I Want Them Back

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Grace, Salvation

The God of the Bible is so astounding that sometimes I do not have words to thank Him for what He has done in Christ. I experience at least a little taste of what Paul must have felt when he said, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). From this astounding picture of God in the Bible, I grieve over the picture of God I see so many paint of him today. Honestly, the modern picture of Jesus can be so unimpressive. It stirs no worship; it sustains no passion; it calls for no radical commitment.   

This evening, looking for something to watch on TV, I came across the movie Taken. This post isn’t a review of the movie, but rather a brief comment about the effectual work of Jesus, as I was reminded of it through an epic ending scene. In case you haven’t seen it, here is some plot info. If you are familiar with the plot, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. The plot of Taken, starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills consists of a young beautiful girl (Kim Mills) who travels overseas with a friend. Kim is young and naïve, unlike her father who is a retired CIA agent. He is the type of guy who eats excellence for breakfast and day dreams about how to enforce justice. He is in love with his daughter, but he and his wife are divorced. However, he has significantly reoriented his life to remain closer to his daughter. When his daughter brings up the desire to vacation overseas, he is against it, wanting to protect her. Eventually, she gets her way. In short, her and her friend arrive and are targeted by sex traffickers, kidnapped, and enslaved. The young girl is on the phone with her father when the kidnappers take her. He hears it all. He promises the kidnapper he is coming after him. As the viewer, you are sure he will win.

Fast forward. He finds his daughter at an auction where she is being sold. She is sold and he is able to follow her to a yacht where she is brought. He boards the yacht without permission. As he is moving through every obstacle between him and his precious girl, one of his obstacles is asked something like, “Who is this?” He answers with something to the effect, “It’s the girl’s father and he wants her back!

That line. Wow. What a picture of the gospel. I see pointers to the biblical gospel all over that. Yet at the same time, I grieve over the fact that so many Christians do not see God as the one who says, “He is mine, and I want him back!” Or, “She is mine, and I want her back!”

When God wants to do something, He does it. Nothing can stop Him from accomplishing that which He wants to do. Ps. 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Ps. 135:6 says, “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” By definition, God does what He wants to do. There is no power in heaven or on earth or in hell that can even begin to think about nudging Him.

This is good news, because the Bible paints our fallen state in a horrific light. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not good people. Most everyone will admit that no one is perfect, but most unbelievers will always admit that deep down, they are good. They would claim to know what is good and have the desire to choose what is good. But the Bible says nothing of the sort. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-3 unpack the fallen, sinful state of everyone born:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Italics added).

Paul says that we are born dead (that is the paradox of all time). We are born spiritually dead, totally bent on evil all the time (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Now notice how Paul describes this “dead” condition. He says dead sinners live according to their own passions and desires. The passions and desires are directly in accordance with Satan (the “prince of the power of the air”). Everyone is only free to do what they ultimately, most supremely want to do. And dead sinners, one of which I used to be, can only live out their passions for evil continually. Deep down, no one is born good. Deep down, in the fallen state, everyone loves evil. They delight in the bad.

This state of spiritual deadness has massive implications for what we need in order to be made God’s sons and daughters. It means we do not merely need help, but rather complete, total resurrection. Today, so many people paint a picture of God as a kind, nice, gentleman in heaven who is sitting back, sweating bullets hoping that people will “Choose Jesus!” It is a picture of God that says Jesus died to merely offer salvation to all people, rather than actually save anyone. The cross is only effective if you make it effective they say. But is that what the Bible says? Are we saved by grace alone, or by grace plus some willful decision, or work, of ours? The last time I checked, I am saved completely by what God has done for me, not what I can do with God’s help.  

We do not need Jesus to merely offer himself, what so many teach that he does. We need Jesus to actually rescue us. Jesus does not offer a rescue; He actually rescues. There is a massive difference between those two ideas. The first one says that Jesus swims over to drowning people and asks if they want to swim over to him for safety; it says he throws himself out there like a neutral, floating life preserver, asking people to swim over to him if they want. But this is not in line with Eph. 2, because that passage says that no one is “drowning” but rather everyone is dead, lying on the ocean floor; lifeless. The second statement is the one in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus is the Rescuer who goes to the ocean floor, brings up the dead bodies, and breathes life into them.

But this means that when Jesus brings us to the faith, he overcomes our dead state. Our dead state is that we are very much alive in our evil wills. This means he must overcome our evil wills. This is exactly what came into my head with I was watching Neeson breaking through to his daughter. I literally thought of God, overcoming my will to rescue me from myself. In my dead state, I fought hard against God. But who wins? Do I sit in the heavens and do as I please, or does God? Did God listen to my will, the will that always chose evil and never chose Him? No He didn’t! He loved me too much to listen to me when I said, “Stay away!” He loved me too much to say, “He is mine, and I hope he comes back one day!” God loved me in such a way that he came to me and changed my will. He didn’t force me. He exerted more power than that. He opened my eyes to my sinful, guilty state. Then he showed me Christ, who sufficiently forgives me and satisfies me eternally (2 Cor. 4:4-6).

I am totally unimpressed by the modern, distorted view of God that says he merely offers salvation; that Jesus died, hoping someone would accept His cross. That means He died in vain for all those who do not accept the cross. The God of the Bible is far more captivating. He doesn’t merely offer, or invite, but rather he chooses and then accomplishes the salvation of the elect. He will stop at nothing to save those whom he chooses to have mercy upon. If you trust Christ, know that he stopped at nothing to get you! God is the good Father who said of me and all whom He has chosen, “They are mine, and I want them back!” And indeed, He has redeemed saved many and is still in the business! 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—” (Eph. 2:4-5).

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