The Nudge Method is when you ask key questions or say wise things that will help the child to recognize his own mistake and develop a solution by himself. Last week, a teen came to church very tired and asked for prayer in staying awake during the service. I started the Nudge Method by asking, "What time did you go to sleep last night?" He responded that he had no idea. I asked, "Did you go to sleep at 7 PM?" He responded no quite emphatically. "So you have some idea," I said. He eventually shared that he went to sleep around 1 or 2 in the morning and everyone knew where I was going with that. That's the Nudge Method.
A rich ruler approaches Jesus with a question. "Good teacher, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?" That makes sense. We all want to get to heaven right? I wonder what he was really asking. How many charities should I make big donations to? How many Bible passages do I need to memorize? What's it gonna take for me to get in, Jesus?
Richy Rich's first problem is that he actually thinks there is something he can do to earn heaven. Do you see that? He didn't say, "Please, have mercy on me and remember me in Your kingdom" as the thief on the cross did. Instead, he asked, "What do I have to do?" That's a big presumption. I am capable of such awesome things that God would actually owe me heaven if I did them.
So Jesus gives him a nudge. "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." I think Jesus is doing two things here. First, He is hinting at the fact that He Himself is indeed God. But second, He is trying to get this guy to realize that he is not as good as he thinks he is. He is trying to remind him that he is a sinner in need of mercy, not a righteous man who can be good enough for heaven. By saying no one but God is good, Jesus is nudging this man to realize that he himself is not good.
In case that's not enough, Jesus gives him a bigger nudge. "Keep the commandments. Honor your parents, don't lie, don't steal, you know the commandments." Again, Jesus is trying to get him to realize that he is not good enough to enter heaven on his own.
How does the man respond? "Yeah, yeah, I've done all of that." Really!? This man is looking Jesus in the face and claiming that he has never told a lie! He is claiming that he has always honored his parents! He is claiming he has never stolen anything ever! Wow! Now that is some major self-righteousness!
So Jesus decides to bring out the big guns. He tells the man something very heavy. Sell everything you have, distribute it to the poor, leave everything behind, and follow me. He tells him to give up his wealth, his power, his status, and his luxury to follow Him.
Check out the man's response in verse 23. He became sad because he was very rich. You would think he might say, "Well, if that's what I need to do to get into heaven then I will do it!" Instead, he decides that his riches and power are more important than heaven.
What has Jesus done here? What is He saying? Is Jesus saying that in order to go to heaven, we all have to sell our possessions and become completely broke for God? No.
Jesus has nudged this man into facing his biggest sin. This man was so self-righteous that he thought he could earn heaven. This man was so self-righteous that he told Jesus he had never lied or dishonored his parents. That man just had Jesus reveal his biggest idol to him, crushing his belief that he was good enough by showing him that he was an idolater. Jesus saw right through this man and nudged him to a very simple choice.
God or money. Sadly, it seems that this man chose his money and didn't learn the lesson the Master Teacher was trying to show him.
You see the truth that Jesus was trying to show him was that we are all sinners. Not a single one of us is good. And we are definitely not good enough to earn heaven. We have broken God's laws and that is clear by just looking at three of the ten commandments. Almost all of us have stolen, lied, and dishonored our parents. Because of that, we are on our way to Hell. As Romans 3:23 puts it, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And as Jesus put it, "No one is good but God alone."
How do we then get to heaven? By grace through faith we turn from our idols and sins and follow Jesus. That's what Jesus asked this man to do.
Jesus paid the penalty and punishment for our sins by dying on the cross. Jesus rose from the dead to give us the eternal life we are all looking for. Its by admitting our works are not good enough and trusting instead in Jesus' works for us that we can be saved. "For by grace you have been saved though faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
If you died tonight and stood before God and He asked why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?
Do you recognize that you are indeed a sinner who has fallen short?
Have you turned to Jesus for salvation?
And what are the idols in your life that you treat as more important than God? Try using Jesus' test to help you identify them. What is it in your life that if you had to give it up forever in order to follow God, you would hesitate?
Did you answer the first question about why God should let you into heaven? What was your answer or answers?
If you said anything other than "Jesus paid for my sins and He is my Savior," then you are trusting in your own works just like this rich ruler. Even if you said, "Jesus is my Savior AND I ..." then you are trusting in your own works. Learn the lesson Jesus was trying to teach this man. You are not good enough. You are a sinner. You need to be saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus alone.