When I was growing up I loved to make lists. I kept a list of the books that I had read from the Longmont Public Library. I kept a list of baseball players and their statistics. Each week I would make my own Top 40 list.
Do you make lists? What kind of lists do you make? Today your lists may be on your computer or your phone, but I bet you make lists. Lists keep us organized.
I recently read a story written by Christian author Max Lucado. On a plane he was seated next to an attractive young woman. The young woman was very nervous about flying, so he took out his Bible and read some reassuring passages. As they talked she told him that she was a believer once when she was young. Max asked her, “Do you believe in heaven? "Yeah." "Do you think you’ll go there?"
She looked away for a minute and then turned and answered confidently, "Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be in heaven." How do you know?"
"How do I know I’m going to heaven?" She grew quiet as she formulated her response. "Well, I’m basically good. I smoke less than a pack a day. I exercise. I’m dependable at work and," she counted each achievement on a finger, "I made my boyfriend get tested for AIDS."
That was her list. By her way of thinking, heaven could be earned by smoking less and safe sex. Her line of logic was simple: I keep the list on earth and I get the place in heaven.
Most of us are a lot like the woman on the plane. We feel that we are basically good. We are decent hard working people. We have a list that we feel qualifies us for heaven. Your list may not include cigarettes or AIDS, but I know you have a list. There is a purpose for the list: to prove we are good.
In Romans 3:20-22 Paul tells us, “No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it. But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.
Well, so much for lists. So much for being "basically good." If no one is good, if no list is sufficient, if no achievements are adequate, how can a person be saved? Wouldn’t you like to ask Jesus, “How can I be saved”? Jesus was asked that very question.
We find the story in Mark 10:17. “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
Isn’t that the question you would like to ask Jesus? It is very interesting that Jesus gave the man a list. In verse 19 Jesus answers, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”
It seems that Jesus is saying that to have a list is OK. It seems like we should have a list. When the man told Jesus that he had done all of these things, Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” The story has a sad ending. The man was OK with keeping his list, but he was not willing to follow Jesus.
No matter how long or complete your list, there is always one more thing you need to do.
I recently read a story of a woman who for years was married to a harsh husband. Each day he would leave her a list of chores to complete before he returned at the end of the day. Clean the yard. Stack the firewood. Wash the windows. Sweep the floor. Bake the bread.
If she didn’t complete the tasks, she would be greeted with his explosive anger. But even if she did complete the list, he was never satisfied; he would always find inadequacies in her work.
After several years, the husband passed away. Sometime later she remarried, this time to a man who lavished her with tenderness and adoration.
One day, while going through a box of old papers, the wife discovered one of her first husband’s lists. And as she read the list, a realization caused a tear of joy to splash on the paper. "I’m still doing all these things, and my husband doesn’t have to tell me. I do it because I love him."
You can’t make a list long enough and complete enough to satisfy the requirements for eternal life, but Jesus hasn’t asked you to. All he wants is you; All of you. He wants you to be madly in love with him. Head over heels, do anything for him, in love with him.
In John 14:15 he tells us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. Not because that will guarantee us salvation, but because we are so much in love that we want to please Jesus. If we truly love Jesus, doing the things that will please him will not be a burden. They will be a joy.
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