Every now and then the Sunday sermon has a test question that goes something like this: “What is in your life that stands between you and a whole-hearted commitment to following Jesus Christ?”
When I hear those words calling for self-examination, I think that this cannot be a hypothetical question asked and answered in the lab of Sunday morning church. It is a question that comes up as life happens, as God asks me to do something and instead of doing it, I conjure up an excuse.
For some, the barrier is giving up what they want to keep, like the rich young man who wanted to “earn” eternal life — which is impossible. However, Jesus asked him that question in those terms . . .
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. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:21–24)
This young fellow wanted perfection, yet perfection is not obtainable for us sinners until we have redemption. Redemption is slave talk. The slave is owned, having no right to himself, no right to own or have anything. All that he is and all that he ‘owns’ belongs to his master. The young man didn’t want to go there.
As Chambers says, Jesus does not ask anyone to come to Him with holiness. That is impossible; we all sin and fall short. Instead, Jesus is looking for people who are willing to yield themselves totally and utterly to Him in a relationship in which there is no other relationship.
Chambers refers to Jesus ‘looking’ at this man. He describes this look as one that breaks a person’s heart if they are ‘soft’ in response, or turns them away if their response is ‘hard’ and ‘insistent on their own way.’
I’m not sure about the look, but it is clear that this man lacked one thing: he was not willing to abandon all and yield himself totally to a new master. He wanted to follow Jesus AND keep his precious goods. “Sell all that you have and give to the poor” was beyond his willingness. When Jesus looked at him, he knew his answer and walked away.
The first time Jesus looked at me, I was broken and helpless, willing to begin a new life. Nothing I had was more important than starting over — and who better to hold my hand than the Lord God of the universe. Yet often He comes again to me with that look. His eyes are full of love, but the question is often there: “What is in your life that stands between you and Me?”
And like the rich young man, I have to examine my heart to see if I’ve fallen away from my first love and put another thing or relationship on a pedestal, or allowed my heart to harden wanting my own way instead of His, or allowed fear to stand between me and full obedience.
Again, this is no hypothetical question; it comes with every event of every day of my life.