One Thing You Still Lack!

A rich ruler is a man that seems to have everything going for him, everything that seems to be the idol of most of America: he is rich, and he rules.  He has money and he has power, authority, influence.  In coordination with this, the rich were also perceived to be of that elite group of individuals most prepared for the kingdom of God.  The wealthy were perceived to be the righteous.  Being rich was equated with being blessed.  This was, at first, the ancient wisdom of Job and his friends, and the temptation which almost gained a good standing with Asaph in Psalm 73.  Moreover, the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-30 appears to be a sincere man of means and religion, an astute observer of Christ.  But sincerity, money, and the flattery of Christ are no indication that a man has obtained eternal life, and this fact the biblical text demonstrates.  However, I only want to observe one remarkable phrase from the lips of Jesus – “one thing you still lack!”

Jesus has turned the man’s sincere flattery into a theological introspection intended to bring the man to the answer that he seeks – “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Rhetorically, Jesus teaches the man that none is good but God, and thus, if one will call Christ “good” he must be willing to call Christ “God.”  Importantly, Jesus wants the man to understand the fundamental difference between God and the man, himself.  If God alone is good, and the man is not God, then the man is not good either.  This Jesus seeks to prove by quoting the second half of the 10 Commandments dealing with the man’s relationship to other human beings created in the image of God.  The intent of the Lord, here, is that the man might see that they way to eternal life is recognizing the distinction in goodness between the Creator and the creature, a distinction that has separated the soul of men from God, and thus, He intends to show the man that he must be reconciled to God by the forgiveness of sins.  But Christ’s intention and the man’s response do not concur.  The man replies that he is yet, in his own mind, sufficiently good – he has kept the stated commandments from his youth.

What Jesus does next is interesting.  He does not chide the man as ridiculous, nor does He retort with rebuke over such sinful pride.  Rather, as Mark’s record of this event tells us, Jesus loved this man (Mark 10:21).  But how did Jesus love him?  By saying, “You are who you are, and so long as you are happy with who you are, then you are good with me – God bless you.”  No!  Nor did he, as has been mentioned, speak to the man in frustrated anger or with an argumentative spirit.  Instead, He, understanding the life situation of the man, namely, that he is a rich ruler, brings the first commandment to bear on the man’s soul.  He does not quote Exodus 20:3, where God speaks from the fire, “you shall have no other gods before me,” but it is here presented in the context of that man’s situation.  The rich ruler has another god that he trusts, that he loves more than God – money and power.  Here, he is comfortable.  Essentially, Jesus commands the rich ruler, “you shall have no other gods before me,” when he says, “One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (that is, get rid of the gods of your trust); and come, follow me (that is, trust in God who is Jesus Christ)” (Luke 18:22).  Besides the fact that this passage presents a remarkable argument for the deity of Christ (that Jesus is God, the second Person of the Trinity), I find it lovely that all a man, any man, still lacks is one thing!

That one things is the transfer of trust, the reorientation of the hope of the soul from every human god to the one true and living God, whom we have seen in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  More simply, it is repentance from every human hope, a despairing of all human means of procuring salvation, and faith in Jesus Christ, the provision of God for the salvation of sinners.  By saying, “one thing you still lack,” Jesus is not agreeing with the rich ruler and his statement of personal innocence, for by applying the first commandment to his life, and seeing that the rich ruler then rejects the command and offer of Christ, Jesus has demonstrated that the man has disobeyed the most fundamental law, and flowing from it, he has disobeyed the rest also.  Rather, Jesus means to make a statement with regard to all men no matter there stature, or means, or sinfulness – all men without distinction lack only one thing!  There is only one thing – I cannot emphasize it enough, one thing! – that keeps a man from being reconciled to God: faith in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, crucified for sin and for sinners, dead and buried, and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures for the justification of all who so believe in Him.  All men stand in the precipice of eternity, as it were, and they can do one of two things, trust in themselves that they are righteous or trust in Christ that He alone is righteous, and so reject or take hold of Christ.  All men are born doing the former.  But the latter is freely offered to that same “all.”  Dear friends, (I do not say brothers), you lack one thing, but it is the most essential one thing that a man can lack, for the gaining of it is bound up with the obtaining of eternal life.  I would implore you then, even as I was once implored, to forsake the gods that you have made for yourself that you think will stand the test of God’s final judgment – gods of silver and gold, gods of good deeds and a seeming morality, gods of power and authority, gods of popularity and sex, gods of religion and, specifically, that one of dating Christ without being wed to Him (that is, you are not yet born again), gods of politics and cutting edge sciences, gods of alcohol and drugs, gods of human ingenuity, towers of Babel.  These will not save you but, as sure as you stand on the brink of eternity at every moment, these actually bind you and tug at you and entice you with sweet words, albeit temporal comforts, so that you will not jump into the faithful and saving arms of the Lord Jesus Christ, yea, the everlasting arms of the eternal God.  It is true that you only lack one thing, but to lack it finally is to lack eternal life.

Dear brothers, and I speak to myself in hope that God will effect this word towards me, let us be bold in evangelism knowing this, that all men lack only one thing – faith in Christ, a faith that we have come to know, and a faith that we have been called to make known.  And may God be gracious to us in filling up this one thing in the souls of those we tend to.

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