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Home For Middle Easterners Can being a good Iranian get you into Heaven?

Can being a good Iranian get you into Heaven?

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 Can being a good Iranian get you into Heaven?


 Luke 18:18-25


Phil Speers


Editor: We have made some slight changes to the wording to clarify the author’s message for our Iranian readers. If you have any questions please contact Rev Paul Seiler here 


Dear Iranian friend please read the story in Luke 18:18-25 to learn why being a good Iranian will not get you into heaven.


The gospel of Matthew tells us that the rich young ruler was young; ( Matthew 19:16  )  so he still had most of his adult life ahead of him. Luke tells us he was a certain ruler. He had influence. He might have been the leader of the local synagogue, or a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin. What ever he was he displayed a certain authority and the bearing of leadership. People listened to him; servants came when he called.


Not only that, we also read he was very rich. This is the ambition of almost every young person. You ask them what they want out of life. "I'd like to have money, and fame, and see the world," they say. This man had all that; he had no money worries at all; he could buy anything he fancied. He was the envy of all his generation in Israel. With just a tithe, he could have bank rolled Jesus' ministry for years to come. He would have been the mosque treasurer’s best friend. But more than that, this young wealthy man had power. People looked up to him and did what he said. What natural man could ask for anything more? But Jesus let him walk away unconverted. We will see why as you read on.


What is more this man had a very attractive personality. We read of the exploits of the soccer and basket ball millionaires. What unimaginable wealth they have, and they are the fittest men in the country. What power they have; women come running to meet them, and yet what disdainful men many of them are with their gambling and drunkenness and lust and foul language. This man in Luke was not at all like that. He was a good man; he valued moral living not indulging himself in the lusts of the flesh. He had sought to keep all the commandments of God throughout his life, and although we know there must have been a certain superficiality in his self-confidence it is plain that no man could point a finger at him and say that he was a hypocrite, an immoral and irreligious man. This man could claim, as Saul of Tarsus would do so in one of his letters, that as far as the law was concerned he was blameless. He had not been a prodigal son; he had not fallen into any kind of loose or riotous living; he'd never given his parents sleepless nights. He'd retained his own integrity and basic decency. He was a clean-cut youth, the kind the mosque would put forward as a fine example.


More than that, this young, wealthy, moral ruler had a piety that instinctively draws out the admiration of those of us who are Christians. When he reached Jesus it is Mark who tells us that he fell on his knees publicly before him in a posture of the deepest respect and admiration. He was more than courteous before our Lord, he was almost worshipping him. Though he was a man of high morality yet he recognized there was an evident gap between himself and the Saviour. He did not expect Jesus to fall at his feet. He fell before the Son of God and addressed him like this, "Good teacher!" (Luke 18:18 ). He came as a disciple; he knew he needed to be taught by this man Jesus of Nazareth because Jesus had an ethical quality of goodness about him, and he taught about living the good life – the very best life, and he lived out what he taught. "Good teacher!"


Yet there is even more that we appreciate in this man, that he seized the opportunity of a personal interview with Jesus of Nazareth to address him with one of the greatest questions. He didn't ask our Lord about social conditions, the Roman occupation of the land that had lasted for 100 years and taxation. He didn't want to know "How can I feel better about myself? Can you give me any tips about finding a wife? How do you think I should invest my money?" and so on. He wasn't interested in betterment, and in remodeling his life, but rather in what is surely, at the last, the only important question, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"(Luke 18:18 ). How concerned he seems to be to get the right answer! He has heard about Jesus, maybe he has heard his preaching. He has thought about what Jesus says and makes up his mind he must have a talk with him, and this day he hurries along searching for Jesus, eventually breaking into a run on the final stretch when he catches a glimpse of our Lord. He doesn't come in a moment of privacy but in this prominent place where they would be surrounded by many onlookers. He can't come quietly by night like Nicodemus for a private consultation; he comes at the double with a pressing need constraining him to get the answer to his great question.


But Jesus seemed to take the wrong approach. Anyone with a little bit of training knows that when a person asks, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" the right answer is; "You don't have to do anything. Eternal life is completely free. Just believe in Jesus and receive God's free gift." Then you lead him in prayer to receive Christ, give him assurance that he now has salvation, and rejoice that another name has been written in the Lambs Book of Life. The one thing you would never do with such a person is to tell him to keep the Ten Commandments as the way to gain eternal life. We all know that by obeying the commandments won't get anyone to heaven. And yet that is precisely what Jesus did. When the man replies that he has done all that, then Jesus brings up the subject of money and tells him to give away everything, not a tenth, but the whole box and dice, and then he will have eternal life. We won't bring up the subject of money for months, but here Jesus brings it up with an evangelistic contact and tells him if he gives it all away, he will go to heaven. Jesus could have certainly done with some training as to sharing His faith.


But there is another possibility. If it seems to us that Jesus blew a perfect opportunity and that He did not share the gospel clearly with this eager young man, then maybe Jesus has something to teach us about the gospel message and how to share it. In particularly He shows us how to share the gospel with good people, those who have believed in God and have lived decent lives. There are three main lessons:-


1.  As a good Iranian you need salvation from God’s judgment


This man believed in God and was zealous about spiritual things. He was a sincere moral young man who was trying his best to please God. But he was lacking eternal life. He was good, but he was lost.

You encounter people like this all the time, decent moral people. Often they have been raised in the mosque. Their parents have taught them right from wrong. They hold responsible jobs, pay their taxes, obey the law, are faithful in their marriages, attend mosque, and even give to the mosque. They give their time to service clubs and to wholesome youth activities, like scouts, sporting teams, pony club etc. They are good people, the kind that you would love to have for a neighbour.


But even though they are good, they do not have eternal life. They lack treasure in heaven. They have not entered the kingdom of God. They are not saved. All these terms in the reading point to the same thing, namely, being rightly related to God in the present so as to spend eternity with Him in heaven after death. As this story makes clear, it is not enough to be a very good person. Even good people need salvation because they are not good enough. This raises an important question, "what must a good person do to be saved?" Now when I say a good person I am not only talking about those whom others refer to as good, but also to those who view themselves as good. Most people flatter themselves that they are on the upward side of the goodness curve. Satan has so blinded us to the enormity of our sin in the eyes of God. And we all compare ourselves with worse sinners than we are. I read about a man who put his beer, wine, cigars, and an adult magazine on the counter. As the check out lady rang up the total, the man suddenly dropped a candy bar in front of her. And said guiltily, "I almost forgot my one vice."


So if you are inclined to think of yourself as basically good then this passage is for you. And the first thing it shows is that you need the salvation that the Bible talks so clearly about because you are not good enough for heaven. In fact no-one is, the Bible is very clear when it says, "There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10 ). And "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans. 3:23). Even the best people need salvation. That includes you and me. So, how are good people saved?


2. As a good Iranian it is impossible to go to heaven by your own goodness


Jesus shocked the disciples by saying as this young man walked away, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples and most of the Jews thought that wealth was a sign of God's blessing. But Jesus says that it is a definite spiritual hindrance or danger. He continues, "For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:25 ) Contrary to popular belief Jesus was not talking about a low gate in the wall of Jerusalem where a camel had to get down on its knees to crawl through. Rather He was talking about a camel going through the eye of a needle. In other words, Jesus was saying, that salvation was not only difficult for a rich man, it is impossible. The stunned disciples then asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus confirms what they are thinking, "It is impossible with men.” No one can be good enough to be saved and go to heaven.


This passage gives three reasons why salvation by your goodness is impossible;



The young man addressed Jesus as "good Teacher,” This was an unusual way to address a Jewish teacher and it was bordering on flattery. Jesus challenged him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God. " There are many people who jump on this statement and say that Jesus was denying His deity. But they miss the point. If Jesus was not God in the human flesh, to tell this man to sell everything and follow Him would be on par with some sick cult leader. But Jesus' point was not to make a statement about Himself, but rather to challenge the young man's superficial use of the word "good". He was using the word 'good' like we use the word 'love'. We say that "we love pizza", or "I love my dog," in the same breath we say "I love my wife," and "I love Jesus". In so doing we cheapen the word love, especially when applied to Jesus. That is why Jesus took him to task.


The man would have certainly agreed that God was good. He also called Jesus good, and he probably would have said that Jesus was an exceptionally good man. But if you had asked him, he would also have called himself a good man. He kept the commandments. He wasn't a sinner, like the publicans and prostitutes. Here was a good man seeking to learn from another good man what else he could do to inherit eternal life.


Jesus was pointing out the fact that God and His absolute goodness were much higher than he realized. B. B. Warfield sums it up, "Jesus' concern here is not to glorify Himself, but God: it is not to give any instruction concerning His own person whatever, but to indicate the published will of God as the sole and perfect prescription for- pleasing God." end quote.


Therefore, the man needed to see God in His awesome holiness and absolute perfection is the minimum level of goodness needed to inherit eternal life. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "you shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Or as Isaiah pointed out, "All our righteousness's are like filthy rags" in God's sight. The young man's flippant use of the word 'good' showed that he did not grasp the absolute goodness of God that is necessary to be in His presence in heaven for all eternity. Salvation by human goodness is impossible because it never can compare to God's goodness. Are you hoping to gain your salvation by your own goodness?  Another reason why salvation by your goodness is impossible;


  • Because you always fall short of God's holy law. (Exodus 20:1 – 17)


The difference between this point and the previous one is that there we looked at God's nature as being holy, whereas here the focus is on God's law as an expression of His holiness towards the human race. The young man asked what he could do to gain eternal life and so Jesus responds, “You know the commandments." (Luke 18:20 ). Jesus mentions the second half of the Ten Commandments; (Exodus 20:12-17 ), which focuses on our duty towards our fellow man, these commandments are outward and observable. If a person could keep from birth all of God's commandments for all their life, not only outwardly, but also in thought, then they would be able to merit eternal life.


The man claims that he has done all these things from his youth up. Jesus easily could have challenged his answer. J. C. Ryle says, "An answer more full of darkness and self-ignorance it is impossible to conceive! He who made it could have known nothing rightly, either about himself, or God, or God's Law."  But Jesus let his answer go and pressed on the man's chief problem: "You

still lack one thing, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me. " (Luke 18:22 )


Why did Jesus require this of man? If it were a universal requirement for salvation, Jesus would have put the same demand on Zacchaeus, But He didn't. Jesus was using the law as a schoolmaster to convict the man of his sin;(Galatians 3:25 ). The man claimed to keep the all of the commandments, but Jesus is saying in effect, "You don't keep the first half of the commandments, to love your God with all your heart, because your money is your god. You are an idolater. And neither do you keep the second half, to love your neighbour as yourself, because you are unwilling to give generously to the poor." If he looked beneath the surface of his good deeds the man would have been terrified of the requirement of God's holy law, in that he was actually violating it all.


The Bible says that if we keep the whole law, and yet violate it in one point; we are guilty of breaking it all. (Galatians 3:10 ). You can live a perfect life, but if you sin just once, you are disqualified from heaven, because God will not allow one unpardoned sinner into heaven. God must punish all sin in order to be just.(Romans 3:9-31 , Romans 4:18 – 5:11)


If you were driving too fast and got a ticket, you could tell the judge, "But I have never murdered anyone," it would not get you off. You could say, "I have never robbed a bank. I've always paid my taxes. I even go to mosque." It wouldn't matter. You broke the law and the judge will impose the penalty.


Or suppose you went to buy a new mirror and the clerk tried to sell you one with a crack in it. He says, "It's just a small crack, the rest is fine." It doesn't matter, one crack makes a broken mirror. Likewise, one sin makes a sinner and law­breaker. And whether you care to admit it or not, we all have sinned, not just once, but repeatedly.


People who think that they are good enough to qualify for heaven need to hold their behaviour, including their thoughts, up to the standard of God's holy Law. They need to feel, as Spurgeon put it, the rope around their necks, that they stand guilty and condemned before God. One reason we see so many superficial professions of faith in our day is that we do not use the law as Jesus did; to convict people of how far short they have fallen from God's perfect standard.


Thus by human goodness it is impossible to gain salvation because it can never compare with God's goodness and it will always fall short of God's holy Law. Are you hoping to gain your salvation by your own goodness? Another reason why salvation by your goodness is impossible;


  • Because it deceives you about the true state of your heart.


This man was sincere in thinking that he had kept the commandments, but he was sincerely wrong. He was deceiving himself because he was not looking at things on the heart level as God does. You can sincerely believe that you are well, but if you have some internal disease that is killing you, your sincerity doesn't matter at all. You must deal with your true condition or you will die. Sincerity is not enough; we must believe God's diagnosis about the wickedness of the human heart. This man thought that he had it pretty well together. He just needed another thing or two to nail down eternal life. But Jesus out of great love for this man sought to show him that in his heart he was an idolater. He worshipped his money more than God.


The Bible repeatedly warns us about the danger of money. In the parable of the sower, (Luke 8:5-8 ), the thorns that chocked out the word represent "cares, riches, and pleasures of life.” In the parable of the rich fool; (Luke 12:16-21 ) Jesus described a man who stored up plenty of goods, but neglected his soul. Paul warned that "those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition." (1 Timothy. 6:9). Money is like a loaded gun, it can be a useful thing if you are careful with it. But at all times it is a dangerous thing that you must treat with caution. Like guns, money can only be handled by sinners. It can lull us into thinking that all is well because we live comfortably, but we forget that eternity is a heartbeat away. If you protest that money is not a problem for you, I would say that you do not see your heart as God sees it. Even those who are generous with their money may deceive themselves into thinking that because they give much away, God will overlook their sin.


But no-one can get to heaven by their own goodness. Good people must abandon trusting in their own goodness if they want to get right with God. Salvation by human goodness is impossible. Are you hoping to gain your salvation by your own goodness?


  •  Because unless you turn from your sin and trust Christ to save you it's impossible to survive God’s coming judgment.


This man lacked one thing, but in lacking that one thing he lacked everything. What was that one thing? He needed to sell everything, give the money away, and come follow Jesus. So, was Jesus meaning that he could gain salvation by doing this one thing? If so, this would be the first and only man in history of whom that was true. Scripture is uniformly clear that salvation is by grace through faith apart from works. So why did Jesus lay this heavy requirement on this man? He did it because man cannot cling to his idols and genuinely trust in Christ for salvation at the same time. Saving faith is inseparable from repentance, which means turning from our sins. Mark 1:15 sums up Jesus' message, "Repent and believe in the gospel". Repentance loosens our grip on our sin; faith lays hold of God for deliverance. Repentance and saving faith always go together.


Jesus was telling this rich young ruler what He taught elsewhere, that if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If you don't you will go to hell. In other words sin condemns us, and sometimes it needs radical surgery to get rid of it. You must repent of your sin or your sin will drag you down to hell. You can't cling to your sin with one hand and to the cross of Christ with the other.


Picture a man in an upper story of a burning high rise apartment building. This has been his home for many years and he loves it. But the building is on fire and if he wants to save his life, he must give it up. If he clings to his things, he will die in the smoke and flames. Repentance is his turning to the open window. Faith is his jumping out the window into the safety net that the firemen have spread out below. Both are necessary for him to be saved.


As Jesus makes it plain here, no man can save himself; but, "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 ). This means were dare not trust in our repentance to save us. Nor do we trust in our trust to save us. We can only trust in God to save us. Salvation is totally God's doing, not at all our doing. We must cast ourselves totally on Him, not trusting at all in ourselves. Therefore, good people are saved by abandoning trust in their own goodness, buy turning from their sin and trusting in God alone to save them. Are you and I trusting in God alone for our salvation?


In 1882 C. H. Spurgeon wrote something that fits our day exactly. "A very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father's house, and never making him say, 'Father I have sinned.' How can he be healed who is not sick, or he be satisfied with the bread of life who is not hungry? The old fashioned sense of sin is despised.... Everything in this age is shallow .... the consequence is that men leap into religion, and then leap out again. Unhumbled they come to the mosque, unhumbled they remain in it, and unhumbled they go from it."


Maybe I am speaking to some good people today. You have assumed that your good deeds will get you into heaven. But you must see that your own goodness can never save you. You must see the awful sins of your heart as God sees them. Perhaps there is one sin that you refuse to let go of. The Lord is saying, "Let it go! Sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'-' Turn from your sin and trust in Christ alone to save you now, don’t delay. “Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthian 6:2.) Even though this rich young ruler went away sorrowful and unsaved, I earnestly pray that your response will not be like that of this young man.




If you would like to learn more about idolatry here is an informative video by Pastor Tim Keller and talk by Pastor Mark Driscoll and sermon notes


End Notes:

The term salvation means more than a state of recovery from being lost as a sinner. It includes much happiness in your recovery. Your lost soul is not only brought out of sin and Satan's bondage and the shadow of death, and brought into the liberty of the sons of God. Salvation  means you are released from all evil, and introduces you to all that is good. A real interest in daily, spiritual and eternal blessings, is the result. This means you now possess eternal or everlasting life, with all its benefits, for it has the promise of "the life that now is, and of that which is to come."

And what makes salvation even greater, is meditating on God, cf. ( Psalm 91 ) the almighty and all-loving author of it, and by whom it was accomplished. God himself and His only Son Jesus Christ; cf ( John 1:1-15 ).  What He is in himself, in the glories of his person, his greatness, fitness, suitability, and all-sufficiency; what he is in his work, and what he has done for you His redeemed; cf. ( Romans 3 9-31). The salvation he has worked beyond all conception of value in its completeness, and beyond all reach of extent in its effectiveness. Being like himself, everlasting and eternal; and what He is in his relations to his people, being their everlasting Father, Brother, Husband, Friend.  All these things are included in your salvation. It will  give you as enter into it "a joy unspeakable and full of glory." ( 1 Peter 1:8 ). So you can now sing and say: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation: he is a rock, his work is perfect, just and right is he." (Isa_61:10

Adapted from Robert Hawker



Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 09:25  

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