In an overwhelming number of human dilemmas, it is impossible for one person to "save" another person if he or she (a) does not feel the danger or (b) does not want to be rescued. Multitudes of people are sacrificially dedicated to "saving" loved ones when the loved ones feel no danger and actually resist rescue.
Each of us could illustrate this truth in many ways: tobacco addiction, drug addition, alcohol addiction, sexual addictions, abuse victimization, radically dysfunctional life styles, destructive values. All of us know people in need of rescue from dangers who also defiantly resist rescue. Many parents wish to "save" a child who does not wish to be rescued. Many spouses wish to "save" a marriage when the other spouse does not. Many people want friends to stop using drugs when the friends have no desire to stop.
The first two realities of any rescue: (1) the person must realize he or she is in danger, and (2) the person must want to escape the danger. No matter how urgently escape is needed, if the person does not perceive the danger, he or she has no desire to be "rescued." In fact, he or she believes the danger exists only in the mind of the rescuer! Consequently, there is nothing to escape because there is no danger!
Years ago a number of my friends and family members were on a long hike in a primitive area. My middle son almost stepped on a copperhead, leaped, and shouted, "Snake!" A dear friend following immediately behind him thought my son was pulling a prank. It took all our persuasiveness to keep this friend from stepping on the poisonous snake. He could not see the snake. He never saw the snake. I suspect he still thinks we were teasing him. Because he saw no danger, he sensed no danger. Because he sensed no danger, he rejected our warnings. He did not step on the snake, but he regarded our warnings to be ridiculous.
The holy God sees dangers and consequences we unholy people never see. We are so accustomed to unholiness that we frequently declare deadly evil to be "harmless," "innocent," even "good." People who are supposed to be God's people commonly fail to recognize evil or its destructiveness. Isaiah noted that problem among Israelites when he wrote Isaiah 5:20,21. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!
How did all our conflict with slavery to evil begin? Eve thought possessing the knowledge of good and evil was a good, desirable situation! God denied them something good! How could the "knowledge of evil" possible harm them? The result would be good--they would be like God. Read Genesis 3:1-7. She had no idea that the consequences of the knowledge of evil included fear, shame, and guilt! These were "unknowns" to them!
In Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, he provided insight into the work of and the need for a Savior who could rescue from evil (John 3:16-21). Note Jesus' emphases.
(1) Jesus was God's rescuer sent by God's love. Jesus did not come to destroy. Jesus came to rescue. Faith in him eliminates destruction [a current reality in human existence] by substituting eternal life for the consequences of evil. For rescue to occur, we must trust God's rescuer.
(2) God did not send our rescuer [our Savior, Jesus] to pass judgment on us. That was totally unnecessary. We were judged and condemned by our own failures. Jesus came to rescue us. He came to provide us our only escape from judgment's condemnation. Instead of being judged, we can be forgiven. Instead of receiving justice, we can receive mercy.
(3) The difference between being a person who cannot escape the condemnation of judgment and a person who is rescued by love's forgiveness is this: a willingness to trust the rescuer. God's love sent us a rescuer. Trust him!
(4) Some love the conditions that guarantee their destruction! They love the darkness that evil produces! God's Light is the enemy, not Satan's darkness! They do not want to see evil for what it is. Why? They enjoy evil deeds too much to give them up--even if the consequences are destructive! Have you known someone who refused to give up something destroying them because they enjoyed it "too much"? They rather be destroyed than give up what they like!
(5) A fundamental difference between those who accept rescue and those who reject rescue is this: those who desire rescue want to see themselves for who they are; those who reject rescue do NOT want to see themselves for who they are. One group wants to understand all they can about God and move toward His character and nature. The other group wishes to be left alone because "we like our lives as they are."
We have created a serious problem. Because we want people to understand the importance of and need for baptism, we too often stress immersion for the forgiveness of sins so much that we create a wrong impression. The wrong impression: spiritual rescue is more about baptism than about trusting God's rescuer and repenting. Intellectually, we say that baptism cannot remove sin unless a person trusts God's accomplishments in Jesus' cross and resurrection enough to turn from sin. Emotionally, we want those we love to be "rescued" from evil so much that our concern focuses on baptism with minimal concern about believing or repenting. Thus, if "he has been baptized," we feel good [even confident] even when there is little indication of faith and no evidence of a desire to repent. Think! Would you say this? "She does not want to be rescued from her sins, but that is okay--she has been baptized."
We need to beware of considering individuals to be rescued from sin who have no desire to be rescued. This is not a challenge to pass judgment on others' motives. It is not a challenge to limit God's grace. It is a challenge to deepen our understanding of how desperately we need a Savior. It is a challenge to learn to trust God's rescuer and redirect our lives.
How can we help people understand their need for a Savior so much that they will redirect their life?
How can we, ourselves, understand our need for a Savior so much that we continually redirect life?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 4
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