It is a danger that can snare a person in an instant, when they least expect it. One moment you’re swimming along just fine. The next, you find yourself flailing and drowning. Ask anyone who’s ever been caught unexpectedly in a rip current – they are no fun. Makes “Jaws” look like a picnic (which, in the eyes of the shark, I guess it was a picnic…)
Rip currents form when the tide erodes a portion of sand bar near the shore. Water pours through the gap at speeds of up to eight feet per second, swiftly pulling the swimmer out to sea and far away from the safety of the shoreline. It all happens so fast that the swimmer often panics and, in a vain attempt to save himself, turns and begins swimming back the way they came – against the swirling rip tide. The swimmer becomes the victim when he exhausts himself of his strength, fighting the losing battle alone, and drowns.
Many beaches post signs warning people to stay out of the water due to dangerous rip currents. But not everybody heeds the warnings. Some folks jump in anyway, and end up paying the ultimate price for their folly.
Sadly, those who drown do not understand that salvation from the rip current is fairly simple. Just turn away from it. Do not swim against it or into it. Turn and swim out of the speeding current’s stream. Once you are free of the rip tide’s pull, you will find the waters are calmer. You can then swim back to the safety of the shoreline, avoiding the rip current so as not to get pulled back in.
Sin works in much the same way as a rip current. It can snare you in an instant, and hurriedly hurl you into the depths before you know what hit you. Try to swim against in on your own power and you will drown.
Consider Judas Iscariot. He is the poster child for rip current sin. Think about it: John goes to great lengths to make sure we know exactly which Judas this guy was: “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…” (John 13:2, ESV). Just as Christ was not Jesus’ last name, nor was Iscariot Judas’ last name. It probably means simply that he is from Kerioth. In other words, John is telling us that it was Judas, the one from Kerioth, the one who was Simon’s son. “Oh… that Judas!” Truly that is one case of mistaken identity one would not wish to be the victim thereof.
Judas had a weakness for money, and that weakness got the best of him. Satan used it to tempt him into doing the unthinkable (betraying Jesus, whom he had followed closely for three years). This is how the devil “put it into the heart of Judas” to do such a heinous thing. All for a bag of silver coins. The bait is taken. Jesus even gives Judas one last out in offering up the morsel of wine-soaked bread to be eaten by the one who would betray Christ. Note that John once more carefully identifies the betrayer: “So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:26b-27, ESV).
Bait swallowed. Hook set. Reel him in.
Judas did not learn the lesson Peter had when walking on the water. Take your eyes off Christ, and you will drown. Judas had let Satan tempt him to a horrible fate. Before he knew it, he was in the rip current, violently pulled away from the safety of the shoreline, unable to fight against the current and never quite turning away and swimming out to the safety of salvation in Christ.
He fell for the enemy’s lie.
He did not heed the warnings. He jumped in anyway. And he paid the ultimate price.
He was chum.
My five-year-old loves to sing a song he learned at Sunday School: “Be careful little eyes what you see… be careful little ears what you hear…” I think that, for we adults, that might be a good song to sing as well. All are tempted. Jesus endured for 40 days and nights. Likewise, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV). None of us has hit the mark. And God knows it. That’s why He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, that we may be saved. However, we need to make sure we are focused on Jesus. Perhaps these words of wisdom from Proverbs will help us set our gaze where it ought to be:
1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:1-8 (ESV).
God’s ways are always perfect and right. Seek first His kingdom. Follow the LORD, pursue peace and wisdom and love. Do not take your eyes off Him. The temptations of life of many. Just remember this: it’s the second look that sets the hook.
The next time you want to go for a swim, if you see a sign warning against rip currents, do yourself a favor: heed the warning. Don’t be tempted to swim out in dangerous waters. And, if ever you find yourself being swept away by the rip tide, remember that you can get out by crying out to Jesus, repenting of your sin and swimming out of the current and into the calm safety of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.