I have many achievements in life. I was in the Army and led a platoon of soldiers through a war (11th Chemical Company, 5th Platoon, Gulf War), I serve the hungry and addicted (Grace and Grits), I have a band (The Vicar Bry Band), I am a pastor and am blessed to serve a wonderful church (a group of people at LifePoint Christian Church). Yet, I still often feel that I don’t deserve God’s love. Why? I guess because all these things are simply that……things. I have become to a large degree accepted humbly that I deserve none of this and yes, I deserve even less. What opens up and fills my day though, is that God, indeed Jesus, loves me and has shown me incredible grace which I in turn want to show to others. These things have earned me nothing (other than maybe good memories)
Mark 10:17-18 (TNIV)
17 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?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.
This is such an incredible story….the story of the rich young ruler. Here, Jesus is confronted by a young man of means that while respectful of Jesus, seems to think that eternal life is something to be achieved. Behind his words I see a man that is full of emotion and, as you will read in the coming days, proud of his achievements. He has kept the laws of Moses and followed the commandments. That’s a good “eternal life insurance policy”, isn’t it?
Jesus didn’t tell this man what he wanted to hear…..Jesus told him what he NEEDED to hear! We cannot “achieve” eternal life with God the Father, indeed, with Jesus by anything we do! What we do should be the “fruit” of our relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t get us into the “Eternal Life Club”.
I want to point out the response that Jesus gives this young man. He approaches Jesus as, “Good teacher” (this does show respect, however, it is a teaching moment for Jesus). Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good? No one is good–except God alone.”
This is the crux of the lesson here. First off, on the surface, that is a strange sounding statement coming from Jesus, who is indeed God. But the point being made thus far is that “goodness” is not achieved by works and cannot be achieved as much as it a condition of our heart. And even then, while we, as followers of Jesus, are on a path to perfection and goodness……we are not perfect and good…..But God is.
What we have, we have by God’s grace. I think that Jesus here is trying to get the young man to recognize that only God is truly good, and that, in turn, would help the young man conclude that eternal life is not something that can be achieved. Eternal life is a product of God’s Grace to those who love and trust in Him….indeed, to those who love and trust in Jesus. Eternal life is a product of our utter reliance on the One who is truly “good” and even then…it is a blessing that is bestowed upon us!
In this thing called life…..are we seeking to be self-reliant and wealthy….or are we seeking true fulfillment that comes from being God-reliant and also wealthy…….our wealth coming from our relationships and our hearts? Our achievements can’t earn our salvation. However, the product of our relationship with Jesus, following Him, learning from Him, loving God like He loves, loving others like he loves others….the product of that is our salvation. We are freed from the bondages that hold us down and enter into that glorious kingdom that starts now and extends into eternity.