any are attracted to the idea of becoming like Jesus, but very few are interested in actually doing it. Let me explain this by using the following example. If you would walk up to anyone and ask them if they wanted to find love, I think the overwhelming response would be a solid "yes." Now, if I were to take those that gave me that response and allowed them to find their true love and then marry them, and then ask that question again in about a year or two after marriage, the answer may be a little different.

"And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16)

What changed? Did love? No, just the reality of actually loving someone settled in. This is what's most familiar with those who begin to follow Jesus. They forget, following Jesus is an actual relationship that one pursues, just like in a marriage. In marriage, you cannot only get by with the idea of loving someone; you have to take the time to do it. 

"Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." (1 John 1:6)

This verse teaches us that just knowing about Jesus doesn't get us off the hook. We are to walk in the same manner in which he walked. 

What does that look like?

The rich young ruler had the same question. The man asked (and I paraphrase), "Jesus, how do I become like you?" He said it this way, "Jesus, what is the one good thing I need to do to have eternal life?" 

What was the man asking? He was asking for the singular thing that he could do to receive enteral life. In other words, he was asking Jesus for the minimum buy-in. A lot of us can relate to this example. We want "to know" Jesus, but only at a price, we think we can afford. Only at the cost that we are comfortable with. We want the maximum output from God with a minimum buy in from our life. 

We want the maximum output from God with a minimum buy in from our life. 

The Dangers of Half Hearted Faith

I recently was having a conversation with an elderly Christian who has been going to church for the more significant part of 5 decades. I begin to speak to her about a typical schedule around the church. Her reply went something like this: 

"Wednesday, Sunday mornings, that's a lot! You are going to burn yourself out!" 

This conversation was about a daily schedule for a church-going person. I was shocked that this elderly Christian found that a regular routine for a church would be something so demanding on a person's life, especially since she was a person that had prided herself on being a Christian her whole life. 

Do you understand the point I am trying to make? Like the rich young ruler, we want the mighty, glorious relationship with God, just as long as it is on our terms. We tell Jesus, "come and be apart of my life, but don't change my life…"  We want to have Jesus, but at the lowest cost possible to our own lives. We say someone deep within our hearts, "I want to walk like you, Jesus, just as long as it doesn't cost me too much of myself." 

Jesus, judging by his response to the rich young ruler, shows us that it doesn't work like that. What was his response? 

"If you would enter life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

What was Jesus saying to the rich young ruler? If you want to follow me, go all in. Stop trying to add me to your life; let me become your life. 

What was Jesus saying to the rich young ruler? If you want to follow me, go all in. Stop trying to add me to your life; let me become your life. 

What was his response to Jesus?

"If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18 He said to him, "Which ones?" (Matthew 19:17,18)

Jesus employs the man to go "all in." How does the man respond? He asks Jesus for a list to follow. Wow!

The truth is, so many of us would rather have a list on how to follow Jesus than actually to follow Him. Like the rich young ruler, we tell ourselves, "Jesus, just give me a list, and I'll take it back home and apply to my life the way that I want too, and at the timing I prefer."

So many of us would rather read every book on prayer, instead of taking the time to go into the closet and do it ourselves.

The point is this. The rich young ruler didn't want Jesus to change him; he just wanted a list on how to do it himself. This resonates true for us as well. If given the option between a checklist on how to follow Jesus or to follow Him radically, we would prefer the list. Why can I say this? Because a list is something that we can control and follow when it's convenient for us. It's a clever way for us to convince ourselves that we are following Jesus, and at the same time, maintain other options.

In the fifth chapter of John, Jesus outlines this list problem with Pharisee's. He says, "You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want." (Message Translation)

What Jesus is telling the Pharisees is this, and I paraphrase, "You read the scriptures about me, and then I come, and then you say, give me the scriptures again so I can read about you…" 

Jesus, in my own words, was telling them the same message he portrayed to the rich young ruler. He questioned him on why he would want to follow the commandments in the first place. The commandments speak of Him, and He was standing right in front of the rich young ruler. 

What Jesus brings out to the man is this central message. He was more interested in following the idea of Jesus, instead of the person of Jesus. He wanted a list of how to do so that he could apply it in a way that was convenient for himself. His main intentions for following Jesus was purely selfish and justified by his portrayal of himself being a good man. 

With this being stated, Jesus continues by saying this:

"Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (Matthew 19:20-22)

Jesus looked the rich young ruler in the eyes and asked the question, "what's the one thing that is keeping you from going all-in with me?" For the rich young ruler, it was money and the control that it brings. Then, he implored the statement, "That's what I want because that's where your faith is." 

Jesus was imposing His will onto the rich young ruler, saying, "You can't make me apart of your life; you have to make me your life." 

Of course, we all know how the story goes. The rich young ruler walks away sorrowful because he was a man of many possessions.

Treasures in Heaven 

What Jesus says next is something I believe deserves some time to unpack.

"And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23,24)

If you have been around the church long enough, I am sure you have heard this phrase. Many point towards the hyperbole Jesus uses to illustrate His point by saying it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." I will not go into reasons why Jesus uses the hyperbole other than saying that it was intended, I believe, to bring out what possessed the rich young ruler's faith. 

The rich young ruler had already had a pretty fantastic life before he found Jesus. His personal faith was found in the possessions he owned. For him, Jesus represented the opportunity to include Jesus into the great life he already possessed. Jesus, however, completely turns this around for his disciples by saying the following: 

"Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world,[a] when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold[b] and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Matthew 19:28-30)

Jesus creates a new paradigm for his disciples, imploring that He was not something that can be included in their life. He would have to become their life. And this same realization awaits all that would look eye to eye with Jesus and ask the question, "what must I do to follow you?"






Sep 12, 2018

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