If your parent or teacher says, “There’s only one thing I want you to do,” or, “Just remember this one thing,” you know it’s really important! If you don’t pay attention to the one thing you’re told, you’ll probably end up in trouble! If it was your mom or dad that you didn’t listen to, you might find yourself in time-out. Or if you didn’t follow your teacher’s instruction before the big exam, your final grade will probably be less than satisfactory. What’s even more important than these examples is for us to listen to God’s truth — nothing is more important than that! Some notable mentions of the expression “one thing” in the Bible that we should pay attention to are:
- One thing you lack (Mark 10:21): salvation
- One thing I know (John 9:25): assurance
- One thing is needed (Luke 10:41-42): communion
- One thing I do (Philippians 3:13-14): service
- One thing I have desired (Psalm 27:4): expectation
One thing you lack: Salvation
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21 NKJV)
In the first instance, a rich young ruler asked the Lord Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life. If you think about it, that question doesn’t even make sense. You can’t do anything to obtain an inheritance; someone has to die and you must accept it as a gift! This rich young man thought he could inherit eternal life by keeping the law. He claimed that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, but the truth is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). By coveting earthly possessions and making them his god, he had in fact broken both the first and last commandments (Ex. 20:3, 17). The law is like a chain of 10 links — break one link, and the entire chain is broken (Jas. 2:10). The rich young man didn’t want to give up his wealth or self-justification to follow Jesus by way of the cross. He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions — he had great possessions, and his great possessions had him.
It’s only through the cross that we can inherit eternal life. We can’t earn our salvation by keeping the law, by doing good works, by going to church, by being baptized, or anything else. “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah wrote that we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isa. 64:6). Even our best efforts could never tip the balance to earn favor with God or make us clean from our sins. “Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before Me, declares the Lord God” (Jer. 2:22).
It’s also important to understand that we don’t inherit eternal life through the faith of our parents or by growing up in a Christian home. “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13). You see, God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children! We must receive1 the gift of eternal life through personal faith in the Lord Jesus, who loved us and gave Himself for us.
On the cross He declared, “It is finished.” While every other religion says we have to do something to earn acceptance with God, Christianity begins with done! The work of redemption has been completed, and there’s nothing left for us to do but accept the free gift of grace. Of all the “one things,” salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus is the most important. The other four in our list only apply to true children of God.
Love, love, L-O-V-E,
Love, love, boundless and free;
Jesus left heaven to die on the tree
This was love, love, love!
Done, done, D-O-N-E,
Done, done, done perfectly!
“Finished!” Christ cried, when on Calvary He died,
So it’s done, done, done!
Come, come, C-O-M-E,
Come, come, “come unto Me”;
Jesus receives whosoever believes,
When they come, come, come!
Mine, mine, M-I-N-E,
Mine, mine, eternally;
Wonderful love, Jesus came from above
To be mine, mine, mine!William B. Mackie
This post comes from The Lord is Near, a publication of Believer’s Bookshelf, Canada. Read additional Lord is Near online articles, listen via podcasts, or order a printed copy at Believer’s Bookshelf Canada.
1. When Jesus blessed the little children in the story just before that of the rich young ruler, He said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk. 10:15). Contrast “do” (works) with “receive” (faith).