How do you know if you’re following Jesus from the heart or if you’re just a rule-keeper? This is a fundamental question because rule-keepers show many of the right actions but are actually lost.
Jesus had an encounter with a rule-keeper (Luke 18) who was undoubtedly a wonderful person in the eyes of everyone. He was a faithful husband and he honored his parents. He didn’t steal or slander or kill and was probably a shining example of what life should look like.
But this guy thought there might be something missing, so he asked Jesus the big question, “What must I do to have eternal life?” And Jesus, telling it like it is, said, “Sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow me.” So, what was Jesus doing here? Why did he answer the way he did?
Jesus met this man on his own terms and showed him that he really wasn’t a good rule-keeper at all. Since this man had perfected keeping the easy rules while completely ignoring the core issue, that’s where Jesus went. In telling this man to sell everything, Jesus was merely moving to, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
This man felt good about himself while he was ignoring the basic realities of what it actually means to be aligned with God. He was completely deceived. He should have dropped to his knees in repentance but if following God meant giving up his deepest idols he would rather walk away from God.
A rule-follower is someone who is not seeing Jesus as the treasure that is worth everything:
“The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13:44
For Christians, the beauty of Jesus and his cross-work should put everything in perspective. A joyful life of serving King Jesus should emerge as our core ambition and we should embrace what this rich man wouldn’t:
“…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:33
Jesus, please help me see your beauty and show me my idols. I don’t want to be a rule-keeper. I want you to be what I live for.