Being Freed from Works-Based Religion 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 and he laid his hands on them and went away. It was customary for parents to bring their children to rabbis and to Jesus for prayer and blessings. Jesus stated, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matthew 18:5). MeadowBrook and other churches should look for opportunities to pour into the youngest generation. 16 and behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 and he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” and Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 and Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” We don’t need to build a spiritual resume; we need a redeemer. The man of Matthew 19 wasn’t on the true pathway to enter the kingdom of heaven—the journey of salvation is a path of truth, humility, repentance and surrender. The man was on a path of works-based religion and self-righteousness. Salvation is never based on merit. No matter someone’s level of spiritual achievement or accomplishment, everyone falls desperately short of God’s requirement for life, which is perfection, sinlessness. Don’t let that be disheartening. At the point of recognizing the folly of our self-sufficiency, we can recognize more easily the wonder of the sufficiency of Christ to reconcile and redeem us to himself. “The real evil is that we trust in our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see [what] Christ has done for us… It is your goodness more than your badness that separates you from God.” (Martin Luther, Preface to Galatians) Salvation is the work of God in the lives of people who humble themselves with repentance and belief in Jesus. When children came to Jesus in humility, they received a blessing from him, but the rich man came with difficulty and walked away because the kingdom of God was closed to him. One of the chief strategies of Satan against people is to blind them of their sin. Self-righteousness causes greater blindness and self-deceit. Such people don’t sorrow over their sin. Without sorrow, they don’t humble themselves, and without humility they don’t repent, and without repentance there is no salvation. Repentance is essential; it is our turning away from sin and self; it is turning to God. Being good is far short of God’s requirement for living; he requires absolute perfection, sinlessness. We are in need of a redeemer, someone to remove our sin, make us new in spirit and declare us right before God. Jesus knew that the man worshipped the idol of riches and materialism, so he called him to repent—to turn from such idolatry by selling everything and give it to the poor. The call of Jesus is to cast off idols, which look different from person to person, although the requirement of wholeheartedness is the same for each. Jesus requires us to seek first the kingdom of God, a small price when measured against the riches of the kingdom of heaven that we receive. Imagine Jesus standing before you, saying, “Go and remove this from your heart and life.” What is that in which he would he be referring? It is what stands in the way of you having the fullness of the kingdom of God. Possessing the kingdom of God far exceeds anything offered in the kingdom of the world. 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:13-30 ESV) Such a statement of truth and reward by Jesus helps us as his followers to not be so prone to go back to old idols and old ways of the flesh. Knowing and serving Christ is the great calling of our lives. His call is simple—love him and love others. If we live accordingly, then we will be rewarded in heaven.