Christ’s dealings with the rich young ruler in Matthew19:16–26 provide an interesting example of the centrality of repentance in the gospel message. A young man came to Christ with questions about eternal life (v. 16). Apparently, he knew that he lacked peace with God (v. 20). He appeared to be “ripe for the picking.” Chalk up another decision! Yet, when Christ put his finger on the man’s idol (v. 21) he refused to relinquish it (v. 22; cp. I Thessalonians 1:9). It seems that while he desired eternal life (and who doesn’t?), he was unwilling to turn from his own way and thoughts (Isaiah 55:7). The result? Christ let him go away unsaved and unhappy.
How many such men have been led in a sinner’s prayer that salved their consciences but didn’t save their souls? How many have thus been unwittingly inoculated against the truth? How many have left churches lost and relieved rather than lost and sorrowful?
We, of course, lack Christ’s omniscience; we cannot see a sinner’s heart. However, that fact should make us more careful in our dealings with men, not less. Rather than promising life to an unrepentant sinner, we must trust the Holy Spirit to do a miraculous work in his heart and bring him to repentance and faith (v. 26). In short, we must let him go. He may be sad, but at least he will know that his soul is not yet right with God.
The column entitled “Let Him Go” originally appeared in the September 2006 edition of the OBF Visitor. I am privileged to write a brief devotional entitled “Sound Words” as a monthly column for the Visitor.
Each publication of the Visitor also contains a feature article which typically focuses on Scripture’s command to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Details regarding individual and mass subscriptions (often used as bulletin inserts) may be found here.