Why Study the Bible? (Mark 10:17-22)
Topic: One Truth: Your Word is Truth Passage: Mark 10:17–10:22
I. At the Very Least
As we've been doing throughout our time this morning (that is, talking a little bit about why we do what we do), I think it's important we also talk about why we study the Bible. And that's precisely what we do here at Way of Grace every Sunday. In fact, almost half of our time together each Sunday is spent studying the Bible. But why? Some might say, “Well, that's just what churches do; that's just what Christians do.” But I think we can do better than that.
If I was talking with a person who had very little, or even zero, familiarity with the Bible, the first thing I might suggest is that, at the very least, study the Bible in light of its cultural impact. Most people don't realize how deeply the Bible has shaped our Western world. No book has been more influential than the Bible. From things like music, art, and literature, to fields like science, government, and human rights.
One easy-to-grasp way of understanding the Bible's impact on our culture is to consider its impact on our language. Consider these words and phrases, all of which come from the Bible: “scapegoat” (Lev. 16), “wolf in sheep's clothing” (Matt. 7:15), “eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19), “the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20), “blind leading the blind” (Matt. 15:14), “go the extra mile” (Matt. 5:41), “brother's keeper” (Gen. 4:9), “thorn in one's side” (II Cor. 12), “keeping the faith”, “fight the good fight” (II Tim. 4), “[hand]writing on the wall” (Daniel 5), “apple of the eye” Deut. 32:10), “a drop in the bucket” (Is. 40:15), and “forbidden fruit” (Gen. 2). And I could give you over forty more!
But let me suggest this morning that there are far better reasons to study the Bible; reasons that can do far more than make you culturally literate; reasons that explain why this one book, why these writings have made such an incredibel impact. Let's think through these “better reasons” by actually studying the Bible together. Turn over to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10.
II. The Passage: "Jesus... Loved Him, and Said to Him" (10:17-22)
Many of us have been reading in the Gospel of Mark as we work our way through the New Testament this year. In fact, chapter 10 is coming up on Tuesday; so this is kind of a sneak peek. Follow along as I read from verses 17-22 of Mark 10. We're told...
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Now, at first, this may seem like a very unusual passage to be studying if were interested in reasons to study the Bible. This story would seemingly be better on a Sunday where money and greed were the main topics, right? So why this passage?
Well, first notice that the Bible, specifically the Old Testament (OT), is quoted in this passage. So there is some discussion here about Scripture. But in addition to this, second, Christians believe that Jesus was God in human flesh. So when Jesus speaks, God is speaking. So in addition to the OT, we have here what many would consider the DNA of the New Testament (NT), that is, the authoritative teaching of Jesus or the Apostles he appointed.
Yes, there are better verses we could look at if we were looking for verses where the Bible (or Scripture) explicitly talks about Scripture. But I love this account because it actually does reflect some really important principles about Scripture, and it does so in the form of a fascinating story What are these principles? Well, let me give you three. For example, you should study the Bible...
1. Because It Shines Light in Front of You (vs. 17-20)
Notice in verses 17-20 of Mark 10 that the rich man's question about “eternal life” leads Jesus (in verse 19) to quote five out of the ten 'Ten Commandments' that were, fifteen hundred years before Jesus, given to Moses by God for the people of Israel. Now we'll talk in a few minutes about why Jesus quotes these commands. But think for a minute about the commands he mentions here. Verse 19...
...‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud [commentary: combo of steal/lie], Honor your father and mother.’”
How do those relate to our topic this morning? Well, I think it's a fairly simple idea: you should study the Bible because it provides real moral guidance. Just as these commands exemplify, it reveals what is right and what is wrong.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I already know what's right and wrong”. But ask yourself this: who or what defines what is truly right and truly wrong? What anchors your moral standards? What are the pillars of right and wrong? We live in a world where, more and more, right and wrong are becoming about what feels right for each individual. If you stop and think about where that could lead us, it's a real problem.
But the Bible answers that question by connecting right and wrong to the character of God, the God who made us; the God who made all things. You need something bigger and deeper (or higher) that man's laws, than cultural taboos, than what mom and dad taught you.
But the Bible also teaches us about wisdom. Wisdom is moral guidance in situations where there is no clear rule or no one-size-fits-all answer. Wisdom gives us a kind of moral skillfulness to navigate the challenges of life. It's something all of us desperately need.
So why study the Bible? Because it shines a light on the path in front of you, showing you the right way to go. King David put is this way in Psalm 119, verse 105... Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. We all need this kind of guidance, moral guidance that is solid and sure. But... there is flip side to the coin of God's moral guidance. That leads us to another point. Why should you read the Bible? Well...
2. Because It Shines Light Inside You (v. 21a)
Moral guidance and wisdom are incredibly important and useful gifts from God. But that guidance, those rules, those standards not only instruct us, they also implicate us. Think about it: if we traveled to a remote island where the inhabitants simply took what they wanted from others; and thus, the strong prospered and the weak suffered, wouldn't we want them to know that's called stealing, and it's wrong?
But why instruct them in this way? To help them, right? Wouldn't you rather live in a society where stealing was acknowledged as wrong? And inasmuch as people would be persuaded by our moral instruction, things would be better. Well, maybe. You see, some people, maybe even many, would continue to steal, wouldn't they? Even well-intentioned people would struggle. And that struggle would implicate those islanders as guilty.
God's rules do the same thing. His moral guidance is incredibly helpful. But one of the less-popular ways in which it's helpful is in revealing, not only what is wrong, but what is wrong with you and me. God provides guidance, but so often, we simply don't want to hear it.
I believe this is precisely why Jesus brought up these five commandments when the man asked him about eternal life. Jesus understood that no one can earn eternal life by following all the rules. Why? Because there's something wrong with us, on the inside. But the man did believe he was good enough. Jesus got him to admit as much in verse 20. And that's exactly when Jesus shot the arrow of verse 21 right into his heart.
In asking the man to “sell all that you have and give to the poor”, Jesus was exposing the man's guilt. But there's more to it than that. Verse 21 is not really about wealth and greed. It's about the heart. It's about a worship disorder that infects every single one of us. You see, the man may have believed he kept all of God's commandments, all the time. But his love of money revealed his violation of the very first commandment of the Ten: “you shall have no other gods before me”. And all of us are just as guilty in terms of making gods (money, etc.) and playing god.
You see, this is another reason why studying the Bible is so important: it is the most accurate mirror in terms of revealing who we truly are. It is the most accurate thermometer or MRI; that is, it reveals our true sickness, our critical condition. Every person on the planet knows something is wrong with us. But when we try to identify the ultimate problem, we keep try to repackage the same old list of injustices. The Bible is clear: I am guilty, and my heart is the problem; a worship disorder is to blame. That leads directly to a final point: you should study the Bible...
3. Because It Shines Light from Above You (v. 21b)
Did you notice what was motivating Jesus to shine God's moral light into this man's dark heart? Mark tells us explicitly in verse 21: And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him... Jesus was not exposing this man's self-righteous facade because he wanted to shame him or condemn him. No, like a caring doctor, he wanted to expose the illness in order to offer the cure.
And that's what he does at the end of verse 21, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” That's remarkable, isn't it? Some may think this man is all about wealth and Jesus is all about poverty. But that's wrong. Jesus is also all about wealth... but true, lasting wealth; spiritual treasure.
Money is a good gift, but it makes a terrible god. When we possess it, so often, it possesses us. It can be lost just as quickly as it's gained. And in the end, it doesn't really satisfy. The same can be true about any earthly good. But what God offers us is very, very different. He offers us real satisfaction; real healing and hope. Real change. Real freedom. Real purpose.
And as Jesus makes clear at the end of verse 21, that “treasure in heaven” is inextricably connected to Jesus himself. I think this is why he asked the man in verse 18, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” He was stirring the man to consider, “Who do you believe you're speaking with in this conversation?”
You see, Jesus Christ was and is that good God, who came into the world to address the worship disorder that plagues every single one of us. He came to make radical heart surgery possible; not the hospital kind, but the spiritual kind.
How did he do this? By offering his life in place of ours. Before the High Court of Heaven, we are guilty and condemned by God' the Father's verdict. But Jesus suffered on the cross and died that we might live. Though innocent, He paid a debt we could never pay; forsaken that we might be forgiven; judged that we might be acquitted. But that's not all. Three days later he rose from the dead, in order to give that same new life to everyone who trusts him.
The Bible makes it clear that a new heart is available, one that puts God first; a heart that loves God. And out of that love and gratitude, that heart wants to obey God. That kind of heart longs for God's light, for his moral guidance. Think about it: instead of following our own desires, Jesus makes it possible to follow Him on God's path through the forgiveness of the cross. We'll never do so perfectly in this life, but through Jesus, we now have the power to strive and thrive.
Why should you study... consider... meditate on... wrestle with the Bible? Because it is light, from a God who is light; light for our darkened world, and light for our darkened hearts.
III. How Will You Respond (v. 22)
But let's not forget the last verse of this story, verse 22. It reveals the result of Jesus' ministry to this man. Look at it again: Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Jesus spoke and shone light to this man. But tragically, the man, even though discouraged, chose to remain in the darkness of worshiping wealth over God.
What about you? How will you respond to God's word; even to the word you've heard this morning? Like the man, are you simply looking for something that affirms you? Or are you truly hungry for light, even if it challenges you... and undoes you... and revolutionizes you? Why would someone want that? Because it's light. It's truth. Because it's good, eternally.
In the end, the man could not see the beauty of what Jesus offered. Do you see it? If you do, then please know that God rescues us by grace alone, through faith alone. That means he gives us what we do not deserve, not because of anything we can or ever could do, but because of what Jesus did. And all we must do to receive it is receive by faith; to trust that because of who Jesus and what Jesus did, we can have peace with God; to surrender ourselves to Him as our only hope. Why should you study the Bible? Because it reveals both the ultimate rescue and the ultimate Rescuer. And by its light we can know freedom, fullness, and forever with God himself. Let's pray and thank God for these things.