HOW CAN WE RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
Last Thursday evening, Eff Martin and I went to dinner at the Stanford Mall,
just before our elders meeting. We needed to go over some final details
concerning our responsibilities at the Men's Retreat. We were given a nice
table by our waiter, and as we began to look over the retreat schedule we
found we were sitting next to a beautiful young couple who, we learned later,
were attending Stanford University. They were involved in a passionate conversation
about their love relationship. We tried not to listen as we worked on our
schedule, but that was next to impossible. It soon became apparent that
the girl was trying to break off the relationship, but the young man was
trying to hold on to it. It was also quite apparent that there was no spiritual
basis to their relationship. By the end of our meal, but certainly not the
end of their conversation, I realized once again the crying need for each
and every one of us to be the "salt and light" that Christians
should be in their community. I wanted so much to say to both of them that,
rather than centering their lives on themselves and on their emotional and
physical needs, what they needed was to enter into a personal relationship
with Jesus Christ. Then they would be given the gift of eternal life and
the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and they would have the scriptures
to encourage and direct them in their relationship. So I broke into their
conversation and said, "Excuse me. We could not help but hear what
you were talking about. As a pastor and counselor, I want to commend both
of you on your ability to communicate. And as a pastor, I would be happy
to marry you if that is what you really want. The young man yelled "Yes!",
and the girl threw her head back, hid her eyes with her hand and said, "Oh,
no!" As we left to go to our elders meeting, I hugged the young man.
My heart filled up with love for both of them. I knew that at that moment
I had the words of eternal life in Jesus Christ, words they needed so much.
All I could hope for was that we would meet again so that I could share
that good news.
And that is the same good news that our Lord shared throughout his life,
as we have been seeing in these studies in the gospel of Luke. In chapter
18, verses 15-34, to which we come today, we will find that the crowd surrounding
Jesus is growing, but the subject under discussion, the kingdom of God,
remained the same. Who is the King and how does one get into his kingdom
and enjoy its spiritual and material benefits? This is the question every
human being in every generation should be asking before our Lord Jesus returns
to this earth in judgment. Today, Jesus will answer this eternal question
once again as he is confronted by several parents and also a rich young
ruler. How can we receive eternal life?
I. We must have a child-like heart
And they were bringing even their babies to Him, in order that
He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking
them. But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come
to Me, and stop hindering them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as
these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God
like a child shall not enter it at all."
Jesus and his disciples are in Perea, on the east side of the Jordan River.
He is on the last leg of his journey to Jerusalem, where he will die for
the sins of mankind. The crowds continue to gather around him and his teaching
on the kingdom of God, following his declaration to the Pharisees, "the
kingdom of God is in your midst" (17:21). He was telling the Pharisees,
and all others who were open to hear, that entry into the spiritual kingdom
was possible for all who placed their faith in him as their Messiah. We
now know that our risen Lord is spiritually in our midst, offering salvation
to all who believe in him as the Son of God and Savior of the world. He
also told his listeners that his second coming would be visible to the world.
At that time he would come in judgment and set up his physical kingdom on
earth (17:22-37). He warned his disciples, however, that difficult days
would prevail between the cross and his second coming, so that "at
all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart" (18:1-14). According
to Matthew 19:1-12 and Mark 10:1-12, Jesus then took on the Pharisees over
the issue of divorce (before the parents and children began to approach
him for a blessing, as we have read above).
"And they were bringing even their babies to Him, in order that He
might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them"
(Matt.19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16). The Pharisees had rejected the King and
his spiritual kingdom, but several parents saw something of deity in the
life and manner of Jesus. They moved closer to him, hoping that he might
touch and bless their children. It must have been a wonderful moment for
Jesus. We can imagine the little ones touching his face and his hair, while
a little girl tried to sit on his lap, without any sense of fear. In the
midst of this "heaven on earth" scene, several of the disciples
took it upon themselves to try and send the children and their parents always
from the presence of the Messiah. We are not told why, but perhaps they
thought they were protecting Jesus from the children so that he could be
about the more important business of teaching the Pharisees and the other
Notice Jesus' response: "But Jesus called for them saying, 'Permit
the children to come to Me, and stop hindering them, for the kingdom of
God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive
the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.'" Mark writes
that when Jesus saw what his disciples were doing, he was "indignant"
(greatly displeased, having a righteous anger). He wanted the children around
him in order to teach two valuable spiritual lessons: 1) The kingdom of
God belongs to such as these; and 2) one must receive the kingdom of God
(Jesus), like a child who at a tender age opens his or her trusting heart,
or they cannot experience eternal life. A child's heart is full of trust
and faith in his loving parents. The moment a father or mother opens their
arms, the beloved child comes running to them, for they know that they will
be kissed and hugged and tickled and protected by their parents. Jesus wants
all who wish to experience eternal life to have the same kind of trust and
faith in him, the loving Son of God, who had come to the world to "seek
and to save that which was lost" (19:10).
This past year I have been joyfully reminded of the delight of being with
little children again as I spent time with my young grandchild, Rene' Charles.
When I reach out my arms, he comes right into them. He spends a lot of time
looking at my face and pulling my beard. Then he turns in my arms and begins
to point at everything he sees, using his baby talk vocabulary to get me
to take him over to whatever he wants to investigate. At no time is there
any fear in our relationship because he has been surrounded by the love
of his parents, and our relationship has been built on love and hugs and
kisses. I love children. They are so wonderfully teachable. They are humble,
they are honest, and they are trusting of others. This is what God is seeking
for in those who would enter his kingdom-they must come with a humble and
How can we receive eternal life? We must come to Jesus with the trusting
heart of a child, and
II. We must realize that eternal life is a gift from God
And a certain ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher,
what shall I do to obtain eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why
do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments,
'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false
witness, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said, "All these
things I have kept from my youth." And when Jesus heard this, He said
to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute
it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow
Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad; for he
was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it
is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier
for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter
the kingdom of God." And they who heard it said, "Then who can
be saved?" But He said, "The things impossible with men are possible
This rich young ruler was child-like, but he was not willing to enter the
kingdom of God. He asked Jesus a question: "Good Teacher, what shall
I do to obtain eternal life?" According to Mark 10:17, by this time
our Lord had blessed the children and was about to continue his trip to
Jerusalem when "...a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him ..."
At this stage, all we know is that he was a young ruler (Matt. 19:20). As
he listened to Jesus teach the crowd about the kingdom of God, he decided
to approach him on a spiritual level. Thus he began his question with what
he thought was a title of respect, "Good Teacher."
"Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone," responded
Jesus. One of the characteristics of God is that he is the ultimate and
final determination of what is good because he is good. David wrote in Psalms
28:8, "Good and upright is the Lord." In Psalm 86:5, he wrote,
"For Thou, Lord, art good and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness
to all who call upon Thee." Jesus sought to arrest the attention of
this young man, saying, in effect, "If you knew what you were really
saying, you would realize that only God is good; so that if you call me
good, then you are publicly recognizing my deity, that 'I and the Father
are One.' If that is true, then, in answer to your question, 'What must
I do to receive eternal life?' I assume that since you understand that I
am God incarnate, you will do exactly what I ask you to do in order to inherit
What did this rich young ruler mean by the words "eternal life"?
We need to keep in mind that he was coming out of the Jewish religious culture.
From childhood, the Jews were taught from the Torah that Jehovah was the
one and only living eternal God and Father (Deut 33:27, Isa. 9:6). They
had learned about eternal life from such verses as Daniel 12:1-2, concerning
Israel and the end times, when the Lord appeared in a vision to his prophet
Daniel: "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard
over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress
such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at
that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be
rescued. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake,
these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt."
The Jews were familiar with the theological concept that during his life
on this earth, man needs to get his name written in the book of life. After
his death, his soul and spirit are resurrected to eternal joy, but if his
name is not written in the book of life, he will spend eternity in disgrace
and everlasting contempt. Jesus reminded the Jews of the same truth when
he taught them of the last great judgment in which the King will divide
the goats (unbelievers) and the sheep (believers). Then he told them that
the goats "...will go away into eternal punishment (eternal fire prepared
for the devil and his angels), but the righteous into eternal life"
(Matt. 25). He also related to them the story of the "certain rich
man and Lazarus" (Luke 16). So this rich young ruler was seeking peace
of mind, hoping that he was going in the right spiritual direction; and
if not, what could he do to make sure he was. "What must I do to inherit
eternal life?" he asked. As a wealthy man, he was hoping to do something
to assure his place in eternity.
Notice that Jesus does not review here in Luke's gospel (nor does he do
so in Matthew or Mark), the first four commandments that have to do with
our relationship with God, idolatry, taking God's name in vain, and keeping
the Sabbath. Instead, he addresses the commandments that have to do with
relationships with our fellow human beings. Matthew adds, "You shall
love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19-18). When a man is open to
understanding and seeking to obey the law of God, he is well on his way
to coming into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul
would write to the Galatians, "But before faith came, we [Jews] were
kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later
to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor [school master] to
lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (3:23-24).
As the rich ruler listened to Jesus his heart must have been filled with
hope. As he reviewed his life, he could, to the best of his understanding,
say to Jesus, "All these things I have kept from my youth." Matthew
says that Jesus responded, "If you wish to be complete ..." (19:21).
Mark records, "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him"
(10:21). Notice that Jesus did not refute his statement. He addressed the
deeper issue, because he saw that this young man had kept the law to the
best of his understanding, shallow as it was, and that it still left him
spiritually unfulfilled and uncertain of any real hope for eternal life.
Jesus is saying, in other words, "Assuming that when you called me
'Good Teacher' you were addressing me as Messiah, God incarnate, will you
then obey me when I tell you, 'One thing you still lack; sell all that you
possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasures in
heaven; and come and follow Me'?" But when he had heard these things,
he became very sad; for he was extremely rich," says our text. What
the Lord saw was that, like the Pharisees, this young ruler had become a
lover of money (16:14), and had broken the first commandment: "I am
the Lord your God...You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:1-17).
Jesus had already told his disciples, "No servant can serve two masters;
for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold
to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches." (16:13.)
"And when he had heard these things, he became very sad [and went away
grieved] for he was extremely rich [he owned much property]." He would
like to have heard that he could lay up treasures in heaven while keeping
his treasures on earth, but he did not realize that the treasures on earth
had become his god. Satan had caught him in his net of greed, false security,
and power, so that when he was challenged, he found he could not part with
them. Thus he would face the final judgment at Christ's second coming.
"And Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for those who are
wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!'" Note that Jesus is not saying
that it is wrong to be rich. What he is saying is that for some men, and
especially this rich man, riches become their idol. This man had become
a lover of money instead of God. Paul wrote to Timothy: "...those
who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and
harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love
of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have
wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But
flee from these things, you man of God and pursue after [treasures in heaven,
which are:] righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness."
(1 Tim. 6:9-11.) "For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye
of a needle, than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," said Jesus.
It seems there are as many views of this humorous proverb as there are camels
in the Middle East. In light of the context, however, Jesus is simply saying
that the task is humanly impossible.
The Jews believed that riches were a blessing from God, and those who were
so blessed were given the best of this world as well as the next. They thought
poverty was a punishment from God because of personal sin. But based on
our Lord's teaching, this was no longer true, for he was saying that in
this case money had become a stumbling block to the man's salvation. So
all who heard Jesus' words reacted in dismay. "Then who can be saved?"
they asked. Who can have eternal life? If this rich man, who has seemingly
been blessed of God cannot be saved, what hope is there for common people?
"The things impossible with men are possible with God," replied
Jesus. Only God can break this Satanic spell. A rich man cannot buy or work
his way into heaven. No man by his own power, personality, or position can
get into the kingdom of God. Salvation is a gift of grace. One must be born
again or born from above (John 3). As Paul told the Ephesians, "For
by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."
Here Peter jumps in on behalf of the other disciples (28-30 ): "Behold,
we have left our homes and followed you." In other words, "Lord,
in light of what you said to the rich man about selling all that he had,
you know, don't you, that we all did that, so will we get treasures in heaven?"
Jesus had encouraged the disciples that if they truly left homes and families
for the sake of the kingdom, they would be greatly blessed on this earth
as well as in the age to come. According to Matt. 19: 28, at the time of
the second coming, when Jesus will sit on his glorious throne, the disciples
will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And, according
to Mark 10:30, all who have left their homes and property in this world
will receive a hundred times as much in this present age, along with persecution,
and, in the age to come, eternal life.
I was reminded of this reality just last week. Several years ago, we had
a man in this ministry who was extremely rich. He told everyone that he
was a believer in Christ. The longer I knew him, the richer he became. And
the richer he became, the more power he received. But in time, as Paul warned,
"those who get rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish
and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction." One
day we were sitting at his beautiful pool at a neighborhood party in this
community, and the following week he had disappeared. Within a few weeks
I heard that he was running from the law because of dishonest business dealings.
A few months later I visited him in jail where he was awaiting trial. He
then jumped bail and disappeared, leaving his wife and family. He hid out
in another country for a couple of years, but, as he said in a letter to
a mutual friend, "the long arm of the law finally caught me."
He is now serving time in a federal prison. His friends are praying that
he will sincerely allow Jesus to be Lord so that he can be set free from
the snare of riches as set by the evil one. Jesus said, "The things
impossible with men are possible with God." As events worked out, in
prison he has been assigned to work in the chaplain's office!
How can we receive eternal life? We must come to Jesus with the heart of
a child, and we must realize salvation is a gift from God. And third, it
III. Obtainable by faith in Jesus, the risen Son of God
And he took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold,
we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the
prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be delivered
up to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and
after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day he will
rise again." And they understood none of these things, and this saying
was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
Peter was reminding the Lord of the great sacrifice he and all the other
disciples had made to follow him. Jesus immediately seized on that statement
and reminded his men of the sacrifice he was about to endure on their behalf
in order to make eternal life possible for all who placed their faith in
him as their personal Lord and Savior. He listed for them seven terrible
things that had to happen in order to fulfill all the OT prophecy that he
was truly the Messiah who was announced by John the Baptist when he said,
"Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
(John 1: 29, 1:36).
1) The Son of Man would be delivered up to the Gentiles. (Matthew and Mark
tell us that he would be delivered over to the Jewish chief priests and
the scribes. They would condemn him to death and then turn him over to the
Roman Gentiles.) The Romans would 2) mock him; 3) mistreat him; 4) spit
on him; 5) scourge him; 6) the Gentile governor Pilate would sentence him
to death by means of the Roman cross; and then, on the third day after his
death and burial in a tomb 7) he would rise again as the conqueror over
death. As Paul would write to the Corinthians years later, "... Christ
died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and
that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (Isa.
53; Ps.22, Ps.16). The apostle wrote a little later to these same believers,
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was
rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might
become rich" (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 8:9).
What of the disciples? "And they understood none of these things, and
this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things
that were said." This is the seventh time our Lord predicted his forthcoming
suffering (5:35; 9:22, 43-45, 12:50; 13:32f; 17:25), but the minds and hearts
of the disciples were still fixed on the materialistic promise of the kingdom.
Thus they could not comprehend this reality at this time. It would finally
become clear when the risen Lord would explain it all to two of his disciples
on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They said, "Were not our hearts
burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was
explaining the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24.)
Every Wednesday morning, some 70 businessmen gather at "Agora,"
our marketplace ministry in downtown Palo Alto, to eat breakfast together
and share the gospel of Jesus Christ in a variety of ways. Last week, we
invited Michael Green and his team to share the gospel to this group of
men from every walk of life, men who have a variety of physical, emotional
and spiritual needs. As I looked around the room I felt that every man at
one time or another had probably heard the gospel presented clearly. I personally
knew many who had invited Jesus into their lives as their Lord and Savior.
And yet, God had drawn some men that morning so that for the first time
"their hearts were burning within them as they heard the Lord explain
the scriptures to them" through Michael. At the end of the meeting,
Michael gave the men an opportunity to invite Jesus into their hearts as
their Lord and Savior, and several men did just that.
How can we receive eternal life?
1) We must come to Jesus with the heart of a child, believing he is the
the Good Teacher, God incarnate, the Messiah and Savior, the Lamb of God
who came to earth, willing to take away our personal sins and the sin of
2) We must realize that Jesus is the only one who can offer us eternal life;
and that life is a gift from God; there is nothing we can do to work for
3) And this eternal life is obtainable by placing our faith in the risen
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Once we place our faith in him, that eternal
gift is ours forever.
Shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter was arrested
for healing a crippled man in the temple area. Peter and John were brought
before the Supreme Court of Israel. There they were asked, "By what
power or in what name, have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with
the Holy Spirit, said to them. "...let it be known to you and all the
people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you
crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here
before you in good health...and there is salvation in no one else; for there
is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we
must be saved." (Acts 4.)
Last Thursday night, a couple was having dinner in a local restaurant. They
were young, bright, beautiful, and full of passion. The hope of a wonderful
future lay ahead of them because of the university they were attending.
They lacked one thing, however, that would have made their lives completely
full. His name is Jesus Christ. He is ready and willing to offer them eternal
life so that they might become complete in this life and the life to come.
"For there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name
under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Catalog No. 4267
Ron R. Ritchie
January 26, 1992
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