The Futility of Man Being His Own Savior

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

This is one of the first verses I memorized as a young Christian.

I was trained to share the Gospel through Evangelism Explosion (EE), written by the late D. James Kennedy. EE is an evangelism equipping program designed to give students an outline for a Gospel presentation that can be adapted for most situations and timeframes. It is still the presentation I mostly use when sharing the Gospel.

Proverbs 14:12 was the verse we memorized and shared under the heading of “Man Cannot Save Himself.” The point of the verse is to prove that man’s ideas and concepts for how he can gain eternal life will only gain him eternal death. Man cannot save himself.

Man must realize that he has no resources on his own for salvation. he must come to the end of himself. The following story illustrates that point.

“A group of young Christian brothers were gathered together to take a swim in one of the many creeks that run throughout the countryside there. Since most were not good swimmers they were careful to remain close to the banks so as not to get in water over their head.

“One of the brothers got out a little too far and begin to struggle in the deep water. Realizing his predicament he began to cry out to his neighbors, who by now were out of the water and drying off.

“‘Help! Save me!’ he yelled, all the while thrashing his arms and legs in a futile attempt to keep his head above water.

“A nearby adult knew that only one man was experienced enough at swimming to provide some assistance, and he turned to him for help. But strangely enough, the would-be rescuer calmly watched the man’s plight but made no move to save him. ‘Why don’t you do something?’ they all screamed in unison. But the man just stood there apparently unconcerned.

“After a few moments the drowning man could stay afloat no more. His arms and legs grew tired and limp and he began to sink underwater. Now the slow-moving lifeguard dove into the creek, and with a few quick strokes reached the victim and pulled him to safety.

“Once all was well, a nearby adult was beside himself. ‘How could you stand by and watch your brother drown, ignoring his cries for help and prolonging his suffering?’

“But the man calmly explained. ‘If I were to jump in immediately and try to save a drowning man, he would clutch me in panic and pull me under with him. In order to be saved, he must come to the end of himself, and cease struggling, cease trying to save himself. Only then can he be helped.’”

The Bible says no one can boast in saving themselves (Rom 6:23). It is not our work, but God’s.

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