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Nothing is impossible for God, not even changing our characters

by Phil Wold, WordAlone board member

January 31, 2008

photo of Dr. Phil WoldWhen people asked Jesus what they had to do to be saved, Jesus never answered their questions with the word "Nothing!"

In Matthew 19, a young inquirer approached Jesus with that question. And in response, Jesus itemized the commandments for him. We read, "And behold, one came up to him, saying, 'Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?' And he said to him, 'Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.' He said to him, 'Which?' And Jesus said, 'You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The young man said to him, 'All these I have observed; what do I still lack?' Jesus said to him, 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions."

In John 3, we read that "there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'. . .He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. . . . But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

It is often said that God accepts everyone just as he or she is. But my reading of Matthew 19 and John 3 doesn't leave me with such an understanding. After all, if such were the case, why wouldn't Jesus' response to the questions above have been, "You don't have to change a thing. You're acceptable just as you are!"

None of the disciples was acceptable just as they were. Saul wasn't acceptable prior to his Damascus road conversion. I don't believe any of us is acceptable just as he or she is.

Rather, I believe that God receives all of us just as we are and then recreates us in his Son to make us completely acceptable.

After the rich young man left, Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19 that it would be hard for a rich man to enter heaven. They asked him who could be saved then if it were so difficult. Jesus told them: "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Never once does the Bible indicate that Jesus refused to engage anyone who came to him. When Peter responded to Jesus with unacceptable statements, it's true that Jesus told him to get behind him. But even then Jesus knew just what Peter needed to hear. And Jesus' responses, his questions and his directives to people of biblical times always revealed that He knew with whom he was dealing—and what their real needs were. Just as Jesus gave people the right answers then, so we, too, need to hear those same right answers today.

False gospels deceive us with false answers. Thus, to be faithful, we must know what the Bible tells us. That's why the WordAlone Network strongly encourages Bible study—a primary goal of the Institute of Lutheran Theology and the various study materials currently being generated by Sola Publishing.

We want the answer to the question found in Luke 18:8, "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" to be a resounding "Yes"!! With this objective at the fore, we encourage your use of these WordAlone resources and hope you will use your opportunities to make others aware of their availability!