Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Treasure in Heaven

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Luke 18:18-25
 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!  Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
This passage again brings us back to the question of what we love. What is most important in your life? What would you give up anything else for? What do you run t for comfort? for meaning in life? What do you spend most of your time and effort in?

There is no point having God second in your life. He demands and deserves first place, and we need to put him in his rightful place as Lord of our lives. When we put God second, we are really just being proud and selfish, saying we know better then him, but holding onto the hope that he will still save us and give us the benefits without us taking any of the responsibility.

The rich man in the passage claimed that he had obeyed God all his life - I don't know who that man was, perhaps he did physically obey all of God's commands. But regardless of that, Jesus wasn't first in his life. He wanted eternal life, but he also wanted wealth and luxury in this life. The question came down to if he was wiling to give up his good life here and trust Jesus that there was a better life eternally with God.

That question still resounds in the world for us today. Am I willing to be hated, to be persecuted, to lose friends, to give away what I have? Am I willing even just to be laughed at for Christ? Do I trust him that he will save, and that his salvation is far better than anything in this world? Do you trust him in that?

It's a hard question to answer, because if we've grown up as Christians it's easy to just know intellectually the right answer and give a yes to all those questions. It's easy to say "I am not ashamed of the gospel", but is that really the truth? Have you ever had to prove those words?

Perhaps what we need to do is think deeply, decide on our answers and then act. Decide to put God first and then live it - telling people the gospel, loving those who it is socially unacceptable to love, giving up wealth, health and prosperity for Christ. Maybe instead of just saying "yes Jesus, you are first in my life" we should go and show it.

In saying all this, I want to point out once more that our actions do not save us.

The only thing our actions can do is condemn us because we are all sinful. Jesus told this man to give up all his wealth to show him how sinful he was and to smash his facade of righteousness. Our problem is one of the heart, and we cannot change that. Only Jesus can.

It isn't about what we do, it's about what Jesus did. He, who is God, came to earth and lived perfectly. He suffered and died on the cross, taking the sin of his people and God's wrath for it. He paid the price in full that we would spend eternity in hell for because we can never pay it. He then rose again, proving that he had paid entirely for sin, since death is the result of sin (No sin = death cannot contain him. Rose again = proof that he has defeated sin.)

It isn't about what we do. But we are called to repent and believe, putting our faith in Jesus as the only one who can save. The consequence of that for our lives is that we will also give up sin - you can't be genuinely sorry for sin and then keep doing it. But we aren't condemned when we stuff up after that point - Jesus paid it all.

Yet the question remains: if you are a Christian, if Jesus has died for your sins and paid the ultimate sacrifice for you, how will you respond? Will you be willing to give your life as a living sacrifice for him (Romans 12)?

Are you willing to give up every benefit you have for the sake of knowing Jesus?

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