We are hearing so much discussion in the body of Christ right now about words like grace and freedom. The challenge that is being put forth is to live in freedom, instead of merely living by the rules. But what does Grace really mean? What does freedom look like? Or to ask another question, why would God desire to take a moral rule follower and draw them in to these concepts of grace and freedom?
We see this question acted out in the story of the rich young ruler. Before God, this man professes that since his youth, his life has displayed the morality and rule following of the strictest Pharisee. To us, the casual observer, our advice to Jesus in that moment would be to shake a guys hand, welcome him into a relationship, and applaud his former efforts. Instead, the rich young ruler is presented with a challenge that strikes deeper into the heart then any of those well-patterned behaviors of his past. It was not the aim of Jesus obviously to discourage the man. So what was his plan? Some might even regard Jesus' actions as dismissive or of lacking compassion.
The truth is, not all good works are created equal. There are good intentions that are counterproductive to the Christian life. You may ask, how can good intentioned works ever be counterproductive in the Christian faith? The truth is, there are behaviors that we can perform that can occupy our mind and heart in a way that replaces vulnerability and intimacy. Ask yourself this question; have you ever said something to someone, or did something "for someone" that was definitely more meant to release you from responsibility in a situation more than it was truly to benefit the other person. Whether it was saying sorry to someone when you really didn't feel any sorrow inside (it was just the right thing to do), or of course the famous smiles and "I love you’s” that fill our church fellowship halls every day that are really meant more as gestures of Christian leadership than gestures of affection.
Now, there is nothing wrong with doing a good thing even when your feelings need to play catch-up. However, when these "good things" become well patterned and unconscious behaviors that do not provoke the core of a person to be vulnerable to others or needy of God's strength and empowerment; it becomes a good intention to work that can actually have you walking tearfully away from the presence of God realizing that to be that vulnerable to him is much more scary than surrendering your body to pre approved acts of valor that people around you will celebrate you in, while Heaven stands bored to tears.
This is one of the core lessons of the story of the rich young ruler. Jesus can begin with your good intentions or right conscience before God, but he will always be reaching for the core passions of your heart. We have to realize that this is not in spite of us or our work good intentions, but is because of Christ love for us that he will not allow us to settle for a moral life, when we are called to a relationship and walk with him that engages every fiber of our being spirit soul and body. This is true living, this is what we were created for. An unbridled, passionate, and limitless pursuit of everything that God is and everything that he died for. Don't settle for less today, be vulnerable to the people around you and to a God that is love and is passion. Live This.