Daily encouragement

Video by

Stuart Poteet

Discipleship Pastor

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Matthew 19:16

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

Behind the Scenes

I have a confession. It's one of my more embarrassing memories as a "churched" kid, but I think it's instructive for our chat today. I distinctly remember sitting in the youth pew at my childhood church, communion cup and cracker in hand, staring  out the stained-glass window during a time of prayer before we took communion. In the church tradition I grew up in, we were taught that the moment before taking communion was a personal time to pray, confessing one's sins and getting your heart right with God. I must've been in sixth grade or so on this particular Sunday, and I remember thinking to myself: I don't think I really have any sin to confess this week...

You know those moments where you are like, wow, they completely missed the point! Yep, in hindsight, that was me. It's completely cringe-worthy to think of such a response now, of how blind I was to the pervasive effects of sin in my life. But, praise God, the grace of Jesus over our missing-the-point moments is wide and deep. In fact, Scripture shows us another man who similarly missed the point as he talked to Jesus. In Matthew 19:16, a man comes up to Jesus and asks him, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" I imagine, depending on his mood, this question completely amused or completely irked Jesus - there's so much wrong with it! Let's look at just three problems with his question and the heart posture it reveals.

Make it Real

  1. Teacher - A Teacher talks about something, but the Lord speaks with authority over what is his. This man treated Jesus as someone to tell him about eternal life, not someone to surrender his life and allegiance to personally. Are you looking to Jesus to punch your ticket to eternal life? Or are you coming before him humbly as Lord over your whole life, both now and in the life to come?
  2. What good thing must I do - As was common in his day (and ours), this man assumes a works-based theology, asking what good he has to do to get what he wants. He assumes, as I did when young, that as long as the ledger is clean, as long as I do good, I should have good things coming. Have you found yourself asking God what you need to do to be on his good side, to get what you want? It's okay, friend - me too. But let's repent of that perspective. When we're in Jesus, we are part of his family, heirs to his house and heaven through the grace of God and covering of Jesus alone. No seemingly sin-free slate due to our good behavior will earn us a thing.
  3. To get eternal life - This man thought eternal life was something to be had, achieved, or possessed by a person. But Jesus takes this misunderstanding and shifts the man's perspective to see eternal life in a deeper, more holistically relevant way.

He says, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments" (v. 17). Jesus invites the man into a deeper life and perspective with these three sentences. First, he points the man to the truth that Jesus is Lord, not just Teacher. Jesus is good because he is LORD, and the Lord is good. Nothing we do by comparison, even our best work, will ever compare. And Jesus knows it. In fact, it's why God hatched the rescue plan to save us - the cross. He knew we'd never be good enough to enter his holy presence on our own.

But I also love the final shift Jesus offers this misguided man: He tells him, not how to get eternal life, but how to enter it. It's as though this eternal life, although real and tangible too, is an ever-present reality when we are in Jesus. And we enter eternal life - live inside this Kingdom, one might say - when we "keep the commandments." It's as though the guidance and direction of the Lord (the commandments) aren't a divine test to see if we're worthy of getting a prize at the end of this life, but rather a way of living that leads to real and eternal life - both now and forevermore.

Which of these shifts do you most need to allow Jesus to make in your heart today? Is Jesus inviting you to start seeing him as the LORD of your life, the only One who is good and worthy? Is he inviting you to stop keeping a mental ledger of your goodness for the week, hoping it will get you a prize at the end of this life, and instead put your faith solely in his work and goodness? Or maybe he's inviting you to enter this deeper, real, abundant, eternal life - today. It's for our future, yes, but it's for today, too. Scripture teaches us the commandments, the good way that leads to this abundant life. So, as Jesus said - Do you want to enter life?

End in Prayer

If so, we need to pray! Join me...

Jesus, I want the abundant, overflowing, real life that you came to bring your people! I'm tired of doing things my own way, trying to earn your favor. Please forgive me - I know you've already bestowed your love on me. Teach me to walk in your ways and keep your commandments, because I know they lead to this deeper life - both for my now and my forever. You are so good, amen.

Written by

Kimber Gilbert

ACF Devo Team Leader