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“And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save One, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very ri«_” And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee. And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting”—Luke 18:18-30.
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The Lord Jesus Christ is not only a Saviour from judgment, but He is also the Lord of our life. In our unconverted days we lived for ourselves; we lived in different ways; we chose our own paths, but our one great object was to please self.
“I lived for myself, for myself alone,
For myself and none beside,
Just as if Jesus had never lived,
And as if He had never died.”
So our blessed Saviour came into this world to do more than to redeem us from our sins and from the judgment of God. He came to make us His own in a practical sense, that in all our ways down here on earth we might live to His glory. Instead of being self-centered, the child of God should be Christ-centered, able to say with the Apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ.” This comes out very clearly in the passage before us.
First we have the story of the rich young ruler: “And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” I do not know exactly what was in the mind of this young man when he used the term “eternal life.” It certainly could not mean to him all that it means to us. Our Lord Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Eternal life is that which gives the ability to enter into and enjoy fellowship with Divine Persons: the Father and the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Evidently this young man thought of eternal life as a happy experience and prolongation ,of human life here on earth, and assurance of happiness after death. He spoke from the standpoint of the law of Moses when he asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What must I do in order to be the possessor of this great blessing? Notice the way he addressed the Lord Jesus, “Good Master.” He acknowledged the Lord to be a Master, a Teacher, as thousands do today. Jesus said, “Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save One, that is, God.” Was He saying, “I am not God, and therefore you should not address Me as Good Master”? No; the Lord was testing this young ruler. No one is intrinsically good but God, and God was manifest in Christ. The question was, did this young man recognize Jesus as such? He did not. Then our Lord said to him, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother.” Now the law says that the man who obeys these commands shall live. The Lord Jesus mentioned only the commandments that have to do with the outward life, our relation to our fellow-men; He did not mention those that have to do with our relation to God. It was not what he was before God but what he appeared to be before his fellows that concerned the young man. He looked up complacently and said, “All these have I kept from my youth up.” Probably he was honest in saying that; possibly he had never been guilty of violating any of these commandments, but the Lord Jesus saw that he was resting in his own self-righteousness. To keep these commandments as they should be kept means more than simply refraining from overt acts of evil; it means to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and so the Lord now put this young man to the test by saying, “Yet lackest thou one thing.” Your life may be outwardly pure; it may be comparatively clean; in the eyes of your fellow-men you may be a very noble personage, but if you are living for self rather than for God, you are under the condemnation of the law. The Lord Jesus tested this young man in this way, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.” Did He mean that the way to obtain eternal life is by giving everything one possesses to the poor? Not at all; but He was testing this young man, who was egotistic and self-satisfied. Certainly there was nothing to be said against his moral character, but his life had been a selfish life; he had vast possessions; he had great riches, and men and women were living in poverty all about him; yet he continued to go on as he was and did not realize that God had entrusted him with this wealth that he might use it for Him. If God entrusts wealth to you, He makes you a steward, and you are to use your riches to the glory of God and to the blessing of mankind. If we fully surrender our lives and our possessions to the Lord Jesus we shall not be concerned about ourselves; we shall be concerned about the needs of others, and our one object will be to glorify the One who has redeemed us. So the test here is, will you let Christ be Lord of your life? We read that when the ruler heard these words he was very sorrowful, for he had great possessions, and he turned away. He did not meet the test which the Lord put to him. He refused the path of subjection to Christ. Many have taken the same course.
It is not wrong to be rich, but it is a terrible thing if riches keep you out of heaven. God giveth us richly all things to enjoy, but it is a catastrophe if one becomes so occupied with earthly treasure that he misses the path of eternal life as this man did.
“And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” It is difficult for one who has plenty of this world’s goods to realize his need and to come to God as a poor, poverty-stricken sinner. We know this is true practically, for there are very few of the great and wealthy of this world who have turned to Christ and put their lives under His control. Jesus said, “For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” You know the illustration that has been used so often— I presume it is correct: There is a little gate in one of the larger doors called the “needle’s eye”—I saw such gates when I was in Palestine—it was possibly the same in the time of our Lord. If a traveler reaches the city late at night and knocks at the gate, the guard from within will allow him to pass through the needle’s eye, but his camel has to kneel down in order to crawl through. The traveler’s goods have to be left outside until morning. So Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” The rich man has to unload; he has to turn over all he has to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The disciples were amazed when they heard this. They thought, as many think today, that it is poverty that keeps people out of the kingdom of God. If we could only do away with poverty, if we could eliminate the slums of our cities, then we could get people to turn to Christ! But it does not work that way. We read of “the poor of this world who are rich in faith.” Riches often prove a real hindrance to the salvation of the soul. The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” And our Lord replied, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” It is not impossible for the rich to be saved. It is possible for the wealthy to know Christ if they are willing to repent and trust Him and own Him as Lord, which will mean a complete revolution in the way they have lived.
Thank God there are those among the rich who have put their whole lives and riches in subjection to Christ. We have recently lost a man of God of our own city to whom the Lord entrusted ability and riches. He turned all he had over to the Lord. I refer to that merchant-prince, Mr. Henry P. Crowell. And there are other men like him; men whom the Lord can entrust with great wealth because they use it not for themselves but to the glory of God. On the other hand, because we are poor, we must not think that poverty is a title to heaven. Nothing of the kind. The poor and the rich meet together; they all need to be saved in the same way: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Speaking for the apostles, Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee.” There was not very much to leave. If I remember correctly, it was a boat and a broken net that Peter left behind, but it meant a lot to him—that fishing business in Capernaum. Jesus said, “Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Make Christ the Lord of your life; trust Him as your Saviour; yield your all to Him, and you will eventually receive more than you have ever left. God will see that it is made up to you in an abundant measure, for He tells us that He gives an hundredfold to all who yield themselves to Him; and one hundredfold is 10,000 per cent. Most of us are satisfied, in these days, if we can get three or four per cent on our investments. Yet we shrink from making an investment that would yield us 10,000 per cent! We are afraid to submit our lives into the hands of the Lord, but He never fails those who submit to Him. And when we come to the end of the way, how we shall praise Him that we ever heard His voice calling us to trust Him and to acknowledge His authority over our lives. We have eternal life now through faith, but when we reach the heavenly city we shall enter into everlasting life in all its glory.
There will be no one in that day who will look back and say, “I wish I had been more self-centered; I wish I had not been so devoted; I wish I had not yielded so much to Jesus Christ.” There will be no one who will speak like that in the coming day; but there will be many of us who will say, “I wish I had been more unselfish; I wish I had been more devoted; I wish I had yielded myself more definitely to the Lord Jesus Christ.” God grant that everyone of us may surrender our lives to Him and acknowledge Him in all our ways, that we may walk as He would have us walk as we go through this scene.