Loving the Wrong World
April 11th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
LOVING THE WRONG WORLD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
4-11-76 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy and a gladness for us in our First Baptist Church to welcome you who are sharing this service on KRLD all over the great Southwest. And sometimes the program is heard in states east of the Mississippi and far beyond the Rockies. And wherever you are, listening to this First Baptist Church in Dallas, may the Lord bear on wings of grace the pastor’s message tonight. It is entitled Loving the Wrong World. And our reading from the Scripture is in the Second Gospel, that of Mark—Matthew, Mark. And we invite you to turn to chapter 10 and reading the tenth chapter of Mark together, verses 17 through 22, the story of the rich young ruler who kneeled at the feet of Jesus, Mark 10:17-22. Now all of us looking on our neighbor’s Bible, if we have not one of our own, let us read God’s Word out loud together, Mark 10:17-22 now together:
And when He was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but One, that is, God.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother.
And he answered and said unto Him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth up.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
But he went away, loving the wrong world. We look at this young man; first, his station. Putting together the story as it is written in Mark and in Matthew, he is known to us and he’s described to us as the rich young ruler [Matthew 19:16-31; Mark 10:17-22]. He was rich. That to the ancient Jewish nation was always inevitably a mark of the favor and the blessing of God. He was a favorite in the eyes of heaven itself. He was rich. He was a ruler. There are several categories by which one could be described in that ancient day as a ruler. For one thing, he might have been the head of his synagogue. In Dallas, each one of the synagogues in this city has a president, and he could have been the ruler or the president of his synagogue. Josephus will use the word describing a member of the Sanhedrin. He could have been, though he was young, he could have been a member of the highest judiciary of the nation of Israel.
Then he’s described as being young; how unusual a fortune. Usually a man who acquires wealth does so in the course of the years of his life. So many times we come to places of leadership in after years. But this young fellow had everything. He was young. And as a young man, he was a ruler. And as a ruler, he was rich. He had everything going for him. And yet he knelt at the feet of Jesus [Mark 10:17].
Will you notice next his courage? “And as they were going forth, there came on running in the way, and kneeled to Jesus and asked Him, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17]. His moral courage in the way, out under the broad daylight, under the face of the shining sun where all could see him; Nicodemus came to the Lord Jesus by night in the shades and twilight of the evening where nobody could make out distinctly his form, his figure, or his face [John 3:1-2]. Not this young man. Where everyone could see, there did he come before the Lord and knelt at His feet [Mark 10:17].
That’s doubly impressive because the Lord was in Perea on the other side of Jordan and crossing the river to Jericho and up to Jerusalem to be crucified, Passion week [Luke 24:7]. He was already the despised and rejected Nazarene [Isaiah 53:3]. There was a price on His head [Luke 22:1-6]. And if anyone could deliver Him, there were thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:15], a great reward in those days, and yet in tremendous moral courage that young fellow, running in the way, knelt at the feet of this despised outcast Prophet of Nazareth.
The Book says that he came running [Mark 10:17]. It is an unusual circumstance that will induce a sedate and dignified Oriental to break his calm and dignified walk. He called Him as he knelt, didaskalē agathē, and the Lord noticed it. Not in all of the Talmud is one of the greatest rabbons ever called didaskalē agathē. No wonder the Lord noticed it. It is not just a term of respect or of obeisance, but it is an address showing the young man had profound reverence for the person and for the message of this Prophet from Galilee [Mark 10:17].
“Didaskalē agathē, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me agathē? There is none agathē but One, that is, God” [Mark 10:18]. Young fellow not only in station, and in rank, and in wealth, and in rulership knelt in broad daylight before this despised Prophet from Nazareth, but he addresses Him in words of deepest reverence and awe [Mark 10:17].
Do you notice again the moral purity of the life of this young man? The Lord looking upon him said to him, “You are a ruler in the synagogue. You are the president of your congregation. You are taught in all the ways of the law. You know the commandments.” And the Lord named some of them as typical of all ten. “These do and thou shalt live” [Mark 10:19]. That is the word of the old covenant [Deuteronomy 4:1].
And the young fellow replied, “Master, all of these have I observed, faithfully kept from my youth up” [Mark 10:20]. Now the young fellow may have been somewhat over persuaded, naturally so, reared as he was in the tradition of the law; all of these outward commandments he had faithfully observed, all of them.
And the Lord looking upon that young fellow, clean and moral and upright all the days of his life, not for a week or a month or a year, but all the days of his life; as the Lord looked at the young fellow, the Lord beholding him, loved him [Mark 10:21]. Anytime you think that by compromising the Word and way of God we are progressing in experience, or in knowledge, or in understanding, you are just being deceived by the evil one. There is no such a thing as compromising the commandment of God without bringing into your life slush, and dirt, and stain that is there scarring forever.
Any young man is the stronger and the better who all the days of his life walks in the way of the Lord. And this young fellow had been just that. From the days of his boyhood, he had outwardly kept all of the commandments of God. And the Lord looking at him, pure and moral, loved him [Mark 10:19-21].
Yet there is something about outward righteousness that leaves the heart empty and the life sterile. Isn’t that the strangest thing in all this world? You can be good, and you can be moral, and you can observe the commandments, but there is not in them per se, in themselves, that abounding abundant overflowing life, the life that praises God, that loves the Lord. Sometimes the most unlovable people are the most righteous among us. Sometimes the most unwanted to be followed after people are those who are the most righteous and holy. It is easy to become pharisaical in our lives. “Why, I would not touch that sinful woman. Not I. I would not eat with those despised sinners. Not I. I would not be caught dead in some of these places of iniquity. I would not at all compromise the great moral teachings of the Lord,” and saying that look down in scorn and judgment upon those who are less righteous than we.
It is easily possible for us to become censorious, and judgmental, and pharisaical. There wasn’t anything wrong with the Pharisees in keeping the law. The trouble lay in their spirit. They were critical. They were censorious. They were hard in their attitude, and in their words, and in their judgment.
One of the things that is a subject of prayer is, “O God, as I try to be Christian,” and as I ask God to help me to do right and to live a beautiful life, “Lord, at the same time, help me not to be prouder and lifted up above those that may not know the Lord, as I could pray I know and love Him.”
It’s not easy to do right and to love God and at the same time be tender and precious and open of heart toward people who are of the world. Somehow it’s just easy when you try to do right, and try to love God, and try to be a Christian, it’s somehow easy to double up your fist in attitude toward those who don’t. You come to hate them, and you come to despise them, and you come to look upon yourself as above them. And you wash your hands of them, and if they brush by you you’d feel yourself dirty. It’s easy to fall into a position where we lift ourselves up as being better than other people.
Actually what a Christian ought always to do is just to remember that, “By the grace of God I have been delivered from the wages and the ravages of sin and worldliness.” In themselves, the righteousness of the law leaves the man who follows in those commandments sterile and empty. There is no abounding praise to God in them. And that’s what that young fellow felt. “Lord, all of these things, all of these commandments have I observed from my youth up [Mark 10:20]. But, Master, there’s an emptiness in my heart yet. What lack I? What is it Lord? [Matthew 19:20]. What is it?”
Now his one lack; he didn’t seem to lack anything. What could anyone ask beside? He was young. He had youth, and that’s a treasure beyond what money could buy. He was young. He was rich. I’d say practically all in the world thirst after that, money, rich. And he had place of influence, as well as affluence. He was received as a leader in his community. What more could he lack? “What lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:20]. He seemed to lack nothing.
Actually he lacked everything. Like a sun that lacks light, or a fire that lacks heat, or a river that lacks water, or a man that lacks soul, he lacked everything. What was the young man but this? His heart was not centered in God. It was in the world. The love of his soul was not heavenward. It was earthward. He was willing to give up everything for God except his state in the world, and “You cannot serve God and mammon” [Luke 16:13].
“One thing thou lackest: your heart is in the world, and you love the things of the world. You love your riches. And you love being the ruler and the leader. And you love the things that money can buy and the prestige that affluence brings. Your heart is in this world. Give it up. Give it up. Give it up,” says the Lord. “Give it away. Get rid of it. And come, take up the cross, and follow Me, and you will have eternal life” [Mark 10:21].
I one time saw a drawing, a picture in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, when the man was standing in rags with his back to his own house, and a great burden on his shoulders, reading a Book, and then cried with a great and lamentable voice, “What shall I do? For this Book says that I am lost in my sins.” And Evangelist comes and tells him, “You see yon wicket gate and beyond that gate a hill and a cross on top? Go through yon wicket gate, and thou shalt find salvation and pardon as you kneel at the cross.” And the picture I saw was of a man with the world in his arms trying to go through that wicket gate. But the gate is too narrow and the way is too strait for a man to walk through it with the world in his arms and in his heart.
You know the world is a consuming thing. It just is. If a man is out here in the business earth, it is easy for him to be consumed by business. Or if he’s inclined to be a socialite, or she’s inclined to seek to rise socially, it can be a consuming thing. Or a man reaching after money, or after fame, or out of political fortune, or to be elected, it is a consuming thing this world! If you’re not careful it will absolutely sweep your heart away.
This young fellow, his heart was in the world, and the Lord said, “One thing you lack; the center of your life is not in God. It’s in riches. It’s in money. It’s in fame. It’s in fortune. It’s in election. It’s in business. It’s in social climbing and acceptability. Your heart is in this world. You love the wrong world!” And the Lord invited him, “Give it up. Give it up. And come and follow Me, and you will have eternal life.”
And his tragic choice: look at this Greek word, “And he was,” the revised version translates it, “and his countenance fell at that saying.” The King James Version translates it, “And he was sad at that saying” [Mark 10:22]. I want to give you an exact translation of that word. The word used there to describe the young fellow is stugnazō, and it is used twice in the New Testament. The first time it is used is Matthew 16:3 where Christ is describing the clouds of the sky that are boiling before a storm, and He used that word stugnazō to describe the boiling sky as it turns to fury in a storm. And it is translated in the King James Version, “The sky is lowering.” The clouds are boiling, stugnazō.
Now the other place that word stugnazō is used is here in the twenty-second verse of the tenth chapter of Mark to describe the face of that young man. When the Lord told him that, “You love the wrong world. Give it up, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21], the word stugnazō describes the civil war in the boy’s heart that registered on his face [Mark 10:22].
It isn’t easy to give up for God, never. And yet I do not think there has ever lived a Christian but who knows what it is to give up for Jesus’ sake. Sometimes it may be a little thing, a habit, and it ruins your life. I am surprised at how many men that could be used mightily for God, but they are compromised in some country club following some inane, unprofitable, peccadillo of a habit. And when you invite them to give it up and follow Jesus, rather than accept from God’s hands a great towering leadership, they had rather cling to some worldly habit in some country club. I don’t understand it.
And sometimes we’re called upon to give up the dearest things in our lives to follow Jesus. I repeat, I don’t think there is a Christian who has ever lived who has followed Christ but who knows what it is to give up. Give it up. Give it up. “Give it up, and follow Me” [Mark 10:21]. And the young man fought that day a civil war in his soul, and he lost it. And he went away sad, not mad [Mark 10:22]. And he went away grieved, not bitter. For his heart approved more than he was willing to give.
Isn’t that a strange thing? When the Holy Spirit deals with a man and he turns God down, it’ll never be, “You know God is wrong and I hate Him. And He is unjust. And He asked me to do what He ought not to ask of me. It is not right for Him to make a demand,” never like that. But the man knows in his heart that what God appeals for him to do is always good, and best, and right. And that young fellow was just like that. He turned and went away, but he went away sad and grieved, unwilling to do what his heart had commended that he do.
Now his lost opportunity: “And he went away: for he had great possessions” [Mark 10:22]. He went away with everything that he possessed. He was rich. He kept it all. His heart was in the world. He kept it there. He went away with everything that the world would say is fine and acceptable. He was the epitome of success, and he went away with it all in his heart and in his hands. Everything he possessed he kept when he turned aside from Jesus. But he lost, but he lost the most glorious open door and opportunity that any soul could ever have, namely, to find eternal life in Christ Jesus [Mark 10:21-22].
There is a great, great poem written by Dante called “The Divine Comedy,” and it is divided into three parts, the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradisio. In the Inferno, this young man is depicted. And Dante depicts him as forever seeking, forever searching, forever longing, restless, unsatisfied. There is a famous poem about him, and the last stanza of that poem describes him in old age and death, and the stanza is this.
But now the weight of age has laid me low.
The hand of death is seeking mine to clasp.
I am left alone with nothing but my wealth,
When once eternal life was in my grasp.
“And the young man went away grieved: for he had great possessions” [Mark 10:22]; loving the wrong world.
And lastly, the eternity without God: you can stand at the beautiful gate of heaven and search the faces of the pilgrims entering in, but you’ll never see his face. You can walk up and down those golden streets and mingle with God’s redeemed dressed in white, but you’ll never find him. You can listen to the roll call in heaven, and you’ll never hear his name. And you can search the Lamb’s Book of Life, and he’s not there. He went away grieved, but he went away [Mark 10:22].
Almost, but lost.
Almost, cannot avail.
Almost is but to fail,
Sad, sad, the bitter wail.
Almost, but lost.
[“Almost Persuaded Now To Believe,” Philip P. Bliss]
“When I had eternal life in my clasp,” and he went away loving the wrong world [Mark 10:22].
Sweet friend our life is like a breath. It’s like a vapor. It’s for a moment. How quickly and how swiftly do the years pass away? I have now, this moment, “O Lord, this day, this hour, may I open my heart to Thee? Please, God, give me grace to follow after, to give up anything for Thee. Lord, bless, help, stand by me, Master. And in the decision that I make, O God, may I make it heavenward, and God-ward, and Christ-ward. Lord, put in my heart a love for the heavenly kingdom, the world of our blessed Savior with His people and His church, with His redeemed, with our Lord in heaven” [1 Peter 1:18-19].
There have been a multitude of you who have listened on KRLD, on radio. Where you are, in a car driving down a highway, in a bedroom, in a living room, in some rendezvous; wherever you have listened, if God’s Spirit has touched your heart tonight, would you say, “Lord Jesus, in Thy grace and goodness there is room in my heart for Thee. Put a love for God in my soul. Help me to love the right world.”
And in the great throng in God’s house tonight, in a moment when we stand to sing, would you answer God’s call with your life, and do it now? “Pastor, I have decided for Christ, and here I come. If there is a love, if there is a root of evil in me, may God take it out! And in its place may the Lord put an abounding, overflowing love for God in my soul.” Coming to put your life in the fellowship of the dear church; bringing your family with you; bringing your wife or your husband with you; a couple you coming, or just you as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come, down that stairwell, “Here I am, pastor.” Walking down one of these aisles, “I’m on the way.” God bless you as you come. Angels attend you as you respond with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WRONG WORLD
I. His station
A. Rich – to that
culture a sign of favor of God
B. Ruler – had
influence, recognition, power
C. Young – appealing to
any generation in any social or cultural life
II. His courage
A. He knelt before the
rejected Nazarene when all could see him
B. He came running; and
addresses him in words of deepest reverence, awe
III. His moral purity
A. He kept the
commandments all his life
B. Jesus loved him
C. Emptiness of mere
ritual left the heart hungry, empty
IV. His one lack
A. He loved his riches
and place in the world more than he loved God
V. His tragic choice
– the struggle in his soul (Matthew 16:3, Mark
B. He turned away sad
VI. His life of lost opportunity
we turn aside and leave God out, we face inevitable loss, despair
VII. The eternity without God
went away grieved, but he went away