Radical Abandonment

Sunday, March 03, 2013, 8:04 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “A Believer’s Prayer” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read Matthew 19:16-30 (ESV):

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And 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 mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

What good deed?

A man came to Jesus asking what good deed he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ first response was to ask the man why he asked Jesus about what is good, for there is only One who is good. Jesus was saying that God was the definition of, and all that is good. Some people feel Jesus, by this statement, was saying he, himself, was not God, yet all throughout his teachings he definitely claimed to be God, which is one of the reasons the Jews had him put to death. I believe he was letting the man know that he was/is God, and therefore he had/has the power, ability and knowledge to determine what is good.

Next, he told the man that if he wanted to enter life (be saved), he must keep the commandments. The man asked which ones, and Jesus listed some of the ones that basically had to do with our relationships with other people, which Jesus later summarized with the single commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matt. 22:35-40). The man believed he had kept all these commandments. As far as we know, Jesus did not dispute that. Jesus had the advantage to know the man’s heart, and he knew what the man was going to ask next. He was not teaching works-based salvation, yet it is certainly true that one of the elements of genuine believing faith, which is evidence that we truly love God, is that we must obey Christ’s commandments (see 1 John 2:3-4; 3:22-24; 5:2-3).

The man was cognizant of the fact that this, alone, must not be enough for him to gain eternal life, so he asked Jesus what he still lacked. Perhaps he was of the mindset where he felt as though he could earn his salvation or work his way to heaven, and since he felt as though he had already kept all the commandments Jesus listed off, which Jesus would have known about him, he wanted to know what else he could do to merit eternal life with God.

Come, Follow Me

Jesus told the man if he would be perfect, he must sell all he possessed and give it to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven, and then he must come and follow Jesus. Jesus did not tell all his disciples that they had to sell all they had and give to the poor, yet he did teach death to self and sin daily, and he did teach that we must follow him in obedience and surrender of our wills to his will for our lives. All throughout Jesus’ teachings he taught radical abandonment (rejection) of all that we would naturally hold on to, and radical abandonment (giving over to) of ourselves to him as his followers (slaves). He said if we want to hold on to our old lives of sin and self, we will lose them for eternity, but if we willingly die to (forego; forsake) our lives of sin and self, then we will gain them for eternity. That is the same message he was giving this man, only he knew what was holding this man back from radical abandonment - it was his wealth. And, he chose his wealth over Jesus.

Although Jesus’ specific message to each one of us may not be “sell all you have and give to the poor,” the principle is still there for each one of us. Coming to Jesus Christ means we die to self, i.e. we let go of everything in our natural lives, and we give it all to Jesus to be used however he wants – trashed, given away or put to good use. For some of us, he may have us literally leave all that we possess in this life behind us in order to go where he wants us to go. For others, he may use those material possessions for the advancement of his kingdom, such as he uses my computer so that I am able to write out and send out what he teaches me from my times with him each day. If I did not possess this computer, I could not do this, yet truly it is not mine, for it is given over to him and to his service. Yet, if the Lord said, “Leave it all behind, because where I am sending you, you will have no need of it,” I would walk away from it all, because Jesus Christ is my greatest treasure!

Jesus then described how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. He gave the illustration of the largest animal in Palestine going through the smallest opening. Yet, he said, this would be easier for this to happen than for a rich person to enter into eternal life with God. Wow! Why so? This is obviously not an indictment against all who possess great wealth, for there were many wealthy and godly people throughout scripture, Job included. Yet, the more we possess in this life, the greater the risk for pride, self-will, a feeling of self-accomplishment and self-dependence to set in. It is harder for us to see our need of God, and it is harder to let go of all that we have acquired. And, there is the danger of making “stuff” our god. That is why it often takes tragic events, hardships, or times of great difficulty to get some of us to realize our need for Jesus, and for us to be willing to make the choice between our “stuff” and radical abandonment to his will for our lives.

Who can be saved?

This is where the rubber meets the road (the most important point; the true test of something). We can’t be saved in and of ourselves, no matter how many good works we do or how many commandments we perfectly obey, though not many of us have done that, I suspect. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It is by God’s grace alone that we are saved (see Eph. 2:8-9). We cannot even come to Christ of our own accord – the Father must draw us to Christ. And, even the faith to believe in Jesus is a gift from God – yet a gift that must be appropriated (made our own) to our own lives. In other words, faith is action and the action required is total abandonment to Jesus Christ and away from all that is of self and sin in this life. Jesus wants us to come to him with the humility and simple trust of a child, and he demands complete and total surrender and allegiance to him and to him alone. This is the essence of what he told the rich young man (ruler).

A Believer’s Prayer / An Original Work / July 31, 2012

With my whole heart,
Lord, I pray to be Yours,
And Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.

Love You, Jesus,
You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.

Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride,
I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.