If you were going to draw a picture to show how Jesus saves, what would you draw? Would Jesus be best pictured as a ladder the believer climbs to safety, or as a tractor beam like the one on the Starship Enterprise, latching onto those crying for help and safely carrying them to salvation? The ladder view leaves salvation to the effort - and success - of the believer. The ladder itself merely provides the way. The Tractor Beam view better portrays the Reformed view, that Jesus does it all.
Is Jesus The Way simply because he shows us how to get to heaven? Oh, to be sure, he does point the way. But is that all? In the end after all the talk of grace is it really up to us? Does He - Himself, in his person, his ability and strength, carry us to heaven? Is he the savior, or are we? In John 14 Jesus tells his disciples that he is going and assures them they know how to get there. You can hear the desperation in Thomas' voice, "Lord, how can we know the way?". Every believer knows Jesus' reply: "I am the Way, the Truth and the the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). That’s it? I ask the most important question of human existence and this is what I get? Why does he not tell them more? Can you feel Thomas' anxiety, his want of more specific direction? What is Jesus' nakedly blunt and concise reply? I am the way. Me, I am the way to God, in my person, my strength, my ability to raise the dead by a word, to calm 400,000,000 cubic meters of Galilee water at my command. This is what makes him a savior. He is God.
The first view is by far the more popular view in America and the world at large, and depends in the end upon the effort and success of the one who believes it. The second view is that taught by Paul, Augustine, the church Fathers and the Reformers, that salvation depends upon the work, effort, power and faithfulness of another - Jesus. O Sinner, O Christian - do you need a savior? Are you looking for a God that is a gentleman, who will not force His way upon you but will allow you to make your own decisions, or do you need someone to save you from your decisions, who loves you enough to come and drag you out of the street? God does not take away our will . . He gives us the wonderful gift of a new will! If He did not seek His sheep and change their hearts we all would be lost, for we do not want, nor can we know the things of God, they are "foolishness" to us. By the time we ask Jesus to save us He has already done so by the gift of faith.
Are you way past self-help books giving you “10 steps for a better life"? or promising "40 days of Purpose"? Is your wickedness stronger than you? Is your depravity so deep that Christians would turn you away? Jesus is meek and lowly of heart, and will turn no one away. He is real and is near to those who call upon Him! He can save you. Sadly, many simply want advice. When we think we are doing well we like the ladder view, but when all hope of self-improvement is dashed - we really want the tractor beam! Which way of salvation sounds more foolproof - finding and climbing the ladder and overcoming the hazards by your own will, strength and obedience - or the all-powerful tractor beam version that cannot fail? That's what I thought. I feel the same way! . . thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21)