“On Your Mark”
Repentance is Visible (Chapter 10 Verses 17-31)
The answer to the young man’s question is given (v19). The first thing he must learn is that he can never earn salvation, never obtain it by doing. So Jesus points him in the direction of the law, knowing of course that that will highlight, instruct him with regards to his sin (Galatians 3.24). The commandments Jesus quotes here are the ones most people claim never to have broken, you know, never harmed anyone, we have all heard it. And that is exactly what the man claims (v20), even since he was a boy. He must have been a good boy is all I can say! But of course there are people who are brought up in a very disciplined environment, well-trained and morally good, and it may even include a religious flavour, but that is not being a Christian. This man would be the pride of many parents, a prize for some young lady, and the majority of our evangelical Churches would welcome and give him a place of prominence today. But he is not saved, he is not a Christian, he is utterly self-righteous (Luke 18.9-14).
But O the love of Jesus, that desires to set this young man free. He hands him a spiritual knife (v21), go and cut the covetousness out of your heart, then follow me. But without that spiritual surgery, without a deep work of repentance and a following of Jesus by faith, there can be no eternal life. What is required is one singular thing, because repentance and faith are so close, so inter-related that they virtually constitute one action, but it is this he lacks. Why? Because (v22) he was not willing to climb over his wealth (1Timothy 6.10; John 5.40). The outward act of giving it to the poor, not in itself a saving act, would simply have been the outward reality of an inward repentance. It is faith in Christ and that alone that saves (Acts 16.31). We do not know for sure the final outcome, because change does not always come at once. Perhaps there would be an inward struggle for some time with the young man, before the point of committal came, if it did. But true faith always leads to a commitment of obedience to Jesus Christ (Matthew 16.24). Many Christians talk like Jesus was real but act like he is not. Our true commitment is ever gauged by the way we act, not the way we talk. Our faith is proved by our committal to obedience and in no other way.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)