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A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
This young ruler didn’t ask Jesus what “bad thing” or “bad sin” he needed to stop doing in order to get into heaven. He asked Jesus about what he needed to do next to ensure he inherited eternal life. But Jesus met this young man on the grounds of the Ten Commandments. In fact, Jesus only mentioned five. Jesus alluded to all the horizontal commandments (commandments directed toward men)… but He didn’t mention the vertical commandments (commandments directed toward God).
Isn’t this what most people think about God, the Bible, and salvation. They believe it is mostly composed of a list of “do’s and don’ts“. Most are somewhat familiar with these lists and know which ones they have broken and which ones they have kept, even from a young age.
“Ah ha,” the young man replied, “I have already stopped doing all those wrong things. What else have You got good teacher?” He must have thought Jesus was letting him off the hook by only mentioning 5 of the 10 commandments. Lucky day!
Jesus said, “Well, if you are really serious about this whole business, if you really want to be perfect, why don’t you go out and sell what you have and fully serve your neighbor.” This response shocked the rich young ruler. He was expecting more negatives from the Lord… maybe even some new commandment… something exotic which no one else was performing. He wasn’t let off the hook, he was pierced through the heart!
Jesus had directed the young man to search beyond the negative law to the positive law of love. This was, of course, more than the young ruler was ready to commit. Jesus knew by releasing his possessions (which had a grip on his heart) that this would cover all the commands and assure the young man a relationship with God.
This young ruler is like most people. He felt relatively comfortable with the negative law. We expect a certain negativity from “religion.” Religion is constantly watching and on-guard. Religion has laws which keep everybody in-line. Knowing where the line of black and white flows is a comfort. We can walk right up to it and continue to feel relatively safe.
The young man was good at not doing this and not doing that, but he was not ready for the unlimited reach of God’s love into every area of his life. By simply releasing his possessions… he would have been giving God everything and the Lord would have been able to give him everything in return.
I am personally uncomfortable with this whole concept of being a Christian as Jesus explained it. I am a Pharisee by nature. Most people are as well, whether they admit it or not. We are more comfortable and content with the negative approaches to keeping the law and following religion… because we like to know where the limits are. The scales are either tipped our way or they are not.
- The negative boundaries remind us of when we are coloring outside the lines.
- They remind us of when we go beyond the speed limit.
- They remind us of where the dangers lie.
- We all feel more comfortable when we can see the extent of our obligations and also understand where others are in their walk… because we love to compare!
Unfortunately, the young man walked away. He is the only person who ever came to Jesus seeking help and walked away in worse condition than when he first arrived. Thankfully our story doesn’t have to end like the young ruler. Jesus didn’t offer His life so that we might further follow a religion. He gave Himself so that we might have a relationship with Him. The choice is always ours.
Blessings – From God’s Incubator,
absolutes in life, because I go to the Father, convicted of righteousness, forgive me for being so ordinary while claming to know such an extraordinary God, Jesus, Jim Elliot quote, keeps Jesus before your eyes, righteous standard of behavior, sin, situational ethics, the beauty of holiness, the Holy Spirit, wrongs
When the Holy Spirit comes there will be a second form of conviction. Through the believer the world will be convicted of righteousness. Jesus said, “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.” (John 16:10) That is, when the world looks at the church, it ought to see a different way of life, a different standard of behavior. Only the believer can walk in righteousness. What the world once saw in Jesus it should now see in His followers. Christ in us is what convicts the world that there are absolutes in life.
Don’t be alarmed that secular writers and philosophers believe there are no absolutes and no standards. Without the Lord, men have always defaulted back to “doing whatever is right in their own eyes.” We are deluged today by “situational ethics“, the idea that the situation alone determines whether a thing is right or wrong. The world will continue to operate in this fashion until it sees in the church a righteous standard of behavior. Surveys have revealed time and time again that there is little difference between the moral and ethical standards of the church and the moral and ethical standards of the secular world.
Once again when the world looks at the believer, they should be convicted of righteousness. This occurs not so much by what you say with your mouth, but…
- by the life you lead;
- by the decisions you make;
- by the fundamental truths you believe in;
- by the peace and tranquility you possess; and
- by the fact of Christ living in you!
What the world ought to see when it looks at the church is beauty. The Old Testament calls this “the beauty of holiness“. When the Lord Jesus is reigning in an individual’s life, there is a beauty about that person’s life which captures people’s attention. Real righteousness is captivating.
Listen, I hear people praying all the time for God to send a Great Revival which brings conviction and causes people to repent. I have prayed for this. According to this verse, how and by what means will God send a revival? Real revival will only happen in you. The only way for the Holy Spirit to convict, reach, and touch the world around us is for God’s people to ask and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with the righteousness of Christ. If you really want the Lord to move… then you must be willing to be moved by the Spirit first.
There are two ways to tell people they are wrong. One is you can convict them on everything they do wrong. Or, you can speak to them about what is right. Which approach do you think the Holy Spirit takes? When the Lord was convicting you, did He speak to you about all the sin in your life, or did He convict you because you were rejecting Christ.
This is the Holy Spirit’s job to tell people there is a better way… Jesus. The Holy Spirit keeps Jesus before our eyes. Yes, He keeps Jesus before the world’s eyes, but they usually do not listen.
- Since the world is going to pot (spiritually downhill), is the Holy Spirit failing in doing His job?
- Could He be doing a better job?
- Has the Holy Spirit left and are we on our own?
- This is the crux of the matter, isn’t it?
The Holy Spirit is doing His job and we should be doing ours by allowing the Holy Spirit to keep Jesus before our eyes twenty-four-seven. It is impossible to win people by telling them how wrong they are and at the same time lacking the presence of Christ in our life.
We have two approaches we can take. We can continue to tell people how bad they are and how bad their sin has become or we can tell them how good our Jesus is. We can follow the Holy Spirit’s approach and speak to people in the fashion which He is convicting them. Or, we can follow the devil’s lead and tell them how rotten they are.
In most cases, people understand they are sinners. What they need to know is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the impact of repentance and confession.
What has been happening in our world today from Christians and the Church? What has been the results? What do you think will be the future results?