Participants: Mike Leno
Series Code: FC
Program Code: FC000040
00:29 No one ever left the presence of Jesus feeling sad.
00:34 Now they went away feeling a variety of other things,
00:38 for example, some people left feeling ecstatic,
00:40 they'd just been healed, other people left feeling peaceful,
00:44 they had just been forgiven.
00:46 Some left Jesus' presence feeling challenged, they said:
00:50 "Never a man spoke like this man. "
00:53 Other people left feeling angry, they hated his influence
00:56 on the people. Some even felt murderous
01:00 and they plotted his death.
01:01 But no one ever left feeling sad, no one except a certain
01:07 young man we call the rich young ruler.
01:12 Why was he sad? Very simply because his best
01:17 was not good enough. Now this was not some low life
01:22 trash on the street kind of sinner.
01:26 This was not someone who had rebelliously
01:30 lived a life of debauchery and sin,
01:33 this was a person who did his best his entire life;
01:37 from the time he was a little child he learned the scriptures.
01:40 The Rabbinical schools had given him a wonderful education,
01:45 he had risen through the ranks.
01:46 He was now a leader in the synagogue, he was wealthy,
01:50 which is why we know him as the rich young ruler.
01:55 So why was he sad? Why was his best not good enough for Jesus?
02:01 Perhaps you remember the old Greek myth about Sisyphus.
02:05 Remember Sisyphus? Sisyphus made the gods angry
02:09 according to this ancient myth, and because he made the gods
02:13 angry, we won't go into all the details about that, it's much
02:16 too complicated, but he was, according to the myth,
02:20 doomed or sentenced to spend all the rest of eternity doing
02:24 a rather strange thing: he had to take a very large
02:28 boulder, so big that he couldn't possibly pick it up, but he had
02:34 to roll it up to the top of a mountain and just before
02:39 he reached the top of the mountain the boulder
02:42 would suddenly lurch and roll all the way down to the bottom,
02:46 and he had to keep repeating that over and over again.
02:50 Every time, just before he would get that boulder
02:53 up to the top of the mountain
02:55 it would roll all the way to the bottom again.
02:59 My friends, you may feel like that today,
03:02 you may have felt like that your whole life
03:05 when it came to Christian perfection.
03:07 You may have felt like the harder you tried and the closer
03:12 you felt like you were coming to the goal,
03:16 the more you kept rolling back down to the bottom again.
03:20 Well, if you feel that way
03:23 there's good news in our message today.
03:25 There's good news in this story of the rich young ruler,
03:28 because you see, the rich young ruler gave his best,
03:32 and yet it was not good enough for Jesus.
03:35 We need to turn to Matthew 19 to discuss this story.
03:40 According to the Bible the rich young ruler came to Jesus
03:43 and said: "What good thing must I do to attain eternal life?"
03:50 Jesus looked at the rich young ruler, according to Mark it says
03:54 He looked at him and loved him.
03:57 He looked at the rich young ruler and said:
04:00 "Well, have you kept the commandments?"
04:03 and Jesus listed off a number of the 10 commandments.
04:07 The rich young ruler started feeling all good about himself
04:10 and smiling, he looked back at Jesus and said:
04:13 "Why, I've kept those ever since I was a youth. "
04:17 "Well," Jesus said "if you want to be perfect"
04:22 "then go sell all of your possessions,"
04:25 "give them to the poor and then come and follow Me. "
04:30 And that's when the Bible says that the rich young ruler
04:34 turned away and went away sad because he had great wealth.
04:42 In every Biblical passage, especially those
04:45 that might be a little bit hard to understand
04:48 there's a technique to understanding the passage
04:51 and that is: if there's a statement or story,
04:54 or something acted out,
04:57 as in this story of the rich young ruler,
04:59 one of the clues we can get to the meaning of the story with
05:02 is to look at the reaction of the people
05:04 who were the onlookers,
05:05 especially the disciples in this case.
05:08 If we go to Matthew 19:25,26, we find out
05:12 what their reaction was: [text on screen]
05:35 The disciples had just seen one of their young heroes,
05:42 it would be like watching a heavy weight boxing match
05:47 and your hero, whoever it might be, had just lost,
05:54 and then have someone turn to you and say:
05:56 "Okay, he just lost, now why don't you get in the ring"
05:59 "and see if you can fight the champion?"
06:02 And you would say the same thing the disciples said
06:05 as they watched this rich young ruler.
06:07 "If he can't make it, then what hope do the rest of us have?"
06:11 "Who else can be saved?" said the disciples.
06:15 What we have here is a clash of realities.
06:20 We could it call a clash of paradigms.
06:24 Back in the 70's a very interesting book
06:27 was published called
06:28 "The History of Scientific Revelations" by Kuhn.
06:32 What the author basically defined was
06:36 the role of paradigms
06:39 in the way thought changes,
06:41 especially in scientific circles.
06:43 For example: Newtonian Physics described reality
06:47 in a certain way, but once Einstein's theory of relativity
06:51 came along and became well known and accepted,
06:55 that paradigm completely replaced
06:58 the old Newtonian paradigm.
07:01 The idea of paradigm has been picked up
07:03 by various other disciplines, such as psychology, education
07:07 and even in the corporate world.
07:09 People who suddenly shift to a new paradigm see reality
07:13 in an entirely different way. Well, I'd like to suggest
07:17 that what we have going on here
07:20 is the rich young ruler's paradigm
07:22 was being challenged by the paradigm of grace.
07:27 The rich young ruler had operated
07:29 under the paradigm of merit, and Jesus
07:32 was challenging him with the paradigm
07:34 of the kingdom, which was not a paradigm of merit,
07:38 but a paradigm of grace.
07:40 You see, when Jesus confronted the rich young ruler,
07:45 He was confronting a person who had his act together.
07:49 I mean, he had lived the commandments
07:51 ever since he was a youth. And you might expect Jesus
07:54 to praise him for this, you might expect Jesus to say:
07:58 "Why you good boy you!"
08:00 "You're a wonderful rich young ruler. Enter my kingdom,"
08:04 "I wish I had more people like you. "
08:06 But instead, Jesus challenged him using his own paradigm.
08:11 In fact, He required something so great and so impossible
08:17 that the rich young ruler had to admit
08:20 that his best was not good enough.
08:25 What did He ask him to do?
08:27 Basically, what He told the rich young ruler to do
08:31 was to take the results of his life's work,
08:35 all of that merit he had as illustrated by the wealth,
08:40 take everything that he had earned and give it to people
08:45 who hadn't earned it.
08:49 Ouch, no wonder he left feeling sorrowful.
08:52 The poor guy had just been knocked off his pedestal.
08:54 Everything he'd worked for his entire life
08:57 had just been blown away by Jesus.
08:59 And he couldn't handle the shift in paradigm,
09:04 that's why he left feeling sad.
09:07 Now some explain this passage by saying:
09:09 "Well, what Jesus really meant was not necessarily"
09:13 "give away your money. "
09:15 "What Jesus meant was to get rid of whatever comes"
09:18 "between you and God, whatever that is,"
09:20 "it might be different for you than it is for me. "
09:22 "It might be money for you, but it might be
09:24 "something else for me. " Well, that is true,
09:26 that is absolutely true, we should get rid of whatever
09:30 comes between us and God, but that's not the whole truth.
09:35 You see, wealth and position and owning good things
09:40 are not bad in themselves.
09:43 You see, if Jesus had asked the rich young ruler
09:45 to give up smoking, gambling illicit sex, drugs,
09:48 rock and roll, why, the rich young ruler would have
09:50 given it up in a heartbeat; and added a few more merit badges
09:55 and trophies to his trophy case. You see, the rich young ruler
10:02 came to Jesus with his collection of merit badges,
10:06 with his trophy case full of trophies
10:08 of all of his wonderful works
10:10 that he had done his entire life.
10:13 Hoping to receive some commendation from Jesus,
10:19 that he was, after all, ahead of the game.
10:23 The disciples certainly looked at him that way.
10:25 They saw the rich young ruler as the rising star among them.
10:33 But the rich young ruler had to give up everything
10:35 he had earned; everything that was a sign
10:38 of his goodness and worthiness. You see, in those days,
10:42 physical wealth was a sign of spiritual wealth.
10:48 Now this notion of being perfect
10:51 is something that Jesus had already talked about.
10:54 We need to turn back to Matthew 5,
10:57 back to Jesus' sermon on the mount,
11:00 where He talked about perfection.
11:02 In Matthew 5, Jesus gives many wonderful statements.
11:10 In the midst of chapter 5,
11:12 in the midst of this sermon on the mount, He gives his famous
11:16 "You have heard, but I tell you" statements.
11:20 "You have heard not to murder, commit adultery"
11:25 "divorce, taking oaths, revenge and hating your enemies. "
11:28 And for each one of those categories,
11:30 Jesus had a higher standard for righteousness,
11:36 for what that really meant.
11:38 Finally Jesus comes down to the conclusion where He says:
11:43 "You should love your enemies. "
11:48 As an example of how you should love your enemies,
11:51 He sights God's practice of
11:54 causing His sun to rise on the evil and the good,
11:58 and sending rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
12:01 In other words, God loves his enemies.
12:05 In other words, God is not just good to those
12:08 who are good to Him, God is good to everybody.
12:11 In other words, God's idea of perfection is to be merciful.
12:18 To not just love those who love you,
12:21 but love those hate you too. God's idea of perfection
12:25 is not just to be merciful to those who, we say, deserve it,
12:30 but to be merciful to those who don't deserve it.
12:32 And then He makes his famous statement in Matthew 5:46-48
12:40 [text on screen]
13:06 What is perfection according to Jesus?
13:09 Is perfection a lifetime of obeying
13:13 the commandments perfectly? Well, that's a good thing.
13:17 Jesus said He did not come to do away with the law,
13:21 He fulfilled the law rather, but His idea of perfection went
13:26 far beyond that. His perfection had to do with mercy
13:30 and patience and love to those who were
13:34 not fulfilling the commandments as perfectly as they might.
13:40 He was telling the rich young ruler:
13:42 "You have heard that having all the advantages"
13:44 "of a good upbringing, having a thorough education in the law,"
13:47 "and having faithfully kept each commandment from your youth up"
13:51 "gives you a spiritual advantage. "
13:54 "You have heard that receiving the blessings of God"
13:56 "in both spiritual and material things"
13:59 "makes you superior to others. "
14:02 "And that using your God given opportunities"
14:04 "to better yourself has made you almost perfect. "
14:08 "But I tell you, perfection does not have to do with"
14:13 "what you deserve, it has to do with love and mercy;"
14:18 "giving people what they don't deserve. "
14:22 "That's why you need to drop everything"
14:24 "and follow Me. "
14:26 "You do not yet lack just one thing,"
14:29 "you lack everything. " said Jesus.
14:32 "You have heard that having material riches"
14:34 "is the same as having spiritual riches. "
14:36 "But I tell you, those who are poor and follow Me"
14:40 are rich in what really counts."
14:45 We still have a hard time today
14:48 understanding what Jesus meant to the rich young ruler.
14:52 And I think it's basically because we
14:56 in our natural human inclinations are stuck
14:59 in the old paradigm, the paradigm of merit.
15:03 How many of us would rather earn something
15:06 than have something given to us? Have you ever that old phrase
15:11 "I don't want any charity"?
15:13 That's because our natural human instinct is to make
15:17 ourselves superior, or at least think of ourselves as such.
15:21 We want to get something because we deserve it,
15:25 we want to get something because we earned it,
15:28 and that carries over into our spiritual life
15:31 in a very damaging way.
15:32 So we come to Jesus just like the rich young ruler,
15:35 with our collection of merit badges, and our trophy case
15:38 full of trophies of all the battles that we've won,
15:40 of all the commandments that we've kept
15:42 and all the progress we've made in developing our characters.
15:45 We say to Jesus "Certainly, doesn't this get us something?"
15:50 and when Jesus tells us to give it all away to those
15:52 who haven't earned a thing we're tempted
15:55 to walk away sorrowfully, just like that rich young ruler.
16:00 Not only that, it not only affects the way we relate to God
16:05 but it affects the way we relate to other people, other sinners.
16:11 Let me tell you the story of Luke,
16:13 and this is not Luke in the Bible,
16:15 this is Luke from Bozeman, Montana.
16:19 Luke had a rough life, in fact, he was born
16:24 to a single mother, an alcoholic,
16:29 who passed on to him
16:31 fetal alcohol syndrome.
16:33 So he had a rough upbringing. In school he was disruptive,
16:38 he was disobedient, he couldn't pay attention to his studies.
16:43 Generally, the only way he got through school
16:46 with any kind of success was through athletics.
16:50 Once he graduated from high school
16:54 Luke basically lived for sex and drugs, and that was about all.
17:01 By the time his pastor got to know him, he was just a drifter.
17:08 Oh, he was in love with a certain woman in town,
17:12 but his personality and his habits were such
17:17 that he had a hard time maintaining a relationship,
17:20 or commitment of any kind. His pastor only noticed him
17:24 because he was the guy with the long blond hair
17:27 parted down the middle that sat in the back of the church
17:31 with his feet propped up and how much he paid attention
17:34 to what happened in the church was anybody's guess.
17:39 Well, Luke kept coming to church however sporadically,
17:44 and in spite of the fact that the pastor and many other people
17:50 just couldn't understand why Luke
17:52 wouldn't get his act together.
17:55 Luke kept coming to the pastor,
17:58 even on one to one type of consultations to try to find
18:04 some kind of resolution to his feelings of emptiness.
18:09 He would tell his pastor:
18:10 "Look, all I want is to settle down"
18:13 "and to have a normal family and to feel"
18:16 "like I'm right with God. "
18:18 And then he would go out then next day
18:21 and go to bars and pick up girls and shoot drugs
18:24 and generally live a lifestyle that was totally against
18:29 the Christian lifestyle. His pastor felt, many times,
18:36 like he should walk in and
18:38 deliver some kind of ultimatum kind of speech:
18:41 "Luke, if you don't get your act together"
18:43 "then don't try to talk to me about how you want peace"
18:48 "with God and a normal family. "
18:49 "You're doing everything to undermine it. "
18:51 "So, don't even come talk to me if you're not going to get"
18:54 "your act together. " The pastor said later, fortunately
18:58 he never delivered any of those speeches.
19:01 Finally, one day, Luke called his pastor.
19:05 His pastor could tell there was something different
19:07 just in the sound of his voice.
19:10 When he came into his office he said, simply:
19:14 "I have AIDS." He had gone to another city
19:18 and shared needles and girls and came down with AIDS.
19:27 He was devastated.
19:29 His pastor, of course, promised to be with him
19:31 through his illness; to pray for him.
19:34 But Luke wanted God to heal him.
19:36 "Why couldn't God heal him?" he said.
19:41 Well, Luke kind of drifted in and out of the church life,
19:46 and in and out of the pastor's awareness.
19:49 He moved in with a family out on a ranch
19:54 and did odd jobs for them. On Sundays they would feed him,
19:59 in the afternoon they would spend hours
20:01 counseling with him.
20:04 No one, not the pastor,
20:07 not this couple who hired him,
20:08 no one could see any progress in Luke's life.
20:12 He was still the same slave to his old lifestyle
20:16 as he always was.
20:18 Even while he was going around the country
20:21 as part of an AIDS awareness program,
20:23 telling people how to protect themselves,
20:26 he was still living his old lifestyle.
20:29 But still he would come back to the pastor
20:31 and want some kind of resolution,
20:33 some kind of peace with God,
20:36 some kind of peace that he couldn't have.
20:43 And then one day the pastor got a call from the hospital.
20:49 It was actually Luke calling from a hospital room.
20:54 And he went in to see him.
20:57 He discovered that Luke was now in the later stages
21:01 of his disease.
21:05 Once again, Luke wanted to find
21:07 some kind of resolution, some kind of closure,
21:11 some kind of peace, to know that he was right with God.
21:18 The conversation was still as frustrating
21:21 as all of those other conversations that the pastor
21:24 had had with Luke.
21:26 Luke would ask those tough questions, like:
21:29 "Why can't I change my life?"
21:31 "Why can't I have a normal life?"
21:34 "Why can't I do this? Why can't I do that?"
21:37 "And why can't I find peace with God?"
21:39 "Why can't I just have a normal relationship with a woman?"
21:42 "Why can't I just settle down and have a family?"
21:45 All those tough questions that went straight to the heart
21:49 of his broken human condition
21:52 that he had lived with his whole life.
21:56 The pastor would fumble around for answers as best he could
22:00 then he would leave, both of them being frustrated.
22:04 Luke would be angry and the pastor would be disappointed
22:07 in himself for not having better answers.
22:11 It was Christmas Day.
22:14 The pastor decided he needed to go in and see Luke.
22:20 So on Christmas Day he went into the hospital room
22:22 and there was Luke lying in the bed.
22:25 Luke hardly even paid attention to him,
22:27 he was watching his Lakers play on television.
22:31 And so the pastor stayed and watched the game
22:34 for a little while and then just silently left
22:38 without saying goodbye.
22:41 A few days later
22:43 Luke called
22:45 The pastor went in, probably neither one of them knew
22:52 that this was the last time
22:56 Luke would ever enter the hospital.
23:00 It would be one of the last times
23:01 that he would ever talk to the pastor.
23:05 Lying there in the bed Luke looked up to the pastor
23:10 and there was new look on his face.
23:13 He said: "Pastor,"
23:19 "I'm ready now. "
23:21 Pastor said: "What do you mean?"
23:23 "What do you mean you're ready?" He said: "I'm ready"
23:28 "to give my whole self to God. "
23:32 "I get it now. " he said.
23:38 Not really knowing what to expect, but rejoicing silently,
23:43 the pastor had a very special prayer with Luke at that moment.
23:48 He prayed with Luke and he invited Luke
23:51 to give his heart to God, to confess his sins completely,
23:55 to forsake his sins and to accept the complete forgiveness
24:00 and acceptance from God, knowing that from that moment
24:05 he was completely free of sin and completely accepted
24:09 and forgiven and loved by God.
24:13 When the pastor opened his eyes,
24:16 he saw Luke lying very still
24:19 and after a few moments Luke opened his eyes
24:23 and it was over.
24:27 His struggle against himself was over.
24:31 You see, his whole life he had been trying hard to do things,
24:37 whether it was illicit sex, or drugs or whatever it was,
24:42 he was trying to do things to make himself feel accepted.
24:48 He was trying to do things to make himself feel better
24:51 about himself.
24:53 And now, finally, on his death bed he had accepted
24:57 what he had been trying to do all along in different ways.
25:07 Let's turn to Isaiah 55:8,9.
25:15 God has been talking here
25:17 through the prophet Isaiah about how He is merciful
25:22 not just to his own people, Israel,
25:25 but to nations that didn't even know his name.
25:28 God has been talking in this chapter,
25:30 about He will summon nations that He knows not.
25:35 He's been talking here, about
25:36 how the wicked are free to forsake their way
25:40 and come to the Lord at any time,
25:42 and that God will accept them.
25:44 And then He says in Isaiah 55:8,9. [text on screen]
26:03 You know, we sometimes use this text to show how high God is,
26:08 how much superior He is to us,
26:11 and how much perfection we have to learn to get up to His level.
26:16 Actually, what this text is talking about
26:19 is how merciful God is.
26:21 How our human inclination is not to forgive people.
26:24 If they're not part of our group,
26:26 if they're not part of the people who are learning
26:28 the same things we are, and experiencing
26:30 the same things we are, we don't have too much mercy for them.
26:34 But God says: "My thoughts are not your thoughts. "
26:36 "I have mercy on everyone. I forgive them. "
26:39 And just like it was illustrated in the story of Luke,
26:43 God has far more patience, far more love,
26:46 far more mercy, than we every have.
26:50 And that's why we need to be perfect as God is perfect.
26:54 We need to have mercy as He has mercy.
26:57 Instead of asking ourselves
27:00 and others around us to come to God
27:01 with all of our trophy cases full of trophies,
27:04 and our merit badges of good works in order to be accepted,
27:07 we need to come as we are, and we need to teach other people
27:10 to come as they are.
27:13 Most of us are somewhere between Luke and the rich young ruler.
27:16 We struggle with our past, our habits,
27:18 but we also have the advantages of a good church
27:21 and we make progress in keeping the commandments.
27:24 But in reality, we're no better than either Luke,
27:28 or the rich young ruler.
27:31 But we don't know that until our hard effort
27:33 is ready to kill us.
27:35 It's not that what we're doing is the wrong thing,
27:37 it's why we're doing it that makes it wrong.
27:40 And when the effort almost kills us
27:42 we cry out: "My best will never be good enough. "
27:45 And at that moment we are closer to heaven
27:48 than we've ever been in our lives.
27:52 When we realize, as the rich young ruler did,
27:54 that the one thing we lack is everything,
27:56 we can find with great joy that Jesus is everything.
28:01 [Music for credits]