In Mark 10, there’s a man who runs up to Jesus and asks, “What do I need to do to receive eternal life?” Jesus knew his heart, so He listed off the Ten Commandments and said to obey them. The man replies back, “I’ve kept those my whole life!” Then jesus changed things up in verse 21 and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (GNT). The man left upset because he wasn’t willing to do that.
I’m sure you’ve heard this story a hundred times, but I want us to look at it a little differently today. One of the things I notice is that this man wanted to know what he could do to receive eternal life. We have to be careful not to think our salvation is based on anything we do. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.” This Man was trying to figure out what boxes needed to be checked off to get to Heaven because he wanted man’s approval and not God’s.
We live in a performance based society. If you do certain things, you get promoted and make more money. We have to be very careful to not let that infect our faith. Jesus’ response to the man was reminding him, and us, that God looks at our heart, not at our works. We cannot earn salvation or favor with God By doing certain things. He loves us because of who we are. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. If you are truly thankful in your heart for what Jesus did on the cross, it will show up in how you live your life.
Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash
I can easily recall several times in my life when my clothes were so filthy I couldn’t wear them inside. I was playing in the woods as a kid once, and i found a bucket of tar. I popped the lid off and had a lot of fun…until I got home! When I was 16, I got a job washing garbage trucks. Yes, they wash them each night like you wash your car. My clothes were so nasty, I had to ride on the back of the truck and change out of them in the garage. Also, when I was 20 years old, I visited a church in Garbage City, Cairo, Egypt. My clothes smelled so putrid that it made people sick to smell them.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because spiritually we wear clothes very similar to each of those situations. Isaiah 64:6 says, “We’re all sin-infected, sin contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags” (MSG). The Amplified Version calls them “polluted garments”. Our efforts to be good in order to get to Heaven look and smell like the clothes I was wearing on those days. Our efforts will never change our spiritual clothes. That’s something only God can do.
Zechariah had a vision of Joshua, the priest and leader of Israel. He was standing in Heaven before God and Satan was there to accuse him. Zechariah describes it this way in chapter 3 verses 3 and 4, “Joshua was standing there, wearing filthy clothes. The angel said to his heavenly attendants, ‘Take away the filthy clothes this man is wearing.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘I have taken away your sin and will give you new clothes to wear’” (GNT). Where our works create filthy rags, God’s work clothes us in righteousness.
Isaiah 61:10 says, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels” (NLT). It is God who dresses us. It is God who does the work of salvation. We simply need to present ourselves to Him, recognizing our clothes are filthy, and ask Him to change our spiritual clothes. God can take our putrid, sin stained clothes and exchange them for righteousness. Then we won’t have to ride in the back of the truck or hide in the garage. We will be able to approach His throne of grace with all boldness.