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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.