The fourth session featured a message by Dr. R.C. Sproul. Dr. Sproul is recognized throughout the church for his articulate and winsome proclamation of the holiness of God and other essential doctrines of the Christian faith. As the founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, his teaching can be heard worldwide on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is available on 230 radio outlets in the United States and in fifty countries worldwide. Dr. Sproul also serves as the senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Fla., and has authored over sixty books including The Holiness of God, The Truth of the Cross, Truths We Confess, and The Lightlings.
Dr. Sproul's message was entitled Good Advice or Good News? -- and in particular, Dr. Sproul's message dealt with the relationship between law and gospel. The text of Dr. Sproul's message was Mark 10:17-22. This rich young man came to Jesus like a man on a mission -- seeking to receive an answer from Jesus. He sought an answer as quickly and directly as possible.
What advice was this man seeking from Jesus? He ran up to Jesus and politely inquired as to what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He went to the right person to get the right answer for his question. It is not unlike the question that the Philippian jailer asked of Paul (Acts 16:30-31). Paul told the man to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
But what did Jesus Himself tell this man? Nothing like what Paul said. Jesus could have preached the gospel to him! Instead he said something completely different....
Jesus' first reaction is to question why He is being addressed as "good". Jesus challenges the man's understanding of goodness. Before there was any hope of this man hearing and understanding the gospel, Jesus knew that He had to understand the law. If this man had a better understanding of the law, he would not be throwing around the moniker "good". And in many ways we're no different from this man who sought to flatter Jesus by calling him "good." The rich young man actually didn't have a clue what "goodness" was.
When we say "good," we all have a standard of what we mean by "goodness." My dog is good because he's house broken and he doesn't bite the mailman at the door. What is the standard of goodness, as we apply it to persons?
When God called a nation to Himself, he said "You shall be holy, as I am holy." In other words, I am to be your standard of holiness, not Mr. Rogers. The standard of righteousness is God's own character.
One of the questions of the early Christian community was: "What is the value of the law, now that we are redeemed?" John Calvin delineated three functions of the law, the first of which was:
THE LAW IS A MIRROR WHICH REVEALS THE RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER OF GOD
We should love the law because it reveals God's character to us. And the righteous character of God is the mirror that we should be looking at to reveal our unholiness -- which drives us to the gospel.
If we only look at others (on a horizontal plane), we don't get a proper perspective of our unrighteousness. But when we look at the righteousness of God, then we are undone.
We are debtors that are out of money. Our soul is about to be foreclosed on, and we have no ransom to pay.
JESUS DROVE THE MAN BACK TO THE LAW
After Jesus informs the rich young man that nobody is good, he rubs the man's nose in the law. He tells him to keep the commandments. And the man has the audacity to think that he had already kept them! Apparently, he missed the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus could have told him that he had not kept those commandments for the last five minutes. But Jesus essentially went with his answer -- "Okay, you've kept them all since you were young."
And then Jesus put him to the test: "Hey, you want to get into heaven? Go liquidate, give it to the poor, take your cross, and follow me." Jesus isn't setting down a standard of what all of us must do. No, he is bringing this man's idolatry to light. This man defined his life by what he had.
By preaching the law to this man, Jesus was trying to drive him to the gospel. The man left sad - sorrowful, because he had great possessions. He just couldn't do what Jesus asked of him -- and he wouldn't do it. He wanted to be saved - he wanted an inheritance in heaven. But it would cost him too much. This man, like many, walked away from the law and the gospel.
He chose a Christless life, and to be without Christ is to be without hope. In a room this size, there must be some that are like this man. Look to the law, see your inadequacy, and run to Christ.