Abducted and Rescued
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q 29-31)
by Bob Burridge ©2011
There have been too many stories reported
about young children who were raised by abductors.
Children have been taken illegally from their real parents. Some were taken at such a young age they never knew their real parents. The abductors raise them as if they were their own, and the children believe them.
If the children are older when taken, they can be manipulated to accept the situation. Some of them stay because they are terrified of going against their captors. Some come to believe they really belong to their captors and become surprisingly loyal. They often take on the beliefs and life style of the one who took them.
We were all horrified at the story a few years ago about Jaycee Lee. She had been held by an abusing abductor for 18 years. She helped the one who held her with his business, and adjusted to her situation to survive. A few years earlier there was the similar case of 14 year old Elizabeth Smart. Shawn Hornbeck was taken at age 11 and rescued almost 5 years later when he was found living in an apartment only a few miles from his real family’s home.
The good news about these cases is that they were all rescued and reunited with their real families. We saw the tears of absolute joy when parents found out their lost children had been found.
In a very real sense, we all were abducted as part of the human race in Eden.
We were raised with our abductor who acted as our wicked father. The good news, the gospel, is that some were rescued, redeemed, and returned to the Loving Creator’s family. It is when trusting in God’s successful rescue by Jesus Christ that some are returned home.
The answers to Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 29-31 teach us this important fact.
Answer 29. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Answer 30. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Answer 31. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
Our salvation from captivity is summarized in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
The Holy Spirit applies the redemption Christ purchased. He opens our eyes to trust God’s promises and truth. Through that, he re-unites us with our Savior.
To redeem us, the Holy Spirit convinces us of our sin and misery.
He shows us that in the past while we were held captive by sin and Satan we served him as if we were truly his children. It is important to realize that every one of us is hopelessly unworthy of God’s care until that work of grace. But once delivered, we have no business continuing in evil.
In 2 Timothy 2:26 The Apostle Paul says that before God delivers us to repentance, we were captives in the grips of Satan. It says we are re-generated so that we come to our senses, and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. In Romans 6 Paul says we were slaves of sin until set free by the work of Jesus Christ.
When those who are marked by grace become God’s children, they are no longer held in Satan’s grip. If they still fear him, or behave as is they belong to their captor, they are deceived. They are living in a lie. They never really belonged to their abductor, but he held them as if they were his.
While taken in by Satan, they serve a master who isn’t concerned about them. He abuses them every day, and deceives them. Those held by him do not know any better. 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains our spiritual blindness. It says, “… the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
When we’re redeemed by the Holy Spirit,
he enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ.
Our Rescuer shows us who we really are, that our abductor isn’t really concerned about us and has no claim upon us. We realize that we no longer have to live in bondage and put up with his threats. Our Savior tells us we were loved by the One who made us, even before the world was created.
This is why we can’t rescue ourselves. We do not realize that we need rescue from captivity. The lost might know they need help because things are not going well for them, but they don’t understand that they are held by the enemy of God, the hater of all that is good.
In 1 Corinthians 2:11 God’s word says, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”
Those redeemed by God’s grace are given eyes to see the truth and the wonder of the gospel. In that same chapter, 1 Corinthians 2, verses 9 and 10, it explains the promise of our Redeemer, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”
Our renewed hearts are persuaded and made able to trust in what Christ did for us. We rejoice to be back home and part of the family from which we were abducted in Adam. With our chains taken off nothing can hold us back from running with thankful love into the arms of our loving Father.
The Catechism reminds is that this call of God is “effectual.”
This means that it always accomplishes everything God intends. The Holy Spirit applies the Son’s work to all those redeemed. He infallibly applies all the benefits secured for them by Christ. John 3:6 says we need to be “born of the Spirit.” Titus 3:5 tells us that our salvation is due to the “renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
God is our Sovereign Lord. He is not some pitiful beggar pleading for us to permit him to do his holy will in saving us. Our Heavenly Father seeks out and brings his deceived children home.
There are two kinds of gospel callings described in Scripture. When these are confused, God’s truth becomes distorted.
1. First, there is an outward call for all come to Christ.
This is the gospel message, the invitation to believe God’s work of redemption. God honestly and sincerely promises salvation to all who have faith in Christ and who come repentantly to Him.
Of course fallen humans are neither able nor willing to obey this outward call to come trusting fully in the work of Christ alone. In John 6:65 Jesus said, ” no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
The Apostle Paul explained the reason they refuse to come in Romans 8:7-8. There he wrote, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
An invitation to believe in Jesus Christ does not save anyone. Jesus warned in Matthew 22:14 “many are called but few are chosen.” Unless the Holy Spirit changes the heart, they will not come.
2. Second, there is also an inward call from the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:30, “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
He is speaking of the same group of individuals in each of these stages of his work of grace. All those justified will be glorified. All those called will be justified. All those predestined by him to be his own are called in this special way.
The Holy Spirit never fails to complete the work of the Trinity. Those same ones predestined and called, are certain to be both justified and finally glorified.
For a person to have faith, he needs to be made alive spiritually. Colossians 2:13 says, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”
Once the heart is changed, nothing can possibly hinder his coming to Christ in repentance and faith. God does everything necessary to ensure that the sinner will most certainly come. This is why we say this inward call of the Holy Spirit is always “effectual.”
As those set free by God’s grace, they are part of the Redeemer’s family.
That is quite an amazing fact for us who were part of a fallen race, deceived children taken in by the enemy of all that is good. Now as rescued and restored children of God, we want to show our love for our Father. We want to do those things that honor him. We have so much for which to be thankful.
In a healthy home, children grow up wanting to show their parents how thankful they are too. Though they do so imperfectly, they strive to express their love to the ones to whom they truly belong. That is what causes children to make those misshapen clay dishes, crayon scrawled Mothers Day and Fathers Day cards taped to the refrigerator door, and water color paintings with helpful explanations written in pencil on the back to remember what it was supposed to be. That is what brings on the hugs and smiles when they are most needed.
I’ve seen thank you notes written to firefighters and rescue workers for bravely saving a home, a pet, or a child trapped in a burning house. Thankful children want to please their parents, and to honor their rescuers. We want to do that too, toward our Triune God: our Heavenly Father, our Gracious Redeemer, and the live-giving Holy Spirit.
Once rescued, we need to stop the habits learned from our abductor. We want to be like our loving Heavenly Father, and to live in ways that please him.
In Romans 6 Paul calls us to recognize our being set free to be what honors our Savior. In verses 11-13 the Apostle wrote, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
While we live on this side of heaven,
the ways of our abductor still influence us.
He gives horrible advice about the important foundations of your life. He makes you focus on yourself above everything else. He says, “Put yourself first.” He wants you to focus on your own problems, your own comfort, pleasure, and material wants.
As for those eternal issues, he says. “Forget them.” He tells you they are just far off concerns, nothing over which to waste your time. He tempts you to be concerned above all with the comforts and pleasures of the moment.
He tells you not to trust God’s word. He convinced Adam and Eve to question God’s goodness and motives. He persuaded them to try to reason things through aside from what God said was right and true.
Today the Tempter makes us see our imperfections as support for our doubts. He suggests that since not everyone agrees about what the Bible says, it must be unclear and unreliable.
He influences you to have a wrong attitude toward life. By all that surrounds you, he tries to draw you back into his ways. He wants you to be like him, not like the one to whom you really belong by grace. He teaches you to be selfish, vengeful, covetous, driven by lust and material success. He uses your music, TV shows, Movies, friends, co-workers, and Internet resources to center your view of the world on thoughts that marginalize the work of your Redeemer.
Your Heavenly Father advises you very differently.
He tells us to make God’s glory at the center of our lives. We should put him first, and rest in his grace as our hope and foundation. He calls us to value eternal issues, and to keep them as our focus.
We rise above the moment, to see the flow of God’s plan at work in his world. We see tragedies like the deaths of the Egyptians on Passover night, and the agony of that Cross on Mount Calvary, as pointing to something greater. We see the amazing plan of Redemption unfolding and look to a future eternal victory. We know that our little material gains today are truly his blessing, but are of little importance when compared with our secure place in eternal glory with our Savior.
We know that God’s word is clear when it is allowed to speak for itself. We see that the confusion of denominations and sects do not come from an imperfect Bible. They come from adding imperfect ideas to it, or from neglecting to see how it all fits together.
The attitude God calls us to have is not what the world thinks is best. He calls us to be patient, forgiving, honest, and kind even to those who are unkind to us. We need to overcome the rude and evil ways learned from our abductor. We need to observe and conform to the ways of our true Father.
There is real promise and real power available to those Redeemed by Jesus Christ. We can learn to be what God calls us to be, and to overcome the leaned ways of our abductor. When we stop to appreciate the Redemption so graciously given in Christ, we are humbled and amazed. We exclaim in our hearts what Paul wrote in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)