For my morning Quiet Time, I spent a second day with Jesus in Mark 10.
Mark 10:21 drew my attention today. In response to the man looking for eternal life with God, Jesus said that despite the man's apparent obedience to God's moral law, as embodied in the Ten Commandments, there was yet something he lacked.
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.”Jesus isn't here condemning wealth. But having looked and actually seen the man and loving him, Jesus identifies the major obstruction between the man and the life with God he desires. The man's wealth is his god.
And the thing he lacked was an authentic relationship with God that goes beyond obeying rules. We are only saved for life with God by faith in Christ.
No matter how "successful" we are in avoiding violations of the second table of the commandments--"Honor your father and your mother," "You shall not kill," "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet"--if there is anything that we worship other than the one true God revealed first to Israel and then definitively to all the world in Christ, we violate all of God's moral law, including the first table, which addresses our relationship with God (i.e., "You shall have no other gods," "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain," "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy").
As James puts it in the New Testament: "...whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10).
I couldn't help thinking about what it is that I turn to for life rather than to God alone.
I realize(d) that I too am guilty of idolatries that Christ is telling me I must leave behind.
To follow Christ, to have eternal life, to be a whole person, to experience grace freely offered and freely given, I must let go of those things--almost all of them good things--that keep me from having life with God.
This is no wifty philosophical matter. This is life and death.
It involves giving up things that are harmless on their face. Little things.
But the road to hell is paved by little things--little compromises, little obsessions that worm their ways into the centers of our souls and destroy the new Christ-like Adams and Eves got wants to make of us.
The wealthy man may have avoided all manner of immorality, been in worship regularly, given to the poor, taken care of his family. (They say that Hitler never smoked or drank.) But Jesus could see that in the inner recesses of his soul, the thing that gave the man his version of life...even though "you can't take it with you." Wealth was the god that he lived for.
It was also the thing he was evidently willing to die for. After Jesus told the man to sell everything he had, give the proceeds to the poor--divesting himself of his god, and follow Jesus: "...the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth" (Mark 10:22). He preferred dying counting his cash rather than living with God.
It's one of the saddest verses in Scripture.
But rather than tsk-ing over this man, I needed and need to ask myself: What must I jettison in order to walk with Christ?
Such divesting is never easy. And, this side of the grave, I think that a person never loses the attraction to their particular god or gods. (Think of Gollum in Lord of the Rings.)
This is where prayer and the fellowship of the Church comes in. Prayer in the name of Jesus is the most powerful form of communication in the universe. The name of Jesus represents all the power and authority of God. When we take refuge in Him, sometimes by even saying His name with faith, He will give us shelter. He will save us. He will give us life.
The Church is the fellowship of recovering sinners and hypocrites. We turn to the Church, our fellow believers, not because we're perfect or sinless, but because we're imperfect and sinful. Whether through worship, receiving the Sacraments, community Bible study and prayer, or private conversation with more mature believers, God can give us the strength to divest ourselves of our idols and to hold onto Christ.
I know what I have to leave behind, but what is that you need to be set free from in order to follow Christ?
Pray in Christ's name.
Humbly join the community of faith, the Church, in confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and being empowered by the Holy Spirit to live.