Lovely, But Lacking
“One thing you lack.”
THOUGH the Gospel of Jesus Christ most certainly addresses itself to the vilest of the vile, it is not exclusively to such that the message of salvation is sent. There are, indeed, no characters so far gone in vice that the Gospel does not speak to them. However abandoned they may be, still is this inviting voice sent to the very chief of sinners, “Come to Christ and live.” But the Gospel, with equal affection, addresses itself to those who are not upon any common estimation to be numbered with the chief of sinners–to those whose moral integrity has been unimpeachable, whose outward propriety has been scrupulous–whose lives in all their domestic and social relations have been commendable. There are always some such individuals in our congregation. We are very thankful that there are. We have an invitation for them as frank, as honest and as earnest as for wanton sinners, heinous transgressors and hardened criminals–and our sincere desire is that such may be saved, for we believe that they, also, will make illustrious trophies of Divine Grace when Grace decides them to decide for Christ.
Among us we have a large number of most hopeful people, to whom it may be said, “One thing you lack.” A word ofcongratulation to you, that you only lack one thing! a warning because you do lack one thing. May God grant that His power may rest upon His Word, so that you may no longer lack the one thing.
- First, then, this is A WORD OF CONGRATULATION.
Let us take this young man’s case as descriptive of that of many here present. He did not lack morality. He could say,“All these things have I kept from my youth up.” Nor did the Savior tell him that he was uttering a lie–He looked upon him and loved him–which He would not have done if he had been a willful liar. No, he had been neither unchaste, nordishonest, nor profane. He had been all that could be desired in these respects. I congratulate you if such is your case. It will save you from a thousand sorrows to have been kept from those grosser sins! You have not formed habits which will lead you in later years into temptation. You have not formed associations which it will be difficult to break. You have not learned words, phrases and sentiments which will defile your memory in later days, even though you should live to hate them. I thank God that you have this privilege–that it cannot be said of you that you lack in morality!
Nor was this young man’s lack that of outward religion. We are told–I think it is by Luke or Matthew–that hewas a ruler. That is to say, as we read it, a ruler in the synagogue. He was one who had taken office among his coreligionists and had even presided in their religious assemblies. He was a young man, remember, and it is not often that young men attain to such a position, so that he must have been not only scrupulously excellent in his conduct, but he must have been regarded by all who knew him as remarkably religious at heart. Indeed, when he knelt down before the Savior, when he addressed Him as, “Good Master,” he showed that his outward habits were of a religious cast. And so I congratulate some of you that you love the place where Christians meet, that in their sacred songs you take an interest, that their Holy Book is a book not altogether unread by you, that you would be grieved if you could not go up to the assembly of God’s people. I am glad that as touching these things in your outward regularity, some of you might even put others to shame who are further advanced than you in spiritual things. You do not lack for morality–you do not lack for the outward part of religion!
Nor can I suppose that this young man lacked a becoming respect for whatever was pure and lovely and of good report. In addressing our Lord by that remarkable title which was not used by Jews even to their Rabbis, he showed how he looked upon the Holy Christ with a profound awe. He did not perceive His Deity, but what he did perceive of His matchless goodness he deferred to. And it is so with you, my Friend. You never utter an opprobrious word against God’s people. You would be very grieved to hear them evilly spoken of. You love the ministers of Christ. There is no company that pleases you better than the company of the people of God. You have religion–you have a respect for that part of religion which as yet you do not possess. You wish you had it. You envy those who have it and would wish to be the meanest of them all if you might but have a part among them. I congratulate you upon this! I thank God concerning you. Looking upon you, I feel as Jesus did, that my heart loves you and I gladly would that you had the necessary supply of that thing which you still lack.
This young man did not lack
orthodoxy. He was no doubter, skeptic, or professed infidel. He said, “What must I do
that I may inherit eternal life?“ He believed in eternal life. He was not one of those Sadducees who say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit. He venerated the grand old Truths of his father’s religion–he was a firm believer in the orthodox faith. And so with you. You have never yet dared to doubt the Word of God and as far as you have learned its meaning, you hold that meaning in the most solemn respect. You would not for the world be found a heretic! You would not willfully call in the existence of God, the deity of Christ, the Atonement by blood, or any other of the essentials of our most holy faith. As far as your head is concerned, you are clear enough about these things. I thank God for this, for it is a grand escape from a pestilent evil. It is hard to get a man’s conscience sound who has gone through the great dismal swamps of infidelity. After once listening to the vile suggestions of ungodliness, or reading such infamies as come from the pen of a Tom Paine, the soul seems as if it never could get clean of the corruption! It is such pitch–it sticks to one’s hands–and though one takes to himself nitre and much soap, yet shall he scarcely cleanse himself from the defilement! You have not acquired that taint of your moral constitution. Thank God for it! I bless God that in His abundant mercy, you do not lack for a knowledge of the faith and a degree of belief in it!
Nor yet, my dear Friends, did this young man lack sincerity. I have noticed same expositors speaking of him as a hypocrite, but he was as far away from being a hypocrite as the North Pole is from the South! He was transparent in all he said. Even that little bit that looks like boasting–“All these have I kept from my youth up,” shows how ingenuous the man was. A man who was not sincere would have minced a little and kept back an expression so complimentary to himself. He was the very mirror of candor and so are some of you. You have not learned the ways of craft. You do not assume to be what you are not. Though you mix with God’s people, yet you have not ventured to proceed to Baptism without faith, nor do you dare to come to the Communion Table because you fear you have not fellowship with Christ. You prove your sincerity in many ways and upon this, I again congratulate you and thank the God of Mercy!
This young ruler, moreover, did not lack for zeal. The way in which he came to Christ showed his ardor. He came toHim running and fell down before Him, saying, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” You, too, have a zeal for God,though not according to knowledge. If the Holy Spirit shall but teach you what the one thing is that you are lacking, I believe you will seek after it. I trust you will. At any rate, up to the measure of your light you have been, up till now, quick, zealous and desirous to do what you could.
This young man also was exceedingly thoughtful. Half the battle with many men is to make them think, even if theythink wrongly. It is almost better for them to think in the most crooked manner than not to think at all. The men least likely to be saved are they who go about their business or their pleasures and will not imagine that they have time for thought. But here was a thoughtful man. He had studied the Law and had tried to keep it. He was now something more than thoughtful–he was anxious. “What lack I yet?” as if he felt there was something he did not know and he would gladly know what it was. He was not so self-righteous as some have fancied he was. He had a self-righteous head, but he had a seeking heart. His head made him think that he had kept the Law, but his heart told him that he had not, for he said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” which he would not have said if he had believed that he had religion enough to inherit it. He said, “What lack I yet?” which I think he would not have said if he had not known that he did lack something, though he knew not what. I am thankful–I am again thankful to God and I congratulate you, my dear Hearers, if you are somewhat in the same position, if you can honestly say, “I have tried to do what I can, I have sought to do as far as my light guides me. I do not believe I am saved, but I wish I were. What is it? What is that secret something which can fill the aching void within my heart? What is that which can give me rest? For rest as yet I do not possess.”
Once more, this young man did not lack for willingness–He believed himself willingto do anything, to give anything, to suffer anything if he might but be saved. So also do some of you. You would stand up in the congregation tonight and say, “The Lord knows there is nothing within my reach that I would not do. There is nothing under Heaven that I would not bear if I might but inherit eternal life.” But, perhaps like this young man, you do not know your own heart–and if Christ were to try you with some searching precept–you might, like he, go away sorrowing. But, at any rate, as far as you know, you are willing. And I am glad of this and thankful that all these points are in you. Though you do lack, yet you do not lack any of these, but lack something else.
The fact is, this young man
lacked knowledge. of the Law. He had never been
taught that the Law concerns our glances, our thoughts and our imagination. He supposed he had kept the Law because he had not committed any act of adultery, or of theft–nor had he spoken the thing that was not true. He did not know that an unchaste glance, or a causeless hatred, or a covetous desire breaks the Law of God and betrays the sin that lurksin the breast. He did not know that and, perhaps, some of you do not know it. Oh, that you may be led to know it! May God not only make you know it as a matter of knowledge, but understand it as a matter of conviction deeply written in the conscience! And he did not know the plan of salvation. The question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” showed that he did not know that salvation is not by doingnot by our works, but by a simple trust inJesus. This was a great deficiency! Though he was a model of uprightness in a hundred interesting points which we cannot now stay to discuss, he was lacking in a matter of vital interest to his immortal welfare! In that he was just like many of you. With looks of love and pity, with feelings of tender regard, but deep anxiety, we turn to you, therefore, with this reflection, “One thing you lack.”
II. And now we shall change the note. THIS TEXT HAS A WORD OF WARNING.
“One thing you lack.” What was the one thing that this young man lacked? It was the full surrender of his heart toGod in Christ. He had not done that. Our Savior gave him, therefore, a command which tested him. He bade him go, sell all that he had and distribute it to the poor. This is not a command which He gives to all men, but He gave that particular command to that particular young man according to his particular circumstances–He saw that he was not the man that could endure to be poor. He saw, too, that he had made his riches his idol. He was a gentleman. He was a man of great possessions. He does not seem to have been a cheapskate. He could hardly have been a ruler of a synagogue, one would think, if he had been, but still, he had a great liking for position. He was a gentleman and there are a great many people who would sooner be gentlemen than they would be saints–and sooner be thought to belong to the upper and respectable circles of society than they would be thought to be devout and holy! This young man would have liked to have been both, but the Savior, seeing that his wealth was in his heart and that he had loved it better than he did his God, said to him, “Part with your wealth, for if you are decided for God and your heart is wholly His, you will prove it by the readiness of your obedience.” Here, then, was the thing he lacked–he lacked the full surrender of his heart to God’s will. And so he went away sorrowing, for he had great possessions.
This lack of the full surrender of his heart to God’s will made him shun the reproach of being a follower of Christ. Hence, though he would call Christ, “Good Master,” he would not turn and follow Him and learn of Him. So the Master said, after He had bid him sell his goods, “Take up the cross.” That is to say, “Come out and confess Me. Having done as I bid you, then come and say I am a disciple of that Man who is despised and rejected. I will follow Him to prison and to death, and I will preach His Word though I be put to death for it. I will take up the cross. ”
Christ knew that the one thing he lacked was the full giving up of his heart to God and, therefore, He said, “Follow Me, for if you really do love God, you will follow His Son. If your heart is fully given to God, you will be willing to be obedient to Christ, to take Him for your Leader, Master, Savior, Guide, Friend and Counselor.” Now, in this the young man failed. He could not so give himself up wholly to God. He could not at that time, at any rate, so give himself up as to be completely Christ’s servant. Now, no man who fails in this respect can enter Heaven! Christ will save you, but a part of the agreement on your part must be this, “You are not your own, but are bought with a price.” If you would have Christ’s blood to redeem you, you must give yourself up to Christ–your body, your soul, your spirit, your substance, your talents, your time, your all! You must from this day be Christ’s servant, come what may. If persecution should arise, you must be willing to part with all that you possess–with your liberty, with your life, itself, for Christ–or you cannot be His disciple. He may never call you literally to sell your goods and distribute all, but He does call you to acknowledge that your goods are not your own, but His. That you are only a steward and must be willing, therefore, to give to the poor and to dedicate to the honor of His Kingdom, such part as shall be meet and right of all that you have, not as though you were bestowing anything of your own, but only as yielding up to God what belongs to Him! He claims that you now turn over, if you would be saved, yourself and everything you have by an indefeasible title deed to the Great Lord of All whose you must be. If you would be saved by the blood of Jesus, you are not from this day to choose your own pleasures, nor your own ways, nor your own thoughts, nor to serve yourselves, nor live for yourselves or your own aggrandizement. If you would be saved, you must believe what He tells you, do what He bids you and live only to serve and honor Him. I am ashamed to have to say that a great many Christian professors seem to be false to this, their agreement, but, as my Lord will take no less, I dare ask no less of you. It seems to me all too little. He has bought us, not with silver and gold, but with His own precious blood! Surely, then, we should be quite willing to say–
“‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done,
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine.”
What you keep to yourselves you shall lose, but what you give to Him you save and gain! Your treasure on earth the moth shall eat and the rust corrupt, but your treasure in His keeping no moth shall ever fret, nor canker ever devour. All is safe which is given up to Christ! That which is kept back from Him, whatever it may be, shall prove a curse to you. Say, then, my dear young Friend, with all your excellences, do you lack the giving up of your heart, the full giving up of yourself to Christ? Oh, I am grieved that you should lack it! I am, indeed, grieved that you should lack it! I would like my Lord to have such a bright gem as you to glitter in His crown! I would like the Good Shepherd to have so dear a lamb to carry in His bosom! What? Shall so fair a flower shed its fragrance for His enemies? Let the Savior take it and wear it in His bosom–He is willing–may His Grace take it tonight! One cannot bear that you, that you having so much, should lack but one thing. If you lacked all, that were grievous, but lacking but one thing, oh, why should not that lack be made up? God grant it at once! To miss Heaven! I cannot bear to think that you should, when you really are so sincerely anxious about it. To have such desires and to be so fervent, too, and yet not to give your whole heart to my Lord? Poor things are desires if they get no farther! Desire will not quench thirst, neither will it stay hunger. You must take Christ and live on Him or you shall die! To think, dear Friends, that some of you should miss Heaven through your wealth! Why need it be? And yet it is often so. The rich will not go to hear the Gospel as the poor will–and when they hear it, there is often so much care about their extensive business, or, on the other hand, there is so much attraction in that circle of gay and thoughtless friends, that it is hard for them to be saved. Oh, what a pity that the mercies of God should lead you to Hell–and that riches here !God in His mercy prevent it, that you may yet be saved!
The sad thing to remember is that you who lack one thing, in lacking that one thing, lack all, for though I congratulated you that you had morality, that is poor stuff when it has no foundation in love to God. Your sincerity, I think I must suspect that it is exhausted if, after having been told the way, which is simply to believe in Christ and give yourselves up to Him, you now refuse! Yes, and all the good things which I have strung together with words of congratulation are but as the colors of a bubble that shall pass away unless you have this one thing. The one thing is like the unit set before many ciphers which will make them into a great amount, but without the one figure, first, all those ciphers will stand for nothing, many as they are! If by the Grace of God in your heart and the exercise of a living faith in the dying Savior, you give yourself wholly up to God, then every good thing, lovely thing and thing of good repute shall be embalmed and preserved, but, without this, they shall be like faded flowers–fit only to be cast behind the wall or to perish on the dunghill!
III. Lastly, we shall give you A WORD OF DIRECTION.
If you would inherit eternal life, Christ’s direction is, “Sell all that you have and give to the poor.” Now, what did He mean by that? We shall read it three ways and very quickly. First, He meant in the young man’s case, “ Give up youridol.” His was wealth. He means the same kind of trial for you. Give up your idol. What is it? I pause. You may look, but I am sure that if you are not loving God you are loving something else–and whatever it is that you love better than God is your idol–and you are an idolater–and your idol must fall to the ground if Jesus is to be All in All. You cannot serve two masters–and whatever your present master is, it must be thrown out–that Christ may come in.
“Sell all that you have.” Well, that means another thing as I read it, that is, consecrate your all to God. How canyou expect, if you withhold and keep back part of the price from God, that He should accept you and save you by Jesus Christ. No, come, poor guilty Sinner, and wash in the purple stream that flows from Jesus' heart and then say in return, “My Lord, since, You have thus redeemed me–
“All that I am, and all I have
Shall be forever Thine.
Whatever my duty bids me give,
My cheerful hands resign.
And if I could make some reserve,
And duty did not call
I’d love my God with zeal so great
That I must give Him all.”
The third reading of this passage will be–give up your hindrances. This young man’s hindrance was his possessions,and it was better that he should relinquish his possessions and be saved, than be hindered by his wealth. What, my dear Friend, is your hindrance? Give it up! Give it up! Give it up! Oh, I know some of you that are hindered by bad company. You are often imposed, but it is all blown away by those merry men whose merriment is tinged with lasciviousness. Give them up! Will you give them up, or give up Christ? Which shall it be? You remember in John Bunyan’s Life he says thatone Sunday when he was playing on the village green at a game of cat, he was just about to strike the cat when a voice came to him from Heaven, and said, “Will you have your sins and go to Hell, or leave your sins and go to Heaven?” And he stood there in the midst of his companions and paused, and they could not think what ailed the tinker while he was disputing in his mind which it should be–Christ and Heaven–or his sins and Hell! Now, whatever your hindrance is–if it is money, if it is anything–whatever it is, give it up! If it is your right hand, you had better cut it off and cast it from you, than having it enter into Hell. If it is your right eye, it were better for you to pluck it out than having two eyes to be cast into Hell’s fire! That is the cry of the text tonight–down with your idols! Give them all up! Cast away your hindrances and come to Christ and trust Him! That is the first word of instruction.
But the second instructive word is, “ Take up the cross.You have a notion, perhaps,some of you, that you will sneak into Heaven as secret Christians. Take care that if you try that you do not find yourselves at another gate than the gate of pearl! Christ came not to save those cowardly souls who will not acknowledge Him. His own words are, "He that denies Me before men, him will I deny before My Father who is in Heaven.” Ashamed of Jesus? Ah, then, remember those words, “The fearful and unbelieving”–the fearful–that is those who are afraid to acknowledge Christ as their Master–“shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” I pray you, then, if you are Christ’s, confess Him! Acknowledge Him! Confess that you are His–takeup the cross, You would not like to be called a canting Methodist, or Presbyterian, or some other ugly name. Ah, but, my dear Friend, if you would have Christ’s crown, you must have Christ’s Cross–and he that is not willing to be sneered at with Christ cannot reign with Christ! And what if they do sneer at you? If that is your cross, take it up! What higher honor can a man need on this side of Heaven than to be called a fool for Christ? I know the day shall come when angels shall envy the men that were permitted to have the privilege of suffering for Christ. You know the old story of Henry the Fifth, when, in view of a battle, it was said he needed more men, but he replied that he did not wish for more men, for–
“The fewer men, the greater share of honor,”
and he pictured the day when
“Gentlemen of England, now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here!”
Truly, if you could escape rebuke and persecution, you might well be grieved to think that you went to Heaven by so mean a way! Be willing, then, like a brave spirit, to take up the cross and carry it, counting the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. Take up your cross–that is, trust in the Cross–grasp it as your only hope! Letthe Atonement which Jesus made by His death be the delight of your soul and from this day always boast therein.
The last word of direction was–“ Follow Me.” Christ said, “Follow Me.” He meant, did He not, confide in Me? Asa confiding sheep follows its shepherd, so follow Me. He meant “ Obey me, as the servant follows where the Master leads,so trace My footsteps and let My example be your rule.” So Jesus says to you, also, “Persevere in following Me. Never cease so doing. Follow me right up to My Throne and there rest with Me.”
Listen, then, each of you here present, who have only one thing that you lack. Will you now–may His Holy Spirit make you–give up the world and all it offers you? Will you give up sin and all its fascinations and close in with God in Christ and give your whole heart to Him? Multitudes, multitudes in the Valley of Decision. There is a Valley of Decision to us all, when we are either left to our own wills to decide for evil, or the Grace of God makes us decide for Christ! The cry is heard in this house tonight, “Divide, divide.” Those who shall say “yes” within their hearts take their place with Christ! But those who say, “no”–those who give the negative to the command of Christ–let them at least know what they are doing! And if they will go the downward road, let it be with their eyes open that they may know where they go. But, oh, say not, “No!” Oh, Spirit of God, let them not say, “No!” Yield, Man, yield Woman, to the gentle impulse which now bids you say, “I will take His yoke upon me, for it is easy. I will follow Him.” Yield to His love who round you now the bands of a man would cast–the cords of His love who was given for you–to His altar binding you fast. Pray this prayer–“Lord, bind the sacrifice with cords, even with cords to the horns of the altar! Let me be Yours now, and Yours hereafter when You come in Your Glory!”
There is a question that has often been asked, with feelings of curiosity, which I cannot answer. It is this–did the young man inherit eternal life after all? I think he did. I think he did because Jesus loved him. I like his character throughout, as the Savior evidently did, and He did not love because of outward appearances–He looked at the heart. I am not altogether displeased at his going away. It was a deal better than staying if he did not follow honestly the Good Master who had eternal life at His disposal. I even look hopefully at his pausing awhile before complying, if such was the case, for the man that flings all away in a moment may want it back again tomorrow. It was a great deal he had to part from and he went away–but he did not go away careless. I know I would be glad if my Hearers went away sorrowing when they are not converted. I would think it was a hopeful sign. He went away sorrowing and though the Savior drew from that the moral that it was hard for a rich man to be saved, yet He said it was possible with God, and why, then, was it not possible with that young man? I do not know. There are some things to be said on either side, but where Scripture is silent, we must not decide.
But there is another question that I think is vastly more important–and to me, more interesting and to each one of you a deal more so–and that is will that young man that I have been talking to tonight, be saved? And the young woman that I tried to describe just now–will she ultimately inherit eternal life? Oh, may God grant that the answer may be in each case, “Yes, Lord, You know all things, You know that I trust You, that I love You and whatever You tell me to give up, or to be, or to do for Your name’s sake, even all things, I will do it.” Then the Lord bless you, for you are saved and you shall be His in the day of His appearing!
God give His blessing for Jesus' sake.