Living in Alaska, my dad took my brother and I out ice fishing in the winter of 1969. We actually didn't go fishing, but it was a good sounding excuse for us to drive out in the middle of nowhere and just play in the forests and on the frozen river ...well, sort of frozen. My brother was off chasing squirrels or something as Dad and I walked down the frozen river. In the winter, at 40° below zero, the ice will freeze two feet thick on slow running rivers. Dad saw that we were approaching a place where the river was running fast and shallow and the river was not frozen there at all; instead it bubbled up through the ice over the rocks. He told me to wait and let him take the lead, to avoid the thin ice. He took one step to move even with me and one more step to move ahead. With one more step he disappeared from sight, down through the ice, and into the brown water of the Chena River. Dad was gone. More on this thrilling adventure after a word from our Sponsor:
“…whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b)
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
Did you ever wonder why Christians believe you can’t be saved (get to heaven) by doing good works? Think about it, if you get condemned to hell for doing bad works (sin), why can’t you get admission to heaven by doing the opposite, through doing good works? That’s the whole idea of karma (not a Christian concept) – balancing out the positive and negative work as we go through life. Why didn’t Jesus set up a points system for works… steal a candy bar, lose 5 points on your eternal tally; kill your neighbor, forfeit 100 points; go to church twice in a month, +10; go on a mission trip to Africa, +50? That seems so much simpler, at least easier to keep track of. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God. Ever wonder if you love God enough?
In the Romans verse above, Apostle Paul explains that the problem is not the sin, but the lack of faith that leads to the sin. Let’s take Adam and Eve as an example, they ate the “forbidden fruit”. But why? They had all the best food in the world available to them right there in the Garden of Eden. I believe that when Eve was tempted, she lacked faith that all the rest of that food was as good (or better) than the fruit she had in her hand. What about your sins? Is it possible that you lied because you didn’t have faith that the truth would set you free. Is it possible that you stole because you didn’t have faith that God would provide for you. Is it possible that you lusted because you didn’t have faith that God would give you complete fulfillment with your spouse? The Bible teaches that whatever is not anchored in faith results in sin.
Followers of Jesus follow Him through faith. A lack of faith caused our separation from God. The life of faith is the only path back into fellowship with God. (see Hebrews 11:6 also) Now, let’s go up north again and see where this perilous adventure takes us.
In northern climates public service announcements run on TV repeatedly, informing you how to pull people out of the ice. But there’s a big difference between lakes where the water is still and rivers where the water is flowing. When you fall through the ice on a river, the current pushes you past the hole you fell through and you wind up trapped under the ice – dying within a couple minutes due to hypothermia and drowning. The only hope a person has is to, somehow, resist the current and come straight back up through hole that you went down through – in spite of the flowing water.
A lifetime passed in half a second… and as fast as he disappeared, Dad popped straight back up out of that hole. I laid down, gave Dad something to grab onto and managed to get him out of that frozen river. Dad recovered beautifully, probably too shocked to even get sick.
You get my point? You have to come back the same way you left. Sin, bad works, is a problem, but it’s not the initial problem – a lack of faith is the start of us moving away from God. Followers of Jesus come back to God the same way we left – through faith. Good works are great, but no matter how great a swimmer my dad may have been, he could never swim well enough to get back to a hole he had been pushed away from.
Followers of Jesus live by faith - truly live!
Clark H Smith
ps - This is my favorite illustration of all because it is so terribly personal, it was a moment where life and death was so real in front of me, and because it tells the profound truth of our relationship with God. Would you do me a favor? Click that "f" button just below here and share this on Facebook. Even better, when you share this blog post, share your story of coming back to God through faith.