"We beg of you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God!" II Corinthians 5:20
"Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" I Corinthians 9:16
Life is full of really good things. Ball games. Amusement parks. Family outings. Sunsets. The smell of flowers and baked bread and air-dried towels.Raindrops on the roof. The taste of Mom's cooking. Airplane rides. So much to take in and enjoy.
Recently, I was on a flight from San Diego to Denver. As we boarded the plane, the flight attendants were busy readying the flight for departure. We passengers didn't have the same sense of urgency but rather tended to our own matters, enjoying some of the good things around us. Some of the things I enjoy are baseball and reading leisurely magazines. As a courtesy, the airline had given us a free copy of the Colorado Rockies Magazine to peruse at our leisure. And though the team wasn't having a banner season, Todd Helton was showcased on the cover and in the feature article. I enjoyed the article about Denver’s consistent slugger who gives fans something to cheer about, even in a losing season.
But the flight attendants weren't focused on Todd Helton or theRockies Magazine. They had other more pressing business to attend to. In fact, they implored us to put down our magazines and to take our headphones off so that we could give our undivided attention to their urgent message about safety procedures. One sentence stuck out in particular: "In the event that the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling above you. First, place the mask over your own nose and mouth; then, assist others..."
They sure make a big deal about this on each and every flight I take.
When the cabin pressure drops at 35,000 feet and high altitude and 600-mile-an-hour speeds suck the oxygen out of the cabin, life takes on a different set of priorities. The good things in life aren't the focus any more. No time to pause and sip hot chocolate or enjoy the sunset. Not a chance. Every shred of energy is redirected toward the singular goal of acquiring oxygen, first for yourself, then for those around you. It's very clear:
1) Oxygen masks drop.
2) Secure your own mask.
3) Help others secure their masks.
Notice it doesn't leave much room for secondary activities:
1) Oxygen masks drop.
2) Secure your own mask.
3) Finish your beverage and magazine article.
4) Consider helping others secure their masks, if you don’t have anything better to do.
For those with a heart, the magazine article evaporates and getting oxygen to everyone possible becomes paramount.
So it is with our preaching. We have these brief windows of contact with people and an opportunity to rescue them from what will certainly end in eternal tragedy for all those without Christ.
As it is with the flight attendants, so it is with us as preachers. We must give clear instructions.
The flight attendants don’t only tell people how to help themselves. They explain how they can help others as well. First, put on your own mask. Then, help others put on theirs.
As preachers, we can tell people how to be saved from God’s wrath. And we can train people how they can tell other people how to be saved.
It’s a bizarre thought that someone on a plane without cabin pressure would don their own oxygen mask and then return to reading their magazine without helping those around them. And one of the greatest travesties imaginable is a believer—with salvation secured—traveling through life ignoring those around them.
(Let us pause for a moment with a careful comment here: This is a crucial message targeted at the mind and the will and the emotions of our hearers—with a call to action. It is not a message meant to heap guilt, condemn, or stir up a flurry of activity that will soon come to nothing. It is an opportunity to illustrate the urgency of the gospel and to challenge believers to watch for those people God brings into their lives to tell about Christ—or at least to invite them to church.)
Challenge and implore your hearers: “For a moment, set aside the good things in life to listen to the preacher.”
1) The grace of God has dropped.
2) Secure your own salvation.
3) Help others secure their salvation.
Earth has lost its cabin pressure! The solution is urgent! Everyone must wear the “oxygen mask” of the gospel, or they will soon be lost forever. We must be as vigilant as the flight attendants in giving people careful instructions for saving themselves. Without a careful explanation, they simply won’t understand it:
1) Yes, you are wonderfully loved by God!
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
2) However, your sin has put you in grave danger!
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
3) God’s wrath is certainly coming.
“You are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5)
4) Jesus Christ died and shed his blood to give you shelter from the coming judgment.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
5) You can call upon him now and be rescued from the danger you are in.
“For whoever will call upon the Lord will be saved!” (Romans 10:13)
Preach about sin? Emphasize God’s wrath? Talk about Christ’s blood? Can that possibly have a positive effect?! Most certainly.Ultimately, it’s the only way to have a lasting effect. We must go there under the careful direction of God’s Spirit. It’s called the gospel. Preach it creatively. Preach it passionately. Preach it accurately. But by all means, preach it!
God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
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