If you haven't already, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of posts. They set the stage for what follows.
There was a man who grew up believing in God and trying to be obedient to God's commands. He listened closely to the preachers, remembering and meditating on what was preached. He basically spent his whole life trying to be obedient. And God blessed him for it. As he grew from boyhood to manhood, God blessed the work of his hands. And as God blessed him, he continued to pay attention to God's words. This man had God's favor, and God's love.
One day this man went to Jesus and said, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17-22) I would say this man had an urgency regarding eternal life; it was one of the things that motivated him. Jesus starts his answer with something incredible. He says, "Why do you call me good? No one is good, except God alone." This answer is a core understanding in God's Kingdom, and in it Jesus is opening a door to the possibility of an extraordinary transformation.
Then Jesus tells the man, "You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother'." Jesus offered the man old wine, the wine the man had grown up with. But the man wanted something more, he felt an urgency concerning eternal life and believed that Jesus could give him something different. So he said, "All these I have kept since I was a boy." In the account of this story in Mark it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. I believe this love was an expression of how the Father felt about this man, which is why I said the man had God's favor and love.
It was in this love and favor that Jesus said, "One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Basically, Jesus was saying this. I have a wine to drink that my father has given me. It is not tasty and it cost everything. But I drink it because it is from my father in heaven. Would you be willing to drink this new wine with me? Will you be my drinking buddy?
In this one invitation Jesus offered a transformation from obedience to commandments to a relationship-based surrender. Suddenly this was personal. The invitation to "follow me" from Jesus is always very personal. But there was a problem. The man was wealthy and he liked his wealth. God had blessed him with this wealth. And no one had ever said this to him before. Not a single preacher had said he would have to give up everything. The wine he was used to said that if he was obedient to God's commands then he would be blessed. And he liked being blessed. He didn't want to give these blessings up. So he walked away. He was sorrowful, but he still walked away.
Sometimes we are faced with similar situations. God blesses us as we seek his face and follow his commands. Then, in his love and favor towards us, he may say "one thing you lack." He may offer us a new wine. He might call us to give up some or all of the very things he blessed us with in order to have a closer relationship with him. And it may happen more than once.
There was another man who also grew up paying attention to God's word as it was preached and who spent his life being obedient to God's commandments. His name was Saul. Jesus, in his love for Saul, went to him and called him to drink this new wine, to be his drinking buddy. He even showed Saul how much he would suffer. But Saul said yes, gave up everything, and followed Jesus.
Saul had a great ministry as a prophet and teacher with the church in Antioch (Acts 11). It was at this church that the disciples were first called Christians. And in the middle of this ministry, the Holy Spirit spoke and called Saul and Barnabas to a new ministry; something I consider another example of hearing, again, "one thing you lack." It is after this that Saul starts to be called Paul. Saul has not only given up his life, he now gives up his identity. He gives up "Saul."
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal,persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.
Paul also had an urgency concerning eternal life, the resurrection from the dead. His statement, "and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead" was not made due to any lack of faith or knowledge. It was an acknowledgement of the importance in his life of a great mystery. It is a mystery I think we sometimes take for granted.
This is the heart and mind of someone who has been drinking the new wine, someone who is a drinking buddy with Jesus. It is the heart and mind of a mature Christian. Paul has shared himself as an example of what it looks like to be mature, to be like Jesus.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
If we want to be mature, if we want to be like Jesus, we need to be willing to drink this new wine. This is being built up, becoming mature in our faith and knowledge of the Son of God.
This doesn't mean we have to give up everything, though it does mean we are ready to. We listen and serve. And as we grow spiritually there may be times when Jesus says, "one thing you lack." When he does it is a personal invitation to draw close to him, and it may cost something that was a blessing in the past.
Several years ago I wrote a song about this. The chorus is below. This is what I think when I take communion; it is my heart, and I hope it is yours as well.
I will drink your wine, I will eat your bread
Drinking from your cup, conforming to your death
All things that were gain, now I count as loss
That I might know you, and the glory of your cross
And share your resurrection life
I will drink your wine
I will drink your wine
I will drink your wine
I will drink your wine