Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 19:16-22

Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,' 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,' 'YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,' 'YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,' 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER,' and, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' " The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. -
Matthew 19:16-22

Who is this command spoken to?

A rich young man (v. 20, 22)

What does the command require?

Keep the commandments. Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.

What truths do we learn here?

This is an interesting passage. It seems that Jesus is trying to convince this young man not to follow Him. But even though that is what it seems like, Jesus is only revealing what is truly in this young man's heart. Jesus laid out the scenario if the man truly wanted to inherit eternal life. All the young man had to do was sell what he had and follow Christ. This sounds like the most simple of commands, yet time and again, history (even recent history) proves that it is one of the hardest things to do.

This young man's first couple questions are interesting. "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" and "Which [commands]?" The young man shouldn't have needed to ask the second question. He should have known which commands to keep--all of them. It seems obvious from even the quickest glance at the Old Testament Law that God's standard was perfection. The young man acknowledged that he had kept the commands that Jesus listed. He had not murdered, had not committed adultery, had not stolen, had not lied about his neighbor, he had honored his father and mother. But it is important to realize that, even though it seemed he had, this young man never really kept the commands. Indeed, keeping the commands, alone, is insufficient for salvation. James tells us that if you've broken the law in one point, you are guilty of the whole thing.

Jesus listed off the commands from the ten commandments that had to do with interpersonal relationship. But Jesus never mentioned the commands that dealt with our relationship with God. He didn't have to. By telling this rich young man to sell what he had and give it to the poor, Jesus proved that the young man didn't really love God. This young man had his possessions exalted to the place of God in his life. He could not bring himself to the point of obedience here because his possessions were great.

Some today would argue that in order to inherit eternal life, we must sell all that we have and give it to the poor. While this is good and noble, and probably more needed today than ever, it is not what Jesus is getting at here. Let's stop and think about what is true for a moment. Nothing you do can gain you favor before God. That means even the most noble giving to charity amounts to nothing on your heavenly account. Jesus desires that we follow Him. This is the important point of the conversation in Matt. 19. Following Jesus, for this man, meant giving up all that he had. He couldn't do it because he loved his stuff more than he loved God. Following Jesus for you means it will cost you something. It means that we shouldn't hold our possessions with a tight fist. But the cost for me to follow Christ will be different than the cost for a Muslim man in Saudi Arabia. And the cost for me to follow Christ will be different than the cost for the pastor in China. The principle doesn't change, but the outflow in life does.

What does following Christ cost you? Is it costing you?

What are the consequences of disobedience?

This man went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. He missed out because he couldn't pay the price for discipleship.

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