Am I good enough to get in heaven? That’s what the rich young ruler was asking Jesus in Mark 10:17-27: Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” 20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” 21 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.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” 27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
I grew up in a mainline denomination church and always thought that your good just needed to outweigh the bad in order to get into heaven. In other words, God had a big scale in heaven and He put the good stuff I did on one side and the bad stuff on the other and if they good outweighed the bad, I was in. In my mind I was going to heaven.
That thinking all changed in 1995, when I attended a dramatic performance called Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames. In the performance, “good” people – moms, dads, grandparents, and young people died and stood in heaven before Jesus. He looked into the Book of Life and if their name was in there, they got to come in and it was a joyous moment. However, if their name was not in the Book, Jesus would shake His head and the music would turn ominous, red and white lights flashed and people dressed as demons would drag the screaming person to hell. In my testimony I tell people that this scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t get to the altar fast enough.
When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded with the law. The young man was happy that he had obeyed all the commandments and probably assumed he was good to go, but then Jesus shocked him with the next set of requirements – sell everything, give to the poor, pick up your cross, and follow me. It then says he went away sorrowful or sad, because he had many possessions, in other words he was rich.
Most people think that Jesus is saying that if they rich young ruler were to sell everything and give to the poor he would go to heaven, but that’s not what he was saying. In fact, Jesus said that if he sold everything and gave to the poor, he would have treasures in heaven, not that he would go to heaven.
This young man was breaking the first commandment – not to have any other gods, but God. Money was his god, which is why Jesus then taught the disciples about how difficult it is for rich people to get in heaven.
Everyone always focuses on the money issue, but the key to the young man entering heaven is found in the final two requirements – pick up your cross and follow me. Jesus was saying, you need to give it all to God – money, possession, body, mind, will, wants and needs. Have you given it all to God – 100%?
As a Pastor, I’ve had many discussions with people about money, tithing, and giving. They will often comment that they’ve turned their lives over to God and my first question is, “are you tithing?” If you aren’t willing to give God the portion that already belongs to Him (10%), then you certainly have not given it all to God. If the person is tithing, I’ll ask, are you giving at least 10% above the tithe? Again, if a person is just giving the bare minimum (the tithe), then they probably haven’t yet given it all to God.
Picking up the cross means sacrificing it all. Jesus did that for every person on the cross. He gave His very life to redeem us from the death penalty of sin. He’s not asking for us to give our physical lives, but He is asking us to put aside our selfishness, crucify the fleshly desires, and life for Him.
Next, Jesus tells the rich young ruler to follow Him. This means to give up your own way and go Jesus’ way. It means giving up your selfish thoughts and actions. It means trading in your wants, needs and will for what God wants and needs you to do within His will.
Back to our question, Am I good enough? Jesus answers that in the first verse we read (18), “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” We also see Paul answer this in Romans 3:12, “There is none who does good, no, not one.”
The answer is clear. No one is good enough to enter heaven. That’s why after the disciples listen to the encounter with the rich young ruler, they inquire as to who can enter heaven and Jesus says that it’s impossible for man, but with God all things are possible. In other words, there is nothing we can do to get to heaven. We can never be good enough. We must ride the coat tails of Jesus, as our Savior. He is the only way to heaven. Have you chosen to believe in Jesus as your Savior, picked up your cross, and are following Him?