17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’[a]” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
After revealing that only God is Good we are quickly confronted with the second truth that:
- We Are Not Good
Jesus was also clearly communicating the truth that this young man was not good. Only God is good. You see this man’s concept of “good” was mistaken. It clouded his perception of Jesus and it clouded his understanding of himself. Until he could see that Jesus was God incarnate, the only one who was good, and until he recognized his own sinfulness, he could not truly find the eternal life he was searching for. His problem was our problem, he thought too little of Jesus and too much of himself. Like many of us he overestimated his own goodness and grossly underestimated who Jesus was. It was a common belief in that day and age that you had to do something to earn eternal life. Here we are 2000 years later and it’s still a pretty popular belief that plagues and poisons our thinking. Today there are still many who erroneously believe that God will add up their good works and their bad works; and if the good outweighs the bad, then He will let them into heaven. But it’s not based on our goodness but God’s grace. We will never discover eternal life until we see that we fall far short of God’s glorious standard of goodness, and then recognize that Jesus is God Himself, sent to redeem us from our sins by dying as our substitute on the cross. Here was a man who thought that he had kept all of God’s standards for goodness and was able to say that he had not committed adultery or murder, that he had never stolen or lied, and that he honored his father and mother. Surprisingly, Jesus did not argue with him or point out that he couldn’t possibly have kept all these commands. Instead, he looked intently at him with eyes of love and then said, “You still lack one thing.” Jesus lovingly revealed the lie that held this man hostage, by show him the true state of his heart. As Psalm 14:3 says, “there is no one who does good, not even one.” This passage is quoted by Paul in Romans 3:12 and expanded in Romans 3:23 when he writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” While this man was trying to justify himself by pointing to his outward obedience to the law, Romans 3:20 makes it very clear that “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” The purpose of the law is to serve like a mirror that reveals how messed up we really are. The law doesn’t save us from our sins it shows us our sin, the muck and the mess. Jesus was revealing that there was no way man can be good enough to get into heaven. And to prove His point He exposed the true heart of the rich young ruler by inviting him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. When the man refused we see him breaking both the first and second commandments by making money his master. His silver was more important that the Savior because gold was his god. Jesus revealed the real hang up of his heart his possessions. This man was living a lie, believing that as long as he outwardly conformed he could be considered good. But Jesus revealed that his actions were tied to his heart attitude. That what he really cared about wasn’t being good it was his gold. He may also have broken the commandment against coveting as exhibited in his unwillingness to give his money to those who really needed it. The sin of covetousness is subtle and difficult to detect, and yet it can cause a person to break all the other commandments. 1 Timothy 6:10 says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” You see if salvation is based on our goodness then it becomes based on our constant work instead of Christ’s finished work. That means it will be about our relentless work instead of resting in His work. It’s a life of trying instead of trusting. The only way to grow in goodness is to trust in God’s grace. To admit that you are a sinner and trust Jesus as your only Savior from sin. So, what is you solution to sin, are you trusting in the scales hoping that your good outweighs the bad or are you trusting in the sacrifice of the sinless Savior?