A few weeks ago I wrote about the need for allowing Jesus access to every part of our lives, and therefore receiving the full measure of His grace-filled life. Often, Jesus doesn’t work because we cordon off the sacred areas of our souls; what’s most needing His healing. Since God is a gentleman, not forcing His will or ways on us, we do not reap the full fruit of His passion. Then, treating Jesus more like a vending machine than the Almighty God, we conclude He doesn’t work, and we move on.
Admittedly, we can be pretty dull bulbs at times.
But it’s not that simple. I've seen seasoned Christians exasperated because Jesus wasn't performing for them, like their stock portfolio. So, I want to address another facet of our lives potentially causing a bottleneck for an effective life in God. Like the first, it’s not very popular and, to be honest, when you realize how basic this is you’ll probably put palm to forehead for the proverbial Dumb Slap. Admittedly, we can be pretty dull bulbs at times. I mean, how often do we ignore a life lesson, marching around the same mountain again and again and again? I know I’ve worn out a few sets of emotional Nikes! I want to return to the Bible passage I referenced in the first posting When Jesus Doesn't Work. It’s packed with all kinds of good stuff.
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’’”
“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.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. ~ Matthew 19:16-26
Faulting the young man for walking away is easy. And, congratulating Jesus for calling out the significant issues in the man’s life - a lust for wealth and prosperity and an unwillingness to surrender - is also obvious. But there’s a life practice the young man aces. Obedience. Notice Jesus doesn’t chastise the man for the question, and He certainly doesn’t give an esoteric answer. But what this passage does affirm is this, obedience to the clear teachings of God always precurses a call to the deeper life in Jesus.
The Jewish man is looking for life beyond this life - the crux of Jesus’s earthly purpose. “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Obey the commandments,” Jesus responds. Badda Bing, Badda Boom! Disobeying the basics can disqualify us from participating in the treasured riches of the Kingdom. And they always come at a cost! I know I’ve often sought a richer intimacy or revelation of Jesus only to be halted by disobedience. Now, to be clear, God’s blessings fall on the pious and the putrid, on the good and the bad. Scripture says, “…He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45b So, we have to be careful not to live presumptively, thinking blessings indicate acceptance or difficulties point to rejection.
“Don’t be sorry, just don’t do it again.”
When I was in ninth grade, I had an excellent English teacher, Mr. Reich. He knew his stuff and was serious about teaching. On one particular day, I was goofing around in the back of the class, being disruptive, doing stupid stuff. He called me out, loudly! Being a good Catholic boy, I quickly chirped, “I’m sorry.” hopefully covering my indiscretion. But it didn’t. Much to my humiliation, in front of the entire class, Mr. Reich growled, “Don’t be sorry, just don’t do it again.” Wow! I wasn’t expecting that! But he was right. Don’t say you’re sorry, just obey the stated rules! It was an amazingly embarrassing moment as the rest of the class gawked as witnesses, but it taught me incredibly valuable life and spiritual lessons. Biblically stated, obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).
When you’re frustrated in prayer, fed up with life, when Jesus just doesn’t seem to work, take a moment from your tantrum and tears and survey your life. Ask yourself the hauntingly probing question, “Am I being obedient to the basics of what God has called me to be or do?” Doing this, I’ve put my palm to forehead, realizing Jesus does work! It's not his fault, I’m just not being obedient!