Over the past 30 years I fear that the Evangelical church has made a tremendous mistake. Somehow we have muddied up the clear and simple message of the Gospel to the point where people confuse being religious with being redeemed. Our New Testament passage for today’s reading addresses this same issue.
The combined readings of the synoptic Gospels gives us further understanding of this young man. He was a man of good reputation. He had been made a lay leader within his Synagogue. He was successful. We know because we are told he was rich and owned much property. He was raised in a good home and had been taught religious things from the time of his childhood. But Jesus told him that he lacked one thing, saving faith.
Here is where we get it muddled up. It’s not in giving away your possessions and taking a vow of poverty. It’s not in keeping the Ten Commandments or in going to church. The answer is found in simple childlike faith.
Just before this encounter Jesus had told His followers “I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it."
We are told that this young man went away “...sorrowful, for he was very rich.” He was unwilling to repent from his life and to turn to Jesus and accept Him.
My father was a functioning alcoholic. Every weekday of my childhood my father went to a bar after work and drank in excess. He only left the bar to come home at closing time. His weekends were spent in all night poker games. When I shared the Gospel with him he would always respond by saying “I’m not good enough.” He was right. None of us are. My father would say, “One day I’ll get it together and then I will come to God.”
The good news is that Jesus came and lived a Holy and Righteous life. He gave Himself to redeem us out of our sins and fallen-ness and accepts and meet us right where we are. As Paul said in Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
One evening I received a phone call from my older brother. He was living with my father at that time. “Tim, Daddy wants to know how to be saved!” Before leaving home to drive to my father’s house I called a preacher friend to go with me (a prophet is only without honor in his own hometown). That night at the same kitchen table where I grew up eating as a child, my father at the age of 91 repented of his sins and accepted God’s gift of Salvation. On the way home this song was in my heart.
Just as I am, without one plea But that Thy blood was shed for me And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee O Lamb of God, I come! I come