16(A) And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to(B) have(C) eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.(D) If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, (E) “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19Honor your father and mother, and,(F) You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him,(G) “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you would be(H) perfect, go,(I) sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have(J) treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22(K) When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you,(L) only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24(M) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter(N) the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26But Jesus(O) looked at them and said, (P) “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27Then Peter said in reply, “See,(Q) we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world,[a](R) when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me(S) will also sit on twelve thrones,(T) judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29(U) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[b] and will(V) inherit eternal life. 30But(W) many who are(X) first will be last, and the last first.
When you start talking about life after death, regardless of what beliefs people have (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Rastafarian, Buddhist), people like to think or at least hope that they can be “good enough” to get some kind of reward when they die; Whether that reward is a better reincarnation in (Hinduism) or 40 virgins in paradise (with Islam) or heaven (in Christianity). People like to think that they are good enough to save themselves. People like to think that they are good enough to be accepted by God.
Well, in Matthew 19, in the real life story of the rich young man. This exact same issue pops up. Here’s the situation…this guy comes up to Jesus…and he’s got something on his mind. You don’t get this in Matthews account, but the book of Mark says that this guy ran up to Jesus and kneeled down in front of Him (Mk. 10:17). So you get the feeling that this man is desperate. There’s something really really important on his mind. And we find out that the thing that’s so important to this guy is this question that we see in verse 16. He says to Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
A quick note about eternal life: Eternal life isn’t primarily about living for a really really long time. It’s first and foremost about living in a right relationship with the God who made you. It’s about knowing God and being right with Him. Check John 17:3
3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Now let me make a couple quick observations about the rich young man’s question: 1) He goes to the right person. He knows that, if anybody can tell Him what needs to happen in order for him to have eternal life, it’s Jesus! 2) Even though he goes to the right person, he’s got wrong ideas about how he can have this eternal life that he’s after. He assumes that HE can DO something to earn eternal life.
Jesus spends the next little while trying to get this guy to see that he is not good and that he cannot possibly do enough good to be right with God. Only God is good. God is the standard of goodness and next to him all of us fall miserably short. Check Romans 3:23
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
There is no hope for people to make themselves good enough to be acceptable to God. We can’t save ourselves.
In the case of the rich young man in matthew 19, Jesus finally expose his heart in verse 21 when he says, “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.” At this point the man goes away sad, because his possessions where more valuable to him than following Jesus-the One who gives life.
And here’s the point: If you want eternal life, if you want to be right with God, you’ve got to follow the one who gives eternal life. You’ve got to follow Jesus. And following Jesus means that you’ve got to give up any and everything that would keep you from following Him.
Here’s what I mean…here’s what you “do”
1)Give up on the idea that you can do enough to be accepted by God. Give it up. Romans 3:20 says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight….” Nobody gets in good with God by doing a bunch of stuff. Everybody is sinful and guilty before God, and you can’t work your way out of that.
2)Give up anything that would keep you from following Jesus. For the rich young man it was his money, but for you maybe it’s something else…
The question is: what are you clinging to to make you right with God? If it’s anything other than Jesus…give it up. Only Jesus can make us right with God the Father. Only Jesus can save. In Matthew 19, Jesus says that salvation is impossible with man. We can’t make ourselves right with God. But with God, salvation is possible! God graciously saves people. God saves people who give up. He saves people who give up on the idea that they can do anything to make themselves right with Him and instead trust His Son, Jesus.