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A Defining Encounter

A Defining Encounter

Joshua J. Masters |

An encounter with Christ will reveal who you truly are and the priorities of your heart.

Encounters with Christ
Message 7 • A Defining Encounter – The Rich Young Ruler
Joshua J. Masters
August 15, 2021


Let’s try to stay in this moment.

Are we truly willing to lay everything down at the feet of Jesus, once and for all?

Am I willing to see Him lifted high as my kingdom falls?

It’s a difficult place for our hearts to land, isn’t it?

Because for us to lay everything down, once and for all, it requires us to examine our character and our motivations in life.

Are we willing to do that?

That’s the difficult question we’ll explore this morning as we continue our series, Encounters with Christ.

Today’s message is called, A DEFINING ENCOUNTER.

What does that mean?

intransitive verb: To describe the nature or basic qualities of; explain.
- American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

I think that’s important, because when you have an encounter with Jesus, your nature and your basic qualities will be revealed.

Looking under the surface at the things we keep hidden—even from ourselves—isn’t something we usually want to look at, is it?

A. An encounter with Christ will reveal and define my character.

The process of examining who we really are and what we really want is difficult…

And there will be difficult challenges in this message.

But you must honestly define who you are before there can be a change in who you are.

That’s what we’ll see in the story of the Rich Young Ruler today.

He gets that title because Matthew calls him young, Mark tells us he’s rich, and Luke calls him a ruler… likely a religious leader connected to the synagogue.

So, you can go ahead and turn or swipe in your Bibles to Mark, Chapter 10.

It’s on page 811 if you’re using the Bible available here at Brookwood.

Let’s read the full encounter, and then we’ll break it down.

Starting in Verse 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?” “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.

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.’”

“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

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.”

At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Mark 10:17–22 (NLT)

Okay. Let’s stop there.

What do we see in this man?

There are aspects of our lives that reveal our nature and define our character.

We’ll look at four of them we see in this passage and in ourselves.

Here’s the first:
B. My character is defined by the…
1. Desires of my heart.

Let’s look at the text a little more closely.

Back to verse 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?”
Mark 10:17 (NLT)

The first thing we see in this man is that there’s a desperation of the heart.

He’s urgently looking for answers.

We know that for a couple reasons.
--First, he runs to catch up with Jesus.

To run, he’d have to pull up his robes and expose his legs.

That was not only considered inappropriate but would be shameful.

So, men of status never ran in this culture.
Yet this man runs to Jesus.

--Second, he kneels before Jesus in a sign of humility.

He’d acquired great wealth, was respected in the religious community, and he’d been faithful to the commandments (at least from his perspective).

Yet he had this deep sense that something was missing in his relationship with God.

And the emptiness he felt was so pronounced that he threw away all decorum and risked his reputation to get an answer.

So, the question on his heart is sincere.

Have you ever come to a place where you knew, deep down, something was missing in your life?

Maybe you’re sensing that right now.

Well, if that’s where you are today, we can learn something from this man.

Because, in the beginning, he does the right thing.
--He recognizes his need to be made right with God.
--He runs to Jesus, and
--He kneels before Christ looking for guidance.

Those are the same steps we should take when we realize there’s something missing in our relationship with God.

But here’s where things start to go awry.

He says, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What’s wrong with this question?
--He’s focused on what HE can do.
--How can I EARN my way to heaven?

Mark Taylor sent me a great quote he came across about this moment. It said:

“The rich man didn’t want Jesus to be his savior; he wanted Jesus to show him the way to be his own savior.”

“Good Teacher, what can I DO?”

So, Jesus responds in verse 18:
“Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good.”
Mark 10:18 (NLT)

Now, it sounds like Jesus is denying His own goodness here, but that’s not what’s happening at all.

He’s challenging the man’s USE of the word good.

In the Jewish Scriptures, the word ‘good’ is used over and over to describe the loving faithfulness of God.

Here’s the problem, the religious leaders liked to use the word “good” to describe themselves and one another as well, symbolizing their adherence to the law.

Yes, the man calls Jesus good—but he would also call himself good.

So, Jesus is not only challenging his use of the word, but He’s trying to refocus the man’s attention from himself to the perfect goodness of God.

As we walk through this story, you’ll see Jesus gives him multiple opportunities to acknowledge his own lack of goodness.

To be saved, Jesus knows the man must see the sinful nature of his heart.

You can’t receive the reward of God’s grace, and mercy, and forgiveness until you understand your need for it.

Jesus is leading him to that realization.

Outwardly, this man has taken all the right steps to convey that his heart’s desire is eternity.

But Christ is preparing to reveal to him that it’s not true.

Proverbs 4:23 says:
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Your life is determined by what’s in your heart.

So, your heart’s deepest desire will always determine your actions.

You may believe you want a closer relationship with God…

But until we surrender the thing we secretly want more than God; we’ll continue to struggle in our faith and actions.

So how do we overcome that?
We ask God to reveal what the unhealthy desire of our heart is and then let Him dig it out.

Become willing to pray this prayer from Psalm 26:
Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.
Psalm 26:2 (NLT)

If you’re willing to do that, God will put a mirror up to your soul and reveal who you really are.

And that may seem terrifying, but it’s the only way to overcome the stumbling blocks in your heart.

And understand:
--Christ doesn’t want you to do that so He can condemn your heart.
--Christ wants you to do that so He can RESTORE your heart.

Jesus is about to offer this man the same self-reflecting mirror that leads to restoration.

He continues in verse 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.’”
Mark 10:19 (NLT)

Jesus is quoting the 10 Commandments given in the book of Exodus.

But what do you notice about them?

He doesn’t quote the first four, which are about our relationship with God.

Jesus only uses examples from the second half of the commandments—the ones about how we should treat others.

Jesus knows this man’s heart.

And what needs to be revealed is his attitude toward other people.

My character is defined by the…
2. Dedication I have to others.

Now, I clearly don’t mean that in an unhealthy, codependent way.

We need healthy boundaries and healthy relationships.

But again and again, Scripture tells us that the Christian life is to be marked by love and putting the needs of others above your own desires.

Look at Philippians 2:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3–4 (NIV)

Now, I want you to see how these fill-ins are progressive.
Our dedication to caring for others is a direct reflection our heart’s desire.

First Christ challenges his heart.
Then Christ reveals the condition of his heart in the way he sees others.

Religious leaders prided themselves on their studious discipleship,
But that never translated into care for others.

And the modern church can fall into the same discipleship trap of self-righteousness.

Listen carefully.
TRUE discipleship must lead to a consuming compassion for the lost and hurting.
Anything else is just checking religious boxes.

Jesus knows this man cares more about himself than others.

But when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, He said:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”

But then He says:
“A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:39–40 (NLT)

Both. Equally.
Love God. Love People.
You can’t honor God by doing one without the other.

This man thinks he loves God but doesn’t care about hurting people.
So, he can’t truly love God.

But it works the other way too.
If you’re a social justice warrior and you’re best known for your biting political posts.
What does that reveal about you?

Because if that’s where your heart and mind are, then it’s unlikely you can also love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

That’s the mirror we must hold up to our motives.

And it’s only when we recognize we’re incapable of loving God and loving people in our own strength that Christ will revitalize ALL our relationships.

When we lay our relationships at Christ’s feet, He will transform our hearts toward:
--Toward our families,
--Our friends,
--Our Co-Workers,
--The person bagging your groceries,
--The person driving too slowly in front of you,
--And the person in need that He’s going to place in front of you.

Loving God means loving people.

So, Jesus challenges this man with the commandments that clearly illustrates he’s not committed to others.

And how does the Rich Young Ruler respond?

Verse 20:
“Teacher,” [Notice he didn’t say good teacher after being corrected] the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
Mark 10:20 (NLT)

Based on their culture and what he’d been taught, he probably believed he’d done everything required of him.

So, rather than allowing the Law to reveal his sinfulness, which is why the Law was given (Romans 7), this man uses the Law as a checklist to proclaim his own righteousness.

He’s doubling down on his ability to earn eternal life.

He’d lived up to man’s expectation but resting in that made it impossible for him to see how far short he’d fallen of God’s expectations.

So, Jesus goes deeper to reveal his sinful heart toward others.

Verse 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.”
Mark 10:21 (NLT)

I love that Mark highlights how Christ looked at him with love before conveying a very difficult truth.

The Greek word is agape—the pure, unconditional love of God.

--Sometimes loving someone means saying the thing they least want to hear.

--But if you’re saying something biting and it doesn’t come from a place of genuine love, you need to check your own motives rather than their actions.

Now, the instructions Christ gives him (to give everything away) is usually handled by teachers in one of two ways.

Either the pastor has the ushers block the doors and takes up a guilt offering.

Or they go to the other extreme and say this passage isn’t really about money at all, it’s about this man’s own personal stumbling block.

I think both those approaches are unbiblical.

Let me be clear.
You should never give out of guilt or shame.
So, that’s not what this is about.

But it’s also wrong to say this passage isn’t about what we do with our money.

Yes, wealth was this man’s personal stumbling block… but we just saw Jesus directly tie the concept of wealth to half of the 10 commandments.

So, this is absolutely about money, and we have to talk about money.

My character is defined by the…
3. Distribution of my riches.

Jesus called on this man to give everything away because it revealed how little he cared for others.

Because how we
distribute our wealth is a direct reflection of our dedication to others, which reveals the hidden desire of our hearts.

See how all of these are tied together?

Jesus said:
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Matthew 6:21 (NLT)

The false comfort and security of wealth does 3 things:
--Draws us away from our reliance on God.
--Numbs us to the pain of others
--Seduces us into idolatry.

That’s what happened to the Rich Young Ruler, and it happens to us.

That’s why 11 of Christ’s 39 parables were about wealth.

And it’s easy to read the story of the Rich Young Ruler and say, “That’s not me. If I were as rich as he was, I’d definitely give more and care for people.”

But the truth is, we’re all incredibly wealthy.

We just don’t see it because we’re all very rich people surrounded by obscenely rich people.

And We justify our wealth by comparing it to those who have more instead of comparing it to those who have less.

I think it’s important that we have an honest perspective of what we have if we’re going to live a God-honoring life.

So, no guilt. These are just facts.


According to multiple sources, those living at the poverty line in the United States (that’s less than $13,000 a year) are among the top 16% richest people in the world. [i]

That means someone in poverty here is richer than 84% of the rest of the world.

That’s wealthier than 6.6 Billion other people.

In fact, you only need to bring in about $4000 a year (just over $300 a month) to be considered middle-class in the world economy.

We can’t even fathom the wealth we have—and we’re numb to it because everyone has it.

Look at this one.


If your personal income matches just the median household income in America, you’re in the top 1% riches people in the world.


Now listen… wealth WAS a particularly large stumbling block for this man.

God does not call every Christian to give everything away like the Rich Young Ruler, but the uncomfortable truth is God does hold every Christian accountable for what they do with their wealth.

Jesus revealed that this man did nothing for those who were hurting, so God wanted him to give it all away.

But forget giving everything away.

According to Crown Financial and Relevant Magazine,
If every believer in just the United States gave only 10%...
In 5 years, the body of Christ could: [ii]
--End starvation across the entire globe.
--Bring clean water to every poor village on the planet.
--eliminate illiteracy.
--Fund every foreign missionary to spread the Gospel.
--And still have $100B for local ministries.

So why don’t we?
The same reason as the Rich Young Ruler.

We hold on to our earthly riches when our eyes are closed to the greater riches Christ offers us as a child of the King.

Look what Jesus said to the disciples after the man leaves. Skip down to Verse 29:
“…I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for My sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
Mark 10:29b–31 (NLT)

There’s not only a greater treasure in Heaven when we give, Jesus says you’ll receive a hundred times what you give NOW—in this life.

Jesus is pretty much reiterating the challenge and promise He gave in the Old Testament about tithing.

It says:
“I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!”
Malachi 3:10b (NLT)

Jesus Christ wants us to look up from what we’re holding so tightly in our hands so He can reveal the greater riches He’s offering us.

But the Rich Young Ruler didn’t want to do that. How did he respond to Christ’s invitation?

Back up to verse 21:
“Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” At this the man’s face fell, [The Greek means to be appalled and sorrowful] and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Mark 10:21b–22 (NLT)

Now, there are some optimists who like to think, “Well, maybe he went away sad but still did it.”

Maybe. But I don’t think so. (This is my opinion, so read and decide for yourself)

But here’s why I say that:
First, if he was unwilling to be transformed when he was in the presence of Christ, I don’t think he was transformed away from Christ.

Second, this incident was so impactful that the Holy Spirit led three separate Gospel writers to include his story in Matthew, Mark, and Luke… yet not one of them ever mention a Poor Young Ruler’s triumphant return.

And finally, I don’t think he came back because of the discussion Jesus had with the disciples when he left. We’ll get to that in a minute.

But I think we’d like to believe he returns because we’re uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus just let him walk away.

Jesus invited him with unconditional love but didn’t chase him.

Jesus invites you into relationship, but He will not force you into obedience.

This man was unwilling to give up his deepest desire for his deepest need.

Because what turned him away wasn’t the realization that he’d broken all the commandments about how to treat others.

It was the sudden revelation that he’d broken the first commandment.

“You must not have any other god but Me.”
Exodus 20:3 (NLT)

Despite his external accomplishments in the church,
His worship wasn’t really directed toward God.
It was directed toward himself and earthly riches.

And even though he knew what it was going to cost him, he chose the false security of his idol.

My character is defined by the…
4. Direction of my worship.

The ultimate test of who you are is revealed in the direction of your worship.

Because what you truly worship will transform the:
Desires of your heart,
The level of dedication you have to others,
And how you distribute your resources—your money, time and gifts.

Back to verse 22.
At this the man’s face fell, [Catch this: His face fell, when he should have fallen on his face] and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them.
Mark 10:22–24 (NLT)

The reason the disciples are so amazed is because up until this moment, wealth and power were considered a sign of God’s blessings and righteousness.

But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
Mark 10:24–27 (NLT)

So, if it’s impossible for the most religious people in the country to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, how can any of us be saved?

And Jesus says, it’s impossible.
It’s impossible for anyone to be saved… unless God intervenes.

That’s why the questions “What must I DO to inherit eternal life” will never lead to eternal life.
Because it’s self-directed worship.

So you must decide if you want to be defined by what you’ve accomplished in these categories or if you want to be defined by what Christ has done.

It’s only when we lay it all down at the feet of Jesus, once and for all—when we see our need to be transformed and forgiven that our lives begin to change and we receive the eternal life of Christ’s work instead of our own.

What’s the idol you need to lay down, once and for all?

What in your Kingdom needs to crumble?


The Rich Young Ruler was standing right in front of the only One who could restore his brokenness and he chose to walk away.

And you have a decision to make right now.

Don’t walk away from this message discouraged by what you can’t do.
Walk toward the One who can do it for you:

Because He’s right in front of you, waiting to:
--Restore your heart
--Revitalize your relationships
--Reveal your riches, and
--Receive your worship.

Let’s Pray.

[i] Data for poverty and median US incomes in the global economy C/R from multiple sources/wealth calculators including: How Rich Am I, CNNMoney, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington Post, and The Pew Research Center
[ii] Crown Financial. and Relevant Magazine.

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