I am loving this series that we are doing at Parkway. It is a church-wide emphasis and both the adults and the teens are in small groups each week along with the Sunday morning message. This series is both challenging and inspiring.
This past week, we asked the question, “Who or what influenced you the most in knowing what following Jesus was all about?” It was interesting to hear the answers from our students…almost all (without exception) said that their parents were the most influential in learning how to follow Jesus. I would say that in my life, my parents were influential in that regard. In addition, there were my friends at Trinity Wesleyan Church in Allentown, as well as our youth leader and his wife who did a great job. (I am always amazed that the great job volunteer youth leaders do. They serve with passion and intensity and they love their teens.) Audrey and Barry were quite influential during my high school years in shaping what I thought it meant to follow Jesus. In addition, there was the passionate music of the era. The Christian music wasn’t so much aimed at worship, but in teaching. One of those artists who was greatly influential was the late Keith Green. He challenged me what it meant to follow Jesus.
Over the course of the night, we discussed with the teens the importance of making faith their own. While it is great to have your parents, youth leaders and friends teach you how to follow Jesus, it only really becomes part of your life when you make it your own. I remember those formative teen years and the faith of my parents became my faith in Jesus – their influence, my youth leaders influence, and even my pastor’s influence.
Later on in the lesson we turned to the scripture (Matthew 19:16-30):
16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” the man asked.
And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
This young man, who apparently has much money comes to Jesus. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him that to do that, he must keep the commandments.
The young man replies, “Which ones?” I find it interesting that the young man asks this question, as if he didn’t know. We often talk about the ten commandments. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and the second was like it to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus goes on to list the last 5 commandments – the ones that talk about loving your neighbor. The young man says, “I’ve kept all those, but I’m missing something.” I think Jesus knew there was a heart problem with this young man. He knew that this young man was more attached to his possessions than he was to God. That’s why Jesus didn’t quote any of the first four commandments. Because all of those commandments, speak of loving God first and foremost – with all of our heart, mind, and soul.
I often have suggested that commandments 1 through 4 speak of loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and commandments 5 through 10 speak of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus when quoting the great commandment said that on this commandment hang all the law and the prophets.
The young man was disappointed with Jesus’ answer, perhaps he thought he could buy his way into the Kingdom.
This leads us to the question, “What is keeping you from following Jesus?” Many years ago, Michael Card wrote the song, “What would it take to keep you from Jesus?” What is the obstacle that is standing in your way of following Jesus? Is it money or possessions. Is it friends? Is it power? What? I encourage you to search your heart today. Instead of being a fan of Jesus, which I believe this man wanted to be, be a follower — be a fully, committed follower.