“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Every child in America has been asked this question. I once heard a comedian say his mom asked him the question. He replied, “I want to grow up to be a comedian.”
Jesus seems to have said we can’t grow up and get into heaven. In Luke 18:15-27, parents were bringing their children to Jesus for a first century version of baby dedication. The disciples were trying to stop this spontaneous event, but Jesus said the now famous line, “Let the little children come unto Me…” But He didn’t stop there He went on to say, “I tell you the truth, unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
There was a certain religious ruler there. He was listening intently. Jesus’ statement created a crisis of faith for this man. He was rich. He was religious. God certainly was blessing him. So he honestly asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
First, Jesus recognized this man’s understanding that He was the Messiah. Second, He told the man to obey the commandments of God. But the man answered, “I have kept these ever since I was a boy.”
Here is the bad news: Religion is spiritual insurance that will never payout. Insurance is a good thing. It is risk management. It is paying a little now to protect ourselves from a huge loss in the future. The problem is people turn to religion for so called “eternal fire insurance.” They go to church, throw a little in the offering plate, do a good deed, and hope somehow the good out weighs the bad when they die. But religion will never get anyone into heaven. Jesus is the only way to heaven (see Acts 4:12).
When Jesus heard the man’s answer, He stated it plainly for him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor. And then come and follow Me.”
When the man heard what Jesus said, he became very sad. It broke his heart. In the first century, the popular religious theology taught that God blessed the holy and righteous with wealth. However, this man’s religious commitments and wealth were standing between him and following Jesus.
Jesus identified an idol in the man’s life. His wealth. He told him to sell everything. Jesus isn’t against wealth; He is jealous of idols. I have noticed idols that seem to permeate our culture include but are not limited to the following three categories:
- Cravings – What things to you crave in your life that draw you away from following Jesus? Another way to understand this is appetite. If you are hungry for other things, you lose your hunger for God. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
- Comfort – We love our comfort. And it isn’t just physical comfort. It includes relational comfort. Faith is risk. You cannot follow God and be comfortable. He has a mission to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and there is an enemy “roaming around seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
- Celebrities – We tend to compare ourselves to those we think are gifted and spiritual superheroes. We don’t think we can do what they do so we cheer them on from the stands. God’s kingdom is not made up of superheroes. We have One. The rest of us are just ragamuffins (see The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning). God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). As Kyle Idleman says, God is not looking for fans but followers.
Jesus is not necessarily telling everyone of us to sell everything and give it to the poor. But I believe He is saying to everyone of us to sell out to the Kingdom of God.
After His challenge to this certain leader, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth it is harder for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” Given the theology of the day, this put more people in a crisis of faith. The people listening asked, “Who can be saved?”
Jesus’ reply, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Here is the Good News: Jesus makes the impossible, possible!
Can I really go to heaven? Can I really have assurance I will be saved? The Bible says so. “We are saved by grace through faith, not by works…it is a gift of God” (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus makes the impossible, possible.
Can I really follow Jesus? Can I really do the things He did? Jesus thinks so. He told His disciples that we would do even greater things than He did (see John 14:12). Jesus makes the impossible, possible.
To “become like a little child” is to trust Jesus to make the impossible, possible. #simplefaith
What stands between you and following Jesus?