2005-09-15 - Erroneous Certainty
Originally Published 2001-02-08
Mark 10:17-22 And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 "You know the commandments, 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" 20 And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." 21 And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22 But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property. (NAS)
This man who confronts Jesus reminds me of myself at many points in my life when I was so certain of my understanding of the scriptures, or my ability to follow Christ through anything, or my humility and selflessness. In verse 20, the man states with conviction, "...I have kept all these things from my youth up." refering to the law that Jesus had just reviewed. I admire this fellow's courage to publicly stand and make this kind of claim. However, what he claims is beyond fallen man's ability to do.
Gal 3:23-25 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (KJV)
The law is the measure of perfection that is required for admission into God's Heaven. Because of the nature of sin that lives within our bodies, our old self that literally is at war with the regenerated spirit in a Christian, it is impossible to live perfectly. Even Paul lamented this condition crying, (Rom 7:24 NAS) Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Paul saw the law as the guide that would show us our absolute desperate need of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. He gives us His perfection to stand before the Father Who will see us as blameless as His Son.
The problem the man before Jesus had, is one that many of us have. It is often refered to as "I trouble". The fellow tells Jesus "...I have kept..." or in my own strength and ability the law has been kept. There was no need for a spiritual rebirth in the man's mind. Jesus showed him otherwise when the Lord asked the man to give away His possessions. The things that he possessed were more important to him than the poor around him. Jesus showed clearly, in hopes of waking him from his delusion, that his heart did indeed need a change.
Not unlike this man, we will stand upon some tenant of our understanding only to find out later that our certainty was based on an incomplete or flawed understanding. There have been things that I would have argued to the end of the day when I was younger. Today I look back and I'm grateful for the people who were so patient with me in my days of erroneous certainty. I was ready to do battle, to debate the points. On more than one occasion I was corrected as gently and quickly as Jesus did with His questioner.
Our response should not be to go away sad. This Christian life is a journey with ups and downs, climbing and stumbling, and growing pains of all kinds. I would rather be shown the error of my ways and be corrected back to the right path of understanding. The alternative is to march off a cliff fully believing the path ahead was safe and level. If we can learn to be a little more humble and open to the thought that without the grace and mercy of God we would not be able to take the next step in our Christan walk, the number of things that we are very sure of would be reduced. Those things would surround the love of Christ, His salvation and work in our lives. In these points there is no doubt other than just how far the extreme depth of each reaches.
Lord Jesus - we don't have to know it all, You already do. If we will humble ourselves, You will teach us and lead us into all truth. Help us to not lean on our own understanding but to reach out and take the good things that You have to give us. Amen.
Grace & Peace,