Man's Natural Thought Answered

Matthew 19:16-26.

In the apparent dealings of the Lord Jesus, we sometimes find a degree of roughness (though, in spirit, always most blessed gentleness), and this especially when that which was amiable in human nature was brought before Him. Thus, when this young man came running to Him, and said, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Jesus gave the abrupt answer, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." Again, when Nicodemus came to Him by night, desiring to learn of Him, and professing to believe He came from God (John 3), He answered, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Again, when (Jesus having foretold His suffering many things at the hands of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, at Jerusalem, and being killed, and raised again the third day) Peter, in the amiable feelings of human nature, said, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee" (Matt. 16), He immediately replied, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence to me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." That which is highly esteemed amongst men is an abomination in the sight of God. The feelings of Peter only savoured of the things of men, therefore Jesus could only receive it as that which was ministered by Satan - "Get thee behind me, Satan."

This young man counted on some competency in himself to do that which was good. He was very amiable, very loveable (it says, in the mention made of this same incident in Mark, "Jesus beholding him, loved him"). There is much that is naturally beautiful and lovely in human nature; but there is nothing in it that tends to God, there is no will to please God in it, no righteousness in it. If such a young man had come to us, asking such a question, "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" we should have considered it a most hopeful sign; but how did Jesus treat him? He just showed him that he was entirely wrong in his estimate of himself - "But if thou wilt enter into life," he said, "keep the commandments." On his asking, "Which?" Jesus tests him by those which respect his conduct towards man - "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." "Well," says the young man, "all these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" Jesus does not deny it, but tests him further, and says, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." "When the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions."

Jesus had now touched that in which his heart was concerned, and proved him to be an idolator and covetous. His riches were the treasure on which his heart was set.

If we would do that which is good, we must have a new nature. There cannot be good fruits, unless the tree is good; and if we would do that which is good, we must have a good nature. But Jesus declares, "There is none good but one, that is, God." That word, "Do, and live," was just brought in to prove that all are lost, to prove that none can do; and therefore it is folly to think of entering into life thus. An innocent man would not have understood the meaning of the commandments. "Thou shalt not lust," is addressed to a sinner who has the inclination to lust. "Thou shalt not steal," is addressed to a sinner who has the inclination to steal. Jesus did not come to cultivate the good of human nature, but to SAVE the bad and the last; therefore He tells the Pharisees, "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Matt. 21:31.)

"There is none good," says Jesus of human nature (and this is His account of you, dear reader); but there is ONE good - GOD.

When summing up the sins of the Gentiles the apostle says, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind." Why? Because "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge." (Rom. 1:28.) This was the root, and all the other sins were but the fruits. God does not ask for your goodness. He wants the heart, and this is what man does not like to give.

Paradise was God's being good to good people. The law was God's being righteous to bad people. But what we want is God good to bad people; and where shall we find this? In the gospel. You may object; this is favouring the wicked. So it is, "Let favour be shown to the wicked," etc. (Isa. 26:10.) Jesus came to the lost, and this was "favour shown to the wicked."

This is what Satan always tries to make us disbelieve, and what our proud hearts do not like to accredit. Satan said to Eve (in effect), "God wants to keep an apple from a man who is innocent; He is afraid you will be gods like Himself, knowing good and evil." But what has God done? He has given not simply an apple to one who is innocent, but (wondrous love!) He has given His Son for poor lost sinners. Satan always tries to tell us lies about God. Nothing could show forth the riches of His grace like this, that He has given His own Son for poor sinners. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God is righteous and just. In what? In requiring goodness from us? No; in condemning us? No! He is righteous and just in forgiving our sins - in estimating the worth of His own Son's work. (Rom. 3:24-28.)

When we stand in the centre of God's love, encompassed by it, we find it immeasurable.