Most people have some preconceived ideas about discipleship before they ever open the cover of their Bible. Imbibing various ideas about Jesus from popular culture and popular religion, mixing these together with their own upbringing and experiences, they form a model of expectations upon which they hope to build a relationship with Jesus Christ. It seems to be a universal problem, but this proves dangerous for the soul.
Christianity is not something you evaluate piecemeal, sifting out which parts fit into your lifestyle and which do not. Christianity itself sifts through your life to eliminate what should remain in your lifestyle and what should not–and what ingredients need to be added in to make it what it ought to be. If you really want eternal life, you do not start with your life as it is, you start with Jesus Christ and what He says. And that was a lesson that one rich young ruler learned the hard way.
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to 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.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mt. 19:16-22).
Luke tells us that this was a ruler (Lk. 18:18), which means he was well-connected and well-respected–likely the financial sponsor of a synagogue and perhaps even part of a ruling body. However, with all this earthly success, he still wanted confirmation of his spiritual situation. In ancient Israel, his wealth would have been considered sufficient evidence of his righteousness. But he was eager to hear Jesus confirm this as well, running to Him to ask his question (Mk. 10:17). However, Jesus’ expectations are different from man’s. And the exchange that followed shows just how different they can be. This rich young ruler was not a bad person—far from it. But, as he found out, that is not enough to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.