“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” Luke 18:22. The ruler had approached Jesus with “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Now, to the ears of Western culture, this may sound like he was looking for a once-and-done task that he could complete and then rest easy until eternity. Jesus does tell him that there’s one thing he lacks but then concludes with “come, follow me.” Jesus was not keeping the man away; his wealth was. The Greek words for ‘do’ and ‘follow’ have ‘abide’ in them. When we sing the song, “Abide with Me,” we want God’s presence dwelling with us, yes, but for that to happen we must be willing to abide with Him, like the ruler initially wanted to do. We can’t do that if we have something that comes between us and God. First we must remove whatever that is, and then the invitation is open; Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away. Let us not be like the ruler who, when he heard that what stopped him from abiding with Christ was not something he was willing to give up, went away sad. What do you lack to abide with Christ?
“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” Philippians 1:23-24. On this day that so many celebrate death as something to fear, we who have hope recognize it as something “far better” because it means we will “depart and be with Christ.” This understanding comes as we study God’s Word and obey the gospel but deepens as someone close to us who is in Christ transitions into His loving arms. For a Christian, death is just a change of address. Paul understood this, and that is why he struggled between the two paths we all have. He knew what he would choose but knew also that as long as he still had breath, he had work to do—as do we. It may be fun to dress up at this time of year and get together with friends to enjoy life in this festive season as long as we aren’t a stumbling block to the lost around us who don’t yet know the hope that is found in the One who conquered death. And, while we do it, perhaps we can strengthen the saved and lead the lost to the hope of the gospel. About death, are you living for Christ to be, as the KJV words it, “in a strait betwixt two”?
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28. As the leaves die and fall off the trees and the air turns colder preparing for a season of dormancy, many decorate and don costumes that elevates the world’s fascination with fear and death. And, to those who don’t know the power of the gospel, the fear of death is the ultimate reality. That’s why Halloween has become the favorite holiday among many younger people without the hope of Christ —because they can confront their greatest fear in exhilarating or sometimes comical ways. We, who do have that hope, know that through His death Jesus destroyed the one who had the power of death and kept us in slavery to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-18). We fear only God who is our Judge and gladly obey His commands out of reverence for Him. To us, “There’s a Great Day Coming,” but this hymn is scarier than any song about ghosts, old houses, or dark cemeteries as the third verse speaks of the end for the unrepentant sinner who does not fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Is it a sad day coming for you?
“‘… For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” John 18:37-38. In the position he was in to administer life or death, Pilate must have heard a lot of lies. The answer to “Are you innocent?” was never the truth from people literally trying to save their own skins. Some were crazy and believed themselves to be something that they were not. But Jesus … He was different. A king, you say? And neither lying nor crazy. If anyone could tell it would be Pilate. Even his wife had called him righteous and suffered in a dream about him. He certainly didn’t look, act, or have the credentials of a king, but his soldiers could see to that. Then, breaking into Pilate’s morally relevant understanding of the world, this king, for a king he must be, states that what is happening to him is the very purpose that he was born and come into the world. Die to enter his kingdom? Who’d die for a lie? What kind of kingdom is this? Not of this world, he said? Heaven, then? His subjects? Not the Jews as they handed him over. Will they die for truth as well? Will you?
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” Matthew 7:24.
You probably can’t read this passage from the Sermon on the Mount without the children’s song running through your head. In this very simple illustration, Jesus makes us reflect on which foundation we build our lives. If sand, it will crash; if rock, it will stand firm. The third stanza of the song states this very thing: “So build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ ….” In another song, we speak about where we place our hope: “My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame [thing of this world], But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” So is it? Do you truly put all of your future on Jesus’ blood and righteousness and not gamble your eternity with God by living for this world? How you live determines where you are building your hope—in things that are temporary or eternal. But “when He shall come in trumpet sound,” if we have lived for things above, then we will be “faultless to stand before the throne.”
By your life, is it “on Christ, the Solid Rock” you stand, finding “all other ground is sinking sand”?