It would seem the rich young man came up to Jesus expecting to get a pat on the back. He thought he’d kept the commandments, he wasn’t a bad person. Instead of going by appearances though, Jesus looked a little deeper than the young man bargained for.
Jesus’ first response was to ask the man if he knew who he was dealing with when it came to keeping the law of God. This wasn’t just dealing with other men, but with a holy God. A God who is set apart from his creation, who cannot abide sin. A God who is good.
Regarding the law, God is more interested in attitudes than observance. Not only just a case of not murdering someone but not hating anyone. Not only a case of not committing adultery but not having lustful thoughts. Ultimately the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet” comes full circle going for the inner being of a person.
The man had come a cropper at the first hurdle when he asked
“what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Mk 10:17
For it is our attitudes to God and to others which condemn us. A nature which is at enmity with our creator.
What we need is a change of attitude, or to use a more religious word we need to repent. To turn away from sin and turn to God.
Hand in hand with repentance is faith in Jesus. In order to receive eternal life, we need to stop trusting in our own deeds and trust in the deeds of the only one who can save us – Jesus Christ. Jesus knew what would hinder the man from following him, and spelled it out to him. Jesus didn’t say this out of spite, but out of love. For this man had great faith in his possessions, which ultimately would stop him putting his faith in Jesus. It would be his possessions which would stop him having eternal life.
For eternal life is ultimately to know God. In order to know God, we must be made right with God. If we are made right with God, if we are justified by faith, our attitudes change and we will want to seek God’s will and not our own will. We will not cling to the transient, but take hold of that which is permanent.
Are we holding onto anything which would hinder our relationship with our creator?
For when we become justified before God, we discover a delight for his law. No longer does his law condemn us but it shows us how we may please our God.
Yet, our old sinful nature still murmers within us. Not that it is not us sinning, for we are the perpetrators. This sin causes us distress, much as the apostle Paul describes in his letter to the Romans.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Ro 7:18-21
Paul clearly lays the blame for this sin on himself – “this I keep on doing”. Yet, we are not left alone to fight this battle, but we can depend on our Saviour to enable us to fight this battle within us.
He will give us the determination to work out our salvation. Not that we will sit back and leave him to do all the work, but that he will work in us and through us, that we may become renewed in our being.