What Shall I Do To Inherit Eternal Life? (written July 1998)
John 3:16-18, Mark 10:17-27 July 31, 1998
This evening we heard about a man who asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” We are told about this man in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels. This is a very important question. For, according to the Bible, whether we are rich or poor, young or old, after we die there are only two possibilities, either we receive “eternal life” or we will endure “everlasting punishment”. We should want to know how to receive eternal life.
In response to the man’s question, Jesus directed the man to the commandments saying, “You know the commandments” Jesus knew that the man who keeps the law of the Lord perfectly will live. If we can keep the commandments we will receive eternal life.
Jesus then listed some to the commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. Honour your father and your mother. Even this partial list of God’s commandments is hard to keep. Can any of us truly say that we have keep even this short list of commandments perfectly. In another passage, Jesus says that by just getting angry we can be guilty of murder. Have any of us never murdered someone in our mind. Or can any of us say we have never stolen anything, or never lied, or never cheated anyone. Or is there any of us who have never failed to honour our parents.
Yet, the man in our passage, answered, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” This man actually thinks he has lived a good life. If what he thinks is true, then he will receive eternal life. How many of us are like this man and think that we have lived a good enough life.
Most of us realize that this man, like us, was not able to keep all the these commands from his youth. But surely God will accept us if we do a pretty good job rather then a perfect job. If it were true that living a pretty good life would gain us eternal life, then Jesus should have given the man a pat on the back and said, keep on trying, I’ll see you in heaven.
But this is not what Jesus did. Instead, Jesus said that the man lacked one thing. The man was to sell whatever he had and give to the poor, then he would have treasure in heaven. The man went away sorrowful for he had great possessions. Jesus had exposed this man’s heart. This man desired earthly treasures more than he desired to follow God. In order to sell his great treasure his heart would have to change. He was not ready to turn away from loving his treasures and turn toward loving God.
To enter into eternal life a man must desire to follow God and do things God’s way for all eternity. But can any of us boast of such a desire any more than we can keep all the commandments.
It is hard for a rich man to give up his riches, and it is hard for us to give up our own desires, and to follow God. God knows how hard this is. In fact, not only is it hard, it is impossible for us to please God on our own strength. Just as it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
This is what Jesus wanted the man in the passage to understand. Jesus wants us to understand that it is impossible for us to gain eternal life by living a good enough life. But Jesus wants us to understand something even more amazing. Listen to Jesus,
“With men it is impossible but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
God is, indeed, gracious and merciful. He does not give up on His people. God the Father, out of love, sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him will not perish but have eternal life. God the Son willingly came to earth and took on human flesh and dealt among us. He did this so that He, as a servant, could die in our place and bear upon Himself God’s wrath that we deserve for our sins. Before Jesus came, the prophet Isaiah spoke of this saying,
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to accept this great love and gives us the desire to live for God.
For those who realize how sinful they really are and despair, Jesus says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. Cry out to God. Those who believe on the only begotten son of God, those who turn unto God and follow Him will have eternal life.
For direct quotes from scripture I used
The New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.