La Maillon Fort – The Strong Link

(Bibliothèque de Celsius à Ephèse. Photo de Todd Bolen, www.BibleLieux.com ; Celsus Library in Ephesus. Picture from www.BiblePlaces.com)

Je rends grâces à Dieu, que mes ancêtres ont servi, et que je sers avec une conscience pure, de ce que nuit et jour je me souviens continuellement de toi dans mes prières. – 2 Timothée 1:3

Face aux géants d’Ephèse  – intellectuels, philosophes, et faux-docteurs –  il n’aurait pas fallut beaucoup à Timothée pour se faire écraser. Sans un courage et une force super-naturelle, l’établissement et l’épanouissement d’une église dans cette capitale d’Asie mineure était chose impossible.

Timothée n’avait pas grand chose en sa faveur, humainement parlant. Il était jeune, d’une autre région, et l’ami de Paul le prisonnier de Rome. Et plus encore, dans une société gouvernée par l’honneur et la honte, le symbole de son espérance restait la croix d’un crucifié, l’image ultime de la dérision et de l’abjure.

Timothée avait de nombreuses raisons pour se décourager. Rempli de l’Esprit Saint, Paul, le fortifie.

Et il commence sa lettre dans la louange, communiquant à son « enfant bien-aimé » (1 Timothée 1 :2) une vérité simple et pourtant si forte d’inspiration. Il lui dit « Je rends grâces à Dieu, que mes ancêtres ont servi. » Pour Paul, le ministère des hommes de Dieu ne datait pas d’hier. Tous deux faisaient partis d’une chaîne incassable, établie par Dieu et s’allongeant de génération en génération.

Le ministère que Paul passait à Timothée lui avait aussi été transmit de la génération précédente, qui elle aussi l’avait reçue et ainsi de suite. Timothée tiendrait ferme, par son identité : en Christ, il serait un maillot fort, indestructible, comme l’avaient été ces milliers de fidèles dans les générations précédentes. Peu importe les difficultés, peu importe les circonstances, peu importe le fait que les vrais croyants soient peu nombreux et faibles.  Malgré les infidélités du peuple choisi, Dieu avec toujours protégé un « reste » en Israël, et il ferait de même avec son Eglise.

En Christ, Timothée faisait parti de cette chaîne incassable. Son évangile serait inarrêtable. Affermi par Dieu, Timothée serait un maillon fort. On peut résumer l’encouragement de Paul continuant dans le reste du premier chapitre de son épitre en quelques vers :

Le salut de mon Dieu est inarrêtable
Son témoignage est inébranlable
Sa puissance est indomptable
Son salut est incomparable
Son appel est inconcevable
As-tu honte de cet évangile ?
 
Ses plans ne peuvent être changés
Par sa puissance la mort est brisée
Par sa vertu la vie est donnée
As-tu honte de cet évangile ?
 
Cet évangile sans pareil est insurmontable
Il donne la force de supporter l’insupportable
La foi sur lequel il repose est inexprimable
Y mettre fin ? C’est impensable
Sa vérité est inchangeable
As-tu honte de cet évangile ?
 
Sa protection est assurée
Par l’Esprit, il est gardé
Sa bonté vit à jamais
Tiendras-tu ferme pour cet évangile ?

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. – 2 Timothy 1:3

Faced with the giants of Ephesus – intellectuals, philosophers, false teachers – it would not have taken much for Timothy to get crushed. Without supernatural courage and strength, the establishing and maturing of a church in the capital of Asian minor was impossible.

Humanly speaking, Timothy did not have much in his favor. He was young, of a different region, and the friend of Paul the prisoner of Rome. Even more, in a society governed by honor and shame, the symbol of his hope remained the cross of a crucified man, the ultimate image of derision and ignominy.

Timothy had many reasons to be discouraged. Full of the Holy Spirit, Paul strengthens him.

Thus he begins his letter in praise, inspiring his “beloved child” (1 Timothy 1:2) with the simple and unwavering truth. He tells him “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors.” For Paul, the ministry of the men of God was not from yesterday. Both him and Timothy belonged to that unbreakable chain, established by God and reaching out from generation to generation.

The ministry that Paul was passing to Timothy had also been transmitted to him from the preceding generation, which had also received it from before. Timothy would stand firm in his identity: in Christ, he would be a strong link, indestructible, just like the thousands of faithful ones from previous generations. No matter what the difficulties, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how few and weak the true believers might be. In spite of the unfaithfulness of His chosen people, God had always kept a “remnant” in Israel, and He would do so with His Church.

In Christ, Timothy belonged to that unbreakable chain. His gospel was unstoppable. Affirmed by God, he would be a strong link. We can summarize Paul’s encouragement in the rest of the first chapter of 2 Timothy in a few lines:

The Gospel of my God is unstoppable
Its testimony is unshakable
Its power is untamable
Its salvation is undeniable
Its calling is irresistible
Are you ashamed of that gospel?
 
Its purposes cannot be broken
By its might death is beaten
By its virtue life is given
Are you ashamed of that gospel?
 
This awe-inspiring gospel is indestructible
It gives strength to bear the unbearable
The faith it rests on is incomparable
To end it? It is unthinkable
Its truth is unchangeable
Are you ashamed of that gospel?
 
Its protection is insured
In the Spirit, it is secured
Its goodness will endure
Will you stand for the gospel?

La Vraie Liberté – True Freedom

Vous connaîtrez la vérité, et la vérité vous affranchira….en vérité, en vérité, je vous le dis, leur répliqua Jésus, quiconque se livre au péché est esclave du péché. » – Jean 8 :32, 34

L’histoire ci-dessous tirée de The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, par Charles R. Swindoll, (p.526).

En 1824, le Pérou gagna son Independence vis-à-vis de l’Espagne. Peu après, Simon Bolivar, le général ayant mené les forces de la libération, assembla une convention pour rédiger la constitution du nouveau pays.

Suite à la convention, une délégation approcha Bolivar pour lui demander de devenir leur premier président. Bolivar refusa, pensant que quelqu’un d’autre mériterait cet honneur plus que lui.

Cependant, en guise de reconnaissance, le peuple chercha à récompenser leur libérateur, lui offrant un million de pesos, une somme énorme à l’époque.

Bolivar accepta le don, et demanda : « Combien y-a-t-il d’esclaves au Pérou ? » On lui répondit qu’il y en avait environ 3000. « Et quel est le prix d’un esclave » continua-t-il. « Environ 350 pesos. »

« Alors » dit Bolivar, « j’ajouterai ce qui est nécessaire à ce million de pesos que vous m’avez donné et j’achèterai tous les esclaves du Pérou pour les affranchir. Ca n’a aucun sens de libérer une nation si ses citoyens ne peuvent être libres eux-mêmes. »

Il est de même avec le royaume de Dieu. En envoyant son Fils sur Terre, Dieu pourvu au Libérateur nous sauvant de la puissance du péché. Pourquoi continuer de vivre dans l’esclavage lorsque la rançon a déjà été payée ?

Paul écrivit en 1 Corinthiens 6 :20, « vous avez été rachetés à un grand prix ; » ce prix étant bien plus élevé que ce que nous aurions jamais pu payer. En effet, on lit encore en Esaïe 53 :12, « il a porté les péchés de beaucoup d’hommes. »

Et la raison ? Paul nous la décrit :

« Notre Sauveur Jésus Christ s’est donné lui-même pour nous, afin de nous racheter de toute iniquité, et de se faire un peuple qui lui appartienne, purifié par lui et zélé pour les bonnes œuvres. » (Tite 2 :14).

La liberté acquise par le don de Christ est celle qui permet d’accomplir ces œuvres qui plaisent à Dieu, non celles motivées par la chair, l’égoïsme, ou le désir d’être loué par les hommes, mais ces œuvres qui sont accomplies par une humble dépendance et pour l’honneur du Seul Dieu vivant.

La vraie liberté est celle d’accomplir la volonté de Celui qui nous a créés. De penser que nous pouvons faire ce qui nous plait avec nos vies n’est rien d’autre que la démonstration continuelle de notre esclavage dans le péché.

Le vrai repos se trouve en Christ :

« Venez à moi, vous tous qui êtes fatigués et chargés, et je vous donnerai du repos. Prenez mon joug sur vous et recevez mes instructions, car je suis doux et humble de cœur; et vous trouverez du repos pour vos âmes. Car mon joug est doux, et mon fardeau léger. » (Matthieu 11 :28-30)

 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… Jesus answered them, « Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” – John 8:32, 34

The story below is taken from The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, by Charles R. Swindoll, (p.526).

In 1824, Peru won its freedom from Spain. Soon after, Simon Bolivar, the general who had led the liberating forces, called a convention for the purpose of drafting a constitution for the new country.

After the convention, a delegation approached Bolivar and asked him to become their first president. Bolivar declined, saying that he felt someone else deserved the honor more than he did.

But the people still wanted to do something special for Bolivar to show their appreciation for all he had done for them, so they offered him a gift of a million pesos, a very large fortune in those days.

Bolivar accepted the gift and then asked, “How many slaves are there in Peru?” He was told there were about 3000. “And how much does a slave sell for?” he wanted to know. “About 350 pesos for an able-bodied man,” was the answer.

“Then,” said Bolivar, “I will add whatever is necessary to this million pesos you have given me and I will buy all the slaves of Peru and set them free. It makes no sense to free a nation, unless all its citizens enjoy freedom as well.”

It is the same with the kingdom of God. By sending His Son on the earth, God gave us the Liberator we needed to be saved from the power of sin. Why continue to live in the slavery of sin when the ransom has already been paid?

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6 :20,  “you were bought with a price;” this  price being much higher than anything we could ever have afforded. Truly, we read in Isaiah 53:12 “he bore the sin of many.”

And the reason? Paul describes it for us:

“Our savior Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

The freedom obtained through the gift of Christ is one that enables us to accomplish works that please God, not those motivated by the flesh, selfishness, or the desire to be praised by men, but good works which are lived out in humble dependence and for the honor of the only living God.

True rest is found in Christ:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. » – Matthew 11:28-30

Trésor Eternel – Eternal Treasure

« Garde le bon dépôt, par le Saint Esprit qui habite en nous. » – 2 Timothée 1 :14

Lorsque Paul écrivit à Timothée, ses jours étaient comptés. Emprisonné à Rome, il n’avait que quelques temps à vivre, juste assez pour exhorter son fils dans la foi à prendre le relai. Timothée, après avoir vécu près de 15 ans avec Paul au travers de voyages et de péripéties, était maintenant pasteur à Ephèse. Et alors que Paul s’apprête à mourir, il rappelle à son apprenti à quel point le ministère est béni et digne de consécration, même malgré les nombreuses souffrances en faisant parti.

« Garde le bon dépôt » il lui dit.

Au premier siècle, les banques et coffres-forts n’existaient pas comme nous les avons aujourd’hui. Lorsque les gens partaient en voyage ou devaient quitter leurs demeures pour un certain temps, il était très commun de confier un « dépôt » à quelqu’un de proche, ce « dépôt » comprenant les objets de plus grandes valeurs en possession. Un « dépôt » n’était ainsi donné qu’à quelqu’un de confiance, cette personne ayant à charge les plus précieux trésors de celui ou ceux voyageant.

Pour Paul, il n’y avait rien de plus précieux que l’évangile. Cet évangile l’avait sauvé, transformé, accepté, utilisé, pardonné, justifié de ces péchés, et rendu espoir. C’était pour lui cette perle de grand prix dont la valeur était digne de tout vendre pour l’acheter. Cet évangile qui l’avait embrasé, Paul l’avait aussi protégé des faux docteurs et faux enseignants, passant sa vie à le proclamer sans compromis ni altération. Il avait été tellement béni par sa puissance, il ne voulait rien léguer d’autre à la prochaine génération que ce qui est complètement pur et véritable. C’était son « dépôt, » son trésor, celui confié à Timothée dans l’espoir qu’il serait passé pur à la prochaine génération, et la suivante (2 Timothée 2 :2).

Bien sûr, cette tâche était impossible. Face à un Empire Romain prompt à persécuter les Chrétiens, Timothée ne pourrait tenir sans l’aide de Dieu et de Son Saint Esprit. Mais avec l’Esprit de Dieu…qui pourrait lui résister ?

La seconde épître à Timothée est pleine d’exhortations pour continuer malgré les difficultés. Paul l’encourage à ne pas être timide (2 Timothée 1 :7), à persévérer dans la prédication de la Parole en tout temps (2 Timothée 4 :2). Paul lui écrit, « Souffre avec moi, comme un bon soldat de Jésus Christ » (2 Timothée 2 :3).

Est-ce que Timothée eut du succès ? Selon la tradition, on nous instruit que Timothée continua à prêcher pendant près de 15 ans à Ephèse suite à la lettre de Paul. Puis un jour, voyant la procession d’un culte païen, rempli de zèle, il commence à prêcher en public, annonçant la bonne nouvelle du pardon des péchés par la repentance. La foule, en colère, le traîne dans la rue et la lapide à mort.

Quelle ironie. Encore jeune homme, il avait probablement vu à Lystre la lapidation de Paul – qu’il avait survécu. Cela ne l’avait pas empêché de suivre l’apôtre.

Paul mourut par amour pour l’évangile, et Timothée connu le même sort. Mais le « dépôt » continue d’être passé de génération en génération. Scellé du sang de nos héros et de la foi de nos ancêtres, cet évangile indestructible, trésor des siècles passés et des siècles à venir, continue à faire entendre sa voix dans un monde déchu. Merci Jésus !

 

“By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” – 2 Timothy 1:14

When Paul wrote to Timothy, his days were numbered. Imprisoned in Rome, he only had limited time to live, just enough time to exhort once more, his son in the faith to take the baton and continue the race. Timothy, after having lived nearly 15 years with Paul through his journeys and perils, was now pastor at Ephesus. As Paul was getting ready to die, he reminds his trainee of the worthiness and blessing of ministry, even in spite of suffering.

“Guard the good deposit” he tells him.

In the first century, banks and safes did not exist as we have them today. When people left their homes for a journey, it was common to entrust a “deposit” to someone of good standing, this “deposit” was made up of the most valuable objects in possession. A “deposit” was indeed given to someone trustworthy; this person entrusted to guard the most precious treasures of those traveling.

For Paul, there was nothing more precious than the gospel. This gospel had saved him, transformed him, accepted him, used him, forgiven him, justified him of his sins and given him hope. For him it represented that pearl of great price for which it was worthy to sell everything to obtain. This gospel that had embraced him, Paul had also toiled to protect from false teachers, spending his life to proclaim it without compromise or alteration. He had been so blessed by its power; he would not give anything else to the next generation but a gospel completely pure and truthful. It was his “deposit,” his treasure, the one entrusted to Timothy with the hope that he too would pass it on unaltered to the next generation, and the following one as well (2 Timothy 2:2).

Of course, this task was impossible. Against a Roman Empire prompt to persecute Christians, Timothy would not stand without God’s help. But with God’s Spirit…who would resist him?

The second epistle to Timothy is full of exhortations to press on in the midst of difficulties. Paul encourages Timothy to not be shy (2 Timothy 1:7), to persevere in the preaching of the Word at all times (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul writes to him, “Suffer with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Did Timothy succeed? According to tradition, we are instructed that Timothy continued to preach in Ephesus for 15 years following Paul’s letter. Then one day, seeing the precession of a pagan festival, filled with zeal, he began to preach to the crowd, announcing the good news of the forgiveness of sin through repentance. The crowd, furious, dragged him by force and stone him to death.

How ironic. Still a young man, Timothy had probably seen the stoning of Paul at Lystra – which he had survived. This had not stopped him from following the apostle.

Paul died for his love for the gospel, and so did Timothy. But the “deposit” continues to be passed on from generation to generation. Sealed by the blood of our heroes and the faith of our ancestors, this indestructible gospel, treasure of past and of coming centuries, continues to trumpet its voice in this fallen world. Thank you Jesus! 

True Salvation – Luke 17:11-19

Introduction

What do you think is the biggest lie that one could ever believe? Think about it a second. What do you think is the biggest lie one could believe?

Would it be that God doesn’t exist? Well, maybe. But a lot of people believe in some God and will still be in great trouble at the day of judgment.

Would it be that Jesus is not God? Maybe. But you still have a lot of people who believe this and that are unregenerate.

Would it be that the Bible is not authoritative? Maybe. But a lot of people believe in the authority of the Bible and still are not saved.

But what if you made people believe that they were saved, when they are not?

Complete deceit. You get close to the truth but tweak it just enough so that people don’t see the difference. Welcome to America, right? The country where 50% of the people are “born-again” and 90% believe in premarital sex.

Or maybe, we could say, welcome to Palestine in 30 AD.

Our times are not very different from those of Jesus Christ. Effective lies don’t change. When Jesus came to Israel, almost everybody was a Jew. They all thought they were the chosen people, the blessed descendants of Abraham, the holy remnant of the world.

They all thought they were all right. But what did Jesus think? Did Jesus think that all the people in Israel claiming to be Jews were going to heaven? Oh no.

According to Him, hell will be filled with people who confessed the name of Jesus Christ, of people who called Him master and who filled their lives with “religious” things.

So who is it that will really go to heaven? Who are the people that are really saved? How does it show in their lives?

This morning we are going to look at a salvation story from the life of Christ and we will what true salvation brings: a life that glorifies God.

In fact, let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 17:11-19, where we will find 4 settings that illustrate what true salvation is, so that we also would live for the glory of God.

Luk 17:11  On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.

Luk 17:12  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance

Luk 17:13  and lifted up their voices, saying, « Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. »

Luk 17:14  When he saw them he said to them, « Go and show yourselves to the priests. » And as they went they were cleansed.

Luk 17:15  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

Luk 17:16  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Luk 17:17  Then Jesus answered, « Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Luk 17:18  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? »

Luk 17:19  And he said to him, « Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. »

This miracle is a story of salvation. Or one could translate this last phrase, “your faith has made you whole” or “your faith has saved you.” The Greek word here is the word that Paul uses for salvation throughout Scriptures.  And I believe that it was critical for the disciples to understand this at the time that it happened.

I. The Journey

The first setting is the journey. We see in verse 1:

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”

This is Jesus’ last journey. He is going to Jerusalem, and He is going there to die. At this point, the dies are already cast. Since the resurrection of Lazarus, about 3 months earlier, the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of the nation, made a united decision to put Jesus to death. This is what we read in John 11:53, “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”

So at this point Jesus is a fugitive. His hours are counted. He is on his way to Jerusalem, and He knows that it is His last journey. He planned it all out from the beginning. The miracles on the Sabbath, the arguments with the Pharisees, the cleansings of the Temple…everything was planned. Jesus had two purposes from the beginning: he is going to die, yes, but He also wants to make disciples. And to make a true disciple two things were necessary: that they believe in who He truly is, the Messiah and the Son of God, and that they understand what true salvation means.

Now, do you think that the disciples truly understood what true salvation is? Well, they were in the process. We see in the Scriptures that they are very often caught off guard with the manner in which Jesus responds to people. Sometimes they just don’t understand. They almost wish Jesus would make peace with the Pharisees.

And so here we are at the end of the life of Jesus. He has only a few more weeks to live. And He is trying to make sure His disciples understand fully what it means to be His disciples.

And this is what we see in the gospel of Luke from chapters 13-19. And here Luke insists on these last months of the life of Christ. And it all starts in Luke 13:22, “He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.” So they are coming down from Caesarea Philippi in the north where Peter made his confession. And then something interesting happens. The disciples begin to have a little more discernment. One of the hardest things for the people of Israel to understand was what true salvation was. Because they had a national religion, it was very difficult to understand where the line was for them, especially because it was very easy to fake an outside faith with legalism.

So in verse 23: “And someone said to him, « Lord, will those who are saved be few?« 

And Jesus to answer: the gate is narrow. The disciples are beginning to get it.

And here we are in Luke 17, about 2 weeks before Christ’s death. He has been hiding in a village called Ephraim with his disciples for a while, spending time with them, and now is the time to end all things. And so Jesus plans it all out. He will leave Judea discretely by going north to Galilee through Samaria, then in Galilee will join a group of pilgrims on their way to the Passover, which will give Him protection and a crowd to minister to.

So remember. Jesus is about to die. His disciples believe that He is the Christ, but they still are confused on what true salvation is. And here come the ten lepers and a story of salvation that will never be forgotten by the disciples.

II. The Desperation of the Lepers

So first, we see the journey. Secondly, we see the desperation of the lepers.

Luk 17:12  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance

Luk 17:13  and lifted up their voices, saying, « Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. »

At this point, Jesus had not been seen in Galilee for at least 6 months, and here He appears in a village, probably in the south of Galilee. Jesus’ reputation as a healer had made its way around. As soon as Jesus enters the village, the lepers come to meet Him, and they stay at a distance, as it was obligated by law to do so.

But it would not take long for Jesus to notice them. Even at a distance, lepers stand out. They look different, they sound different, and they smell different.

In the Bible, leprosy was more kind of family of skin diseases than one disease in particular. Most of these diseases were pretty intense though.

Nowadays we equal leprosy to Hansen’s disease, a grave illness attacking one’s skin and nervous system. It’s actually kind of scary. Since the illness attacks the nerves of their extremities, they end up losing the sense of feeling in their fingers and other parts of their body. This is why they can end up scratching their nose until it bleeds without even knowing it. They can even lose entire body parts like that.

So if you saw a leper, you would know there was something wrong with him. Their skin looked different. In fact, this illness is sometimes called lion’s-faces disease because as the skin is lost again and again it eventually forms hard bumps. I saw someone like that before. It was one of the scariest sights I had ever seen.

And not only the effects of this sickness are gruesome, but they are also contagious and deadly. And as they affect the body, not only does it change someone’s outside appearance, but it also changes their voices, making it raspy and uncomfortable to listen to.

There might even be nuances of this in the text here. We see in verse 13 that the lepers raise their “voices.” Well, in the Greek text it is actually not “voices” but “voice,” almost as if their speaking was so awkward and pitiful that it was just the melting of a cacophony.

And not only leprosy looked bad, but it sounded bad, and it smelled bad.

Leprosy, in the Bible was different from other illnesses, because it had a very high religious stigma. There were a lot of different sicknesses existing in the times of Moses and Jesus. But as God had chosen some animals to be unclean, He also chose some illnesses to be unclean. And leprosy happened to be the main one. That is why we do not see people being “healed” from leprosy but “cleansed” from leprosy in the Bible.

The state of someone with leprosy was extremely humbling:

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13:45-46)

It is one thing to have a shameful disease, but it is another to have to scream it to every passing person! Can you imagine living in a society where if you let’s say sin against your boss you have to spend the rest of the day, obligated by law, to yell, “sinner! sinner!” to everyone that you see?

The lepers were the people that had lost absolutely everything. Because of their illness they were separated from their families, from their friends, from their cities. The certainly could not find work. They were forbidden to enter the synagogues and the Temple.  They were excluded from the social and the religious life of the people.

A prayer f the Pharisees goes like this, “I thank you God that I was not born a Gentile, a slave, a leper, or a woman!”

These people were the outcasts. The nobodies. They had fallen short of the standards of the land. They even had a Samaritan in their midst. Samaritans were the worst kind of people for the Jews.  At one time Jesus was discussing things with some leaders in Jerusalem and they got so mad at Him, they said: « Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? »

Samaritans were worst than Gentiles and unbelievers, they were in some sense regarded as traitors by the Jews. Not only they were a bastard people, but they had also been enemies in the past. In the 2nd Cent. BC Antiochus Epiphanes offered pigs as sacrifices in the Temple, bringing the Jews of the south to rebel and actually gain independence, and at that time the Samaritans sided with the opposing forces to attack them. But the Jews won and they destroyed the temple of the Samaritans. All to say, there was just a lot of hatred between Samaritans and Jews.

So here comes 10 lepers. Outcasts, rejected, and they even have a Samaritan with them. They are really as low as low can get. They are like dead to society.

And they see Jesus, and come to Him, and cry out loud, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!« 

They call Him “master,” a word that only appears in Luke and speaks of someone with notable power (even miraculous). And they cry out to Him, begging for mercy.

People only cry for mercy when there is absolutely no hope. Here, they have absolutely nothing to offer to Christ to ask for help. No money, no labor, no gifting. They are useless. All they can do is plead for grace.  And so they “confess” Christ as master.

III. Healing and Worship

Now we move to the next verse, and we get to the third aspect depicted true salvation, that of healing and worship.

Luk 17:14  When he saw them he said to them, « Go and show yourselves to the priests. » And as they went they were cleansed.

These lepers were truly the lowliest of society. It seems to this point that Jesus doesn’t even notice them until they cry out. And He sees then, but still remains very distant to them, which is kind of interesting.

Jesus did His miracles in a lot of different ways. Most of the time, He clearly displayed compassion and care for the people. When the first leper came to be healed by Him in Mark 1, He touched him. That was crazy for the people. One could never touch a leper. During His ministry, we see how He would preach the word and then heal the people one by one, making it very personal.

But other times, He tested people. Jesus tested the Centurion. He tested the Syro-Phoenician lady. He tested Lazarus’ sisters, and many more. He didn’t only want people to be healed. If that was His goal, He could have just snapped His fingers and get every living creature on earth healed on the spot.  Jesus wanted to produce faith in His people. He wanted people to understand the spiritual aspect of things. He wanted them to know more than the healer, but also the Savior.

And so here, Jesus tests these lepers. Moses had commanded the lepers to go see the priests. And that’s all He tells them to do. No promise. No hope. Just a command. And they believe. They go. And on their way they are healed.

Luk 17:15  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

Just imagine a minute those 10 lepers making their way to go see the priests. They go on the road, and every time they pass someone, they have to make a detour around them, crying out, “unclean! unclean!” Just imagine how freaky it would be to be walking with your family down the street and then have a group of 10 sick people scream that around you. So they walk, and they see a grandma: “unclean! unclean!” they continue, see a bunch of little kids playing around: “unclean! unclean!” hey keep walking and they see some men working on a house: “unclean! unclean!” then a random persons walks by, and they see him come from a distance, and they get ready to cry out again. But as they walk towards him, they start to realize that their skin is getting better. And the closer the man approaches, the cleaner their skin becomes. And when the man passes by, for the first time they are silent. and they continue walking, and they see some other men coming their way, and so they shake hands and start to talk about the things of life catching up and everything. And all they are thinking about is this, “I can’t believe it! Life is back to normal again! This is great! Let’s come back to where it was before!”

But one man thinks differently. For him, life is not the same. And so he turns back, and starts running the opposite way. And he sees the men building the house, and starts screaming and he probably has tears pouring on his cheeks, “clean! clean! God healed me! Look at my skin! Jesus of Nazareth did it!” and he continues and sees the little children playing around, and cries out to them, “Look at me! Jesus cleansed me! I am no longer unclean! Praise be the name of our God!” and he continues to run back and sees the grandma, still walking pretty slow. “Clean! Clean! God cleansed me! I am clean! Glory to God!”

What else could he do? He had had a big sticker “outcast” on his forehead for maybe years. He was condemned with no hope. And now, things were different. Was he going to be silent? Was he going to not tell the world about how awesome God is? That made no sense to him.

Luk 17:16  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

That man was not simply healed. He was transformed. He had met the grace of God and would respond to it with faith. And so he runs back to Jesus. He runs back to his Savior, and he falls down at His feet with cries of thankfulness. Even though the word “proskuneo” is not used here in reference to the prostration of the leper, we all understand the implications of his abasement. He is worshipping. Something happened in that man’s heart. A change that made him desire to run toward His Savior, a change that made him desire to worship His creator. He received cleansing like the very grace of God, and responded to it with praise.

I wonder how loud that guy would have sung on a Sabbath worship service. Monotonous voice:  “All creatures of our God and King…lift up your voice and with us sing…alleluia, alleluia…” Man, I bet the synagogue was shaking after he stopped by!

A heart that received grace is a heart that sings. That’s simply how faith works. Grace comes down, and praise returns.

IV. The Ungratefulness of the Nine

Fourthly and finally, the last aspect that we see is that of the ungratefulness of the nine.

Luk 17:17  Then Jesus answered, « Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Where not ten cleansed? Jesus’ question begs for a positive answer. Of course they were cleansed. It is evident. And as a normal reaction to this supernatural cleansing, they should be there as well.

And so He continues: “Where the nine?” The Greek here actually omits the verb. Where the nine? Again, Jesus sharp question begs for the obvious. They should be there.

But where are they? Something is not right. Why did the 9 not come back to thank Jesus and give glory to God? Where are they?

The certainly saw the Samaritan turn back. They probably heard him cry out with joy to the glory of God. Why did they not follow? I wonder what they were thinking.

“That guy is over zealous. We got what we wanted, let’s just relax now. Let’s enjoy all the things we have been missing. Let’s go see our friends and prove them wrong. We made it. We found a way to get out of it. We did it. We found the healer, and He listened to us. We were convincing enough when we cried out to Him. We even called Him master at the entrance of the village, at the town-gate, the most important place. There were a lot of people. They all heard us cry out to Him. I’m sure that made Him feel good. We did our job. But that Samaritan…he’s got no life anyways. He’s a loser. He is the least of the least. We don’t need what he needs. He’s got issues. But us, we know how to figure things out.”

Complete ungratefulness. Pride and unbelief: “me” as the focus, and total blindness concerning God’s working. And the result: no thankfulness, and zero worship, and an eternal reward that is completely void.

It’s crazy. These lepers were like nothing to the world before Christ met them, and yet they didn’t even come back to say one word of thankfulness. How prideful can one be? What Jesus had just done for them was unheard of. Nobody else cleansed lepers. Nobody.  And Jesus had made it clear during His ministry that everything He did He did it through the power of God and for the glory of God. But after they got what they wanted, they didn’t even think back.  Their hearts were hardened by unbelief. They just didn’t see God as He truly was in the picture. Had God healed them? Probably. But it didn’t mean they owed Him anything. In fact, if God was so good, he should be expected to do good things, right? They deserved it.

The 9 lepers had no need to come back. They “made the prayer.” Their problem was solved. Their conscience was appeased. They certainly did not need to come back. They could just continue to live life as they had in the past.

Luk 17:18  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? »

“Have they not been found returning?” is the literal rendition of Jesus question from the Greek. Interestingly, Jesus asks this question with the “ouk” negativizer. It begs a positive answer. After such a great miracle of healing, they should have been found. They had been given all the proofs that Jesus was being used as an instrument of God and that He was worthy of following. They should have been found. Where they?

No. Only the one who was forgiven much praises much. But the other ones, no. They did not give glory to God. In effect, the word here translated as “praise” is the word “doxa” meaning glory. The 9 kept the glory for themselves. They figured things out, they did it, there was no need to render glory to someone else. Only the loser came back. The Samaritan. The sinner. The foreigner. (The allogene.)

This word foreigner is pejorative. Jesus’ usage of it is the only one in the New Testament. But it was also found on a limestone block from the Temple of Jerusalem. It was placed in the Court of the Gentiles next to the entrance to the Court of the Women or an area into which only Jews could go. ‘Let no foreigner [allogene] enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary.’ A foreigner doing this was subject to the penalty of death.

The privileged ones, the “chosen” ones, where missing before the throne of their God. Only the praise of this foreigner was given to God. And while the 9 others might have thought it was enough, it wasn’t enough for God.

Let me ask you a question. How much of the glory belongs to God?

Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

How much of the glory belongs to God? All of the glory! All of it! All the praise! All the honor! All the worship! All of it! This world was made for Him, through Him, by Him.

God will not be satisfied with the praise of a few. He wants our praise. He wants our loud praise.

The glory belongs to God. It’s who He is. He is going to get it whether we give it to Him or not. Either He will receive it from our mouths, or He will take it through judgment. Taking the glory away from God is like trying to snatch His arm off. But that can’t happen to an unchanging God. He’s going to get His arm back, and He’s going to beat up those who don’t want to give it back.

Let me tell you, unless they repented, those 9 lepers are in hell right now. And their desperation is much greater than anything they might have known on earth.

God wants the glory, let us give it to Him! All of it! All that we can!

So if to God belongs all the glory, why don’t we sing loud? How can we be satisfied with displaying so little joy in our lives? How can we allow the spirit of complaining and judging and ungratefulness to enter our lives?

How easy to take things for granted! But we have received so much! Grace upon grace upon grace. Especially for us, who are studying the very Word of God and who are being set apart for ministry. How much grace have we received! What a privilege to be called to do God’s work, us, unworthy sinners!

[But let me ask you a question: do people know that you are a thankful person? Obviously we don’t want to be external people, but if we asked some around us, would they testify of us as men constantly filled with words of praise to Our Savior? What would your family say? What would your neighbors say? Have they ever heard you praise God with a loud voice? ]

Listen! The stewardship of the disciples is ours. Jesus revealed to them what true salvation was: that of desperate and lost people receiving grace, and responding to it with praise, giving glory to His name. We should be the first examples of such salvation.

I have no doubt that in every one of our churches there are many people who sit in the pews week after week and are not changed. And they never run to Christ. And they never fall down at His feet.  We can’t change their hearts, but we can show them what true salvation means to us!

We’re not any better than these lepers were. Like them, if it is not for God’s grace, we’re condemned to separation, to shame, and to death. Just like Isaac, we were bound to the altar of death without even knowing it. Just picture yourself in his place. That’s who we were. Walking to our death, completely blind, completely clueless, and completely lost. And then we go to the altar and lay down. And the knife is about to fall down on our throat. And then Jesus comes in the midst of everything and takes our spot. And He lays down on the altar. And God the Father comes down also, and takes the knife from Abraham. And at this point, no angel dares to come near Him. And He takes that knife and slaughters His Son. He slaughters Him. For our sake.

Can’t we sing loud?

Luk 17:19  And he said to him, « Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. »

And so Jesus looks at him. His eyes say much: “The self-righteous will get what they want. They will feel good about themselves. But for you, you have had faith. Life will never be the same. Go now. Live on as a new person. You have been saved.”

Conclusion

I think the disciples remembered this story very vividly. I think that when they saw true salvation with their own eyes, its fruits and the obviousness of God’s working, that it truly impacted them. If this random man was willing to have such a loud and public testimony of God’s grace in his life, as Jesus’ chosen disciples, their task would be much greater. As the recipients of God’s salvation, they were stewards of God’s grace. A grace that would allow them to live lives that would bring a glory worthy of their Savior. Miracle after miracle, message after message, Christ was showing His disciples how to move from seeing trees to see fully. Let our eyes be open to see the fullness of God’s glory. “Therefore…work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you.

The Rich Young Ruler – Luke 18:18-23

In chapter 17, we saw Jesus traveling to Jerusalem for the last time, teaching His disciples through a living parable what it means to be a true Christian: someone who glorifies God someone whose thoughts and passions are directed towards God. But guess what? Do you think that one living story would be enough to the stubborn disciples? Probably not. And so as the journey goes on, Jesus also continues to teach His disciples about true salvation.

In chapter 18, verse 9-14, Jesus tells them a parable about a self-righteous Pharisee and a tax-collector. The Pharisee was the one who thought he had everything figured out. He thought, “I am so religious, I am so godly, I am such a good man! God, you are so lucky that I even know you!” And then on the other side there is the tax-collector beating his chest, crying out to God: “God! Be merciful to me, a sinner!”

One was proud, the other one was humble. One thought he was so good he didn’t really need a Savior. The other one was so broken, he knew that without being dependent upon a Savior his life would have no hope. One was an unbeliever. The other one was saved.

And then we get to verses 15-17, where little children come to Jesus.

15.Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

16. But Jesus called them to him, saying, « Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

17. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. »

Jesus here continues to teach about what it means to be a true Christian. He says that being a Christian is like being a child. Not because children are innocent, because they are not. How many of you have younger siblings? Would you say that they are perfect, always watching for others and never being selfish? No way! Here Jesus is teaching that the kingdom of God is for those that are like children because children, just like the tax-collector, need to be dependent. The tax collector was asking help from God. Children are the same, they are always asking for help. They can’t live on their own. They need to be protected, provided for, educated, sheltered.

And so Jesus is with a crowd, teaching all these things, and then a young man from the group comes to him to ask a question. This man is the rich young ruler. In this passage he is only called a ruler, but from the same story in the other gospels we know that he was also young and very rich.

Luk 18:18  And a ruler asked him, « Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? »

Luk 18:19  And Jesus said to him, « Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Luk 18:20  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.' »

Luk 18:21  And he said, « All these I have kept from my youth. »

Luk 18:22  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, « One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. »

Luk 18:23  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Now, if you had asked most Jews in Israel in the times of Jesus, they probably all thought that this man was on his way to heaven. First, he sought sound teaching. Not only he came to listen to Jesus, but he even asked questions. Secondly he was rich, which for a lot of people of the Old Testament it implied that he was blessed by God, and so in favor before God. God had promised to bless the faithful ones, so often they thought that those who had riches were the ones that were the closest to God. Thirdly, he knew the Old Testament and on an outward level he had even applied himself to obey some of the 10 commandments.

He was religious, he had been faithful to his convictions his whole life, he wasn’t openly rebelling against God or living a life of debauchery. He looked like a believer, talked like a believer, and hung out with believers. But guess what? He was not a true believer. He refused to follow Jesus. And he refused because ultimately his heart was self-centered, and not God-centered. And he is probably in hell right now.

Earlier today we talked about the story of the leper who showed to be a true Christian because of his focus on God and his worship of Him. Now we are going to look at 5 deadly manifestations of self-centeredness that depict an unbeliever. And as we consider those, let us look at our own lives to see how we can grow to be less centered on self and more centered on God.

I. SELF-SERVING

First, in this passage, we see that he is self-centered by being self-serving. He is using people to his own ends. He is a manipulator.

And this is how we see this: he comes to Jesus with flattery. He calls Him “good” even though he doesn’t really believe it. He calls him “good” because he is trying to deceive Jesus to fall into a system of external conventions so proper to the rulers and aristocratic of the day. He does not call Him good because He believes that Jesus’ teaching should be followed, we know that because he walks away from Jesus – he calls him good because he is trying to get Jesus to like him.

And why is he trying to get Jesus to like him? Because he wants to get in the kingdom because he is a nice guy, not because he is following the teachings of Jesus. See, Jesus had just taught to the crowds that the kingdom of God was for those who would be broken-hearted and dependent, like the tax-collector and the children. But this guy comes and thinks that he is too good to fit in those categories. “Well, that dependence stuff is good for them, but what about a cool guy like me?”

And so he comes to Jesus with flattery. We even see in the gospel of Mark, in the same story, that he comes and kneels down before Jesus. Jesus was teaching the crowds, and here he comes, in front of everybody, and kneels down. And he calls him “good teacher!”

Now, you need to remember something. We’re in the days of Jesus, not in modern times. Back then, they didn’t use paper like we do. A lot of transactions were done by speaking. And so words were very important. Very important. And people were so used to that that they were also a lot better at remembering what people said. So when this man praises Jesus like this in front of a crowd, they would remember for a long time how he “honored” Jesus with his lips. It meant a lot.

Imagine if you go to class, and before the class begins your teacher says to everyone: “Listen class! This guy or this girl is awesome!”

Now, if your teacher did that to you, would you like the teacher or not? If the teacher kept telling people in public how awesome you are, would you behave well in that class? Would you listen to the teacher?

But what if the teacher told everyone that you were awesome but didn’t even believe it. What if the teacher told everybody that you were awesome just so that he or she could get you to behave better in class? That would be called flattery.

The dictionary states that flattery is “Excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interests.”

And that’s what this young ruler was all about. He had his own interests in mind. He was self-serving, self-centered. He didn’t care about the teachings of Jesus, he cared about getting Jesus on his side so that Jesus would treat him well in return.

Pro 26:28  A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Flattering is nothing else but lying. And it is practical hatred and brings about destruction. Flattery kills relationships. It makes them superficial and meaningless.

Now why do you think God created relationships? After God created Adam He created Eve so that she could be a helper to him. The first relationship that was created was made so that two people could help each other to do God’s will. That’s what relationships are all about. It’s to encourage one another to love God more, to love each other, to care for one another and to keep each other accountable that we all are bringing glory to His name.

Pro 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy

A true believer does not want to flatter people, but he wants to tell them the truth even when it is hard, even when it hurts people. Is it easy to confront someone on their sins? No, it’s really hard! They might hate you for it, they might think you are judging them, that you are not tolerant; they might even stop being your friends if they love their sins more than they love you. One time I told my younger brother that I didn’t think he was a believer because of how he lived his life, and he got so mad that he hit the wall and punched a hole into it. But by God’s grace he got saved a month later.

And that’s the first sign of an unbeliever: and unbeliever would rather have people like him than telling the truth to people. An unbeliever would rather have people believe lies rather than to tell them the truth.

Did the rich young ruler care about Jesus? Not a bit. He wanted to manipulate Him. But Jesus caught his intentions right away: He asks Him in verse 19:

Luk 18:19  And Jesus said to him, « Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Jesus didn’t necessary rebuke him in front of everybody. He was very tactful. But he didn’t let him go away with his flattery. In fact, Jesus in this passage is extremely wise in how he tackles the problem of the young man. His problem is that he is self-centered: too self-centered to care about God or care about people. And so with this first comment, Jesus slowly leads the young ruler to see the state of his heart.

“Wait a minute! What is this about? I’m not playing by your rules. I don’t care about your flattery. In fact, let me show you how deceived you are with your own words. You call me good? God alone is good. So if you want to use a word that describes God’s character, let me point you back to Him. It’s not about you, it’s all about Him.”

II. SELF-ELEVATING

So first he showed how he was self-centered by self-serving, by being flattering. Secondly, he showed that he is self-centered by being self-elevating.

As we just mentioned, Jesus had been teaching to the crowd concerning salvation and the kingdom of God. First he taught about humility, right, in verse 14: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then he taught on being like children: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

In these statements Jesus makes generalizations. He says first “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” And then he says “truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Jesus is making generalizations. He is speaking truths that apply to everybody. “If you want to be part of the kingdom and have eternal life, be humble. If you want to go to heaven, be dependent like a child.”

But here comes the rich young ruler with his question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Now you might be thinking, was he listening? Jesus just taught what the kingdom of God was all about!

He was listening, but only with one ear. With one ear he was hearing the words of Jesus, but with the other ear he was listening to his own voice speaking to himself: “You’re better than this. These truths don’t apply to you. You are superior to them. You are in a category just by yourself.”

Do you ever do this? You hear some challenges from Scriptures but think to yourself: “No, I’ve got that one figured out. That’s for someone else.” And you start reasoning in your mind why the truths that are being spoken about are not really for you.

That was what the rich young ruler was doing. He was elevating himself above others. He thought he was superior to others. He was prideful. He was completely self-centered. He thought it was all about him.

In 1 Peter 5:5 it is written that God opposes the proud, but that He gives grace to the humble. God hates pride. He abhors it. And when He sees pride, He opposes it. When Satan the angel of light became prideful and rebelled against God, God kicked him out of heaven. When Adam became prideful and disobeyed God and ate from the fruit of the tree, God chased him from the Garden of Eden, from His presence, and gave a limit to his life so that he would die. And when men continued to be prideful and to sin against God, He judged them all with a flood to destroy every man except 8 people. And when the men of Babel joined together in pride to build a tower to “make a name for themselves” so that they would be remembered, God judged their pride and confused them with different languages.

Whenever people raise their fists to God’s will and say to Him, “we’ve got something better for ourselves than what you want us to do!” God calls it pride, and He opposes it. And let me tell you, if you think that you can get away doing your own will rather than God’s will, He will stand up in your way. He will be in your face. He’s going to judge you. And it’s not going to be pretty. If you think that you can keep a hardened heart when certain truths of the Scriptures are taught and you distance yourself from them, watch out.

God hates pride with all of His heart. In heaven, there will be no pride. Heaven is for humble people, for people who want to serve and love others, for people who want to do the will of God, for people who have died to self, who like Paul have been crucified with Christ.

This rich young ruler was prideful, self-elevating, and self-centered. He thought he could look down on others. He thought he deserved more than they did. He thought he was important enough to get God’s favor and attention.

I can tell you that it would not have taken very long for Jesus to smell that pride. Oh no, God smells pride like nothing else. It’s the most distasteful, stinky and revolting odor in the world. He wasn’t going to get away with this. Jesus was not going to let him go off the hook with that one. He wanted him to see his pride.

And so he asks him that simple question. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Here Jesus is simply and wisely redirecting both the self-serving flattery of the ruler and his pride to a focus on God. It wasn’t about him, it was about God.

III. SELF-SUFFICIENT

First we saw that he was self-serving, secondly we saw that he was self-elevating, then thirdly we see that he was self-sufficient.

Luk 18:20  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.' »

Luk 18:21  And he said, « All these I have kept from my youth. »

The 10 commandments can be divided into two parts: one part relating to how one should behave in regard to his relationship with God, in worshipping Him alone, not using His name in vain, not making idols and keeping the Sabbath, and the other commandments concern one’s relationship with other people: not to murder them, to lie to them, to steal from them, but to be faithful and to honor them. In short, half of them deal with loving God, the other half deal with how we should love our neighbor.

Now, based on what we had already seen, do you think that the rich young ruler really loved his neighbor? We just saw from one sentence coming from his mouth that he is a manipulator and an arrogant man, looking down on people.

No, the rich young ruler did not love people. He loved himself.

And so when Jesus asks him about the commandments, he thought: “this is easy. This is basic stuff. I know all of that. I’ve been pretty good at those. I am a righteous man. I have done all of them.”

Now, let’s go back to verse 9, the first that introduces the story of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax-collector:

Luk 18:9  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

The Pharisees were like the young man, they looked down on people. And they did that because they thought they were righteous. They thought that they had God’s law figured out. They thought that they had obeyed the law enough to be found guiltless. And you know why? It is because they thought they could pick their own standards of justice.

Imagine that you are in a country where the only law concerning speed limit is this one: “don’t go too fast.” Now that is a very broad statement. How would you apply this on the freeway? Well, this is how the Pharisees would apply this. They would get together, find out a speed limit that they would know is very hard to go over, like 150 miles/hour, and then make an agreement. Too fast is 150 miles/hour. Then they would all feel good about themselves.

Now they did the same thing with the 10 commandments. God had told them not to commit adultery, which means to not have intimate relationships with someone who is not your spouse. But many of them, when they wanted to sleep with another woman, they would divorce their wives so that they could get married again. But because they were still “married” they thought they were all good.

This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:20:

Mat 5:20  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ standards were different.

Mat 5:21  « You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’

Mat 5:22  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Mat 5:27  « You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

Mat 5:28  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

For Jesus the 10 commandments were a lot more than a list of things to do and not to do. They were the principles that one who loved God and loved others would want to follow.

Now, do you think that this young ruler practiced those things? No, he didn’t. We just saw that he talked to Jesus with flattery, which is a form of deception and of lying. He said he honored his parents from his youth. Do you think that it is even possible?

Now, do you know why God gave the 10 commandments?

Rom 3:20  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The reason why the Law and the 10 commandments  were given was to show people that they could never obey perfectly, and that they needed a Savior. That was the whole point. It was to show that their hearts were wicked and that they needed God to heal their hearts.

But the rich young ruler did not think that he needed a Savior. He thought he had everything under control. When Jesus told him about the commandments, he was asking him one basic question: do you think that you really love your neighbor? And the rich young ruler to answer: “I have done everything I could to do so.”

IV. SELF-INTERESTED

He was blinded. He was blinded because he could see nothing else but himself. He was self-serving, self-elevating, self-sufficient, and here, fourthly, we see that he was self-interested.

What he really cares about are his own interests.

After hearing the very prideful words from the ruler, Jesus now is about to test him: “You say you did everything you could to love people? Let’s see.”

Luk 18:22  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, « One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. »

Luk 18:23  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

Here Jesus continues to play the game of the ruler. He progressively set him up, and now he is able to give him a final challenge that will truly reveal what was in the heart of that rich young ruler.

“You’ve done everything? Wow, that’s great. But let’s see if there is something else lacking. Something small. I mean, you have already done everything you could, would there really be anything difficult to ask you? It’s probably not going to be hard for you. Go home, sell your stuff, and follow me.”

From the beginning until now, it is as if Jesus and the rich young ruler were part of two different conversations. The rich young ruler keeps talking about himself, and Jesus keeps trying to point to God and others. And here, finally, the two conversations merge. Finally the rich young ruler gets pushed to the corner and to the point where he has to listen to Jesus. But because he hadn’t been listening until now, what Jesus tells him falls on him like a bomb.

At last, the sinfulness and the selfishness of his heart are exposed. But instead of asking the Savior to help him, he walks away.

The problem was that he was self-interested. He cared about himself, not about others, and certainly not about the poor. For him to give all of his stuff to the poor made no sense. The poor? Are you kidding me? Those lowly, unworthy, dirty people? All my money to those undeserving people? What a waste! I would never do that! Just the thought made him sad. In fact the word uses here means “extremely sorrowful.”

He didn’t get sad because Jesus told him that he could not enter the kingdom of heaven: that was still possible for him. He was sad because he loved his money much more than he loved people.

He didn’t care about people. He cared about himself. He was self-interested. He wanted the comfort of this world with the approval of people, the fame and the name, the honor and the power.

Jesus was offering him a kingdom of self-denial, of sacrifice, of love for other people, of service, of seeking God rather than self-esteem. But he didn’t want that kind of kingdom. He liked money. He liked possessions. He liked things that helped him look better than other people. Without money, he would be just like everybody else. He wouldn’t have power, prestige, authority. But he liked those things more than he liked people, more than he liked Jesus, and more than he liked God the Father.

Now, when Jesus asked him to follow him, he didn’t say “no.” He walked away. He tried not to think about it. He tried to shuffle all these convicting truths in the back of his mind so that he could go on with his business without letting his conscience take over.

V. SELF-BELIEVING

This rich young ruler was self-serving, self-elevating, self-sufficient, self-interested, and finally we see that he was self-believing.

He believed in himself. Jesus wanted to test him to see if he could have faith. “Go, sell all of your stuff, and follow me, and see if God is really good.”

But that man did not believe that God was good enough to make it worth it. He thought that God would only be worth it if he still had his own comfort and stuff and selfish pleasures on the side. “Yeah, I want eternal life, but what I really want first is to be happy in my own way.”

Jesus’ test was that he would take the challenge to live by faith, to trust in God and not in the things of the world.

Jesus wanted him to understand what true salvation implied: when you enter the kingdom of God, you become a servant of the King. You can’t enter someone’s kingdom and do whatever you please. No, if you come under the King as your authority, then you have to submit, you have to obey, you have to give up whatever does not please that King to remind safe in his kingdom, lest he kills you.

Entering the kingdom of God comes with a cost. It comes with the cost of self-denial, of sacrifice, leaving behind things that don’t please God, sin, and a heart that is self-centered like that of the rich young ruler.

Is this possible without God? No it’s not.

Look at how the story continues:

Luk 18:24  Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, « How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

Luk 18:25  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. »

Luk 18:26  Those who heard it said, « Then who can be saved? »

Luk 18:27  But he said, « What is impossible with men is possible with God. »

Listen. Jeremiah the prophet wrote that the hearts of men are deceitful above all things. Without Christ and what He accomplished on the cross, it is impossible for people to get saved. We are so selfish, so self-centered, we are so prone to seek our own pleasures rather than the will of God.

Now I want you to be honest with yourselves. We looked today at the lives of two people: one who was saved, the leper, and one who was not, the rich young ruler. Which one would you think corresponds the most with your life?

We live in a generation that calls themselves Christians, but some people even here will probably go home tonight and not have even one single thought about God. We come to school, do our work, then go home and we think that the time belongs to us. And we do everything we want. We spend our time playing video games and doing stuff on the computer, and our days go by, one after the other, and we don’t do anything for others. It’s all about us, it’s all what pleases us and what makes us happy.

And when our parents ask us to help, we hate it. We complain, we give them a hard time, and we try to get away by doing as little as possible.

Is it easy to live a life to love God and to love others? No it is not. It is sacrificial, it is costly. But does God give us all the help we need? Yes He does. He always does.

But let’s be honest now. We looked at the lives of two men today, the leper and the young ruler. The leper was saved, and the young ruler was not. How could you tell the difference? One was singing praises to God and wanted to turn His focus on Him and worship Him. The other one was self-centered, selfish, prideful and only thinking about himself.

Which one do you think you are? Be honest. Do you love others? Would you be willing to give your stuff away to help people in need? Would giving away your stuff make you joyful, or would it make you sad?

Would you be willing to give your time away to serve at church, to help your parents, to encourage people, or do you hold on to your time as yours, as something that people can’t take away from you?

Now, you can be a believer and still struggle with these things. But let me tell you. You got to be honest with yourself. If you don’t have desires to love people and to live sacrificially, then maybe you should consider that maybe you are not a true believer.

But let’s turn to Mark 10:19-21

Let me ask you a last question. Do you think that God loved him because he was such a cool guy? Because he was better than other people? Because he was doing good things?

No. He loved him because God loves sinners. And that is who we are. We are sinners. And Jesus loved sinners so much that He showed us the greatest example of sacrificial love in laying down his life so that we could have eternal life.

Listen to me. We’re all sinners. And all of you are much more selfish than you think. All of you have much higher opinions of yourselves than you should. You are all way more prideful than you think.

But listen. Jesus loves you too. He loves you so much. His arms are open to welcome all sinners that repent. His arms are welcome for the sinners beating their chests in brokenness. His arms are welcome to people who come like children, wanting help, wanting a Savior.

But if you think you are ok, God will destroy your soul in an eternal fire of judgment.