Searching for Assurance
Observing religious rules and regulations in an attempt to gain acceptance into heaven doesn’t produce a sense of peace and security or assurance of forgiveness. Nor does it gain us eternal life.
It was a lack of assurance of forgiveness that drove this young man to approach Jesus and boldly ask his question. He was rich; Luke adds the detail that he was a ruler, powerful and influential (Luke 18:18)—the kind of person the world looks up to and considers blessed. Not only that, but he was serious about keeping God’s commands (Matthew 19:20). We are supposed to look at him and think, “If anyone would make it to eternal life, surely it is this man.”
So this man probably expected Jesus to pat him on the back for his extensive rule-following and assure him of his heavenly reward. But instead, Jesus gently pointed out that he had not kept God’s law perfectly. Indeed, the young man had broken the very first commandment: instead of loving God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, he had worshiped his wealth, as was evidenced by the fact that he “went away” from Jesus when asked to choose between his Master and his money. Jesus showed this man that God’s commandments are not a ladder we climb to reach His acceptance but a mirror revealing our true spiritual condition.
At his core, the rich young ruler had a heart problem. That’s our problem too. The Bible says we are born at odds with God and are unable to put ourselves in right relationship with Him. We haven’t loved God with all of our heart, for we have loved other things more than Him.
The young ruler’s inability to obey God’s law and love God as he should have is our inability as well. No one has, no one can, and no one will ever love God and keep His commands perfectly, except Jesus Himself. But this is actually good news! Salvation does not depend on us and what we do. Rather, peace, security, forgiveness, and right standing before God come when we cast ourselves on His mercy: when we accept His offer of salvation as a free gift that cannot be earned or bought and when we bow down in humility and gratitude before the provision that Jesus made by His atoning death on the cross.
This man did not have to walk away in sadness from his encounter with Jesus. He could have given up his pride and self-sufficiency. He could have known the joy of placing Jesus first rather than the nagging sorrow of trusting to his own goodness and clinging to his wealth. Self-reliance will always prove futile and induce anxiety, for us no less than for him. But if we will go before our Savior in childlike faith and trust, we can experience true peace and the assurance of eternal life. So enthrone Jesus in your heart and be prepared to place all that you are and have in His service. Come to Jesus with empty hands, and know the joy and life He gives.
The Rich Young Man
16And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world,2 when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold3 and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
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