Title: Infinite Need Met With Infinite Inheritance – Part 2
Text: Matthew 19:23-30
FCF: We often struggle believing that we can somehow do something to get ourselves into God’s Kingdom
Prop: Because we desperately need God to save us, we must cry out to Him for our salvation.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 19. Well I did it to myself again. I bit off more than I could chew and had to bring you a 1 point sermon again this week. The good news is that this week’s sermon will probably be on the shorter side. Please don’t cheer too much. Because next time we are in Matthew the sermon will probably be on the longer side. Next week is the annual “let’s leave Pastor Chris without a congregation and go have church in the woods” weekend. So most of you will not be here next week. Not sure what I am gonna do but I’ll probably not preach on Matthew 19 and 20. There ya see, I am gonna be nice to you so you don’t miss anything. Those of us who remain will be caught up together with the Lord… right isn’t that what Paul says? For those of us who are here next Sunday we’ll try to do something special. If you are wondering what this camping trip is, you may be too late for this year, but I’m sure someone can get you details for next year if the Lord terries that long.
In our time last week in Matthew, we saw how Jesus and his discples have two interactions with two groups of people. Parents who bring their children to Jesus for a blessing, and a rich young man who comes to Jesus with a question. We noted that Jesus repeats something He just said recently about the children, that such are like the kingdom citizens. Essentially Jesus says that all citizens of the Kingdom of God are infinitely needy, as an infant is needy. After giving them a blessing and carrying on toward Jerusalem, Jesus is confronted by a rich young man. He comes to Jesus with a need, but it is only a small one. He just wants to know what good deed he is yet lacking to inherit the kingdom of God. Apparently he has kept all the commandments concerning others that there is to keep, at least by the understanding of the scribes and Pharisees at that time of such laws. We noted probably that this was not true, but that he believed it to be true of himself. Jesus then suggests that he sell all he has and give it to the poor to get treasure in heaven, and then follow Christ.
Interestingly enough Jesus does not say, and then you will have eternal life. It is obvious that this is a test of this young man to see where his priorities lie, and how needy he truly was of Jesus.
Alas the young man walks away in sorrow, because his riches are of far more importance to him than Jesus.
We concluded last week in application by comparing his need of 1 thing from Jesus, to the need of many who come seeking salvation from their sin. His desire to do one great thing to earn his spot, we compared to praying whatever prayer is required to secure heaven. And yet, as Jesus applied the true test of neediness by seeking how far the young man’s obedience would go, so we also showed that many who claim Christ, and have prayed a prayer, having come to Jesus for salvation, would also walk away sorrowful if Jesus asked them to make disciples, or to stop lusting, or to love others, or anything at all really.
The church is infested with rich young rulers, who were never challenged to count the cost.
Then also in application we cast our gaze upon those who did or would give it all up to follow their Lord. And we asked ourselves, through God’s questioning of one person in particular, how much do we really need our Lord? For life? Breath? Health? Peace? Obedience? Love? Hope? And of course the answer is that we need Him for all of this and everything else. The challenge was our need to need God.
As the rich young ruler walks away, Jesus turns back to all who would listen, and gives a warning about the condition of the young man’s heart. He warns all who would hear, that the young man who just walked away, is in essence, every man. Look with me at verse 23. I’m reading from the NET but following along in the version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible to follow along with, snuggle up to someone who does, don’t be shy, we don’t bite… hard. Or slip up your hand and someone will come give you a bible.
There are pitfalls aplenty in our interpretation here, so I need you to pay close attention while we weave our way through this. It won’t be long I assure you.
I.) All desperately need God to save them, So we must desperately need God. (23-26)
a. [Slide 2] 23 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven!
ii. Follow the logic of Jesus. He says that to be a kingdom citizen, the attribute of humility and infinite and desperate need must be present. There is a helplessness, a desperate hopelessness incumbent upon all who would be in the Kingdom.
iii. Dependence on God and His Messiah is core to this.
iv. What does wealth breed? We have a term in our society “independently wealthy”. This term is used to describe someone that has enough money that they do not need help from anyone to sustain themselves, and they do not need to be employed and earning a wage to sustain themselves.
v. Wealth breeds independence. Wealth breeds self-sufficiency.
vi. In short, the inherent nature of amassing wealth is counter to the concept of desperate and infinite need of God and His Messiah.
vii. Wealth has a tendency to convince people that they do not need anything from anyone. This is in direct opposition to the core nature of kingdom citizens.
viii. Therefore, Jesus concludes that it is very difficult for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
b. [Slide 3] 24 – Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.”
i. As if answering the question, “how hard would it be Jesus”, Jesus uses a familiar expression, called an idiom, or proverb, to express the same thing.
ii. He says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle – now what exactly does this mean?
iii. Interpretations vary.
1. Is this an entrance into the city “the needle’s eye” made for camels where they would have to stoop low or kneel to enter?
2. Is this the most narrow entry point into the home, almost like a doggie door?
3. Is this the literal eye of a needle for thread?
iv. Can I submit to you that it doesn’t matter? Why? Because this is an idiom. Much like saying “a piece of cake” – everyone who heard it would have known what it meant.
v. But we don’t live in their culture and we don’t have this idiom. So how can we know what it meant to the people who heard it?
vi. Friends… KEEP READING!
c. [Slide 4] 25 – The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?”
i. The disciples shock at Jesus’ statement reveals to us the intended meaning of the idiom.
ii. It is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. That is exactly what Jesus is saying.
iii. Now, we have to pause here, because I can see some shock on your face as well. Perhaps you know some folks that are wealthy who claim Christ. Perhaps you realize that by the definition of “independently wealthy” Any who are retired fit that definition. Perhaps you realize that living in one of the wealthiest nations on earth, that all of us are incredibly wealthy.
iv. All that in mind, are we wasting our breath preaching the gospel? Is it even possible for anyone in this country to be saved based on Jesus’ words here?
v. I’d love to soften this, but the fact of the matter is that there really is no way to do so. Jesus is clearly teaching that it is impossible for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. But there is a reason for it which is bound up in the next couple items we’ll talk about.
vi. The first is why then do the disciples ask “who then can be saved?” This seems like a weird conclusion for them to draw. Jesus is saying that it is impossible for the wealthy to gain the kingdom, but the disciples and the vast majority of people in 1st Century Israel were not wealthy. So why do they draw this conclusion?
vii. The only explanation is that the disciples somehow viewed the wealthy closer to God than the rest of them.
viii. That if the wealthy could not be saved, then the rest of them didn’t stand a chance.
ix. This comes to the Jewish and even Middle Eastern teaching on restitution. God’s teaching is that if you are righteous you will be blessed and if you are unrighteous you will be cursed. This is pervasive throughout the Old Testament. However, an application of this truth is that, if you are suffering in this life – then you are unrighteous and if you are blessed in this life then you are righteous.
x. These don’t necessarily equal, and pretty much the entire book of Job is a reference to that. This life, ultimately, is not the standard of blessing and cursing. And as we have seen in Foundations, even recently, sometimes what we perceive as blessing is actually a curse and vice versa.
xi. Israel inheriting a King, by all accounts, seems to be blessing since nationhood and government are signs of a prosperous nation. But God makes it very clear that it will ultimately be a curse to them. And indeed it was.
xii. Physical death for Adam and Eve seems to be a curse, but to live eternally separated from God in the bodies that were infested with sin, never having a chance to exchange it for a new one, would have been the true curse.
xiii. Therefore the disciples thought that the wealthy were those who were blessed of God. Those who were given favor. And if those who were blessed and favored of God, could not make it into the kingdom of God… what chance did any have?
xiv. This helps us understand why Jesus would say it is impossible for the wealthy, because to the Jews the wealthy would have been shoe-ins. And Jesus is confronting that opinion because He has a bigger point to get to.
d. [Slide 5] 26 – Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”
i. Again, Jesus’ response verifies the interpretation of the idiom. It is impossible for the wealthy.
ii. However, to apply Jesus’ words simply and only to the wealthy here, is to miss out on what Jesus is actually saying.
iii. Jesus is not simply saying that although it is impossible for a wealthy person to enter into the Kingdom, that God can make it possible. How do we know that?
iv. Because the disciples asked a question in the middle of this entire discussion.
v. Their question was – who then can be saved?
vi. The disciples were the ones who broadened it out to all mankind. And Jesus, although subtlety, answers their question quite directly.
vii. Who then can be saved? No one. It is not possible for a mere human to be saved. Not by their own doing.
viii. But for God all things are possible. Although humanity in general is unable to get themselves into the kingdom of God… God can overcome such impossibility. Wealthy or poor, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, Male or female, God loved the world and demonstrated that love by providing a way to enter the kingdom of God.
[Slide 6 (blank)(end)] And that is it. That is all we will look at today. But what does it mean for us?
Jesus says that it is impossible for the wealthy to inherit the kingdom of God, because the wealthy, indeed the rich young man who just left, tend to trust in their wealth and not see their true need.
But since wealth and God’s blessing were tied together. Since earthly blessing meant spiritual uprightness in 1st century Judea, the disciples concluded that no one could be saved if it was almost impossible for the blessed of God to be saved.
And Jesus agrees. Yes, no one can be saved. Not of themselves. Instead, it is a gift of God. No work could ever earn your place. God is the sole provider. He alone can do the impossible.
This primarily brings us to the doctrine of total depravity. That mankind is by nature spiritually dead. In Romans 7:18 Paul says that nothing good lives in him. From Matthew last week, we saw Jesus say that no one is good but God.
From conception we are born in sin, we inherit the seed of sin, and upon an understanding of God’s law in its most basic sense, the seed germinates. Sin comes alive, and our spiritual nature dies.
As soon as a child understands that there is something called wrong, and something called right. Righteousness and wickedness - sin in this child germinates, it comes alive and severs their souls from The Life-Giver. It brings death upon them.
God promised Adam that the same moment that he ate of the fruit, that he would surely die. Yet the bible records for us that after the fall, Adam lived to be 930 years old. So either God lied, this statement doesn’t mean what we think it means, or Adam died that day. God did not lie or the universe would cease. And as much as some may protest, the language seems clear enough, that the very moment Adam would eat of it, he would be dead. And the word for death here seems to mean physical death. So we are only left with the simple fact that Adam died that day. And yet, somehow he lived.
What else happened that day? He and his wife knew their nakedness. They understood evil and consequently understood shame. They knew what it was to be barren and unprotected against a holy God. They fled from his presence. They tried to escape His blame. And ultimately they were expelled from His garden, from His very presence.
Although a Jew may not have understood, we now understand by the teachings in the New Testament that what happened that day, was a distancing of God from Adam. And that distance was caused by Adam’s spiritual connection to God being severed by his sin. That severing, was his own death. His Spiritual death. Which would later lead to his physical death also.
Adam’s sin and subsequent spiritual death brought to mankind the seed of sin buried in the hearts of us all. And upon the law entering our consciousness, sin germinates and produces our death through our own sinful desires. Therefore, all are dead in their trespasses and sins.
A corpse cannot breathe. A corpse cannot move. A corpse cannot keep God’s law. A corpse cannot love his neighbor as himself. A corpse cannot sell all it has and give it to the poor. And to the rich young ruler, Christ’s message was simply this… you are dead. There is nothing you can do.
And the disciples look at Jesus and say – if this corpse in an elaborate casket cannot enter the Kingdom, what hope do we corpses in pinewood boxes have?
Phrasing it this way, Jesus’ answer is obvious. You have no hope. But it has nothing to do with the fact that you are in a pinewood casket. But everything to do with the fact that you also are DEAD!
The most helpless and hopeless condition a man or woman can find themselves in, is dead. Would you not agree?
Unlike Palegianism and other beliefs like it, that say that man can seek and find God apart from God’s intervention, The truth, as Jesus reveals, is that God alone must act to quicken, to awaken, to revitalize or regenerate our dead souls.
What does that mean? Where wealth breeds independence, the deadly condition of our souls breeds infinite and utter dependence. We are wholly and utterly dependent on God to save our souls. To regenerate us to new life.
So up to this point, Jesus has been teaching that only the infinitely needy will inherit the Kingdom of heaven. And now, we finally understand what we must be needy of… God’s action on our helpless state. We are dead without His intervention.
If today you are seeking. If today you are wondering what you need to inherit the kingdom of heaven. If today you understand that you are a corpse that cannot know God, cannot serve God, cannot love God. If you realize that it is impossible for you to save yourself by any action.
Repent and believe. Repent, meaning rejecting your sin and rebellion against God. And believe, which means to cry out for His intervention to save you from what you’ve become and make you what He desires you to be. I vessel capable of obedience.
For those who are currently following Christ, I believe this applies to us, specifically in how we view evangelism. We need to stop pushing people to make decisions, as if their salvation relied on convincing them. Now hear me, there is an obvious point that a person must choose. I am not denying that.
But ultimately, God, and God alone is the one who draws an individual to that point. So our work should not be consumed by getting them to make a decision, so much, as it is simply to bear witness to God’s character and provision.
You see by pushing someone to a decision you can and I think collectively we have been accidentally communicating that if they do this one work, like a prayer – oh you don’t know what to pray, well here are the words to say for your magic spell to save you. We have been accidentally communicating that if you do this one work, like say I do at certain points as I ask you about this creed, if you just believe a list on a page is true your knowledge will save you. We have been accidentally communicating that if you go out and stop smoking, and chewing, and drinking, and going to movie houses, then you’ll be saved… but the fact of the matter
The only thing a person seeking forgiveness for their sins can do
The only thing a person seeking peace with God can do
The only thing ANY ONE can do when faced with the reality of our sin and the holiness of God – is to cry out and beg Him for mercy. Knowing, that it is by His divine discernment to grant it to us or not.
Will He grant you the gift of Christ’s faith? Will He lavish you with grace? Well that is up to Him.
You mean that I could pray and ask God for this and He could say no? Yes! Yes He could. Why? Because He’s God.
But that is why Jesus promise here in this text is so dear. The citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, will be infinitely needy.
Now you can’t manufacture that kind of need folks. But if you do have that kind of need, when you beg the Lord to save you and free you from that BODY OF DEATH! He promises that HE WILL!
When you are spiritually bankrupt, mourning over your wickedness before a holy God, understanding your inability to change your helpless estate, but thirsting for righteousness you cry out to Him – YOU WILL BE FILLED!
So what do we do with someone who wants forgiveness? What do we do with someone who wants heaven? We teach them about God. We teach them how good and holy He is. We teach them how wicked they are. And tell them that God demands everything from them. And if they recognize that they are desperately needy – and realize that all they have is not worth keeping to get what God is offering… THEN, and only then, do we tell them – with the words like an oasis spring in a desert land – cry out to Jesus to show you mercy, provide you faith, and grace. He alone has what you seek.
Not me, not this tract, not this book, not this road…. Go to God, and beg Him for your salvation – and don’t stop until He grants it to you.