Representatives of Christ versus Rescuers - Helpful Distinction?

(SeanO) #1

I was recently having a conversation with a friend and he shared in prayer that we should be representatives and not rescuers. I think he meant that it is Christ who saves, all that we can do is represent Him as best as we are able in His grace and mercy. Only God can truly rescue someone - our job is to represent Christ to the world as His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:17-21).

When we see ourselves as rescuers, what are the dangers? What are the benefits of recognizing that we are only representatives?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

What are the main things that one needs to do or have to make evangelism fruitful?
(anon65845839) #2

Jude (vs23)
save others by snatching them from the fire; and to still others, show mercy tempered with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Why not both? Obviously, as the Spirit ministers through us we become an extension of Him doing both through us. Is it even an option to be representatives that do NOT rescue? How would we feel if our elected political officials concluded THAT to be the case for them? Does God require any less of His people working out the Kingdom of God on Earth?

(Jimmy Sellers) #4

I think in a strange way the parable of the good Samaritan might shed some light on this.
3 imagers of God. 2 were his representatives. 1 was his rescuer.

(SeanO) #5

@anon65845839 Thank you for those thoughts. I think that is an interesting twist on the idea of ‘rescue’ - that we are God’s hands and feet. So God can rescue others through us and, in that sense, we do rescue them, but not by our own strength or power - but by the power of Christ in us.

(SeanO) #6

@Jimmy_Sellers That is an interesting point because it highlights the distinction between the physical and the spiritual. The good Samaritan rescued this man physically, but often we desire to rescue people spiritually, which only God can truly do. So that is a good distinction - of course we can rescue people from slavery and poverty as God provides open doors - that is physical rescue. But how much more do we long to see them rescued spiritually and be born again in Christ? That is spiritual rescue.

(Jimmy Sellers) #7

Maybe Paul said it best.

I am telling the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears witness to me in the Holy Spirit—2 that my grief is great and there is constant distress in my heart. 3 For I could wish myself to be accursed from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my fellow countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belong the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the temple service, and the promises, 5 to whom belong the patriarchs, and from whom is the Christ according to human descent, who is God over all, blessed ⌊forever⌋! Amen. (Ro 9:1–5 LEB)

(SeanO) #8

@Jimmy_Sellers Indeed - I think that brings up another helpful distinction - we may have a strong, passionate desire to see the lost saved, but in the end it is God who saves. So we seek the lost - we pray - we exhort - we teach - and then we allow the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.

(Jimmy Sellers) #9

And Paul said:

5 Therefore, what is Apollos and what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, and to each as the Lord gave. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing it to grow. 7 So then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who is causing it to grow. 8 Now the one who plants and the one who waters are one, but each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.(1 Co 3:5–9LEB)

And again to your point Paul:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Ro 1:16LEB)

No human rescuer here just rope throwers.

(Olivia Davis) #10

I like the nuance that everyone has gotten to in the discussion – thanks for fleshing that out. It’s helpful to think that, as @Jimmy_Sellers’ has written, that’s we’re rope throwers. Good description!

So – just to be really honest, I’m a recovering rescuer. Eventually, God showed me that I wasn’t up for that job. However, I could throw some ropes as a representative. Here’s how that happened!

Once, I tried to rescue a person I loved. I’m a little embarrassed to explain how that affected my spirit, and I blushed as I wrote these things out, but I share them in the hopes to help other people not fall into the same stronghold!

Dangers of Being a Rescuer

  • I got discouraged because the person didn’t seem interesting in knowing God anymore than in the beginning.
  • I felt like I was responsible for this person not accepting Christ.
  • I got nervous before I would talk to them, feeling like I had to know all the answers/say the right things/have the right body language.
  • I would mull over how the discussion went afterwards. Maybe I should say it this way… was a common line of thought.
  • I felt like I was doing something wrong.

I wanted this person to know Jesus! But, at the same time, I got caught up in being the “rescuer” instead of the representative, and felt discouraged by what I perceived as “my failure.” I had made their salvation my responsibility.

As God showed this to me over time and as I realized my cycle of discouragement was repeating itself, I began to see that God’s timing is perfect and better than our own and that prayer is far more powerful than my planning, mulling, and myriad attempts to do something right. Prayer molds you into a representative anyway, so if you’re concentrated on Jesus, being a true representative just happens. As I tried to shift my perspective, I began to see the benefits of being a representative.

Benefits of Being a Representative

  • Being encouraged in the Lord, knowing that every window for conversation about him is proof that he is moving in another person’s life
  • No responsibility for another person’s salvation
  • New intimacy with God as you see that he puts the words in your mouth when you come before a judge.
  • New desire to listen to the Holy Spirit. I don’t know how this person needs to be loved, but Jesus does.
  • Freedom afterward from evaluating my “performance” – I obey God, the end.
  • Knowing that if I really do mess up big time (it happens), God loves this person far more than I do and he can prove himself to that person better than the best representative could anyway. (This isn’t a free pass, but a recognition of grace.)

The turning point in my transformation was understanding more about the idea of a “rescue” as it relates to salvation. Rescue, in terms of Christianity, implies salvation. That’s the ultimate rescue – knowing and walking with God, saved from our flesh. And here’s the kicker, and why I wasn’t a good rescuer: It’s a miracle.

Salvation is always a miracle, regardless of age, family of origin, life circumstances. Salvation is always an act of God. Of course, God uses people as representatives to help people understand what kind of God he is, to demonstrate his love. He can and does work miracles through us, but miracles always point to and originate in God. Representatives are important, but if we look at the ultimate rescue as being salvation, only God is the Rescuer. Not I!!!

Loving all the scriptural references already in this discussion. I think the place in scripture that really speaks to what I’m talking about is Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God gives us rest…he gave me rest, in my soul. He freed me from the heavy burden of responsibility for another’s salvation, helping me see that my job is really just to love God. Everything flows from that, and everything comes back to that.

So, in short, is the distinction between representatives and rescuers helpful? Yes, it’s freedom giving and, for me, life-changing! Hurrah!

"What If I Don't Need God" lecture by Andy Bannister
(SeanO) #11

@Olivia_Davis What a powerful testimony! Thank you so much for sharing your story - I think that is exactly what my friend meant when he was praying those words - the burden for another person’s salvation is not on our shoulders. We do not need to feel guilt when we fail to bring someone to Christ. As long as we are faithful to seek Christ first and love others in His name, that is all we are called to do. We can leave the rest to God. God knows we’re not perfect and He does not need us to be - He doesn’t need us at all. He simply calls us to be faithful with what He has given us.

We are God’s representatives because He has rescued us. I think that’s how I would relate those two terms.

Christ has set us free indeed!

(anon65845839) #12

Proverbs 24:11-12 (ESV)
“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”

How we are handling the aborted children in America makes me think of this passage.

(Olivia Davis) #13

Isn’t is beautiful how knowing that God doesn’t need us makes us love him more!

I like your relation of the terms — it’s a really helpful way to see that because we’re rescued, we represent the rescuer.

(Andrew Bulin) #14

I’m agreeing with a lot of the sentiment here. As a person that uses work and service to express my care for others, I really like these passages:

Proverbs 3:27 NASB
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it.

Galatians 6:9-10 NASB
[9] Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. [10] So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

However, I was really conflicted at one time about being responsible for spreading the Gospel. I had to accept that I do not need an excuse to spread the Gospel, and that I should be able to do it with nothing to give. Ultimately God is responsible in calling those to Himself, and not by my wisdom or abilities:

Acts 3:3-6 NASB
[3] When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. [4] But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” [5] And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. [6] But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk!”

Sometimes I feel like some have an easier time finding a “reason” to spread the Gospel to the unreached in impoverished or depressed regions. But then I know this does not become the reason for all groups. Furthermore the limited successes in reporting significant growth of Christian communities in industrialized and classically known as “first-world” countries that may frustrate missions organizations may be less to do with no material service opportunities, and may be more related to the people be better off and then closed off to the Gospel (Mat. 19:24).

(SeanO) #15

@andrew.bulin Good thoughts - I think Proverbs 3:27 is powerful. It is so easy to focus on my own agenda and not see an opportunity to serve that is right in front of me - like the Good Samaritan. So often doing the right thing requires inconveniencing ourselves and every day I have to choose whether I will stay laser focused on my own success or take the time to love others.

It can be easier to justify serving the poor because the need is so obvious. And yet the wealthy also struggle with great inner brokenness. As Ravi says, it is weariness from pleasure rather than of pain that is the most revealing of our complete emptiness apart from God. When we try to fill ourselves with what the world offers - we quickly realize that everything is a cracked cistern, leaking as fast as we fill it. May Christ open doors for us among all people.

(anon65845839) #16

@SeanO …ya know, I’ve given it some more thought. The distinction you’ve made…I’ve not heard made before. At first my gut was like, false dichotomy. I’ve been in reflection quite a bit lately on occupation/ministry direction. I realized after an employment interview this week that I am so much more a representative than a rescuer. I started thinking of your distinction as it relates positionally. God is not our representative to man, but Jesus is our rep to the Father in a sense. We represent Him to man. So I see now where your coming from, as opposed to the functional aspect I was considering before. Thank you so much man for even throwing out that true dichotomy of role. Not only will that keep me from feeling that God wants me crawling down into a pit to save someone out of it, but it’s a sober minded reminder that we stand on solid ground ready to assist those climbing the rope tied to Christ. Now, if I can just figure out how that representative role should proceed. At least I can rule out a whole job category of “Rescuers Down Under”. Thanks again! Hmm, still ruminating…

(SeanO) #17

@anon65845839 May the Lord guide you as you continue on the journey of learning what it means to be His representative on earth. It’s definitely a process - each new situation I encounter forces me to reevaluate where I draw that line and what the Lord is calling me to do. Christ be with you.

(anon65845839) #18

Iron sharpened…thank you.

(C Rhodes) #19

@SeanO. It was thrilling to read all the input from your question. The conclusive thoughts were wonderful to read. I was thinking about one of my sisters who once felt responsible for the salvation of others. She hesitated to fully follow CHRIST believing it would require self-denial of huge proportions. Fasting and intensely fervent prayers. “It would require so much of me,” she asserted.

I am happy to say that she seems to be learning that the plan of salvation was a whole package delivered at the cross. Sometimes the greatest effort we can implore is the removal of ourselves from the process. Give people what GOD has given us to give and then trust GOD to perform the good work in them as he has in us. I think to do otherwise is to distrust the heart of GOD.

For me, it requires an acknowledgment that all souls belong to GOD. It is a personal practice that I place my own heart through. People belong to GOD. Their ultimate progress resides in their relinquishing of free will and the agape heart of GOD. Takes a huge burden off my shoulders and makes it easier to love as GOD would have me too.

Thank GOD I don’t have to assure anyone’s salvation, mine included. The loving is a lifetime of busy work for me.

(SeanO) #20

@cer7 It is always a relief to remember that what people need is not our talents, but to ‘come and see’ the One who has set us free. Our job is just to testify through our love for one another and the world that Jesus is the risen King. He takes care of the rest and that gives us the freedom to rest in Him.