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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
There are few things that capture our attention and cause our hearts to soar like a successful rescue. If you’ve ever been a part of one or been the recipient of being rescued, you know what I’m talking about. The stories that are real and true usually start with a crisis.
A young teenage girl is kidnapped and evidence points that it’s by a serial killer. Miners are trapped hundreds of feet below the surface and time is running out. Missionaries are held hostage by militants and they’re demanding millions of dollars in ransom. They’ll be killed within days if it’s not paid.
A U.S. embassy is under siege in a foreign country, seventeen employees can’t hold out much longer. A little boy is in Yosemite and he’s lost. It’s starting to get dark and the temperatures will dip below freezing.
Eight Americans are held hostage and one will be killed every six hours unless the demands are met. Somali pirates capture a commercial vessel and they’re holding the captain a prisoner.
In each case, when the person or persons are dramatically rescued, in our spirit something soars. And it’s more than just relief. It’s more than a tragedy averted. There’s something about hope. There’s hope and it always creates heroes. In fact, this is the stuff that movies are made of and books are written because even though we may see it on the news, we want to know what really happened and what were the obstacles. And we want to know about the pilot or we want to know about the special ops team or we want to know about the bystander who became the hero.
Something in our soul when we see people rescued out of a horrendous situation, that looked like there was no hope, and then there’s hope, it really captures our attention.
So I was thinking about rescues and so I Googled “rescues,” “great rescues,” “miraculous rescues.” There’s lots of information. There are the five most amazing rescues. There are the best rescues of the last hundred years. There are the rescues of World War II. There are the five rescues that you’ve never heard of before. There are rescues, rescues, rescues.
So I started reading about these rescues and they’re fascinating. And some of them, the probability of them doing what they did, you’re just thinking, There’s no way. But what makes them the great rescue is it was seemingly impossible.
But there were five characteristics as I begin to read these stories. I put them on the front of your notes. Great rescues seem to have five things in common. Number one, they have a great plan. Number two, they have the right people to execute the plan. Number three, almost always there are innovative methods. It’s impossible and these people think of something that no one has ever thought about or would likely be impossible and then they do it.
One of the great World War II ones was that we had prisoners. And the enemy was, it was in a large, large prison and there were hundreds of prisoners and they were all going to be killed, and they wanted to deliver them, and there was absolutely no hope. And these planes flew in so low and they actually dropped bombs hoping to knock out just one wall that would cause it to cave in to where the people who held the prisoners, and where the wall would fall down and the prisoners would go free. It was like a needle in a haystack, and it was accomplished. It was called one of the greatest rescues of all the Second World War.
And then you have to have not just innovation, but perfect timing, and even when all that is aligned, flawless execution.
As you open your notes, I would say that as amazing as all those rescues were that I read about, there is the most amazing, the most powerful, the most stunning rescue not just in all time, but all history. And we usually call it by something like the Christmas story. And what happens with the Christmas story is we’ve heard it a lot and we’re Western and we live in America, and there’s a lot of commercialism all around it.
And so what I want to do is I want to take the Christmas story and I want to talk about the rescue that happened. And I’m going to suggest that there is a great plan, that there were just the right people, that there was innovative methods that literally will blow your mind. The timing was perfect and there was flawless execution. So you ready to dig in a little bit? Pull out a pen if you will, keep your Bible handy and let’s look at the Great Rescue.
The Great Rescue starts like this. Notice Ephesians chapter 1, there’s a great plan. It’s God’s plan. “For consider what He has done – before the foundation of the world He,” God, “chose us to become, in Christ, His holy and blameless children, living within His constant care.” That’s Phillips translation of Ephesians 1:3.
Notice the timing of God’s rescue before the foundations of the earth. Before there was even creation, this plan, this rescue was in the mind and in the heart of the Triune God. In verse 11, he tells us how he pulled it off and what’s going to happen. It says, “For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this: He purposes in His sovereign will that humanity shall be consummated in Christ, and that everything that exists in heaven and on earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Him,” namely Christ.
Here’s the plan. It’s really simple. Jesus, God the Son, will rescue humanity. From the foundations of the earth, before anything ever happened, in the heart of God, Jesus is going to rescue mankind. We’ll learn later whosoever will. Well, who are the right people? What I want to tell you about the right people is they’re unlikely people.
Now, God is all knowing. He’s all wise. He started from the foundations of the earth, but He had centuries to see all this play out.
And just ask yourself. If you had centuries to come up with a plan, to break into human history and to rescue it and save it, and deliver it, would you use a teenage girl; a probably young twenty-something guy; your lowest class citizens that have no respect: shepherds; some foreigners who spend their time gazing at stars; a very, very old man who apparently was very sensitive and heard the prompting of the Holy Spirit that he would see the Savior before he died; and one really, really old lady who’s been a widow for years and spends decades fasting and praying in the temple? That’s the cast who’s going to pull this thing off.
A great plan, the right people, this is fascinating to me. Innovative methods. Listen to the prophecy. Seven hundred years before Christ was born, Isaiah would write in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel,” literally God with us.
So the innovation will not be a prophet, will not be just a message. Actually, God is going to come and the innovation is that there’s going to be a woman that has a baby, who’s a virgin. Little oxymoron here.
If you have your Bibles real handy, open it up if you would to Matthew chapter 1, and we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Most scholars think Mary was probably at youngest, a fifteen-year-old, maybe a seventeen-year-old young woman who was very godly. And as you read her prayers, somewhere along the line, her mom and dad helped her learn the Scriptures because she quotes multiple passages in her classic prayer.
Verse 26, we hear the fulfillment of a prophecy seven hundred years earlier of chapter 1 of Luke. “Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was very perplexed at the statement and kept pondering what kind of situation this was. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.’”
Now can you imagine this? You’re like a little sixteen-year-old girl, you love God with all your heart, you’ve got this picture of the right guy, at the right time, and you think you’ve found him, and in fact you did find him, and he’s stunning, and godly, and your parents have worked all these things out, and it’s just a normal day, and an angel shows up in your bedroom. “Mary! Oh, favored one.” “Whoa.” You’re going to have a baby.” “Woo!” “Not with Joseph.” “Whoa, whoa.” Like are you – see, we’ve sung this for so long, we’ve lost the awe. We’ve lost the awe of the innovation of God’s rescue.
We’ll talk a little bit later about why it’s so important and why she had to be a virgin. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
So you’re going to have this baby, but you’re going to not have any relationship with a man, and it’s going to be the Son of the Most High – and this girl knows her Bible – and it’s going to be a kingdom that’s going to be eternal that will never end.
“Mary said to the angel,” I like this, “‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. And for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’”
It’s an amazing, amazing innovative method of rescue, where God Himself, after sending prophets and revelation and judgments, and extending kindness, would come and determine, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus the Messiah would be fully man because He’s born of a woman, but fully God born of the Holy Spirit. And the God man, fully man, fully God without confusion – the theologians call it the hypostatic union – would then reveal and explain what God is like, usher in a kingdom to let people know how things work in heaven and how they’re supposed to work here, and then to make disciples and cause this rescue to be a viral movement and chain reaction that would change the course of history.
I was thinking about this rescue and I thought you know, we live in such a psychological day. This was like the first intervention. A real intervention. That came to my mind, so I thought, An intervention is the act of inserting one thing between others like a person trying to help.
Interventions come from the Latin word meaning to come between or to interrupt. Jesus comes in between and interrupts human history and is going to come between God the Father and His holiness and a people that are far from Him with really big problems that end in death, and He’s going to intervene. And He does this classic intervention. I love the last line. An intervention is a deliberate process by which change is introduced into people’s lives, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
And so I did a little thinking and a little research and I thought, What have we learned about interventions in our day? Some of you, I’ve been involved in, one, with my father many years ago. It wasn’t very professional, but it worked.
I’ve been with people that have been in interventions, done interventions, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, a sexual addiction, codependency. What we know is that some people get addicted, begin to live in such a way that is destroying their lives and the people around them and then something happens where people realize, We can’t allow this to continue, and they do what we call an intervention.
Let me give you the characteristics of a successful intervention of drug, alcohol, or sexual addictions. First, there’s denial by the one you’re seeking to help. In other words, “Yes, I have a little problem, but it’s not that bad.” Second, there’s a deep concern by loved ones. There are people that really care enough. Third, trusted friends and family are willing to risk rejection because these interventions don’t always go well. And they’re willing to risk rejection because they realize, If we don’t, this person is going to destroy themselves and everyone around them.
Fourth, there’s an element of surprise. You don’t say to someone, “We know you have a sexual addiction. And why don’t we meet on this and talk about it next week and we’ll bring some trusted friends and family and we’ll all tell you how we really feel about you?” It doesn’t work that way. It’s a surprise in a safe, and neutral place.
Fifth, there is the extraction from the current environment. People never get out of addictions unless you take them from where they are into some new environment.
Sixth, the addict commits to get help right then. A bag has already been prepared. A rehab center has already been contacted. Options are on the table. And the person then goes, “I am willing to get help.” That still doesn’t make it successful.
Finally, the treatment begins and they have a completely new start in which they admit their need, they confront the lies that they believe, and they have a genuine desire to change. In the twelve-step world, it’s they hit bottom. No more cons, no more lies, no more manipulating. “I need help.”
As I was doing my research, I think of the spiritual parallels. I went online and found a number of places that if you were thinking, Gosh, my son or my husband, my wife, my best friend, someone I really love, they’re just killing themselves with alcohol or drugs or something like this, where would you go? How would you actually start an intervention?
And so I looked at a number of them, but this is five tips for a successful intervention. And as I read it, do the spiritual math to yourself and think, Hmm, boy, God sure knew a lot more about this than them.
Tip number one. Don’t wing it. Okay? God had a very long, careful plan, but you don’t wing it. Research and planning are critical. Two, stay positive. It’s interesting. Interventions are not people beating up on someone. It’s about love and commitment and we care and you are valued. And think of Jesus’ ministry and how He didn’t come with shame, and how He came with love and healing people and raising them from the dead and delivering people that no one cared about.
Third, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Lots of interventions don’t work. See, just because someone comes to rescue, doesn’t mean people get rescued.
Someone can come to rescue us, but we have to be willing to accept the help. And I think of how God planned for the best, but allowed for the worst. Those who didn’t want help, He’s made provision.
Four, opt for a professional interventionist. In other words, don’t try this at home. Get outside help. And finally, secure your drug or rehab center before you do this. It’s not like you have this event and think, Oh, boy, now what do we do?
And I was thinking of Jesus, the very last thing He said to His disciples, do you remember? He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He prepared what was going to happen to all the people that He was going to rescue. It’s just a fascinating way for me to begin to take the trees and the songs and the sweet baby Jesus and all the ways that we get familiar and realize Christmas is about the greatest rescue that has ever occurred.