HOW TO BE GOOD
Why is it so hard to be good? Paul said “the thing that I would I do not and what I would not I do.” We struggle to be good. Maybe we have set our sights to low. Christians are never challenged to be average. We are always challenged to excel. “Do all to the glory of God.” Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). So let us not simply try to be good, but rather let us try to be an excellent Christian.
DISCUSSION OF THE SCRIPTURE:
Be a Follower
A rich young ruler approaches Jesus with the sincere goal of Heaven. He asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). This humble quest of eternal life has been repeated in the Bible. In Acts 2:37, 3000 souls cried out “what must we do?”. In Acts 16:30 the Philippian Jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And so this young man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to be saved.
The young man recognized that he had a responsibility in his own salvation. Jesus is the “author of eternal life to all those who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). Honest hearts throughout the New Testament and today ask “what must I do?”. Jesus answers the question in two parts. First Jesus says “none is good but God alone.” If we will be or find goodness, we must look to God who alone is good in himself. Second, we look to God’s revelation of his own character–His commandments. Jesus then quotes the commandments of the Decalogue which pertain to the relationships between individuals. It is curious that Jesus does not mention the commandments that relate to God and man. The rich young ruler says that he has kept (KJV, ESV), observed (RSV) from my youth.
Jesus not only saw this young man’s request, but he saw his desire. Just as Paul “lived in all good conscience before God” this young man believed that he had done so as well. Then Mark tells us that Jesus “looking upon him loved him” (emblepo Mark 10:21).
However, our story takes a turn here when Jesus invites the young man, not only to be good, but to be a true follower. The young ruler had not wronged anyone, but was he willing to give his all for Christ? In order to truly follow Christ, the rich young ruler would need to “go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). The young man was willing to do nothing wrong, but he was not willing to do everything right. “His countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
In order to be saved, in order to be a Christian, and in order to do great things for Christ, we must truly entrust ourselves entirely to Christ. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). And in Matthew 6:24 we are told, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
It is our responsibility to trust and obey. In this way we can do great things for Christ. If we never truly trust him, we will never truly obey him. William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, was well like by the indians and they told him he could have as much of their land as he could encompass on foot in a single day. Early the next morning he started walking and continued to walk into the night. When he finally returned the Indians were terribly surprised, because they didn’t think he would take them seriously. But they kept their promise and gave him the land that is now part of the city of Philadelphia. Penn simply believed what they said. Should we do less with God’s promises?
In Mark 10:29-31 Jesus said, “Verily, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Who will truly follow Jesus?
Be a Sacrifice
Following Christ inevitably involves sacrifice. The rich young ruler was willing to abstain from wrong, but he wasn’t willing to sacrifice for what is right. Jesus stands out as the one who has sacrificed all to do what is best for all. The complete denial of self for the enrichment of others. Jesus said, “Behold we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again” (Mark 10:33).
He paid it all. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (1 Corinthians 5:21 NASB). In shameful blasphemy the High Priest tore his robes and said of Christ, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witness?….What is your judgment? They answered, ‘He deserves death.'” (Matthew 26:63).
There is a picture in Milan which represents a little cherub trying to feel one of the points of the Crown of Thorns with his finger. A look of wonder is on his face; he has been told that it means agony, but he cannot feel it. It is all to him incomprehensible. The cherub cannot understand because he belongs to a different world; he was never born into that condition in which sin, suffering, and sacrifice are necessary terms of awful import. Yet Christ was willing to sacrifice–to suffer the just for the unjust.
Peter said that we must be mentally prepared and physically willing to be holy. 1 Peter 1:15-19 says, “Be ye yourselves holy also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, ye shall be holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear: knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things…but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:15-19). Being holy requires being a servant. Paul said we are to have the servant mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). James says that “Pure religion and undefiled before our god and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Therefore, if we are to excel as Christians, we must be willing to sacrifice. The most beautiful picture of sacrifice is that of Christ’s. The second is that of a mother. The mother endures the ordeal of pregnancy in order to accept the pain of labor only to selflessly give herself to the same child for the rest of her life. Should we not equally pour ourselves into the sacrificial service to our God (Rom. 12:1-2)?
Be a Servant
True faith and sacrifice leads to continual service. The incarnation did not occur that Christ might be served on earth, but so that Christ could serve the earth. Apparently, James and John had trouble understanding this mindset. They came to Jesus with a request for prominence–“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37). Jesus lovingly adjusted their attitude by saying, “But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).
In John 13 we see the often forgotten picture of Jesus washing his disciples feet. Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Verily, Verily, I say to you, a servant is not better than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (Jon 13:14-17).
This servitude is possible because we have died to self and live for Christ (Galatians 3:20). In 1852, the troopship Birkenhead struck on a sunken rock off the African coast; she had on board soldiers and 124 women and children. The women and children were ushered into the boats, but there was no room left for the soldiers. The men, drawn up by their officers as on parade, saw without a murmur the boats shove off, and went down with the sinking ship. The word of command was given by Major Seton, ‘Stand still and die like a Englishmen’; which they were willing to do in order to save the 124 grateful women and children.
Let us give our lives as servants of Christ. No longer live for yourself, but rather give yourself only to Him who loves you and promises you eternal life and unfailing love. Serve Him by serving others. Serve Him by spreading His Word. Serve Him by loving and training your families for dignified Christian lives. Serve your Lord. Serve your King.
INVITATION FROM THE TEXT:
One of our songs say, “I gave my life for thee, my precious blood I shed. That thou might’st ransomed be, and quickened from the dead; I gave, I gave my life for thee, what hast thou giv’n for me?” Will you give yourself to Jesus today? Will you become his great servant? His hero of faith?