Try as You Might
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."1
I'm sure you've seen an insect such as a fly struggling desperately to escape to the outside world through a closed window. He never gives up. His frenzied effort would be almost funny if it weren't a life and death struggle. He backs off. Flies into the glass head on. Crashes. Backs off. Flies into the glass head on again, and again, and again. Until he totally exhausts himself and drops dead on the windowsill. Little did it know it was doomed from the start.
The problem was that it didn't see things the way they were, but the way it was.
And when it comes to eternal salvation or life after death, the instinctive knowledge of which is ingrained into the human soul from birth, neither do we see things the way they are (from Gods' perspective), but the way we are.
And herein lies the tragedy. Man-made religions depend on an individual's good works, best efforts, doing penance, trying harder, or even self-inflicted pain in a futile attempt to save himself. I don't know where I learned it, but as a child I believed that if I did enough good things to outnumber or outweigh the bad things I did, that would find favor with God and I would be assured of a home in Heaven. Wrong.
Going back to the fly bashing its head against the window pane in a futile effort to save itself, had it only realized that across the room a few feet away was an open door, he could have escaped effortlessly to freedom.
And so it is with finding God and the gift of eternal life. Our good works will never get us into Heaven. Neither will trying harder or anything else we do. We simply cannot save ourselves. If we could, why would Jesus have died for us on the cross? The reason we can't save ourselves is because we are sinners and are already spiritually dead; that is, eternally separated from a holy and just God. And dead people cannot save themselves!
All we need to do is to stop our own futile efforts to save ourselves and look to Jesus. As He said, "I am the gate [door]; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture."2 And again, "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You that You have provided the way of salvation for lost mankind. Help me to see that there is nothing I can do to save myself, and that all I need to do to receive Your gift of forgiveness and eternal life is to confess my sins to You and ask Jesus to be my Savior. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name. Amen."
1. Proverbs 14:12 (NIV).
2. John 10:9 (NIV).
3. John 14:6 (NIV).