Summary: the common deception is that good people go to heaven, which is not true at all!
GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN, RIGHT?
I remember once having to do a funeral of someone who had no church connections at all. To my knowledge they had no faith in Christ Jesus. Yet at the graveside several members of their family came and asked me if I thought the deceased would be in heaven. I politely said that that decision was not mine but God’s to make. One person in particular got quite cross with me for that answer and they said “Of course they will be in heaven they were a good person.” Such a question arises often at the time of a death and is often asked of the pastor.
So this morning I want from God’s Word to put before you the way of salvation so that you have assurance about heaven as your eternal destiny. I want to say at the start that this will be an uncomfortable sermon for some of you and for some it will, I pray, open your eyes to the fact that you are not saved and have no assurance of heaven.
If I were to ask you to put up your hands if you want to go to heaven I am sure all hands would go up. If I then asked you to put up your hands if you were certain you would go to heaven when you died I am also certain fewer hands would go up and a few hands would go up that shouldn’t go up. Over the past week I have spent some time listening to a preacher called Paul Washer, you can find him on sermonaudio.com – I emailed the web link to a few people because I just found the sermon very powerful. In his sermon Washer states that many people within our churches are deceived as to how you become a Christian and about salvation. When I listened to him I was deeply challenged about just such a fact being true of HTW. So this morning I make no apologies for the straight teaching that I am about to deliver. Turn with me to Mark 10 verses 17-31.
Context – Jesus has just started on his journey again (verse 17) after blessing the children (verses 13-16). You know the incident – the disciples wanted to prevent the children coming to Jesus because they were tired. Jesus, despite the physical tiredness, has time for each child and blesses each of them. It is not one general blessing for all but each child is taken into his arms and blessed. Having blessed the children Christ begins to walk away and that is where we pick up our reading from Mark’s gospel this morning.
Then in verse 17 we read that a young rich man comes running up to Jesus and falls at his feet. Maybe, just maybe the young man has been watching Christ with the children and realises he will not be turned away by Christ. He speaks to Christ – read verse 17. He is taken aback a little by the initial response of Christ – verses 18-19. I was always troubled by the response of Jesus here. At a superficial reading it would appear that Christ is saying that he is not good and the title ‘good’ should not be applied to him. Yet when I read a little deeper I realised that what in fact was happening was that Christ was challenging this young man to think through the cost of what he had just asked. If ‘good’ can only be applied to God and this young man has applied it to Christ then he had better take seriously what Christ is about to say. His running after Christ and falling on his knees before him show an emotional response, an impulsive nature but Christ wants him to have eyes open to the cost of eternal life and all the implications of it.
Christ goes on to set before this young man the moral law of God. Now look at the list here – I am sure many, if not all of you, could say I have kept these laws myself or at least I don’t habitually go around breaking them. Measuring yourself against these laws, as this young man did, you might be able to respond as he does in verse 20 – read. This young man, on his knees before Christ, confidently asserts that he has kept these laws and yet his first question to Jesus reveals that he is not assured of salvation, of eternal life. This young man, morally upright before men and here before Christ, has no assurance of eternal life because somewhere in his heart he knows that keeping the law, being morally upright, good and all as it is, does not bring salvation or assurance of eternal life. His reply, all these I have kept… reveals the longing in his heart. Is there something more I need to do? What is there that is missing and leaves me unsure of eternal life? Then Christ puts his finger right on the very precise point of this man’s life – read verse 21. This young man is challenged to give up his riches and then to follow Christ. What is the response – verse 22 – he walks away downcast, head bowed and face sullen and all because he would not give up his wealth for Christ.