Day 22 - Salvation Through Surrender

Day 22 - Salvation Through Surrender

Written by: Katelyn Boyd

Matthew 19:16-26
16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep] the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” 21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

My dad taught me how to swim when I was really  young. He taught me to put my face in the water and blow bubbles and to paddle my hands and kick my feet to propel myself through the water. He also taught me how to float on my back. I thought it was such a waste of time to float on my back, because I wasn’t getting anywhere!! But, I will never forget what my dad told me about why it was so important to learn how to float on my back. He said that if I ever got in trouble in the water and became exhausted, floating on my back could save my life. He would say, “Don’t fight, just float.” Striving to overcome an obstacle too great for me in the water would only exhaust me and leave me frustrated, weak and in danger of drowning, but floating on my back would keep my head above water and allow me to rest and regain strength to continue on. My dad’s advice reminds me a lot of what Jesus teaches in this passage, that salvation comes not through our own vain striving, but through complete surrender to Him.

Jesus engages in conversation with a young man of great wealth about how he might achieve eternal life.   Jesus will teach a pivotal lesson on entering the Kingdom of Heaven, to a man, and an entire culture, that completely misunderstood the relationship between the priorities of this life and those of the life to come. This wealthy man wants the best of both worlds–he wants to retain his wealth and status in this life and have a guarantee of good standing in eternity. In verses 16 and 17, we see that the rich young man believes there to be some ultimate good deed he could do that might guarantee him God’s approval and access to the riches of His Kingdom in eternity; he’s seeking to earn salvation by his own works. Jesus answers in verse 17-19 by telling him to keep the commandments and listing several of the 10 Commandments from Exodus 20. At first glance, this might appear as if Jesus is perpetuating the idea that salvation can be earned through good works; however, that is not at all what Jesus is doing. In the Old and New Testament, the keeping of the commandments in the life of a Jewish person was an outward expression of their faith in God. Jesus was not saying that salvation was achieved by works of obedience, but rather that obedience is the evidence of genuine faith; a true believer surrenders completely to God and walks in obedience as a result of that submission.

Jesus ’ instruction for the man to keep the commandments is designed to expose the arrogance of the young man, as he perceives himself to be righteous, because he maintains that “I’ve obeyed all these commands,” (v. 20)” A pervading belief in Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was that wealthy people would automatically enter the Kingdom of God, because their wealth was obvious evidence of the favor and blessing of God on their lives (in contrast, poverty was considered punishment from God for sin, and poor people were often referred to as sinners). Jesus’ teaching in this passage turns that perspective on its head; he not only instructs the rich man to sell his possessions and give them away to the poor, but he also tells his disciples that it is difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Jesus is driving less toward a prescription for how physical wealth should be used and more toward what the heart treasures, and who it surrenders to–God or self.  The instruction to sell everything and follow Christ is intentionally used to reveal that the man treasures his earthly possessions more than the Heavenly inheritance promised to believers. He would rather maintain his lifestyle and do  just enough to earn standing in God’s Kingdom than to surrender his wealth and himself to follow Jesus. Jesus said sell your possessions…and come follow me. The rich man focused on what Jesus was asking him to give up–his earthly wealth–rather than on the treasure he would receive when he did–JESUS, and salvation through Him! 

The word Jesus uses for perfect in verse 21 is one that throughout the Old Testament carries the connotation of undivided loyalty and complete submission and obedience to the will of God. So, what Jesus was pointing to as necessary for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven was a complete surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord.  The rich young man’s heart was divided between the priorities of this earthly life (his status/wealth) and those of the life to come (following Jesus and receiving salvation through Him). His compliance with the commandments was worthless, because it did not include complete surrender to the will of God in Christ Jesus. In verse 26, Jesus makes it clear that “humanly speaking, it (entrance into the Kingdom/salvation) is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Our God is a God who specializes in the impossible and accomplished for us what we could not do for ourselves when he sent Jesus to the cross to die in our place! Salvation comes not through our own striving but through complete surrender to Him.

Are you striving to earn your salvation by your own religious traditions? Are you constantly trying to measure your good deeds against your bad ones in order to see if you can do enough to earn your place in the Kingdom of God?  Salvation comes through surrender to Jesus!  If you have been striving to earn His approval and your place in His Kingdom, would you surrender to Him today? “God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago!” (Ephesians 2: 4-10)

If you have already surrendered to God for salvation through Jesus, consider today whether or not your heart is divided. Is there anything that is keeping you from being completely surrendered to God’s will in Christ? Spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal to you anything you need to surrender to Him in order to be fully submitted and walking in obedience to Him. 

Father, thank you for Jesus. Help me to surrender completely to you; you can have all of me. Thank you for the gracious gift of salvation you’ve given me through Jesus! Help me to follow you, Jesus, with reckless abandon and an undivided heart! As I go throughout the day today, would you show me how you would have me to surrender my thoughts, my words, my plans, my relationships, my dreams, my fears, and every other part of my life to you? I’m yours; do with me what you will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.