November 23, 2019

Good Teacher, What Must I Do . . . ?

Luke 18:15-25

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

—  Luke 18:18

“A certain ruler”—probably from the synagogue or local government—approached Jesus, asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He wanted the same assurance Jesus had just given for little children.

Jesus’ answer to this man was, in short, “Everything or nothing.” Either keep God’s law perfectly on your own, or accept that no matter how hard you try, you can never guarantee that you’ll inherit eternal life. No one can keep God’s law perfectly, of course. So we must receive his kingdom like little children, who simply trust their parents and caregivers to provide what’s good for them.

Jesus also saw that this man still lacked one thing. So he said, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Faith in Jesus means following him in this life, giving our all to his kingdom. The man was saddened by Jesus’ response, and he went away (see Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22). For him, Jesus’ advice to sell everything, give away the proceeds, and follow him was a deal-breaker.

Is there a deal-breaker for us? Is there anything we can’t bear to give up to follow Jesus? If we think we can gain the kingdom of God on our own terms, we are mistaken. But if we can accept that God has already graced us with eternal life, then we’re certain his gift is secure.

Lord, help us to think wisely about eternal life. Reassure us that in you our inheritance is secure, and free us to follow you with all our heart. Thank you, Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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