There is little to attract anyone to a rusting hulk of metal having outlived its usefulness, resembling only by its shape, a ship. Lying on its side, ne-glected rusting on the beach, home only for strange and various kinds of critters. No longer with any purpose but to take up space. Over time she will simply disappear into the darkness of history. There was a time when first launched she was the pride of the seven seas. Her Captain steers her no more. Her first mate and crew dismissed. Her purpose unfulfilled.
This reminds me of churches that once held a fine reputation, known far and wide for their preaching the gospel of salvation, for their love for the Lord, for their love for the souls of men, and where the members were song singing, soul loving, spirited and sweet she stood faithfully and firmly on the doctrine of the Sovereign Grace of God. But it was not to last. Her failure to repent of the things the Lord held against her caused her candlestick removed—one more ship removed from service—placed in dry-dock.
There are, sad to say, many such still standing, yet not in full service, having lost their first love and left their first works, not even half filled, grounds overgrown, sidewalks and parking areas sporting pot holes and long crooked cracks dissecting great parking arenas once filled areas for parking the cars filled with families now sprouting up with weeds. Windows broken, doors open to squirrels, rats, and other unpleasant sorts using the buildings as their homes.
These are churches that stopped loving and serving Christ. Their foundations crumbing; their pillars fallen, preaching the gospel of salvation no longer their primary reason for existence. Their light gone out darkening suffocating the air of their once bright lamp – extinguished, wick dry, no oil,– Ichabod [the Lord hath departed] written on her lintels and door posts. Her ship’s rudder long since lost. She no longer able to steer a course even if she could Launch out once again into the deep! Useless, pitiful, terrible witnesses to the world. The earth is littered with ruined, rusted hulks of once great vessels broken on the rocks, crumbling into dust, leaking out sludge and poison into the sea..
The causes? Many! Modernism, Formalism, Hyper Calvinism, Hard-shellism. Arminianism, Mystical Pentecostalism, Universal Catholicism, He-retical Cultism, Science falsely so called such as the theory of Evolution and the Big bang.
Sloth on the part of first mate and crew, their heart for the work turned to stones, frozen in selfishness, ungratefulness, prejudice, sin! All resulting in unwillingness to Launch out into the deep where the fish are! Preferring to stay close to shore where the water is shallow, void of life.
To avoid this happening to us we are launching out into the deep, leaving the confines of the near shore, cutting the ropes tying us to the dock, reach-ing out instead of looking in! Trusting instead of doubting! Working instead of worrying! Relying on prayer more than Relating to culture! Preaching the Word of God rather than doctrines of men.
Being positive instead of being negative. Thinking of others more than we think of ourselves. Going instead of sitting. Singing instead of sobbing. Being will-ing to including rather than excluding. Accepting the challenge of the work before rather than finding excuse for why we are not going, growing, and glowing!
We Launch Out!
When Christ had done preaching, he told Peter to get busy, never minding the apparent futility remembered earlier. At the moment they were but a few feet off shore allowing space between the Lord and his message from the crowds, but when he had left speaking, he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. Jesus ordered Peter to push off from shore taking the boat to deeper waters.
I have, not recently, but often in earlier years, fished all night for a lowly catfish without success and by dawn I am ready for to retire to a nice warm fire on the bank, a cup of coffee…and rest. Weary, I am not ready to go out again, at least for a while. Net fishing is hard work. We called in seining for fish. The net was clumsy to handle as the borders of the net are weighted with lead pellets to allow the net to sink whereby fish swimming as fish often do run into the submerged net and are trapped as the net folds around them. A full net may weigh as much as 100 pounds requiring all the strength an angler can mus-ter to get the net, and the fish into the boat.
Peter, the expert fisherman was I suppose, thinking himself being the wiser countered, Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing: but too weary to argue with resignation said, nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net—expecting nothing but more hours of unproductive hard work. And besides they had just finished washing the nets and hanging them to dry lest they rot had readied them for another days’ efforts.
Normally, the fish that were sought in shallow water at night and having escaped the net would migrate during the daylight hours to outer waters too deep to reach easily with nets, which is why Peter fished at night. And it was at night when, by experience, Peter knew that it was at night the hungry and bigger fish would come to the shallow waters seeking food, and once fed would turn about and head for the safer and deeper waters far off shore.
Simon’s vocation was dangerous, back-aching; bone-tiring, work that often times more than not ended with nothing to show for it. But there were occasions when the fishing was well rewarded with nets full.
Peter, no doubt, thought Jesus’ directive made little sense, but he obeyed anyway, and was rewarded for his obedience.
The time most Christians spend during the week in the work of the Lord a dozen eggs could be boiled. The saying while well used is still true that We have only one life that will soon be past, only what we do for Jesus will last!
For most of us the time we take out of our day for the Lord is truly minimal. Rarely, do we allow the Lord’s work to interfere with our daily pur-suits. With cheerfulness we ought to go about the duties of our calling.
If we do what we should having spent necessary seasons with God in prayer, then what we do for ourselves is sanctified and acceptable to God.
We must always be ready to be about the business of our calling—one never knows when a tug of the line or the sudden movement of the water engulfing the nets would signal a great harvest of fish.
WE LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEPER WATERS REWARDED FOR OUR EFFORTS – Verse 6 And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake!
In truth the Lord always rewards the work done for His sake –the workman is worthy of his hire! Work without reward is misery. Work with re-ward is pure joy. It is unthinkable and dishonoring the Lord to think he will not reward faithfulness. He knows how difficult the work of evangelism can be. He also knows the joy of a job well done. Though we are bond-slaves [slaves bought with a price to serve], we are never forced at the point of being whipped to do anything.
In Exodus 21:5-6 we read: if the servant shall plainly say, [having served his time of bondage] I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.
We who love Christ want to stay in his service and be known as people of the Book. We have had our ear lobes bored through preferring to live as bond-slaves to Christ to being slaves to sin whose only reward is death.
Are you Aboard? Are you Ready to Launch Out Into The Deep? Let Down Your Nets? Partners All? The Great Gospel ship is ready to sail!
In closing, I will take the liberty as your preacher to liken our church not to a luxury liner where all cabins are first class, where our passengers are coddled, mulled over, massaged, served fine wine and delicacies and encouraged to lounge on the deck soaking up the sun.
Our church, this ship of state, is a Tanker, a working vessel, her crew must be toughened by labor, not softened by sloth; Her crew must be strong in faith and resolve, nothing doubting; in personality sensitive to the needs of other; in spirit jubilant; in soul fully animated with life; Serving with sleeves rolled up, armor on, fit and fully furnished for the Master’s use. We have on board precious cargo–sacks of precious seed– the Word of God!
I Christen this ship The HMS Sovereign Grace — His Majesty’s Service—I acknowledge we are her caretaker and that she is being built not by my hands or yours but by the hands of the Great Carpenter Himself! This Vessel was launched 2000 years ago prior to Pentecost and given the orders to Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20 — Then on the day of Pentecost she was empowered by the Holy Spirit with all filled by with the Holy Ghost.
The ship, this tanker, has, since he began to build her continues to stand in perpetuitous service and will continue to sail to the uttermost part of the earth, but only as long as she continues under our Lord’s Command! Her Captain has ordered all ropes hindering her service to be loosed from the dock freeing her to sail.
Ever so tactfully yet in no timidity, Captain Jesus will guide her through the narrow straights of the harbor, pointing her bow toward the vast open seas where in every harbor, some of the crew disembarks knowing that, He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed , shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him…, then casting it discriminately throughout the land and populace being careful not to Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Matthew 7:6
Her destination is set being preordained from eternity with Divine purpose. Her log in perfect order, her crew trained and in place, her strategies planned and on-going, Her course set, fixed, immutable!.
Breaking free from the calm of the narrows she cuts like a sharp two edged sword out into the raging seas heading due East and gliding gallantly on waves of glory.
The ears of our Captain and Commander are tuned sharply to the Scriptures by which she is guided. He rejects but does not ignore the seductive song of the Sirens who in vocal desperation desire only to lure him, ship, crew, and cargo to the shallow shoals and unseen rocks beneath. Our Captain stands tall, spirit confident, feet planted, eyes vigilant, strong hands firmly ahold the helm, steering on purpose, never doubting, dead-reckoning on course, always on schedule. We hear him declaring in a voice clear and like thunder: “Steady As She Goes Mates! Steady as she goes!”
She sails onto all the seven seas of the earth – to the North Atlantic to the South Pacific, to the Artic Oceans to the warm waters of the Mediterra-nean and to all the waters of the world.
She sails ever onward, her cargo, the Great Gospel of Justification by faith alone—Forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life, secure in her hold reserved to supply salvation for as many as are ordained to eternal life await her-for God has much people in every port.
Jesus Christ is in command of this great ship and he by wisdom directs her with awesome and undeniable force, so much so that though the Gates of hell might suddenly loom in front of her with powerful broadsides smoking, threating to sink her, they will not prevail.
He has said: All power in heaven and earth is given unto me! Hell itself will soon sink into the depths of eternal darkness in short order.
Meanwhile, Jesus has assigned to the members of his crew certain and several duties all according to each one’s gifts and abilities. All the crew and accompanying passengers have the task and privilege to serve and all are given a share in the work of evangelizing the world. All as work happily sing-ing the message of their own salvation:
“Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am. Redeemed, Redeemed, Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed, redeemed, His child and forever I am. Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus, No language my rap-ture can tell; I know that the light of His presence With me doth continually dwell. I think of my blessèd Redeemer, I think of Him all the day long: I sing, for I cannot be silent; His love is the theme of my song. I know there’s a crown that is waiting, In yonder bright mansion for me, And soon, with the spirits made perfect, At home with the Lord I shall be.”
No crew member seeks special attention or exemption from duty and no special attention is given and no exemption is offered relieving anyone from his or her duty. Stowaways when found are treated lovingly knowing how uncomfortable it is to have hidden oneself from fellowship. Every courtesy will be extended them and every effort shall be made to bring them to Christ and when they willingly come seeking his forgiveness, having receive full pardon from the Master’s own hand, they will be welcomed as partners enlisted into service, have been given gifts to use for the Master. Deep and foreboding indeed is the ‘deep abyss’’ over which she sails. In journeying’s often, in perils of waters many, but they must be traversed because her Captain and crew are on board and seek and to save that which is lost. In seeking Jesus finds; in finding Jesus saves, in losing…Jesus loses NONE!
She by Divine and infallible compass, sails onward to the Macedonian harbors from where…
the call comes ringing o’er the restless wave…send the light, the blessed gospel light; there are souls to rescue, there are souls to save, send the light, send the light. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring one, Lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus the Mighty to save.
This great ship sails unswervingly on, closer and closer to the shore of the uttermost! The lookout cries Land Ho! Dead ahead. The Master com-mands, All hands on deck, make ready to let down the nets!
We that sail under this able Captain do so in reverent willingness obeying his every command. And do so, grateful to be a member of His crew, hanging on his every word. Jesus, the Desire of all nations as our Captain, our strength, are hope, we voyage with him by Grace so rich and free and by unending faith. We sail with Him where ever –how far he has predestined us to go…
The Royal Banners forward go,
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh Who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.
2 There, whilst He hung, His sacred Side
By soldier’s spear was opened wide,
To cleanse us in the precious flood
Of Water mingled with His Blood.
3 O tree of glory, tree most fair,
Ordained those Holy Limbs to bear,
How bright in purple robe it stood,
The purple of a Saviour’s Blood!
4 Upon its arms, like balance true,
He weighed the price for sinners due,
The price which none but He could pay,
And spoiled the spoiler of his prey.
5 To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done:
As by the cross Thou dost restore,
So rule and guide us evermore.
[John M. Neal]
All on board move in unison sing: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that be-lieveth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Be-cause that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” Romans 1:16-19
Sail on, Sovereign Grace, Sail on!