Preaching the Gospel from Matthew, Part I

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Matthew

Text: Matthew 19:16-30

Time: July 8th, 2007

I’m starting a new sermon series on the Gospel by preaching the Gospel from each of the main books of the New Testament. Today, I’m starting in Matthew with a familiar passage, the story of the Rich Young Ruler and Jesus. This simple account gives us a good understanding of what the Gospel is and what it isn’t. And that is a very important thing – to know what the gospel is and what it isn’t. For example, if you don’t know what the gospel is then you might miss out on receiving it or you might be believing the wrong thing, and if you believe the wrong thing, you aren’t saved, but lost. You must know what the true gospel is in order to believe it and be saved. So knowing what the true gospel is and knowing what it isn’t is very important. I feel very sad for people who attend some kind of church but don’t really know or understand what the gospel really is. No matter how sincere they may be, if they don’t know what the gospel is, they can’t be saved. And we must admit that there are lots of people, in churches and outside of churches, who don’t know what the gospel is and who aren’t saved and who aren’t going to heaven. I hope you know what the gospel is, the true gospel, so that you are truly saved and not just mistaken. What could be more important in life than being truly saved? Like Jesus said, “What does it benefit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” People lose their souls every day when they die in a state of confusion over the true gospel. So today, I’d like to help us all by clarifying what is and what isn’t the gospel, what saves us and what doesn’t save us, so that we can compare what we believe with the true gospel in order to make sure we are truly saved. If we are truly saved, praise God, then we are encouraged. If we aren’t truly saved, then it’s a good time to get saved before it’s too late. Because the stakes are so high, it’s important that we check ourselves from time to time just to make sure that we are really saved. A pilot checks over an airplane before he flies by going over and over a checklist of things just to make sure that he’s got everything right and nothing is wrong. That’s what we need to do about the salvation of our soul – we have to go through the check list from time to time to make sure we are really saved, because once we die there is no going back and getting it right. We have to get it right now, not later. So would you go with me through the checklist of salvation? Would you walk yourself through it in order to make sure you are saved and going to heaven? Some of you probably converted to Christianity many years ago, while others of you may have gotten saved just a short time ago. Some of you might be very confident of your salvation, while others of you might not be so confident. It really doesn’t matter, because today we are going to go through the checklist of salvation and see whether we are or not saved. Again, this is something nobody wants to be wrong about. If you are wrong about anything in life, don’t be wrong about this, your eternal destiny depends on it. Jesus is talking to a rich young man about how to have eternal life in heaven with God; let’s listen in and hear what he has to say in Matthew 19:16-30 (read). Let me point out three things.

First, You can’t get eternal life by doing something. Matthew 19:16-20, “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, Teacher what good things must I do to get eternal life? Why do you ask me about what is good? Jesus replied. There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments. Which ones? The man inquired. Jesus replied, Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. All these I have kept, the young man said, what do I still lack?” This man was under the false impression that you could receive eternal life, or salvation in heaven with God, by doing something. He was sure that was the way, but he couldn’t figure out what he hadn’t done. So Jesus summarizes God’s law to him and tells him that if he wants to find salvation he needs to keep the entire law perfectly. Actually, Jesus was setting this man up, because Jesus knew that nobody did ever keep the whole law perfectly except He Himself as the incarnate Word, 2nd person of the Trinity. But this man was still under the false impression that he had kept the whole law and he couldn’t understand why he kept feeling like there was something missing. There was something missing. He in fact, hadn’t kept the whole law, only the external aspect of the law, and it’s questionable that he had even done that perfectly either! He was under the false impression that eternal life was gotten by doing something – the law. And that’s what a lot of people are still under the false impression of; they think they can make it to heaven through doing something, doing things, good things, holy things. The problem is it’s impossible, as this rich young man sensed. He had a list of things he thought he had to do to receive eternal life, and people today have a list of things they think can gain them eternal life if they do. For this man, being Jewish, it was a list of things pertaining to the law of Moses in the Old Testament. Today, people think of a list of things connected with the church or holy living. Some people think if they get baptized they are saved. Others think if they can join a church they’ll be saved for all eternity. Still others think if they try to do more good than bad they’ll be saved by that. Some think that if they pray a prayer or read a verse from the Bible they’ll be saved. Others think if they attend church every week, or more often than not, they’ll be saved by that. Still others think if they simply believe that Jesus died on the cross, or that he rose from the dead, or they recite a creed or raise their hand at an evangelistic meeting, or go forward and sign a card or pray a prayer, that, they think, saved them to heaven. But they are all wrong, just like this rich young man, because salvation isn’t earned by anything we do. At least this man was honest enough to admit that all his human efforts hadn’t saved him, because he said, “I’ve done all these things, but what do I lack?” Would that people today were as honest and admit that all their doings haven’t saved them; that they still lack something. Are you still under the false impression that doing something saves you? Are you still counting on something you’ve done to get you to heaven? If so, you are wrong. Nothing that we can do saves us. Jesus explains further.

Second, you can only get eternal life by trusting in Someone – Jesus. Matthew 19:21-26, “Jesus answered, if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come, follow me. When the young man heard this, he want away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, who then can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” But wait! Isn’t this a contradiction of point number one? You just said that nobody can go to heaven by doing something, but then Jesus tells this rich young man to do something; how can that be? Because the point is not the doing of something but the trusting in Someone, namely Jesus. He was asking the man to trust him. He could have asked the man to go over in the corner and stand on his head, or whatever, but Jesus wanted to find out if the man would simply trust him. Why did Jesus ask the man to sell everything and give to the poor? Because the man was rich and trusted in his riches. Jesus wanted to see if the man would trust him more than his riches — and we find out that the man wouldn’t. Now what was the man’s fear? Wasn’t it that if he did what Jesus told him to do that he’d be worse off? That if he sold everything he’d be without what he needed? But that isn’t trusting Jesus because if he had trusted Jesus he would have assumed that the same Jesus who challenged him would provide for him also. The man simply wouldn’t put his trust in Jesus, and that’s what salvation all boils down to: trust in Jesus. It isn’t what we do or try to do in obedience to God – we can’t perfectly please God and live up to the whole law anyway, so that’s doomed to fail from the start. What saves us is wholehearted trust in Jesus and Jesus alone. Are you trusting in Jesus alone today to save you to eternal life? Are you trusting in Jesus, that his death on the cross in your place is sufficient to save you from sin and the wrath of God’s judgment against sin? Or are you still counting on something you do or did — like living a pretty good life or you being baptized or you doing more good than bad in life or you being affiliated with the church in some way or you praying a prayer or signing a card or going forward at an evangelistic meeting, etc? The only thing that gives us eternal life, according to Jesus, is simple, child-like trust in Jesus. If that man had said, “Jesus, it’s crazy, but I trust in you and trust that you know what you are asking of me and you’ll provide for me now and for eternity. Ok, I’ll sell the farm!” If he simply had that bit of faith in Jesus he could have been saved. But he just couldn’t do it. Could you do it? Can you do it now? Can you trust Jesus no matter what he might require of you? It isn’t about the money; it wasn’t about money with the rich young man. It was about who or what he trusted most in? This man trusted more in his money than he did in Jesus. But everyone has their own issue of faith to deal with, whether it’s money or popularity or looks or power or independence, etc. If Jesus asked you to choose between your most important thing and him, would you choose Jesus? It’s all about trust; it’s all about faith. What do you put your trust in, something else, or Jesus? If you want eternal life you must put your faith in Jesus, not something else.

But Jesus brings up another point about faith and trust in his answer to his disciples questions. They asked him, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered them, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” According to Jesus it’s impossible for man to save himself. Not only is it impossible for a man or woman to do anything worthy enough for eternal life, it’s impossible for a man or woman to simply decide to believe! Why does one person believe, while another person doesn’t believe? Because one person has faith or trust in Jesus, and another person doesn’t believe or trust or have faith in Jesus. But who decides who will ultimately believe or trust in Jesus? That is a mystery known only by God in heaven. This rich young man couldn’t bring himself to believe in Jesus, he couldn’t find it within himself to trust Jesus over his earthly resources. It’s not as if some people have the power within themselves to will their own salvation, yet other people don’t exercise the power within themselves to be saved. According to Jesus with man it is impossible to get saved, period. But with God, through the power of God, it’s possible. There are some people who play fast and loose with salvation, who take a very casual attitude about salvation. They hear about the great issues of sin, judgment, eternal punishment, damnation in hell, and all these frightening things and then they think, “O I know all about these things, someday I’ll get serious about them, but for now I’ll live my life the way I want, and only later will I give these things much thought.” How foolish! According to Jesus, with man it is impossible to get saved, but only through the power of God can man be saved. That’s why we need to make sure we are saved now, and we need to call upon God to save us now because we may never have another opportunity. We don’t even know our own hearts enough to know that if we put it off for later we will even have enough motivation to respond to Christ’s invitation. We can’t even count on our own hearts being able to make such a great decision later because we don’t even know our own heart that well enough. Maybe later, we’ll be distracted by some other interest and never again be open to the call of Christ to salvation. What about this rich young man? Did he ever come back at some later date and seek salvation? We hear nothing about him ever doing so in any of the other book of the New Testament. The miracle of salvation was so close for him but he turned away from it. That’s why we need to ask ourselves once in a while, maybe every year or so: am I truly saved? Am I really trusting in Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation? Is there anything I’m trusting in for salvation other than Jesus? Am I depending on a false assurance? How can we tell if we are saved? How can we tell if we are truly trusting in Jesus sufficiently for salvation?

Third, you can tell if you are saved by the fruit you are bearing in life. Matthew 19:27-30, “Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Number one, there is the fruit of obedience. That’s the point of the disciples. They had obeyed Christ. They had put him first before all things. They had trusted in Jesus when he called them. Unlike the rich young man, they responded in faith and put their wholehearted trust in Jesus. And that faith showed itself in them following Jesus. So the first test is: are you bearing the fruit of obedience to Christ? Are you following Christ? Is your life changed from a sin-centered life to a holy life following Christ? Not perfectly, not spotless necessarily, but is there a vast difference in your lifestyle now as before you trusted Christ? If you still sin the same sins, if you still have the same selfish attitudes, if you are basically the same sinful person, you probably haven’t been saved. The Apostle Paul says, “Examine yourself to see if you are of the faith.” But today people casually claim to be Christians but their lives don’t show it. Is your life bearing the fruit of obedience to God, the Bible, to Christ? Number two, there is the fruit of devotion. Do you hunger to pray, to read the Bible, to attend church, to witness, to minister in some way to others in Christ’s name, etc? A born-again Christian, a saved person, desires to read the Bible, and does; a person who has eternal life is motivated to pray, and does pray. People who are saved and have the Spirit inside want to witness their faith to others. Are these things you do or want to do? If not, where is the fruit of your salvation? Again, there are Christians who claim salvation but who never pray, never read their Bibles, who have no desire to do so. What does that say? It certainly isn’t evidence of their salvation. In fact, it’s evidence against it! If you don’t follow Christ in obedience, if you don’t desire simple, basic, and regular devotions, you’d better go back over salvation to make sure you got it right. Don’t just assume you are going to heaven, make sure. Finally, three, there is the fruit of the Spirit’s witness inside you. Some people rely only on their own inner feeling; they feel saved. That’s a mistake because we can be mistaken about feelings. Don’t think you are saved only on the basis of a feeling, but if you are truly saved you should have the assurance of the Spirit that you are as a confirmation, as well as the other confirmations I mentioned above. When you look at the promises in the Bible concerning salvation, when you trust in them as they lead you to believe in Jesus, you should have the confidence or assurance of the Holy Spirit that confirms also that you are forgiven of all your sins, you are saved from judgment, wrath and damnation, and that you are saved to eternal life with God.

Now has all of this confirmed your salvation, or has this cast doubt on your spiritual state? If you aren’t sure about where you stand with God, ask yourself these questions: do I truly trust Christ? Do I realize that before God I’m a sinner that deserves nothing but judgment and damnation forever because of my sinful rebellion against him? Do I realize that nothing I do can save me, that only Christ can save me? Am I willing to trust in Christ alone as my Savior? If so, then pray a prayer something like this: Jesus I realize that I am sinful and rebellious against the laws of God. I realize that I am deserving of God’s wrath, judgment and damnation in hell. But I also realize that my one chance of salvation is with you Jesus, so I turn away from my life of sin, I repent of my sinfulness and all my specific sins, and turn to you as my only salvation. Please save me from my sins, forgive me of my sins, save me from the judgment to come, save me from hell and damnation, save me to eternal life. I trust that your death on the cross in my place was sufficient to wash away my sinful record and secure for me a place in eternal life. I trust in you Jesus and nothing else to save me. Please change my heart from selfishness to service to you in this life and the life to come. Help me follow you all the days of my life, help me to never, ever fall away under any circumstances. Give me a desire now to serve you, to pray, to read my Bible, to participate in church, to witness for you, to give my life in every way to you. Thank you for saving my soul. Please let me see the fruit of salvation in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Also, please give me the assurance of salvation in my spirit and give me confidence of your presence with me now and forever. Thank you Jesus, amen.

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