January 23, 2022
“‘If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’”
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“‘If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’ When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving because he had many possessions.” Matthew 19:21-22
Growing up, I heard the gospel many times. I considered myself a follower of Jesus, but I was never really sold out. Matthew tells the story of a successful young man who considered himself a follower of the Messiah. He addressed Jesus as “Teacher,” and he traveled to the Judean desert just to ask Jesus one question: “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” He was about to learn the difference between genuinely following Jesus and merely following Him around.
This young man’s question defined his personal theology. He truly believed eternal life could be achieved by human effort, but he was not overcome by the total depravity of his sin. He wasn’t a beggar looking for food. He was the exact opposite. He was confident in himself, and he believed he was capable of living a perfect life.
Jesus was gracious. He questioned the young man the way any other rabbi would question a potential disciple. The young man was impressive. He would have aced any Fortune 500 interview, hired on the spot. Then, Jesus threw him a curveball that rocked his success paradigm. “Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and then follow me.”
Can’t you just sense this man’s thoughts upon hearing Jesus’ instruction? “Sell my possessions? That’s not success! That’s the opposite of what all the other rabbis told me. You’re a good teacher, Jesus, but that’s too extreme.” I get a sense this young man was so gung-ho that if Jesus had told him to scale Mt. Everest in a Speedo, he would have done it! But Jesus went to the core of this man’s sin: His possessions.
Jesus never said that charity earns eternal life. He simply revealed the obstacle that hindered this particular young man from being a true follower. He laid out the truth and let the young man choose. Sadly, the young man walked away.
There is a difference between “hanging around” Jesus and genuinely following Him. Following Him means we have forsaken all others, turned from our sin, and committed to trusting His leading, wherever, whenever, and however He leads. It’s easy to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. It’s a whole other thing to obey Him as Lord.
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 7:21
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10