What do we have to do if we are going to be holy? I think the story of the rich young ruler can give us some insight:
17 As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him, knelt down in front of him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except for one—God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Never murder.’ ‘Never commit adultery.’ ‘Never steal.’ ‘Never give false testimony.’ ‘Never cheat.’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’” 20 The man replied to him, “Teacher, I have kept all of these since I was a young man.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. Then he told him, “You're missing one thing. Go and sell everything you own, give the money to the destitute, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me.” 22 But the man was shocked at this statement and went away sad, because he had many possessions (Mark 10:17-22; ISV).
This is one of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus. The reason I like it is because I identify with this wealthy young man. I identify with this young man because we both share the security of wealth. While I am not wealthy compared to most people in this country, I am wealthy compared to most people who have every lived.
I identify with this young man because we both grew up knowing right from wrong and doing our best to do what is right. We have failed, but the moral life is something that we both desire. I appreciate his desire to live according to God’s standard.
I identify with this young man because he had a desire to know God and to get to heaven. That desire burns in me as well. I want to strengthen my relationship with God and to eventually be with Him in heaven. This is a guy I think I could have gotten along with.
It is because of this identification that I see this story as a warning. It is a warning because after his encounter with Jesus he went away sad. He was not willing to trust God, to get rid of his security, and follow Jesus. In other words he was not willing to be separate from the world. When we follow Jesus we separate ourselves from the world. We are no longer guided by its value system, we no longer pursue its goals, and we no longer accept its version of truth. This young man was not willing to live a holy life, instead he chose to remain part of this world.
I bring this up because what gets in the way of holiness in our lives are those things we cling so tightly to right now. Those things that we think make life worth living. For the rich young man it was his wealth, for me it has been freedom. I want to have the freedom to watch what I want to watch and buy the things I want to buy and go to the places I want to go. What is it for you?
Holiness is the result of following Jesus. Until we give up our security, our life, and follow Jesus we will never be holy. By not following Jesus we allow ourselves to be influenced by the world and thus we remain part of this world. Holiness requires a separation, that is why it requires giving up our security and following Jesus. If all we do is give up our security, whatever it is, then sooner of later we will find some other worldly value to replace it with it. Following Jesus is the act of replacing the old security with faith in Christ. Remember this: Following Jesus makes us holy.
When the rich young man left Jesus he went away sad. Why? The Bible really doesn’t say, but I imagine it is because he realized that his attachment to this world cost him eternal life. His unwillingness to separate himself from this world meant that he would forever be a citizen of it. He lacked the faith to trust God with his life. Do you?