What Must I Do To Be Saved?
When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus quickly replied, "All you have to do is accept Me as your Lord and Savior and you will be saved."
The young man agreed, said a short prayer and walked away satisfied. He was saved! He could get back to his property and life as he knew it. It was all good.
Oops! Perhaps if the story happened today, that's how it might have read. But, Matthew 19 puts it another way:
16 And someone came to (Jesus) and said, "Teacher, what shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?"
17 And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments."
18 Then he said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony."
19 "Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
20 The young man said to Him, "All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?"
21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
Note the words in boldface:
"What is good?"
"Keep the commandments"
"Sell your possessions and give to the poor"
"Come, follow Me."
Four hurdles stood between that young businessman and eternal life. Jesus hit each one in order.
First, the young man wanted to know what GOOD thing he could do to be saved. Jesus saids there is only One who is able to do GOOD things worthy of eternal life, and that is God Himself. Without realizing he had painted himself into a corner by his question, the young man exposed that he thought he was as good as God. OR, put another way, he showed he did not have a fear or awe of God. He thought he was good enough to produce GOOD works worthy of heaven. This boy was proud, even arrogant.
The devil himself said he would sit on a throne equal to or better than God's. He thought he was that great---but greatness existed only in his own eyes. His pride caused his downfall. This young man really believed he was capable of producing good works worthy of 'buying' eternal life for himself!
Pride or ego is man's worst enemy. Man enthrones himself and refuses to humble himself before God. Instead of trying to perform good works that were great in his own sight, Jesus said the young man needed to keep the commandments given by God. The young man needed to humble himself and be obedient to God.
Ouch! The young man was not only rich, but he was also well-educated in the Law and prophets. He knew the commandments and observed each and all of them...or so he thought! Just to be certain Jesus wasn't misled, the young man asked Him which commands in particular he needed to keep.
"What am I lacking?"
"If you want to be complete," Jesus said, hitting point number three, "sell your possessions and give to the poor."
Though the young man had not committed any of the sins AGAINST his neighbors or family, what, if any, had he committed FOR them? This boy had worked hard to amass wealth and property, status in the community and creature comforts. Now Jesus said he should sell all that and support the poor and street beggars.
This boy thought he was notches above the poor and wretched. To sell his holdings and then give the poor his riches was quite another story! Yet, isn't that what Jesus said would make him complete: when he loved his neighbor as much as he loved himself?
The final straw came when Jesus said, "Come and follow Me!" By this time in His ministry, Jesus had a reputation for being an itinerant possessing miracle-evident power. Twelve men followed Him, not gents of renown, but rough, unrefined and poor men. The group had no luxury, no servants, no place to call their home. They were shunned and jeered at. If the young man sold his belongings and gave them away, he would end up the same way as those men did, and it was too rough a future to appeal to him.
Then and there, he made his choice. He would not subject himself to the authority of Jesus. He would not turn his back on riches and notoriety to join a questionable vagabond troupe. Sadly, he walked away from Jesus and eternal life!
Many people today say a little prayer and walk away, thinking they've done all they need to do to get to heaven! They have believed an adulterated Gospel that requires nothing from them, certainly not the message Jesus delivered to the rich young ruler so many years ago.
Which is worse: To hear the truth and renounce it like the young ruler did or to be told a lie with no repentance or necessary change required and be deceived into believing it's the truth until it's too late?
Without real repentance and a renouncement of our life of sinning and self-love, no one will get to heaven. The way is narrow that leads to heaven and Jesus said very few find it. If you are one who is searching for that narrow path, keep looking...you are well on your way to finding it!