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About this series
The Great Rescue
A successful rescue brings everyone involved great joy and maybe even new life! Of all the rescue plans ever pulled off, God's great rescue is the greatest of all because in human terms it was absolutely impossible. Not like, really steep odds, His rescue provided perfectly divine intervention when there were no odds at all. Join Chip as he lays out God's Great Rescue - His amazing plan, the most unlikely people, and a most unlikely Savior. This Christmas series will bring you great hope and encouragement.More from this series
Christmas is more than just a story. I’d like to give you a little different paradigm. You see, really, there were hostages called “humanity,” and what you have is a very innovative methodology where God is going to intervene and do, the greatest rescue that ever occurred in all of history. There is an enemy to defeat, there are hostages that had to be freed. Most Christmases, I spend a lot of energy helping people realize that Christmas is more than just about a baby.
But this Christmas, I want to go the other direction. I want to talk about why, why did Jesus come as a baby? Jesus existed, He is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, He is Spirit, He was worshipped by angels, He is all-powerful. He chose to be born of a virgin veiling His deity, being completely dependent. And I want to talk about why He did it and why it’s so important.
And here’s what I want to suggest. I am going to suggest that we cannot understand the first morning that God came to earth, the Lord Jesus, until we understand what He said the last night on earth before He died.
I’d like you to follow along as I read John chapter 14. Jesus has now gone from a baby to a thirty-year-old man. He launched a ministry that lasted about three years and He is plus or minus thirty-three years old. He is aware that He will be dying. He recruited twelve disciples that He would entrust the ministry to. These are His very last moments with them.
And much like many of us feel in this world of terrorism and bombs and now divide and hostility in America, they were afraid. Jesus did many miracles, He raised people from the dead, He fed the multitudes, He was the greatest teacher of all time. But nevertheless, there was a contract on His life. And if you were associated with Him, your life was in danger.
They had shared the Lord’s Supper, they had sung a hymn, they had walked out to a very private place. And because He cared for them, He said, “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have not told you. For I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you,” here’s the hope, “I will come back again and I will receive you to myself.” Here’s His purpose for them and for us, that, “Where I am there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas, I like him, he said, “‘Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.’”
And then Jesus has this commentary, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father, but from now on, you know Him and have seen Him.” And Philip chimes in and says, “Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough.” And Jesus looks at Philip in the eye and He said, “Philip, how long have you been with Me? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
And what I want you to know is that on the very last night, what Jesus was saying is, “I am the way.” The word in Greek is hodos. It’s translated as a path. Imagine a path through a forest. It’s translated elsewhere as a road or a highway. Jesus was saying, “I am the way, I am the pathway, I am the road back to the Father.” You’re living in a world of darkness. There is a pathway to light. You’re living in a world of self-hatred and jealousy. There is a pathway to love. You’re living in a world where people are at each other’s throat. There is a pathway to unity. I am the way. And just, candidly, I had an “ah-ha” this Christmas. Everything about His life is the way.
See, you don’t just tell people. You don’t point to the way, you don’t just explain the way. When you have learned anything, what did someone do? They showed you the way.
Now, can you imagine if there was a hostage? We would send a SWAT team. Listen to this innovative plan to liberate humanity from sin and death and the power of the evil one.
It starts with a baby. He came to model for us God’s rescue plan of life, of love, of growth, of greatness, and of joy. He came, not to tell us about God’s love, not just to tell us about life, not to tell us how to personally grow, not just to tell us about how to really want to be great but to show us. And so let me give you five snapshots from His life.
First, Jesus’ example showed us the way to eternal life by a new birth. See, Jesus is infinite, the Second Person of the Trinity. He chose to be born into a different environment to take on human flesh as a little baby, and He grew up. And He was crucified and maybe some of you haven’t thought this through, but in His resurrected body, when you meet Him, you will be able to see the holes in His hands, you will be able to see the piercing in His side. He was born into a new environment.
And when He talked to the most religious people of the day, what He told them was, “There is a way to the Father.” There is eternal life. He said to a religious man named Nicodemus, “Nicodemus, I tell you, unless you are born from above,” or, literally, “born a second time, you can never enter the kingdom of God.”
And so you have to have a new birth to have a new life. New paradigm. And what’s the new paradigm? Jesus modeled radical humility. Imagine the grandeur of the Creator of the universe, the One who spoke galaxies – billions – into existence, who chooses to willfully limit Himself and come into the form of a baby?
See, the thing that kept me from my relationship with God was my pride, my control, who I wanted to be, my lack of wanting anyone to tell me anything about what I wanted to do with my life. And that disease is in my heart and your heart and everyone’s heart.
The pathway, the road to eternal life begins with humility. And humility is recognizing your need. It’s not thinking too highly of yourself, and it’s recognizing you need forgiveness from God.
Lesson number two, it’s genuine love. Jesus had a family; He has a family. The Triunity of the Godhead in all eternity. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. There is this perfect unity. It actually explains one of the biggest philosophical issues that men have grappled with. The unity and the diversity of the world. Only Christianity has the Triunity of a singular Godhead, one essence in three specific people, all equally God, yet one God, one essence in perfect harmony.
And so Jesus is born into a family and think of this family. A teenage girl, probably fifteen or seventeen years old, and a late-teenage boy or maybe an early twenty-something. I remember when I was a parent for the first time, I didn’t have a clue of what to do. Remember that first one, how afraid you were? This is the Son of God entrusting Himself… new paradigm. And what’s the new paradigm? it’s radical dependency.
He wasn’t just depending on this young couple, He was depending that the sovereign Father, in the game plan to rescue humanity, would protect Him all along these times in a corrupt world, a ruthless ruler who wanted to kill Him. And He was dependent. And He had a new family. A human family!
He is being vulnerable. Pride is at the core, and when I am proud, I don’t let people close. When I grew up, we all posed. The way I grew up was I don’t need anybody. I’m going to be good in sports. I’m going to get good grades. I’m going to have a pretty girlfriend.
And then when we get older, we just change it. I’m going to drive this kind of car and I’m going to make so much money and my kids are going to go to this school. I’m a somebody! And when people get really close, we get threatened.
And when we live that way, in our insecurities and in our pride, here’s what we don’t have: we don’t have genuine love. If you would just pause for a moment and think about the friends that you are closest to, it’s the people that you have been vulnerable to, huh?
Do you also understand that no one can love you unless you are willing to reveal your needs? Some of us are great at helping other people, but we don’t want people helping us. And that’s that old pride again. Jesus became needy and vulnerable and He allowed this young mom, Mary, to love Him; and this young man, Joseph, to love Him and raise Him.
If you want genuine love, you have to be radically dependent on God that you can be secure enough to be vulnerable, to share your needs, share your struggles, share your fears. I remember my dad was a Marine and an alcoholic. And, man, he was tough. And I’m sure he loved me, but I never heard it. And I never saw any needs. And I never saw him cry. And so I grew up as a son that, you know what? When you get hurt, you get up.
And all I knew was that I hid my feelings. And it took me years because my walls were really high. I remember the first time a grown man that I had heart connection with looked at me and told me, “I love you.” I was embarrassed. I didn’t know how to receive those kinds of words, as a man.
And, yet, now, over the years, I have got three or four men who have become like surrogate fathers to me. I have brothers who I have shared the depth of my struggles, the depth of my life, and they love me for me, not for what I have, not for what I have accomplished, not for what I can do. That’s the pathway that Jesus showed us.
The third lesson. Jesus’ example shows us personal growth. And He says it’s a journey.
He didn’t just come as a baby, but Luke 2:52 says that Jesus grew in wisdom and in favor, both with God and with man. If you study that carefully, it means He grew spiritually, He grew physically, He grew socially, He grew relationally, He grew intellectually.
He says, “Change isn’t instantaneous.” You want to grow, personally? You learn to walk. You learn to eat. You learn to read. You learn to get along with your brothers and sisters. Now, He was perfect. Actually, He’d be pretty hard to get along with. Can you imagine one of your brothers or sisters being perfect? He learned to suffer.
Hebrews 5:7 through 9. It describes the private life of Jesus. And it says, “In the days of His flesh, He was heard by God with loud tears and cries of supplication and was heard by His Father because of His piety,” or, “His godliness. And He learned obedience through the things which He suffered.” Personal growth is time and endurance and getting connected to someone who is farther along who will help you. Jesus’ dad was a carpenter and He did the mundane, regular things of life as His character was developed.
I remember a man named Dave who was a bricklayer, a high school education. I was a new Christian and I still remember, he said, “Would you like to grow?” I didn’t know very much but it sounded like not growing would not be a good answer. So, I said, “Yes.” So he said, “You know what? I’ll come Tuesday morning.”
And every Tuesday morning, for about a year and a half, Dave Marshall would come [makes knocking sound], seven o’clock, which for me at that point in my life was like four in the morning. Like, who is up at seven?
And we would go down to the little kitchenette, and Dave would open his Bible. And he didn’t say, “You ought to read the Bible.” He didn’t say, “You ought to pray.” He didn’t say, “You ought to stop doing this.” He didn’t say, “You ought to start doing that.” Dave showed me how to talk to God. Dave showed me how to read the Scriptures and claim promises. Dave listened to the struggles with my girlfriend. Dave brought me to his house and I had dinner at his house and I watched his marriage. Dave showed me how to grow.
And I just have to tell you that God’s heart is that there would be radical obedience. Dave sat down with me when I was dating a non-Christian girl that I thought a lot of, that was not a good relationship, and shared verses that I didn’t like and told me, “You know what? This is not going to end well.”
Dave sat down with me after a couple years and said, “Chip, I think God has given you some gifts, but you have one major problem.” I thought, Oh, good, it’s down to one! He said, “You are really arrogant. You’re really full of yourself.” No one ever said stuff like that.
This guy loved me, cared for me, brought me into his home. But he told me hard things. When I went through the most crushing issues of my life – my family went through some very painful things, he was there. And what he taught me was, “Chip, it’s very, very hard. But if you want to grow, mentally and emotionally and physically and spiritually, here’s the key: do it God’s” – are you ready? “way.”
New paradigm. And what’s the new paradigm? it’s called “obedience.” And when you know what’s right to do, it will be difficult, you won’t be perfect. Stay on the path.
When you begin and understand that radical humility and radical dependency, followed by radical obedience. All the other Christians are doing this, but the Scripture says that and you go this direction, it’s hard. But then there is fruit. Then there is life! There’s growth.
The fourth lesson that Jesus taught us, by His example, was lasting greatness. All of us want to be great. I have never met anyone. I ask people sometimes, kidding around, especially if I know some guys and say, “Would you like to be a good dad or a great dad?” I have never had a guy say, “Oh, good. Mediocre, really.” Would you like a good marriage or a great marriage? Uhhhhh. What are you going to say, right?
But then when I ask them, “Would you like to be a good Christian or a great Christian?” “Well, it sounds kind of arrogant to be great.” “Well, what is the alternative?” Do you realize, after three years of walking with Jesus, His closest followers were arguing about, are you ready for this? This is the last couple days of His life. They are arguing about who is the greatest: Luke 22.
And you know what I love? Jesus didn’t get down on them, “Guys, I have been here three years and doing all these messages and you have seen Me do these miracles and you’re arguing about who is great? What is wrong with you guys?” He didn’t do that at all. You know what He said is? You guys want to be great? “Yeah!” Okay. Actually, I made you to want to be great, because you are made in My image.
Let Me just tell you, let Me flip the paradigm. In the world you are great by how many people report to you, by how much power, by how much money, lording it over people, how many you can impress. “If anyone wants to be great among you, let him be the servant of all. If you want to be first, let him be the last. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and offer His life a ransom for many.” If you want lasting greatness – if you want quick fame, you can get quick fame. You want quick money, you can get quick money. If you want quick good looks, you can get surgeries, right? But the people that, when they die and you talk about them, are the people who were servants, people who loved, people who cared, people who put other people ahead of themselves.
Jesus did that! He washed the disciples’ feet. He laid down His life in my place, in your place. It says, “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Because in the portal of eternity and time, He saw us and, He said, I’ll serve you by dying. And what He said to His disciples is, “Unless a grain of what fall into the earth and die, it will remain by itself alone. But if it dies, it’ll bring forth much fruit.” New paradigm. And what’s the new paradigm? Become the servant in relationships, think of others – and Jesus modeled that.
And the final lesson we get from Jesus’ life about the way, the path, the road to follow
unquenchable joy. You want unquenchable joy? “Give and it will be given unto you.”
New paradigm. And what’s the new paradigm? It’s radical generosity. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over into your lap. For whatever measure you give to others, Jesus,” these are His words, “whatever measure you give” of your time, your friendship, your money, your dreams – “whatever measure you give to others,” and a measure would be like a little cup or a big cup or a barrel or a dump truck. “Whatever measure you give, it will be given back to you,” and then multiplied, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.”
Jesus – who was rich became poor that we might become rich out of His poverty. The most generous being in the universe is our God. Isn’t that amazing? 2 Corinthians 8:9: “By the grace of God,” the apostle Paul says, “he who was rich became poor, that we might become rich through His poverty.”
I had a very unusual man in my life. I was a young pastor, just getting going. And there was a guy named John. And John was a great guy. John had learned something that few of us ever learn. And he taught me something about generosity.
At one point, John said, “There are lots of hurting people and you have time and I have money.” He was the chairman of the board, so I guess I had time, whatever he said, right? And he gave me a little checkbook and he put five thousand dollars in it.
And he said, “I want anytime you would think that God’s heart would prompt you from me to love people, whether it’s food, whether it’s groceries, whether it’s paying a bill, whether it’s a bus ticket for a homeless person – here’s what I want you to do: you just take this money and you just pretend you’re me and you love them the way you think I would love them. And then we’ll have lunch every three or four months. And I want you to tell me the stories.”
And I just started doing that and it was really fun. It was like Santa Claus. I put this checkbook and, like, you know? You know what happened? You know who changed? Me. My eyes were different. I had these resources. And I, wow, I’d get to help those people. I could tell you story after story after story. That’s how God is. That’s where joy is to be found.
Well, I want this Christmas for you to think about a baby that brought a rescue. It’s a different picture, isn’t it? See, the Scripture says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it ends in death. There is a way that God has given that ends in life and peace.” The best life now, and eternal life with your heavenly Father forever.
Do you know the way? I don’t mean know about the way. I knew about the way all my years growing up. I went to services like this. But “I am the truth and the life and the way,” Jesus said. Do you know Him, personally? The Scripture says that, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have each turned to our” – are you ready for this? “our own way.
You may be like me and not even know how to pray. But in your heart of hearts, if you would say to God and you can whisper in your mind – He actually knows everything – Oh, God, I want You. I want to be forgiven. I want to know You. I want to get on the right path. Right now, Lord Jesus, will You come into my life? And will You forgive me for all of my sins? And will You help me to walk with You on this path? I believe You died in my place. I believe You rose from the dead. I don’t know what all this means, but I want to follow You. As you would express that from a sincere heart, Jesus promises that as many as receive Him, to them He gives the right, the authority, to become the children of God.
Lord, would You fill them with the wonder of Your Son? Thanks for giving us the path. Thanks for coming as a baby.