An old story is told about three men who meet at the end of a dock on a Florida beach. One is an alcoholic and homeless. The second man is just an average guy. The third man is a fine, honorable man, well respected in the community.
Suddenly the alcoholic runs and jumps off the edge of the dock, landing 5 feet out into the water. The other two men standing on the dock yell, “What are you trying to do?”
The man in the water yells back, “I’m trying to jump across the Atlantic Ocean!”
The second man, the average Joe, says, “Watch me. I can do better than that!” He quickly runs across the dock, jumps and lands 10 feet out into the water, twice as far as the alcoholic.
The third man, the outstanding man, laughs and says, “That’s nothing. Watch this!” He backs up about 50 feet and makes a mad dash across the dock out into the water and lands 20 feet out, twice as far as average Joe, and four times as far as the homeless alcoholic.
If we were to actually see such an attempt, we would think these three men were crazy for attempting to do the impossible — jump across the Atlantic Ocean!
But people trying to earn their own salvation are even more foolish…
After sharing the story above, Howell Ferguson provided the following insights: “God can’t be approached by man on the basis of man’s own moral goodness. Sometimes people are heard to say, ‘I’m a good person! Won’t God accept me and bring me to heaven?’
This question shows a woeful lack of understanding of the grave nature of an individual’s sin and the absolute holiness of God. If we were so good that we deserved heaven, salvation would be owed as a “debt” rather than something to be received as a “gift” of grace (cf. Romans 11:6).
One truth which is made absolutely clear in the Bible is this: ‘No, God will not accept me, because I am not a good person.’
Isaiah wrote, ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins carry us away’ (Isaiah 64:6).
A person may look moral when compared with other people, but when compared with Christ, all people fall perilously short. This is why Paul states, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).
No matter how moral any person might be, he has fallen short of the perfect mark of God’s righteousness.
The ONLY way anyone can stand in the presence of a righteous God is to be forgiven and declared righteous by faith in God’s work in Christ (Philippians 3:9). We are only accepted ‘in the beloved’ because we believe and trust in the righteous work that he did (Ephesians 1:6).” *
To be found “in the beloved” (in Christ), we must: place our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27).
None of us can be “good enough” to earn our way to heaven. Only through Christ can we enter the heavenly way (see John 14:6).
Won’t you trust and obey Him today?
David A. Sargent
Minister, Church of Christ at Creekwood