Roger's Postings

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mark 10:17-27.                       Eternal Life - human impossibility!                14/10/12

 (17)  As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" {18} "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. {19} You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.'" {20} "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." {21} Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." {22} At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. {23} Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" {24} The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! {25} 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." {26} The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" {27} Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

 If I were to ask you the question: If you were to die today, would you be sure that you would go to heaven and that God would let you in?
What would your answer be? Seriously, would you be sure that you would be there; and if so, Why?

There are many people today – and many in our own community here who assume so and who will say something like: ‘Yes, I suppose so. I am as good as the next bloke. I have done the best I can. I go to Church - even if it is only occasionally, and I try to do the right thing; most of the time anyway. I haven't been any worse than the next guy. So yes, I am sure I'll be right.

 Well look at this needle. You probably can't see it because it is so small. But those people with that attitude that I have just mentioned, have got as much chance of getting to heaven as they have of going through the eye of this needle, unless there is a major shift in their thinking. Many of the people with that kind of attitude are in for a huge surprise, and are on a one way trip to Hell. Even more sadly there are many so-called ‘Christian’ preachers who are encouraging just this kind of thinking. They like these others will also face the full wrath of God.
But what about you? Where do you stand?

We all need to ask the question that this rich man asked: "What must I do to receive eternal life?" But here we must hear Jesus' reply; and not short-circuit the issue. Jesus says to us all: If you want to get yourself to heaven, then go and keep all the commandments – perfectly. Do not commit murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not accuse anyone falsely. Do not cheat. Respect your father and mother. Do it all it without fail: With no slip-ups at all. Then on top of that, how about, loving the Lord your God above and beyond anything else; including your money, yourselves, your rights, or anything else. Not taking the Lord's name in vain. And keep Sundays as a day of rest and to the glory of God: Again without one mistake. Do all of that and eternal life is yours.

Like the rich man here, we often think that we are not too bad; and by the standards of this world, maybe we are not so bad. But by God's standards of perfection, we have failed miserably. The rich man even though he had done very well, we hear that he still lacked one thing: his treasure was in his wealth and not God. And because we are like him, we find it so hard to give up having and doing those things which are against God. So we also can often only hang our heads in shame.

 The long and short of it all is that if we want to gain eternal life by our own efforts, we are in trouble. Sadly we all place too much emphasis on what we have to do, and usually it is our perception of what and how good we think we are to be. Our focus is on the things of this world and what our world thinks is good with regard to our receiving eternal life. Too often we fail to measure ourselves by God's standards; and in so doing we desperately try to gain eternal life by squeezing ourselves through ‘the eye of a needle.’ It is an impossible task. Doomed to failure. Our wealth; keeping the commandments; our Christian knowledge; nothing we have and nothing we do, will get us to heaven. We just cannot do it by ourselves. It is an impossible task. We need to very clearly realize this and understand its full implications. When we look here, to ourselves, we find nothing but failure and eternal death: we have an impossible task in front of us.

 But thankfully that is where Jesus reminds us again, that what is impossible for us, is not impossible with God. With him everything is possible. We have failed to live perfectly as God would have us, so God sends his very own Son Jesus to live as a human being, with no more power and strength than what we have available to us. He sends him to live in our world and to go through everything we have to go through and more. Then he offers his perfect life as a sacrifice, to pay the penalty for our failure. There on the cross our perfect brother takes our sin on himself. He takes the full punishment of God, that should have been metered out to us, on himself. There, in place of our sin, he gives us his perfection and eternal life. Through what Christ has done, ‘the eye of a needle’ is no longer an impossibility. Heaven is offered to each and every one of us freely. Nothing now in all creation stands in our way.

 So what do we have to do to gain eternal life? Nothing! It is given to us freely, without us having to do anything. The impossible is now possible. It is a reality. All we are called to do is believe this Good News and then go on and live in light of it: that is seek to live as God would have us live.

 But sadly, the rich man forfeited what was given to him; and many today are doing exactly the same thing. They don't believe it and will not trust that this is the case for them. They would prefer instead, to carry on as usual; ignoring what is their's and thereby losing what is given freely to them. They are not wanting to trust Jesus more than their money, knowledge or something else.

 On top of that, they are often told in a round about ways, that we have to do this, that or the other in order to gain eternal life and they believe it, because it fits with what our sinful human pride wants to think. So these people go through life with their false delusions and inner sadness. Because they have lost sight of the reality of our true situation before God; they fail to come to terms with our imperfection and thereby try to downplay the wrath of God. Then also, what God has done for us through Jesus Christ is of no great consequence.

 There are others also who are forfeiting what God has made possible for them through Jesus Christ, or who are in great danger of doing so. These people seem to have this idea that: ‘Hey, I'm Christian. I have heard all this stuff about Jesus. I was baptized and so I am a part of the Church, even if I only go occasionally. So she'll be right.’ Then they think that they can go and live and do as they please. In so doing they are not trusting Jesus and what he has said and done for us. These people are in danger of merely using this as an excuse to justify themselves. They are trying to put a leg on each side of the fence and think that they can get away with it. But in reality they are in great danger; because again they have failed to see, or want to see, what our failure to live by God's commands really amounts to. There seems to be no comprehension of the pain and agony that the Lord Jesus went through for our salvation: or that it does matter if we fail to live the way God wants us to. So they are in many ways turning their backs on Jesus and failing to believe what God has to say to us.

 What we are reminded of, here again, is that God can and has done the impossible for us. He has gained eternal life for us: this same God has a better way for us to now live and act here on this earth. Trusting that he has gained eternal life for us, now means that we can trust that in midst this mess that we have made for ourselves, that he does have something to say that can make life easier for us. Now because we have gained eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we now need to seek to live by the Ten Commandments and everything else that God has taught us: Trusting that this is a better way for us. Who are we fooling if we think we can say yes, I believe in Jesus, but then live and act in complete denial of this truth. We are in danger of having the same attitude as the rich man, and so losing out on eternal life.

 So again I ask, where do you stand? If you were to die now, would you be going to heaven? Can you say with confidence that you will? Not because of anything within you, but because of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. I pray that this is your answer, so that we all will be joined with God in heaven. Let us not forget that eternal life is a human impossibility because of our sin. But also that through the Lord Jesus, God has done the impossible for us. With that knowledge we can now then live positively and confidently as he would have us, each and every day of our life here on earth. So to him again then, be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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