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The story of the rich young man… That’s kind of outdated, isn’t it? By no means! A recent divine service in Denmark showed just how timely and topical it is. Here are eleven highly relevant lessons from a very familiar Bible story.

A rich young man came to Jesus and asked Him what he should do to have eternal life. Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider based his service in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Matthew 19: 21 and drew the following lessons from it.

The relationship with God cannot be separated from the relationship with our neighbour. In his conversation with the young man, Jesus listed all the commandments which deal with the relationship to the neighbour. “People always think that if they are good and please God they have fellowship with Him. Jesus says: ‘No, it doesn’t work that way. As long as you are unfair to your neighbour, you cannot please God.”

Love and respect are more important than rules and traditions. The rich young man had kept all the commandments. However, this was not enough for the Lord Jesus. He was not only interested in the Law, but in people’s motivation to follow it. In the Church we also need rules, of course, an order. But these rules must never be used to exercise power or to sort out the good ones from the bad ones. Let us always critically question the rules. Why do I keep them? Is my motivation love?

Wealth is an obligation to help the poor. Jesus had nothing against the rich. All He said was: “If you are rich, you also have a responsibility. You must notice your neighbour’s need and do what you can to help.”

Discipleship requires determination and commitment. “When Jesus told the young man to sell everything he had, He wanted him to understand: if you want to follow the Lord, you must make up your mind and decide for the Lord once and for all; you must want to have fellowship with God. That is the most important thing.”

Following Christ means giving up everything that separates us from Jesus. “The young man had to become poor in order to have fellowship with Jesus. He had to give up everything that was not compatible with the Lord Jesus. Things are very similar today. People cannot bear having to give up something. ‘I am entitled to this. I want this!’ This is incompatible with following Jesus Christ.”

Following Christ means giving up the security we have known and trusting in Christ. “The rich young man had a secure life. And then he was asked to give all that up. This is what God also expects of us: ‘Give up your security and trust in Jesus.’ Our biggest plea is: ‘If I no longer understand anything, I commend my spirit into Your hands, but please, let me stay with You.”

Following Christ means answering His call. “Salvation comes from God. It is God’s initiative, not ours. Jesus called human beings. Only those who have been called by God and follow His call can have fellowship with Him.”

It is not just about our own salvation, but everyone’s. “You have not only been called so that you will be fine and can be saved. You have been called to serve. Not only are you to be blessed, but you are to contribute to the salvation of the others.”

True blessing is not multiplication, but fellowship with God.“For devout Jews wealth was something entirely normal: those who obeyed the law were blessed by God. But now Jesus says, ‘This is not true blessing. True blessing is fellowship with God.’ Let us follow the Lord and serve Him not in order to receive earthly blessing, but because fellowship with Jesus Christ is important to us.

Discipleship enables us to have fellowship with God and human beings. “Those who follow the Lord Jesus and trust Him have a balanced spiritual life. They know God is here, He will help me. They know where the road will lead them. They have joy and peace and security. They can look forward to fellowship with people who are like-minded with Jesus Christ.”

In the end, Jesus will give us His reward. “The Lord Jesus gives us much more than our reward. He gives us His reward. He not only gives us what we have earned, but what He has earned through His sacrifice. This is the glory of God, and that is our future.

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Andreas Rother
Chief Apostle, Divine service, Denmark