The Case for Faith
The following is a summary of the sermon I preached at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, April 30, 2017.
THE CASE FOR FAITH
Part 4 of The Case for Christ. Luke 18:18-30
The Cornerstone Church. April 30, 2017
This story is perplexing. The man appeared very interested in Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark’s version, the man ran up to Jesus and fell to his knees in front of him - Mark 10:17.
He asked a very good question: “Good teacher, what must I do inherit eternal life?” He was saying, “When the end of days arrives, and the resurrection happens, how can I be sure I’ll enter the Kingdom of God?”
We all know the answer: Jesus is the way to life. Faith is the answer. But Jesus didn’t tell him that at first. What Jesus did was show him that he wasn’t ready for faith. There were roadblocks that had to be cleared out of the way. This man needed a spiritual wake-up call.
But here’s where it gets really perplexing: when Jesus did finally give him an invitation - “Come, follow me,” verse 22 - the man slammed the door on Jesus. Why did he do that? Because Jesus had been correct: the man wasn’t ready for faith. The man went away very sad, verse 23.
And the onlookers were stunned and perplexed - just like us: “Who then can be saved? - verse 26” They were saying, “If this guy on the seemingly perfect spiritual search couldn't get saved, who could?”
What is going on here? We’re about to learn a sad truth …
Most people are looking for easy answers. They want a quick fix. But most people do not want their lives to be disrupted. They want to add Jesus without losing anything. No cost, no inconvenience, no commitment. No problem!
BUT THAT IS A HUGE PROBLEM! That kind of casual faith is not faith at all. It does not lead to eternal life. Its an illusion and a dead-end. Believe it or not, Jesus was doing this man a favor. He left the man in no doubt about his true spiritual condition.
Let me ask you, are you sure of your own spiritual condition? Is your faith the real deal? Or is it casual, uncommitted and, in the end, useless?
In his conversation with the man, Jesus maps out for us the three roadblocks to faith:
A. ROADBLOCK: YOUR RELIGION KEEPS YOU FROM FAITH IN JESUS
Verse 18 describes the man as a “certain ruler.” He might have been an aristocrat, but it seems more likely that he was a synagogue ruler or a ruler of the Pharisees. So, I’m assuming he was a deeply religious man, respected for his upright life.
His approach to Jesus confirms his religious outlook: “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” Judaism was a religion of works. Keeping the Law of Moses was the most important thing in life.
But this man felt uneasy. There was something missing. This focus on doing had given him no assurance of eternal life. His works weren’t working. His life was dominated by doing, doing, doing but he wasn’t going anywhere. When Jesus invited him to a new way - “come to me; follow me,” verse 22 - the man could not receive it. His religion kept him from Jesus.
Your religion may be keeping you from Jesus. But Jesus is what you need. He is the source of eternal life.
Jesus calls us to himself:
“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” - John 6:35-37
Jesus calls us to himself because Christianity is Christ:
“6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him … 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” - Colossians 2:6-7, 9-10
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” - Colossians 2:16-17
What Jesus said next, points us to the second roadblock to faith …
B. ROADBLOCK: YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS KEEPS YOU FROM FAITH IN JESUS
Jesus answered the man’s question: “You know the commandments …” Then he listed five of the ten commandments. The horizontal five - the way we treat other people - the relational, visible, five laws from God.
Jesus knew that we can’t obey our way to eternal life. The Law cannot make us righteous. No one can obey enough. Jesus knew the Law was given to convict us of sin (Romans 7:7-13), so he wasn’t saying to the man: try harder, do more, obey, obey, obey. The apostle Paul made his own case against self-righteousness:
“Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God” - Galatians 2:11
So what was Jesus getting at here? Jesus listed the commands in order to expose the man’s true motives: The man was trusting in his own righteousness to get him to heaven. Jesus was bringing the man to a crisis. Jesus meant something like this: “You want me to tell you what to do, but you know already know the way to do, do, do. And that isn’t working for you, so are you ready to admit your failure?”
He wasn’t ready. “All these I’ve kept since I was a boy.” Big problem! He was still trusting in his Law-keeping; his own righteousness to get him to eternal life. He wasn’t about to admit he was spiritual failure. He had an image to uphold. He was the synagogue leader.
This tells us something sobering and so important: We cannot come to saving faith in Jesus without first admitting our own moral failure. Self-righteousness is a roadblock to faith (see Luke 18:9-14 - In this parable contrasting the self-righteous man with the broken man, Jesus illustrated the need to admit our own spiritual bankruptcy in order for God to clothe us with his own righteousness. “Have mercy on me a sinner” is the cry of the truly converted person). Faith is only possible when we admit we are spiritually bankrupt. The F in faith stands for failure. Have you ever felt the desperate need to be clean, forgiven, restored?
Now Jesus cuts deeper still - all the way to the man’s heart of hearts. In doing so, he shows us the third roadblock to faith …
C. ROADBLOCK: FALSE RICHES KEEP YOU FROM FAITH IN JESUS
When Jesus asked the man to give his great wealth away, the man couldn’t do it because his heart was too attached to his stuff. His heart was in love with a false god. He was an idolater. He did not love his poor neighbors. He coveted wealth.
This is the most resistant roadblock of all. In our hearts, we love false riches - things we believe give us life, but in the end cannot deliver. Jeremiah’s vivid picture makes the dilemma clear:
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” - Jeremiah 2:13.
So many are satisfied with drinking sand when they could be drinking from the refreshing river of God. Here’s why so many cannot come to faith in Jesus: In our hearts, we treasure many things, but not Jesus - things such as reputation, pride, ambitions, relationships, and money. So when Jesus calls us away from our false gods and fleeting pleasures, we resist. Faith means leaving our false gods behind and surrendering our total selves to Jesus. Are you ready to do that?
Jesus dismantled the man’s entire self-confident, religious, framework. He showed it was a sham, an act, an empty shell. But the man clung to it. He rejected Jesus and eternal life in favor of his temporary wealth. He went away very sad, which broke Jesus’s heart because Jesus loved him - Mark 10:21.
How do you feel about the man? Do you see yourself in him?
If anyone asked, you would say, “I have faith.” But deep down, you have a nagging doubt about the reality of your faith? It’s made no difference. You have no desire to obey Jesus. You’re not hungry for the Bible. You’re all about you. You don’t love to worship or serve or fellowship but you do love your sins.
The kindest thing I can say to you is: your faith is false and useless, so listen to what I’m about to tell you.
True saving faith flows from knowing that we are spiritually bankrupt. We feel a desperate need to get right with God. Jesus can only help you if you admit you’re totally helpless; a total spiritual failure - an F. That’s when you’ll be willing to lose everything and to surrender everything and to reject everything just to have Jesus. That’s when you will find the faith that saves and brings you into eternal life.
So … how do we get to that point? The answer is another perplexing statement from Jesus: We can’t. We won’t. It’s just not in us. Only God can do that to us. That’s what Jesus told the onlookers that day. Look at verses 26-27:
“Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”” - Luke 18:26-27
Only God can bring us to our knees in deep, desperate, Jesus-or-nothing faith. (see: John 1:11-13; 3:5-8; 6:44)
Cry out to God: “Lord, pleas do this impossible work in me. Bring me to my knees. Give me the desire to forsake my sin, to turn from myself, to surrender all, so that I can truly trust in Jesus for eternal life.”