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Wednesday, 10 November 2004
Jesus' parable of the Rich Young Ruler yields many insights into things that stand between us and entering into Christ's kingdom.  We often allow the cares of this life as well as worldly possessions rob us of our rightful blessings as children of the King.

SURRENDER AND OBEDIENCE: THE RICH YOUNG RULER

by Jim Jordal

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said unto him, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother." And he answered and said unto him, "Master, all these have I observed from my youth." Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, take up the cross, and follow me." And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Mark 10:17-22 (KJV)

What a tragic account! Jesus asked only two things of this rich young ruler: that he liquidate his considerable possessions and give to the poor, and that he take up the cross to follow the Master. But the young man could not make this sacrifice, for he had great possessions. So his excessive attachment to the things of this world ended up standing between him and the gift of eternal life. How sad!

Evidently this young man was a ruler in the local synagogue, enjoying high status in the community. He was also obviously a devout Jew, since he had followed the commandments from his youth. To all outward appearances, he was a devout and righteous man.

But in all his piety, he missed something. His upbringing in the Jewish faith had steeped him in the concept of earning godliness through good works. What he wanted was for Jesus to add one more good work which he could perform to gain eternal life. But his claim to righteousness through good works was faulty, since even though he might have been righteous outwardly, he could not have been pure in terms of internal attitudes and motivation.

The account says that Jesus, looking at this young man, loved him. Real love is sometimes defined as doing what is best for someone, and this Jesus did. Discerning the excessive and idolatrous love of wealth and possessions in the young man's heart, Jesus commanded the one thing that could result in spiritual surrender: to sell what he had, give to the poor, take up the cross and follow Jesus. And Jesus discerned correctly, for the young man could not do this because of his attachment to possessions.

Unfortunately, this unhappy scene is repeated daily in the lives of many Christians. We become so attached to the "cares of this world" that we cannot follow our Leader. So we limp along as ineffective Christians and uncertain followers.

One of our difficulties today is that the issues of surrender and obedience seem not so clearly defined as when Christ walked upon the earth. When Jesus said, "Follow Me," He meant literally and completely. He meant physically, emotionally, spiritually. He meant through trial and persecution. And, even though many followers did not perceive it at the time, He meant forever and to the death. So the issues were clear, to follow Jesus meant the surrender of family, treasure, status, security and eventually even of life itself.

Today, the issues seem less clear. Jesus still asks for our commitment, loyalty, trust, surrender and obedience. But He allows us to live amid worldly affluence, physical security, mobility and contact with others such as could not even be imagined by citizens living at the time of Jesus.

The current God-given blessings so evident in the West these days can be either blessings or curses to Christians. If we allow the advantages of liberty, security, leisure and affluence to stand between us and Christ, then what should be benefits become curses. Jesus clearly stated that we should rid ourselves of anything standing between us and His kingdom. But what we too often actually do is to allow possessions, power, status and pleasure to sidetrack us from the will of God

No, I don't think Christians lose their salvation over these errors, since they still believe in Christ as their Savior. But what we do lose is the blessing of God upon our lives, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and our possible ruling place in Christ's kingdom.

So what is Christ asking us to do? It's not to reject all good things in life, nor is it to sacrifice every possession to His cause. What He does ask is that we become willing to seek His will, and, once we understand that will, to allow His grace to quietly remove those impediments to our following Him.

When we surrender our welfare and wishes to Him, we find that He doesn’t take away the blessings of life. Rather, He sanctifies them to His use, and quietly slides out of our lives those things not pleasing to Him.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 November 2005 )