Can I earn my way to Heaven?
Drifting Far Away
It was just a simple toy boat. Not very big, and made of red plastic. Just the kind any kid would love to play with. Somehow it found its way into the Atlantic Ocean, near Shediac, New Brunswick, and because boats are made to float, it was fine at first.
But as it continued to bob, unattended, on the surface of that salt-water bay, it got caught up in a current, one that caused it to drift farther and farther away from the beach. No matter how hard it tried to turn back, it was helpless to change its course. The current was too strong for such a tiny plastic boat.
But even if it had been equipped with a motor of some kind, its efforts would have been pointless. It might have initially made the boat feel better to be “doing” something to get itself back to shore, but sooner or later it would realize that the motor wasn’t strong enough to fight the current, and it would continue to find itself drifting farther and farther from the shore.
My youngest son, who was just ten years old at the time, was the first to notice the little boat. It was about a kilometer away from us, and he headed straight out into the ocean to rescue the toy. Fortunately I noticed him. Otherwise the plastic boat wouldn’t have been the only one lost in the vast ocean! Currents have the reputation of sweeping children away as well as toys! No human efforts could save it now. It was lost, lost for good!
Only One came to save those, who like that tiny plastic boat, are lost. It cost Him His life, but when He rose from the dead on the third day, he could exclaim: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)
And indeed those who were once lost were brought ashore, not through their own efforts, but because of what the Risen One had done for them!
Have you noticed that most religions in this world are based on works? Ever since ancient times it has been this way: “Let us offer our children to appease the gods!”
Even among Christian denominations, many preach that we have our part to do if we want to get to heaven. Human efforts are a must! They simply forget that “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10 NIV). They also forget that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23 NIV)
So often I hear: “I try to do my best to reach heaven. As long as my good works outweigh my bad ones, that’s what counts! After all, I’m not a “Hitler” kind of person!”
How different from what the Bible teaches: “And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:24 NIV)
There is no price for our redemption. Jesus paid it in full. All we can do with our tiny human effort is to drift further and further away from God’s grace. Just like that tiny boat could do nothing to save itself, we cannot save ourselves. “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:16 NIV)
We forget that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Prov 14:12 NIV)
What does God think of our efforts of earning heaven? “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Gal 3:3-5 NIV)
Only One can save us and give us real rest, and that One is not us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28 NIV)
It might initially be fun to swim after that plastic boat, but believe me, that kind of fun will only be temporary!
(For more information on this subject read: A Single Drop of Water: Radical Grace from the Book of Romans (1:16-17))
P. S. It’s true that God calls us to love one another and to be helping hands. But these are not geared to helping us obtain heaven, but rather, are an expression of our thankfulness for what Jesus has done for us. Thank you Jesus! You are the best!