Matthew 19:20-22 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”  Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Here’s a classic example of Jesus teaching us what authentic discipleship ought to look like in a person’s life. All through the gospels Jesus taught that to be his disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow him.
In today’s text we have a young man who wanted eternal life. Therefore, he asked Jesus how he might fulfill this desire. Jesus answered him by telling him to obey the commandments, for that would show his love for God. Jesus then listed several of the commandments. The young man’s response? “All these I have kept.”
His answer reveals at least three things.
Three Wrong Answers
First, the young man was ignorant about what “obeying the commandments” meant. His understanding was superficial at best. His claim was that he had obeyed all the commandments since his youth. And so Jesus simply pointed out that this man’s great wealth was a stumbling block to his pursuit of God and eternal life. In so doing, Jesus revealed the man was guilty of coveting, at the very least. He broke that commandment.
Second, the very first commandment instructs us not to have any other gods before the one true God. This man seemed to have placed his great wealth before God, so much so, that when he was asked to give it away, he could not do so, not even for eternal life. There’s another commandment broken.
Third, truly loving and serving God takes the shape of faith and obedience in a person’s life, not mere external conformity to a few of your favorite commandments. Jesus exposed the real motivation of this man’s heart by telling him to deny himself (give away his possessions) and follow Christ (give his life to Christ completely).
The young man went away sad because he had great wealth.
What’s Tripping You Up?
Money and possessions were this man’s impediment to faithful discipleship. It is for many of us. We may hastily protest it isn’t. “But,” we quickly add, “Jesus’ words in this text are not a universal command for every person who would follow Jesus.” And that’s true. Material wealth was indeed this particular man’s barrier to faithful discipleship. But how many of us could downsize everything we own and give away the saved money to the church, missionaries, mercy ministries, etc.? How many of us could take lesser paying jobs that would enable us to spend more time with our families? How do you immediately and viscerally react to those suggestions? These examples show us we may be far closer to the rich young man than we care to admit.
What is your obstacle to being a whole-hearted follower of Christ? Maybe your obstacle isn’t wealth. Maybe it’s your desire to please others more than God. Perhaps it’s the fact that you worry more about what others think about you than what God thinks about you. It may be that you don’t want to give up the particular sin you’re enjoying for a season. Or maybe there are a variety of struggles tripping you up in multiple areas of your life.
Dying is Hard
When it comes down to it, denying ourselves (dying to ourselves) is hard. And we don’t like “hard.” We prefer easy, convenient, and quick. Thus, we’ve created a culture of remote controls, drive-through windows, and microwave ovens. This mentality makes for poor sacrificial servants of the Kingdom. And of those who hold such an attitude, our Lord says, it is hard to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
If we would follow Jesus, we must rid ourselves of all encumbrances that inhibit the “following” to which we are called (Hebrews 12:1). We must “give it away” so our focus will be fixed keenly upon our King.
We must take the long and eternal view instead of the alternative short and temporal ones. Because those who deny themselves and do the hard work of leaving their houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mothers or children or fields (work) for Christ’s sake, will receive “a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29). And put that way, the decision seems like a no-brainer.
Heavenly Father, I love you and desire to follow your Son, Jesus Christ. You have been, and continue to be, so very good to me. Your blessings in my life seem limitless. Realizing that makes it particularly hard for me to acknowledge that I am pursuing other things before you and holding onto them more tightly than I am holding onto you. Like the rich young man, I just won’t give them up. And this isn’t even including those things and desires in my life I’m not even aware of. Lord, please convict me of sin and cleanse me. Show me my idolatry and fill me with true repentance. I pray that you and you alone will be who I desire and pursue more than anyone or anything else in this this world. You alone are worthy of such a place in my life. Thank you for your grace and your patience. I thank you that the good work you have begun in my life will be brought about to completion. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petitions – prayers for yourself
· Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
· Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
· Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My family
· My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
· For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
· For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
· Other needs
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