“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14

Twice in this passage, Paul tells us that he is pressing on. He has not yet reached the end of his spiritual journey – He is not yet perfect. So if Paul, the guy who started multiple churches, the guy who wrote over half of the books of the New Testament, the guy who was thrown in prison on many occasions for preaching the Gospel – If he still had to press on in his spiritual journey – don’t you think, that perhaps you and I have further to go as well?

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about this spiritual journey that each of us is one. All of us are on a journey. All of us are either moving closer to God or away from Him. There’s no standing still.

So today I want to encourage you to press on. To take the next step forward in your spiritual journey. We’ve been using this booklet as a bit of a road map help us along. And I trust that over these pass few weeks, you’ve been able to get a good sense of where you are in your spiritual journey. Are you not interested in a relationship with God? Are you curiously seeking? Are you “searching assertively, making a faith commitment, experiencing new life, growing in community, or making disciples.” And where ever you are, the more important question is: “Are you taking steps to move forward? Are you pressing on?”

Today I want to look at the story of the rich young man as found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, to see an important crossroads in his spiritual journey. 

 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Matthew 19:16-22

Here we have this young guy who has lived a pretty good life. He isn’t the rebellious type. He’s tried to follow the rules to the best of his ability and to be a good person. You know, He’s never cheated on his taxes. He’s certainly never killed any one – He’s never even kicked his dog. He’s a leader in his church. He calls his mom every week. He volunteers in the community. He’s just a good person.

But somewhere inside him, something is missing. He feels that for all his goodness – it’s just not good enough. Getting straight A’s in Bible class and perfect attendance in church is all fine and dandy, but there’s something missing in his life. So he runs up to Jesus and asks Him.

“Teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Matthew 19:16

And of course, Jesus knows that gaining eternal life is not about doing “some good thing” and he reminds the man that there is only One who is good – only God Himself. But to answer his question, Jesus basically tells him that if he wants to have eternal life, then he should obey the commands. And to give him clarification on which commands exactly he’s talking about, Jesus lists off about half a dozen. He says…

“‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:18-19

Well in response to that, in verse 20, the man replies:

“All these I have kept” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Matthew 19:20

Now somehow I doubt that this young man truly could have kept all these commands. I’ve never met a kid yet who didn’t stretch the truth a little. And I know from experience that it’s awfully hard to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. But regardless, at least in his own thinking, this guy figured that he had kept all those commands – and so he says to Jesus, “All these I have kept – what do I still lack?”

And that’s the million dollar question. What do I still lack? Despite all his goodness – despite the good life that he had lived – Despite the fact that he had kept all those commands, he still lacked something. And he knew it.

And of course, Jesus, knowing all things, knows exactly where this guy is in his spiritual journey, and he knows exactly what it is that he is still lacking. So he says in verse 21:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

Now don’t get confused. The issue is not that the man simply had too much money and he needed to downsize. The issue was his heart. He loved his money (his possessions) much more than he loved God.

I don’t know if you noticed earlier in that list of commandments that Jesus gave to the young man – that all of those commandments had to do with how people are to relate to other people.

“‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:18-19

All these have to do with how people are to relate to other people. Jesus left out the commands that had to do with how people are to relate to God.

He left out – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” He left out “Have no other gods before me.” He left out – “Don’t make for yourself any idols.”

I think Jesus left all these out, because I don’t think that young man could have said “All these I have kept” to those commandments. And Jesus knew that. That was what the young man was lacking. A right relationship with His God.

So when the young man asked Jesus “what do I still lack?” Jesus told him to get rid of his idols. Get rid of his possessions. Get rid of the one thing that he loved more than God – and to follow God with all his heart, all his soul, all his mind, and all his strength.

You see, God is far more interested in having us learn to love Him – than for us to do all these good things, to go to church, to keep the commandments, to be good people. I’m not saying that stuff is bad – in fact, I encourage it. I want you to be part of the church, and to follow the commandments and to be good people… But if you do those things without any love for God – its meaningless.

The young man asked “What do I still lack?” And Jesus told him, in a way that cut right to the heart of the issue, that what he lacked, was genuine a love for God.

I wonder what Jesus would tell us, if we asked him “What do I still lack?” Are you brave enough to ask God that question? Cuz you might not like the answer. The young man didn’t. Jesus told Him what he lacked, and he told him exactly what to do about it. “You lack a love for God, so get rid of your idols!”

But the sad part, is that the young man wasn’t willing to take that step. Verse 22 says…

“When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matthew 19:22

Jesus had laid it out. He told him exactly what he needed to do to take the next step forward in his spiritual journey. But the man just went away sad. He wasn’t willing to take that step.

You know, I think all of us “still lack something” in our spiritual lives. There is always one more step we need to take to come closer to God. Like we read from Paul’s letter at the beginning of this message, we have not yet achieved perfection. We still have further to go in our spiritual journey.

And I think for many of us, as we’ve been examining where we are in our spiritual journey, we come to the point where we’re asking “What do I still lack?” What’s my next step? What do I have to do to move forward in my relationship with God?

And you know, when we ask that question, God will answer it.

7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Matthew 7:7-8

When we ask God, “What do I still lack?”, God will give us the answer. Though, like the young man, we might not like the answer that God gives us.

For some of us here, who perhaps have been in the “curiously seeking” or the “searching assertively” category for quite some time now in your spiritual journey, perhaps what you lack is what the young man was lacking – a right relationship with God.

You’ve been living a good life, you’ve been getting a lot of Bible knowledge, you believe that God exists, and you’re starting to understand what it really means to be follower of Jesus Christ. So when you ask God “What do I still lack?”, perhaps God’s telling you – it’s time to move to the next category – It’s time to make a faith commitment.

You know that despite all your good deeds, you are still a sinner in need of God’s grace. You know all about how Jesus died on the cross to take the penalty for your sin. You know how he rose from the grave three days later and ascended into heaven shortly thereafter. You’ve heard the verse in Romans that says:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

Perhaps you know all that in your head, but what you lack is believing it in your heart. Is God asking you to take that next step today? To make the decision, once for all, that Jesus Christ is your risen Lord and Saviour? Will you take that step, or like the young man, walk away sad?

Or for others, perhaps what you still lack is something else. [Handout] Maybe you’ve been looking at some of these points in your spiritual journey handout, and God’s been whispering to you, “Hey, this one right here, that’s what you still lack.”

Maybe you haven’t really submitted your life under the authority of the Bible?
Maybe you’re not really serving your community?
Maybe you’re not growing in your relationship with God through Bible reading and prayer?
Maybe you’re not giving generously to God and others?
Maybe you’re not spiritually mentoring anyone or being mentored yourself?

Whatever it is that you are still lacking – when God points it out to you, what will you do? Will you walk away sad? Or will you do something about it?

To make this all a little more personal, I want you to take just a moment and ask God “What do I still lack? What do I need to do to take the next step in my spiritual journey?” And then I want you to write down the answer that comes to mind.

Earlier this week I was sharing with the kids in chapel at the school the story about a young man who came to this wise old Christian to ask him a question. And the question was, “How can I find God?”

Well, the old man didn’t answer, but he took the young man to a nearby river and they walked out into the middle of it. The old man then proceeded to grab the young man and hold him under the water. And he held him there. And he held him there. Finally, when the young man was about to pass out, the old man let him up for air.

Gasping, the young man demanded to know what the old man was trying to do! And the old man replied, “When you desire God, as much as you desire air – then you will find him.”

And by the way, this has nothing to do with the baptism that we’re going to have after the service. But I really think that’s what it boils down to.

When you ask God, “What do I still lack”, and God gives you the answer – do you desire God badly enough to actually do something about it? Or do you just walk away sad?

This is something that I’m really wrestling through right now. Do I desire God as much as I desire air? When God tells me what I lack in order to move forward in my spiritual journey – do I desire Him enough to take that next step?