Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Discipleship

Youth Evangelism PI

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Issues That Keep People Away

Youth will place their trust in anything that is not God, such as their money, their friends, and the high standard of living we enjoy in the United States. People on the Titanic could not see the peril that was right in front of them, so it is with non-Christians today. Just click on the evening news and you will be inundated by the moral erosion of our culture, and the flight from Godly values.
Issues That Keep People Away
 
Since grade school, I have been fascinated by the story of the Titanic. The story of this incredible luxury ship captured my imagination. I would watch the early movies, sing songs about it at YMCA camp, and hear the stories from my grade school French teacher who was a survivor. Her descriptions were so vivid and clear, it was as if I was with her on that ship surrounded by its luxury and wealth and participated in its demise.

On the night of April 14, 1912 at 11:40 p.m., the greatest, modern, and man-made object ever conceived at that time sank with 2,340 passengers on board, leaving behind over 1500 people in the watery grave below. This tragedy has continued to grip the imagination of so many people for nearly 90 years. Millions of dollars have been spent in its search, scores of movies and books have recounted it's tale. So why does the Titanic spark such passions, when there have been so many other disasters taking even more people over the years? Why has this ship, the largest and most spectacular of its day, been an icon to so many generations of people? A highly costly ship that lasted less than 100 hours of use.

Mark Twain, a near contemporary of that time in history called that period "The Gilded Era" when mankind was full of "buoyant optimism" and with a positive and full future. This was nearly 100 years ago, the beginning of a new century that was to be a new millennium that would bring people together with the hopeful future based on what mankind could accomplish. Man by his own efforts was going to build a "heaven on earth" that would eventually be "better than God's" through our technology and will-power. The Titanic was perhaps a wake-up call to man's arrogance, and the promise of a "heaven on earth" was the ultimate slap in the face of God.

The ship builders of that era manifested each of these impulses as described by Mark Twain. These new ships represented mankind's greatest achievements to date, and pointed to even greater achievements in the future. The Titanic's name even implied and embodied the dreams and desires of this vision. The ship brought together the best technology, created skill, and endeavor the world has yet seen. No expense was spared when this large and massive ship was created, with the most beautiful and spectacular luxuries that people have ever encountered. To which newspaper headlines stated "God Himself could not sink this ship." I wonder if those newspaper publishers regretted those words.

Not only was this ship the most expensive venture ever conceived at that time, it's ticket prices also reflected that incredible expenditure. People paid thousands of dollars, which would have bought a nice house in that time period, to participate on its maiden voyage. Thus almost every rich and influential person alive at that time was on that ship, as the newspaper's called this "The Millionaire Special." The equivalent today would be if the entire top Hollywood producers such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, along with the world's richest people such as Donald Trump and Bill Gates, were on that ship.

I remember my French teacher describing the dark moonless night with the smooth, coal-black glassy ocean water looking extremely eerie. Her family was not very wealthy, so they were in second class, but they still enjoyed the luxuries of the ship. The description she gave it with an eeriness still shakes me today, remembering that she said she wore almost every piece of clothing she packed to keep warm on that extremely cold night.

The books, movies, and recollections of the survivors tell us the Titanic's crew was busy with messages being wired to business associates, friends, and relatives, and did not respond to the repeated messages and warnings of the impending dangerous ice. The ship that was nearby called the "Californian" had sent an urgent message that stated "I say old man, we are surrounded by ice," with a reply from the Titanic's crew that was a resentful "shut up, shut up, shut up, we're busy!" Assured of themselves, they continued full speed ahead, ignoring up to seven warnings.

My French teacher described the eeriness of that night that suddenly woke her up with the shuddering and shaking sounds that still give her nightmares, some 60 years later. We now know that the shuddering and shaking were caused by a giant iceberg that rubbed against the ship's hull. This rubbing caused its steal plates to buckle and protrude so as to expose the ship to the cold waters of the ocean that gushed in with wild fervor. The common view of a gigantic slice across the hull is actually not true. The ship's builder and the captain knew that within the ship was a watery grave that was coming up fast, and the ship would sink within two hours.

The captain ordered the crew to tell the passengers to put on their life jackets and head for the lifeboats but very few people actually took it seriously. The passengers instead continued to sleep, gamble, drink at the bar, and party. Most of the passengers continued to have the time of their life, totally unaware that death was knocking at their door. A lot of the rich passengers refused to put the life jackets on because it would wrinkle their clothes, and cramp their style. The fact is, they flatly refused to see their situation, even as the ship sank, many did not respond until the last minute.

If only the people responded to the captain's orders to go to the boats, many more could have been saved, but they did not listen, they relied on their own inclinations and beliefs that the ship was safe and unsinkable. As the lifeboats were lowered, many were only filled with a few people, some with only 10 or 12, when each boat could carry over 60. Then, as the ship was exploding, the rest of the passengers stampeded to just a few remaining lifeboats. Some survivors tell stories about how the rich were trying to buy a spot on the lifeboats with large sums of money, but at that moment, wealth did not make a difference. So to speak, "they were all in the same boat!" There was no difference between rich and poor, all were facing a cold, watery grave. After all the boats were gone, the rest of the passengers were left to fend for themselves, as the once spectacular Titanic sank right under them, as the most recent movie illustrated so well. The lifeboats remained nearby, but none would go back to pick up the rest of the people. They were afraid they would get swamped, even though they were mostly empty.

The arrogance of the passengers was summed up with one famous passenger saying, "I'll take my chances and stay here" as he was ordered to get in a lifeboat. It was the last decision he ever made, and the worst. My French teacher said she will not go to sporting events because the roar of the crowd is too much like the screams of the people in the water that she heard from the lifeboat on that cold night.

The story of the Titanic is a powerful lesson for us today, as it is a clear testimony to the arrogance of our human nature. We will spin our wheels to the very last moment to try to flee from God's presence and control, saying we can do better on our own. The radio room crew exemplifies our innate ability to ignore our situation with the busy-ness of our life. And like that man who said he will take his chances, too many people throughout history would rather take their own chances than surrender themselves to the will of the Lord.

People will place their trust in anything that is not God, such as their money, their career, and the high standard of living we enjoy in the United States. People on the Titanic could not see the peril that was right in front of them, so it is with non-Christians today. Just click on the evening news and you will be inundated by the moral erosion of our culture, and the flight from Godly values.

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." II Timothy 3:1-4

People like to see themselves as a god, that their will is a protected castle, and will not bow to the sedge of anything against it even that of Christ. Even though Christ has a plan of love that feeds us, not a sedge that will starve us {A sedge is when an army surrounds a castle before they storm it. At first, it may take days and even months to starve the people into submission, if the army cannot get past its defenses, the walls or mote}. Yet too many ignore the call, and refuse to give up their will. The walk of the Christian faith flies in the face of our individualistic culture that says we can do it our way, and we can have it our way. We do not have to be perfect or even fundamentally good. All we need to do is be who we are. Just watch the biographies on cable TV of famous people, and how they lived their lives chasing drugs, pleasures, and wealth, only to find despair, and sometimes death. Thinking they had everything, only to find nothing in their lives.

The idea that we do not need Christ is not a new late twentieth century phenomena, but is stated by Christ Himself, "A certain ruler asked him, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good--except God alone." Luke 18:18-19

The ruler, who was some kind of leader, was flattering Jesus, and assumed his deeds would bring him eternal life. Jesus quickly responded that goodness is found in God alone, and his flattery was not sincere. Even if we are sincere, we will be sincerely wrong. The leader failed to do what was required, and his good deeds amounted to nothing. So why do we call ourselves good? Why do we go through life with a mentality like a Frank Sinatra song, "I'll do it my way?" And all the members of the rat pack died meaningless and lonely, alcoholic lives. "Doing it my way" did not work for them, and, yet, they had the wealth and power to make it work.

When we think we are a god to ourselves, we have a very exaggerated view of ourselves. Even if you are a model citizen and live your life to help others, it will not bring you any closer to godhood. Jesus knew the leader lived for his possessions, and would miss the Kingdom of God because of his own efforts. It is the righteousness of Christ alone that gives us the hope of salvation, our only effort is the acceptance and trust of what was done on our behalf. Of course, if you are perfect and born perfect, then you do not need to worry; however, no one has ever been perfect except Christ. But too many of us do think we are perfect, and boy, will we be surprised in the end! We all need help because we are not perfect. Fortunately for us, Christ was perfect on our behalf, He was our substitution, He is perfect, all we need to do is respond in gratitude and be our best for His glory.

The bottom line is most people do not want to be bothered by religious things, yet the purpose of our existence is to find God and be reconciled to Him. The biggest problem is to know that we are indeed in need, and we have to surrender ourselves to God's providence. If we dare to despise God and His offer, then we are damned; not a pleasant future, but it will be by our design and desire, and our blame alone. Just like the arrogant passengers on the Titanic who thought they had it made, while their ship was sinking right under their feet. If we choose ourselves over God, then we will lose everything!

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God."Psalm 90:1-2

This Psalm was possibly the only one written by Moses, thus perhaps the oldest in the book of Psalms. This Psalm answers the question from a child who asserts who is God, and who made God. But we know from this Psalm, and many other Scriptures, that God has always existed and directed His creation and provided a plan for us. God is eternal, He has always been and will always be, and we are not. There is one God and we are not it! Yes, I keep saying this because it is paramount for us to understand to begin our walk with Christ.

If an evangelist simply stated that Christ was a great moral teacher, he would get no reprisal. If you were to witness to your neighbor boldly that Christ was a great philosopher, they would invite you to tea. If a billboard stated that Christ was a great example, the non-Christian would not complain. But Christ is and is not. Our Lord is not just a great moral philosopher, teacher, and example, He does not stop there. He is also eternal and Lord over all. he American culture and world at large are greatly offended by the inclination that Christ is God, thus anything but God is okay. Because if Christ is God, then our self-directed destiny would be in error, and our will needs to be subjected, and we just do not want to be lorded over.

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John 3:18-21

Not believing in God is not the source for judgment and being condemned; it is not believing what Christ is and has done. The demons believe, they just do not trust and surrender to Him. It is the rebellion that our human nature constitutes against God that gives us over to damnation. Jesus comes perfectly to us who are condemned with an offer of hope and salvation. We see that hope and put it off saying, I do not need it, I can do it alone. Jesus goes on to say that the evil nature of ours is the cause of our condemnation, and He is the source of our hope. When we love ourselves and our deeds more than we love our Lord, then we are in trouble, not of God's doing but of our own will and choices.

Our lives would be a lot easier as Christians, if we did not teach these truths, and this is a big reason why most Christians just sit in their pews and do nothing. It is easier to sit and believe, than to walk and obey what we believe. But God calls us out of the darkness and into the light, that as Christians we need to know our neighbor and their objections, but not let that detour us from His plan. We cannot just take our beliefs and keep them in a secret huddle. A football team that wants to win does not hold a huddle so the quarterback can get some sleep, so he can say and do nothing; no the huddle is the plan of action that the coach has called them to do. Our Christian faith is based on the cross of Christ, but it does not stop there, as the start of a football game does not stop at the toss of the coin. We are called to do and obey with the gifts and abilities that our Lord has given us.

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."I Peter 3:15

God calls us to respond! This was one of my mentor's favorite passages, and this passage calls us to respond! It must be an action that we are encouraged to respond with passion, boldness, compassion, and tact. Just as the Roman Empire persecuted the Christians because the faith went against their beliefs, even though their philosophy had an 'almost anything goes' attitude. Because with Christ anything does not go, and without Christ we do not go.

We will run into people who are offended, but we need to take heed and comfort from the Lord through His Word. Christ says we are sinful, and He is the only way; people say no, "I'm my own way." So we are causing conflict and strife, not the same as previously mentioned, as caused by Christians with bad motives. So accept it as a challenge and as the call it is.

Peter says we can do it, "do this with gentleness and respect." This is our call. Being ready is a big part of the Christian life, and the defense is to know what you believe and why, thus our passion will be to lovingly give a response, even out of hostile reactions and the threat of persecution.

Ó R.J. Krejcir 1998, 2001 excerpt from the upcoming book 'Pew Sitting'

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