Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Part One: Something Lacking
“And as he was going out to the road, one ran up to him and fell on his knees,
and he asked him, ‘Good teacher, what shall I do, that I might inherit eternal life?’
But Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except One, that is, God.
You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; Do not murder; Do not steal;
Do not bear false witness; Do not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’
He answered and said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.’
Then Jesus, looking intently at him, loved him, and he said to him,
‘There is one thing lacking in you. Go away, sell whatever you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven, and then, taking up the cross, come follow me.’
But he was appalled at this statement, and he went away feeling heavy,
for he had many possessions.”
Matthew and Luke tell us this story as well as Mark, and from them, we learn that the person here who ran up to Jesus was a wealthy young man. This young man had kept God’s commandments from his childhood, and Jesus loved him. He had also, no doubt, offered many sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem and had often lifted up praises to God and prayed to be found acceptable to God.
He did not meet Jesus by accident. He lived his way there. He prayed his way there. God now had rewarded this young man’s obedience to the law of Moses by granting him access to His Son.
“Just one thing is lacking,” Jesus said. Think about that. Just one thing stood between the young man and eternal life. Just one thing between him and an eternity of peace and joy. Then, when Jesus pointed out the last hurdle for him to overcome, the love of money, the young man “was appalled” and “went away sad”. We do not have to wonder how he feels about that decision today. Wherever he is, we know how he feels about it.
Several of the pastors in Revelation were warned of a shortcoming just as this young rich man was warned. To one of those pastors who had labored much in the Lord and done very well, Jesus said:
2. I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and that you cannot tolerate evildoers. And you have put to the test those who call themselves apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars.
3. You have patience, and you have endured for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
But then, Jesus added this:
4. Nevertheless, I have something against you . . .
It doesn’t really matter to us what this pastor’s “something” was. It was different for each of the five pastors whom Jesus rebuked. And if there is “something” about any of us which displeases Jesus, it will be a “something” that is different from all their “somethings”. The point is this: Is Jesus telling any of us, “One thing in you is lacking”? We may have many good qualities; we may have done many good deeds; Jesus may love us as he loved that rich young ruler; but is there still a “something” in our hearts that would cause us to become “appalled” and “walk away” from Christ if he were to point it out to us?
False religion will receive you then. When the rich young ruler went home, he did not stop worshipping God, keeping the feasts, and making sacrifices. He would have been seen as an upright, godly man, a valued member of the synagogue. But the difference was that he had met Jesus and had turned away when Jesus called him to take the next step toward eternal life. From that moment in his life, his prayers and his sacrifices became worthless. They were a waste of his time and energy.
Religious people with “something” in their lives that Jesus has pointed out to them often fail to understand that God is not impressed with human worship. Obedient faith in His Son is what touches God’s heart. When anyone rejects Jesus’ call to the next step in holiness, he rejects his own hope, even if he is considered the best member of the church he joins. What have men ever judged rightly when it comes to the things of God?
Satan doesn’t have those Christian churches out there for people to join when they have met the Master, heard his voice, and walked away. God does. The Christian religion and its plethora of man-made doctrines and traditions are God’s reward for those who refuse to deny themselves and follow His Son. Solomon touched on this when he said, “The man who wander out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Prov. 21:16). It may seem safer to sit in a multitude rather than to walk in the way traveled by a few, but everything in the Bible warns us not to think that in the end, God will judge us as men have done.
It is my sincere prayer that God will grant us all the grace to deny ourselves, even to the very last “something” that is not perfect in His sight, and live forever in peace with God. The way to secure that blessed future is to learn from the example of the rich young ruler and to take Mary’s advice to the servants at the marriage feast when she said to them of her son, “Whatever he says to you, do it.”