before the sun goes down

"Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in His sight" (I Chronicles 19:13).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of Ships and Souls


Some years ago, I was on board a cruise liner on the Aegean Sea.  An urgent voice came over the intercom.  I swiftly slid my life jacket off the shelf in my cabin and donned it.  Then I made my way to the eighth deck.    

Thousands of other passengers followed suit.  I sat on the long bench outside under my lifeboat waiting.  Crowds were pressing all around me.  But the lifeboats were not lowered.  Not one passenger or crew member got away from the ship.  Why not?  Simple.  There was no emergency.  The whole thing was a practice drill.

I hate to waste time, so while we were waiting to be dismissed, I told a story. I pulled out my wallet and showed a photo to those around me.  It was a picture of John Harper, the last hero of the Titanic.

He was a Scottish preacher on board the Titanic during that fateful voyage.  When the ship struck an iceberg, it was John who shouted, “Women, children, and the unsaved first into the lifeboats!”  When the ship went down and he was thrown into the ocean, John swam about declaring the Gospel.  Above the screams of the perishing, his voice rang out, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!” 

He swam to one fellow who desperately clung to a piece of wreckage. 

“Are you saved?” John called.

The answer came, “No!”

“’Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!’  Do you want to trust in Jesus?”

The man, in shock, replied, “N-no!”

Said John, “Then you need this more than I do,” and threw his own life preserver to him.  Then John swam away, sharing Christ with the many others struggling to stay afloat in the freezing waters.

Sometime later, he returned to the man on the wreckage. 

“Are you saved?”

“No,” was the repeated answer.

“'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ Are you ready to trust in Jesus?”

This time the answer was “Yes!”  John led him to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then, swimming to tell others, John finally succumbed to the cold.  He sank beneath the waves, his last words being, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!”

I told this story to those around me as we huddled on the deck.  I finished, saying to all who could hear, “I don’t know if we will sink on this trip, but I want to go on record as saying: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’”

That was March of 2007.  While on the cruise to various Biblical sites, I was able to witness to a number of people.  I wish I had done more.  The name of the ship I traveled on?  The Sea Diamond.

On April 5, 2007, a month afterwards, that very ship--the Sea Diamond--sank off the coast of Santorini!  Although there were some deaths, nearly everyone escaped. Thank God for His mercy and longsuffering.  I pray that the crew members that I met and gave tracts to who survived the catastrophe, that they will be drawn to salvation through Jesus Christ, through the seed of the word planted.

Let me ask you a question: “Are you saved?”
     
If the answer is “Yes,” then here are a few more questions.  What’re you doing on Earth for Heaven’s sake?  Are you studying the Scriptures to shew yourself approved unto God (Ephesians 5:10)?  Are you a workman that needeth not to be ashamed (II Timothy 2:15)?  Are you abiding in the Vine, staying close to Jesus (John 15:5)?  Are you on your knees often, praying for the lost souls in your family, circle of friends, country, and around the world (I Timothy 2:1-4)?  Are you standing up for the truth (Ephesians 6:14) and standing against the evil in our midst (Proverbs 31:8,9)?  Are you spending time with godly friends (Proverbs 13:20), so you can edify each other (Proverbs 27:17) to be doers of the Word (James 1:22)?  Are you taking advantage of opportunities to share the gospel with the unsaved (I Peter 3:15)?  Hold fast to the Word (II Timothy 1:13), brethren, and may He who is coming find you so doing (Luke 12:43)!

But if the answer is, “No,” then I have a message of good news for you, called the Gospel: 

God created the earth and it was perfect (Genesis 1).  Mankind has fallen into sin (Romans 5:12) and must be punished (Romans 6:23).  The judgment is death and Hell (Hebrews 9:27).  All of us, you and I included, have broken His law and deserve the coming eternal wrath of God (Romans 3:10).  But God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave His own life’s blood on the cross in your place, was buried, and came back to life (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:7, I Corinthians 15:3,4).  Because He took your place, you can be saved from Hell and instead go to Heaven when you die (John 3:16).  He is the only way (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).  Turn from your sin and trust in what Jesus did for you to save you (Romans 10:9,10,13).  Then follow what He says in his Word, the Bible (I Peter 2:2)

You may choose to put it off.  But remember, you are not promised another hour.  Those on the Titanic, the passengers of the Sea Diamond, and those living all around you have at least one thing in common with you.  Not one knows exactly when he or she will take his or her last breath.  And so, I urge you, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
  
The Titanic wrecked April 14th, 1912, 100 years ago. 

To learn more of the man John Harper, read The Titanic’s Last Hero, by Moody Adams.

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