God doesn’t expect us to commit (surrender) to him, or promise anything, or for us to abandon our ways, in order for him to first receive and forgive us (See John 1:12). (Now, many do make this commitment and do turn from their sins at the moment of salvation; this is called repentance. We may repent, turn direction, at the point of salvation, but repentance is not a condition for salvation, only faith is; See John 5:24; 20:30-31; Book of Galatians, especially 2:16). However, our forgiveness and adoption as sons of God is not a matter of giving up things first because if we don’t do so God won’t accept us. As difficult as it may seem for many to understand, salvation is totally free without any strings attached. Initial salvation (or justification) is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
Those who place their trust in Christ alone for eternal life can begin to experience the fullness of God and the abundant life that are found in knowing Jesus (See John 10:10). Jesus was ready to give the rich young ruler much more than mere entrance into heaven. He tells him that he can enjoy the fullness of life in God or the kingdom, and the abundance of eternal life, including future rewards (See 19:27-29), if he is willing to surrender and follow Christ as his disciple. Sadly, the ruler chose neither.
What then is the teaching behind the rich young ruler? First, the command to go sell his possessions and follow Jesus was a way for Christ to confront the young man with what enslaved him. He ought to have recognized his bondage to possessions as a source of trust and have turned his attention upon Jesus who was probing him to consider who it was that was speaking to him. Only Jesus can save, and provide eternal life (=abundant life or inheritance of the kingdom).
Each of us must be confronted with our sinfulness and need of Christ. The rich young man was first in his own estimation because he had many riches, but he would be last (unless he later came to faith in Christ) because he had not trusted in Christ alone for eternal life (19:30). Second, selling our possessions or sacrificing whatever stands between us and the Lord Jesus, is necessary for us to obtain the fullness of eternal life. That is, fullness of life in God’s coming Kingdom, including the promise of reigning with him and eternal rewards, are prepared for those who will sacrifice and live lives of commitment to the Lord (See 19:29; Luke 14:25-33). Those who follow and serve Jesus faithfully in this life will have riches in the kingdom.
What, then, must we do to have eternal life? How can we inherit the kingdom? We must first recognize our sins and need for forgiveness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Why would we believe in Jesus as Savior unless we are first convicted about sin in our lives and our need to be forgiven. The rich young ruler trusted his wealth and didn't see a need for Christ. Second, to experience the fullness of life with God now and in the coming Kingdom, we must we willing to surrender our lives to Jesus and keep the commandments (=the Law of Love in Christ and the two Greatest Commandments given by Jesus in Gal. 5:6; 6:2 and Matthew 22:37-40), something which can only be done through the enabling work of God’s Spirit in our lives.
Those who not only believe in Jesus, but also surrender and follow him, will have riches in heaven. The rich young ruler was blinded by his great riches. He failed to remove his eyes from his empty righteousness and place them on Christ for salvation. In failing to believe in Christ, he also failed to receive the Spirit of God which alone would have helped him to follow Jesus faithfully, and to enjoy the riches of eternal life and God's kingdom.