Rescued to be rescuers

by
August 5th, 2019

A hundred years ago in London, a drug addict named Francis Thompson escaped from the jaws of hell when he found Jesus Christ. Or to be more exact, when Jesus Christ found him.

Thompson was so overwhelmed by the experience of new life that he put the story of his rescue into a famous poem called “The Hound of Heaven.”

In so doing, this rescued sinner became the rescuer for thousands of other lost souls.  One of those was me.

Note: I gave this as one of the keynote talks at the 4th national conference of the Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists, held in St. Louis, August 2-4, 2019. Forty ex-CSers from 12 states attended, along with another 40 non-CSers equipping themselves for ministry to Christian Scientists who are questioning.

Cornered and Captured

It was 1980.  I was 36 years old, married to Donna. We had met at Principia College, both third or fourth generation Christian Scientists.

We were raising our three children in the Christian Science Sunday school. I was heading up the Adventure Unlimited youth organization for Christian Scientists and serving as First Reader in the largest Christian Science church in Colorado.

But something was terribly wrong in my life. Something was missing. I began to realize it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

Over a period of months, the Hound of Heaven chased me down, broke me down, cornered me, and captured me.

I gave my life to Him on a Tuesday in the mountains, and the next day, Wednesday, I stood before my fellow church members at the close of a testimony meeting and haltingly, rashly proclaimed Him.

Was that good judgment?  No, but I could not help myself.  Sometimes it’s that way when the Hound of Heaven takes over your life.

Why We Gather

I always love this conference, now gathering for the fourth time since 2014 here in St. Louis, because we get to hear each other’s stories, join our hearts in song, and join hands to go forward together.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” we are commanded in Psalm 107. That’s what this conference is for.

Like the poet Francis Thompson, enslaved by opium, set free by the blood of Christ, we who have been rescued now have the opportunity to become rescuers—first for each other, this very weekend—and then for other sheep without a shepherd, Christian Scientists and otherwise, whom God may put in our path.

Escaped to Tell

I suggest we look at several role models from Scripture to see how Jesus the Good Shepherd intends this to work.

Start with Job, right at the midpoint of the Bible when you let it fall open—interestingly, not even a descendant of Abraham, not one of the Chosen People—

But someone God still cared enough about to bring him through the fire and raise him up for us as a hero of the faith.

Look at the first chapter of the Book of Job and then the last chapter.  Four times in Chapter 1, Satan brings a catastrophe on Job’s family and his wealth. Each messenger who comes with the news says the same thing: “I alone am escaped to tell you.”

When you think about it, that’s us.  We made our way out of Christian Science with all its false promises and struggles and sorrows and impossible self-salvation—and now here we are to bear witness for others’ benefit.

We are escaped to tell.  And more than that, we are rescued to be rescuers. Skip to Chapter 42 and why do we find that God turned the captivity of Job, restored him double for all his catastrophes?  Because he prayed for his friends.

They needed the light of God’s truth to penetrate the darkness of their pitiful human intellect.  Job at last having found that light in his own darkness, did what he could to shine it into theirs.

That’s exactly the opportunity you and I have according to God’s good plan and purpose, by his strength and not our own.  We are escaped to tell.  We are rescued to be rescuers.

Role Models

So many other examples of this beautiful pattern have come down to us in Scripture.

Consider Joseph.  Betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned, then elevated to sit at Pharaoh’s right hand. What a rescue.  But he didn’t stop there.  He reached back a hand and pulled his brothers, undeserving as they were, into the circle of God’s grace and mercy.

Consider Moses.  His very name speaks of rescue from the waters.  Narrowly escaping death, he too found high favor with Pharaoh. Ungrateful Hebrews lashed out when he clumsily tried to help them.  He had to flee for his life.

But God’s voice from the burning bush gave him the ultimate rescue assignment: “Let my people go.”  He became the liberator of a nation. What about you and me?

Consider Peter.  He screwed up so badly.  We can all relate to that, right?  But his Lord foretold the whole thing, commanding Simon in Luke 22, “When you are converted, strengthen your brethren.”

Peter did, though he almost just went back to fishing.  The risen Savior appeared on the seashore just in time, commanding again, “Feed my sheep.

Some of you will remember my little prop from the last conference, a pink sheep tag. First we wear them, then we share them.  At least I believe He wants us to. No one gets a pass.

Finally, consider Paul.  He helped stone Stephen to death for the crime of proclaiming Jesus as Lord.  When rescued from that murderous madness, he could have stayed in Arabia as a desert mystic or gone back to Tarsus as a quiet Christ-following tentmaker.

He didn’t, because he was escaped to tell—tell anyone who would listen—and himself be stoned if they wouldn’t listen. Today we have him to thank for 14 of the 66 books in this precious treasury of truth, the Bible.

Heroic Women

Job, Joseph, Moses, Peter, Paul.  Not to mention such heroic women of the faith as Sarah, Ruth, Esther, and Mary the mother of our Lord.

Esther was the queen. She was set. She didn’t need to risk death to rescue the Jews from genocide. She did.

Mary was asked by the angel to accept an unimaginable mission of scandal, suffering, and sorrow to make possible the greatest rescue of all. She could have said no.  She said yes. What about you and me?

Looking Inward

Let me be clear. This conference isn’t just about looking outward and witnessing. We all need to look inward as well.

We’re at different stages of being made whole from the damage Christian Science can do to a person or an entire family.

We’re at different stages of putting off the leftover lies and mistakes that Christian Science may have saddled us with.

We’re at different stages of steeping ourselves in the fullness of biblical truth, no metaphysical “key” to confuse us, no Mary Baker Eddy lenses to look through.

Our gracious triune God will be patient and tender with each of us, whatever our issues. He won’t rush us or jam us into a mold that doesn’t fit. He meets us right where we are. He will never, ever, turn a deaf ear to our needs and prayers.

Our Story, Our Song

The Father knows that no one ever escapes Christian Science–even half a lifetime ago as I did– without a lot of remedial work to do.

And without an odd feeling of displacement that may last and last.

As the Jews lamented in their Babylonian captivity, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

How indeed? Christian Science got started in the first place because a few spiritually confused Bostonians thought the Bible was no longer good enough for the strange new world of Darwin, Marx, and Freud.

Today for some of us it may be the opposite. We want the Bible, we love the Bible, but we still kind of miss Science and Health. The non-CS world sometimes seems like a strange land.  How can we sing?

My answer is this: Newborn in Christ, we no longer let our circumstances dominate our outlook. We joyously let our outlook as adopted sons and daughters of the King dominate our circumstances.

We sing because we are the rescued ones.  We have the song of the Lamb, the song of the Lion.  We have the story of His cross and the story of our salvation.

This is our story. This is our song. Praising our Savior all the day long!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fellowship of Former Christian Scientists board members and speakers on opening day of the 2019 national conference                                                             

The author can be reached at andrewsjk@aol.com

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