Cruise Ship Christianity
September 15, 2019 | Randy Smith
Cruise Ship Christianity
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
Since I have entitled this message, "Cruise Ship Christianity," I believe this is a fitting illustration for the introduction.
"The Queen Mary, lying in repose in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war. On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peacetime complement of 3000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended upon it" (Ralph Winter, Reconstruction to a Wartime, not a Peacetime, Lifestyle, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, William Carey Library, 1981, p. 814).
You know, people frequently talk about the weaknesses of the church. When they do so, often the "unholy matters" are brought to attention – drunkenness, profanity, divorce, adultery, fornication and so forth. I'm not saying we're totally above these sins nor can I testify what happens behind closed doors, but I do not personally think these are frankly our biggest concerns. I believe one of our biggest concerns is comfort.
We are wealthy, free from persecution and have possibly been sold a doctrine that I can live as I please, but because I prayed a prayer, heaven is waiting for me when I depart. Therefore, obedience is optional. Holy sweat is a sin. Deep convictions are legalism. Discipleship is for other Christians. Jesus exists to make me happy. And Lordship is a nasty word. In a subtle and swift way in self-centered Christianity, comfort can be our god.
To steal the title from Keith Green's song, too often the American church is "Asleep in the Light."
Here are the words from Christ: "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (Rev. 3:14-16).
This message is timelier than ever! And I think the text is fairly straightforward.
One Principle (verse 35)
Three subpoints, but the first subpoint is in a sense the main point of the sermon. Let's start with the principle stated in verse 35 of Luke 12. Hear the command from Jesus. "Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit."
So a little cultural education. The first illustration. The Jews would often wear long flowing robes which made quick movements with the feet difficult. Therefore, when action was needed, they would tie up their robes or as we see it put elsewhere in Scripture, "gird their loins." "Dressed in readiness."
The second illustration. Obviously, there was no electricity. Light was provided by lamps. It was important to make sure the wicks and oil were properly attended to keep the lamp continually burning.
So what is the main point? There is no place on the Lord's team for lazy, presumptuous, motionless, uncommitted and unprepared servants. Words that come to mind describing the Christian? We are watchful, alert, activeÉ ready
Three Parables (verses 36–38, 39, 42–43)
So as we go to the second point, I have identified three parables in verses 35-48 that Jesus uses to illustrate the main point just stated in verse 35. Each of them comes from the large first-century household that had a master and many slaves/servants. The principle there was simple. Rules were established. The servants were given specific responsibilities. Their goal was to please the master. Reward or punishment was given based upon their service.
Let's now take a brief look at each of these parables and then we'll see how these earthly stories convey a spiritual meaning.
The first one is found in verses 36-38. "Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves."
So, you get the picture. Large household. The master is away at a wedding feast – which would often last for several days. The servants are unaware of his return. Therefore, all of them needed to be (verse 37) "alert" to greet him when he returns, even if he shows up at the dreaded hours of the morning –
(verse 38) "second watch" (midnight – 3 am) or the "third watch" (3-6 am).
Again the point – since the servants don't know when their Master is coming they need to be alert continually!
The administration did this when I taught in the public school. There was the formal announced class evaluation from the principal and then there was the feared unannounced evaluation. And since you never knew when the principal was going to arrive, you were always forced to give your very best.
The second parable also deals with an unexpected arrival. In this case, it's the arrival of burglar breaking into your house.
Verse 39, "Be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into."
Last time I checked; thieves don't book appointments in advance. In a large household with many valuables back then someone was responsible to keep guard throughout the night, the need to be continually prepared. Again, we see the principle of vigilance and alertness.
We'll give you one more parable in verses 42-43. "And the Lord said, ÔWho then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.'"
I think you get the point. Let's move to the third section.
Four Purposes (verses 37–38, 40, 43–44, 45–48)
So for what purpose do we need to be ready, active, alert, obedient in the Christian life? Why do we never take a vacation from Jesus? Here's the application. Let me now give you four reasons that I discovered from this section. We'll jump around a little bit.
The Return of Christ
I believe this is the predominate reason as stated in this section. It involves the cardinal doctrine regarding the Second Coming of Christ. A doctrine mentioned 318 times in the 260 New Testament chapters (all but three New Testament books). This is the most significant future event on our Lord's timeline.
Look at verse 40. "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." That's very clear!
Bottom line, even regardless of your end-time theology, you do not know when Jesus is going to return. Like the master coming home to his servants or the burglar that breaks into the house, our Lord's arrival will be unannounced. This theme is spoken of throughout the New Testament, even often comparing our Lord's return to a "thief in the night."
In 1 John we read, "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming" (1 Jn. 2:28).
As John MacArthur once said when the timeline is uncertain we should serve faithfully, hope steadfastly and wait patiently. The end, my friends, come without warning. Therefore, there is the need to be continually ready, lest our Lord's return or our personal death take us by surprise. So, how do we wait for Jesus? Not passively, but actively.
How do you want to be found minutes before you meet the Lord? As Jesus said earlier in the chapter to the farmer who only cared to build bigger barns to ensure a life of ease: "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you" (Lk. 12:20).
The Fear of Punishment
A second reason we should be vigilant is because of a fear of punishment.
Follow along as I read verses 45-46. "But if that slave says in his heart, ÔMy master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers."
So, what's happening here? The master goes away and the servant takes advantage of his absence to act very unfaithfully and disrespectfully, actually, ruthlessly to the master. He thought the master's absence gave him an excuse to reject the master's desires – he's beating other servants, acting as a glutton with others' rations and getting intoxicated. So what happens when the master returns and observes his conduct? Not to be taken literally, but the very graphic language is there to make an unforgettable point. He is going to, verse 45, "Cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers."
Well, what about the servant that knew what he was supposed to do, but his actions were less flagrant?
Verse 47, "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes."
Severe punishment, but not as bad as the first guy.
How about the guy that disobeyed the master, but did it unintentionally?
Verse 48, "But the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few."
Even less severe punishment, but still punished, nevertheless.
Some conclusions we can draw. Since all three of these cases involve punishment, it's safe to say, spiritually speaking now, that these are references to unbelievers. Jesus took the believer's punishment when He died for our sins. Actually, "unbelievers" is used in verse 46. What does that say? It's clear. Our Lord is away, but He is returning. And if we are habitually acting in a way that our Lord Jesus Christ despises (intentionally or unintentionally), it only stands to reason that we are not His true servants, we do not love and respect the Master and we will receive punishment. Thus when He returns those who are His servants and those who are not His servants will be made clear. We are saved by faith alone, but evidence of true faith will be faithfulness to the Master.
The Reward of Usefulness
Three, while there will be degrees of punishment for those who act unfaithfully (show themselves to be unbelievers), there will be degrees of blessedness for those who act faithfully (show themselves to be believers).
Look at verses 43-44, "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions."
The goal of the Christian life is not to hope we can just squeak by at the final judgment. The goal is to be a fruitful believer that is valued and useful to the master. It's the desire to hear Him say, "Well done My god and faithful servant."
These verses are clearly teaching that our Lord rewards faithfulness. In the same way we select servants at the church and parent our children. More faithfulness results in more responsibility. And more responsibility results in more accountability (verse 48).
The question is, how much are you willing to go all-out for Jesus? Is it just enough to have a morsel of assurance or is a fruit-filled life that is useful to the master?
The Fullness of Christ
And last, the reason we should be alert and faithful is to enjoy the fullness of Christ. Every parable that I read so far followed the conventional think of the day. These verses turn what was normally done upside-down.
See if you can catch it as I read verses 37-38. "Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves."
Now this activity in the normal household would have been unimaginable. A master returning, finding his servants acting obediently, having them sit at the table and then waiting on them! But as we read this, we see the greatest blessing of serving Christ faithfully.
Our Lord is not a cruel, egotistical or even impersonal Master. We're not an employee He needs to get a job done. On the contrary, He delights to serve us. Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Think of Jesus at the Last Supper. He was the One washing their feet, serving them! And in the context of the Second Coming, think of the Final Supper, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
In Revelation we read, "Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ÔHallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints'" (Rev. 19:6-8 NAU)
So why should we be, verse 35 "dressed in readiness [with our] lamps lit?" Why should we be alert and active? One, because we do not want to be found outside God's will when it's time to meet our Lord. Two, because we then give evidence that we are His loyal servants that will not receive punishment. Three, because the Lord rewards us with greater responsibility and usefulness. And four, because we experience a greater fullness of the Lord's incredible presence in our lives.