The other day I was watching a show about government agents conspiring to infiltrate the home of a very rich criminal; the purpose was to steal a biological weapon he was planning to sell. They couldn’t simply walk up and try to arrest him as his house was heavily guarded. Their strategy was for their (female) agent to be invited into the home; it was a planned rescue. They staged a car wreck on the road to his house. When he saw the flipped vehicle getting ready to catch fire and heard the cries of the woman inside begging for help, his instincts kicked in, and he rescued her just before the car blew up. Unfortunately, it was all staged with high-tech help from the home office. The woman was never in any real danger. She only appeared to be rescued.
This is a perfect illustration for today’s gift: rescued.
We only have three more days, and as I ponder the many, many gifts I could talk about, I feel like we need to focus on the primary reason we celebrate Christmas. Why was Jesus born? Why did God contain Himself in human flesh and visit His creation? What is the story really about? Of course, the answer is salvation – a saving of mankind. Without Jesus, every person ever created would be lost, eternally separated from God, sent to the place we don’t like to talk about, hell. God originally created hell for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), but when Adam and Eve sinned, it would also be their destination unless God set in motion His great rescue through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:3-5 – 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 our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Colossians 1:13-14 – For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The day Satan twisted God’s words and tempted Eve to disobey and sin against Him, a choice was made between kingdoms. Eve chose the enemy’s kingdom, and so all her descendants (every single person ever born) is born into the kingdom of Satan – the domain of darkness. We need a rescuer – a Savior. We could not “save ourselves;” we were spiritually dead in our sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, Satan (Ephesians 2:1-2). A dead man can’t do anything to give himself life. No one has ever beaten the physical grave on his own power – no one except Jesus, because He is God, the Savior, come to rescue His people. And certainly, spiritually dead people cannot give themselves spiritual life.
I think many people are like the woman agent in the car. They appear to be “rescued” but deep down, they don’t believe they are truly in danger of losing their life, either here (physical life) or eternally (spiritual life). The rescue is simply a way to get to where they want to be. They make an intellectual appearance of believing, but there is no real recognition of their sin, and no repentance, or turning away from sin. Salvation isn’t just a decision we make to “follow Jesus.” Salvation is recognizing that unless God saves us, we are doomed, condemned to die in our sins, and so we call out to Him asking to be rescued. God acts on us, regenerating our hearts and granting repentance and faith to believe.
How do we recognize our sin? We can’t “muster up” enough regret – we are blinded to the truth. Our flesh simply will not accept it until God opens our eyes. Do you want to be rescued? Ask God to show you your sin. When God reveals the truth to you, you will know without a doubt the seriousness of your spiritual condition and you will cry out for salvation. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Jesus always rescues those who come to Him for salvation (John 6:37).
Christmas is a celebration of a rescue operation that went perfectly. It was not staged; until we turn to Christ for salvation, we are truly in danger of the fires of hell. Has Jesus rescued you? If He has, then nothing in this world matters as much as living for and pleasing Him. He has pulled us to safety, transferring us into His eternal kingdom of righteousness.
I don’t believe we will ever really understand the magnitude of our rescue until we stand in the presence of God and witness the judgment pronounced against those who rejected Jesus and the salvation He offers. No wonder God says He will wipe away all our tears – we will weep for those who are lost eternally, and we will weep in sorrow that we were not bolder to warn them.
This season, may we see beyond the baby in the manger to the great and mighty Rescuer of our souls that He came to be. Let us worship Him for the gift of being rescued, and by all means, let us share the good news that He is still rescuing people today.