Sometimes what was not said in the give and take of confrontations Jesus had with people during His ministry had as much or more significance than what was said. Note the exchange with the rich young ruler recorded in Luke 18:18-24 (also in Matthew 19 and Mark 10):
“Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’
So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’
But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’”
What was left out? The first four and the tenth of the Ten Commandments were not addressed…directly. The first four of the ten have to do with a relationship with God and the last one is a catch-all commandment that actually summarizes the issue when all of the others are neglected—a covetous, self-centered elevation above God and anything else. (You shall not covet…)
That thread of belligerent independence underlies the ongoing problem we mortals have, both saved and unsaved—in relation to the sovereignty of God. How many years, months, weeks, days have we spent as believers, even, trying to convince our old nature coming from Adam to be and act righteously? It has never worked. That is the reason Jesus said, “You must be born again!”
When God told Adam and Eve, “eat of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil and you will die,” they and all future mankind died. First, their spirits died, then, in the course of time, their bodies also. They were dead in their trespasses and sins…forever, unless Someone would come and somehow redeem them from that awful plight.
That rich young ruler was doing all those things in his own ability as a man of mortal flesh. But Paul wrote in Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Regeneration and renewal—a restoration to a spiritual integrity that meets God’s requirement and is fixed, unchangeable, forever. That eternal offering of the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, makes that possible. John makes it plain in John 6:37-40 that God’s will has made it that way, and who can overcome God’s independent will:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Some may try to pick holes in that declaration and insert themselves into the redemption process, but who would really want to return to the plight of that rich young ruler and not have any relationship with God, Himself. We are talking here about the integrity of God, the Father, and God, the Son. Is their Word good? Is that underlying sovereignty of God what our inner spirit is crying for?
In detention centers around the country where parolees are released into the care of parole officers, it has become evident that no restoration is ever really begun until the parolee recognizes and accepts his own responsibility for his plight. In obvious bitterness and rebellion, the parolee blames someone else for his ongoing problems and why he has gotten to that place.
He will disobey instructions and show up for a lab test having taken drugs in defiance, then claiming, “They are out to get me, to put me under!” When they recognize and accept the fact that for the most part, it was their bad decisions that turned them in the wrong direction, then change begins to happen. Bad associations, bad influences all lay a foundation for those decisions, of course.
Quite likely it is not a coincidence that the first of those nine Blessed Attitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, which sets the stage for a person’s spiritual journey:
“Those who know there is nothing good in themselves are happy, because the holy nation of heaven is theirs” (New Life Version).
Accepting ourselves as what we are apart from the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in our lives opens up our hearts for all that God wants to give us. In balance with Romans 12:3 and Romans 8:32, we can see how God orders the progress of our lives. In Romans 12:3, Paul writes:
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
While on God’s side of the equation, Paul writes, in Romans 8:32 of the magnitude of possibilities within the sovereignty of God:
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
The correct order for our lives is shown in that promise Jesus made in Matthew 6:33 after He talked about our inability to serve two masters and listed what God is able to provide for us when we get it figured out:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
It is more than that, though, for just getting those “things” still will not satisfy that longing, the emptiness-like sense of lack that runs like a loose tiger in our hearts sometimes, even with believers. Until we recognize the problem and submit to God’s sovereignty, there will be that empty, unsatisfied, nagging going on inside. That old fisherman, Peter, seemed to have a good handle on that situation when he replied to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
The staggering impact of Hurricane Harvey on America, however, may have a sobering message that “Making America Great Again” in God’s eyes has more to do with the attitude of our hearts toward Him and our neighbors, than it does with “things” that can disappear overnight in a natural disaster. It certainly appears so.
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