"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."
Many people, no doubt, misunderstand this encounter that the rich, young ruler had with Jesus. Some would believe that the door to Heaven is opened to those who will give away their earthly possessions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Others might believe that Jesus was being sarcastic, or even cruel, to this young man. Are you kidding me? The Bible says that Jesus looked at this man, LOVED him, and then spoke these words to him. And yet some will say that Christ was veiling the truth because undoubtedly, this young man was predestined to go to Hell. Well, I choose to take the high road and won't even respond to that kind of thinking. After all, I have proven over and over again to display an unholy and predestined anger to those kinds of arrogant assumptions concerning who can, and who cannot, be saved.
So, what's the truth in this encounter? Here's the truth: (1) For some reason this young man has his mind on eternity, and what it takes for him to be prepared, or saved. No doubt that some kind of spiritual awakening is occurring, for the Bible says Romans 3:11, "No man seeks after God." (2) He has certainly come to the right source for enlightenment, for Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" as revealed in John 14:6. (3) Jesus knows this man, just like He knows you and me, totally, completely, and PERFECTLY! Read carefully John 2:24, "He knows all men." (4) The longing of Christ was for this man to be saved, for "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" according to 2 Peter 3:9.
All of this being true, why did Jesus speak to this man as He did? Because the overriding issue to be settled, the difference between Heaven and Hell, was not this man's keeping of certain commandments, nor the giving away of his earthly treasure. The issue was CONTROL! Jesus forced the young man to consider and decide who was going to be in charge of his life, and his future. Who was going to be lord, master, ruler of this young man's life? The issue was, and still is today, control.
This young man walked away sorrowfully because he wanted to maintain control over his life, his wealth, his future, his everything. The idea of surrendering to Christ was too overwhelming for him to consider. "Hey, give me some religious rules to abide by, some good works to perform, a few opportunities to display my own self-righteousness," was probably the mindset of this young man when he approached Jesus. The idea of self-surrender, carrying a cross, and releasing all that he had and all that he was to the Lordship of Christ was simply asking too much. After all, he didn't want to be a radically changed, just comfortably saved.
You'd better read that last previous paragraph again, and read it carefully. I don't believe there is such a thing as "comfortably" saved. The very idea is repulsive to the agonizing death that Christ suffered as He shed His precious blood for the sin of the world. What about you? Has there been an experience in your life, when you surrendered all that you knew about you, to all that you knew about Him? It's hard to believe that this happened to me nearly thirty-five years ago, after I had moved to this area as a transfer student to Mississippi State University. I had no idea that I was about to encounter Him, and have my life and world so drastically changed. Yet here I am, still surrendering to Him afresh and anew each day of my life. "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me!" (Luke 9:23)
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