Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus replied. …..If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew19:16-22)
Do you remember when you first went to Motor Vehicles to replace your old license and get a super-duper TSA-approved photo ID license? There was a list of documents that you needed to present to get it. I was sure I had brought enough of them along. But then the DMV worker said, “Sorry, these credentials are insufficient.” I asked, “What do I still lack?” After hearing what I was missing, I went away sad. I had to go home and start all over again.
Now let’s talk about the eternal credentials we need.
Jesus spoke today’s verses right after he talked with the rich young ruler. This ruler presented his credentials to Jesus: He viewed himself as a fine upstanding young man, a good and moral person. He thought he had all his credentials in order, and Jesus would give him a hearty welcome into eternal life. But he walked away when Jesus told him to sell his possessions. Being good and moral were not sufficient credentials.
Jesus knew that this young man’s issue was money, but we can extend that and see that really, Jesus is talking about anything that keeps us from loving God with all our heart and soul and mind. And we all have obstacles that prevent us from doing that.
Indeed, Jesus tells us that we are Klingons. We might cling on to material goods. Or cling on to a phony idea of what the good life is. We need to stop being Klingons. For myself, what I was clinging onto was how much smarter I was than those cretins who believed the Bible.
But how can we possibly stop clinging on? The disciples had the same question. These astonished guys asked “Who then can be saved?” Then, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26)
It is God who gives us the genuine credentials. First, by grace, he has drawn us in to believe and to be adopted into Jesus’ family. As this happened to me, I discovered that people who believed the Bible were not cretins after all! Next, grace gives us the heart to stop clinging on to substitutes for Jesus. This allows us to have even more of him—-I know this process is far from done but I am thankful it is continuing!