You know the story of the young rich man who came to Jesus seeking to know how to get into the Kingdom? This guy was doing everything we consider godly yet he had not secured a place in the Kingdom of God. And when he asked Jesus what he needs to do to get in he was told to go sell everything, give it out to the poor and come follow Jesus. He went home very sad.
Why is it this hard to follow Jesus? to get into the kingdom of God? SELF.
Human beings have this force within us that seeks to preserve ourselves. We seek comfort, security and freedom. That is why we would want to be sure we are safe for tomorrow, we would love to take care of ourselves and we would want to do what we feel like and be good with it. Most a time these things are tied around SELF.
On the other hand, God is looking for people who can trust Him and have faith in Him to provide comfort, security and freedom. But His way of providing this requires death to self. Death to self means we lose our own ability to provide for ourselves comfort, security and freedom and give that ability to a being we have not seen but whom we connect through faith. TOUGH.
Look at Paul, he says he considers everything rubbish having known Christ. He was a learned man, a great achiever and a track history of greatness. Yet he says that is all rubbish because he has known Christ. I would wish to occupy that position but you have to agree with me it is not easy.
Back to the rich young man, why do you think he went home sad? He was not ready to lose his comfort, his security and his freedom. And although he did all the religious acts thoroughly and consistently, he did not come to a place of accessing the Kingdom of God because he sought to preserve self. When we look at Zacchaeus, he let go of everything and accessed the Kingdom. This rich young man didn't have the correct sight of Christ. I mean, it was possible even after selling and giving away everything, to actually have it all restored and given more. But self blinded him.
I am convinced that the way to access Christ and His kingdom is to surrender everything to Him and to be safe in His words and His demands. And once we occupy this position we are able to achieve comfort, security and freedom. Having no trace of self in us.