Baptists frequently get labeled with the accusation that we preach “easy believism.” People say, “C’mon, there must be more to getting saved than praying a simple prayer in which you ask Jesus to be your Savior.” My response to that is, “No, there’s not more to the prayer itself, but there is a ton more to the decision that gets voiced by the prayer.”
I confess that over the years I’ve struggled to find illustrations that accurately depict the weight of the decision to trust in Christ (and Christ alone) for salvation. But I ran across a story recently that I thought did a pretty good job of it. See what you think.
In a northern town, a young woman was walking across the thick layer of ice atop a frozen pond. Everything seemed fine until suddenly, without warning, the ice broke and she fell into the bone-chilling water. As she hung there with her head barely out of the water and the rest of her body submerged, she clutched the ice around the hole with every ounce of strength she had in both hands. This allowed her to cry for help, after which a man came running to rescue her.
The man grabbed both of her wrists and said, “I can’t pull you out as long as you are clutching the ice so hard. What I need you to do is let go of the ice and trust me to pull you up.” The logic made sense, but no way was the terrified woman going to let go of that ice. So, a standoff ensued for a few seconds as the man pleaded with her to let go and trust him. Finally, when the woman realized that she couldn’t hang there in that icy water any longer, she gave in and did as the man asked. He then immediately pulled her up to safety.
You see, what Jesus asks of each of us is that we stop clinging to the “ice” of good works, religion, spirituality, church, and anything else in regards to our salvation and simply place our full trust in Him. If we are going to get saved, we must let go completely and trust Him to pull us up to safety. The longer we wait to let go and trust Him, the worse our situation becomes.
Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that salvation comes by grace (God’s undeserved favor) through faith (faith in Jesus). The passage also points out that salvation is a gift from God and as such cannot be earned as payment. If we could do something to earn it, we would have grounds to boast.
Getting back to the illustration, the young women had no reason whatsoever to boast that she saved herself. No, all she did was mess up and place herself in need of rescue. All the credit for the rescue had to go to the man who pulled her out of the water. And the same is true metaphorically of salvation. We sinners cannot save ourselves. All we can do is get ourselves into trouble. But when we let go of our own efforts and place our faith in Jesus to save us, He does the job that we can’t do.
Someone might ask, “But what about good works? Don’t they have something to do with salvation?” Yes, they do, but we must be sure to keep the order straight. The Bible offers an entire book, the book of James, to explain that once a person gets saved the salvation will produce good works. In other words, good works are the evidence of salvation, not the cause of it. Think of it this way: Good works cannot flow into salvation, but they will inevitably flow out of it.
Summing up the situation, salvation definitely isn’t easy. For one thing, it’s not easy to abandon the idea of saving yourself. For another thing, it’s not easy to let Jesus change you in order to produce those good works that will evidence your salvation. Truth be told, some people really don’t want to change their ways, and so they want nothing to do with salvation.
And what becomes of all unsaved people? Tragically, they are left to hang in their precarious spiritual position for the duration of their lives until they slip on down into eternity to meet an even worse fate. Why? Is it because Jesus doesn’t love them or won’t save them? No, it’s because they don’t love Him and they won’t let Him save them.