21st Sunday after Pentecost 14th October

Mark 10:17, 27
A man ran up to and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.

I wonder, have you ever asked that question before. What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do to get salvation, to get God to love me, heal me, save me? We want these good, holy things, what must we do to get them? I’ve heard this question quite a few times, ‘Have you found Jesus?’ ‘Have you given your life to Christ?’ I’ve even heard some answers as well, but these answers often focus on what you do, what you must do to inherit eternal life.

So I ask you, what must you do to inherit things from your parents? Do you need to keep your room clean? Do you need to exercise well and eat healthy? Maybe be successful in life growing your own family, or growing wealth and benefitting others? Perhaps you need to get your parent their hearts desire before you can inherit from them? Or do we inherit from our parents because we are their children? Not because of what we have done but because of who we are, part of the family.

How did Jesus answer the rich man? Have you kept the commandments? Do not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, defraud, and honour your parents. The young man says, he has kept all these from his youth. It’s good to hear he hadn’t killed someone, or committed adultery, and has always honoured his parents, but we know that God is stricter on His rules than we are. Jesus says on the sermon on the mount, that anyone who is angry with a brother breaks this commandment, and anyone who looks lustfully at someone not their spouse commits adultery. In our secret thoughts and desires we reject God’s will and go our own way, the way of sin and death. We could ask, ‘in your life have you ever wanted to lie if you could get away with it, wanted to injure, to steal, to disrespect your parents?’ This is God’s Law, God’s Commands. They show us how we should live, what we need to do to be righteous and holy; but they also reveal to us how we fail to live up to these commands, like a mirror shows who we truly are.

And if we’re thinking, ‘I can do all that, be kind and caring to those people I meet.’ Jesus left out the first 3 of our Lord’s commandments, “You will have no other Gods, but Me” He says, “Do not misuse My name” and “remember My holy day and keep it holy.” When we rely on anything that is not God, we reject His commandments; when we use God’s name lightly or fail to use it at all, we reject His love; when we forget the gathering of God’s people, when we ignore God’s Holy Word and when we give no time in our lives, week, or day for God, we reject His care and His truth. God gave these ten commandments, this Law, for you to help you and guide you, but do we even always remember them let alone always keep them?

Jesus said to the young man, ‘Go, give up your reliance on money and wealth and devote your entire life to Me.’ And the man went away severely distressed. And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God.’ And His astonished disciples said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ I understand that astonishment and the deep sorrow of that rich young man, and I’m sure that there are those who get it so much more than me. To be crushed by that weight of expectation, on my best day I don’t think I fully keep even half of God’s Law. And to fail every day at anything can be soul crushing, bringing us into despair. Or perhaps to deal with it we convince ourselves that we are actually doing ok and do keep God’s Law, and so ignore God’s Word of truth in arrogance and pride as the Pharisees did elsewhere.

These are the two bad understandings, despair and arrogance, we come to when confronted by God’s Word of Truth, With man this is impossible. You cannot do anything to gain eternal life, nothing you could do could remove your sinful desires and your continual failing. It’s as if you were dead trying to make yourself alive. The man asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ what did you do to inherit your life here on earth? Nothing, you were given life by the grace of God your Heavenly Father, through your mum and dad. With man it is impossible, but not so with God. For with Him all things are possible. Just as mothers love their children, God loves you unconditionally. You cannot make God love you, but He already does. You cannot make God forgive you, but He does in Jesus death, by His blood. You cannot make God give you eternal life, it’s impossible for us to earn it, but Jesus has earnt it for us and freely gives it to us by the Holy Spirit.

God tells us this wonderful truth through Paul, “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7). It’s impossible for you to make yourself righteous, to gain eternal life, so God has done it for you and freely gives it to you in Jesus Christ our Saviour. In His mercy He saved you through baptism by the Holy Spirit, adopting you into His family, making you an inheritor of eternal life (Romans 8:15). That is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. By yourself, by your work and effort you cannot gain eternal life, but In Christ God has given life to you. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. You are in the Kingdom of God, and by God’s marvellous grace you do inherit eternal life.

His peace which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

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