17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
This is a fascinating story with a sad ending. It is the story of a young man who came to the right person[Jesus], in the right manner [kneeling humbly], and he ask the right question. I would have preferred he use the same wording as the Philippian jailor, “What must I do to be saved?” But he phrases the question a little differently, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If you study the two question closely, you will see that they sound a like but they are quite different.
One thing is certain: the rich young ruler is seeking something. In spite of his great affluence and his youthful success, there was something missing in his life and he knew it. No doubt he had a good upbringing but evidently he was taught a works theology. He had far too much confidence in his moral goodness. He was a religious young man and he thought that he could get to heaven by his own doing.
This young man was successful, rich, influential and no doubt very intelligent but he is spiritually ignorant. When he addressed Jesus as “Good” master or teacher, Jesus questioned him: “Why do you call Me good, only One is good and that is God.” Now you and I know that Jesus is good and He is God. Had He not been good, He would not have been God but He was good and He was God. I know it, you know it but this young man did not.  He failed to recognize the deity of Christ. I don’t think it entered his mind that he was talking directly to God. The young man made the same mistake that our present culture is making… he recognized Jesus as a “Good man” but not as God. C.S. Lewis wisely stated: “Jesus is either who He said He was or He is a liar and a lunatic. The one thing that he cannot be is merely a good man.” You cannot be saved until you confess that Jesus is the Son of God. You will never see Christ as your Savior until you see Him as God.
Not only did he fail to understand that Jesus was God;  He did not understand that he himself was a sinner in need of a Savior. He knows something is missing; that something is not right yet he believes that if Jesus will just give him more information that he can remedy his own problems. Obviously, he had no comprehension of human depravity. He did not see his sin and shame. Folks, we lack the power to deal with sin. We can not atone for sin. We can not cleanse the heart of sin. We cannot overcome sin. We need a Savior. The death of Christ at Calvary broke sins grasp and His resurrection set us free from the power sin and death. We need a Savior. We need Jesus desperately. God is holy and His standard is absolute perfection. You and I cannot live up to His standard. We could not do it in ten life times. A part from Christ, we are hopelessly lost and living under the wrath of our sin. Jesus is the only person who can save us from the destructive consequences of sin. So this man does not know who Jesus is and he does not himself either. He thinks he is close to perfect. He declares that he has not violated one commandment but he is a walking violation. How does the very first commandment read? I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.” Obviously he had another god before God. This man’s god was money. Jesus knew exactly what his god was and by asking one question, Jesus revealed the identity of that god to the young man.
His gross ignorance does not stop here:  This young man does not know the superior worth of heavenly treasures. He was filthy rich and Jesus knew it. Jesus knew exactly what was in the young man’s heart. Jesus knew his treasure and it was his money. In a gentle way, Jesus said, “You give Me your treasure and then I will give you Mine.” So here it is: Jesus offers an eternal treasure for a temporal treasure; a heavenly treasure for an earthly treasure. Jesus offers him something that will last for something that will not last. Sadly, the young man said no to Jesus. Why would he do such a thing? Because he was convinced in his mind that his treasure was greater. Yes, he was wrong. He just didn’t understand the greater worth of an eternal treasure. He was blinded by the god of this world and it is sad. Our world and our churches are filled with people who are just as blind and ignorant as this young man. Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.” C. S. Lewis said, “Nothing truely belongs to us until we give it away.” Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” [Luke 17:33]
He does not know who Jesus is; he does not know his own sin and self; he does not know that heavenly treasures are greater than earthly treasures and  He does not know the joy of serving Christ. Jesus gave this young man a royal invitation to be His disciple. Very few people got that invitation. He could have discovered a whole new dimension to life but he chose rather to pursue earthly ambitions. It is a sad story with a sad ending. The bible says the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. This man could have had a life of purpose, joy and fulfillment and yet he chooses to be sad. All those who bow to the god Mammon will end up sad and dejected. The young man offered Jesus his goodness but Jesus did not want his goodness, Jesus wanted his heart. Christ has no desire to tweak your life: He is not trying to make you better at any particular thing–His purpose is to transform you. The rich young ruler came to be informed but Jesus didn’t give him the information he was seeking. We don’t just need information, we need transformation. Devils are informed: our need is to be transformed and only Christ and His grace can make that a reality.