The Heart of Worship


Contributed by Brian Shifflett, Worship Pastor at Image Church

Matthew 19:16-22 – And behold, a man came up to him [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said,  “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This passage out of Matthew is commonly referred to as the story of the “Rich Young Ruler” due to descriptions of the man found in verses 20, 22, and Luke 18:18.  He may have been a religious lay leader or possibly a Pharisee because of the diligence he displays in following the law.  When asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus’ response teaches the young man some very important lessons:

  1. Only God is infinitely good and human good deeds cannot save.
  2. The man’s possessions are what he ultimately truly worships.
  3. The man falls short of keeping the first of the two greatest commandments (see Matthew 22:36-39)        

Jesus knew that it was the man’s wealth in which he found his identity, power, and sense of meaning in life—so much that it became his idolatrous god. Jesus turns the man from focusing on the external to examining the heart!  When the cost of following Jesus is presented to the young man, he went away sorrowful because he could not cease worshipping the ruling force in his life, his possessions.  By demonstrating this, Jesus shows us that God was not the man’s object of worship; which is why the man fell short of keeping the first commandment.

It is important to note that possessions were what this man could not let go of to follow Jesus.  However, it could be any of a number of things in our lives that keep us from worshipping the one true God.  It is an issue of the heart!  The rich young ruler was so focused on the externals that he could not let go.  His possessions defined him.  Remember, our identity is found in HIM and in HIM alone!  Let’s deny ourselves, worship the one true God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and be on mission for HIM who has granted the gift of eternal life!


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