When I was four, my family lived near the Atlantic Ocean. "Close enough to enjoy the water," my mother used to say, "but far enough that we don't have sand in the house."
One afternoon my father took me to the beach to escape the blistering summer heat of our apartment. Nearly 70 years later, I still remember splashing in the water, squealing as the gentle waves surged and ebbed around me.
I suppose he was only a short distance away when he turned his back for a moment. But during that moment, a wave knocked me off balance and plunged my face beneath the water. Frantic, I fought to regain my footing as each successive swell threw me under again and again. Panic grew into terror as the current swept me deeper beneath the waves.
Then, from nowhere, strong arms suddenly pulled me free. Within moments, I found myself safe on the warm sand. The lifeguard had come to my rescue.
"Hey! What are you doing?" My father ran toward us, shouting at the man who saved me. "I was watching him. He was okay." Then he looked at me. "You were okay, weren't you?"
I remember it was more a command than a question. Embarrassed and confused, what could I say? I stared at my feet and whispered, "Uh-huh."
Vindicated, my father led me back to our beach blanket. I didn't feel like going into the water any more that day.
Years passed, and I discovered different waters in which to revel. Swept along by swells of ideas and temptations, I drifted from one immoral or rebellious pleasure to another. Life ebbed and flowed gently around me.
Then a wave knocked me off balance. I fought to regain my footing, but each attempt met powerful and successive waves that pulled me deeper toward sin, desperation, and finally, despondency. I knew intuitively that my future promised little more than ever-increasing bondage to those very things I once thought gave me freedom. I knew I could no more stop doing what I knew to be wrong than I could prevent the ocean's currents. But oh, how I longed for forgiveness, cleansing – and rescue. In despair, I cried out to the One I had for so long ignored and begged Him to deliver me from myself.
Oh! I still remember His rescue. December 25, 1972. This Jewish young man knelt beside a navy barracks bunk. The Holy Spirit had earlier led me to friends who told me of God’s promise of salvation and the power to change direction. All I needed to do was ask God for mercy and forgiveness.
And as I did, suddenly and from nowhere, strong arms pulled me free from sin's grip. Overwhelming guilt and fear gave way to assurance and peace. I’d been rescued. Lifted onto the Rock. Oh, how glorious was the sense of freedom, to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
But within days, friends and family rushed to my side. "You were okay, weren't you? You weren't really in trouble, were you?”
It’s not surprising when pressure from parents or friends prevents a child from choosing right over wrong. But how should an adult react in the face of truth? Despite my self-assured façade, I desperately needed help, and the Lord Jesus so graciously reached down to rescue me.
What could I say to them – family and friends alike? The choice could not have been clearer. It was time to put away childish things. It was time to shoulder my responsibility and admit that the gospel is the power of God to rescue from sin’s bondage everyone who turns to Christ (Romans 1:16).
It was time to make Messiah Jesus my absolute Lord and Master of my life, my lifestyle, and my eternal destiny.