Recently a friend “called me to task.” A faithful reader of P.O.C., she sent me a message that I hadn’t written a new post since March and that I needed to get going.
Thank You Renee,
Your friendly poke made me more seriously consider something that had popped in and out of my mind in the months since March. First, let me set my friend’s, and maybe your, mind at ease. Not only did my writing not slow down after “Living On Life Support,” it took on a flowing and accelerated pace. I in fact wrote four posts: completed on March 25th – “a Past-Tense Christ,” on April 2nd – “Set Your Standards High,” on April 11th – “A Fool Knows… A Wise Man Knows Better,” and on April 12th – “Simon Says & A Gift Receipt.” Knowing my friend, this is about where she is saying, “What the heck?” Allow me a grin… and an answer.
I’ll start with a quick reminder. My goal is to never write a word from my own “brilliance.” My prayer and, if I might request, your prayer, is that I only relay what God would have me offer. That my “wisdom” would never supersede God’s Wisdom. So, I believe God dictated as fast as I could type. So fast, that before my extremely busy grammar editor could give them a once-over, I had rounded number three and was headed full steam into number four. With the thought of “a fool” and “a wise man” still whirling in my mind and as I moved to document “Simon Says,” clear as day I heard something else. This moment…these four posts… were the culmination of the 48 previously published posts. It was also clear that, with that Truth, these posts were to be part of another project. It is this project that I have been putting all my study and provision into. Rest assured, when this project is complete, Renee will be the first to know, immediately followed by you.
Back to being called to task. What had been popping in and out of my mind? Balance. While I believe the direction to the project was without question, how long is OK to leave the site un-progressed? Is there a balance? As I would ask that question, I would get nothing that didn’t obviously belong in the project. This last week, however, that balance came. I have something to document for the P.O.C. site. And while all things are connected if I stay in God’s Truth, these words are clearly meant for a new post.
In one of Tozer’s sermons he referred to man’s existence and God’s as like a ship on an ocean. It is this visual on which I wish to build. This illustration will allow us to address several issues while always keeping them in perspective of the greater Truth.
First, the greater Truth. God is infinite, without beginning and beyond end. Man, and the physical world created for him, has a beginning. That physical world will have an ending and man will transition to an eternal existence. Let’s apply that to our illustration. The physical world is the ship. In the first book, Genesis, it says it was created. In the last book, Revelations, it says it will be re-created. A beginning and an end. So, God built the ship and set it a sail towards its specified destination. Scripture says that, some time after setting sail, man started to question God. You see, the ship has a stowaway. This stowaway sneaks around whispering in man’s ear and tricking him into damaging the ship, other passengers and himself. For this part of our illustration the ship is the mighty Titanic. Man/Adam grew arrogant on the whispers of the stowaway and said, “not even God can sink her.” When man looked upon the iceberg/apple he was not afraid because he doubted God’s authority and power. From this mentality, the Titanic sank and man “fell.”
Our illustration continues. God is the ocean, the breadth and the depth of it. God is the sky in all its vastness. Take a second and try to imagine what that ship might look like in comparison to all that surrounds it. To those onboard the ship seems huge. We can’t see one end from the other, and, in the heat of the day walking the decks, it is daunting. But from God’s view, the entire ship is not only visible it is a single, clear image; tiny from His perspective. Tiny not only in size but in time. For us it will take a lifetime to see from stem to stern, but God doesn’t even have to change His focus.
Hopefully this has created an image that we can use for the rest of our discussion. Everything physical that ever was or ever will be is contained within the rails of that ship. Regardless of what our individual voyage might look like we are all headed to the same destination. Let’s call that destination the Port-of-Pearl. There is no altering the destination. However, while on the journey, the Ship Maker has given us the freedom to wander the ship and do as we choose. He has appointed a Captain and a Cruise Director to help us on the journey, but we are free to choose to ignore them… until we reach port that is.
So, here we are, you and I, on our modern day cruise ship. The image we are using is no longer the Titanic, but one of those extravagant beauties we see on the TV commercials. From the Ship Maker’s (God’s) view, from the vastness of time and universe, the distance our ship travels and the time it takes to make our journey is barely perceivable as movement. As I’ve said before, “It’s the blink of an eye.” It’s a grain of sand in the Sahara. As Tozer says, “In one effortless act God knows all that can be known.” But we don’t see the ship from God’s view we see it from the planks of the deck. We say “why does God allow?” We discussed that in “God is Pro-Choice.” With the understanding of that post we will walk around our ship. Briefly, as Tozer also said, “God won’t take away our freedom to make mistakes, but He will take every opportunity to use them for our benefit.” On our voyage there will be bumps and bruises, things that from a physical world perspective seem devastating but from a Spiritual perspective, God’s perspective, are insignificant. It is only from our lack of Faith, from our failure to see beyond the rails of the ship, that we give them lasting importance. To the Ship Maker the important issue is getting to Port-of-Pearl and what happens when we get there. Yes, He built us a great ship and filled it with all we could want. He planned a great voyage for us and only wants us to take the highest advantage of it, to enjoy all the ship has to offer. We, however, listen to the stowaway. In fact, it is because we need to make this choice, Captain or stowaway, that the Ship Maker gave us the opportunity to take the voyage in the first place. Mc’Clure goes into detail about this in what we affectionately call the “Improve Life” sermon. Taking from that, we usually refer to this time of our voyage as our state of “probation.”
The Ship Maker built us this ship called the SS Earth and He loaded all aboard. He placed at its helm a Captain called Christ to declare our destination and our course. The Captain lays out the rules of the ship and pronounces what will happen when we get to port if we ignore or tweak them. The Ship Maker also placed aboard a Cruise Director as our personal consultant and advocate. We address the Cruise Director as The Holy Spirit. Now we know the ship and the relevant members of the crew. We also must not forget the stowaway, the Adversary/Satan. It is our interactions with these players in our long lives and short journey that will determine our fate when we reach port. Remember, the stowaway, with our cooperation, has corrupted the ship and its passengers. Also, remember we are all passengers on this same ship. There are decks dedicated to following the stowaway’s direction, but we are all still on the same boat.
God does not want anyone to “carouse” in the bars on deck four or the casinos on deck six, but He allows us to choose for ourselves. The Captain has advised against making a home of these decks, but we are free to ignore Him. We are also warned that passengers from the darker decks will wander onto the decks of the righteous. We are told to look out for them that we might not be lured away. Finally, we are instructed to look for those lost on and around those decks to show them the opportunity the deck of light offers and, if they embrace the offer, bring them back. We are also instructed that those who do not embrace the offer are not lost and, having chosen rebellion against the Ship Maker’s sovereign authority, should not be invited or escorted to this deck. We are informed that we cannot be loyal to the Crew or the Ship Maker if we make our way to the cabin of the “adulterer,” the “homosexual” or those who “lie with beasts.” All these cabins are off limits and none more “sexually immoral” than the other. We are not to pick the pockets of other passengers, spread rumors or “gossip” about them. These too are violations of the Ship Maker’s rules and will be given no more latitude than any other when we reach the Port-of-Pearl. “Whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) Those who would take on the Ship Maker’s authority to declare one violation worse than another are acting just as much outside of His Grace as are those who install exceptions to a particular rule.
We also must remember that the Ship Maker is Wise and He knows that anyone who does not first accept His authority will not concern themselves with any of the Captain’s rules and will not welcome the Cruise Director’s guidance. Because He knows the stowaway’s influence over these travelers He has made a distinction for the rules. The rules are for those who accept His authority, for those who look to the Port-of Pearl and know that a judgement is coming. For those who do not, for those “of” the other decks, their fate is set. One more or one less violation will not change that. The stowaway will be escorting them to the slums of darkness when they reach port.
The rules are also not written for the righteous. Those who live in the will and Grace of the Ship Maker do not need a law to tell them what not to do; they listen to the Cruise Director and act accordingly. To these, no rules are necessary. For these the Ship Maker’s character are the decks on which they travel.
So, who is the Captain addressing with the rules? “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) You see, our first passenger stands on his deck, looks across the sea and sees something that only exists to serve his journey. To this passenger, if there is a Ship Maker, He exists to serve him. He does not accept His authority or believe in anything beyond the rails of the ship. He does not prepare for port. Our second passenger looks out at the sea and the sky and sees how tiny and vulnerable he is. He realizes he does not have the capacity to comprehend the boundless sea or the greatness of the Ship Maker. This passenger lives in appreciation of the Ship Maker and the privilege of this brief voyage. From this appreciation, his respect for the Ship Maker leaves no need for the declaration of rules and punishment. His choices are governed by honoring and glorifying the Ship Maker, not from self-preservation.
So, you might say the rules are for those in transition from the first to the second passenger. “We realize that law is not enacted for the righteous, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and profane… for anyone else who is averse to sound teaching that agrees with the glorious gospel of the blessed God,” (1 Timothy 1:8-11) “So the law became our guardian to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) Therefore the rules are for those who are willing to accept an authority greater than their own, the other passengers or the stowaway. The rules teach these the Truth of the ship, the sea and the Ship Maker and tell them how to walk in belief (Faith) of that Truth. When any one of these passengers embraces the Ship Maker, the Crew and the Rules, the Captain will escort him or her through the Port-of Pearl and into the Ship Maker’s city.
Let’s return for a second to “choice” and “why does God allow?” In his teaching on “The Sovereignty of God” Tozer addresses our voyage, its end and standing at the Port-of Pearl. He refers to our choice to accept the Ship Maker and His Rules. He makes clear that from our freedom to choose comes the responsibility and results of those choices. “God does not will that you do it, but He wills that you should be free to do it. There’s one thing about heaven and hell, no one’s in either place by accident. Hell is populated by people who chose to go there. If they did not choose the destination, they chose the highway… Everybody in Heaven above is there because they chose to go there. Nobody wakes up and finds themselves in heaven by accident and says I never planned to come here.” When the Ship Maker sent His angels to Sodom, He did not send them to the unbelievers. He did, however, send them to reach into the darkness of Sodom and pull out those who chose Him. The angels – “grabbed his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters. And they led them safely out of the city, because of the LORD’s compassion for them.” (Genesis 19:16)
As we quoted Tozer at the beginning, “In one effortless act God (the Ship Maker) knows all that can be known.” This is the point of this post. Don’t get so wrapped up in yourself, other passengers or the ship that you forget how tiny and insignificant it all is. One who does not accept God’s authority will act against it… One who does will be a reflection of it and the one who is open to it will be guided by the rules towards it. A sinner will sin, it’s not about them. They have no interest in the decks the righteous inhabit. “Shake the dust off your feet” and look for those who would transition. Reach into the darkness and offer a hand to pull them out. But remember, they have the same freedom as you to accept, or, as Lot’s sons-in-law, reject the offer. Remember This Ship Has Sailed and its destination is set. Follow the Rules, not because of fear of ramification, but because of Faith in the Ship Maker. Spend your time on board this ship dedicated to Pursuing the Character of the Captain. Listen to and learn from the Cruise Director. Then you too can see the Ship Maker as David did:
1 O LORD, You have searched me
and known me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down;
You are aware of all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it, O LORD.
5 You hem me in behind and before;
You have laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle by the farthest sea,
10 even there Your hand will guide me;
Your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light become night around me”—
12 even the darkness is not dark to You,
but the night shines like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
13 For You formed my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Marvelous are Your works,
and I know this very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was woven together
in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all my days were written in Your book
and ordained for me
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God,
how vast is their sum!
18 If I were to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand;
and when I awake,
I am still with You.
19 O God, that You would slay the wicked—
away from me, you bloodthirsty men—
20 who speak of You deceitfully;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD,
and detest those who rise against You?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them as my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the way everlasting.
Scott Caughel © 6/21/2019