This was a question the disciples asked in something I was reading last night. It's a story in 3 of the 4 gospels, it obviously made a dent in the followers' minds.
It's a familiar story. A rich man wants to know how to get into heaven, and he tells Jesus he has followed all the laws since he was a young boy. So Jesus ups the ante. Give up everything, sell all your possessions and follow Him. And the young man walks away because he is very rich.
At this point Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them how incredibly hard it is for the rich to enter heaven, but He also says it is hard for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier to shove a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get into heaven.
Here the disciples ask that question. "Then who in the world can be saved?"
Jesus' answer: Humanly speaking, no one. No one can earn that right. But with God, all things are possible.
We have been talking about grace for the past few weeks at Fishers UMC, a really fitting topic during Lent, because this is the time we focus on what Christ did that none of us could do. Live a blameless life and earn salvation. And since He did it, He is also giving it away to anyone who wants it. For free. The truth is, there is nothing you can do to earn the right to heaven. There is nothing that can be done to somehow gain enough Jesus points to save ourselves. It is a gift, and one we should be incredibly thankful for and share.
Because of His kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God Himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10 (LB)
(notice we don't do good to earn God's love, because of God's love we want to do good, there's a big difference there...)