Devotional Readings

But, God, I’m a Good Man!

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

Here is a behaviorist. And he had a lot of company. In John 6, a whole group came and said, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent”–immediately transferring them from behavior to relationship.

This man said, “What good thing shall I do?” And He saith unto him, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Oh-oh. Is Jesus is shifting into a behaviorism pattern Himself?

Jesus knew that no one could keep the commandments in his own strength. He knew that we don’t get to heaven by keeping the commandments. But that’s what He said. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The rich young ruler asked, “Which?” “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal,” and so on. And the young man said, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” Here is the strong man, the behaviorist. He is a good liver. Wouldn’t think of doing anything wrong. And then Jesus reveals what He was really after with this man. “Jesus said unto him, If you wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, . . . and come and follow me.”

Jesus didn’t always come right to the point with people who were searching for truth. In fact, He was pretty clever in His approach, not for the sake of cleverness, but because He had wisdom that came from His Father and His connection with His Father.

“What shall I do to enter into life?” “Keep the commandments.” “I have.” “Oh, yes? Let Me give you one more.” He gave him one more, and the man hung his head and began kicking his toe in the dust. He was a strong, successful, external moral behaviorist, and he had nothing within. He was helpless.

Now, that is the point to which each of us must come when we genuinely come to Christ. We have to admit that we’re helpless to do anything in our own strength, except give up trying to do something apart from Christ, and come to Him, just as we are.


from Faith that Works
Morris Venden | Review & Herald (2000)
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