“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”
Last night I watched a YouTube video of Francis Chan’s last sermon. The link is at the bottom of this post. I tell you what, it really spoke to me. In a nutshell, he is leaving everything behind to do missionary work in Asia. He gave a couple of illustrations that made a lot of sense. He talked about fishing in a pond. Over time, many people come fishing in the same pond. Before long, fewer and fewer fish are being caught. Then someone catches something off a new lure, and everybody rushes to buy it. Meanwhile, there is another pond, away from the first pond, that has lots of fish. Being more difficult to get to, nobody goes.
Why is that? He said it’s because we build a house on the first pond. We are now “invested” in the first pond, so we have no desire to go anywhere else.
To take it further, he spoke about how over the years he tried to become more and more clever in his sermons to capture the attention of his audience (the congregation). He worried about how they might react negatively to this or that message and carefully tailored each one with that in mind. Over time, he realized that they were drifting from the full scope of the gospel message.
So, he and his wife are leaving it all behind to go fishing in a pond that is full of hungry fish. How cool is that?
That makes a lot of sense to me, and that is why I became tired with ‘church as usual.’ Actually, dismayed would be a better term. My chronological bible plan has just finished the gospels and now is in Acts. What’s cool about this plan is that each gospel account is covered at the same time, so you see each scene side by side. So, Jesus raises the little girl from the dead, right? You read each account from each gospel so that you can easily compare and contrast everything. Here is what is overwhelming about that: Jesus healed so many people that it goes right over our heads.
We see the same thing happening in Acts, after Jesus ascended to heaven. People even laid in the streets so that the SHADOW of Peter might fall on them and heal them. Now, it is possible that the days of signs and wonders have pretty much ended, but there is still healing going on here and there. I’ll tell you one thing that God hasn’t ended is our bondage to sin.
That’s the part that really dismays me about “church as usual.” We get excited to pray when someone gets cancer, but do we get fired up about praying about our sin? Do we pray that we might learn to live within our means so that we might glorify God with our money? No, we don’t. And the evidence is clear: very, very few Christians tithe. (Although we do hear this message when the church is rattling its can for yet more money…) How about our bodies? Do we pray that God might show us how to rid the chains of gluttony? Look around, folks. We’re getting pudgier and pudgier. Do we pray that God might prioritize our lives so that we enjoy Sabbath? Nope.
How about praying for workers of the harvest? Tell me, how many in a typical congregation have an active engagement of proclaiming the gospel between Sundays? Very, very few. If we truly prayed that prayer – fervently from the heart, in other words, in Jesus’ name – then I’ll bet you that YOU will be one of those who are sent into the harvest. Maybe not to Haiti, but probably to your backdoor neighbor!
I could go on and on, but I think an honest reflection would reveal that we are missing something big.
This is where the fishing in the pond example is so brilliant. We are all fishing in the same pond (our congregation in our local church) yet no one is catching any fish. Yes, we know there are other ponds with lots of fish, but we won’t go. Why? Because we have built a house on our pond. We’re too “invested.”
Doesn’t that frighten you? It does me.
Folks, our pastors preach every Sunday to ears that won’t hear. In fact, I’ll go a step further. Actually, Paul went a step further:
2 Timothy 4:3-5 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of the evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Maybe we are talking about believers who no longer want to be bothered by all the trouble that the gospel brings. Afterall, the community at large is offended by the full force of the gospel, is it not? On the other hand, perhaps our churches have become populated by those who are of this world and who stifle the gospel.
2 Corinthians 4:1-4 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
What might be the implications of this? The full gospel will drive out unbelievers. (Gasp!) Is that a bad thing? You tell me. If the number of unbelievers gets too large, the gospel will be driven from the building. Will it not? This gets to the heart of salvation. Who chooses whom? If the eyes of the unbelievers are blind, as Paul says, then the gospel will further harden their hearts UNLESS God himself chooses to soften them.
That’s God’s business to decide who will or who will not be saved. But, I ask you, are you willing to let your church become overpowered by people who won’t tolerate listening to the full counsel of the gospel so that it is effectually driven out? You will tell if that happens by the fruit.
How’s the fishing in your pond?
Here’s the link to Francis Chan’s video: https://youtu.be/bnxdk9SZUqw
Father, Wow! Fire up your church! Amen!
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers