Rat Race or Rat Trap?

I was cornered by a provocative  question recently while reading the works of some long-gone from this earth Christian writers.

Readers are asked, “What is the commanded biblical response to the Gospel?”

More specifically, the writers challenged, “Whatever one’s response may be, does it align with Jesus’ teaching?” The question is meant to lead one to more questions, such as… why did so many people go away when Jesus shared His truth? An example would be, why did the rich young ruler go away sad (Luke 18)?

In this recorded account, a man with much wealth approached Jesus to inquire about eternal things. “How do I inherit eternal life,” he asked?

How would you have responded to his question? Would you have told the young man who desired eternal life that being a disciple of Jesus would require him to surrender his entire life, even his wealth, to Him? Would you have told him that the only means of gaining true life was to lose this life?

Or, would you have been like me? Would you have gotten excited about the prospect of bringing this man’s wealth onto the membership roll of the church? Maybe you would have deployed one of our common witnessing techniques, such as, “Just ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Instead, Jesus told this man to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow Him. He said that to find the Life he sought, he literally had to dispose of his current life.

The authors of these archaic writings agree, “The Gospel is good news! But it’s not cheap news. God poured His wrath out on His Son to redeem and reconcile His sin stained image-bearers to Himself.”

They continue, “The Gospel is God’s work, not man’s. Salvation is freely given to ‘whosoever will’. It is a gift, and if anything is paid for it, it is no longer a gift.” Repeatedly, these writers insist, “We are saved by grace through faith; by faith alone.”

And yet still, when Paul gave an invitation to those on Mars Hill (Acts 17), he didn’t offer a sinner’s prayer, the signing of a card, or the shaking of a preacher’s hand. He declared that God commands all people everywhere to repent, because one day Jesus will judge the world!

So what response did Paul expect? What does he mean by the term, repent? Does it include turning from a life of self-serving materialism? Think about Peter’s survey of his and the other disciple’s lives… “we have abandoned everything for You (Luke 18:28).”

Consider the many times Jesus equated faithful service to Him with a denial of self-indulgence.

Does this create a personal challenge for us? Can we create a defense for the American dream? Can we find comfort in a biblical example of our lifestyles in this nation? Or… are we also called to rid ourselves of the weights that may hinder our faithful service to our Lord, just as the rich young ruler?

After Pentecost, what was the mindset towards this by the young church? We’re told that they sold their possessions and gave to those in need (Acts 2: 45). While we desperately try to explain away Jesus’ blunt honesty when dealing with a man consumed by materialism and worldliness, it seems the same honesty must have been relayed to the early church. Want to hear something truly exciting? Unlike the rich young ruler, they didn’t leave in sadness (2: 46, 47). Will we?

About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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14 Responses to Rat Race or Rat Trap?

  1. lambskinny says:

    Shared with my friends on FB. Thanks Michael. Humbling, challenging… God bless, Carley

  2. Jeff says:

    This is scary stuff, here. I’ve often wondered, is it possible to be saved and NOT be a disciple? Every time I read the words of Jesus when he says that we forsake all to follow him, I’m terrified, because I haven’t forsaken ALL! And truly, I don’t know anyone who HAS! You read my posts. You see how much I struggle with all this “stuff.” I hope that the fact that it frightens me means that, perhaps, I’m okay and that his grace has saved me through the gift of faith that he gave me.

    I pressed “like” at the end of this entry. But I don’t really “like” it, you know? Your questions are too hard. I do believe that Jesus’s answer to the rich young ruler was specifically to him only. Jesus knew his heart. He knew what the young man’s answer would be before he gave it. Jesus also purposefully left out the command about coveting. Well, I don’t really know that, do I? But it seems that it was intentional.

    Very challenging words today, my friend. Very challenging. God really seems to be taking me somewhere that is beginning to make me very uncomfortable.

    Grace and peace…

  3. mtsweat says:

    Your words are spoken with wisdom, Debbie. Paul indeed did give up everything. Life as he knew it, and a very good life it would have been, ended… and the life of Christ began. From that day, he knew he lived or died in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he could spend and be spent for the Kingdom. Contentment comes ‘in Christ,’ a complete trust in Him and nothing else.

    Here’s where I believe I and many others are failing miserably. If we truly were trusting Him entirely, many unmet needs would be met. Children would be fed, missionaries would be funded, and who knows… the Gospel might just once again be turning the world upside down. God bless, good friend.

  4. Debbie says:

    I think that possibly Paul addressed this when he said he’d learned to be content with much and with little.
    It is certainly possible to do little with much and much with little.
    Possibly giving up everything is heart of it? To quote C.S.Lewis: We must die while we’re living, there’s no dying afterwards.

  5. TikkTok says:

    Firstly, I’m thinking about Barnabas…. I think the early/new church had different challenges than we have today. In those times, communities took care of each other more/differently. I’d think the widow, who gave all that she had in comparison to the wealthy, who gave physically more, but proportionately less, this is really a reflection of the heart.

    I think that these days, I would think about what’s the most bang for the buck- in the sense of, what can the money do to spread the word. When I think about evangelising and the early church, there was a physical need to travel- there was no other way the Word would get from one place to the other without someone physically traveling. In that sense, it was prudent to sell everything so that traveling light was possible, etc, while knowing that God would provide. I mean, it was Jesus after all. 😀

    These days, there are a lot of ways money can help spread the Gospel. The sticking point, I think, is where you heart is- which, of course, God knows. As a culture, I think we are a lot more cynical, and there are those who take advantage of Christians, even those in leadership positions within the ministry.

    This issue is always going to be a tough topic, imo. If you want more questions, Crazy Love (Francis Chan) (chapter 4) has a lot of really thought-provoking questions….

    No answers from me, but it does get the gears grinding, doesn’t it? 🙂

    • mtsweat says:

      Thanks for the great points. I pulled Chan’s excellent work from the shelf and re-read chapter 4, and you’re right… gears are a’ grinding. He pulls no punches and quotes Jesus, “…Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:31-33
      God bless, and may your chickens come home to roost. 🙂

  6. Jim says:

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

    • mtsweat says:

      Thank you Jim. Some of these writers of old that your posts encouraged me to seek are ruthless. Merciless! Many of these gave more than possessions… they gave their lives. And they expected all believers to have the same mindset. The mind of Christ. God bless

  7. Lady Deidre says:

    Great Post, good thoughts and smack in the middle our commercialism holiday! 🙂
    God Bless You!

    • mtsweat says:

      Thanks Deidre. Maybe it’s the makings for a good New Years resolution? But seriously, I’m really just not sure, so I proposed much of this post in question form. I’m hoping someone with much more wisdom than me comments with some good answers. God bless.

  8. Steven Sarff says:

    Good thoughts. When I don’t think that the command to the rich young ruler applies to me, I then have to wrestle with Luke 12:33.

    I would like to ask and it may seem as if it is an attempt to explain it away. Can selling possessions to help the poor go to far? Can you impoverish yourself and then not be able to help again? Is it proper, wise, and good in the sight of God to provide for a retirement fund?

    • mtsweat says:

      Thanks for visiting Steven. Most of this post is written in question form, because, to be honest, I’m just not sure of where we stand. Of this I am sure… the mindset I normally exhibit regarding possessions rarely resembles the examples we have in Scripture. The verse you offered just compounds the issue further. If we use the teachings from Proverbs to live our lives, then we have an argument to save and prepare, but why didn’t Jesus scold the widow who gave the very last (everything) of what she had?
      Doesn’t the Bible teach that everything is given by God? If we give it away today, can’t He give us more tomorrow? Wasn’t that the message of the manna? Didn’t Jesus teach, “Give us our daily bread.” As I said, I just don’t know. God bless.

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