Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What must I do?

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 10:17 - 27:
"As Jesus was resuming his journey, a man came running up to him, and threw himself on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”  “Why do you call me good?”answered Jesus. “No one is good but God.  You know the commandments — ‘Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not say what is false about others. Do not cheat. Honor your father and your mother.’”  “Teacher,” he replied, “I have observed all these from my childhood.”  Jesus looked at the man, and his heart went out to him, and he said: “There is still one thing wanting in you; go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you will heave wealth in heaven; then come and follow me.”  But the man’s face clouded at these words, and he went away distressed, for he had great possessions.  Then Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples: “How hard it is for people of wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again: “My children, how hard a thing it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  “Then who can be saved?” they exclaimed in the greatest astonishment.  Jesus looked at them, and answered: “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for everything is possible with God.”

 I think this is an interesting passage.  The question this man asks Jesus is a very key question.

"What must I do to gain eternal life?"

If someone asked you this question, how would you respond?

I doubt any of us would respond with the answers Jesus gives... follow the Old Testament commandments, and sell everything and give your money to the poor.

Many Christians would explain some information about God and what Jesus did on the cross, and say if we believe and have faith we will be saved.

So how can we reconcile that the answer Jesus gives here seems to emphasize works, where the answer we want to give emphasizes only faith.  I know there are many bible passages that support both sides of the works vs faith issue.

I think a key to understanding the kingdom of God is that it is not about following a set of rules.  If submission to the reign, rule, authority of God was just about following the Old Testament law, Jesus would not have had to come.  The Jews already had the law.

I believe there is a real sense that Jesus wanted to free them from following the law.  He wanted them to discover that they could follow and submit to the King instead.  He showed them that He was the King who loved and cared for them, especially those who were the outcasts and marginalized ones.   Submitting to the reign and authority of a loving God is so much better than following a set of rules.  When Jesus left he promised that He would leave the Holy Spirit to guide His followers personally.

I think the answer Jesus gave isn't one of following the works of the law. I see it as a call to have deep faith in God.

This man had wealth, and he was trusting in his wealth.  Jesus was asking the man to place his faith and trust in Him alone.

I am not at a point where I believe all wealthy people have to sell all they have and give it all to the poor.  I see Jesus asking this man to do this because He knew this man's heart.  If you have wealth, the key question to ask yourself is "If God asked me to give it all up would I?  Do I trust God more than I trust my wealth? Do I trust God's ability to care for my needs more than I trust my own ability?  To what degree am I OK with letting God alone reign in my life?"  These are questions of faith.

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Frank said...

Here's a challenging thought.
1. The New Testament did not start till Matt26v28. All that precedes the death of Jesus is therefore still part of the Old Testament!

2. Until the cross, despite being the son of God and the sacrificial lamb, Jesus was ministering as an Old Testament Prophet to an OT people who were still trying to perfect themselves. (Like many Christians today)

3. To demonstrate the total impossibility of righteousness from the Law, Jesus revealed what it required in minute detail. His intention was to get them to recognise the utter failure of their attempts.

With these 3 facts in mind, read the Matt5 again. You cannot aim to exceed the righteousness the Pharisees (v20) or attempt to be as perfect as our heavenly father (v48) without ending up minus eyes (v29) and hands (v30) when you fail, which you surely will. The self effort and mutilations for failure must be taken as one. There is no cherry picking the nice bits!

So to the rich young ruler. The man effectively asked Jesus what good thing should he do to earn eternal life. The man clearly believed in creating or trading for his own righteousness eternity. Therefore Jesus gave him a cost that was totally outside his reach.

Many preachers try to make the body of Christ follow what they preach as Jesus's refining of the Law. They have completely missed the point. Even non believers can follow a rule book. Rules do not establish a new birth relationship with Jesus. That relationship is established when we surrender to Him. The cost is his not ours.

Jonathan said...

Some in Jesus day compared Him to the old testament prophets as well in Mt. 16:14-17. But it was clear to Peter by this point that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I see the language of the gospel of the kingdom (reign, rule, authority) of God consistent throughout the New Testament books.

Frank said...

Jonathan, you are absolutely right. I don't think what I wrote contradicted your response.
I was addressing the nature of his ministry which was all conducted in the continuation of the OT, not the NT, which was not formally introduced till Matt26v28.
Jesus continually addressed their current nature which was largely self righteousness via the law. He therefore used the law to prove that it indicted every single one of them as guilty.

Concurrent with this, he also preached the Kingdom just as you said. The problem is that many try to force fit his discourses on the law into his Gospel of the kingdom.

The command in Matt5 for us to "be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect" was clearly aimed at those who thought they could achieve perfection. The reality is as you quoted in your OP "With man it is impossible, but not with God, for everything is possible with God."

His ministry of the law was juxtaposed to his ministry of the kingdom. He showed the complete failure of the law to perfect anyone, as a means to drive people towards the free gift of kingdom reality.

The new covenant period didn't formally start till Matt26v28 when he announced it. Therefore everything prior to that time was conducted during the OT time period. Nevertheless grace, from Adam onwards, had always been freely available to all those like Abraham who grasped it by faith.

Jonathan said...

I don't think we are that far off it the point we are trying to make.

However I see people entering the kingdom/reign of God that Jesus and His disciples preached before the cross. The covenant was a mark of God's promise to His people, but I don't want to diminish the words of Jesus before the cross.

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. (Luke 16:16 NIV)

"I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. "(Matt 21:32 NIV)

Steve Martin said...

Great post.

It all boils down to whether we will give up ourselves and die to Christ. Die with Christ.

We so often will not.

But the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance and we are forgiven.

This happens over and over and over as we find that we place ourselves ahead of what God wants us to do and as we place ourselves ahead of the needs of our neighbor.

When they asked Jesus "What is it to do the works of the Father?" jesus said, "Believe in the one whom the Father has sent."

Obedience of faith...rather than obedience to the law.