Looking through the Gospels, the story of the rich young ruler stands out to me. There are so many lessons that can be learned from this short passage, but there is one that has started hitting close to home with me. First, a look at the passage:
"Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him and asked Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' So Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but 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 your mother."' And he answered and said to Him, 'Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.' Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.' But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (Mark 10:17-22)
I think most who are familiar with the Bible are familiar with this story. It's a vivid warning about the danger of trusting in the riches of this world, as Jesus goes on to point out to His disciples in the following verses (vv. 23-25). What inspired this article, though, is what Jesus said to the young man after his assertion that he had kept God's law faithfully - "One thing you lack." One thing. One thing stood in between this man and a life completely devoted to his Lord and Savior, and what did he do? He walked away. The Bible doesn't reveal what happened to this man in the course of his life. Did he remain tied to his trust in riches, or did he ever turn that trust fully over to God, repent, and obey? My hope is that he did obey, but there's no way to know from the Scriptures. Here's what I do know, though: Jesus came to bring sinners to repentance, but His sacrifice does nothing for those who are unwilling to repent (Luke 5:31-32). The sad truth is that many are blind to their sins. However, God tells us to examine ourselves and to make corrections where they are needed (Luke 18:9-14; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
“Do I really need to examine myself, though? I seem to be doing okay...”
Many have thought themselves to be righteous when they really were not. Consider the Pharisees. Various passages, including Luke 18 and Matthew 23, make it clear that they thought themselves to be among the spiritually elite, while in truth they were spiritually destitute. The same can be said of the majority of the churches called out in Revelation 2 and 3, a status that was specifically attributed to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 2:17). In fact, there are and have always been many who are completely blind to the true state of their soul (Matthew 7:21-23; 15:7-9). The Judgment is too late a time to figure out the truth! We all need to understand two basic truths: Nothing can be hidden from God, and nothing can be kept secret forever (Hebrews 4:13). For this reason, we are to "take heed how [we] hear" (Luke 8:17-18). We hear lesson after lesson and class after class. But do we really listen? Do we ever make application? Or do we just stop at how it applies to someone else?
“So what do I need to do?”
Do just what the rich young ruler did. Bring yourself before the Lord and ask Him to lay bare to you those areas in which you lack (James 2:10; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:6-7). How will He do this?
- Through His word - Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17; Psalms 119:9; 19:7-14
- Through the assembly of His saints - Hebrews 10:24-25
- Through our other interactions with our brethren, both in our local congregation and those more widespread - Proverbs 27:5-7; 2 Samuel 12:1-15; Acts 18:24-28
The real question is: How will you respond? In 1 Samuel 15, God gave Saul the command to completely destroy Amalek, everything and everyone inside, yet Saul and the people disobeyed the Lord's command. They were 'unwilling to destroy' that which they saw was good, although they were were all too willing to destroy 'everything despised and worthless' (v. 9). Are there things you are unwilling to destroy? Are you only putting off those things that you view as 'despised and worthless'? Hebrews 12:1-2 says that we are to 'lay aside every weight,' not just those we really don't care that much about anyway.
How do I make the changes I need to make in my life?
First, remember what was done for you so that you might be able to live free from sin. Think about what it cost Jesus to leave heaven, live the life He lived, and suffer the death He died. Read the account of the crucifixion; read about how He was abandoned by all men, betrayed and denied by those closest to Him. This is what our sins have cost.
"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (Romans 5:6-9)
Second, truly repent. True repentance is more than just feeling sorry for what you did. It's often described as a change of heart/mind that leads to a change of action/life. The truly penitent person understands that only God can make what is wrong right again and appeals to His mercy (Psalm 51:1-2), then dedicates him or herself to the life God expects of all of His children (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). (This article is written from the perspective of one who is already a baptized believer, but if one is not yet, then full penitence and obedience would take that person to the waters of baptism as well – Acts 2:38; 8:35-39; Galatians 3:26-27.)
Third, look for the root causes of your actions and address those. If we look at the sins we struggle with, often we can see a more general cause (e.g. fear, lack of focus, a worldly attitude, frustration, etc.) that produces a number of sinful actions. Medicating a toothache when a cavity is the root cause may take away the pain temporarily, but it does not solve the real problem, which will continue to grow worse if left untreated. Likewise, a failure to acknowledge and address the root causes of our specific temptations and sins will leave us forever wondering why we just keep failing time and time again.
Is your conscience seared? Consider the consequences. - Hebrews 10:36-39; Romans 2:1-11
Do you feel like you're too far gone? Read John 6:37. - 'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.'
How do you think Paul felt (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)? Or the people on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41)? Don't question God's love and His power to forgive. Just have faith and obey (Matthew 11:28-30).
Utilize the help of your brethren. They are there to help you (Galatians 6:1-2), but they can only help you if they know that you need help (James 5:16).
And keep your eye on the goal (Philippians 3:12-14).
I based what I've written above on a lesson I prepared for a mid-week girls' Bible study a while back. At that time, I was struck by the idea of losing out of heaven because of just one thing and how incredibly tragic that would be. At that time, and still now, I know that there is so much that I lack, so many areas that I need to be stronger in, and so I revisited this lesson as a reminder for my own need for self-examination, correction, and growth.
But what about you? What do you lack? And what are you going to do about it? Nothing in this life is worth losing out on heaven and eternity with our God (Matthew 16:24-27).
Thanks for stopping by!