One thing thou lackest...
"And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running and kneeled to him, and asked him, 'Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, 'One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross and follow me.'" (Mark 10:17, 21)
You're familiar with this story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked what he must do to have eternal life. You will also remember that he went away sad when Jesus gave him the criteria for eternal life. The young man had done everything that he thought he should do, yet Jesus told him there was one thing that he still lacked. What was it? Was it to get rid of his riches? Was it to give to the poor? No. Even though Jesus pointed to these things, the thing that he lacked was his willingness to "follow" Jesus. He wanted eternal life, but not at the cost of following Christ. Sounds familiar today. People will turn to God because they are afraid of going to hell and burning for an eternity, and true we are saved from eternal damnation, but God hasn't just saved us from hell. When we think about eternal life, we think of it in terms of being saved from hell..."fire insurance". Though this is one part of it, not going to hell and living in heaven with the Lord throughout eternity, God views eternal life differently.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) How do we receive everlasting life? "Whosoever believeth..." The Greek word for believeth means- to entrust one's spiritual well being to Christ; believe, commit, put in trust with. So, we see that the word believe doesn't just mean to be convinced about something; "even the devils believe and tremble" (James 2:19) It goes further than having a mental knowledge that you accept as truth. It means to believe to the extent that you will commit your entire being to that which you believe in.
As we look in the scriptures, the first message Jesus preached when He started His ministry was, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) The word repent means- to think differently, to change the mind, to reconsider. When we repent, we are changing our mind and opinion as to the nature of sin and we now choose to think the way God thinks instead of the way the devil and the world thinks. The next thing we hear from Jesus after He called men to repentance was, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19) Jesus's entire message was...repent and follow me. Three times in the scriptures we hear Jesus calling men to repentance, but eighteen times we hear Him say the words, "Follow me." He spent more time calling people to follow Him than He actually did calling them to repentance. So, does that mean that repentance is not necessary or important to salvation? Absolutely not. The only way you can truly be a follower of Jesus is if you have repented, if you have changed your mind about sin and taken on His way of thinking.
Let's talk about the word follow for a moment. One meaning is made up of a combination of two Greek words. One means- to come hither!, the other means- to the back. There is also another Greek word for follow that is defined- to accompany, to be in the same with, hence, one going in the same way. When we put the meanings together we get a clear picture of what He is saying. Follow me- come here, walk behind me, walk in my footprints, follow in my steps, go the same way I'm going, and in the same direction I'm going in. When we said that God has a different view of eternal life, we discovered that His view equates following Him with eternal life. Am I saying that you aren't saved if you aren't following Christ? Let me put it this way, if you are saved then you will follow Christ; you will want to follow Him.
The rich young ruler wanted eternal life, but he didn't receive it. Why? What held him back? What was the "one thing thou lackest" that kept him from receiving eternal life? It was his unwillingness to follow Christ. What would cause him to be unwilling to follow Christ, especially since he was desirous to have eternal life? In his case, it was his riches...or rather, his love of money. His riches stood in his way. He couldn't seem to let them go no matter what it may cost him in the long run. This same reason holds so many people back today. "And Jesus looked round about, and saith, 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, 'Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!'" (Luke 10:23,24)
What holds people back from following Christ? What is it that they not willing to lay aside in order to inherit eternal life? What is more valuable to them than eternal life? For each it may be something different. The list is endless.
"Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, 'Come; for all things are now ready.' And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go see it: I pray thee have me excused'. And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused'. And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come'. (Luke 14:16-20) Consider how foolish these excuses were. And that is exactly what they were...excuses. We can never come up with one good "reason" for not following the Lord. Buying a piece of ground was not a good reason, but a poor excuse. Who would buy property without first going to see what they would be paying for. If that was the case, how did he know he was making a good investment and not getting "swamp land" instead? Consider the man who had bought the oxen. In his case, he had already seen what he was buying, now he wanted to be excused so he could go "prove" them. He wanted to go try them out, test them, and see if they would meet with his approval by doing a good job in the fields. Another poor excuse. This man was invited to supper. Around here our supper time is in the late afternoon. Who would have been hooking up oxen to plow at that time of day? They would have begun their work in the morning, not at the close of the day. Our last example was one of a man who had married a wife. It never said when they got married, it just said that he had married. So were they still on their honeymoon? Maybe they were already celebrating their first anniversary. At any rate, the one giving the supper surely was aware of the fact that this man had a wife and no doubt extended the invitation to her as well. We are no different than these. We offer God one excuse after another (some of them are pretty lame) as to why we can't follow Him. The Bible speaks of others who said they would follow Jesus, but on their own terms. "And he said unto another, 'Follow me.' But he said, 'Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father'. And another also said, 'Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house'." (Luke 9:59,61)
Have you met the requirements for eternal life? Have you repented and are you following Jesus? If not, what is holding you back? What is the "one thing that thou lackest" that keeps you from coming to Christ? If you are following Jesus, are you following Him whole heartily, without reservation? Or is there still "one thing that thou lackest"?
Other than the excuses that we have already looked at, let's talk about some more reasons why we hold back from following after the Lord. King Saul didn't follow the Lord whole heartily. Remember, Samuel went to him on two occasions and rebuked him for not obeying the commandments of the Lord. (By the way, keeping His commandments are part of following the Lord. When we are obedient we are following in the footsteps of Jesus, because He was obedient to His Father's will.) Saul's reason was pride and fear. He feared the people, he feared the enemy, and he didn't want to do anything that would make him look bad in the eyes of the people. You can't follow God when you are so concerned about other people's opinion of you. Is that what holds you back? Man's opinion is more important to you than God's?
What about reputation? Are we afraid of what type of reputation we might get if we follow the Lord and are obedient to His commands? Are we afraid that they will call was a "Jesus Fanatic", or a "Jesus Freak"? Maybe we are afraid that they will think that we think we are "Holier than Thou"? Are we ashamed to be "labeled" for Christ?
Maybe you're afraid that you will loose your social status in the community. Maybe they will kick you out of the club. Maybe you won't be nominated for a certain position that you were aspiring to. Is social status more important than "God status"? (Don't miss understand, there is nothing wrong with having a position in your community. Christians need to be in key positions for the glory of God, but this should not be what's most important, or more important than following Christ.) This brings us to another reason...rejection. What if the world rejects me, what if my family does, what if my friends do, what if they all turn their backs on me? It's not written that they won't reject you, or that they won't hate you, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18) but you can always rest assured that God will never reject you. He'll never forsake you. He'll never turn His back on you. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5b)
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me'." (Matthew 16:24) This is probably one of the biggest reasons why many don't follow Christ. We don't like the idea of self-denial. We like being in control of our own lives. We like indulging our flesh, we like giving it everything it wants and not withholding anything from it. We don't like to deny it, we like to gratify it. Whatever makes us feel good, look good, or is for our benefit is what we want. Self denial doesn't feel good, it uncomfortable. What if He tells me to give up something that I really enjoy, how can I follow Him? You can believe that if God tells you to give up anything, it will be for your good in the long run. It will be to your benefit and advantage. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) "Take up his cross". That's something else that we don't like to hear. You mean I have to die on a cross just like Jesus did? That sounds too painful to even think about. No, He doesn't mean that we have to be crucified on a literal cross. Jesus already did that for us; we don't have to. What He is telling us, though, is that we have to die to self; not just deny it, but go one step further...die to it. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) We should be dead to self and sin just like Jesus was. "Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11- Amplified Bible) The trouble is, we don't always want to give up some sins. We find pleasure in them. Moses made the choice to follow God rather than "to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (Hebrews 11:25) We enjoy them too much to want to forsake them. How was Moses able to give them up and walk away from the treasures of Egypt, the prestige of being a prince in Egypt, and the pleasures of sin that came with the lifestyle? He knew that it would be better to suffer if he had to with the children of Israel then to face the terrible consequences of a life of sin. "But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (James 1:14,15) No sin is worth it.
Do you want eternal life? Will you follow Christ, or is there "yet one thing that thou lackest"? Only you can answer that question. If there is, pray and ask God to help you turn from it, get rid of it, and give it up; it will be worth it. "And Peter said, 'Lo, we have left all, and followed thee'. And he said unto them, 'Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting'." (Luke 18:28-30)