Please Don't Give A Swimming Instruction Manual To Someone Drowning (Encore)

I was listening to a sermon tonight while I was mowing the lawn and the pastor said, “What does a drowning person need?  Do they need an instruction manual on how to swim or do they need a lifeguard?” 
It is easy to identify struggling people in the congregation and community.  The heaviness on their face, the deep breaths, the look of hopelessness and helplessness!  Whether their lives are falling apart due to their own sin, the sin of others or simply the effects of original sin, it is easy for us to respond to this despair by handing out an instruction manual.  Seriously, how often do we as Christians fall into the trap of handing out instruction manuals to people who are drowning not in water but in the muck of sin?  It is all too easy for us to highlight and bookmark certain chapters of our metaphoric instruction manuals and then toss it upon their already drowning bodies saying, “I know that you are drowning but if you just learn the swimming technique on page 13 you will be just fine.  Don’t worry; there is a great diagram that illustrates the proper technique for you, just study it really hard!  Pray a little harder, devote yourself a little more, kick those legs a little more and you will be fine.” 
The pastor in the sermon said something to the effect, “If you are tempted to give an instruction manual to a drowning person, please just spare them the pain and let them drown in peace.  They don’t need extra help from you in drowning.” 
Even though there is a comical touch to this illustration, it is painfully true about us as well-meaning Christians.  We sometimes so badly want to help people that we end up imparting all of our life lessons to them with the idea that they can simply follow our wise principles and swim right out of their drowning sin predicament.  The only problem is that we end up putting more weight and demands upon someone who is essentially already spiritually dead.
C.F.W. Walther speaks on this in his classic book, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.  In Thesis VIII he states, In the fourth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is preached to those who are already in terror on account of their sins…”   Walther goes on to say in Thesis IX, 
“In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.”
Essentially, the metaphor is pointing out the futility of giving a swimming instruction manual to a drowning person.  The reason being, how can a person who is already helpless even begin to read an instruction manual in the midst of calamity?  Furthermore, to come and give the swimmer the solution of ‘self’ when ‘self’ is the problem to begin with is simply counterproductive. 
Problem:  You are drowning because you can’t swim.
Swimming Manual Solution:  You need to swim better to keep from drowning. 
The same can be true about giving law or pointing someone to ‘self’ when they are already poor in spirit and in terror on their account of sin.  Even though the advice or biblical principle may be totally solid it simply isn’t the proper response to someone who is already struck down.
Problem:  You are spiritually dead because you are sinful and helpless at the core of your being.
Swimming Manual Solution:  Figure out how to be less sinful at the core of your being so you can be less spiritually dead.
What is the proper response to someone who is drowning in water or sin?  Very simply they need a lifeguard.  They need something ‘outside’ of themselves, something external to save them… namely Christ.  A drowning person needs a lifeguard to jump into the water, approach them, grab a hold of them and save them.  Equally, a person drowning in sin needs the ‘external Word of the Gospel’ to be ministered into the drowning circumstance of sin… they need Christ not self.
What a relief for us as Christians!  When someone is struggling with sin, what we get to do is simply proclaim Jesus.  The burden is off of us because their spiritual well-being is not dependent upon the trustworthiness and reliability of our instruction manuals, techniques and principles… it is dependent upon the life giver, Christ.
As drowning sinners ourselves, we not only get to point others away from themselves to Christ, we get to be continually rescued by the external Word of the Gospel that casts itself into the murkiness of our very own lives.  Jesus is our life guard… our life giver and He came not to impart to us an instruction manual but to impart His very life so as to rescue us unto life!
Please don’t give a swimming instruction manual for there is a lifeguard… there is Christ.  May we be continually saved by this all sufficient life giver.