“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” Gal. 1:3-5
SPOILER ALERT: In the movie, “All is Lost”, the sole actor portrays an old sailor being tossed about by turbulent seas. His vessel is damaged beyond repair, and he is forced to abandon his sinking ship for an inflatable raft. The storms continue, and hope passes him by like the cargo ships that fail to hear his frantic calls for help and cannot see his faint flares. Exhausted by exposure to the elements, dying of hunger and thirst, he risks everything to light a fire in his raft that might attract the attention of a ship passing him in the night. The raft catches fire. He jumps into the sea, and is soon overcome by fatigue. He slips under the water, and disappears from view, but his eyes remain fixed on the flame of his raft, as he sinks deeper in the water. “All is Lost”, indeed. Then it happens. The sinking sailor sees a spotlight of a search boat, and he is infused with fresh hope. He swims towards the light, and with his last breath, he reaches out and takes hold of an outstretched arm that is plunged and extended towards him, beneath the shark-filled water. The End.
“The Rescue” is a work of God’s grace, and the only way to be at peace with God. The Father’s love is offered to those lost in sin, through His Son, Jesus Christ, “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us…” (Galatians 1:4)
“The Rescue” was motivated by the will of The Father, and provided by the willing sacrifice of The Son. God is love. Love began as His idea, not man’s ideal. Jesus prayed early, often, and intensely, to prepare Himself to yield His will to the will of The Father. Prayer prepared Jesus to love people who didn’t deserve The Father’s love. Prayerless people are loveless people.
Prayer prepared Jesus not just to do the will of The Father, but it also prepared Him to go willingly to The Cross. Prayer, for Jesus, was all about shaping His will to His Father’s will. His final words in The Garden of Gethsemane sum it up. “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” This may be the purest expression of answered prayer in the Bible.
Note to self: Looking for a pattern of prayer for your life? Follow Jesus. Prayer transforms your life, when prayer conforms your will to the will of The Father. Don’t stop praying until you can love unlovely people.
Jesus gave His life, not to inspire people to try harder to find their way to God, but to rescue people willing to admit they have lost their way to God. The Rescue requires a degree of humility that brings people to the end of themselves. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” reveals a key component in being rescued. It is their insatiable desire for the outstretched hand of God, to pluck them out of their sin.
The Father reached down to lost people with His Son, Jesus. Those who respond to their lost condition, by admitting they need a Savior, and cannot save themselves, reach out and receive His hand. Those who continue to seek their own way to God, flailing about with their limited resources always fail to be rescued. Pride seeks a solution. Humility seeks a Savior. Big difference.
“Rescue” means to deliver, to pluck out, to draw out, to select one out from many. Jesus gave Himself to pluck out those sinking in sin, and would choose to receive Him as their Savior. At The Cross, He would deal on their behalf with the consequences of their sin.
Those who are chosen for rescue often become frozen in a fear of ever letting anyone else in on the joy of salvation. The rescued must never think they were chosen, or plucked out because of their righteousness, but because of their lostness. They would be wise to sing the old hymn, “Rescue the perishing. Care for the dying.” The Rescued are those who once were dying to be saved, and humble enough to receive a Savior. The frozen chosen reflect little glory on God’s love.
Churches once had an “Anxious Bench” where those who were suffocating in their sin, could come to pray for the gift of salvation. Contemporary churches have replaced the bench with cup-holders and streamlined services that start at 11:00 sharp and end at 12:00 dull. (Homage to Vance Havner)
Churches may baptize many, and yet fail to rescue any, unless they are brought to a conviction of their sin, and to a Savior who rescues them out of this “present evil age.” Inviting people to receive Jesus, but leaving them exactly the way they were is not a rescue. It is arranging deck chairs on The Titanic. Message: Get off the boat or you are going down with the ship.
Rescuing people who are flailing about in desperation may not be a pretty sight, but the flailing leads to failing, and failing can be life-giving, if people will receive the rescuing hand of Jesus to lift them out of the water. Jesus gave His life for “The Rescue.” His church should follow His lead.
If there is anything more suffocating than the pride that keeps a lost man from being rescued, it is the pride of a rescued man that keeps him from sharing with a lost person how they can be saved. Prayerlessness is a form of pride that will lead a rescued person to believe they deserved God’s grace, but others do not. Jesus prayed until His will was in line with the will of God. He said, “Follow Me!” TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!