Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Monday, February 23, 2009

IMPOSSIBLE - The Rich Young Ruler, Part 3

In Matthew's account, Jesus says "If you wish . . ." to the young man two times.

v. 17 If you WISH to enter into life . . . keep the commandments
v. 21 If you WISH to be complete . . . sell all you have, give to the poor, follow Me

The commandments of the Law (in general) and the commands of Christ (specifically) serve as a barometer by which man's desires can be discerned and measured. Jesus challenges us with this question: "What do you really want? Eternal life? Heavenly treasure? ME? Your stuff?"

Not every disciple is faced with this challenge right at the start, but eventually the worthiness of Jesus Christ will lay its rightful claim on everything else. Like Abraham, we will be asked to choose: God or His blessings? God or our dreams? God or self-will? A day is coming when we can have only God - or NOTHING - and on that day the thing we choose to put in His place will be separated away from us. In the grave we can no longer cling to earthly idols. Better to peel our greedy fingers off of them before death does it for us . . . but how?

In both cases, the Lord uses the Greek word, THELO.
THELO - To desire, be inclined toward; to delight in, have pleasure; to intend
What do we delight in the most? Our Creator may allow us to enjoy many things in and through Himself, but ultimately He will draw a dividing line and call us to choose. At this critical moment, rather than walking away grieved, the young man might better have admitted his sins of coveting and idolatry. Since he was already on his knees before the "good teacher," he might have considered asking for some good teaching on how to overcome his sin. If he had approached the Master weary and heavy laden, seeking rest for his soul, he would have found One who is willing to bear the yoke with him. To the lowly and weary-hearted, Jesus always said "Come." But to this man, the Lord's instruction was "Go."

If he had poured out his religious riches and declared himself spiritually bankrupt, he may have found it possible to give up worldly things in exchange for heavenly treasure. When we realize the eternal misery we deserve, and begin to comprehend the incredible mercy of God, temporal sacrifices become much easier to make. And they are then made for the right reasons. It's a matter of gratitude, worship, and love for a gracious God - not merits of self-righteousness. If the Almighty God demands pure devotion and complete surrender from little worms like us, we can be assured He will work in us to bring it about - providing we trust in Him.
"Give what You command, and command what You will."

"By the law of works God says: Do what I command! By the law of faith we say to God: Give what you command! After all, the law commands in order to remind us of what faith should do.”
-Augustine of Hippo
What the rich young man could never bring himself to do under law, he might well have done by grace. What he refused to do in the flesh, he could have accomplished through the Spirit. What his unredeemed heart would never do for Christ, his saved soul might gladly have done with Christ, and through Christ, and in Christ. But where there is no humility, there can be no divine strengthening. We are en-abled only when we admit we are un-able. When faith is absent, grace remains available but not availed. If Christ is not seen as the only possible good, other "goods" will always come between us and Him.

Oh, that this young man would not have walked away! Oh, that he would have brought a struggling heart to the Lord, instead of all his pretended perfections! If only he had surrendered as a sinner, he would have found grace to do all that God commanded. But, as it stands, he could not see beyond his own self-love, self-effort, and self-interest. The Lord gave this man a command that was quite impossible with his human self, but not at all impossible with God.

Why can't camels get through a needle? It's obvious: they're too large. But for every camel, there was a time when the needle's eye could easily have been navigated. All mammals begin their physical existence as a tiny group of life-packed cells (only one cell to begin with). To get back to such a place, a camel would have to be . . . born again. Dear friends, it is the same for you and me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this bro. I had never seen or heard someone explain the bit about the camel quite like that before. The Gospel is so simple yet so complex! I pray you rest in it daily!



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