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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
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.
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.
There is a plan from eternity past. There are unlikely people for a reason. There is an innovative method that’s beyond imagination actually.
And then fourth, there is perfect timing. Galatians 4:4 says, “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”
And the perfect timing had four or five characteristics. Number one, the Roman Empire was in one control and there were roads that went everywhere. So transportation for the gospel to move was free.
Two, there was the internet of the day, Koine Greek. Everyone – it was the trade language. All over the Roman Empire when you did business, Koine Greek. So the Bible, New Testament written Koine Greek, it exploded.
Third, there was a diaspora of the Jewish synagogues. They were persecuted and so there were these synagogues all over the Roman Empire. So when the gospel went forth, they always started there.
And last, there was corruption and absolute bankruptcy – note – religiously, philosophically, morally, and in terms of a lifestyle.
In fact, I have a quote here. A contemporary Roman orator and political theorist, Marcus Tullius Cicero, gives a brutal picture of what city life was like during this period of history when he described it as miserable, starving rabble. Ninety percent of the population in the Roman Empire lived a hand to mouth existence and rarely lived beyond the age of forty. On top of this, dismal living conditions. There were social and political injustices, oppression, abuse, and of course unreasonable taxes that plagued the people. The relentless daily challenge of most people was simply trying to survive. It was into this God’s perfect timing, He sent forth His Son.
And finally, what God does, He always does with flawless and perfect execution. Job 42:2 says, “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”
So as we begin to think about Christmas this season, what I’ve given you is sort of through my rescue lens is a little bit of an oversimplified synthesis of the Christmas story and of rescue.
And the reason I wanted to do that because we have two-fold things we do around this amazing rescue story that destroy its power. This is reality and we destroy it two ways.
Number one, we destroy it because we romanticize it.
We have this picture of this glowing Mary instead of a teenage girl having a baby in a very difficult situation, whose family has rejected her, who people think if you’re Joseph that you’re marrying a whore because she’s already pregnant, who are poor people who can’t find a place to have the baby. This is a reality. This was harsh. This was difficult. Some of you have been pregnant and know what it’s like to try and go on a little trip. Well, forget a car. Can you imagine being that pregnant and taking a trip on a donkey?
See, we romanticize it. And I like the lights and I like the candles and we have the beautiful songs and there are special songs that make our hearts soar, and we are in the West and we’re comfortable, and we have presents and we have wonderful times and we eat great food, and isn’t it a wonderful time of the year? Yes, it is.
But it’s about a rescue. It’s not about religious ritual. It’s not about a wonderful season. It’s not about the spirit of Christmas. It’s not, “Let’s be a little bit nicer to one another.” It’s about God doing an intervention because He loves us so much that He would humble Himself to take on human flesh and be born of a teenage girl, and live a perfect life in one of the most horrendous difficult times in human history because He loves you and because He loves me and He loves your family and my family, and your friends and my friends, and the people at your work and the people where I go.
The second thing that we do that minimizes what Christmas is all about, is we so focus on what we’re delivered out of, we don’t remember what we’re delivered into. When you’re rescued, you’re rescued out of darkness into light. Out of a burning building into safety.
So, in my remaining time what I want to do is I want to talk about the deliverance, the rescue into. And I want to go back to Ephesians because Ephesians is the book that tells us what God has given us. So you ready?
God rescues us out of darkness into light. And I just want to give you not all, but just three specific clear things that those of you like me, who came out of your denial and at some point in time in your life recognized that you are an addict and our addiction was ourselves and being in control and our arrogance and wanting life to be our way. And at some point in time, we said, “You know what? I’m not in control. I fall short. I do have problems. I have sinned.”
And we said, God, would You forgive me? And you trusted in Christ. And when you trusted in Christ as your Savior and invited Him into your life, you turned from your old way, you received the Holy Spirit, and you were taken from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and a number of things happened. But I want to remind you of three things you were delivered out of, but you’re delivered into.
Number one. Jesus will put your past behind you – why? Because you’re redeemed. In Him, notice how in each of these passages, it’s “in Him”, “in Him”, or “in Christ”. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.”
Notice it’s present tense. We have. It’s a picture. This word is used of a deliverance of a slave, of emancipation of a prisoner. Notice it’s by His blood. It’s literally a picture in the New Testament times of someone going into the Agora. And that’s where the marketplace was. And they would take slaves and put the slave up on a box and then people would bid, or ransom, or buy them.
And Paul takes that picture in the first world century and says, “You were a slave and you were chained in the addiction of your own sin and your own self-interest, like you and me, that violated a holy God, and you were destroying your own life.
And Jesus said, “I want that one. I want that one. I want that one… Whosoever.” And He bought us from slavery to freedom. He broke the chains of what we were a prisoner to, to make us new. We’ve been redeemed. And here’s the new hope. You’re free. You’re free. You don’t have to live that old way. You don’t have to be self-focused. You don’t have to be...we’re addicted to a lot of “acceptable” things along with drugs and alcohol and all the rest that we struggle with. You are free. You are free to be – what? A child of God dearly loved, blameless and holy, but it gets better.
Not only has He put our past behind us, but Jesus has a purpose for your life today. He goes on in this passage who says, “In all wisdom and insight has made known to us the mystery of His will.” Right above the word “mystery”, just put “secret”. It’s not mysterious.
This word means, in other words it wasn’t known before but now, “In Him,” in Christ, “He’s let us know the secret of His will according to His kind intention, which He purposed,” notice, “in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of time, that is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things upon the earth.”
A couple of key words here. It says, “in all wisdom”. That word has the idea of knowledge which sees into the heart of a thing. God sees into the heart in all wisdom, what’s best for you. It says that “it’s insight”. It’s insight that leads to proper action. And before people didn’t know, but in Christ, God reveals this plan of deliverance, this rescue for whosoever would turn to Him. And that’s what Christmas is all about.
I love this little phrase: “As an administration suitable.” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really ring with me. Literally, it was the idea of a stewardship – this word here – is like a household economy. In other words, there was one economy where God dealt with people that He loved in the Old Testament pointing toward the cross, and there were animals, and there were sacrifices, but now we’re in this new economy.
And this new economy is Christ and a purpose and the mystery of His will. He has revealed to you what life is all about. And you know what that means? That means that you are needed. This new purpose, this new household, it’s His agent of blessing was Israel, now there’s not Jew and Gentile. They’re going to come together in this brand-new thing called the Church. That’s what He’s talking about.
And this Church is going to be this supernatural agent to do exactly what Jesus did: explain God to everyone by how we live and what we say, to bring the kingdom. And we talked about that earlier. To bring the kingdom where what’s up there – love and kindness and humility and generosity – we take it down here.
So we dig wells where people don’t have water, and we deliver people out of the sex trade, and we provide counseling for people, and we share the good news and we develop and help build churches and care for people that care for people. That’s what this is about.
And so God says that every single one of us because of this rescue by Jesus we call Christmas, He says that you are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto a work, that from the foundations of the earth, you are now part of a family, part of the team to take this rescue message by what you say and by how you live to every single person on the earth.
You know, a lot of people, if you talk with them when they’re in addictions or when they’re very, very depressed, or when they’re struggling, what’s one thing you hear? “I don’t want to live anymore. There’s no purpose in my life.”
See, Jesus set us free, but then He said, “This is what I want you to do. And until the job is done, every day I get up, if you want to rearrange your life as you get older, “retire”, do it. But retirement’s not even a possibility for a Christian. You might do something different for your vocation, but until you take your last breath, and I take my last breath, we bring the kingdom. We explain the love of God. And you know what? That means you’re needed.
The third thing that happens is that Jesus promises you and me a positive future. He says, “In Him,” Christ, “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to his purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be the praise of His glory.” You have an inheritance.
I don’t know a lot about inheritances, my parents were schoolteachers and my expectations of getting any kind of inheritance was slim and none.
But my dad lived to be about eighty-four, eighty-five and he re-married and he was wise with his money, and then he remarried and then Evelyn lived a few years afterwards. And they did the things that wise, good people do. They didn’t hope or think. They had a will and they knew what they were going to do.
And so my sisters and Evelyn’s kids, they provided – it wasn’t big, but I got money from my father. And I didn’t do anything for it. I didn’t do anything for it. I didn’t earn it. You know why I got it? It was because of my last name. If your name was Ingram, you were in.
My name’s Ingram. My dad’s name is Ralph Ingram. And when Ralph Ingram died, years and years and years earlier, he had set aside that this goes to Punky, this goes to Jeannie, this goes to Chip. And I got a – they took the house and liquidated that and some other things. And each one of us along with Evelyn’s kids, we got an inheritance.
Well, it was awesome just to be part of it. But here’s the deal. You have an inheritance and its lavish. You have a heaven coming. You have a new life. You have spiritual gifts. God has given you an inheritance. There is a heaven waiting that is real.
And here’s the truth. Here’s the new hope. You’re worthy. When people lose hope, down deep a lot of it is, “I don’t measure up. I don’t bring anything to the table. I’m getting old. No one cares about me. I’m not as gifted. I had these dreams and now I feel like I’ve failed. That marriage didn’t work. One of my kids didn’t turn out very well. My parents, they really messed stuff up. I’m down on me. I flunked out of school.
Yeah, I’m a big time on the dollar signs, but I’m in the minus category when it comes to relationships and family.”
See, no one has it together. And God came to rescue you and me out of all that stuff. And He wants you to know you’re free. Take off the chains. Accept that. You’re needed. Get off your posterior and get off your pity party and align with other believers because as you give your life away, you will find it. And finally, you’re more than just needed. You are worthy and you are valuable, solely because of your last name. And your last name is Christ-one. And then they started slurring it together and calling you Christians. You’re in the family of God.