Not Close Enough

Luke 18:18-30 “Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

After sitting forty-five minutes in a gray, metal folding chair, the woman behind the counter called me. Well, she didn’t really call me. She called my number.

“7,394,269?” her voice was nearly lost in the shuffle of paper. We all examined stubs, like fans at a baseball game on Free Toyota Night, with hope that they have called our number and we have won the Corolla.

I looked down to my own piece of paper. As her squeaky voice called the number out again, I confirmed that all seven of my numbers matched. I bolted to my feet. I lifted my ticket into the air. I waived it frantically. Without thinking, I began to shout, “I’m a winner! I’m a winner! I’m here!”

“Don’t call another number! I’m here!” I yelled as I ran to the counter, tripping over the remaining losers sitting in gray folding chairs. She had to see me. Please, lady, see me! All I want is a new driver’s license.

I approached the counter, out of breath and panting, as the woman placed her 300-pound frame into a padded, rolling desk chair. “Can I help you?” She asked, looking at me through horn-rimmed glasses. Her look revealed a complete lack of amusement or empathy.

“I win.” I presented my ticket with an attempt at a smile. She looked at me with a dead expression. I quickly placed my ticket into my pocket and held out my license. “I need to renew my license.”

She took it and examined it closely, as if it were a forged document. “This is expired.”
“Yes, right. You see, that’s why I need a new license, isn’t it?”

A small, evil smile began cracking her deep red, lipstick plastered, nicotine stained mouth.

“I’m sorry, Mr….” she looked down at my expired license again, “…Austin. You have been sitting in the wrong section. You will need to take another number and go sit over in the blue folding chairs until you are called.”

I pulled a new tab. 9,344,127. So close. But not close enough.

Jesus met a man who did everything in his power to win the big prize. He did everything possible to make his way into heaven. He followed the law. He obeyed the commandments. He felt confident in his own works.

But Jesus placed one more requirement on his shoulders. “Sell it all and give it to the poor.” With this last order, the man walked away crestfallen. This was the one thing he could not do.

Sometimes, when I read this passage, I wonder if Jesus isn’t just messing with the guy’s head. I mean, this ruler is good, right? He has done the work, right? Why won’t Jesus give him a break and let his gray number work in the blue section?

But I think I know the answer. Jesus is not trying to put down another road-block on his way to heaven. Instead, Jesus is hitting this man right in the heart. Jesus is pressing this man’s button. Jesus knows that this is the one area in this man’s life that will prevent him from following whole-heartedly. For this man, the hot button was his wealth. For you, the button may be something different. If you hang around long enough, Jesus will press your button, too.

What is your button? What is the area in your life that keeps you from seeing God clearly? What one thing in your life, if God asked, would you be unwilling, or unable, to change?

Here are some buttons I see on a daily basis:
One gentleman may never give up his alcohol.
Another may never give up his gambling.
One man will work until the day he dies (if he has his way).
Another will do anything in his power to avoid work.
For one woman, everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault.
One man is always right. He is never wrong. Never. Just ask him.
One man thinks only of himself.
One woman thinks only of her children.
One man has to have the last word in every conversation.
One woman is very religious but loves no one.

What would need to change in your life, in your heart? You may be a nice person, but it isn’t close enough. You may be religious, popular, successful, beautiful, and wealthy but it isn’t close enough. God wants all of you. Jesus is pressing your button. You are close. But until you give everything to him, you just aren’t close enough.

Dear God:
We know what it is. We each knew from the minute we started reading. We know the one thing in our lives that keeps us from following you with all our heart. Help us to lay it at your feet and to follow you to the cross and beyond. AMEN.

Copyright 2005 C. Curtis Austin a 2BlackDogs Production

Join us each day this week as we discuss Holy Week and the Passion of Christ.

Tuesday: The Last Supper – Luke 22:7-23
Wednesday: Fast Asleep – Luke 23:39-46
Thursday: Simon’s Task – Luke 23:26
Friday: Joseph’s Labor of Love – Luke 23:50-55
Saturday: A Day of Silence – Luke 23:56
Sunday: A New Beginning – Luke 24:1-12

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