Luke 18 records a fascinating conversation between Jesus and someone identified as “a certain ruler”. For the sake of discussion, we’ll call the ruler Fred. Fred asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. This conversation is also recorded in 2 other Gospels: Matthew 19 and Mark 10, and is recorded very similar to this account. Jesus responds with a great Truth that’s only recorded in Matthew 19: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” What a revolutionary teaching this is! Jesus clearly points out the link between obedience and blessing, obedience and life, obedience and salvation! The key to the life of Christ in us is simply learning to obey His commands!!! Obedience is the key that unlocks the life of Christ within each of us!
Ok, back to the story…. Fred explains that he has indeed kept all the commands of God. And here comes that dreaded three letter word, “but”….. Jesus says “You still lack on thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, and follow me.” OUCH!
Now why did Jesus say that? Fred has obviously done all that was taught to him, or he probably wouldn’t have come to Jesus publicly and asked the question in the first place! I’ll bet there were lots of Fred’s friends standing around him, nodding their heads in approval when he said he had obeyed all those commands! I’ll bet Fred was feeling pretty good when he heard Jesus’ answer to his question! And then Jesus drops a bomb on Fred. “You still lack one thing….”! Man, that’s gotta hurt!
Oswald Chambers, referring to this passage in his devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” says this about Jesus’ question:
“Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? If you have not, I question whether you have heard Him say anything. Jesus Christ says a great deal that we listen to, but do not hear; when we do hear, His words are amazingly hard. … Have I ever heard Jesus say a hard word? Has He said something personally to me to which I have deliberately listened? Not something I can expound or say this and that about, but something I have heard Him say to me? This man did understand what Jesus said, he heard it and he sized up what it meant, and it broke his heart. He did not go away defiant; he went away sorrowful, thoroughly discouraged. He had come to Jesus full of the fire of earnest desire, and the word of Jesus simply froze him; instead of producing an enthusiastic devotion, it produced a heart-breaking discouragement.”
Yes, Jesus’ words are ‘amazingly hard‘ at times. But it is in those times when we push on to the point of obedience, that the life of Christ is supernaturally alive in us! Note the following statement by Jesus as a response to the disciple’s question of “Who then can be saved?”: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”! There it is! Did you see it? In Jesus’ simple reply to the disciple’s burning question, He gave us the key to unlocking the life of Christ within us: it is only possible with God!!
How many of us go through life trying to obey what God has taught? How many of us are finally confident enough to come to Christ because we think we’ve got it all together, only to hear a hard word; a word that so discourages and disparages us that we leave with our tail between our legs, utterly discouraged? Oh my friend, thank God for the hard words of Christ! Thank God for His unending love, compassion, mercy and grace that He bestows on His created!! He cares so very much for you and for me that He’s unwilling to leave us at the doorstep of victory! If it weren’t for the hard word now and then, we’d never know that we still “lack one thing”!!
Do you see the beauty of that hard word? Like an unyielding coach who is intent on extracting every ounce of talent from the young athlete, God is intent on completing His work in our life! We need to hear that we still “lack one thing” so that we’ll give that one thing over to Him and be rid of it forever! We need to let go of that thing onto which Jesus puts His finger and says “you still lack one thing”!
What kind of a God would He be if He left us in our incomplete state? He has promised that He will provide the means by which we can overcome this “one thing” – don’t forget the promise of Jesus in this passage, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”!!! Jesus gives us hope in three little words He said to Fred – Jesus says that after you have sold all your possessions and given to the poor, then “come, follow me“!
“Come follow me“: the key is found in the relationship with Christ! When we obey that one thing that Jesus points out, we can then rely on the relationship with Him to provide what we need! In fact, it goes one step further: it is only in the relationship with Christ that we’ll have the resources we need to obey that one thing!!! Jesus taught what it means to “come follow Him” in Luke 9 and Matthew 16: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Hearing the hard words of Christ and obeying them are part of this denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him!
My friends, what is it that you’re hanging onto today? Have you heard the hard question of Christ to your soul? What is it that you must do, today, in order to follow Christ? Do that one thing that He asks of you! Don’t delay. Don’t put it off.