Read this passage from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10:
And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Did you see what Jesus did? He immediately focused on the use of the word “good” and responded that only God alone was good. If you asked anyone on the street if they thought they were good, they would almost 100% respond “yes.” Even the ones who respond “no” are only displaying a false humility. Everyone really thinks they are good people. You think you're basically a good person. At least, you try, right? But Jesus says that only God is good. He then demonstrates that no one is good by going through several of the ten commandments:
You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
Now, the young man is completely lying. As it says in Romans 3: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” We commit murder every day, because Jesus said that if we are angry with our neighbor, we commit murder in our hearts. We commit adultery every day, because Jesus said that if we look with lust, we commit adultery in our hearts. We steal every day when we put ourselves before others, when we make things all about ourselves. We lie every day when we make ourselves look innocent instead of the guilty wretches we are, when we try to take advantage of other people, even slightly. We hold our elders in derision, constantly rejecting their wisdom. We have not kept any of these commandments, especially from our youth. The young man hasn't either, and he is lying to Jesus' face.
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Even though we are all lying, thieving, blasphemous, murderers and adulterers at heart, Jesus loves us anyway. He calls the young man out as a liar by telling him to go sell his possessions. Anyone who keeps the commandments would have no trouble following this command, because living as a child of God means living your whole life in light of the next one. You cannot take your stuff with you. Your stuff, and especially your wealth, causes you to break the commandments. Why? Because our need to have more and more things, makes us lie, steal, hate, lust, covet, and dishonor our parents. Living without actually breaks us of breaking the commandments. Jesus knows this. He had nothing on earth, even though, as God, he owns everything. Jesus isn't telling us to become paupers or monks. He knows we are unable to live sinlessly.
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
The rich young man does not give up anything. He realizes that following Jesus Christ is impossible, and he walks away. Is that how you feel right now?
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
This is a horrible conclusion! The rich, young ruler asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. An inheritance is actually something that one does not earn. You get it for free, but you get it passed down from your father. Is God our father? Jesus has responded to the question with the most troubling answer of all time. If we do not obey his commandments—and we can't!—we cannot follow Jesus. We cannot be God's children, and since we cannot be God's children, we do not get his inheritance!
And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
Something has changed here. We are no longer talking about inheriting eternal life but being saved from something. What are we in danger of? The wrath of God himself. You see, anyone who does not inherit eternal life inherits instead eternal death: everlasting ruin in hell. Why? Because God is pure goodness, pure holiness, and nothing evil can stand in his presence. We have already established that we are unable to keep the commandments, but why? We cannot keep them not because we are helpless, but because we are sinful, depraved creatures. Our wills are in bondage to sin and evil. We cannot choose to do good, because we are stubborn rebels who only choose what we want, and what we want is to do evil things. Try to go through the day and keep the ten commandments. Not only will you find it impossible, you will think it stupid, too. The ten commandments seem to be there to prevent us from having any fun! We actually like to look with lust! That's what makes movies so popular. We like to hate people and see them get their comeuppance! Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. We may not act out on these thoughts, but Jesus says it's the thought that really counts, anyway.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
So, Jesus confirms that it is impossible for us to be saved. We deserve hell, and we will find ourselves in hell after we die. However, notice that he did say, “but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” What does this mean? It means that God himself found a way for us to be saved from eternal destruction. Remember when Jesus rebuked the young man for calling him a “good teacher?” Well, that really wasn't a rebuke—it was a confirmation. “No one is good but God alone,” Jesus said. That is true, but what Jesus is saying that he himself is good, because he is God. Only God is good. Jesus is God. Jesus is good. The name Jesus means, “he saves.” Why would Jesus be called that unless it were true? God came down to earth as a man—Jesus Christ the righteous. He lived a pure and sinless life, obeying all the ten commandments through his 33 years with us. Even when he was dying on the cross, he made sure his own mother would be cared for! Why did he keep the moral law perfectly? Because then he could make a great exchange: his righteousness for our sin! On the cross, all of our sin was placed on him, and all of his righteousness placed on us. Then God the Father in heaven poured out his entire cup of wrath—meant for us—onto his own son. Jesus died in our place. Then he rose from the dead after three days in the grave, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father to intercede for us. That means, whenever we sin—and we still will—Jesus vouches for us, “reminding” the father he has died for all the past, present, and future sins of his children. God will never punish us, because he has punished Jesus instead.
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Did the disciples just say that they are able to give up everything to follow Jesus? That they are able to keep the commandments? How can this be? Because when Jesus has saved us, we are able to keep the commandments out of gratitude! This is how we know that we are saved, if we are able to keep the commandments. This obedience to the law does not save us but is proof that we are saved. In writing to Christians, John the evangelist said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In other words, even as Christians, we still sin and will continue to do so, but Christians also will repent and be forgiven. Through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, we are saved. We are children of God. We are inheritors of eternal life.