Good Life

Clergy column: Eternal life is inherited by grace

The Scriptures hold enumerable insights into the heart of God and while at any moment in time, we can have revelation we’ve never had before, the overriding question will be, will I put the revelation into practice as it confronts my choices and life?

As an example, in the Gospel of Mark, (10: 17-31), we find a man confronted with such a revelation, and his choice is recorded for our benefit.

A man, described in the Gospels as a rich, young ruler, confronts Jesus to inquire what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him what he needs to do — keep the commandments — the man says he’s been doing what is required, but Jesus opens him up to a greater revelation along with a treatment plan to follow but the man goes away grieving because he won’t follow the treatment plan. There were more important things to him than having eternal life.

The truth is that we too make choices of allegiance and priority. Most of us don’t ever consider eternity, because how do you wrap your head around the absence of time? We are Earth-bound, time is all we know. But Jesus says to the man that if he wants to inherit eternal life, all earthly encumbrances and works he’s allowed to measure his spiritual progress need to be shed.

Working at salvation, trusting in your own efforts to receive spiritual blessing will not get you eternal life. Jesus is saying, “Let go of that which has hold of you (his wealth and the accouterments that go with it), give it all to the poor, then follow me.” But he couldn’t make the leap — he was tethered to his possessions, he was worshiping the idol of materialism.

Jesus loved the man enough to tell him the truth — that’s agape love. If we have any thought that our works will get us to heaven and that we can have mixed allegiance, biblical truth needs to be applied.

Our inheritance of eternal life is by grace alone, it’s not earned by following rules, and comes only as we appropriate by faith the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Inheritance is a family gift by the grace of God. Jesus bought that for us on the cross. If I’m not in that family, I get no inheritance of eternal life.

In the case of the man in scripture, keeping rules was all that was required, yet he failed to realize he had been breaking the foundational first commandment,“You shall have no other gods beside me.” His self-effort reflected the god whom he believed in and trusted most — himself — not the God whom he thought he knew.

Friends, we are there too. Consumerism, materialism, hedonism, existentialism — they’re all gods we bow to and they have hold of us big time. You can’t have one foot in the kingdom of God and the other in the world. If that revelation or conviction comes, listen — the Holy Spirit is speaking.