Sermon delivered August 16, 1997

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Following Jesus

It is our goal to walk where Jesus walked. The Christian's goal is to follow Jesus Christ. Christians are followers of Jesus. But many people follow Jesus about like a man who pushes a wheelbarrow: he pushes it before him in the way HE wants it to go. That's not how you follow Jesus. That is apparently what happened one day in the Bible in the book of Mark. Because Jesus and His disciples were just leaving to go to Jerusalem for the Triumphal entry.

Suddenly a jogger came running after them. This jogger we call the rich young ruler. Now how many of you are rich? I knew I wouldn't get any hands. How many of you are rich? We are rich, aren't we? Well, he was rich in money, and he was young, and he was a ruler. Now how many of you are rich young rulers? Probably a lot of parents would admit that their children are rulers in the house but not like this man. He utilized great intelligence in running after Jesus. That's what Christians ought to do. Whenever we sense a void in our life we should not hesitate to run to Jesus. That's what this young man did. He was correct in that. So often we run to the world first, and then we come to Jesus after we have failed and after we've experienced the problems of life. We consult with the world. We come to Jesus as a last resort when we ought to come to Jesus as the first resort.

Mark 10:17 (NIV) - As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up to Him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Well, what can I do to inherit anything? Do you get things by inheritance based on what you do? Well, you probably get them on the basis of whom you have loved.

This young man had fabulous wealth. He was the Bill Gates of 2000 years ago. A young, physically fit, aristocrat. Imagine this wealthy man Kneeling at the feet of Jesus, the penniless prophet from Galilee.

This physically fit young aristocrat had just happened to be watching earlier when Jesus tenderly took the children on his lap and lovingly received and blessed them. He watched as Jesus took these little children and blessed them and he thought, if Jesus can do that for them, He can do that for me. He could bless me. In the meantime, Jesus had moved on. Finally he decided: I'm going to chase after Him. I'll see if HE will bless me. This mans heart was deeply touched. He felt a love for Jesus and desired to be one of His disciples. He was sincere and earnest. If Jesus could bless the little children He could bless him.

He was a ruler-( Luke 18:18) He was an official of the honored council of the Jews - Desire of Ages p. 520 (EG White), he was in a high position for his young age. This important ruler kneels before the lowly Jesus, who never held any office or position.

It is a rare event when a young man has the best things this earthly life can offer early in his life. He had youth with its accompanying health. He had position or authority. He was a ruler. He had great wealth. However he lacked eternal life which is a greater asset than all others combined. If you don't have eternal life, it doesn't matter what car you drive, it doesn't matter where you live. Eternal life is the greatest thing that you can possess.

Jesus looked deeply into the face of this young man, and He recognized that this man was sincere. He read his character. Jesus saw that the man had qualifications which, if united with Jesus, Himself, would result in tremendous success for God. He could be a fantastic disciple. Look at the qualifications he brought. He also saw that his supreme love of self must be totally eradicated. There was the problem. It must be surrendered.

So Jesus gave the man a test. Notice Mark 10:18 (NIV) "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.

Then Jesus proceeded to list all six of the commandments that prohibit wrong actions against our neighbors. Obviously Jesus believed in all ten commandments. He only listed six of them. These six were chosen for a divine test. He proceeds to list all those that have to do with all our prohibitions of wrong actions against people. These were the six that the rich young ruler was lacking in. Jesus knew that, and this was the divine test. And so He listed all of them: 19.- "You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

20.- "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jewish boys, at the age of thirteen and onward were considered men, and so they were responsible, they were taught to love the law of God.. He said, "I've kept them all. I haven't lacked on one.

The rich young man was saying: In all my short life not once have I ever hurt anyone. But Jesus was talking more than avoiding evil. Jesus is asking if the man is willing to do some positive good to others. There are millions of good people in this world. They have never hurt anyone. Have you seen this type of people? They live up and down McDonald Road. They sometimes sit in the pews of every church, including this church. They avoid breaking the law and live a decent life. But they are lost. That's the rich young ruler's case.

Respectability involves a prohibition against doing wrong but not include doing something positive or right. Christianity not only avoids evil but it performs a positive good. The rich young ruler had never stolen anything, but he had never been sacrificially generous. He had never killed anyone, but he hadn't gone out saving any lives, either. He had avoided doing the wrong, but he really wasn't involved in doing anything good, except accumulation wealth.

Now, he claimed to have kept all six of these commandments. Did he? No, he did not. It wasn't true that he kept all six. (see Desire of Ages p. 520). Actually you can't keep the second six commandments unless you have kept the first 4 commandments. You have to keep them all. The world and its riches had become his idol. He loved wealth. God was not first in his heart. Therefore you can't put people ahead unless God is first. You cannot unselfishly love people unless you have experienced the depth of the love of God.

Jesus listed the commandments that deal with our relationship to our fellow human beings. This was the rich mans downfall. He loved money more God, more than all else. I think it's true sometimes that America is headed toward a cashless society. You've heard this. We're going to do away with all cash, just going to have debit cards, and have a national identity. If it is true that America is heading towards a cashless system, some of us are ahead of the times. Some of are already in a cashless society: they don';t have any money. But not the rich man. He had all kinds of money. Was money his problem? No, money was not his problem. I'll tell you what his problem was in a minute.

Look at verse 21:- Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Give all your money to the poor, the ones that are standing beside the road. You know, when you pull of the freeway at Shallowford Road, do you ever see a man there holding up a sign that says, "I am homeless. I'm starved to death. I will work for food and money. What is he basically saying to you? "I want your money." Do you give to those people? Well, this man was told, "you sell everything you've got. Go out and find the poor people and you give all of your money to these poor people. Then you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me."

No-one can serve God and Money at the same time. It doesn't work. You have to choose, and so Jesus imposed this test to detect covetousness. The man was a covetous person. Many of the examinations of life come to test our allegiance to God. Like Zacchaeus, the central issue here is not money. The central test was not selling everything.

Salvation does not come through having an empty bank account. Every time your check bounces, you say, "That proves that I'm saved." Not at all!! If that's the case a lot of people are saved because they're out there bouncing checks. The issue here is not getting rid of all your assets and selling everything and giving it away. The true Christian places his trust completely in Jesus. That's the issue. He places his trust completely in Jesus and not in his wealth or his money.

Jesus offered this man the privilege of becoming a child of God and a Co-Heir with Christ of all heaven. But there was a price. We all want eternal life, but few want to pay the price. What was the price for him? It was selling all that he had. Jesus tried to move the man out of respectability into true Christianity. Jesus offered him the position of being the 13th disciple. That was quite a position. That was an honor position. Well, how did the man respond?

Notice verse 22, "At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." He undoubtedly thought that the cost was far too great. This is too high a price for me to pay. How can I sell everything I own? No way! Has God ever asked you to sell everything you own? Do you think God, today, is asking you to sell your house, to sell your car, to sell your furniture, to sell everything you possibly own and to give it away to the poor? Is that what God is asking? Imagine giving all my money to poor people, the young ruler thought. Never! I love that money! I've worked hard to get that money. And so he turned his back on Jesus and went back to his wealth.

True or False: His problem was money. False. God wants us to have money, doesn't He? God wants to bless you with money. But for too many people money has them. God wants you to have the money, not the money to have you. So we need to be on our guard that money does not own us. Did Jesus require him to give up wealth in order to have eternal life? NO!!! If you just read this very carefully, Jesus just wanted the man to relocate his assets. Instead of having worldly wealth Jesus was inviting him to invest in Heaven. Because He says plainly in verse 21 that if the man did just what Jesus required, he would have TREASURE IN HEAVEN. He would still be rich. Jesus doesn't want you to be poor. He wants you to be rich. He wants you to have money in this world, but not for money to have you. He wants you to have wealth in heaven as well.

Now, how do we accumulate treasure in heaven? We do that when we give back to God what is really His anyway and use it as He directs us. I have a tithe envelop here. It tells how I return to God what I feel belongs to Him. God wants us to carefully distribute His money. True compassion demonstrates itself in liberality. Do you help needy people and give to needy worthy projects? When you see a need, do you just step in or do you accumulate and accumulate? How much do we need to accumulate? How much money do we actually need in the bank for us to figure, I've got enough? Jesus invites you into the adventure of being a dynamic Christian. Like the rich young ruler, if God asks you to give up a certain amount to give, maybe to this worthy project, or that need, or whatever you see that there's some need, and you say, "NO!" You are like the rich young ruler. Maybe God impresses you through the Holy Spirit: I ought to be a faithful tither, I ought to give to this project or this budget or that or whatever. If you say "No" you are like the rich young ruler.

His claim that he had kept the law of God was a deception because he had developed a love for the gifts of God more than a love for the giver.

His possessions were exerting an evil influence on his character, and Jesus knew that he must give up those possessions. Jesus correctly stated the remedy for the man's lost condition. He had diagnosed the problem and the remedy is that he was to go and sell everything he owned and give it to the poor and come and follow Jesus. Look at the verbs: go, sell, give and follow.

Have you sold everything you own? Should we sell everything? Is Jesus saying we should be homeless and destitute? NO. For me the lesson is spiritual. We are to give our entire will to Jesus. Nothing must be between me and Jesus. I must get rid of that. Nothing short of total surrender has always been the requirement of eternal life. Full Trust in Jesus. You can't depend on the things of this world no matter what people say. You can't go out to the world to get advice because that advice will probably be wrong. The only person that can tell you what to do is Jesus. We tend to believe people more than God. Here Jesus said to the Rich young ruler: Go sell all and come and follow me. Those words seemed like bad advise. His face fell and he turned and walked away, rejecting Jesus' words. You can't always believe the world. Did you ever go to the doctor? The doctor says, "here's what you need to do." And you go home ad say, "I'm not going to do what he said. I'm going to do what I think is best." Did you ever do that? If so, you're your own doctor. That's what this man did. He came to the divine Physician and Jesus said, "Here's what you need to do." And he said, "I don't think so." You can get bad advice or good advice, but if you trust yourself, you get bad advice. But you can always trust Jesus.

If you go to the world for your advice, you're going to be wrong. The rich young ruler correctly came to Jesus, and he refused Jesus' advice. Did Jesus give this young man good advice, or bad advice? He gave him good advice. It didn't make sense to him. He said, "I could never do that." But that's the exact thing that he needed to do. And whatever God tells you to do, you need to do it. You need to be quick to do it.

If Jesus Christ came back to this world today in 1997, I don't believe he'd own more than one suit of clothes as long as somebody else in the world had no clothes. I believe that Jesus would radically change the way that we live. I believe we need to pay attention to what Jesus wants us to do.

The rich young ruler said he wanted eternal life, a good ambition. He came to the correct source to get it. He correctly said eternal life is inherited. But he was unwilling to totally surrender his life, his all to Jesus to get eternal life. He went away a lost man. He came to Jesus a lost man and he went away a lost man.

Jesus says that you can't have the world and heaven at the same time. You must give up the world and you will have treasure in Heaven. You get Eternal life by putting Jesus first above all else, and then all these things will be added unto you. He had things out of its proper order. "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot You can't lose eternal life. If Jesus gives it to you, you can keep it. Of course you can turn your back on it, you can spurn Jesus, but I believe that Jesus wants us to have eternal life. If He gives it to you, it's yours. And no other person can take it away.

I'm going conclude with a poem. Ministers are taught that every good sermon should be short, have three points and include a poem. The shortest sermon I ever heard that meets these criteria was a sermon on Problems:

-I have them
-you have them
-we all have them
   Adam Had'em. 

So here is the poem in this sermon:

     One by one He took them from me  
        All the things I valued most; 
     'Til I was empty-handed, 
        Every glittering toy was lost. 

     And I walked earth's highways, grieving,
        In my rags and poverty. 
     Until I heard His voice inviting, 
        "Lift those empty hands to Me!" 

     Then I turned my hands toward heaven, 
        And He filled them with a store 
     Of His own transcendent riches, 
        'Till they could contain no more. 

     And at last I comprehended 
        With my stupid mind, and dull, 
     That God cannot pour His riches 
       Into hands already full. 

That's the problem. Like the Rich Young Ruler did, I invite you to come to Jesus. Fall at His feet. Ask Jesus to give you eternal life. Believe what Jesus says to you in His word. Follow Jesus today and every day of your life. You will inherit a problem-free life that will last forever and ever in heaven. Do you realize that when we get to heaven that we will all be rich young rulers?

Opening Hymn 245  More about Jesus
Scripture Reading: Mark 10:17-21
Closing Hymn 152   Tell Me the Story of Jesus

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