Summary: Why do Christians emphasize the importance and centrality of Jesus? Why is there no compromise?
INTRODUCTION: It’s been said: Why do you Christians place so much emphasis on Jesus? Why are you so “intolerant”? Why can’t you be more accepting and admit that other religions can also know God? Why can’t you Christians believe that people from other religions can be just as morally good as Christians? Why do you always talk about Jesus when it takes being a good person to go to heaven?
Those are interesting questions. Why do we place so much importance in Jesus? Why Jesus?
When the Fox Network first came on the air about 18 years ago they had a sitcom called Second Chance. It starred a young Matthew Perry, who is best known as Chandler on the sitcom Friends. Perry starred as a teenager named Chazz who got into all kinds of trouble. Fortunately he and his mother had a 40-something year old boarder by the name of Charles. Charles would teach Chazz important moral lessons and direct him in ways that helped him to develop into a “good” man.
Did I mention that St. Peter made appearances on the show to help Charles help Chazz? Why would Peter do that? Well, you see, it was because Charles was Chazz. In the pilot episode of Second Chance, Charles is killed in a car accident. When Charles stepped on a mechanism at the Pearly Gates to determine if was going to heaven or hell, the gates of heaven opened to welcome him and the angelic choir sang. The problem was that the gates of hell also opened and the torturous sounds of crying and yelling could be heard. Oh dear! Charles wasn’t good enough for heaven nor was he bad enough for hell. That was certainly a dilemma! What was St. Peter going to do?
He cleverly came up with a solution of sending Charles back in time to his teenage self so that he could direct himself into being good enough for heaven. If Chazz could be good enough Charles would get to go to heaven. We find a similar idea of being good enough to go to heaven in our contemporary culture and also in our Bible text.
I. SITUATION: Jesus is approached by a rich young man who believes he’s going to go to heaven because he’s “good.” He says that he has kept all the Commandments. Yet this rich young man asks Jesus if there is anything else he needs to do in order to be saved and have eternal life. He’s trying to play it safe.
But surely he’s done just about everything necessary! He’s never murdered anyone. He’s not had sex outside of marriage. He’s never stolen anything. He’s never lied about anyone. He’s never cheated. He’s honored his parents. What more could there be? Clearly, this all meant he was good enough to go to heaven. What more could God want?
The rich young ruler was like a lot of people are today. We live our lives. We go to work. We try to be honest. We help out when someone needs it. We live basically good, moral lives. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. And because of that we think we should go to heaven.
I’ve known people, and I’m sure you have too, who say they don’t need to be Christians or go to church because they’re just as good as “Uncle Joe” or “Aunt Fanny” who goes to church. In fact, some people say that they are morally better that “Uncle Joe” or “Aunt Fanny.” And you know what? They just might be. The fact is a lot of people believe that their private morality will get them into heaven. They basically believe that if they are honest, and don’t cuss, smoke, chew, or go out with girls who do, they’ll be saved.
II. COMPLICATION: Do you see the problem here? We think that doing good things makes us good. But Jesus points out that no on is “good” except God. The point should be taken that no matter how many commandments we may obey, we will never be good enough! That’s because we are not going to keep them all for our entire lives.
We find in the text that the rich young man and indeed not kept all the commandments either, even though he claimed he had. Which one do we see evidence of him breaking right there in the text? The first commandment: “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” He put his money before the LORD God, this man had been deceived into thinking he was better than he actually was.