The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book I’ll be releasing with B&H Publishing on February 1, 2013 entitled Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You are Saved.
The young financial advisor was genuinely learning to love Jesus. Though he hadn’t grown up in a religious family, he was fascinated by the message of this strange, wonderful, enigmatic Man. For many years he had been aware that something was missing from his life, and he was convinced he had found the missing piece in Jesus. During an Easter service at the exciting, growing church he attended, he prayed to receive Jesus and was baptized the next week.
Immediately he got into a small group. He started to volunteer at his church. He began to “take Jesus into the marketplace.” He re-organized his company around Christian principles. He took his family and many of his co-workers to church. He donated significant amounts of money to Christian causes. In later years, he even served as an elder at his church. He gave so much money that a wing of the new church building was named for him.
And when he died, he went to hell.
Do you believe that is absurd? I have to admit, as I reread the above, it seems so to me, too. But the Gospel of Mark describes just such a man. A seeker of Jesus, Mark says, a “rich, young ruler of the Jews,” came to Jesus, expressing an earnest desire to be Jesus’ follower. By all accounts, he was sincere. He was certainly moral, and he was very responsible. Clearly he was drawn to Jesus. Mark even tells us that Jesus loved him, too. Yet, Jesus turned him away from eternal life. And as far as we know, he never returned.
Jesus had seen something in his heart, something invisible to everyone else but impossible to overlook for God. The man loved his money. Money held a place in his heart that God never could. Jesus exposed all this with one, simple demand: “One thing you lack: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt 19:21).
I cannot see into someone’s heart like Jesus did, and so I could never make that same demand of a seeker. Nowhere does the Bible make actually giving away all your possessions a prerequisite for following Jesus, and we can’t add stipulations and demands to Jesus’ invitation, no matter our intentions.
This story makes clear, however, that if we come to Jesus’ nothing can be off-limits. Absolutely nothing. To possess Jesus, you must be willing to let everything else go to follow Him. We don’t approach Him to negotiate eternal life; we approach Him in total surrender. As C. S. Lewis famously said, “We don’t come to Him as bad people trying to become good people; we come as rebels to lay down our arms.”