Let’s Go Sailing

by | May 31, 1999 | Grace, Legalism

Don’t Try to Do What Only God Can Do

Suppose I invite you to go sailing with me. “I didn’t know you were a sailor,” you observe.

“You bet your barnacles I am,” I answer.

“Tell me, where did you learn to sail?”

I flash a cocky smile and pull a faded photo out of my pocket. You look at the sailor standing on the bow of a schooner. “That’s my great-grandpa. He sailed Cape Horn. Sailing is in my blood. I got saltwater in my veins.”

“Your great-grandpa taught you how to sail?”

“Of course not. He died before I was born.”

“Then who taught you to sail?”

I produce a leather-bound book and boast, “I read the manual.”

“You read a book on sailing?”

“More than that. I took a course at the community college. I can tell you the difference between fore and aft, and I can show you the stern and the bow. I can tie a square knot. You ought to see me hoist a mast.”

“You mean, `hoist a sail’?”

“Whatever. We even went on a field trip, and I met a real captain. I shook his hand! Come on, you want to sail?”

“Honestly, Max, I don’t think you are a sailor.”

“You want the proof? You want the real proof? Take a look, matey, I’ve got a gen-u-ine tattoo.” I roll up my sleeve revealing a mermaid sitting on an anchor. “Watch how she jumps when I flex.”

You aren’t impressed. “That’s all the proof you have?”

“What else do I need? I’ve got the pedigree. I’ve got the book. And I’ve got the tattoo. All aboard!”

Chances are you’d stay on shore. Even a landlubber knows it takes more than a family tree, a night course, and ink-stained skin to be seaworthy. You wouldn’t trust a fellow like me to sail your boat, and Paul wouldn’t trust a fellow like me to navigate the church….

Let’s go back to my sailing invitation. I know I said you probably wouldn’t go, but let’s pretend that you aren’t as smart as you look, and you accept and board the boat.

You begin to worry when you notice that I lift the sail only a few inches on the mast. You think it even stranger that I position myself behind the partially raised sail and begin to blow.

“Why don’t you raise the sail?” You ask.

“Because I can’t blow on the whole thing,” I pant. “Let the wind blow it,” you urge.

“Oh, I can’t do that. I’m sailing this boat by myself.”

Those are the words of a legalist, huffing and puffing to push his vessel to heaven. (Ever wonder why so many religious folk seem out of breath?)

With time we drift out to sea, and a powerful storm hits. Rain splatters on the deck, and the little vessel bounces on the waves. “I’m going to set the anchor!” I yell. You’re relieved that I at least know where the anchor is, but then you are stunned at where I put it.

First, I take the anchor and set it up near the bow. “That should steady the boat!” I shout. But, of course, it doesn’t. Next I carry the anchor to the stem. “Now we are secure!” But the bouncing continues. I hang the anchor on the mast, but it doesn’t help. Finally, in fear and frustration, you take the anchor and throw it out to the deep and scream, “Don’t you know you have to anchor to something other than yourself!”

A legalist doesn’t know that. He anchors only to himself. His security comes from what he does; his lineage, his law, and his tattoo. When the storm blows the legalist casts his anchor on his own works. He will save himself. After all, isn’t he in the right group? Doesn’t he have the right law? And hasn’t he passed through the right initiation? (Ever wonder why so many religious people have such stormy lives?)

Here is the point: Salvation is God’s business.

In the Grip of Grace

copyright [Word Publishing, 1996] Max Lucado, p. 43, 44, 51,52.

Used by permission.


Let’s Go Sailing