Serving a cash stretched church I indulge in a fantasy.
One Sunday, in the middle of the sermon, a super rich and young man will enter the back door of the church. Interrupting the service he will ask
“Pastor what must I do to be saved?”
Knowing my scripture I will reply just what the Paul spoke to the jailor:
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household”
With those profound words the man will believe. Then he will leave quickly and get his large family and tithe to bring them to my church. 😉
You might read an echo in my fantasy of an encounter Jesus had.
Surprisingly, Jesus gave a totally different answer in His story.
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'””
Mark 10:17-19 ESV
Did you notice? Jesus asked the man if he kept the 10 Commandments. Jesus did not simplify his ask to a simple statement of belief.
“And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
Mark 10:20 ESV
On a roll, the man thought he accomplished everything. Then Jesus asked the hard question.
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Mark 10:21-22 ESV
Did you notice? Jesus first loved the man. Then, Jesus tried to find out what his heart loved. In a sense, Jesus asked the man if he kept the greatest commandment… To love his neighbor as his self. Sadly, the young man walked away on able to love and let go of his riches.
I don’t think I don’t think riches necessarily tripped this guy up. I think he simply could not choose to lay everything down to follow Jesus.
Jesus could simply have extended the offer of salvation to this man. Salvation free as a gift. But he did not. He called the man to obedience, to repentance. The man could not or at least did not.
As far as we know he walked away from eternal life.
Salvation comes not simply through an intellectual choice. The Bible marries salvation and repentance together.
Guys and girls, we need to pay attention here. Jesus called this man to repent from what he worshiped and turn to God. The man chose not to repent and he walked away from eternal life.
I still believe salvation is by grace through faith. We don’t earn it. Yet in turning to Jesus for salvation we turn to him as Lord. It does not make sense for a believer to hold onto sin in their life when they call Jesus their Lord.
We need to take care when we share our faith with others. We can talk until we are blue in the face about the love of God. But if we forget the holiness of God and our need to repent from sin we miss out on the Gospel Jesus preached.
Today I finished reading an old book; Today’s Gospel Authentic or Synthetic?, by Walter Chantry. In this old book Chantry warns about the danger of making the gospel all about mankind and neglecting the awesome holiness of God. Especially in a world of relative beliefs on truth, we need to help people understand sin before they get to salvation.
I think a Gospel all about God loving man fails to understand God. God stands as the most terrifying the holy and awesomely powerful being in the universe.
I think a Gospel totally centered on the sin of man before a judging God lacks grace. Our God fills the pages of history with his work to save mankind. God is love.
May we find a true balance in how we live and preach the gospel.