The Crisis of Obedience

The Crisis of Obedience

Passage: Luke 18:15-30
Service Type:

Intro: Perfectionism: Fear of failure. Competition with everyone. Feeling like a failure. Procrastinating. An unreachable standard.  

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

The man’s question reveals so much.

First, he sees Jesus as a good teacher. (which Jesus is NOT)

“I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, 

but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” 

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher… 

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. 

You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. 

He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Second, the rich man believes that he will get to heaven by “doing things”. 

He thinks he’s mostly perfect… but something’s still missing.

“What (else) must I do…”

I have mastered this life. What about the next one?

Remember the Pharisees from last week? 

Trusting in their own righteousness and treating others with contempt.

They were perfectionists competing with each other. 

Jesus says, “No one is good—except God alone.”

It’s an ideal that cannot be reached.

That’s why the happiness of a perfectionist is volatile.

There is always someone better, someone bigger…

Jesus will show him…

1. Good works are not the way to eternal life.

Eternal life leads to good works (not the other way around)

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. 

Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.

Jesus exposed his weakness at that moment.

the crisis of obedience

Without his money, he was very sad.


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

Matthew 5:3

2. Spiritual bankruptcy is step #1.

1) I can’t 2) He can 3) I’ll let him.

HUMILITY is the access point to God.

Example: “God is for everybody.” True or False?

Is God against anybody?

"God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:6b

His badge of honor, his identity was being a good person and his money.

Jesus presses the necessity of obedience before the call. 

Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

3. Obedience always precedes God’s direction.

Application: What was the last thing God told you to do? Did you do it?

He wanted to inherit eternal life.

“First do this… then you will be ready to follow me.”

Remember Abraham: God said, “Sacrifice Isaac, your only son…”

Jesus brought the crisis of obedience to the man.

24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

In other words, “It’s nearly impossible for the rich to be saved.”

Why is that?

“The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; 

they imagine it a wall too high to scale.” 

Proverbs 18:11


This applies to more than material possessions…

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 

Revelation 3:17

The Pharisee vs. the Publican

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

The words of Jesus seem like no rich person will be saved.

But God can bring anyone to the point of decision. (the crisis of obedience) 

4. God makes the impossible, possible

Man: Working for eternal life is impossible.

God: Receiving eternal life freely is possible. 

Sometimes Jesus has to become the “last stop”.

28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

It’s a promise. The payback is infinite compared to the loss. 

Application: When Jesus puts his finger on “my Isaac”, what do I do?

Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The rich man went away sad. But with God, all things are possible.

I like to think he came back.

Topics: ,

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.