Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
"Which ones?" the man inquired.
Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' "
"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:16-26).
The rich young man sensed a lack in his spiritual life and asked Jesus for the secret. Jesus, in his first response, seems to me to be saying, "There's no secret. You have the key—you know that God is the one who knows what is good. Whatever he has told you what to do; just do it."
When the young man responded, in essence, “I’ve done that, and I still don’t feel that I’ve arrived spiritually,” Jesus suggested that he sell all of his extensive possessions and come to follow him.
I believe that Jesus was saying, "Follow and obey God completely, whole-heartedly, exclusively. Don't just tuck the commandments in around the lifestyle of your choice. Make the pursuit of God’s goodness and his purposes the main event of your life." Selling all was not only necessary for this young man as an antidote for covetousness; it was a quick purge of a life of primarily serving self and the world, a decisive turning to a life that looks to God for its meaning.
Do we also sense a lack in our spiritual lives? Our problem is that we don't take heed of "all the things that I have commanded you"* then—in frustration with the quality of our spiritual life—we want a short-cut or a secret formula for abundant life.
What are some of these all-important commandments we might be ignoring?
“Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). [Well, I just can’t, we say. Sister So-and-so drives me crazy. And I will never be able to forgive the So-and-So’s. You don’t know what they did to me.]
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). [I’m too responsible to never be anxious about things. And also, God doesn’t seem interested in giving me some of the things I want, so I find it hard to just put all of my affairs in his hands.]
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). [I will get serious about telling others about Christ someday—maybe there will be a revival that will get me going. OR I’m too busy with my job and my family and my church responsibilities to think about that.]
We seem to think that if we have an excuse for not obeying certain commandments, that they don’t apply to us. You know what—if we repent of our disobedience and humbly ask for grace to obey the particular commandment that the Lord brings to our attention at any given time—wow! What a change will occur in our lives! After a while, we will not recognize ourselves, because our “old self” will finally stop being in charge in our thinking, our emotions, our actions, and our nature. Jesus’ commandments will guide us out of our old selves and into the life made possible by his Spirit. And every time we shed a little bit more of our old selves, we’ll wonder why we waited so long. Godly attitudes overflow into abundant life—peace, wholeness, wisdom, success, fruitfulness, and every other good thing.
God is everything that's good. His directions are our key to abundant life. Let's just do them.
*Matt. 28:20, emphasis added