I was preaching in Kenya a couple of weeks back and the Holy Spirit brought the story of the rich young ruler to mind. As I was preparing the message, I immediately thought no way that could be relevant to these folks because.... they are poor.... well God made me read it.. I looked it up in three books (Matthew, Mark, Luke) also multiple versions and I just wasn't getting it.... I am asking God how can this be an example to the poorest people I know? The Holy Spirit spoke into my heart and said this is for everyone who has ever felt convicted, thrown themselves at the feet of Jesus and cried out for direction....
Then I saw it in Mark chapter 10 verse 17 in The Passion Translation we read this: "As Jesus started on his way, a man came running up to him. Kneeling down in front of him, he cried out, “Good Teacher, what one thing am I required to do to gain eternal life?”
Here is where this story applies to us all... we all get convicted, we all run to Jesus and throw ourselves at his feet, kneeling we cry out "what must I do" what do you want me to do and it starts a conversation with the Most High that demands an answer and an action! We cannot hear His voice and ignore the parts we don't want to hear. I admire the honesty of the rich young ruler, because in the end of this conversation the Bible tells us he went away sad because he had much wealth. Even though that is the saddest outcome for the story I'm glad he didn't pretend to hear Jesus and start following Him and hide his dependence on his own wealth, hide his sin, hide the compromise he held in his heart!
I have been in church for many years, and I will flat out confess that my own heart has at times been compromised by dependence on myself, my own wealth, pride, my superior understanding of the Holy Word, my selfishness that caused me to esteem myself higher than others in the room. I just don’t want you to think you are the only one who could fall for the devil's lies and be distracted this way.
Jesus told this man who was on his knees before the Son of God exactly what he needed to do but the man couldn't go there.... he walked away. For us the message is clear...
we must engage the Savior in this conversation, as it is only through understanding Christ and who we are in Him, our identity in Christ can we begin to have an honest repentance. He tells us what we need to do individually.
Only through hearing His voice and responding do we grow intimate with Jesus. We have to be doers of the Word both the written Word and the Living Word; in Christ as He directs us through the Holy Spirit. It is through this following and obedience that the Holy Spirit lives in us and we begin to understand the heart of God like never before.
We have heard it from Jesus' mouth if you love me... keep my commandments. John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.....
Are you getting this? You will never truly know Jesus or the Father until you can keep His commandments... Like the rich young ruler first was to keep the law, the written Word these were Jesus' first commandments as the Word.
But then there was one more thing, Jesus asked him to do, sell all you own and follow me. We have the same responsibility to hear the written Word and obey, but to also hear the Living Word that Jesus speaks to us individually and obey. (My sheep hear my voice and follow).
I don't know what Jesus is asking you to do Christians. If you're like me you may have spent a good portion of your Christian life wondering what Christ wanted you to do.
Because I see many Christians who can't tell you what Jesus is asking of them. For whatever reason Christianity is just a safe place for them or they heard the request Jesus spoke into their heart and couldn’t/wouldn’t act on that command. This starts the spiral down the fake Christian walk. The safer, I am in control, I make the rules.... broad path that leads to destruction. Jesus said in Revelation 3:1 write this to the church of Sardis. I know your works that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen that which is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
This is the same message personalized for the church. Like the rich young ruler we haven’t responded to Jesus spoken command, it creates distance from God and leads us to fake our Christianity sometimes the sadness is that this is a lie we tell ourselves.
Without the obedience we can’t have Jesus revealed to us. Without the revelation of Christ and the Father living in us we can’t know who we are in Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it...
What I am asking is are we faithful to receive it? Notice with the rich young ruler and the Sardis church they had something to do... I know your works... your deeds are unfinished.... go and sell all that you own and give to the poor...
you cannot know the mind, heart and Spirit of God until you hear His commands and begin to execute on these commands as the hands and feet of Jesus!
You can’t take on the name of one who is alive, as His church until you are alive in Him. It is the Holy Spirit of God acting through your obedience to minister and complete the works that Jesus has given you to do. This is what transforms your being. Who can know the mind of God but the Spirit of God. That Spirit in you is the power of God transforming you into the image of Christ!
When I am preaching the gospel to the lost God breaks my heart as I feel His love for those the Spirit is ministering to through me. When I am feeding the poor, clothing the naked, building a widow's house, working on the orphanage, playing with the children, visiting those who are sick with God’s healing prayer; that is when I am the closest to God, that is when the Holy Spirit is transforming me into the image of Christ.
Christs’ Holy Spirit working in me transforms me into the heart of God. You are transformed by the presence of God in you as He pours through to those around you.
Now this is the simplicity and whole of the message that God gave me about the rich young ruler. The most important thing about the story is what he did when he got up from his knees and walked away.
That’s right, we are all the rich young ruler, we have all fallen to our knees before Jesus and cried out “Jesus what must I do to be saved” and without fail Jesus has responded to us, to you. It may not be the way you expected or what you wanted to hear. It could have been as simple as “trust me and increase your XXXX” Where X is giving, Bible study, family time whatever you individually need to sacrifice in order to claim your identity in Christ. It could be huge like sell everything you own and give it to the poor, then come follow me.
Whatever it is it is the first step taken towards cleaning away anything in your life that competes with your love for God. God knows what distractions need to go.
Once you take that first step then you are ready for His next instruction... Like all things of God it is simple but profound. A conversation with the Creator of the Universe is what you were created for!
Eph 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
You were created for this, God created you, created in Christ we have the relationship to be transformed into the creature God dreamed up and fulfill the Good works that He has planned for us!
The most important thing, is what you do when you get up! Yes, repent, throw yourself on your knees before Christ and ask Him for direction.... but when the tears and repenting is over get up from your knees and respond to Jesus' command.... go deliver the good works He has prepared for you to do in Christ!