The ship was gone and 34 men were fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Atlantic. The frigid waters sapped the strength from their arms and hope from their hearts. Severe hypothermia had set in as they struggled for survival. They were perishing. They needed a radical rescue. An intersection of deliverance to their danger.
Our faith as followers of Christ is built upon this wonderful intersection of deliverance to our danger. God demonstrates His majestic mercy and life-giving love to a world of people perishing. We are the people who have been rescued by God through Christ. And our faith, the core of who we are, must meet real life with this vision of radical rescuers.
In order to understand how our faith intersects with real life, we need to be captured once again by God’s divine intersection with real people in the world. Perhaps the single most quoted passage to help us understand God’s intersection with real people in the world is our text, declaring God’s mission is to rescue perishing people from the icy grip of their sin.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)
1. Perishing people need a radical rescue.
Nicodemus was perishing. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness to find answers to the questions of his heart. Nicodemus approached Jesus to find the answer to his question. Jesus knew the heart of Nicodemus. Jesus knew the questions that were swirling in his soul, and Jesus pierced the darkness of doubt and fear with God’s love.
Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed a radical rescue, a new kind of birth (John 3:1-6). Unless there is supernatural birth in the soul of a person, there will be no participation in God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be born from above to enter God’s kingdom. One must be born spiritually. We need a radical renewal of the soul.
We don’t need a new lease on life or a new view of our world. We need a new spirit. Only God can accomplish that! Just as the wind blows freely and cannot be controlled by human hands, the Spirit’s work is not subject to control or manipulation of human beings (John 3:7-8). Only God can accomplish a radical rescue in the heart of perishing people. This is the divine intersection of His love in the real world of Nicodemus and you and me and the people in the world in which we live.
2. God initiates a divine intersection.
The men are perishing in the icy waters of the Atlantic. As they slowly sink and the strength is sapped from their soul, their only hope is for someone to deliver them. For someone to pay the price and pluck them out of the icy grave. The call comes to the Search and Rescue team of the US Coast Guard. They hear the cry for help from those who are perishing, and they fly to the rescue.
God has initiated the mission to rescue those who are perishing. This mission of rescue has been initiated by God’s particular love for the perishing.
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:13-15, NKJV)
Jesus is the divine intersection. Only Jesus, the Son of Man, can speak authoritatively about the things of heaven. God gave Him to a world of sinners because of His great love. Jesus descended from heaven to be lifted up on a cross for the rescue of those who are perishing. When the children of Israel in the wilderness gazed upon the bronze serpent that Moses raised, their physical life was restored. Jesus declares that when perishing people set their faith on Him, they will receive eternal life.
God sent Jesus to deliver redemption to us. Redemption is the payment-price for sin. Because of His love for sinners, God sent Jesus to provide the righteousness we require so that we might have the relationship with God that we all desire.
God does not remain in icy isolation from those who are perishing. God sent Jesus to the rescue for sinners like you and me. Because of His love, God has sent Jesus on mission to give eternal life to those who are already dead in the icy waters of sin. God sent His one and only Son to be a missionary to people perishing.
At the national search and rescue school in Yorktown, there was a patch adorning the sleeves of the rescue swimmers that tells the story of their commitment:
“Always Ready…So that others may live.”
As we know the Father’s heart, we are compelled to live accordingly. That’s why we are a people on mission. The love of God constrains us to be. We live to glorify God by intersecting with real people in real need for a real Savior. We live so that our faith might intersect with people who are perishing and bring them the good news of Christ’s rescue. We are always ready so that others may live.