What Do I Do?

I have been so excited all day about writing this post, but here I am, finally back in my dorm room, sitting on my bed with my veggies and hummus, completely at a loss for how to begin this post.
How about this?
God rocked my world today.

And He is about to rock yours.


Do I have your attention?

Good. Let's proceed.

**Note: before I begin, let me note that I am not some advanced Biblical scholar with a master's degree in theology or anything like that. I am just a girl who loves her Father and feels like He has given her a new perspective on an old story that needs to be shared. I am by no means trying to discount or devalue any of the other perspectives on this story; I am just sharing it in a new light.

**Note 2: I firmly disbelieve in lengthy posts without pictures, so as you read, please enjoy the pictures of our family cruise last summer...

Wait wait wait! I forgot to announce that yesterday was officially National Sibling Day! Says who? I have no idea, but apparently everyone believes it, so let's just go with it (Good philosophy for life, right?). And since I am normally a little late to the party, and I didn't post any pictures of my beloved siblings yesterday, here you go!

I have no closer friends on this earth than these two people. Together, Micah and I are a humble, witty, sarcastic, charmingly-talented pair; Sis, on the other hand, well, unless you are a twin, the relationship we have is not really explainable. Let's just say, she is my other half, almost literally.

You two fill me with much glee. I feel so blessed that God put us together. Love you!

Now, away with the sappy stuff! The actual reason for writing this post begins... Now!

So, most of us who have been in church for the majority of our lives, or have gone to Sunday school, or have heard sermons about money, we have probably at least once in our lives heard the story of the "rich young ruler." If you haven't (which is perfectly a-okay!), let me do a quick recap. In fact, we will let the Scriptures do a quick recap (and then I will re-recap...):
18And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22When 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.” 23But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. Luke 18:18-27 (ESV)
Basically, this very wealthy man comes up to Jesus and asks Him what he needs to do (remember that, the man asks Jesus what he needs to "do") in order to get to heaven. Jesus tells him just what he told Moses in the Old Testament: follow the commandments. The man confidently claims that he had kept them all, every single one of them.

Then Jesus takes it further:
Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
As an answer to what the young man must do to go to heaven, Jesus gives the him three tasks:

  1. Follow all of the commandments.
  2. Sell all that you have.
  3. Follow me. 
The wealthy young man told Jesus that he had followed the first one; he said that he had kept the commandments.Next, Jesus tells him to sell everything he had. Note that the outcome of selling all that he had was treasures in heaven, or life in heaven, depending on the translation. The third directive that Jesus gave the man was to come and follow Him. According to Jesus, the man could follow those three things and receive eternal life.
The man asked Jesus what he needed to "do" to get to heaven. Let us step away from the story for a moment and ponder the question, "What can you do (physical actions that you can take) to be saved?"

*ponder... ponder... seagulls... boats... ponder... ponder ponder...*

And the answer is... Nothing!

If you have read any of my other posts, you know how I feel about this. God is holy! I mean, Holy. As in, we would more than likely spontaneously combust from His righteousness before we could even get close to being in His pure, undiluted presence. Remember Moses, how, so he wouldn't blind the people of Israel, he had to wear a veil over his face after only getting a glimpse of the backside of God on Mount Sinai! Remember how the priests, when copying the Scriptures would wash themselves and change their pens (er, quills) after writing the very name of God. Remember how the High Priests had things tied to them when they entered the Most Holy Place so people could pull them out if they happened to die while in God's presence?
Our God is holy, and just in case you need reminding, we are not. How could we even come into his presence, let alone live with Him for all of eternity, without being absolutely perfect?
Well friends, we can't.

That's why, you know, Jesus came, lived the perfect life, died on a cross, defeated sin and death and took our place. Because of our sinfulness, we are completely unworthy and literally unable to be in God's holy presence while shouldering our sin; thus, Jesus came and took our place, became our sacrifice, and now bridges the large chasm between our sinful selves and God's perfection.
So, we cannot do anything to save ourselves. Anything.

Now, back to the story...

The rich--and oh so naïve--man basically asked Jesus, "what must I do to be saved?" "What action should I take" "What should I accomplish in my own power that will get me to heaven?"

Jesus answered him pretty straightforwardly: if you want to get yourself to heaven, then become me.
Now keep with me for a second, okay?

Jesus asked the man to "follow" him. The Greek word for "follow" Jesus uses in verse 22 is the word ἀκολούθει, which is most commonly translated as... "follow" (shocking, I know?). This word is commonly referenced in scripture when Jesus was asking His disciples to follow Him.

When I think of the word follow, the first thing that comes to my mind is a mother duck with all of her little babies in tow. They are all waddling behind her because they know that she is the leader and she will protect them and get them where they need to go. This type of explanation for follow is the most common one that I have heard in respect to this passage of scripture. However, this word follow, of ἀκολούθει in the Greek, also means to "to cleave steadfastly to one, conform wholly to his example, in living and if need be in dying" (1).
In this sense, Jesus was telling the young man that, in order for him to get himself to heaven, he not only had to follow Jesus as a leader, but he also had to fully conform to the image of Jesus. He had to, in a sense, be Jesus (more on that later, just stay with me).

Jesus further complicates this man's plight by analogizing it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a wealthy man to enter heaven on his own goodness alone. In other words, it is impossible.  I have heard this story preached from the aspect of money many times, and I am not trying to argue for or against any of those specific teachings, but--as I said in the beginning--this is the same story from a new perspective.
If you think about it, isn't the fact that we are not able to get ourselves to heaven one of the foundational beliefs of the followers of Jesus? Don't we believe that is only through Jesus that we are made sinless before our Father?
Jesus doesn't say that it is impossible for a rich man to get to heaven through the saving grace of Jesus; Jesus says that it is impossible for a rich man to get to heaven based on his own works. How do we know this? Because then Jesus says that “[w]hat is impossible with man is possible with God"--almost like Jesus was saying, "man can't get himself to heaven, but that is pretty much why God sent me here, so I could do it for them." [Don't quote me on that; Jesus did not say those actual words... but you get my point.]

So, why did Jesus ask the wealthy man to sell everything he had? Well, Jesus came to be the lowest of the low, the indiscreet, the humble, the sinless, the sacrifice for all of the world. Scriptures say that Jesus has in "every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (2). Jesus has suffered what all of mankind experienced, all the way down to the very poorest person. Jesus did not come to live a wealthy, affluent life; he did not come to spend his days partying and having fun, then, at the very end of his life, to easily and quickly give up his life for the salvation of the world. No, Jesus did not need wealth and affluence here; His kingdom is firmly established elsewhere. Jesus came to live among his people; He came to know what it feels like to be despised and rejected and mistreated and disrespected. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" (3). He knows what we are going through because He has experienced it.
Now think for a moment, what if that was what Jesus was telling the wealthy ruler: if you want to get yourself to heaven, you are going to have to live my life. You are not only going to have to perfectly keep all of the ten commandments, you are also going to have to see the things I see, experience the pain I experience, show the compassion that I show, and be looked over and mistreated as I am.
What if Jesus was not telling the man that his wealth was bad, but Jesus was trying to show the young ruler how incapable he was of getting himself to heaven, how incapable he was of being the perfect sacrifice. For the young ruler to have had saved himself by his own works, he would have needed to have become like the only One who ever lived that was able to live a life worthy of the Father's love: Jesus. Instead of asking Him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life," the rich young ruler should have asked Jesus, "Oh Master, please extend your grace to me because, despite my best endeavors, I have no hope of attaining eternal life for myself. Please help me, Jesus."
I wonder if Jesus would have responded differently to that?

What if this story is not only a story of money, but a story of salvation? Instead of a sad story about a man who wouldn't give up absolutely everything that he had to gain eternal life, maybe this could also be a story of a Man who came to do all of the things that we couldn't do in order to freely give us abundant and eternal life with Him?

I want to point out that I do believe that we can screw up our priorities in life and not allow God to take the place in our lives that He needs to (I have done it before; in fact, I am pretty sure that surrender is a continuous process. It's not just a one time thing, it is a constant renewal of our entire lives to God's plan and purpose for us, sort of like when I am writing an English paper and trying desperately to make each topic sentence of each paragraph tie back to my thesis statement. Whoa, I am incredibly sorry for the grammar reference; I will try my hardest not to do it again. No promises)
ANYWAYS... I am not discounting that the young rulers wealth might--in his particular case--interfered with his ability to serve God; however, as I said earlier, this is the story from a different viewpoint.

This whole spiel was not meant to offend anyone who has heard their entire lives (like I have) that the story of the rich young ruler is a story of a man with misplaced priorities and values. It very well may be; however, I think this is also a beautiful story and another example of Jesus subtly telling people: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me." John 14:6

So I challenge you to see this story from a different perspective today. What if, through this story, Jesus was trying to show the man that no one could ever "do" enough to enter the kingdom of God-- no one except Jesus himself.

Don't ask Jesus, "What do I do?" Just accept what He has already done.

|| The End ||

Wait, not quite the end:

Ok, now its the end. This is a food blog after all, people.
*Hmm, and it seems to be growing less and less so by the day...*

|| The End: Part 2 ||

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