Often people will state that they want to follow Christ, and that can be encouraging. But the test comes when they are challenged about what they think about God, what they think about themselves, and what they think about this life. Such was the case with the rich, young ruler (Mt. 19:16-22; Ml. 10:17-22; Lk. 18:18-23). He came running to Jesus, kneeled, and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life. But the young man had wrong thinking, and Jesus delt with those spiritual strongholds.
First, he had wrong thinking about the perfections of God. The young man called Jesus "Good Master.” Jesus is good, the perfection of divine attributes; but He is more than a teacher. He is God. The young man misunderstood who Jesus was as well as the righteousness of God. Paul taught that people commonly live ignorant of the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3). People must view God correctly to be saved.
Second, he had wrong thinking about himself. He thought he could do some good thing to be saved. This is false. He also thought that he had done good things. People misunderstand their lack of righteousness and the pervasiveness of their unrighteousness. Ignorance of God's righteousness corresponds to an attempt at establishing one's own righteousness (Rom. 10:3). A wrong view of God leads to a wrong view of self. People must view themselves correctly to be saved.
Third, he had wrong thinking about this life. He was covetous and wouldn’t let go of something in this life he held as valuable. People must relinquish for Christ whatever the world’s system promotes as valuable, whether it be possessions or the opinions of people. John exhorted his audience in I John 2:15-17 regarding the world's system and the things in it. People must view this life correctly to be saved.
The young man's conversation with Christ ended abruptly because he sorrowed over losing his possessions. The disciples later asked the Lord who could be saved. Maybe you have asked the same question when interested people turn away over some aspect of faith and repentance. Jesus' answer fits for us as it did them: "With men it is impossible; but with God all things are possible." People can follow Christ in salvation; but God must do the work, and they must respond in faith.