He was young and rich. Possibly handsome, but we weren’t given that information. He was a ruler. But who knows what he ruled. He was most likely a member of the Sanhedrin, which was a tribunal, a Supreme Court of sorts in the land of Israel. All he did was ask a simple question of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ. This young man asked what he had to do to have eternal life. And Jesus responded with a seemingly effortless response.
Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’ ” Luke 18:18-20
The instructions Jesus gave him were simple. He’d been observing those commands his entire life. After all. He was a devout Jew. Whew. He thought. If that’s all I need to do, then life is a breeze. I’ve got it from here. But Jesus continued on letting the man know there was one thing left to do.
The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:21-22
This nameless young man was accustomed to putting others on trial for various reasons. And yet, by asking a simple question, he found himself in a trial where he had to define his heart’s intent. It was very unexpected for him. And the command was too much to ask. That’s what he thought.
So he walked away. The young man, who had a promising future as a member of the Sanhedrin, walked away from the free gift of eternal life. Oh. He realized it wasn’t so free after all. He would have to give up his material possessions. His wealth must be given to the poor. And he realized down deep in his heart that his possessions were more precious to him than anything else. His heart’s desires were put on full display in front of the only One who could save him from his sins. He walked away. He said no and refused the offer of an eternal lifetime.
But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich. Luke 18:23
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalms 139:23-24
Sometimes we don’t know what’s in our hearts until Jesus commands us to act or speak in a way that isn’t easy for us. When we refuse to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit, our heart issues are revealed. Oh. Perhaps not publicly. But our stubbornness and refusal to bow to God’s leading says it all. And that could be only in a one-on-one setting between myself and God. Or yourself and God. But not submitting to God lets us know that we have placed our will above God’s. In case we didn’t already know it, disobedience to God puts us in our place. Spiritually, of course. Because our private acts of disobedience may only be known to God and ourselves. It may never become public knowledge. It doesn’t have to become public in order for it to be sin in God’s eyes. Private sins are just as eternally incriminating as public sins.
Following Jesus may require us to give up something we really want to hold onto. It could be a career. Or a relationship. Or a vocabulary. Or an attitude. Or selfishness. It could be an addiction. Or stubbornness. It could be an unforgiving spirit. It could be a twenty-year old grudge. It could be a lifestyle. Or an identity. What we’re required to give up in order to be more like Jesus Christ is for our own good. It will draw us closer to the One who created us. And as believers, our one true goal is to be like Christ. We are his image bearers, after all. And as ones who have had their sins forgiven and erased from God’s memory, we are now called children of God.
Our life is no longer our own once we pledge to serve God. Oh. Some say it’s a sacrifice. But Jesus sacrificed his physical life so we could have eternal life. Perhaps the one thing we lack is loving God more than loving ourselves. What’s a little sacrifice on our part if it provides us freedom in Christ? Who are we to think that our lives on earth are of more importance than our eternal life with God? We have much to learn. And it may too late by the time we learn that lesson.
Let’s act now and repent of our sins while there is still time. God knows our hearts and our motives. He will forgive if we repent.