A Choice That Forfeits Heaven

Matthew 19:16-30 — What would it take for you to make the choice that forfeits Heaven?

I’ve got to hand it to Jesus — He just didn’t come across as “seeker friendly” all the time. The event recorded in this passage could be among the exhibits portraying that truth. So I remind myself of this tidbit in Mark’s record: “Then Jesus beholding him loved him” (Mark 10:21).

That aside, I hadn’t remembered that Jesus “tossed in” an item not in the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” And He “tacked it on” after citing only five items from the Ten Commandments.

Well, after noticing that, I took another look at those five, wanting to see what Jesus omitted. He left off the “Top Three” (which are most directly God-ward!), the fourth one (about remembering the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy), and the last one (about covetousness).

I don’t want to make any big deal of this silence or omission, but I’m particularly fascinated by Jesus’ not raising the first three with this man wanting to receive eternal life. One easy conclusion from this is that this fellow didn’t need to be told something he already knew and lived as best he could.

Thing is, he also claimed to live according to all the other commandments Jesus cited. And Jesus didn’t challenge him about the claim!

And yet, the young man wasn’t persuaded he would inherit eternal life. (Or else he was, and wanted Jesus to confirm that.)

Who Said Anything About Being Perfect?!

Then Jesus seems to dramatically shift the focus and emphasis of the discussion: “If thou wilt be perfect…” This fellow’s interest was in what his lot would be after death.He was determined not to make the choice that forfeits Heaven. Jesus expanded his attention to encompass perfection and fulfillment in this life. And how He did it still shocks and unsettles me, for it hits so close to home, even though I’m among…

(Hmmm. An interruption. I guess you’ll have to go to Panting Hart to read the rest of what I wrote early in the morning of January 22, 2018: A Prescription for Fulfillment.)

Committed to One Thing?

Ah, me. This passage, this verse, this lesson.

“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way…give to the poor…and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).

  • How committed am I to living by God’s commands and precepts?
  • Would I allow “one thing” to keep me from inheriting eternal life?
  • Am I too attached to my stuff to give any of it away at Christ’s command?
  • What should motivate my giving to the poor?

Excerpted from The Gain in Giving

They didn't make the choice that forfeits Heaven -- Behold, we have...what shall we have? (Matthew 19:27)

More questions to chew

Do I value anything above perfection and above entering into eternal life?

Do I think Jesus required too much of the young man?

Since it impedes entering into the kingdom of heaven, why get more stuff?

Do I doubt my reward for having forsaken all to follow Jesus?

Can we be too obedient? in avoiding the choice that forfeits Heaven?

Many have the mentality that obedience has certain limits. After all, this life view goes, once a person has obeyed “a whole bunch” without fussing, surely he is entitled to not obey a bit here or there. This way of living uses a balance — once enough obedience accumulates on the one side, a little disobedience is tolerable on the other. You know, just a little, just so the scales doesn’t tip too much on that side. How easy it is to look for all kinds of loopholes and excuses and justifications for passing over God’s will! But we don’t think of it as making the choice that forfeits heaven!

The rich young ruler had such a terrific track record. And yet he must have sensed something was lacking, or else he simply wanted the Lord’s confirmation that he lacked nothing. In any event, after hearing Jesus’ answer it appears he concluded he had already obeyed enough and he wasn’t going to overdo it. Presumably he wasn’t in the audience when Jesus declared, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).

Where do you draw the line?

The young man wanted eternal life. In his effort to secure it, he had developed a life track record of living in obedience to the Law. It seems clear he had a sterling character and a great reputation. But he lacked something, and he knew it. It probably didn’t make sense to him, given all he had done. So he went to Jesus, knowing the Master would give him a clear, authoritative answer.

He wasn’t mistaken. Jesus told him plainly what one thing he lacked. Jesus told him to live for Him and nothing else. That meant even greater self-sacrifice than he had already experienced. It also meant greater material sacrifice than he had previously rendered. And all that meant too much, even for him, who had done so well up to that point. He had been willing to do a lot for God and for others, but “this one thing” that Jesus talked about . . . well, that was just too much. That’s where he drew the line. So, sad at the saying, he “went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).

Where do you draw the line?

At what point do you decide that eternal life just isn’t worth further obedience?

Perhaps you prefer not to think in such stark, black-and-white, take-it-or-leave-it terms. I don’t blame you. Such a line of thinking makes me uncomfortable as well. But let me remind us both of this: Personal comfort will never make it easy for us to enter into the kingdom of God. So let’s face the reality that a choice for disobedience means undervaluing eternal life.

Some folks will risk missing eternal life because they value something else too highly: possessions, status, pleasure, relationships, plans. Other folks will chance limited disobedience on the assumption that all their other obedience will stand them in good stead at that final day. Whatever it may be, these people face up to a demand of discipleship and despite their faithfulness to that point, draw the line right there. They refuse that certain step of obedience, saying, “This is the limit. This I will not do. I do not intend to be a rebel, but everyone has a stopping place. This is mine. God and others see all the other things in which I’m faithful. God will understand.” They are so foolishly mistakenin making that choice that forfeits heaven! But what about you . . . and me? Where do we draw the line? And why is that any better than where others (such as the rich young ruler) have drawn their line?

(Excerpted from one of my older Sunday School lesson commentaries as found at Anabaptists. Do click the link to read that lesson in full.)

Additional Reading about A Choice That Forfeits Heaven

Now we are listening for you...

Above all, love God!
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