Becoming a Christian (1 of 2)

rich young ruler 3

Q. I read the entire New Testaments and find that I can be a good Christian. In my mind there are three aspects to it:
(1) following the expectation set stated by the Bible,
(2) my interaction with other people,
(3) the relationship between me and God.
I can do (1) easily including the 10 commandments in the Old Testament. As for my interaction with other people, I can always improve myself and find what is being promoted in New Testament is a very good framework and principles.

Unlike (1) and (2), which are visible and behavioral, (3) is the core of the matter, it is my inner world, like a thought or a desire. I think God can help me the most in my inner world where peace and inner strength can be much further developed.

A. First of all I’ll like to commend you for reading through the entire NT. Most people would not have done that before they decide to accept or reject the Gospel, but if you want to choose wisely that’s the right thing to do.

God Himself said:
Deut 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
• Jer 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

If you do that you will find God in due course.

The three aspects you listed are true, but you have listed them in the reverse sequence. The correct sequence is to start with Jesus first, then you will find reconciliation and peace with God. I don’t know whether that’s what you’re thinking, but some tried to please God by rule-keeping, obeying His laws by self-effort and discipline. I don’t want you to run down a wrong path, so I would like to point out some caveats that have stumbled many people in time past.

I’m sure you’ve read the story of the rich young ruler recorded in Mt 19:16-26, Mk 10:17-27, and Lk 18:18-27. In this story, obtaining eternal life (Mt 19:16), entering into life (v 17), entering the kingdom of heaven (v 23), and being saved (v 25) all mean the same thing. The young man asked Jesus “what good thing shall I do”. The emphasis was on his performance, which is what many people think – by doing good deeds they’ll earn heaven. Jesus knew his heart and tested him by replying “keep the commandments”:
YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER – 6th Commandment;
• YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY – 7th Commandment;
• YOU SHALL NOT STEAL – 8th Commandment;
• YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS – 9th Commandment;
• HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER – 5th Commandment;
• YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

The last one is not one of the 10, but something far greater:
Mt 22:39-40 The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
• Mk 12:31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
• Rom 13:9 … and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
• Ga 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

The young man didn’t know himself as well as Jesus knew him, and said, “All these things I have kept.” I think superficially he had kept the letter of the law, as Jesus felt a love for him (Mk 10:21), but according to the spirit of the law as interpreted by Jesus, he, along with all of us, failed miserably. For example:
Mt 5:21-22 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
• Mt 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Who hasn’t been angry, ever? Who has never had lustful thoughts? We’re all guilty. And that’s just two commandments!

Jesus knew his weakness, so He probed further, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” At this he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. He was unwilling to part with his riches to follow Jesus. His Achilles’ heel was covetousness, or greed.

Everyone has his or her own Achilles heel. For some it’s pride, for others power. Some are addicted to money, or sex, or any other sin that controls them. If we think we can meet God’s requirements in our own strength, we are sadly mistaken, for God’s standard is perfection:
Mt 5:48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
And none of us is perfect, as:
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
You may be able to keep some laws, but remember:
Jas 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
The law is like a chain of links. Even if one link breaks, the whole chain is broken.

So don’t try the performance route. It does not work. The Jews tried to be meticulous law-keepers, but for all their effort they were hypocrites and deserved only “woes”. (Read Mt 23).

(To be continued)

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