When Jesus encountered me the first time, realizing who He is was instantaneous. I was at a place in life where my failures overwhelmed me. I wanted forgiveness and a fresh start. Without any coercion, I said yes and He changed my life.
Since then, there have been many encounters and many discussions with Him about my choices. Some of them fit with His will and some have not. For those that were contrary, I’ve sometimes felt and acted like the young man who asked Him about eternal life . . .
“And a ruler 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 commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.”’ And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. 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 these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” (Luke 18:18–23)
Since I already had eternal life — it is a total gift, not to be earned — my question was more like “What must I do to inherit all the good things that life is dangling before me?” even if I didn’t say those words. The rest of my conversations with Jesus were something like:
Me: “I’d like that good thing . . . .”
Jesus: ‘Nothing is good but Jesus . . . .’ Then He repeat what He asks of me, and I tell Him how good I am, and He says I must give up all that good stuff, or that which seems so appealing so I might follow Him with all my heart.
Sometimes His commands hit me like a hard saying. Instead of doing what He said, I became sad and turned away, eventually to find Him in front of me, always with love yet the same challenge.
In the case of the young man, Jesus made no attempt to keep him. He simply said—‘Sell all you have, and come, follow Me.’ He did not plead, just spoke stern words as Chambers points out, then let him walk away. That man did not want to be His disciple; he only wanted to keep his wealth.
For me, the tests are not quite the same. My options are between the good stuff of this world, the tempting things of this life (and I realize not all I’ve wanted has been good in God’s eyes) or the goodness of Jesus, the goodness of Him living out His goodness in me? Do I want to have my way? Or do I want to say, “Not my will but Thine be done”?
There is an even bigger difference between me and this unregenerate man. Jesus left the ball in his court and let him walk away. In my case, and in the lives of all who have said yes to new life in Christ, He never leaves us alone. His elbow in the ribs continues. He pokes and pleads, pesters and convicts. He might let up for a season, but eventually stands in front of me calling for a decision. Will I wander in the life of always wanting and never having, or will I realize that all I ever need is in Him? Will I be content to draw from Living Water, or always be thirsty because the wells of this world continually run dry?
After the fact, this seems such a no-brainer. The stuff that seemed so appealing becomes common-place, even ugly, and I wonder what on earth I was thinking. The one thing I do know is that Jesus persists with me. He does not let me walk away to have my own way. He is my Savior, even when I try to change my mind. He has been called ‘The Hound of Heaven’ and I’m finally appreciating His relentless pursuit.