I love reading stories about dramatic rescues.
As a chaplain for different agencies over the years, I have played a small part in rescues through the fire department, ambulance and police. It is a celebration for all, to see and experience successful rescues! In a greater sense, we are all in need of rescue whether we realize it or not.
As a pastor, I have been told by people many times that church isn’t for them. When I asked why, people have told me that they aren’t good enough. “People in church are too good. My life is too much a mess. I can’t be like that!”
People have confessed their struggle, “I try to be good. I try to care about people. But it isn’t working. It seems that the very things I want to do, I can’t do, and the things I want to stop doing, I just keep doing.”
That is not unusual. One of the greatest Christians ever, the Apostle Paul, who penned most of the New Testament, wrote these words to the church in Rome (Romans 7:15-20). “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Then he concludes his self-analysis, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
It sounds hopeless! And it is! That is, if you are only focused on how you yourself can be strong enough or good enough, to get away from that inner inclination to do bad things.
Paul realized he was not good enough to overcome the evil in his heart. He certainly would not have been one to darken the door of a church, unless he knew he could find the answer to his dilemma. “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” He answers his own question and the question so many people have. “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
All over, people are preparing to celebrate Christmas: decorating, buying gifts and spreading cheer. But the message the angels brought to Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and others, was that “a Savior is born to you!” Your rescuer is at hand!
While we were stuck in this sinful body of death battling sin and temptation, trying to live a good and decent life, and failing often, Jesus was born to save us, to rescue us from this hopeless struggle. There is not one person in any church who has figured out how to live good and perfect lives on their own. It is virtually impossible! It is only through Jesus Christ, our savior, born to us, to be our savior and lord. He has come to rescue us. He has come to give us hope, to empower us to love God and love one another. He came to change us from within so we can be good and learn to love and serve God, and care about others.
Christians aren’t perfect, by any means. But Christians who are following Jesus, living for Jesus and serving him seek to grow in this kind of love and become more and more like Jesus. That life was made possible by Jesus coming to us, born to us and giving of himself for us when he died on the cross and rose again from the dead. He has become the way, the truth and the life for us. He came to rescue us from our sin and from ourselves. Have a blessed Christmas celebrating the greatest gift of all, Jesus himself!
• Dan Wiese is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.