Once three men went on an ocean cruise. One of them was an athlete who was in top physical condition and was a champion swimmer. The second knew how to swim and occasionally exercised but generally didn’t attach much importance to keeping fit. The third was a couch potato who didn’t know how to swim and was too lazy to ever exercise. There were plenty of things they could do on the ship to occupy their time and they became so interested in these activities that they didn’t bother to keep track of where the ship was.
One day when all three of them were on the deck there was an explosion which blew a hole in the hull and the ship suddenly sank. It happened so quickly the men didn’t have a chance to put on life jackets or get into lifeboats. They found themselves floating in the ocean without even any debris which they could grab onto to keep themselves afloat.
The one who couldn’t swim sank right away. The other two began swimming in an effort to reach the safety of land.
Unfortunately they didn’t realize that the nearest land was several hundred miles away. The one who exercized moderately was able to swim for a while but he soon became exhausted and sank. The athlete was able to keep going for a long time and go many miles from the site of the wreck but even he couldn’t make it to land and so he ended up at the bottom of the ocean like the others.
The Bible says,
It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.
The fate of these three men shows what will happen to those who are judged on the bases of how well they have lived. The couch potato represents those who make no attempt whatever to live a good life. The one who exercised moderately is like the vast majority of people who make some attempt to live right but don’t consider it the most important thing in life. The athlete stands for those who devote their lives to doing good and hope to earn a place in heaven by the way they live.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
This is the standard which we must meet if we want to earn God’s approval. Some people come closer to it than others do but no one fulfills it completely.
But suppose there was another ship present when the first ship sank. The captain of the second ship saw the men in the water and ordered his crew to throw lifelines to them. Then all they had to do was grab hold of the lines and they would be pulled to safety. In this situation it wouldn’t matter to any of them how well they could swim. In fact they wouldn’t be able to both grab the lifeline and try to swim to safety. They must choose to do one or the other.
God knows that none of us can meet his standards by our own efforts but he loves us and so has made a way for us to fulfill his requirements. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us from our sins. Jesus lived a perfect life and completely fulfilled God’s requirements. He then allowed himself to be crucified so that he could bear the punishment we deserve.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Anyone who will acknowledge his sins and his inability to meet God’s standard and put his faith in Jesus will have his sins forgiven and will be accepted by God at the final judgment.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.