As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mark 10:17-22
It is amazing here that Jesus won’t let anyone call him good. He was without sin, we know he WAS good,
But it is also comforting in a way to know that no one is good. We all sin. We’re like Romans 7 — “I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do.”
This really seems true to me lately. I have come face to face with things in my character that cause me to struggle. And no matter how much I wrestle with them, I am still struggling. I tell myself not to let my mind go there, and a minute later, the same thing is going round and round in my head again!
But there’s hope! There is hope because God gave us what we need to TRANSFORM!
I love that word: “transform.” It’s one of those metamorphosis words. It means we can ACTUALLY CHANGE on the inside.
I’ve been reading “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster. It’s an old school book, but it has some good stuff in it.
“Willpower . . . is incapable of bringing about the necessary transformation of the spirit. . . . The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. . . The Disciplines [of meditation, prayer, fasting and study] allow us to place ourselves before God so He can transform us.”
We can’t change just by wanting to. All the grunting and sweating of self effort won’t alter our inner selves. I know. I’ve tried it many a time. I’ve come up with all kinds of programs that I’ve attempted by my own wisdom and strength. Yeah, they’re helpful. But I still come back to the same place, the same weaknesses.
That’s why it’s so encouraging that God knows how to change our heart. He’s given us the resources to employ that allow HIM to work within us. When we pray, meditate, study the Bible, and so on, it gives the Spirit ways to tinker with our inner workings. And the Spirit is the MASTER workman extraordinaire! It KNOWS JUST HOW to fix hearts!
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
So that encourages me to spend more time in the “Disciplines,” to listen to my audio Bible in the car or while I’m cooking, to have more one on one time with God, to be quiet before Him.
Because sooner or later, we’re going to have a rich young ruler encounter, this time when God asks us to give up that one thing we don’t want to give up. Our hearts will be tested.
Boy is that true of me! I am being asked to trust God in ways that are SO HARD for me. I cry out to God. “It’s too hard,” I say. “Don’t ask me to give that up.”
And God replies “But I need to be #1.”
Exodus 20:23 says, “Do not make any gods to be alongside me.” God doesn’t want anything in his presence that even hints of being as important as He is.
I love the illustration Kyle Idleman uses in his book, “Gods at War” —
“God declines to sit atop an organizational flowchart. He is the organization. He is not interested in being chairman of the board. He is the board. And life doesn’t work unless everyone sitting around the table in the boardroom of your heart is fired.”
God is GOD. He needs to be the be all and end all. Life doesn’t work otherwise.
So with the rich young ruler, Jesus wasn’t trying to say that everyone has to give up all their stash.
He was saying that the ruler could have no other gods.
He wasn’t saying this to make the ruler a miserable pauper. He was saying it to take away the things that gave false joy and replace them with the thing that will give real joy. And, of course, the ultimate joy will be in heaven.
You know, the ruler asked Jesus a question. But he really didn’t want to hear the answer.
And that is my challenge lately. To hear. To ask God, “What are you trying to teach me today,” and be attentive for His answer. And then, of course, act on what I hear.
He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. Isa 50:4b
I need to listen so I can be transformed, so I won’t be that wretched person who’s always trying, but never changing.
I need to listen because I am not good. I need to entrust myself to God’s goodness, bask in His goodness– the Word, His presence.
Why did the rich young ruler go away sad? We usually say it’s because he was not ready to give up what he loved.
But maybe it’s also that he was afraid. He was sure that the cost was worse than the cure.
And we know the cost is not worse than the cure. It’s totally worth it.
Don’t you want to go up to that ruler and get in his face and plead with him? “Don’t leave! Don’t give into your fears. Good things are coming!”
Let’s plead that with ourselves. Plead it with our friends. Wrestle to believe that whatever we give up, it’s totally worth it.
And submit ourselves to God with a listening ear, immerse ourselves in Him, so he can shape in us a heart that craves no other gods but Him.