You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (NIV)
That’s repentance. Notice the negative and the positive: “You turned to God from idols”—that’s the negative. These people stopped doing certain things that were displeasing to God. More than that, they started doing other things that are pleasing to God—that’s the positive.
Some of us were brought up with a Christianity that majored on what you shouldn’t do: “I will not smoke or drink or chew, I will not go with girls who do!” What about living in a way that pleases God and makes a difference in the world? Repentance cannot be confined to certain things you no longer do.
The rich young ruler wanted to know how to have eternal life. So Jesus engaged him with the Ten Commandments—Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t commit adultery. The man said, “I’ve kept all these since I was a boy.” He felt he had avoided the things God said a person shouldn’t do. So Jesus turned to the positive, “Sell all you have. Give it to the poor and then come follow me.”
Jesus is saying, “You have avoided certain sins, but what good are you doing? What are you doing to alleviate others’ suffering?” That’s where the rich young ruler parted company with Jesus. He was comfortable with a moral life. He wasn’t ready for a sacrificial life.
Morality is about avoiding certain things that are wrong. Christianity is about the pursuit of what is right. It is about leaving sin in order to pursue righteousness.
Are you comfortable with a moral life? Or ready for a sacrificial life?