Note: Yes, I know this post is too long, but I got carried away with Jesus' invitation to join Him in His great mission. I hope you will, too.
I don't know why I became fascinated with the Titanic when I was in middle school, I just did. As a pastor, I have joked that my church limits me to one Titanic illustration a year in a sermon. Well, it will be hard not to do that today. Not only is today the 101st anniversary of the Titanic's collision with the iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14th (It sank two hours and forty minutes later.), but April 14th, 1912 was also a Sunday.
Here is the best computer animation of the collision and sinking (make sure you view it in at least 720p; you do that by clicking on the video and you'll see a control strip at the bottom of the frame with a little "gear" icon. Click on that and it will give you the view options, click on the little box in the bottom right corner and you can view it full screen, which I also recommend!):
Today I'm preaching on the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), with a focus on some of the "details" believers tend to overlook. It's easy to think of the Great Commission in terms of going into all the world to share the Gospel, often defined in narrow terms of sharing some kind of "plan" of salvation. Though witnessing to the gift of salvation through Christ is essential, Christ's words clearly indicate becoming a Christian is the beginning of the "commission," not the completion of it.
Of the four "verbs" in the commission, the only clear imperative (command) is the Greek verb meaning "make disciples." The other three verbs (GO, BAPTIZE and TEACH) are all participles which describe the main command "to make disciples." In other words, "making disciples" Christ's way includes "going," "baptizing," and "teaching." All are essential to the goal of transforming people from being outside of God's family to being adopted into that family through Chist, and then GROWING UP IN THAT FAMILY TO BECOME MORE AND MORE LIKE CHRIST...you know, like being a "disciple!"
All members of the family are "called" to be a part of helping other people to either grow in their faith and obedience if they are already family members, or to help them see (as the Holy Spirit works on them) that they are not adopted, but can be through Jesus Christ.
It's easy to see the Great Commission as focused only on evangelism; i.e. saving people and then moving on to the next lost person. Think about it: how cruel would it be to adopt a new baby and then leave him or her alone. The Great Commission means that as we live, as we go, we should be so enthralled with Jesus Christ and what He's doing in and through our lives that we want to help others become Christ-followers, too. This means we must GO (across the street or across the planet), to share Christ (BAPTIZE), and then TEACH what it means to FOLLOW HIM. Every member of the family of God is called to this amazing privilege, and every member is equipped to function in the family for that purpose.
So, are you "enthralled" with Jesus Christ? Are you doing your Spirit-empowered part of God's mission to "make disciple makers?" Are you sharing and teaching Christ to your kids and grandkids? Are you encouraging your spouse in his or her walk with Christ? Are you modeling a life of love, grace, patience, and KINDNESS that draws others to Christ?
What does this have to do with the Titanic? Well, here are two illustrations.
First, one of the many factors that contributed to the disaster was that the lookouts in the crow's nest did not have binoculars that moonless, calm night when it was difficult to see icebergs. Later it was discovered that the original officer in charge of the binocular locker was replaced at the last minute before Titanic's last port of call (the company wanted a more experienced office on the maiden voyage). He inadventantly forgot to give the key (They only had one key???) to his replacement.
Some speculate the lookouts didn't want to break open the locker and damage company equipment on the first voyage. At any rate, it is estimated that if they had seen the iceberg 15 seconds earlier, they would have missed it!
So a small omission can have huge consequences. A small distraction on any given day might keep us from sharing with someone at a pivotal moment, missing an opportunity to participate in God's great mission of rescue and redemption. In other words, we need to be intentional about being involved in "disciple making."
Second, each of us needs to ask what kind of church member am I? On the Titanic I see three main groups of people: the crew, the rich (and reasonably rich), and the poor.
- The crew was on the ship out of duty and for a paycheck.
- The rich (then the first and second class passengers) were on the ship to be pampered on a trip that many repeated throughout their lives
- The poor (then called third class) were on a one-way trip to America to start new lives, full of hopes and dreams. Their tickets were often bought with most or all of their savings for a chance at a new, fulfilling life in America.
Which group would more closely fit your "connection" to your church?
- Like a crew member, do you show up out of duty, just hoping to get something out of it?
- Like a richer passenger, do you look to be pampered, attending more out of habit than faith?
- Or like a third class passenger, leaving all behind to follow Christ as His disciple on an amazing journey to new life.
I would hope all who call themselves Christ-followers, would be connected (not just attending) to a church as a vital, contributing part of His family with the purpose of being on a journey to the New World of eternity, leaving everything else behind because it's worth it. On this journey, we have the joy of inviting others to join us in following Him, that they may not just "end up" in Heaven, but so they can fall in love with Christ right now.
As we continue to grow in our love for our wonderful Savior and Lord, we become more and more like Him BY FOLLOWING HIM and we follow Him by OBEYING His commands. Jesus Himself said in John 14:23: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching." This is why He said in the Great Commission that we need to teach (using our deeds and our words) all He commanded us.
This is the life, the journey that matters, that's filled with joy, love, peace, faith, hope and purpose. The Great Commission is Christ's GREAT invitation to a life that matters; to a life that's going somewhere and doing something great along the way...LOVING PEOPLE and pointing them toward Christ!
One last thing: don't forget His promise: I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS. His Spirit and His word and His church all empower, equip and enable us to be Christ-followers and disciple makers! It's not something you do for Him out of mere duty, it is your joining Him on this great quest to love, save, and adopt people!
Don't let anything cause you to forget the wonder of your journey, your purpose, or your wonderful Savior and Lord!