What Lack I Yet?

Matthew 19:18-22. 
He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto Him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”

I have long felt that this is one of the saddest stories in the New Testament, revealing how shallow the “faith” of this young man really was. At the same time, the story has always made me squirm at my own struggle with giving up everything to follow Christ. Really, Lord? Everything?  Even that which I’m very sure You Yourself have given me–my husband, my children, my grandchildren? Aren’t they my ministry just as much as anyone else You put in my path? 

See, we can all say that, to some extent, we have “kept the law.”  We haven’t murdered anyone.  Most of us (believers) probably haven’t committed adultery, we don’t steal, we don’t lie about other people, we try to honor our parents, we try to love our neighbors. . . .did you notice all the “try” in there?  Who among us can say we have kept all the law?  Have you ever wondered at this young man’s claim to have done so?  He doesn’t seem to realize that he needs a Savior, does he?  

And yet, when Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter, he had to hang his head in sorrow and walk away because he could not bear the idea of giving up all his worldly possessions to feed the poor, and then to follow Jesus. 

Maybe the thing we love more than we love God isn’t our “stuff.”  Maybe it’s our children, our spouses, our careers, our fame or our position. Whatever it is that keeps us from that final giving up of everything that stands between us and complete surrender is an idol. 

God does not demand that every single one of us give up everything in order to follow Him.  Good thing for us, right?  But I do believe He wants us to be willing to give up everything to follow Him. 

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Friday Counseling Issues: Symptoms of Abandonment

The second, and perhaps most pervasive, symptom for those who struggle with abandonment is that of guilt.  It is not unusual at all for the victim of personal assault or other mistreatment to feel a strong sense of guilt or responsibility while the perpetrator feels little or none.

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Why would someone who has been abandoned feel so guilty?  It’s because, in his mind, there is no other possible explanation except his own:  I must have done something; I must not be worth staying for; it’s my fault, and no one will every truly love me. She will be convinced that she has been abandoned for some wrongdoing or just  because she is not loveable. She would continually analyze her appearance, behavior, intelligence, and so on to figure out where she had messed up. This type of erroneous thinking settles in quickly, and the victim becomes guilty of something that was never his fault.

If there is no one the abandoned person can turn to for help, no one to talk with to express these negative thoughts, then the thoughts become set in cement. A pattern of negative self-talk sets in that is completely untrue, but the person who was left behind believes all of it.  That belief colors all of his relationships, and especially intimate relationships. He becomes so convinced that he is not loveable, not worth staying for, that he actually develops behaviors that push people away.  His negative beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, and the cycle of guilt and shame continues.

The cure?  Recognizing negative beliefs for the lies they are; taking steps to learn to spot the lies and replace them with truth. Sometimes, it is just easier to accept blame ourselves rather than to face the truth that the person who left was the one with the lack of character.  We don’t want to believe that a loved parent or spouse, for example, was actually able to just walk out on us for reasons that had nothing to do with us at all, but everything to do with that person’s lack of commitment and character. Perhaps there were mental/emotional/spiritual problems that were unrecognized.  Whatever the cause, the result is a great deal of pain for those who are left behind, and getting good pastoral or professional, Bible-based counseling is a very good idea.

Only God is Good

Matthew 19:17. “And He saith unto him, Why callest thou Me good?  there is none good but One, that is, God: bit if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

As He often did, Jesus first answered a question with a question. “Why are you calling Me good?  Don’t you know there is only One Who is good, and that is God?”

 The first thing Jesus did was to establish His identity for the young man.   It would seem that the young man thought of Jesus as just another teacher, another rabbi. Good master was a typical way of addressing a teacher, one held in respect. Jesus wanted to make it clear to the young man exactly Who He was. Notice that Jesus did not deny that He was, indeed, good. He simply pointed out that only God is good. That simple statement is one of our biggest clues to the fact that no man, no mortal being, is capable of enough goodness to achieve heaven.

Jesus knew, however, that the young man needed more, so He followed up with something the man would understand: A reference to the Law. “If you would enter into life, then you must keep (all) the commandments.”

But wait a minute!  Isn’t that a contradiction to what we’ve already said?  That no one is capable of enough goodness to enter heaven?  That only Jesus is good?  Is Jesus trying to trap the poor guy?

Of course not. Jesus was simply aiming the conversation in a direction the young man would understand, because he had been learning all the law and the prophets since early childhood. He understood all the “Thou shalts” and Thou shalt nots.”  What Jesus did was to use the tool of the Law to reveal the true nature of the young man’s heart to himself. And what the young man did NOT understand was the depth of his own sinful nature, as we’ll see next time. .

The Rich Young Ruler

Matthew 19: 16. “And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”

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We know from Mark 10:17-27 and Luke 18:18-27 that this man was wealthy, fairly young, and of the ruling families of the Jews.  Putting the three accounts of this incident together, we have a picture of one who was a typical religious, moral, professing young man, apparently holding an ecclesiastical position.  He is, however, ignorant about eternal life. He surely knew all the law, all the prophets; he apparently had been following Jesus’ progress in some way. Yet, he did not have any understanding of how to be assured of his eternal salvation.

I think we’d be amazed today at how many people who are members of Bible-teaching, Bible-preaching churches do not truly know the Lord.  There is nothing new about someone who, on the outside, seems to have all the trappings of faith; yet, on the inside, there is no surety of where the soul will spend eternity. We should take nothing for granted in this matter.  I believe it is important for us to share the stories of our salvation often. It is important for us to talk with our children regularly, especially if they come to a very early decision to accept Christ as Savior. Confirmation is a good thing, not a burden.

This fine young man was ignorant of the most important fact:  His good deeds could never gain him a place in heaven. Keeping the Law would not earn him eternal life. With all his righteous acts, he was still a guilty and lost sinner.  This is sadly true of many who profess Christianity but who are counting on their good deeds to outbalance the bad.

Jesus will show him a different way.

The Children

Matthew 19: 13-15. “Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence. 

There are so many wonderful paintings of Jesus with little children. I’m not sure why this one appeals to me so much, except maybe because of the laughter. There is just such trust and joy on those little faces, and on Jesus’ face as well.

It was only natural the people would want the Master to touch and bless their children. The disciples, however, thought it was an imposition and tried to shoo the children away. Jesus told them to allow the children to come to Him because, He said, the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as these.

What did He mean?

First, it was a common practice for Jewish parents to seek blessings on the heads of their children from  respected teachers.  The laying on of hands was done to symbolize the fulfilment of the blessing. These children were very likely the children of believers who wanted the blessing and the touch of the Master because they trusted Him. ‘

It seems clear from Mark 20:13 and Luke 18:15 that Jesus was not saying that only children would enter the kingdom, but rather that only those who believe in Him with the faith of a little child will enter the kingdom.

I believe it is also significant in this passage that there will indeed by children in the kingdom. Some will be there because they are too young to have an understanding of sin and salvation (Romans 5:13); others will be there because they have come to salvation by trusting Jesus alone.

There is no doubt that Jesus loves the children–all the little children of the world, red,brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.

The Disciples Question Jesus

Matthew 19:10-12. “His disciples say unto Him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But He said unto them, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb:  and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have mde themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

 

 

As the disciples pondered Jesus’ words concerning marriage and divorce, they came to the conclusion  that it must be better, safer, just to stay unmarried. In these verses, Jesus assured them that indeed marriage was not for all, that it was a gift that was not given to all, and that it would be wise for them to know whether or not God had called them to celibacy. 

A eunuch is a man who is either unable to enjoy sexual intimacy or who has chosen to abstain.  Some have been made eunuchs through castration, a horrible practice purely for the benefit of someone else. It was done, for instance, so that a man could guard a harem of women without there being any possibility that he would take advantage of his position.  These are men who, as Jesus said, were “made”  to be eunuchs. Some were born with no need or desire for sexual intimacy.  Some have chosen to live as celibates for the sake of the gospel. 

It is important to note here that nowhere in scripture does God require celibacy of anyone. He, after all, is the One Who created us sexual beings!  If a person chooses to remain single and celibate for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, God blesses that choice.  It is not required by God of anyone to do so. 

 

 

Friday Counseling Issues: Abandonment–Worthlessness

When someone you love, and you thought loved  you, walks out of your life, it leaves you feeling worthless, unimportant,  unworthy of their love, time, or consideration.  It is easy to generalize the deserter’s behavior and carry the blame yourself,  generalizing the behavior onto everyone else who comes into your life. The irony, of course, is that you then go on to attract the sort of people who will, indeed, abandon you.

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Here’s the thing. There are some specific thinking errors that are plaguing you, and will do so until you recognize and correct them. And yes, you can!

So first, let’s look at who the victim was and who the perpetrator was in this first desertion, which happened early in your life. Perhaps your mother or your father left the family with very little notice and no excuses given.  Perhaps you stood at a door or a window, watching that parent leave, not understanding that  he or she would never return.  Perhaps the leaving took place while you were asleep, and you woke up to an empty house that never felt right again.   However it happened, the chances are pretty good that you, the victim,  took the blame on yourself. Your thinking was full of “What did I do?  Wasn’t I good enough? I promise, if she’ll just come back I’ll always be good!  Didn’t I make him happy? Weren’t my grades good enough for her?  Is it because I’m not pretty/handsome, not thin, not tall, not brilliant?”

 There was no one there to straighten out your erroneous thinking, because everyone else in the household was also caught in the trap of shock and hurt. You probably internalized all your fears and feelings, never burdening anyone else with your questions. As you grew up, you found it harder and harder to let people in to your life, not trusting anyone not to hurt  you again.

And sure enough, the first guy or girl you dated, the one you thought understood you and would love you forever, walked out on you. And so the cycle continues. What happens over time is that you become more and more convinced that you have nothing to offer anyone, and so you hold on so tightly that people do eventually leave you.

What is the first thinking error?  It is that you were to blame. You are believing that somehow you, as a child, had the power to force your parent to leave the family. You have convinced yourself that  your parent had no other choice, that because of you and you alone that person had no option but to leave. You weren’t worth staying for.

What you don’t see, or perhaps can’t see, is that the adult who deserted you was the one to blame.  That person could have chosen to stay, but was too selfish, distraught. perhaps depressed, to make the best decision. And once it was made, there was no going back.  No one, not you nor anyone else, was holding a gun to that parent’s head forcing him or her to walk out the door.  No child has the power to control the parents’ choices. It was not your doing. The one who left is the perpetrator, not you. You were the innocent victim of a selfish, dysfunctional adult.

That’s enough to think about for now. To be continued next week.