Today's verse is Mark 10:17: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus had just finished teaching on the need to have childlike faith to enter the kingdom of God. Now, as he begins his journey, a man runs up to him and asks the most important question we can ever ask: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
We are eternal creatures. Most of us, deep inside, instinctively know it. We know this world cannot be all there is. We think, for example, of all those we've loved and who have loved us. At death, does all that love simply extinguish? Does it go "poof", in the air, immediately gone forever? Or shouldn't it continue to exist, forever, in a place where death never robs love again? Surely it's the later. Surely there is a way for life to continue eternally.
This man felt that urge. He wanted eternal life. That's why he asked Jesus the question he did.
But his question points out the two paths to eternal life. One, as he suggests, revolves around what we must do, how we can earn, eternal life. It's self-righteousness. By trying to be good, by doing enough good works, God is impressed and grants eternal life. Juxtaposed against this view is Jesus' view (and the one of Scripture). As we will see later, Jesus shows the man the impossibility of ever begin able to do enough to overcome our distance in sin from a pure, holy God. Therefore, the way to eternal life cannot be through being "good". We can never be good enough. The only other path can be God's grace, with a childlike trust and faith, a gift from the Father through Jesus, who paid the price for our sin on the Cross, giving us eternal life as a gift, again, by grace, through faith.
One of these two options is true. They cannot both be true. They are opposite ends of the spectrum. They are contrary to one another. They are polar opposites. Either God gives us eternal life by the doing of good works or it's a free gift granted by grace through faith. The first is every world's religion except one: the doing of good works to earn eternal life. The other world's religion that teaches a different path is the Christian faith that says we fail in every way to be perfectly good. We need a Savior. His name is Jesus. He gives us the gift we can never earn by earning it for us on Calvary.
What must we do to inherit eternal life? Nothing. Because we can't. Inheriting eternal life by our good works is an impossibility. That's why God sent his Son, Jesus. For God so loved you and me, he sent Jesus to die for our sins. And anyone who believes in him will never perish but have eternal life.
It's either grace or works to inherit eternal life. It can't be both. Which is it?
Therefore, today, ask yourself the most important question we can ever ask: "What must I do to inherit eternal life." If you answered "nothing". No, nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the Cross of Christ do I cling", I'll see you in heaven!