“Emmanuel’s Salvation” – Matthew 19:13-26

March 6th, 2016

Matthew 19:13-26 (see also: Mark 10:13-31; Luke 18:15-30)

“Emmanuel’s Salvation”

Auxiliary Text: Philippians 3:4b-10

Call to Worship from: Psalm 53


Service Orientation:  The best “good” we have to offer God, without Christ, actually puts us deeper in debt to God.  Our good is never good enough.  Only Christ’s good is True Good.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. — Isaiah 64:6


Background Information:

  • The one overarching truth running through Mt 19:13-20:24 is that salvation is a free gift of divine mercy totally devoid of human merit. Quite simply, salvation is impossible without the mercy of God.  This is good news for unbelievers and believers, for all of us should live our lives by relying on God’s mercy and not our own works and efforts.  We’ll see how this plays out first with little children and a rich man.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 262)
  • In Mt 19:13-30 Jesus corrects his disciples for wanting to drive away people who were bringing little children to Jesus. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (v. 14).  Yet in the very next paragraph Jesus seems to drive away an earnest young man who wanted to become his disciple.  The man is allowed to go because he is unwilling to part with his possessions.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 408)
  • (v. 13) It was customary for people to bring their children (the Greek word paidia could refer to children ranging in age from babies to preteens) to a rabbi for a blessing. Thus people were bringing children to Jesus so that he could place his hands on them and pray for them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 375)
  • (v. 14) Very rarely in the Gospels do we read of Jesus being angry, and this was one of those occasions. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 382-3)
  • (v. 14) Happy is the church whose infant members are cared for as much as the oldest communicants! The blessing of him who was crucified will surely be on that church!  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 171)
  • (v. 14) No church or Christian movement has prospered spiritually that has disregarded or neglected the care and training of its children. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 180)
  • (v. 14) The disciples’ motive is not explained, but Jesus’ response in v. 14 suggests that they are wrongly assuming that children have no claim on their master’s attention. Their memories are short:  their attitude could hardly be more opposite to “welcoming a child in the name of Jesus” (18:5).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 727)
  • (v. 14) Moms and dads should strive to teach their children to know God and His ways. They should pray for them and pray over them.  Family worship is one way to put these things into practice, in addition to daily instructions and being an example of godly living.  While moms and dads should (ideally) be the ones who see to the spiritual formation of children, this calling should also be important to the church.  Churches should think through how they can most effectively pass the gospel on to the next generation.  And it’s not just our children; we are to care for other children, both in our neighborhood and around the world.  Through our sacrificial giving, we can see children in poverty escape physical death and begin to thrive.  Even better, we can see the gospel made available to children who would not otherwise hear of Jesus Christ.  Every child is important to Him.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 264)
  • (v. 14) Parents who squabble, cheat on each other, and turn their home into a living hell must be hardhearted and selfish indeed. How the Lord’s heart must ache over the children in that home!  The sad fact is that many such parents are professing Christians.  But by their behavior they damage the little ones whom Jesus would take into His arms.  The fighting of husbands and wives can turn their children away from the Lord, perhaps for eternity.  What an accounting there will be one day!  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 383)
  • (v. 15) He was the kind of person whom children loved. The poet and novelist George MacDonald used to say that people could never be followers of Jesus if the children were afraid of them.  Jesus was certainly no grim ascetic if the children loved him.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 247)
  • (v. 16) Luke adds that he was a “ruler”–a synagogue official, that is–which was unusual for a young man, and indicates that his legal blamelessness was recognized. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 47)
  • (v. 16) Mark adds one of his touches, which are not only picturesque, but character-revealing, by the information that he came “running” to Jesus in the way, so eager was he, and fell at His feet, so reverential was he. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 47-8)
  • (v. 21) For many centuries the rabbis had taught that accumulation of wealth was a virtue and that it was not only unwise but sinful for a person to give away more than one fifth of what he owned. They had designed a religious law to protect their selfishness and greed.  Envisioning the Lord in their own materialistic image, they reasoned that God was pleased with a gift in direct proportion to its size.  Therefore, the more one gave out of the permissible one fifth limit, the more favor he found with God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 202)
  • (v. 21) But his “great possessions” mean that the change of lifestyle will be more drastic for him than it probably was for Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew. Jesus’ challenge thus sets the claims of God and Mammon in a direct opposition which proves too sharp for him.  Why then has Jesus chosen to confront this man with a demand which he has not made on many of his other followers, such as the hospitable family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Lk 18:38-42; Jn 12:1-3), the wealthy wife of Chuza (Lk 8;3), the “rich disciple” Joseph of Arimathea (27:57), or even Zaccheus, who gave away only half his wealth plus restitutions (Lk 19:8)?  Was it because he saw in this man’s spiritual earnestness the potential for a leading role in the disciple group (perhaps implied by Mark’s comment that Jesus “loved him,” Mk 10:21)?  Or had he, as much interpretation has gratefully supposed, diagnosed this man as having a specific spiritual problem through an unhealthy attachment to his wealth, so that he would not have made the same demand on the rest of us?  Possibly, but the text does not say so.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 736-7)
  • (v. 23) Obviously, Jesus is using hyperbole. The camel was the largest animal in Palestine and the eye of a needle was the smallest opening in a familiar object (Gundry, 390).  The statement is proverbial and found in the Koran (Sura 7.38) as well as in the Talmud (cf. b. Berak. 55b, where “elephant” is used instead of “camel”).  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 184)
  • (v. 24) Why should we thus accuse Jesus of a drably literal mind, or show ourselves bereft of imagination? He was unafraid of hyperbole.  He delighted in dramatic metaphor.  His speech was gigantesque, and therefore unforgettable.  This verse means just what it says–that riches or any other temptation represent an antagonism too strong for mere human power.  (Abingdon Press, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p. 315)
  • (v. 24) It may be that here the more personal expression “kingdom of God” is chosen to emphasize the opposition between the two “kings,” God and Mammon; cf. The similar effect in 12:28, where the opposition to the kingdom of Satan was in view. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 737)
  • (v. 24) More widely adopted has been a suggestion popularized in the nineteenth century that “the eye of the needle” was the name for a small gate within the large double gate of a city wall through which pedestrians could enter without the need for the large gates to be opened as they would be for a camel train. It is suggested that a camel might be forced through such a gate with great difficulty, and further spiritual lessons have then been extracted from the observation that in order to do so it would have to bend its knees and be striped of its load.  This romantic speculation has been repeated so often that it is sometimes treated as established exegesis.  Unfortunately, while this suggestion was not new in the nineteenth century, there is in fact no evidence at all for such usage of “the eye of the needle” either in nonbiblical sources or in ancient commentaries on the gospels.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 738)
  • (v. 24) Attempts to weaken this hyperbole by taking “needle,” not as a sewing needle, but as a small gate through which an unladen camel could just squeeze–and only on his knees–are misguided. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 425)
  • (v. 25) Because wealth in the OT was generally regarded as a mark of God’s favor (cf. Ps 1:3), the disciples respond to Jesus’ words about the difficulty of the rich entering heaven by asking, Who then can be saved? (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 185)


The question to be answered is . . . What is Jesus telling the disciples and the Rich Young Ruler?


Answer:  The disciples as well as the Rich Young Ruler saw good human achievement as prerequisites for admission into the Kingdom of heaven.  Jesus, on the other hand, is trying to get us to see that our idea of good is not good enough and it is impossible to meet God’s minimum requirement of perfection.


The Word for the Day is . . . Good


Four things the Rich Young Ruler, the disciples, as well as we need to learn from Jesus:

I-  Human achievement or status can actually be a detriment to entering God’s Kingdom.  (Mt 19:13-15, 20-26 see also: Isa 64:6; Mt 13:1-23; 22:1-14; Mk 4:1-20; Lk 8:4-15; Rom 3:9-26; 10:4; Gal 2:15-3:3; Phil 3:7a-11; 1 Tm 6:9-19)


It is not your sin that will keep you out of heaven, it is your perceived righteousness.


Jesus wanted little children to come because he loves them and because they have the kind of attitude needed to approach God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 375)


You see, it wasn’t the money that hindered the rich man; it was the self-sufficiency.  It wasn’t the possessions; it was the pomp.  It wasn’t the big bucks; it was the big head.  “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  It’s not just the rich who have difficulty.  So do the educated, the strong, the good-looking, the popular, the religious.  So do you if you think your piety or power qualifies you as a kingdom candidate.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 28)


All your life you’ve been rewarded according to your performance.  You get grades according to your study.  You get commendations according to your success.  You get money in response to your work.

That’s why the rich young ruler thought heaven was just a payment away.  It only made sense.  You work hard, you pay your dues, and “zap”–your account is credited as paid in full.  Jesus says, “No way.”  What you want costs far more than what you can pay.  You don’t need a system, you need a Savior.  You don’t need a resume, you need a Redeemer.  For “what is impossible with men is possible with God.”  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 28)


“The real evil is that we trust in our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see that Christ has done for us…”   It is your goodness more than your badness that separates you from God.”   (Martin Luther in Luther’s preface to the Galatians)


Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God:  To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life. (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


The children came to Jesus in humility and received his blessing as a gift.  They had no authority or rights, but they came to him in trust and love.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 376)


While the children came readily to Jesus, a rich young man had difficulty.  He wanted to get close, but he wanted to do so on his own terms.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 376)


“…it is inappropriate to use the law as a means of staying close to God.”  (Stephen Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough, 126)


It is impossible for men, in their own strength, relying on their own resources, to win the favor of God.  The rich young ruler’s wealth was a millstone around his neck.  In his case the best thing to be done with his wealth was to give it away.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 386)


The Law is a guide.  Your salvation is in Christ.  Therefore there is no room for pride, self-confidence or self-righteousness.  All have failed miserably under the Law (Eph 2:8-9).


In Jesus’ estimation wealth naturally creates all that makes people too big, too fat, and too adult.  Wealth often “deadens the instinct for self-sacrifice.”  Wealth often fosters the ungodly notion that this world has much to offer.  Wealth often numbs our minds to the reality of the joys of Heaven and the torments of Hell.  There is always something more on earth to buy or look forward to when one has wealth.  Wealth often lures us into believing that everything can be had for a price.  In most cases with wealth comes self-indulgence, self-reliance, self-importance, and self-security.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 551)


Riches encourage a false independence.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 253)


If people are wealthy, they are apt to think that everything has its price, that if they want a thing enough they can buy it, that if any difficult situation descends upon them they can buy their way out of it.  They can come to think that they can buy their way into happiness and buy their way out of sorrow.  So they come to think that they can well do without God and are quite able to handle life by themselves.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 254)


Wealth translates into power; power generates pride; and pride slams the gates of the kingdom shut.  It is difficult for a rich man to be “poor in spirit” (5:3).  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 386)


If people look on their possessions as given to them for nothing but their own comfort and convenience, those possessions are a chain which must be broken; if they look on their possessions as a means to helping others; those possessions are a crown.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 251)


This “young” (Matthew’s description), “rich” (Mark’s description), “ruler” (Luke’s description) is too big to fit through the impossibly small door of the kingdom of heaven.  He is like a giraffe or an elephant or a camel (yes, a camel!) trying to squeeze its way through the tip of a tiny sewing needle.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 546)


This man who only moments ago knelt before Jesus enthusiastic and expectant now stood up, turned his back on our Lord, and “went away sorrowful” (v. 22).  Why?  There is only one reason given:  “for he had great possessions” (v. 22), or we might rightly say, because great possessions had him.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 549)


We well-to-do Americans can indeed take some comfort in the fact that Jesus does not categorically condemn wealth and in the fact that our Lord never commanded every rich person he encountered to sell all of his or her possessions.  In fact, this is the only incident we have of such a command.  However, based on the fact that Jesus in the Gospels has nothing positive to say about money, that he never speaks of wealth as a blessing, that he repeatedly uses illustrations regarding the abundance of possessions to be “toxic to the soul,” it is fair to state that wealth (in and of itself) can be and often is a great barrier to roadblock on the path to paradise.  In other words, nothing fattens the camel like an abundance of worldly goods!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 550)


But one of Satan’s chief strategies is to blind sinners to their sin; and because pride is at the heart of all sin, there is a natural inclination toward self-deceit.  And nothing is more effective in producing self-deceit than works righteousness, which is the basis of every man-made religion, including the God-given but humanly corrupted religion of first-century Judaism.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 192)


Riches shackle people to this earth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 254)


If people have too big a stake on earth, they are very apt to forget that there is a heaven.  After a tour of a certain wealthy and luxurious castle and estate, Dr. Johnson, that great 18th century man of letters, grimly remarked:  “These are the things which make it difficult to die.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 254-5)


Riches tend to make people selfish.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 255)


Enough is always a little more than a man has.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 255)


Life becomes a strenuous and worried struggle to retain the things they have.  The result is that when people become wealthy, instead of having the impulse to give things away, they very often have the impulse to cling on to them.  Their instinct is to amass more and more for the sake of the safety and the security which they think possessions will bring.  The danger of riches is that they tend to make people forget that we lose what we keep, and gain what we give away.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 255)


We have in this story one more proof of the truth, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tm 6:10).  We must place this young man in our memories by the side of Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, and learn to beware of covetousness.  Alas, it is a rock on which thousands are continually being shipwrecked.  There is hardly a minister of the Gospel who could not point to many in his congregation who, humanly speaking, are “not far from the kingdom of God,” but they never seem to make progress.  They wish, they feel, they mean well, they hope, but there they stick fast!  And why?  Because they are fond of money.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 173)


Riches, which all desire to obtain–riches, for which people labor and toil and become gray before their time–riches are the most perilous possession.  They often inflict great injury on the soul; they lead people into many temptations; they engross people’s thoughts and affections; they bind heavy burdens on the heart, and make the way to heaven even more difficult than it naturally is.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 174)


He does not simply ask how and by what means he shall reach life, but what good thing he shall do, in order to obtain it.  He therefore dreams of merits, on account of which he may receive eternal life as a reward due; and therefore Christ appropriately sends him to the keeping of the law, which unquestionably is the way of life, as I shall explain more fully afterwards.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 393)


Even though this man was a real individual of the first century, in a sense we could call him Everyman.  The mistakes and errors that he made in his assumptions before Christ are the same that countless millions make everyday.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 571)


Among all created beings, not one dare trust in itself.  God alone trusts in Himself; all other beings must trust in Him.  Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men.  The unbeliever denies the self-sufficiency of God and usurps attributes that are not his.  This dual sin dishonors God and ultimately destroys the soul of the man.  (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy,  35)


“Teacher,” he asks, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”  The wording of his question betrays his misunderstanding.  He thinks he can get eternal life as he gets everything else–by his own strength.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 26)


The Bible has nothing but approval for industry, productivity, and stewardship.  That is why, in part, Jesus’ statement was so shocking and astonishing to His disciples.  In biblical categories, diligence, hard work, and good stewardship are seen as virtues that usually are attended by the blessing of God.  So, if anyone had any right to expect entrance into the kingdom of God, it was those who had been good stewards of the gifts that God had given.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 580)


If ever there was a promising candidate for the kingdom of heaven, surely this was he; young (v. 20, 22; only Matthew includes this description), moral (v. 20), spiritually in earnest (vv. 17, 20), and wealthy (v. 22).  If such a man cannot be saved, who can?  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 729)


Blessed are those, then, who hold their earthly possessions in open palms.  Blessed are those who, if everything they own were taken from them, would be, at most, inconvenienced, because their true wealth is elsewhere.  Blessed are those who are totally dependent upon Jesus for their joy.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 94)


Heavenly minded people are so because they have assets there.  If our treasure remains in our wallets or bank accounts, houses, cars or stocks and bonds, then that is exactly where our hearts will be also.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 74)


Love to God will expel love to the world; love to the world will deaden the soul’s love to God.  “No man can serve two masters”:  it is impossible to love God and the world, to serve him and mammon.  Here is a most fertile cause of declension in Divine love; guard against it as you would fortify yourself against your greatest foe.  It is a vortex that has engulfed millions of souls; multitudes of professing Christians have been drawn into its eddy, and have gone down into its gulf.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 56)


God has an exclusive claim on goodness.  No man can make such a claim in himself.

That is why in Jesus’ day it was a breach in religious decorum to call Jesus “good teacher.”  There is not one example in the Talmud of a rabbi being addressed as “good.”  So was the ruler’s use of “good” casual, thoughtless flattery?  Or was it simply “the poverty of his moral perception”?  Or was the ruler breaking decorum to voice what he sensed in his heart?  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. Two, 204)


Jesus is offering the RYR apostle status but he must make himself vulnerable as a child and give away all of his resources that make him so self-sufficient and independent.


II-  When Jesus says, “good” He really means flawlessly good.  (Mt 19:16-17a; see also: 1 Chr 16:34; 2 Chr 5:13; Ps 34:8; 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; Jer 17:9; Mt 15:19; Mk 10:18; Lk 18:19; Rom 3:9-23; Gal 5:19; 1 Pt 2:2-3; Rv 3:17)


Something is good when it is fulfilling the purpose for which it was created.  


Goodness is always relative to purpose.  —Alistair MacIntyre  (Tim Keller sermon, “The Search for Justice”)


Heidelberg Catechism Question # 91 What do we do that is good?  Answer:  Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for his glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.  (Jn 15:5; Heb 11:6; Lv 18:4; 1 Sm 15:22; Eph 2:10; 1 Cor 10:31; Dt 12:32; Isa 29:13; Ez 20:18-19; Mt 15:7-9)


The Lord added a statement that bound commandments six through nine and five together:  “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (19:19).  That summary statement went beyond the letter of those commandments to the spirit behind them.  He took goodness out of the realm of law and placed it in the realm of love.  He moved goodness from a system of outward compliance to a sphere of inward compulsion.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 384-5)


I think God is saying, “I want you to meet the needs of other people with all of the joy, all of the eagerness, all of the urgency, all of the ingenuity, creativity, and industry with which you meet your own needs.  That’s the standard.  That’s how I want you to live your life.”  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 40)



Q62.  Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?  Answer:  Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law (Rom 3:20; Col 3:10; Dt 27:26).  Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin (Isa 64:6).


It is not your sin that will keep you out of heaven . . .  It is your thinking that you are righteous . . . that you are good . . . that you don’t need Jesus.


The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace. —Martin Luther  (Tullian Tevidgjian, Life Without God – Pt 7)


The closer you examine anything made by man, the more imperfect you see it to be.  By contrast, the closer you examine God’s handiwork, the more do you see it to be perfect.  Take a needle, for instance, one made by the most modern manufacturing process.  To the naked eye, it is perfection itself, its smooth surface tapering to an exquisite point.  Now put that same needle under a microscope.  Immediately you can see that its surface is pitted and scarred and its point no better than a jagged stump. . . .Nothing good comes except from God and nothing except good comes from God.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 55 & 57)


Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.   Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they cannot do and what drives them to Christ.


He had no hatred for sins that needed forgiving and no admission of a heart that needed cleansing.  He was therefore not looking for what God needed to do for him but for what he still needed to do for God.  Like most Jews of his day, and like most people in all times and cultures, he believed his destiny was in his own hands and that if his lot were to improve it would have to be by his own efforts.  All he wanted from Jesus was another commandment, another formula, another rite or ceremony by which he could complete his religious obligations and make himself acceptable to God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 192)


Satan would have us define ourselves as holy by the Law, when God gave us the law to define us as sinners.   — Chuck Swindoll


When you live a good life so that God will bless you and take you to heaven, it is by definition not good.  Because it is all for you.  All for you.  You’re not helping the poor, you are helping yourself.  You’re not helping God, you are helping yourself.  This is the reason why the Belgic Confession, an old reformation document from the 17th century puts it like this:

Far from making people cold toward living in a holy way, justifying faith so works           within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only                    out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

Did you hear that?  Let me tell you what that is saying.  Put on your thinking cap.  And don’t laugh too much when I tell you.

If you think your good deeds are good.  If you think your unselfish good deeds are good, they are no good.   In other words, if you think they are good and God owes you something then they are not by definition, by your own definition, your selfishness is really selfishness.

But if you say all my good deeds are worthless.  I need to be saved by grace.  I am saved by grace.  Now I want to please God.  I want to resemble God.  I want to delight God.  I want to be near God.  Well, how do I do that?

By serving Him.  By serving other people.  But, if you think your deeds are good, they are no good.  But, if you think that your good deeds are absolutely worthless and you are saved by grace that makes your deeds good.  If you think they’re good they’re no good and if you think they’re no good they’re good.   If you think they are worthless, but you are doing them just to please God, then they actually please God.  (Tim Keller sermon, “Justified by Faith”)


Jesus was challenging the young man to own Him as God.  The Lord was saying in effect, “What do you mean by calling Me good?  Do you mean that I am relatively good, as a man can be good in comparison with other men?  Or do you mean that I am absolutely good, as God is good?  Are you saying that I am just a good man, or are you saying that I am God?  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 384)


We must stop believing what the world is trying to shove down our throats, and that is the notion that everyone is basically good (Jer 17:9; Mt 15:19; Rom 3:10-12; Gal 5:19)


In the Bible, “good” is considered as happiness, pleasure, knowledge, etc.  God Himself is The Good; there is no good apart from Him.  He is the source of all goodness.  No man can know The Good unless he knows God in a right relationship and does His expressed will.  “No one is good but God alone” (Mk 10:18).

Since God is good, all that He does in necessarily good.  He declared His own creation good (Gn 1).  The disorder, disruption, evil, and sin that now prevail throughout His world are the result of the rebellion of moral beings originally created good.

God’s revelation of Himself in history was an increasing revelation of His goodness.  He made man in His image for fellowship with Himself.  Even when man flouted Him in the Fall, God’s loving interest in him continued; He showed His goodness by immediately taking steps to undo the disastrous effects of the Fall. (Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: Vol. Two, 776)


There is a certain severity in our Lord’s tone, an absence of recognition of the much good in the young man, and a naked stringency in His demand from him, which sound almost harsh, but which are set in their true light by Mark’s note, that Jesus “loved him,” and therefore treated him thus.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 47)


So utterly ignorant is he of the spirituality of God’s commands that he never doubts that he has perfectly fulfilled them.  He seems completely unaware that the commandments apply to the thoughts and words as well as to the deeds, and that if God were to enter into judgment with him, he could “not answer him one time out of a thousand” (Job 9:3).  How dark must his mind have been about the nature of God’s law!  How low must his ideas have been about the holiness which God requires!  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 172)


It is surprising that, though Christ intended to show that we are bound to obey the whole law, he should mention the second table only; but he did so, because from the duties of charity the disposition of every man is better ascertained.  Piety towards God holds, no doubt, a higher rank; but as the observation of the first table is often feigned by hypocrites, the second table is better adapted for making a scrutiny.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 395-6)


The law must have been dead to him, when he vainly imagined that he was so righteous; for if he had not flattered himself through hypocrisy, it was an excellent advice to him to learn humility, to contemplate his spots and blemishes in the mirror of the law.  But, intoxicated with foolish confidence, he fearlessly boasts that he has discharged his duty properly from his childhood.  Paul acknowledges that the same thing happened to himself, that, so long as the power of the law was unknown to him, he believed that he was alive; but that, after he knew what the law could do, a deadly wound was inflicted on him (Rom 7:9).


It was not necessary for Jesus to include the commandments relating to man’s duty with respect to God; for failure to observe the second table implies failure to observe the first:  “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 725)


It is understandable that in answering the young man’s question Jesus starts out by referring him to the law of God, for “through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20; cr. Gal 3:24).  We have met with a similar situation before; see on 10:25-28).

However, the law does not make us conscious of our sins if we fail to discern its real meaning, its depth, as set forth by Jesus in Mt 5:21-48.  That the young man’s attitude to God’s holy law was of a superficial character is clear from his answer: 21.  He said: All these things have I observed ever since I was a child.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 833)


You don’t impress the officials at NASA with a paper airplane.  You don’t boast about your crayon sketches in the presence of Picasso.  You don’t claim equality with Einstein because you can write “H2O.”

And you don’t boast about your goodness in the presence of the Perfect.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 29)


We may say the same, but we do not love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  A. P. Gibbs used to illustrate this fact in his own inimitable style.  “You are coming home from town,” he would say, “and you see smoke ahead, near where you live.  A house is on fire.  The fire engines roar past with howling sirens and clanging bells.  You quicken your pace and round a corner.  The fire is on your street!  You break into a run.  Then you heave a sigh of relief.  You say, “I’m so glad!  It’s my house!  I’m glad it’s not my neighbor’s.”  Whoever said such a thing as that?  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 385)


The “goodness” of keeping commandments is, as v. 17 has reminded us, always relative; Jesus now replaces it with a demand which is absolute, the demand of the kingdom of heaven.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 734-5)


The thrust of the passage in both Mark and Matthew must be grasped.  Irrespective of what “good” refers to, the man approaches Jesus with a question showing how far he is from the humble faith that, as Jesus has just finished saying, characterizes all who belong to the kingdom (vv. 13-15).  He wants to earn eternal life; and in the light of v. 20, he apparently thinks there are good things he can do, beyond the demands of the law, by which he can assure his salvation.  Many Jews believed that a specific act of goodness could win eternal life; and this young man, assuming this opinion is correct, seeks Jesus’ view as to what that act might be.  Whatever differences exist between Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ response is not designed either to confess personal sin (Mark) nor to call in question his own competence to discuss what is good (Matthew), for such topics are not in view (see esp. B.B. Warfield, “Jesus’ Alleged Confession of Sin,” PTR 12, 127-228).  Instead Jesus calls in question his interlocutor’s inadequate understanding of goodness.  In the absolute sense of goodness required to gain eternal life, only God is good (cf. Ps 106:1; 118;1, 29; 1 Chr 16:34; 2 Chr 5:13; and there is no discussion of whether Jesus shares that goodness).  Jesus will not allow anything other than God’s will to determine what is good.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 422)


NIV “good” = Gk άγαθόν (Strongs # 18){NDNT; Vol I., 10-17} “pleasing to God”, “The good means simply the Torah . . .  Those who do the will of God as contained in the Law do good, and are therefore good, and will receive blessing and salvation from the Lord (Ps 34:14f.; 37:27; 2 Ch. 19:11). (p. 14)”.   άγαθόν expresses the essential goodness of God which consists in His goodness or kindness (p. 15)”.


The reason why so few believers “through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body,” is, a forgetfulness that the work has to do first and mainly with the root of sin in the soul: “Make the tree good, and the fruit will also be good”; purify the fountain, and the stream will be pure.  Oh, were there a deeper acquaintance with the hidden iniquity of our fallen nature,–a more thorough learning out of the truth,–that “in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing,”–a more heartfelt humiliation on account of it, and more frequent confession of it before God,–how much higher than they now are would be the attainments in holiness of many believers!  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 172)


III-  The standard entrance requirement for heaven we innately know is perfect maturity.  (Mt 19:20-21; see also: Ps 18:30, 32; 19:7; 119:96; Mt 5:48; 1 Cor 13:10; 2 Cor 7:1; 13:9, 11; Phil 3:12; Col 1:28; Heb 11:40; 12:2, 23)  


His last question is a plaintive, honest acknowledgment of the hungry void within, which no round of outward obediences can ever fill.  He knows that he has not the inner fountain springing up into eternal life.  He is dimly aware of something wanting, whether in his obedience or no, at all events in his peace; and he is right in believing that the reason for that conscious void is something wanting in his conduct.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 51)


The man who came to Jesus was searching for what he called eternal life.  He was searching for happiness, for satisfaction, for peace with God.  But his very way of phrasing his question betrays him.  He asks:  “What must I do?”  He is thinking in terms of actions.  He is like the Pharisees, thinking in terms of keeping rules and regulations.  He is thinking of piling up a credit balance sheet with God by acting in accordance with the law.  He clearly knows nothing of a religion of grace.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 249)


The law was not the standard of perfection, God was.  Those who loved God and desired eternal life would keep his laws as he required.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 378)


Here superficial smugness is struggling with deep discontent.  This young man tries to make himself believe that all is well; yet on the inside he is pathetically perturbed.  Has he really loved his neighbor as himself?  Why then this lack of peace of mind and heart that had made him run up to Jesus with the anxious question, “What do I still lack?”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 726)


He wants nothing less than the best in his service of God, and merely keeping commandments has not brought him to that point.  He wants to be “perfect” (teleios), a word that denotes not so much moral flawlessness as completeness, full maturity.  And that is what Jesus wants for him too, as he does to all his disciples according to 5:48.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 734)


He was guilty of coveting his possessions, and because he was unwilling to sell them and give to the poor, he obviously did not love his neighbor as himself.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 409)


We might ask, “But if the rich young ruler is convinced that he has kept the whole law, why is he still so perturbed?”  It is clear that he is trying hard to make himself believe that he had indeed been living in harmony with all God’s commandments.  He may have been encouraged in this attempt by rabbis who had deceived themselves into thinking that spiritual perfection was indeed attainable in this life.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 833)


The law has failed to accomplish one of its chief purposes in the young man, in that it has not taught him his sinfulness.  No doubt he had a right to say that his outward life had been free from breaches of such very elementary morality which any old woman could have taught him.  He had never gone below the surface of the commandments, nor below the surface of his acts, or he would not have answered so jauntily.  He had yet to learn that the height of “goodness” is reached, not by adding some strange new performances to the threadbare percepts of everyday duty, but by digging deep into these, and bottoming the fabric of our lives on their inmost spirit.  He had yet to learn that whoever says, “All these have I kept,” thereby convicts himself of understanding neither them nor himself.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 50-1)


There was one time a secular college that required its English students to read and comment on the Sermon on the Mount.  Everyone of these students had never read the Sermon on the Mount before and some of them had never ever heard of it before.

After reading the Sermon on the Mount, nearly all of the students wrote in their paper that they despised the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus was demanding perfection and a radically pure heart, when in fact, no one lives that way.

But after the teacher had heard all the negative comments, she asked the students, “But, if you had a choice, would you not want to have all the people who surround you (friends, fellow-employees, neighbors, etc.) to live this like for you?”

It was then that the students saw the brilliance of Jesus’s teaching.  We want others to live this way for us, but we don’t want to begin to live this way for others.


The best in God’s eyes are not those who have the most money, but those who have the most grace.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 174)


I think it would be a great gift to the church if God were to make us all wear neon signs listing our ten greatest sins for all the world to see.

You say, “You’ve got to be kidding!  Everyone would know.  It would be horrible for people to look at me and see all my sins!”

No, as a matter of fact, they wouldn’t even be looking at your neon sign.  They would be too busy trying to hide theirs.  And then we would finally get honest.  That wouldn’t be half bad.   (Stephen Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough, 131)


He deserves credit for the perception that there is more to serving God, and therefore to finding eternal life, than merely conventional morality, even when it is directly based on the requirements of the OT law.  His initial question was looking for something more searching, and he is not prepared to be fobbed off with such an elementary ethic.  He is more spiritually adventurous than that.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 734)


Proper evangelism must lead a sinner to measure himself against the perfect law of God so he can see his deficiency.  Salvation is for those who hate their sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 190)


The man’s impulsive reply is reflected by Paul (Phil 3:6; cf. SBK, 1:814) on a certain understanding of the law; but the man’s further words, “What do I still lack?” show his uncertainty and lack of assurance of ever being good enough for salvation, as well as his notion that certain “good works” are over and above the law (cf. SBK, 4:536ff., 559ff.).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 423)


What the word “perfection” suggests here is what it commonly means in the OT:  undivided loyalty and full-hearted obedience.  This young man could not face that.  He was willing to discipline himself to observe all the outward stipulations and even perform supererogatory works; but because of his wealth, he had a divided heart.  His money was competing with God; and what Jesus everywhere demands as a condition for eternal life is absolute, radical discipleship.  This entails the surrender of self.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 424)


The ten commandments had been expanded into 613 separate pieces of legislation covering all aspects of one’s duty to God and his fellow man.  In order to merit eternal life, it would have been necessary for the ruler to keep all those commandments all the time.  That was and is Heaven’s irreducible minimum.  God can and will accept nothing less than perfection.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 384)


IV-  Mankind is incapable of achieving perfect righteousness and perfect sinlessness.   God graciously provides both through faith in Christ for those who are poor in spirit and hunger and thirst after righteousness.  (Mt 19:23-26; see also: Mt 5:3-6; 11:28-30; Jn 6:28-29; Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-26; 10:4-5; Phil 3:8-10; Col 1:19-23; Heb 10:1-14)


When I say “I am perfect!” I am not talking about my life.  I am talking about an identity which God has given to me in Christ Jesus.  When I look at Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, I see my perfect righteousness.  When I look at myself, plodding along from day to day, getting old and facing inevitable death, I see my sin.  The question is “Where do I choose to look?” (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 93)


Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace and God’s grace alone for our salvation.  It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace.  Grace is for other people—for beggars.  We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system.  We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins.  We like to think that we will go to  heaven because we deserve to be there.  (R.C. Sproul; “Suffering and Merit” Tabletalk magazine Vol. 13, No. 1; February 1989, 5)


Think about your own righteousness and presenting it to God.  What a joke!   You have nothing to offer the God of the Universe.  Even your most pure righteous deeds fall far short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23; Isa 64:6).   The only thing that can please God is God.  Therefore the only thing you can offer the God of the Universe is Himself reflected in you by the work of the Holy Spirit in you.  That is what brings glory to God.  That is what pleases God.  That is what brings merit to us before God.  It is God and God alone.  — Keith Porter


But salvation is for people who despair of their own efforts, who realize that, in themselves and by themselves, they are hopelessly sinful and incapable of improving.  Salvation is for those who see themselves as living violations of His holiness and who confess and turn from their sin and throw themselves on God’s mercy.  It is for those who recognize they have absolutely nothing good to give God, that anything good they receive or accomplish can be only by His sovereign, gracious provision in Jesus Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 192)


There is something one must do in order to come to God. When the multitude near Capernaum asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the words of God?”  He replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn 6:28-29).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 188)


Heidelberg Catechism: Question number 60 Q. How are you right with God?


Answer:  Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).



Q61.   Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?  Answer:  It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me.  Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God (1 Cor 1:30-31).  And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone (Rom 10:10; 1 Jn 5:10-12).


Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential.  There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence.  This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works.  Look at the histories of revivals, and you will find men and women feeling desperate.  They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all.  And there they are, feeling that they can do nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion. Justification by faith.  God’s act.  ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 55)


“Did Christ finish His work?   How dangerous it is to join anything of our own to the righteousness of Christ, in pursuit of justification before God!  Jesus Christ will never endure this; it reflects upon His work dishonorably.  He will be all, or none, in our justification.   If He has finished the work, what need is there of our additions?  And if not, to what purpose are they?  Can we finish that which Christ Himself could not complete?   Did He finish the work, and will he ever divide the glory and praise of it with us?   No, no; Christ is no half Savior.  It is a hard thing to bring proud hearts to rest upon Christ for righteousness.  God humbles the proud by calling sinners wholly from their own righteousness to Christ for their justification.  — John Flavel


With that statement Jesus swept all religions of human achievement and works-righteousness into hell.  Left to any work of man, salvation is impossible.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 202)


Jesus does not want the little children prevented from coming to him (v. 14), not because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them, but because the kingdom of heaven belongs to those like them (so also Mark and Luke, stressing childlike faith):  Jesus receives them because they are an excellent object lesson in the kind of humility and faith he finds acceptable.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 420)


The thing you fear the most is probably the thing that you are counting on to earn your righteousness before God.  It is your idol, your work, your merit before God.  Give it up.  You can never be that righteous.  —Tim Keller


The law by itself kills off any hope of rightness and righteousness through human ability and effort, but it kindles hope in God ever brighter as we walk in the law through Christ in us the hope of glory (Col 1:27).  (Dallas Willard;  Renovation of the Heart, 214-5)


Mistake number 1 – Is to think that you can get to heaven by good works.

Mistake number 2 – Is to think that you can get to heaven without good works.  (Alistair Begg sermon, Living with Significance, Part 2)


God does not save us because of what we’ve done.  Only a puny god could be bought with tithes.  Only an egotistical god would be impressed with our pain.  Only a temperamental god could be satisfied by sacrifices.  Only a heartless god would sell salvation to the highest bidders.

And only a great God does for his children what they can’t do for themselves.

That is the message of Paul:  “For what the law was powerless to do…God did.”  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 29)


The word of hope lies in what God can do, not in what humans must do (v. 18).  (David L. Tiede, Augsburg Commentary on the NT: Luke, 313)


Absolute allegiance to him, with the humility of a child, is essential to salvation.  The condition Jesus now imposes not only reveals the man’s attachment to money but shows that all his formal compliance with the law is worthless because none of it entails absolute self-surrender.  What the man needs is the triumph of grace; for as the next verses show, for him entering the kingdom of heaven is impossible (v. 26).  God, with whom all things are possible, must work.  The parable in 20:1-16 directly speaks to this issue.  But the young man is deaf to it:  he leaves because, if a choice must be made between money and Jesus, money wins (cf. 6:24).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 424)


The Greek word order stresses the contrasts between the words “men” and “God,” and between the words “impossible” and “possible.”  Salvation cannot be earned; God gives it to us as a gift.  No one needs money, talent, or advantage to obtain it.  Instead, it is offered to all people equally.  No one is saved on merit; but all are saved who humbly come to God to receive salvation.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 382)


Jesus tells the rich ruler to go and sell his possessions, but He follows it up by saying, “and you will have treasure in heaven” (v. 21).  Jesus was not calling the rich man away from treasure but to treasure.  There’s actually a tinge of self-serving motivation here, as in, sell everything you have in order to get something better!  The question for us is whether we will live for short-term pleasures we cannot keep or for long-term treasure we cannot lose.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 269)


The one thing needful for entrance into life is at bottom self-surrender, and the casting away of all else for its sovereign sake.  “I do count them but dung” must be the language of every one who will win Christ.  The hands must be emptied of treasures, and the heart swept clear of lesser loves, if He is to be grasped by our hands, and to dwell in our hearts.  More of us than we are willing to believe are kept from entire surrender to Jesus Christ, by money and worldly possessions; and many professing Christians are kept shriveled and weak and joyless because they love their wealth more than their Lord, and would think it madness to do as this man was bidden to do.  When ballast is thrown out, the balloon shoots up.  A general unlading of the “thick clay” which weighs down the Christian life of England, would let thousands soar to heights which they will never reach as long as they love money and what it buys as much as they do.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 52-3)


“Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to bestow it in the presence of human merit . . .  Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human demerit . . . {Grace} is treating a person without the slightest reference to desert whatsoever, but solely according to the infinite goodness and sovereign purpose of God. (Samuel Storms; The Grandeur of God, 125)


Worship Point:  God is good.  All the time.  We are not good.  All the time.   Worship God Who provided us Jesus so “in Christ” we can be more than good enough.  (Isa 40:2)


Gospel Application:  Trust in Jesus and be “in Christ”.  Be in Christ, and become good.  You can be good only because you have repented and are “in Christ” Who is good.



I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen!  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)


Spiritual Challenge:  Humbly see yourself in light of God’s standard rather than man’s.  Rejoice in the goodness of Christ that He lived so that, by faith, Christ’s goodness could be credited to your account, so you could enjoy rest, peace, and joy because of Jesus.  (Rom 4:1-24; Gal 3:6; Phil 3:7-11; Jam 2:23)


One way to describe this problem is to say that when these people “receive Christ,” they do not receive him as supremely valuable.  They receive him simply as sin-forgiver (because they love being guilt-free), and as rescuer-from-hell (because they love being pain-free), and as healer (because they love being disease-free), and as protector (because they love being wealthy), and as creator (because they want a personal universe), and as Lord of history (because they want order and purpose).  But they don’t receive him as supremely and personally valuable for who he is.  They don’t receive him the way Paul did when he spoke of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  They don’t receive him as he really is–more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying, than everything else in the universe.  They don’t prize him or treasure him or cherish him or delight in him.  (John Piper, Think, 71-2)


Have you not learned that lesson of despair yet?  Is it necessary for the Holy Spirit to make you despair again?  Why not have one good despair and get it all over?  Why despair every few days?  Only because you are still hunting round for something somewhere, some range of goodness in yourself that you can present to God that will please Him, satisfy Him and answer to His requirements.  You will never find it.  Settle it that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.  Our righteousness, all that trying to be so righteous, the Lord says of it all, “Filthy rags!”  Let us settle this once for all.  If you are looking ahead of what I am saying, you will see what it is leading to.  It is leading to the most glorious position.  It is leading to that glorious issue mentioned by the Lord Jesus in this way, in those days before things became inward:  “Learn of me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  That is the end.  But we shall never find rest unto our souls until we have first of all learned the utter difference between Christ and ourselves, and then the utter impossibility of our ever being like Him by anything that we can find in ourselves, produce or do.  It is not in us, in ourselves, in that way.  (T. Austin-Sparks; The School of Christ, 14)


“Any failure of actual righteousness is always a failure to live in accordance with our imputed righteousness.   We make something besides Jesus our real hope and life.  So believing the gospel means to repent, not just of our sins, but of the particular (self) righteousness(es) underlying our behavior.  That is the secret of change.   (Tim Keller; Martin Luther’s Theses from Galatians Commentary)





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