In Jesus' day, as in modern times, it was considered a real blessing to have a lot of money. Some then (and now) considered wealth as a sign of 'election' from God. So when the rich young official asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Lk. 18:18), the answer that Jesus gave shocked the crowd and even His disciples.
Jesus begins by telling the rich man to keep the commandments. This is in keeping with our Savior's words at other times too, for example:
"Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them...until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter of the law...shall be done away with until it all becomes true. That is why whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom
of heaven." (Mt. 5:17-18, 19).
We know from experience that it isn't always easy to keep God's commands. We get angry, lonely, greedy or impatient. By intent, 'accident' or temptation, we have all sinned personally,
as Romans 3:23 reminds us:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But we can take heart:
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.(Lk. 19:10).
Returning to our Lord's answer to the rich man, after telling him to keep the commandments, Jesus next explained:
"If you wish to be perfect,
go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will
have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." (Mt. 19:21).
Jesus was teaching His listener's and us about love, and detachment from riches ("You can not serve God and money." Mt. 6:24), but the downcast rich man leaves. Jesus says:
"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter
the kingdom of God.'
When the disciples heard this, they were astonished and said,
'WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED?' Jesus looked at them, and said,
'For man this is impossible, but for God all things are possible!" (Mt. 19:23-26).
We can not save ourselves! But in His great Mercy and Love, God makes it possible for us to be saved through Jesus' ministry to a sinful world:
"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim. 1:15).
We should admit we need saving, as does our troubled world! Jesus, our Savior, makes it possible!
The New Testament tells us many facts about how we are to be saved. Let's consider Nicodemus' question:
"How can one be born again once
he is old?'...Jesus replied,
'I solemnly assure you, no one can enter into God's kingdom without being born of water and the Spirit." (Jn. 3:4). To be 'born again' into the heavenly kingdom, we're told we
need confirmation in the Spirit, and baptismal water. This isn't the only time Jesus instructed the necessity for baptism, the Son ordered the Apostles to:
"Go and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize
them in 'the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'
Teach them to carry out all that I have commanded you." (Mt. 28:19-20).
After hearing Jesus' Gospel proclaimed, Peter's listeners ask:
What are we to do then, brothers?' Then Peter said to them,
'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:37b-38). The next time Peter preaches in Acts, he ends with:
"God raised up His servant (Jesus) and sent Him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways." (Acts: 3:26b).
So there is a consistent message in the 'good news' for:
(a) repentance, which means a sorrow for sins and a change of heart,
(b) baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told his followers to expect troubles, even persecution from unbelievers and those who don't understand. Faithful Christians should note that often their persecutors convert. Such was the case with
Saul (Paul). Once taught, Paul:
"got up and was baptized (Acts 9:18b).
Like many spiritually 'blinded' converts who had persecuted the True Church, we know Paul became a great teacher for Christ. This is just one of many reasons why we should:
"speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) and
"Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of
God, than for doing evil." (1 Pet. 3:15b-17).
We are promised:
"My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone
bring him back, he should know that who ever brings back a sinner...will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." (Jas. 5:19-20).
CHRISTIANS DO SIN.
Some Christians have been misled to believe that they are justified by faith alone, or can be 'once saved, always saved.' This contradicts reason, God's justice and Scriptures like ones you've read, and numerous others, such as: "Are we abolishing the law by means of faith? Not at all! On the contrary, we are confirming the law." (Rom. 3:31). The New Testament is filled with warnings to 'backsliding' (sinning) believers: "Whoever says, 'I know Him,' but does not keep the commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."; "Children, let no one deceive you...whoever sins belongs to the devil."; "There is such a thing as a deadly sin.";"All wrongdoing is sin";"there is a sin unto death." (1 Jn. 2:4; 3:7,8a; 5:16c,17a); "
Someone might say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Prove your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you
from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the
demons believe, and tremble...For just as a body without a spirit
is dead, so also faith without works is dead." (Jas. 2:18-19,26); "Someone that knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, it is a sin." (Jas. 4:17); "You...are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:48).
Before growing despondent, remember that Jesus said with God, all
things are possible! How are we "to be perfect?" How do we receive the grace needed for salvation? While on earth, we know that Jesus forgave sins. After His Resurrection, "At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced. 'Peace be with you.' He said again. 'As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.' Then He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them, if you hold them bound, they are held bound." (Jn. 20:20-23).
Scripture says: "confess your sins to one another" (Jas. 5:16). Jesus gave His Church that authority: "Whatever you declare bound on earth, will be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth, will be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:19). We take hope in Jesus' parable of the workers (cf. Mt. 20:1-16), noting even the latecomers received, as the earlier ones did. Because the presbyters (priests) of the Church have the power to forgive sins, we have a way to "work out your salvation" (Phil. 2:12), cleansing our souls, a way to become "perfect."
Scripture advises us: "We should not absent ourselves from the assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all
the more since the time is short." (Heb. 10:25). What is supposed to take place at the 'assembly?' Many who don't go today may wonder: 'why is going so important?' Let us see how our salvation is aided at the 'assembly.'
From John 6:48,, "I Am the Bread of Life...If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever; the bread I will give is My flesh for the life of the world...Let Me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...The man who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in Him...Jesus was aware that His disciples were murmuring in protest at what He said. 'Does this shake your faith?', He asked...From that time on many of His disciples broke away and would not remain in His company any longer."
There are those today who don't accept Jesus' literal words, which are recorded by John to teach us. Those who doubt the Eucharistic
doctrine should keep in mind that 'with God, nothing is impossible.' Note Peter's faith: "Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (Jn. 6:68), and that Jesus said "the bread I will give". This promise of saving bread was fulfilled in the Last Supper, which Jesus commanded His Apostles to repeat (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-32).
The Eucharistic bread we are to 'assemble' for makes this possible: "The man who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him." The Eucharist also fulfills Malachi's (1:10-11) prophecy: "From the rising of the sun even to its setting, My Name is great among the nations; and everywhere they bring sacrifice to My Name, and a pure offering; for My Name is great among the nations, says
the Lord of hosts." In every nation of the world, from the rising of the sun to its setting, a perfect Eucharistic sacrifice is offered to the Father, in Jesus' Holy Name! Some one billion people belong to local churches linked with the universal Church that profess the literal meaning of this saving sacrament of communion with Christ. About 300 million other souls belong to Orthodox churches that share the same belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In short, the majority of the Christian world officially believes in the Real Presence, as did the early Christians.
"He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mk. 16:15-16). These verses are to the point. But what did Jesus mean, "believes?" Note that in the previous sentence, He says "proclaim the gospel", the 'Good News' is what is to be believed! The Gospel (i.e.: Good News) is more than a few verses some take out of context; it is the Way
of Salvation, via Christ's universal Church!
We don't go to the assembly to impress people, to make someone feel important or any other human reason. We go because it is Jesus who calls us! Jesus invites you and all people to join Him at His Assembly!