OK. When I read that it made me furious. You see, I loved John Wayne. He was a great American, and I loved him. But it was obvious to me that Schuller didn’t care at all about the man’s soul. What Schuller wanted was whatever money he could get from John Wayne and his family. You lie to people you don’t care about. You tell the truth to people that you love. It’s as simple as that. If you love a man you tell him the truth! And that’s exactly what Jesus did!
The Rich Young Ruler knelt in front of Jesus, and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus looked him in the face, and loved him.
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).
The young man thought about it for a while, and then he went away.
“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
Jesus’ demands sound harsh today. But we need to think “outside the box” of today’s evangelical “decisionism.” Why did this young man have to give up his riches to be saved, to “inherit eternal life”? The answer is given in Mark 10:24, when Jesus said,
“Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24).
The whole passage shows that this young man trusted his riches. How could he trust Christ when his heart trusted riches instead? Jesus said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). You cannot serve God and money! The Bible says, “They that [want to be] rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (I Timothy 6:9). The young ruler could not trust Christ because his heart trusted his riches. How could he trust Christ, when his heart trusted riches?
I like what Iain H. Murray said about this. Murray said that the old evangelism alarmed the conscience, showing the sinner that “The repentance God demands is no partial change, no temporary feeling of sorrow, but an entire change of life.” Christ told the Rich Young Ruler to sell what he had, and give to the poor, “and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21). Iain Murray said, “This was indeed ‘law preaching,’ but the purpose of thus summoning a man to full obedience was not to qualify for salvation, it was rather to prove to him just how far he was from it. Our Lord gave that counsel, not because he thought the man could be obedient, but because the man thought he could. And every natural man in his self-confidence thinks the same. So the law says in effect, ‘Make trial of obedience! Set about it as earnestly as you can’...The unconverted man is called to do this because the more he sets about it, the more the quest will be found to be hopeless. He finds that not only his conduct but his nature itself is wrong. The standard required is unreachable. By nature he cannot love, he cannot be holy, he cannot delight in God. ‘Who then can be saved?’ asked the astonished disciples, hearing Christ’s absolute demand of the rich young ruler, and they received the answer that remains true today, ‘with men it is impossible, but not with God’...Where a soul is being led to salvation it is not with the law that he will find fault but with himself. Before the law his own conscience condemns him, and he confesses himself not only guilty but powerless to do what he ought...In the words of Jonathan Edwards: ‘Such earnestness and thoroughness of endeavors, is the ordinary means that God makes use of to bring people into an acquaintance with themselves, to a sight of their own hearts, to a sense of their own helplessness...It is experience of ourselves, and finding what we are, that God commonly makes use of as the means of bringing us off all dependence on ourselves’...such a person will pray, as William Wilberforce once prayed, ‘O God, deliver me from myself!’” (Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, pp. 10-14).
Christ wanted the Rich Young Ruler to see the selfishness of his own heart. He wanted him to see that his heart trusted riches instead of God. He wanted him to see how wrong his heart was, that he didn’t really love God at all, that he really trusted in material things, and had no trust in God at all.
When Peter suddenly realized how wicked and unbelieving his heart was “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). The Rich Young Ruler knelt before Jesus, but instead of going on to feel and confess the sinfulness of his heart, “he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved” (Mark 10:22).
How often I have seen that repeated. People will say they want to be saved. But when we show them that their hearts are wrong, that they are trusting the things of the world, that they really have no love for God, they turn away grieved, and sooner or later fall away from the church.
But then we see others, like the girl who said, “I’m so disgusted with myself” – like the girl who said, “I’m such an awful sinner.” Like Peter, they fell on their knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” It’s the Peters who find salvation. The others, sooner or later, always go away grieved, clinging to their selfishness and sin.
Let’s go back to the Rich Young Ruler for a minute. What would have happened to him if he had actually done what Jesus said? Why, he might well have become the twelfth Apostle, replacing Judas! But because he trusted money instead of Jesus, we don’t even know his name! If he had obeyed Jesus his name would have been chanted, praised, sung, and honored – down through the centuries of time!
After the Young Ruler went, Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee” (Mark 10:28). He was right. They had left their fishing nets and money changing and had followed Him. You say, “It wasn’t as much as the Young Ruler had to leave.” No it wasn’t, but they left everything they had, and that is far more than most people do in these days of apostasy. And Jesus said to Peter and the other Disciples,
“Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus will give those things to those who repent and trust Him? If you do believe Him, then what is stopping you from trusting Him? But if you don’t believe Him why do you bother to come to church at all? If you don’t believe His promise, why not just go away now, and live and die like the Rich Young Ruler lived and died? He did die, you know. About 37 years later the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem. That was when the Young Ruler lost everything – his wealth, his property, and his soul. Thirty-seven years after he rejected Christ, he lost everything anyway!
What will America be like 37 years from now? I don’t like to think about it. It doesn’t look real good, does it? Why risk losing your soul for a few more years of pleasure in a dying nation like this? Why take that risk when you can have “now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life”? No life is richer than the life of a sold-out Christian. Ask the members of our church. Every one of them will tell you that is true! Every one of them will tell you,
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).
Come to Jesus. Trust Him. He will give you a richer and fuller life than you could ever have without Him. I know that is true. I have experienced it in my own life. So I say to you again, Jesus died on the Cross so your sins could be pardoned. He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. Turn away from a selfish and sinful life, and trust Jesus with all your heart. You will never be sorry that you did!
If you would like to speak with us about becoming a Christian, please step to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can talk and pray. Mr. Lee, please lead us in prayer.
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 12:16-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Acres of Diamonds” (by Arthur Smith, 1959).