The Rich Young Ruler

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“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

“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 rich.” ~ Luke 18:18-23

A wealthy young ruler came to Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to gain eternal life. And Jesus uses this opportunity as a teachable moment for the young ruler, his disciples and for us today.

This was the second time that someone had asked Jesus, “…what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” On the first occasion (Luke 10:25) Jesus responded with a direct answer:

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he [Jesus] said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. ~ Luke 10:27-28

Clearly Jesus’ prescription for inheriting eternal life (which the Bible also, interchangeably, refers to as “Salvation” or “The Kingdom of God”) does not vary, but while He focused on the link between salvation and our attitude to our brother in the first instance (Luke 10:25-37), now Jesus focuses on the link between salvation and our attitude towards God.

How can we Inherit Eternal Life?

The prevailing philosophy among the Jews at the time was legalism: that Eternal life was inherited by those who followed every letter of the Law. However, as Jesus had earlier declared salvation was inherited by those who loved God and their brother.

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

Moreover, Jesus had spent much of His ministry teaching that it wasn’t the letter of the Law that was important; what was important was the spirit of the Law: i.e., that the Law had no relevance except in its expression of the love of God and your brother. Furthermore, Jesus explained that to inherit eternal life (to see the Kingdom of God) one must first be “born again”

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ~ John 3:3

In other words eternal life does not come by what we do outwardly, but by what God does inwardly with our hearts/minds.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. ~ Galatians 6:14-16

What Jesus does in this passage is guide the rich young ruler (and us) into seeing two obstacles, between God and man, which hinder the inheritance of eternal life. Significantly, Jesus does this within the framework of the Law, thereby allowing us to have the true understanding of the real purpose of the Law.

Who can we get Eternal Life from?

Though Jesus does not spend a lot of time on it, the first obstacle is identifying the source of eternal life. So, Jesus began by asking the young man: “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God”. Or, in other words, Jesus was asking him “Do you realize that I am God, the source of eternal life?” This is a key point, because, if the young man realized that Jesus was in fact God and not just another rabbi, then he would have made the first crucial step towards inheriting eternal life.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. ~ John 14:6

The sinful nature of mankind makes it impossible for us to be declared good (righteous) on our own. Therefore, an inescapable prerequisite to inheriting eternal life is recognizing the need for a Saviour and that Jesus ALONE is that Saviour. If we don’t know we need Salvation we won’t look for it. And, if we don’t know who provides Salvation then we won’t know who to get it from.

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! ~ Romans 10:14-15

What is Eternal Life Worth?

Jesus then turned His attention to the second obstacle (between God an man) to salvation. And as Jesus continued to address the young man’s question, He went where the young ruler was most comfortable: the Law. Specifically, Jesus points to the five commandments that, from a legalistic viewpoint, are perhaps the easiest to comply with: “do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother”. The young man declares that he has indeed kept these commandments from his youth. (Notice that Jesus did not challenge the accuracy of his statement.) This was his comfort zone, he could legalistically verify his compliance with these commandments. If obeying these commandments were the key to inheriting eternal life, then he was set!

Now that he was feeling good about himself, it was the perfect time to “drop the bombshell”. Jesus confronts the young man about his standing with the tenth commandment—i.e., “thou shalt not covet…” (Exodus 20:17). The confrontation takes the form of a challenge to the rich young ruler to sell all he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and THEN follow Jesus. Jesus could have just asked the young man whether or not he had a problem with covetousness. But that approach would have been easy to deflect without forcing the young man to look deeply into his own heart/soul.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

To understand what Jesus was doing we first have to understand what it is to covet. In Biblical usage, to covet means to desire something/anything that God has not given to you whether it be a person, or an animal, or something material (Exodus 20:17, Micah 2:2). In other words, to covet is to deny the sufficiency of God’s provision. Therefore, covetousness elevates the material over the spiritual. Consequently, covetousness is the root of materialism (idolatry).

…no… covetous man, who is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. ~ Ephesians 5:5

covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience ~ Colossians 3:5-6

By definition an idol is something/anything that takes the rightful place of God in our lives. Therefore, since covetousness is idolatry, it clearly is an obstacle for Salvation; it makes it impossible to inherit eternal life.
Conversely, Jesus makes it clear that it is ONLY when covetousness is removed that the pathway to eternal life opens up:

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. ~ Matthew 19:29

In other words, Jesus asked the young man to relinquish his material to gain the Spiritual; to give up remuneration to get Salvation. The young man had to consider whether his wealth meant more to him than the chance to be saved. Did he value the temporal more than the eternal? Were his possessions an obstacle to Salvation? Was he covetous?

Jesus told two parables that help us understand why His challenge to the young man was crucial in answering the young man’s original question: “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

  1. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” (Matthew 13:44)
  2. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

In both parables, the men that found the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e., Salvation) valued it so highly that they sold ALL they had to obtain it. So Jesus was really asking the rich young ruler: “How valuable is the Kingdom of Heaven to you?” “Is Salvation valuable enough for you to give up everything to get it?”

The implication of Jesus’ challenge to the young man is that Salvation was only available to those who valued it FAR above everything else. Conversely, if material things, money, possessions, popularity, power, pleasure, even people, are just as important as Salvation then it is not available to you. Salvation is so precious that one can have nothing else with it. For Salvation to come to our lives, it must displace everything from our lives. Jesus described salvation as a narrow gate one so narrow that you have to shed everything in your life to get through it.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-15

Jesus’ challenge to the rich young ruler also applies to each of us: rich or poor, young or old, powerful or powerless. If to gain Salvation meant losing everything we enjoy in life, would we still take it? When He challenged the young ruler (and to us) to give up all he had, Jesus had already given up everything (Isaiah 53:1-12, Philippians 2:5-11) He had in heaven AND was about to bear the burden of all our sins and sacrifice His life to provide us with the gift of Eternal Life.

That’s how much He valued Salvation!!!

The gift of Salvation didn’t come cheaply, it cost Him everything. Accordingly, this valuable gift is not available to those who don’t recognize its value. If Salvation means ANYTHING to us, it must be EVERYTHING to us. How much are you willing to lose just to get Salvation? How much is too much to lose to get Salvation? Are we more afraid of a life without God or a life without things? Can we be happy and secure with God and without things?

Eternal Life can’t be earned, it is a Priceless Gift from God

“…God Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8c-10)

At the end of this encounter with Jesus, the rich young ruler was very sorrowful. Moreover, in the accounts of Matthew and Mark, we are told He went away grieved/sorrowful (Matthew 19:22, Mark 10:22). The rich young ruler recognized that his covetousness was what was preventing him from receiving eternal life. And, he understood that he was not yet in the place where he valued salvation above everything else.

But this was good news!!! At least he knew where he was and where he needed to go. He knew he would have to discard his legalistic approach to life and ask God to search his heart and renew his mind. That salvation is a relationship with God that transforms a way of life and NOT a way of life that earns a relationship with God.

Many, many people claim salvation without ever facing up to Jesus’ challenge, without ever evaluating how much salvation really meant to them. It is not sufficient to simply acknowledge God and live “good” lives. The rich young ruler did both but was still unsaved. We must come to the place where Salvation is more important to us than anything else in life, only then will we be in a position to receive the gift of eternal life, to enter into the Kingdom of God.

  • Am I saved?
  • Is salvation more important to me than anything else in my life?
  • How should Salvation be presented? Is “pray this prayer after me…” enough?
  • Is being “good” good enough?
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Order my Steps in Thy Word (Psalm 119:133-134)

“Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.”
~ Psalm 119:133-134

Elijah and the Captains of Fifty | The Good, The Bad and the Uh… Seriously??

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Then the king [Ahaziah] sent unto him [Elijah] a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, “Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.”
And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty.” And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, “O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.”
And Elijah answered and said unto them, “If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty.” And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, “O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight. Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.”
And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, “Go down with him: be not afraid of him.” And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.
~ 2 Kings 1:9-15

The Second Book of Kings opens up with king Ahaziah of Israel (the northern kingdom) injuring himself badly in a fall. Instead of seeking God, he sent his servants to inquire from the idol Baalzebub to find out whether he will recover or not. On the way, the prophet Elijah met them. Elijah expressed God’s displeasure with king Ahaziah’s idolatry and prophesied his death from his injury.

For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods. ~ Psalm 97:9

When Ahaziah heard the prophecy, he angrily sent his soldiers (in groups of fifty plus a captain) to capture Elijah. The first captain with his fifty men confronted Elijah and demanded he come with them, because the king (Ahaziah) ordered it. Notably, the captain addressed Elijah as “man of God”, which is a way of saying “servant of Elohim”.

Elohim was the first name God used in the Scripture (Genesis 1:1) to identify Himself as he initiated the creation of the universe. The scene between Elijah and the Soldiers can then be described as one in which the servant of an earthly king is ordering the servant of the King of the universe to obey his king. This was a grave error for the captain and his men. If Elijah went with them, because of Ahaziah’s order, it would mean Ahaziah was a bigger, more powerful, king that Elohim.

Elijah’s response to the captain’s demand, therefore, was to simply, but quite devastatingly, to ask God (Elohim) to clarify who was the real King: “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty.” In other words, Elijah responded to the captain: “Let’s see whose King is bigger”. The captain came with fifty men to apprehend the (singular) man of God. Who would win this battle?

The Scripture tells us that fire did come down from heaven and consume the captain and his fifty men. Elohim’s army was more powerful, much more powerful.

Just like the captain and Elijah, we must wrestle/confront the same two questions: “Who is king?’ and “Which king am I serving?” It is clear that the first captain never properly recognized that God was King with total power and that he was serving an earthly king with no real power. Many are like that captain, never truly acknowledging Elohim as Lord of the universe and never choosing to serve Him. And just like that captain they are in danger of being consumed by fire:

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire ~ Revelation 20:15

Conversely, the servants of Elohim, who recognize Him as King of the universe and King of their lives, have nothing to fear as they walk in His will. Elijah could stare down the captain and his fifty soldiers because he knew God was in perfect control of the situation. What could fifty-one soldiers do to overcome a servant of God? Could fifty-one soldiers overcome the power of God?

Like Elijah, believers should never live in fear of what men can do because we know the security of living in the service of the Almighty, Elohim. No one can harm us as we walk in His will.

Elijah’s and our only fear is to walk/live outside of the will of God. Certainly, if believers choose to live like the captain, ignoring the Lordship of Elohim over their lives, then there is much to fear. As Jesus told His disciples:

Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. ~ 1 Chronicles 29:11

Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ~ Matthew 10:28

After the first captain and his fifty men had lost their lives, king Ahaziah sent a second detail to arrest Elijah. Sadly, they made the same errors of judgment as the first detail, and suffered the same fate. So, king Ahaziah sent out a third detail of men. However, this time there is a change.

The third captain, having seen the fate that befell his two predecessors, decided to think more carefully about the situation. The first thing he realized is that Elohim is King: “and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him”. The third captain realized that he should not make any demands of the servant of the Most High, Elohim. But that he should plead with Elohim’s servant to ask Elohim, the true King, for mercy on him and his soldiers. It mattered not what king Ahaziah had said, it mattered only what Elohim, the King of the Universe, would declare.

The third captain got it right!  Knowing that rejection of God as his King meant a fiery death, he reconsidered his allegiances: Oh, that we would all do the same!

Undoubtedly, king Ahaziah could arrest and even execute him if he returned without Elijah. But the third captain realized, as should we, that the Ultimate power belonged to God. Earthly king Ahaziah could do nothing (to Elijah or him) without Elohim’s permission.

However, the third captain teaches us one more lesson: the primacy of wisdom over experience. It is often (wrongly) said that “Experience if the best teacher.” However, that is very far from the truth; just ask the first and second captains. When the first and second platoons experienced the wrath of God, it was too late to learn from it.

Similarly, when a speeding driver crashes and dies, it’s too late for him/her to learn the importance of safe driving. Or when a teen overdoses on drugs and dies it also too late for them to learn the dangers of substance abuse. And when Jesus returns as King of Kings, it will be too late for unbelievers to learn the dangers of unbelief.

The third captain, learned from the experience of OTHERS!!! He looked on the situation and refused to ignore the obvious: Elohim alone is King. He didn’t have to experience the wrath of God himself to know it is true. Wisdom taught him to humble himself before Elohim:

O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. ~ Isaiah 25:1

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. ~ Proverbs 15:33

To live life victoriously we don’t need experiences, we need wisdom. We need God to teach us to walk in humble obedience to Him. He will guide us and He will protect us.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? ~ Micah 6:8

The third captain realized that, and it saved his life and the life of his men.

Finally, the story ends with the most ironic of twists: God told Elijah to go with the third captain to Ahaziah. This means that the first and second captains could have accomplished their tasks if they had only humbled themselves to God!!!

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility. ~ Proverbs 18:12

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life. ~ Proverbs 22:4

The third captain was able to accomplish what his predecessors couldn’t and so he would receive honor in king Ahaziah’s courts. But the honor came because he humbled himself to the real King, Elohim.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. ~ Matthew 6:33

Likewise if we humble ourselves to God, we too will enjoy success (as God defines it) in this earthly life and in eternity; and we will avoid the fires of judgment. Don’t force God to show you who is King: serve Him and be fireproof; challenge Him and you will get fire proof.

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Immortal Invisible God only Wise

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Romans 11:33
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and His ways past finding out!

We often fail to realize the greatness of God. Somehow we get the idea that our way of thinking is at least as good as God’s. We think that the solutions we come up with are smart enough to solve the problems that we face. If only God would listen to us!!! If only God would do what we ask Him to do!!! It’s soooooo simple!

“But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” ~Habakkuk 2:20
“But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” ~Habakkuk 2:20

However, instead of getting God to listen to us and to do things our way, we need to learn to listen to God and do things His way. We need to learn that our understanding is nothing compared to God’s infinite wisdom and knowledge. How can we even think of making a suggestion to our Omniscient God?

In Scripture, God repeatedly instructs us to cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7), to make supplication to Him (Philippians 4:6), to call upon Him in the day of trouble and to glorify Him (Psalm 50:15); but nowhere does the Bible tell us to give God advice or to suggest how He could solve our problems.

The purpose of prayer is NOT to give God information, He already knows ALL things.
The purpose of prayer is NOT to give God advice or to ask Him to work things out in the way our puny brains have concocted.
The purpose of prayer IS to come into the very presence of God and to hear from Him so that we can conform to His perfect Will (Luke 22:42).

God’s wisdom and knowledge are infinite; the decisions of Almighty God cannot be rationalized by mere man. Who knows enough to argue with God? Who is wise enough to give God counsel?

Therefore, the only rational way to respond to our Omnipotent God is with humble obedience. We must wait on Him to tell us what to do and then eagerly seek to obey His perfect will.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~Isaiah 55:9

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