Come Join the Party?

The setting is aboard the most luxurious oceanliner every built. The most stunning technological design, with no luxurious appointment missed; The height of luxury aboard the cutting edge of technology.  This was the coolest thing on the planet. Those privileged enough to be aboard found themselves lacking for nothing. Wonderful meals, opulent ballrooms, and beautiful music.  Yet around midnight on April 14, 1912 there was an unbelievable announcement:  The Titanic had struck an iceberg and Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats prepared for the coming peril.

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Firsthand accounts tell us that there were those who refused to believe this warning and they continued to act as though nothing had changed. At first glance, the ballrooms appeared as before. There was still food in the galley. There was still music in the air.  How absurd, how insane would it have been at that moment to turn your back on the lifeboats, to put on your best face, and return to the ballroom, to begin an evening of dancing, and to join the party? How negligent would the crew had been had they failed in their duty to warn passengers of the coming peril and instead enjoy the trappings of their (now extremely) temporary quarters?

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Do we do this? Do we, the church, do this when instead of warning people of the coming judgement of Christ we strike up the band, spread the banquet and begin the party?

We have been ordered to spread the news of the impending judgement, the release of God’s wrath and to run through the halls of the ship pleading with all who would be saved to run to the lifeboats.  This, as all analogies, will fall short. As a monergist, I believe that it is God who saves through Faith alone in Christ alone. However, we are charged with telling those we share these temporary quarters with (the world) that there is a coming judgement, and that salvation comes only through Christ.


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Let’s not kid ourselves; there are great works in which the church is involved (and should be); feeding the widow and orphan, and any current iteration of ministries of mercy and justice (human trafficking, KONY, the civil rights movement, etc.)  but to replace the warning call of coming judgement and the good news of salvation through Christ with any number of self-help, community, feel-good, social justice, THING is in clear opposition to our primary mission. I don’t care how many thousands of people your pastor speaks to on a given Sunday. It matters not a bit how many books he has published, how many campuses you have, or how many cell groups you spin up. If the call of warning and the means of salvation are not clearly and repeatedly articulated from the megaphone of the pulpit, you have failed. Miserably. Negligently.

And people will meet their doom, as those on the Titanic would have, in “community”, in “fellowship”, being trendy and relevant and enjoying themselves.  Surrounded by luxury and impressive architecture and technology, they confused their temporary surroundings with their ultimate destination.

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The warning was sounded long ago when man sinned.  But then, the clarion call came when the good news of Christ’s incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, and justifying resurrection was announced. Our single greatest need had been met; not a tastier meal, a better orchestra, or a softer bed. What value do these have to those who are soon to perish? Rather, the good news that there was a way to live!

How in the world do we confuse the trappings and technology of this soon-sinking ship with “relevance”?  Relevance is what will save us from the impending doom of God’s wrath.  But we too often lose sight of this, our single greatest need, and become enamored with our current trappings. Don’t ever, ever lose sight of the fact that the iceberg has been struck and this ship is sinking. Everyone on it is going to end up in the water one way or another. It will either be in the safety of a lifeboat, or bobbing helplessly to their peril.

The old wooden lifeboats weren’t luxurious, they were completely “old school”. There weren’t entertaining, they weren’t much fun, and they weren’t very popular.  Yet, those who understood the reality of the situation fled to them and would have traded all their earthly fortune to be there.

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The gospel of Jesus Christ will never be luxurious, or posh, or comfortable. It will, by our human standards always seem foolish and irrelevant. But it is the only hope for those who are perishing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ we’ve waited too long to call our shipmates to action. If you aren’t spreading the warning and salvation to those who are perishing, you are negligent.  To those who would walk back into the party and pretend the ship isn’t sinking, you’re delusional.. and to call others to join you? God have mercy.

For those of you who may have stumbled upon this blog, or who have for too long been confusing your festival onboard the ship with the safety of the lifeboat, who have chosen to hear the call back into the party rather than fleeing to the lifeboat. Who are serenaded as you sink with the empty promises of self-help, pop-psychology, and seeking some never-to-be named “great plan” for your life, I ask you to consider the peril we all face. The warning has been sounded. The ship is sinking.  Turn, and run to the only safety, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Marc

11 thoughts on “Come Join the Party?”

  1. This is like a breath of fresh air to me…thank you so much. Sometimes it feels so lonely in our “christian circles” when you are the only one feeling like things need to change.

    1. We will always be in a state of “changing” as the gospel isn’t our default. Not only as churches, but as believers. I struggle DAILY with the need to rest in the “done-ness” of the gospel as I always look for what I can “do” to get it right.

  2. I really like the metaphor and I like the urgency. I’m a new follower to your blog and I’m looking forward to reading more, both old and new. Yet I wonder how you would balance this metaphor with selling a fire insurance policy. We can call people to flee wrath or we can call people to know a loving God and the ultimate expression of his love shown to us by Christ on the cross and the hope of new life found there. Both are effective I guess and some people will respond to one and not the other but given the choice I’d rather start with love. Living out of fear can be rough. Living out of love can be freeing and uplifting. Following Christ is never easy but it helps when grace is your focus instead of condemnation (altho they do go hand in hand in that we cannot appreciate grace without first recognizing what we deserve). Just would like to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks

    1. I think you summed it well at the end; it’s not either or. The gospel is only seen as good news by those who need it. Yet, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.” (Matthew 12:20)

      Once someone is broken by the law, they must see rest in the gospel, or we break the bruised reed.
      Those who remain comfortable in their “life principle” mode need to be confronted with the law.

      1. Thanks for your reply. And I get that you are focusing more on those already in the church here. But a very strong caution should be made to anyone wanting to save those who’ve gone back to the party, that the law should not in any way be presented without the cross and the immense love displayed there. Also keeping the cross in mind we’re reminded of our own sin and do not give warning to those “partyers” out of judgement but simply speaking the truth in love. One thing the church is full of is self-righteous judgements and that too is a turn off.

  3. I really like reading your blog posts…even when I feel a little differently about some things. It’s hard to find a balance between finding joy in the hope we have, and spreading that, while still making it clear that the world is not heaven. It’s also hard because for me, my relationship with Jesus gives me a joy and a desire to share it. To contradict what I felt like you were saying, social justice and being the hands and feet of Christ in the world are things we don’t do nearly enough of, however. I don’t mean to treat C.S. Lewis as though he was an apostle, but he has a quote that is helpful to me when I’m confused about how to approach “spreading the news”…”Aim for heaven and you will get earth thrown in, aim for earth and you will get neither.” Restoration of justice and human dignity, caring for the marginalized, and welcoming the stranger, are the most often stated desires of God for his people in all of Scripture (as well as “do not be afraid”). I think that says something about the church’s purpose in the world.

    1. Very well stated. It’s not an either/or and we are certainly called to comfort those in need. Primarily in addressing their most serious need of forgiveness if sins, and secondarily their physical needs.

      With our natural bent toward self-righteousness we must always remind ourselves that these works are for our neighbor, not to improve our standing with God.

      Great comment.

      1. I agree that the most serious need is forgiveness; can we not lead people to forgiveness in Christ by starting with addressing their physical needs? Often the best way to reach the lost is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, this may be the first point of contact and gospel will be shown and taught through developing relationships.

        1. While they aren’t mutually exclusive, I do believe there is some category error in how you presented it.
          The gospel isn’t something we live, or show, it’s a historical fact to be presented. We are certainly called to serve others in their need, but to confuse “being the hands and feet of Jesus” with gospel proclamation is error.

      2. I’m sorry, then I presented it in error…what I said was that being the hands and feet of Jesus could be our first point of contact with someone in need. With that as a starting point, there is opportunity to build relationships and trust, then proclaim the gospel.

        Earlier you stated that the primary need we have is forgiveness and secondary are the physical needs. My question is do you think meeting the physical needs first (as in a missional way) is the best way to then meet the spiritual need of forgiveness?

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