Are You Leaving The Job Halfway Done?

Posted: July 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you” (Judges 2:3)

Were you ever in such a hurry to finish something that you did as little as possible to complete the task and left some of it undone? Maybe it was your chores, homework or a small job you were paid to do. You cut a few corners for “efficiency” or overlooked a few “small” mistakes but under closer examination you had to go back later to do the job right.

Israel had just been brought into the promised land by God under the leadership of Joshua and they had been successful in devoting the various Canaanite nations to destruction. God’s command was clear, they were not to leave any alive, they were not to make concessions or treaties with these people! But as the book of Judges begins we read about the various tribes of Israel leaving the job half-way done.  They were content to leave pockets of Canaanite communities alive. That is when God stepped in and explained that there were going to be consequences for allowing these pockets of idolatrous people to survive and live in their midst. There were painful consequences for leaving the job halfway done.

The same is true for us as Christians. As we give our hearts and lives to God we are to root out every impure thought and motive and take them captive to Christ. But there is the temptation to take shortcuts to Christian maturity and be content to leave small pockets of selfish idols in our hearts. We think it will be all right to leave some areas of our lives unconquered.  “What could it hurt?” we ask. But just like those pockets of idolatrous communities influenced the Israelites, small pockets of selfishness within our hearts will continue to influence us!

We need to learn from Israel’s mistakes. Just like God wanted Israel to thoroughly conquer the land, we need to let Him thoroughly conquer us! We should allow Him to overcome every fortified stronghold within our hearts and surrender them to His reign. If we don’t, these small strongholds of sin will expand over time to influence more and more of our lives. They will become a “thorn” and a “snare” to us, just as the unconquered sections of Canaan were to Israel.

Don’t leave the job of rooting out sin and idols from your heart halfway done! There are no short-cuts and no cutting corners in this regard, there is only complete surrender and service to our merciful King. As new areas of resistance are discovered commit them to God. As old areas of temptation reassert themselves, recommit them to God. May we learn from Israel’s complacency and allow God to finish what He has started in us until we can honestly say, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

-Jeremy Dehut

 


How Social Media Can Signal Spiritual Problems

Posted: July 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Social media is today’s reality, and for whatever it’s worth, it appears to be here to stay. It can be a blessing, but it can also be a “pandora’s box” opening up new ethical questions about the way we conduct ourselves online.

While it may be easy enough to separate this reality from who we think we really are in person, the fact is that how we approach and use social media can be quite revealing. Sadly, what it often reveals isn’t very pretty. Christians, then, as in all other areas of life, need to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). The devil still seeks whom he may devour, and we need to be sober and on the alert (1 Pet 5:8). This is as true with our time online and in social media as much as anywhere else.

Unfortunately, the use of social media can signal many spiritual problems, even for the child of God who believes in holy conduct. The following areas, for example, can reveal much about our spiritual condition:

The language we use. Anything from innuendo, to OMG, to outright cussing reveals a use of language that is more in line with worldly thinking than with words professing godliness. Are we watching what we say? Do we know what we mean when we say it?

The pictures we show. Suddenly Christians appear, through their pictures online, in clothing (or lack thereof) that may not reflect a mind that first adorns the teaching of Christ and also reflects the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (cf. Titus 2:10; 1 Pet 3:4). The need for modesty (not overdoing it) and avoiding nakedness (not underdoing it) still apply when posting pictures to social media.

The topics we discuss. Social media houses pretty much every topic that anyone can think about, and sometimes it may be best just to move along and avoid some discussions and topics. If we are tempted to post something that we know the Lord would cringe at, we need to pause, reflect, and make a wise choice about what we are about to say.

The attitudes we display when we discuss. This is not just what we discuss, but how we discuss it. It’s real easy to allow ourselves to slip into a mode of getting ugly in our responses toward others. This problem is heightened by the fact that we can’t hear how someone might say something, and we need to be aware of how others might take what we are saying. Still, kindness needs to be in mind as we discuss any topic that is suitable.

The causes we support. Do we show support for the kinds of causes that are in line with God’s word? Even if the cause is secular in nature, we need to make sure we aren’t throwing in with something that lends itself to ungodliness.

The links we share. First, are we sharing links that, again, promote what is right? Are we careful about where the links may take us? Second, and this is a major problem in social media, are we sharing what is true? I’m not talking about obvious humor, which itself needs to be evaluated properly (I’m not against humor). I’m talking about alleged news media sites or other sites that post false information. Then we just run with it and spread the slander. The child of God needs to think critically before sharing. Do your homework before clicking “share.”

The pages, photos, and statuses we like. What we like shows up for others to see, and it tells people (get ready), “I like this.” Now maybe you don’t mean it that way. But these “like” buttons can be problematic if we aren’t careful. If it shows up on others’ walls that you like something that is inappropriate, then you need to be asking yourself what you really wish for others to see about who you are.

At this point, we might expect for some to say something to the effect that what they do on social media is nobody else’s business, and that we shouldn’t be judging anyone. Mirroring the “don’t judge me” mentality of the world, Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that what they do is not open for anyone else to make any judgments about. Unfortunately, that’s naive. When we engage in online public activities, we’ll be judged by the same. If we don’t want to be judged by others online, then we shouldn’t be showing our hand (or more sensitive things) to the world.

We aren’t so much talking about those times here or there where we know we messed up, though these moments, too, can be an issue. Surely we’ve all had discussions we are embarrassed about or posts we should have never shared. I’m as guilty as the next guy. We are talking more about continuing patterns that begin to emerge as we post, like, comment, and share.

We cannot afford to disconnect our online world from the reality of who we are supposed to be as Christians. This would be like the apostles disconnecting their writings from who they were in person. What they wrote was as much a part of their influence as what they said and did in person. Today, we are on a worldwide platform with social media where what we say and how we say it is out there for the world to see. What we show and how much we show matters. If we don’t like that, then we have the option of not using it.

We don’t have to post anything on social media sites, but if we do, know that it says something about who we are and what we think—just like anything else we do. It’s out there on display for others to see and judge. This is the reality before us, and we need to understand our need to glorify God here as much as anywhere. It is the Lord Christ whom we serve, and if we aren’t using social media to serve Christ—that is, it is merely a selfish outlet for a narcissistic world—then it’s time to repent and figure out where our loyalties lie.

Posting good content does not necessarily mean we are righteous, but posting bad or questionable content does certainly show a spiritual problem. Let’s recommit ourselves to using all of our opportunities, whether in person or in social media outlets, to glorify God and share Christ with a broken world.

Doy Moyer

 


Where Frustration Comes From

Posted: July 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war…” (James 4:1-2).

The more self-centered our desires are, the more frustrated our response will be when those desires are blocked or denied. James pinpoints this problem when he says that even among fellow Christians “wars and fights” result from the inability of people to get what they lust for. When what we want is the mere fulfillment of selfish demands and those demands are not met, we often react with a range of soul-shriveling emotions, including anger and anxiety.

First of all, consider anger. If our focus is purely on the accomplishment of God’s purposes, there will be little anger in our response to obstacles and delays, simply because we know that nothing can ultimately block God’s purposes from being achieved. If, however, what we really want is the satisfaction of our own selfish will, our reaction will be very different when someone stands between us and what we want. The response that has aptly been called “demandingness” is a sure symptom that our desires are centered on something other than God.

But think also of fear and anxiety from this perspective. Is it not a fact that our tendency to worry stems from uncertainty that we’re going to get what we want or that our goals are going to be reached? And if our goals are self-centered to start with, isn’t the likelihood of anxiety much higher than if our goals were God-centered and depended on His power for their accomplishment?

These are important considerations for every person whose purpose is to seek God. If we find ourselves frequently experiencing either anger or anxiety, it is probably time to ask ourselves whether it is really our Father whom we are seeking. We must have the honesty to admit how often emotions like these are the result of frustrated self-seeking. And we must replace our demandingness with a sincere delight in the certainty of His will.

“When my sense of self depends on what others say of me, anger is a quite natural reaction to a critical world. And when my sense of self depends on what I can acquire, greed flares up when my desires are frustrated. Thus greed and anger are the brother and sister of a false self, fabricated by the social compulsions of an unredeemed world” (Henri J. M. Nouwen).

-Gary Henry

 


“Let Me First”

Posted: July 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

When Jesus called fishermen to follow him and they left their nets, they had little idea of what their lives were about to become. Jesus’ call was an invitation and a demand for these men to deny themselves and sacrifice their lives for a cause greater than themselves, their families, their livelihoods, and all the personal comforts and pleasures of life on earth. They would soon learn that “discipleship” as followers of Jesus would demand that they “seek” God’s kingdom and His righteousness “first”—before and above any earthly pursuits (see Luke 9:23-24; Matt 6:33).

Jesus made that point abundantly clear to both his immediate disciples and others who showed interest in the work they were doing. As the disciples traveled throughout Palestine to evangelize every community, others sought to join them and the work to which they had committed themselves. One such man observed them traveling near his community and said to them: “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus’ response was frank: “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:57-58).

Our Lord’s point is often lost on casual readers of the scriptures. He and the disciples had committed themselves to announce the coming kingdom to all the cities of Judea. They took few to no provisions with them and depended on believers to “feed” them and “house” them from city to city—because, as Jesus said, “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (see Matt 10:1-15; Luke 10:1-16). Jesus and the disciples preached from house to house and when a household believed, the disciples lived in that home, ate what was set before them, and continued their work in that community until it was time to go to the next city.

What happened when they entered a city, preached all day long, and no one believed their message? When the sun went down, the foxes went to their holes and the birds went to their nests—but neither Jesus nor the apostles had any place to lay their heads. Talk about putting God’s kingdom first; talk about devotion to righteousness and holiness above material pursuits. These men denied themselves and all other pursuits of life to announce to the world that the “kingdom is at hand” (Matt 10:7).

After answering this man so plainly, Jesus turned to another man standing nearby and said succinctly, “Follow me.” Note the man’s response: “But he said, Lord, permit me first to go bury my father.”  Jesus’ answer must not be seen as unsympathetic and uncaring but informative and necessary. “Allow,” Jesus said, “the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another who heard Jesus said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” Jesus was just as plain to this prospective disciple: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:29-62).

Jesus’ point to both of these men is the same. No one who seeks to be a disciple of Jesus ever says, “Let me first.” The death of one’s father does not take precedence over the kingdom of God and the world’s need for the righteousness it provides. Nor does love and farewell wishes to your family come before the business of the kingdom. When Jesus said you cannot be my disciple unless you “hate” your father and mother and brothers and sisters, it was His stark way of saying the work of my kingdom and I must be first in your affection and your life.

This, brethren, is the cost of discipleship. While the grace of God is a free gift to man, the demands of a life of righteousness in God’s kingdom is costly. Whoever is unwilling to renounce all that he has cannot be a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:33). Yes, citizenship in God’s kingdom costs a man everything he has. The kingdom, not you or me, must be first.

-L. A.

 


If I Were The Devil…

Posted: July 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

If I were the devil, I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first—I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.” To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’

And then I’d get organized.  I’d educate authors on how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed.  And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flame.

If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, and neglect to discipline emotions—just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography—soon I could evict God from the courthouse, and then the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress.  And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money…

If I were the devil I’d take from those who have, and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And I bet I could get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich. I would caution against extremes and hard work, in Patriotism, in moral conduct.  I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be.  And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil I’d keep on doing exactly what he’s doing.

-Paul Harvey (1965)

 


Good Churches Have Problems

Posted: July 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“No internal problems,” the man said. And our first reaction was that of admiration for this “ideal” church that knew no problems. But with further observation our thinking changed.

The Bible speaks of a church that had “no problems.” The church at Laodicea was “rich, and had become wealthy, and had need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). On the other hand the Jerusalem church was faced with several problems. They had to witness the death of a hypocritical, lying couple (Acts 5:1-11). There was murmuring because of neglect of the Grecian widows (Acts 6:1-7). There were doctrinal problems over the question of circumcision (Acts 11:1-18; 15:4-5). Jerusalem had its problems while Laodicea was “free of problems”—yet every Bible student knows that Jerusalem was the approved church while Laodicea was nauseating to the Lord.

Further, when one observes the problems of the Jerusalem church, he recognizes the problems were a direct outgrowth of the work and activity of that congregation. Had there not been the spirit of benevolence that prevailed among its members, there would have been no occasion for Ananias and Sapphira’s lie or for the murmuring over neglect. Had there been no evangelization among the Gentiles, there would have been no problem over circumcision. Jerusalem had problems because they were a working, active, thriving, growing church. And it may well be that Laodicea’s absence of problems was a direct outgrowth of its lukewarmness and lack of vitality.

We conclude that a lazy, “do nothing” church may well be free of problems, but an active, working church can expect certain problems. A church that succeeds in converting alcoholics, drug addicts, divorcees; that seeks a “Samaritan woman” of our day, or a “Simon the sorcerer,” or a “Mary Magdalene” can anticipate some problems.

But that church which chooses the alternative, preaching to and converting only the morally good who fit well into their social and economic circles, while avoiding some problems, faces the greatest problem of all in their failure to obey the commandment of the Lord (Mark 16:15) and to follow His own personal example. A church that develops thinking people who objectively study every Bible question for themselves can expect some differences to arise in their earnest search for truth. A hospitable church must be prepared for charges of neglect in their show of hospitality. True zeal for the Lord will beget problems, but woe to that church that neglects the Lord’s work in order to avoid problems. The Lord’s anathema is upon that church.

It’s not the existence or non-existence of problems, then, that determines the strength of a church, but how the church deals with its problems. Love for one another, mutual concern, longsuffering, humility, love for truth, determination to do God’s will—these are the qualities that make for a strong church. They cannot stop problems from developing, but they can enable a church to bring its problems to God-approved solutions.

-Bill Hall

 


Withstanding Scorn and Ridicule

Posted: July 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

One of the most devastating retorts to me personally came from a radio announcer the first few months of my preaching life. I was conducting a weekly radio program, and following a sermon on the lack of Biblical authority for mechanical instruments of music in worship to God, the announcer remarked, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

To this man, it is pure silliness that anyone would oppose mechanical praise in worship to God. Ridicule was his response. His remark was effective because I had no immediate response to his rejection of Bible authority with a humanistic expression of scorn. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and from a humanistic point of view there is no sensible reason why mechanical instruments of praise in worship to God are sinful. All any man knows is that God did not authorize it in His word, and to this day, brethren, in our most somber moments of meditation we still may wonder why.

It is easy to think like Naaman who mocked God’s command to dip in the Jordan River seven times to be healed of leprosy. Yet it was God’s will, He commanded it, and it worked (2 Kings 5:1-14). That is still our answer today to men who mock God’s teaching. God’s ways, as Isaiah said, are not our ways and all any one of us can do is be content with His wisdom and teaching. Only when we let human wisdom and reasoning surface to question God’s word do any of us have a problem with what our Creator has authorized us to do.

This problem extends far beyond instrumental music in worship. This humanistic attitude accuses “churches of Christ” of being too picky and restrictive in their beliefs. Why, they ask, do they insist on “immersion” for baptism when it is what’s in a man’s heart that matters. If a person is sincere, does God really care about the method and how much water is used?

And then there are moral questions that seem to many, even Christians, as insignificant. As the world tries to sort out questions like abortion, premarital sex, and homosexuality, they ridicule Christians who are concerned about wearing “shorts” and “mini-skirts” or about “social drinking” and “gambling” a few quarters at the boats. While our nation battles “big” issues, people from churches of Christ are fretting about silly rules and “little” matters. Humanists, of course, ignore all the lives that have been and are being destroyed by these “little” matters.

The point, brethren, is that this scorn sways more people and brethren than any serious discussion of what the Bible teaches. And because we have a generation of Christians who are growing up in a school system and atmosphere of broadmindedness and freedom from restrictions, our young people and often their parents are easily persuaded by the “silliness” argument that is made against the warnings and teaching from God.

Humanistic reasoning made an impression on me as a young preacher and only long hours of study and faith-building from God’s word kept me from yielding to the sophistry of the wisdom of the world that seeks to replace the wisdom and teaching of God in men’s hearts. We often wonder whether this and the next generation will seek earnestly to study the scriptures to learn God’s will and build faith in His word. We wonder how long the present generation will trust and submit to God’s word in a liberal environment that scorns and ridicules basic Bible beliefs. We are all human and sometimes our faith is weakened by doubt when the human wisdom and appeals of doubters and unbelievers chide us about our “strict” beliefs in God’s teachings. Only the rule of God in our hearts will give us conviction and keep us faithful.

-L. A.

 


“They Kept Right On”

Posted: July 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

For the second time the apostles had been imprisoned and given strict orders not to do further teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:28). Now, after their third arrest and facing almost sure prospects of death, the highly regarded Gamaliel intervenes in their behalf, resulting in their release with a beating and a warning to “speak no more in the name of Jesus”. The remarkable response of these dedicated men Is seen in the last two verses of Acts 5. Not only did they rejoice in being considered worthy to suffer for His name, but “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

That “they kept right on” speaks volumes in regard to the faith and character of these Godly men — and it shows us why Jerusalem (v. 28) and the whole Roman empire (Col 1:23) had come to be filled with the gospel message in a relatively short time. And neither was such dedication limited to just these apostles. In Acts 2 we read of how other saints also kept right on “in the apostles” teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (v. 42) Later, when scattered abroad because of the great persecution against the church, they still kept right on “preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). In persecution, in poverty; in prison, in palaces; in public, in private; in season and out, let it ever be said to their credit, they kept right on teaching the gospel. Without benefit of newspaper, radio or television; without auto or airplane; even without comfortable meeting places in good locations, they kept right on! For a time many of the young churches were without elders and “full-time” preachers, but you know what? They just kept right on! Sure, they had their “church” problems. They had squabbles, false teachers, divisions, weak and sinful brethren to be reckoned with. So they reckoned; no doubt some quit. But the faithful just kept right on anyway.

The pressing need of our day is for saints like that — men and women of such faith and character as to keep right on serving God without having to be begged and pampered; men and women concerned enough about lost souls to keep right on trying to help save them. Our need is for the abiding sense of urgency that motivated our first century brethren — the kind that made Paul say, “I press on”. Without it, we’re not likely to fill even the local church with the teaching of Christ, much less our neighborhoods and cities. What a tragedy that so many who profess allegiance to such an urgent cause would do so little to advance it — or would give up at the slightest obstacle or discouragement! — and this in the midst of the most favorable circumstances possible. Oh we of little faith! Just think of the amazing results possible if every member in every local church would begin and just keep on doing all he knows to do for the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 15:58)! Why, we may just keep on having good results, like in the first century. Why not resolve to put away our intermittent and sputtering efforts of the past, realizing what we could do — and then, just keep right on doing it?

-Dan S. Shipley

 


“Straighten Up”

Posted: July 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Our English word “straight” can mean what is “right” or “honest” as opposed to what is “crooked” or “perverse.” It is often used by parents, schoolteachers, or other disciplinarians when their goal is to correct a child. They will often as a corrective measure before more severe actions are warranted tell a child with some vigor: “straighten up.”

This is an extremely ancient concept—one even the Greeks had a term for long before the days of Jesus and the apostles. Luke used the term employed by the Greeks when he recorded the effects of the words of Jesus upon a woman the Lord healed. The woman came to Jesus all “bowed together,”  “bent double” (NASB), or “bent over,” according to the NIV. Jesus saw the woman, called to her, and said, “woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.” He then laid His hands upon her and immediately she was made “straight.” One could say that the woman was “straightened up.”

Out of this Greek word used by Luke came a similar word that Paul used when he wrote that the inspired scriptures are profitable for “correction” (2 Tim 3:16). Previous to this the apostle wrote that the inspired words of God are profitable for “teaching” and “reproof”—words that mean the scriptures inform its readers and expose sin and transgression in their lives. Out of this teaching and reproof comes the power of the gospel to influence its reader to “correct” sin and error in their lives. This is a word that means the gospel provokes a change of thinking that brings forth repentance and fruit worthy of repentance which results in “straightening up” the lives of sinners.

The allusion of the term “straighten up” is to the biblical description of the evil world and sinful man as “crooked.” The apostle Peter speaking on the day of Pentecost as the Spirit gave him utterance, concluded his sermon with the words that Jesus was made “both Lord and Christ,” and then commanded the sinful, guilt-ridden Jews to “repent ye and be baptized…unto the remission of sins.” Beyond this he continued to exhort them unto obedience by telling them to “save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:38-40).

The apostle Paul, similarly, wrote to the Philippian brethren to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling,” noting that “it is God who works in you both to will and work, for His good pleasure.” God’s goal, according to Paul, was that they might “become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom ye are seen as lights in the world” (Php 2:12-15).

To this day we speak of “crooks” to describe thieves, swindlers, and others who deviate from a straight path—a standard way of acceptable and proper behavior. There is a “straight” way or path that righteous men must follow. Isaiah saw this many years before the Messiah came and writes of the work of John the Baptist who was to prepare the way: “Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight” (Matt 3:3).

It pains me to even think this, brethren, but in the true spiritual sense of the word we can be called “crooks” when we turn aside from the biblical way of “right” and “wrong.” And when we do it, both the goal and power of the scriptures are designed to not only “teach” and “expose” sin in our lives, but to powerfully influence us to “straighten up”—to “correct” our ways. And correction will only come when with reverence for God, our Creator, we are overcome with “godly sorrow” which works repentance unto salvation in God and Christ (see 2 Cor 7:9-10).

-L. A.

 


Man Overboard

Posted: June 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Imagine you are out sailing with the people that mean the most to you. They are your family, the ones you cannot do without. Some days, the sailing is blissful and beautiful; not a cloud in the sky and a gentle breeze blows while voyaging unhindered through glassy seas. Other days are more challenging; the seas rough, your vessel sustains damage, but through it all, you work together to make it out of the storm to live another day. And by weathering those storms together the bonds of trust between each member grow stronger.

As Christians we are navigating the seas of life together as Christ intended. Our Captain is Jesus and we prove to be His crewmen by our love and care for one another (John 13:34). The vessel by which we sail is the ship of faith in Christ Jesus and our sole determination is to arrive safely at our destination. Of course, our secure passage to safe haven is only guaranteed if we heed the commands of our beloved Captain who has never steered us wrong, who has proven Himself over and over to be faithful and true.

Now imagine in the middle of one of these storms one of the crew members falls into the sea. What would you do? What would the Captain command? Surely, He would waste no time in ordering the ship to come about and telling others to cast a line out to the man overboard. Every extra hand would be gripping the line, heaving in unison to rescue “some poor fainting, struggling seaman” out of the mouth of the sea. This is a reality in our voyage of Christianity. How we respond in such times of spiritual emergency separates the true disciples from the posers.

Jude speaks to the urgency of saving our brethren who have fallen prey to the world by likening this rescue to snatching him out of an intense fire that burns him alive (Jude 1:22-23). Paul speaks about this same thing in terms of restoration (Gal 6:1), that is, to work in gentleness to bring back our brother to a previous state of spiritual enjoyment. The Hebrew writer speaks in medical terms, strengthening and correcting the weak and disjointed members of the body (Heb 12:12-13). James, drawing upon the parable of the lost sheep, instructs us to turn the wandering soul back on the way which leads to eternal life (James 5:19-20).

Over the past few years we have lost several members to the world. As crewmen aboard this ship of faith have we cast out our lines to those who slipped back into the sea of sin? Are we following Jesus in leaving the ninety nine sheep in safety while going after the one who is straying? Or have we sailed on and written them off as lost? If we fail in exerting ourselves to “rescue the perishing” and “care for the dying” how can we expect to stand justified before the Judge? Nay, in failing to prove our love for our brother with a diligent search and rescue operation we will have stepped out of the boundary of His grace. Not only, as the song says, does “duty demand it,” but our love for God demands it (1 John 4:20).

Jesus came to seek and save the lost and the church’s mission is a continuation of the work of her Savior. This is applied, and rightly so, to those who have never tasted and seen that the Lord is good. But what about those who have? Our rescue mission is never more urgent than when a brother or sister in Christ has gone overboard to float aimlessly in the sea of sorrow.

Better yet, let’s not wait until our brother falls into that sea to cast our cords of love to him. The Hebrew writer speaks to all who would wear the name of Jesus when he wrote, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:12-13). Guess what day “Today” is?

-Jerome Sasanecki