This excerpt from a sermon preached by Bill Booknight titled “Almost Persuaded” should cause us all to pause at those times we start to look at our own righteous apart from Jesus. It is also a information to share with someone who believes that we must do good works to gain God’s favor and eternal life.
Matthew 19:16-22 NIV - Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
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 briefcase 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, “Brother, 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!
Dr. Bill Bouknight retired from the pastorate in 2007 after more than 40 years of serving churches in South Carolina and Tennessee.
If our growth as disciples of Jesus Christ happened without effort and cost, the country would be as overgrown with committed Christians as the South is with kudzu (a quick-growing eastern Asian climbing plant with reddish-purple flowers, used as a fodder crop and for erosion control. It has become a pest in the southeastern US).
If the churches of mainline Protestantism are to reach the pre-Christian population of North America, they must offer them a message that is clear, compelling, and grounded in the absolute truth of Scripture. In this volume Bouknight models such preaching, demonstrating how preaching that remains faithful to historic, orthodox Christian beliefs remains the only way to reach those who, weary of the non-answers given by this relativistic and skeptical age, hunger for a genuine experience of God.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.