In Part 1, I opened up the topic of the ‘almost guy’. He was a young man who came to Jesus asking questions like What good things must I do to get eternal life? And Jesus said, Look, if you want to be perfect and do the right thing, sell your possessions, give to the poor and you’ll have treasure in heaven, and then come and follow me. But when the man heard this he went away sad because he had great wealth.
Here was an ‘almost’ kind of guy. We call him ‘the rich young ruler’. In terms of disciples, he was the big one that got away. He could have been the powerful-establishment figure who might have won half the Jewish power structure to Jesus. One day he met Jesus and hovered on the brink of commitment. He almost claimed Jesus as the Lord of his life. But almost is not good enough.
Golf is on many minds. Let me tell you about a former great touring pro, Rik Massengale. Rik admits that early in his career, golf was his god. This not only caused him inner turmoil but also created marriage problems. His wife decided to file for divorce. But before the divorce was finalised, they had a long talk. They decided to attend the Tour Bible Study. The guest speaker happened to be Billy Graham, who was playing in the Kemper Open Pro-Am that year.
Billy Graham made a statement that caught Rik’s attention. He said, “Christianity is not a religion; it is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Rik had grown up in church. He had assumed that being a Christian just meant attending church. Rik was honest enough to admit that he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Through the guidance of a friend, Rik found out how he could start a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He confessed his own sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. His wife made that commitment at the same time. Years later Rik said, “I didn’t experience an overnight change, but over the next six to eight months I realized that God was making significant changes in my life.”
Jesus was not saying that all persons should liquidate their material assets in order to be good disciples. When Jesus talked with another rich man named Nicodemus, he did not order him to sell off his possessions. Jesus had nothing against wealth. Money is morally neutral. It can do great good or terrible harm, depending on who is in control of it. But money is dangerous. It is the most seductive false god on earth.
God’s patience with us is incredible, and his grace is truly amazing. Because he loves us so much, he arranged for all of our sins and foul-ups to be transferred to the shoulders of Jesus when he died on a cross. In exchange, we can be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. What a trade! But that gracious offer can be accepted only if we endorse it by faith. Each of us must confess our sin and trust in this risen Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour.
How Do We Stack Up Before God?
The well-known pastor from Chicago Bill Hybels was on an airplane one day. The passenger beside him asked Bill what he did for a living. When he replied that he was a minister, an interesting conversation ensued. The man said, “I believe in God, but I don’t attend church. I don’t see why I need it. I am an honest guy, and I try to treat other people decently. One day when I die and meet God, I believe that my record will be acceptable to him.” Bill Hybels took a legal pad from his brief case and said, “I agree with you that God will judge all people. Let’s do some preliminary figuring on how we might stack up before God. I’m going to draw a line across the middle of this page. Let’s say that this line represents a passing grade with God. Who is the best person you can think of, the one who grades out highest with God?”
The man thought for just a moment and replied, “Billy Graham.” “Fine,” said Bill, “let’s put Billy Graham on our chart, but we must place him here where Billy Graham himself says he ought to be. Billy Graham has said repeatedly that he is a sinner who deserves to go to hell; but in fact he is going to heaven, only because Jesus paid for his sins on the cross. So, we must put Billy down here beneath the middle line.” Then Bill said, “I’m going to put my own name on this chart well beneath Billy Graham’s name. Like Billy, I’m a sinner whose only hope is the cross.” Bill Hybels noticed that his new friend had suddenly become strangely quiet, perhaps anticipating the next question.
Bill turned to him and asked, “Where should we put you on the chart? You don’t want to be ranked above Billy Graham, do you?” After a considerable pause, the man replied, “You have certainly given me food for thought.”
Today is a day of decision and commitment. Don’t be like the rich young ruler who was almost persuaded. He walked away from the best offer on earth, and his life thereafter was a tale of sorrow. Today is a wonderful time to become a forgiven, redeemed child of God!