Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Mark 10:21
This is sometimes called the story of the rich young ruler. He asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life. He was following God and keeping the commandments, he said, from his youth. But Jesus mentioned that there was one main thing in his life that he should consider and change. For him, it was the love of money that hindered his completely pleasing God. In your life, it might be something else. II Corinthians 13:5 says to examine yourself. As you do this, you should consider that Jesus said to take up the cross and follow Him. In other places in Scripture, He was clear to say that it was your cross you were to take up. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed about the actual and literal cross that He would endure for our redemption. He resigned that He would do the Father’s will and not His will. This is the cross that you are to also take up. This gives insight as to why it is your cross and not just any cross. It’s personal. It involves your will. Like Jesus, we should always desire to do the will of God instead of our will. And we should examine ourselves and consider if there might be even one thing we’re lacking in our desire to please God.
With the rich young ruler, it was his love of money that was hindering his walk with God. That’s a problem with a lot of people. Too many people fail in their faithful giving of tithes and offerings to a good local church, to good ministries, and to the poor. For others, it’s their time. Many people are too busy doing their own thing instead of making sure that God is first in their lives. Contrary to the Bible, they do forsake the assembling of themselves together with other Christians. Many are not faithful to attend a good church regularly. Many do not take time each day to have a personal time of fellowship with God in prayer and the Word. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God, not second or third. With some, it’s personal desires and ambitions that hinder their growth in God. Others have bad habits, fleshly desires, and temptations. The devil will even tempt people according to their own physical desires. It’s personal. That’s why Jesus said to take up your cross … meaning, you decide that you’ll not do your will, but you’ll do God’s will in every area of your life. Even if there’s one thing you lack, you’ll also make that correction and decide to obey God in every area.
Hebrews 12:1 says for us to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us, and run the race before us with patience. The writer here in Hebrews is comparing our living for God to running a race for the purpose of winning a prize and reaching a goal. Our prize is pleasing God; our goal is being more like Jesus … and completing our life on earth as having done that throughout. You don’t run a race while wearing weights. People sometimes argue and reason that something might not be a sin, but I often ask, is it a weight? Does it hinder you from growing in God? Does it hinder you spiritually? Does it affect your testimony and your spiritual effectiveness to others? We should lay aside any sin that easily besets us, but that’s not all. We should put off weights … anything that hinders our living for God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Mark 4, Jesus gave the parable of the seed and the sower that sows the Word. He mentioned four types of ground, which are four types of hearts. Only one type of heart was called “good ground” and brought forth fruit. In many churches there are Christians that are not fruitful. Some are like the stony ground. They have hard hearts. At first they receive the Word with gladness. They start off excited about God and His blessings and His life. But as Jesus said in Mark 4, they endure only for a time. When hardship comes, they fall away. Jesus said that the afflictions and persecutions come for the Word’s sake. The devil wants to attack and steal the seed of God’s Word in the hearts of the hearers. So, hardship comes in an attempt to test the integrity of the heart of the believer. Jesus said some are offended by this and endure only for a time. He called this the stony ground. We need to watch how we react when afflicted and persecuted. Some people quit under pressure. They stop believing the Word when something contrary happens to them. Some people stop coming to church because of how they were treated. We certainly should strive to treat people right, but we also should purpose to not be easily offended. It’s often best to decide to stay in that church, overlook some things, forgive some things, and grow in God. People with stony hearts often eventually stop living for God. But there is another type of ground, another type of heart, that doesn’t stop coming to church or living for God. These people do endure hardship. They are willing to stick it out, so to speak. But they have other things also in their lives that choke out the fruitfulness of the Word of God. In Mark 4, Jesus called these thorns. He said these thorns were “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in.” These are three areas the Christian should examine very closely. Does the world pull at you and hinder your service for Jesus Christ? Is money, obtaining it and keeping it, more important than serving Jesus Christ? Do fleshly desires and yielding to those temptations hurt your heart, your growing in God, and your testimony for Jesus Christ?
In I John, there are three things mentioned we should guard against: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. I John 2:15-17
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16
Some people like to drink hot tea. Some like it cold. Some people like hot coffee and some drink iced coffee. There are drinks people have hot and others people have cold. Jesus said, when the Christian is lukewarm, He would spew him out of His mouth. It takes effort to keep a drink hot or to keep a drink cold. Leave a cup of tea sitting and do nothing, and before long it becomes lukewarm. And it will take more than some little half-hearted attempt to get it back hot or cold again. Take that cup of lukewarm tea in your hands and just blow a little warm air on it. That’s not enough to get it hot. It takes effort and desire to keep a drink hot or cold. Jesus doesn’t want His people sitting and doing nothing. Jesus doesn’t want His people lukewarm. We are to seek Him with our whole hearts. We are commanded to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. And if we love Him, we’ll obey Him.
Let’s examine ourselves and consider if there is even one thing that we lack in wholly serving God and our Lord Jesus Christ. We can humbly approach our God with true repentance, He will forgive us … every time … and also strengthen us and enable us to follow Him.