Rescuers in Los Angeles County, California, had a difficult time trying to get an injured man up a steep slope to an access road. While the rescue itself was dangerous and risky, the injured man was making things even more difficult and dangerous for everyone. As the rescue helicopter hovered overhead, ready to evacuate the seriously injured man, he became hysterical and started thrashing about. The man was afraid of being charged for the rescue. Only after the rescue crew managed to convince the man that the rescue would be absolutely free did he let himself be rescued.
How do you feel about your rescue? Are you ready to be rescued by Jesus? Would you be ready to meet Him today? While we would all say that we believe that Jesus saves us, most of us would probably hesitate a moment with the today part of the question. If Jesus came today, would I be ready? The standard for heaven is high. When we examine our lives earnestly, we can come to only one conclusion—we are all sinners (Rom. 3:9). We do not qualify for heaven. Something needs to be done.
Most major world religions share something in common. You have to do something to get something; salvation must be earned. Even in Christianity this mind-set can subtly slip in. We can begin to depend on prayers, Bible reading, or even doing good things to somehow give us the assurance that we are going to be all right. Deep down there is the vague notion that it really is Christ plus the things that I do that save me.
On this side of heaven perfection is always a growth process, not a stagnant state; and no amount of our doing anything can get us there. Rather, we have to keep clinging to Jesus.
Perhaps we are a little like the injured man, afraid of the rescue because we know that we cannot pay for it. There is, however, good news, in fact, really good news. It is true that we are all sinners, unable to pay the penalty. But Jesus died for our sins so that we do not have to die for them (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus took our place on the cross so that we can go free. We do not have to pay for this rescue—it was paid in full on Calvary. When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we can have the full assurance that if Jesus came right now we would be ready to meet Him.
God wants to give us the assurance of salvation (Rom. 8:31, 32). But we will get this assurance only when we stop looking at our own efforts and ourselves and focus on what Jesus has done for us.
At this point many Christians get nervous. Accepting God’s assurance seems too easy, and they are afraid of salvation becoming “cheap grace,” with people continuing to live in sin, simply claiming forgiveness without making any changes in their lives. Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. The gift of eternal life comes at the highest cost we can imagine. This rescue cost Jesus His life; and although it is free, we do have a part to play. A closer look at a biblical rescue may be helpful.
Jacob knew that he needed to be rescued. He had received word that his brother, Esau, was on his way with armed men to meet him. The peace offerings he had sent ahead did not seem to make any difference. Esau was coming, intent on revenge. Jacob sent his family ahead across the river, and all alone he pleaded with God for help.
He needed rescue from Esau, but he also knew that he—the lying deceiver—had no right to ask God for help. When help came, Jacob did not recognize it. He fought God off, thinking that he was being attacked. Only at dawn, as he realized with whom he was fighting, did Jacob get the assurance that he needed. Why? Jacob stopped fighting God and instead clung to Him (Gen. 32:22-29).
Jesus supplies the salvation and assurance we need as we cling to Him. Ellen White puts it this way: “Every believing soul is to conform his will entirely to God’s will, and keep in a state of repentance and contrition, exercising faith in the atoning merits of the Redeemer and advancing from strength to strength, from glory to glory.” Ellen White continues to point out that there is more to salvation than just belief or mental acceptance. Knowing that Jesus is our Savior is more than just a nice, comforting thought or a tantalizing intellectual idea. It is “exercising faith” and “advancing from strength to strength.”
James clearly states that belief is pointless unless it is backed by action (James 2:19). The book of James explains with practical examples that because we know that God has forgiven us, and we have faith that He will save us, we obey Him. Living life with God has a practical effect on our everyday lives. We can have the assurance that we are ready to meet Jesus if He came today.
The second coming of Jesus will be the greatest rescue event in earth’s history. The Bible describes the sky being peeled back like a scroll (Isa. 34:4), the earth reeling like a drunkard (Isa. 24:20).
Would meeting Jesus require a special kind of holiness? Some Seventh-day Adventists have claimed that the character of God will be vindicated through the perfect lives of the last generation of believers. This claim is based on certain Ellen White quotes read in isolation without the context of the rest of her writings. This claim often leads to fear and is inclined to direct a Christian’s focus inward instead of on Jesus. God has always wanted every generation of Christians to find victory over the power of sin in their lives (Rom. 6:11-14). However, on this side of heaven perfection is always a growth process, not a stagnant state; and no amount of our doing anything can get us there. Rather, we have to keep clinging to Jesus.The daily struggle is to let go of all that separates us and, like Jacob, focus on clinging to Jesus rather than fighting off His Spirit or interfering with His work by trying to give the rescuer a hand. Having the assurance that we are ready to meet Jesus does not depend on reaching a certain standard. The assurance is found with Paul in “dying daily” to all that separates
us from God, and clinging to His promises.
As the sky rolls back and the earth reels we can say with confidence, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us” (Isa. 25:9).