I kicked off my shoes, pulled off my socks and wiggled my toes in the sand. Brett and Aspen built sand castles while I lay on my beach towel and soaked up the warm sunshine. Finished relaxing I stretched and propped myself up on my elbow. A young couple came over the sand dunes onto the beach. The young man wore a white button down shirt, black tie, blue jeans and carried his loafers. That is the only thing I know for a fact about this story, but reading their body language as they walked past me and over hearing bits of conversation, I made some assumptions. The young woman wanted to break up with the young man or already had and he had taken an opportunity to dress up and take a walk on the beach to try to convince her not to leave him. They wandered off into the distance and I forgot about them until by some chance of fate we left the beach the same time they did. Once again reading body language and facial expressions I assumed that the young mans attempt at a reconciliation had failed.
For the sake of illustration I’m going to add more to this young couples story. Usually a break up happens when one or both people in the relationship are unhappy with the other persons actions. The young woman on the beach with the overdressed young man pursuing her affections probably wasn’t breaking up with him because she wanted him to dress up rather than dress down. More than likely she wanted him to change something on the inside. Maybe she wanted him to treat her differently than he usually did. I can’t say for sure, but even though the young man looked great on the outside the young woman perceived that he was not changed on the inside and therefore decided not to continue the relationship. In essence their relationship was dead on the inside despite how great they looked as a couple on the outside.
God wants nothing more than for us to change on the inside, but often just like the young man on the beach who looked great on the outside, on the inside I am in need of some serious change.
Matthew 19:16-26 tells the story of the rich young ruler. He was drawn to what Jesus offered. He wanted more than prestige and money in the bank. He knew he was missing something, but he wasn’t quite sure what more he needed. After hearing Jesus speak he sensed that Jesus could tell him what he was missing to complete his happiness. Jesus’ answer must have surprised him, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.” Maybe he paused to consider what selling his stuff would mean. He may have looked down at his robes, tailor-made just for him, then glanced over at the Wal-Mart sweats and rubber boots of the fishermen followers of Jesus. He would have to dress in that? How many times had he heard his friends make fun of what the poor wore. His heart may have dropped a little, but he pulled his robe of self-righteousness more tightly around him like a security blanket and walked away from the true change Jesus offered.
The rich young ruler enjoyed his money and the social position it brought him. People today aren’t much different. Most people would like to have more money. More money, more stuff. We need it. Why? It feeds our pride. When self rules our hearts our stuff proves just how great we really are. The rich young ruler couldn’t give up his stuff to follow Jesus. He had lied when he said he had kept the law of God. Not intentionally, I’m sure he really felt as if he had kept the entire law of God. But, money was his idol. Money, prestige and a high position in society. He didn’t want to replace the pride in his life with the humility Jesus offered.
Jesus saw the one thing the young ruler needed; Love for God. Love of self took the place designed to be occupied by the love for God in his heart. Christ offered him heavenly treasure in trade for his worldly treasure. He asked him to give up the seen for the unseen. But, in order to do so he must take up his cross and follow the Savior in a path of self-denial.
The rich young man didn’t realize he was a member of the Society of the Deadly Olive Oil. He felt blessed because of his financial success. But he was unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to convict him of his need for the anointing that only putting God first in his life would allow. He did not realize he was dead on the inside and needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to wake him up and raise his spirit from the dead. Dead works occupied the young mans time. Dead works for self rather than his heart being alive with the love of God and engaging in loving deeds for others.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) God promises us a new heart and a new spirit, we don’t have to belong to the Society of the Deadly Olive Oil. We can allow Him to take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh today.