Have you ever been in a relationship where you loved another person more than they could receive? You wanted to grow close with them but for some reason things never developed to the extent you thought they could. That is how Jesus feels about us. No matter how much we love Him, His love for us is greater. We feel the distance and fog between us. We want more too. But have we ever considered that His love for us is unreserved; the only limit on the relationship is our acceptance of Him or our willingness to allow His love to flow freely. So what in us prevents our relationship with Jesus flourishing?
There are clues in the story of the rich, young ruler. When this man came to Jesus wanting eternal life, Jesus tested his sincerity by laying out some of the commandments. The man scored high. Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him. But their relationship never took off.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. (Mark 10:21-22 NIV)
- The man came looking for the right thing—eternal life. But his concept of that life was disfigured by religious custom. Jesus probably saw that. Perhaps that is why Jesus responded in terms of commandments. We can imagine the man’s face lighting up as he told Jesus, “I’ve done all those things. So can I have it now?”1 But it doesn’t work like that. One possible blockage to relationship is that overemphasis on “What shall I do?”
- In Matthew 19:20 the ruler asks “What am I still lacking?” Sometimes we think our love for Jesus must first match Jesus’ love for us, or His character, or His words and deeds. Forget it! We will never find anything inside us to match Jesus. He is not waiting for us to meet Him as an equal; He wants us to receive Him as we are and let His life grow in us and flow through us. Beware! Pride demands an opportunity to prove ourselves.
- Religion diverts us from relationship. The ruler thought that eternal life existed in the realm of religious practices or attitudes. Certainly, the depth of Jesus’ love for us was demonstrated in His sacrifice on the cross. But notice how easy it is to turn that into a heartless cliché. Don’t we often treat it as a past fact with blessings in a future heaven? There is more. Jesus’ death restored relationship with God in this life. Jesus’ love is immediate. Elsewhere, Jesus defined eternal life as knowing “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”2 Eternal life is relationship.
- And eternal life implies developing the quality of God’s life in us. The man had an obstruction. His riches were rooted too deeply in his heart. Only if the roots were dug out and his wealth given away would he share God’s heart of generosity and mercy.
- Some human relationships are kept at arms length because of fear. In the past someone treated us wrongly so we only make friends cautiously; we stay in control. People who catch us off guard by their winsome ways are attractive but they make us uncomfortable. But doesn’t Jesus come at us like that sometimes? If we want to know His love we must drop our guard, and hand control of the relationship to Him. Trust Him. He is more motivated to love us than we are to love Him. His love seeks the absolute best for us.
- For human relationships to deepen we must spend time together. We must allow people to take us with them, tell us about themselves, show us what they do, how and why. Like the rich ruler, we need to follow Jesus—hang out with Him. What does that look like? It might begin by inviting Him into each of our activities; it continues as we ask Him to show us what He is doing and let Him direct our schedule.
The goal of Bible Maturity is to promote spiritual growth and faith in God. Please share these short Bible devotions with your friends and family and pray for revival.