"'Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'" (Matthew 19:24).
God issues rules and commands not because He expects that we will be able to keep them, but because it is the only way to show us how far we all fall short. When God appeals to rules and laws it is to teach us that we shouldn't rely on rules and laws.
We naturally associate faith with religion, Yet, one of the remarkable things about Jesus' ministry was that he was always at odds with those who were the most religious. That's because, more often than not, religion focuses on what we have done for God.
Jesus, on the other hand, focused on what God has done for us. He understood that religion is really about faith in one's self. Rather than trust in human effort, biblical faith trusts in the mercy and forgiveness offered to us in Christ.
Sadly, too many fail to see this. Blinded by their own pride, they end up self-righteously clinging to the rules. What these people fail to see is that God uses religion as a tool to create a dilemma that no religion can solve.
But the humble will see how they fall short and will begin to search for something more. They will turn from the hypocrisy they experienced in their own failed efforts to be good enough and search for grace.
And that's when, just beyond the condemnation of the Law, they find the mercy and acceptance of the Temple. That's when, just beyond Jesus' words “be perfect ... as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” they find a perfect Savior who goes to the cross to exchange his perfection for their sins (Matthew 5:48).
Those who go beyond religion find grace, while those who get stuck in legalistic religion remain condemned by their own failures to uphold the legalistic demands of their religion. Instead of ever saving themselves, they become trapped in the fruitless effort of trying to save themselves.