"One thing you lack" Mark 10:21
Those words addressed by our Lord to the rich young ruler who had approached Him with such apparent eagerness and earnestness, and in whom there were some admirable qualities which are rarely found in young men, especially those of affluence. He occupied an honorable position, for Luke 18:18 informs us he was a "ruler." He had a clean moral record, for when Christ quoted to him the last six of the Commandments, he answered, "All these have I kept from my youth up" (Luke 18:21), outwardly, his life was blameless. He was fearless, for he sought not unto Christ "by night" as Nicodemus did—but openly and publicly. He was no dilatory seeker, for he had come "running" (Mark 10:17). He was humble and reverent, for he "kneeled to him"—how few young men bow the knee to Christ, especially when the eyes of their fellows be upon them! He came to Christ inquiring the way of salvation: "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16). What more could be required of him?
There was a fatal defect, for the sequel informs us that he turned from Christ, and "went away sad" (Mark 10:22). What was wrong with him? "'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.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:21-22). There was a struggle between his convictions and his corruptions; he desired to serve two masters—God and mammon; and when Christ told him that was impossible, he was chagrined.
His fatal deficiency may be described in a variety of ways. He had no conviction that he was a ruined, lost and Hell-deserving sinner, no consciousness that he was a spiritual leper in the sight of God, no realization of his utter helplessness to better his condition. Though religious, he was still in nature's darkness, and therefore, his affections were not raised above the vanities of this world. There was no love for God within him; and consequently, he was unwilling to deny himself, abandon his idols, and give God His rightful place in his life—serving, pleasing, and enjoying Him. He lacked a real and unreserved surrender of his heart to God.
Reader, is that the case with you? "One thing I know" (John 9:25). That was the confession of one upon whom our Lord had wrought a miracle of grace, namely, the man who was "blind from his birth" (John 9:1), to whom the Savior gave sight. But no sooner was he made the recipient of the great mercy, than he encountered opposition.
First, some of his neighbors doubted his identity; but he reassured them. Then the Pharisees challenged him, but his parents avowed he was their son, and that his eyes had been opened. Then the Pharisees told him that his Benefactor was "a sinner." To which he replied, "One thing I do know. I was once blind—but now I see!" John 9:25. That is the assertion, or at any rate, should be, of every truly regenerated person. Though unable to refute the sophistries of those who oppose the truth—he may appeal to his actual experience and the great change which God has wrought in him—a change apparent to those best acquainted with him. He cannot explain the process—but he is sure of the effects. He may not know the time when he passed from death unto life—but he does know that once he was blind to: the glory of God, his own depravity, and the suitability of Christ—but he is no longer spiritually blind. His eyes have been opened to see the sinfulness of sin and the sufficiency of Christ's atoning blood.
Is that the case with you, my reader? "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm 27:4). That expresses the paramount longing and dominant aim of each renewed soul, while his case remains a normal and healthy one. All his yearnings are concentrated into this; and after the attainment thereof, all his energies are directed, for that which is ardently desired will be diligently sought. "That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life" is but the Old Testament way of saying, "That I may enjoy unbroken and close communion with God." That desire evidences his love to God.
"As the deer pants for streams of water—so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!" (Psalm 42:1,2). Previously, the majesty and almightiness of God terrified him, His sovereignty and justice repelled, His holiness and immutability were distasteful; but now the one quickened by Him exclaims, "My soul follows hard after you" (Psalm 63:8), esteeming fellowship with Him far above all the pleasures and treasures of this perishing world. Is that the case with you, dear reader?
"But one thing is needful" (Luke 10:42). We may regard these words as the Lord's intimation of how the desire of Psalm 27:4 may be realized. They were spoken first to the restless and feverish Martha, who was "cumbered [weighted down] about much serving" and was "anxious and troubled about many things" (Luke 10:40-41). What that "one thing" was, Christ explained in the words at once following: "Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
"But one thing is needful;" how that would banish anxious care, did we but apprehend it! How many distractions would our hearts be freed from if we bowed to our Lord's dictum! There are a great many duties which the Christian has to perform—but Christ would bring our hearts from everything else, simply to this: to be absorbed with Himself, to receive from His fullness, to commune with Him, to be instructed by Him. That is the one thing needful for a God-honoring, fruitful, happy life. Have you, my reader, been let into that secret experimentally?
"This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). That expresses the practical outworking of what has been before us above.
There are many things that we are obligated to hold in our remembrance: such as the Word of God, His manifold mercies, our past sins and failures—that a due recollection of them may humble us in the present and for the future.
But there are other things which, in a certain sense, the believer needs to forget, namely, his past services unto the Lord, his attainments in grace, his victories over temptation—so that they be not made a matter of delight, nor rested in as a substitute for present exertion. The Christian should ever be conscious of his imperfections, and seek to rectify them; and so far from being content with his present knowledge, grace, and love—must press after a higher measure thereof. Are you, my reader, intent upon this one thing—and diligently attending unto the same?
"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). It would be outside our present scope and design to attempt an exposition of this verse; rather would we point out the practical lesson which it inculcates for each of our hearts. As the Christian strives after a closer communion with Christ and a fuller conformity unto His image—it appears to him that his efforts meet with little success, and that his pressing forward unto the things ahead is most tardy. As he cries unto God for more grace—He seems very slow in responding. But, beloved, "Be not ignorant of this one thing": God's measurement of time is very different from ours, nor does He ever delay a moment beyond His appointed hour. As the next verse assures us, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise" (2 Peter 3:9).
To our short-sighted impatience, He seems to delay, when in reality, "the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion" (Isaiah 30:18). Be not stumbled by His seeming slowness, but patiently wait for Him.
"You know with all your heart and soul—that not one thing of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed!" (Joshua 23:14). Those words, it seems to us, form a fitting climax to all that has been before us. They were the words of Israel's leader unto them after their occupation of the promised inheritance. It was a tribute to the unfailing faithfulness of their covenant God. And will not the antitypical Joshua say unto those whom God has given Him, when they are all settled in their eternal Rest, "You know with all your heart and soul—that not one thing of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed!"