Friday, September 28, 2007

So close but yet so far...

I really could keep on posting in the series called "The Vast Sea of Grace" forever because that's really what I love to write about all the time anyway! I think a summary of it all would be that we need to be rooted, grounded and established in God's love and grace before we can begin to expect any true godly fruit to come forth out of our lives.

A branch on the vine doesn't simply figure out what kind of plant it is and then look at the vine for instructions on how to bear fruit and then simply go about producing fruit. The branch "rests" (remains, abides) in the vine and draws all life and sustenance from the vine, and eventually (not immediately nor forcibly nor due to compulsion) the branch bears the fruit that the vine itself produces. It's a natural process, and if the branch tries to "help" the vine (such as when Abraham and Sarah tried to help God fulfill His promise that they would bear a son), the fruit that is produced is not God's natural fruit, no matter how lovely it might appear.

The rich young ruler was perhaps thinking that his "fruit" (keeping the commandments) was more than adequate to justify himself in front of a holy God. Jesus, by pointing out just how far short this man fell, caused him sadness as he realized he wasn't nearly as close to the kingdom of heaven as he thought. He went away sad, because just a few moments before he had considered himself close to the kingdom, but he now realized he was a lifetime away, because he hadn't realized that in order to come to God, he must give his entire life away.

IF ONLY he'd received the revelation that the Apostle Paul would eventually receive. (And perhaps one day he did receive this revelation). You not only have to give your life away, you have to die. But this death, of course, is not a death in which you physically give your body or your possessions away. It's a spiritual death, in which you give up any and all notions that anything you do - any of your law keeping or giving away of your possessions - will bring you even one step closer to God. You must die and be born again.

This can never happen through any of our own efforts. Out of this death - in which God places us on the cross with Jesus - comes a resurrection with Christ and the born-again life of a New Creation. The problem with the rich young ruler wasn't really that he had failed to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Let's just say he'd heard Jesus' words and said, "OH, YEAH! THAT'S WHAT I'M MISSING!" and then went and sold all he had and gave to the poor. Let's just say he then came back to Jesus, thinking that now he could truly justify himself in front of the Lord. Could he? Would he now be justified? Would Jesus say, "Well done my good and faithful servant, now you can enter into the joy of your Lord?"

NO! He still hadn't died to his self-efforts. If Jesus' point about the true depths of loving your neighbor as you love yourself hadn't driven this man to grace, perhaps Jesus could have then given the man an even bigger scenario about loving the Lord your God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind and ALL your strength. No matter what, I think Jesus would keep giving the man more and more and more of the Law until he would finally get the point that he could never do it.

I guess you could say that this man was "so close but yet so far away" from the Kingdom of God. Far away, because to him it was still about what he could and couldn't accomplish. But oh so close, because perhaps his next step would be to realize that all of his self-effort was DUNG and all of his self-effort was RUBBISH (see Phil 3:4-9), and if he would only chuck it away and come into the Kingdom by grace alone, then he would truly give his life away and then be given new spiritual birth - a new life as a new creation, joined to the Vine, joined to God and one with Him, and now finally able to truly begin the process of bearing godly fruit.

Entire "Vast Sea of Grace" Series:
Prelude: Just follow the Word, right?
The Vast Sea of Grace: Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4
Summaries: >So close but yet so far< -- Far Cry -- Be a Man


  1. Joel;

    Fabulous series on grace!

    Very encouraging thanks a lot!

  2. Thanks LivingSword... Grace never seems to get old. :-D