by Tommy Thornhill
Many years ago, I heard of a preacher who kept sounding the warning, “the ship of Zion is drifting,” He was comparing the Lord’s church with a ship floating on the sea (the world) headed for apostasy. The anchor that had been holding them fast to God has been lost in the sea of confusion and hopelessness, and the ship was being wrecked on the rocks of unbelief, despair, and doubt and was slowly sinking into oblivion. The lives of the people onboard the ship were about to be drowned and lost for eternity. This is the picture the apostle Paul used to describe those who had lost their faith, “which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:” 1 Timothy 1:19.
Well, his warnings went unheeded and apostasy came. The Lord’s church was split when people refused to respect Bible authority. I saw this happen during my early years of preaching and several times since. Today, the same warning is being sounded, (maybe not in the same words, but the same principle), but it is ignored by the majority. Many local congregations, composed of members of the church of Christ, are like little ships headed for shipwreck because they have lost the anchor of faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. These little ships, headed for eternal destruction, are filled with people who “have a form of godliness but deny its power” 2 Tim.3:5. They have made the mistake of choosing to sail on a ship with a crew (leadership) who see no need for using the chart provided by the One who created the “paths of the sea” Ps.8:8, (the way to heaven). His chart (the word of God) can show them how to sail the ship safely to its destination while avoiding the pitfalls and dangers that lay ahead. But the crew, showing disdain and a lack of respect for this chart (God’s word), follow their own chart (their own likes, opinions) which will cause them to be shipwrecked and they and their passengers will be lost for eternity.
When people, teachers and preachers lose respect for God’s authority and decide to follow the way of the world, they lose their religious conviction. Why? They are more concerned in having the world accept them at the present time than to be accepted by the Lord. Some of them are not overly concerned about respecting God’s authority. They would rather listen to men. Jesus encountered this problem in Jn.5 after He healed the lame man. The religious leaders refused to accept His authority. So He says to them, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” Jn.5:43.
People many times will listen to a preacher who tells them what they want to hear, rather than listen to one who tells them what they must do. They desire preachers who will not teach and preach on subjects that might expose them to the danger they are in. They want to hear sermons that soothe, rather than save souls. The weakening of biblical and doctrinal teaching has an effect on the religious practices and morals of their audience. Such soft teaching has led many a congregation away from God. The true preacher of God will only “speak the oracles of God” 1 Pet.4:11. He will make sure to “hold fast the form of sound words … in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” 2 Tim.1:13. He will preach the truth in season and out of season, whether liked or not, for he knows only the truth can save Jn 8:32; 17:17.
Another reason, why people lose respect for God’s authority, is because they don’t really know what His word says. They fail to study and learn so they are ignorant of what the word of God teaches. Remember the prophet Hosea? He wrote, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” What does God then say? “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest to Me …” Hos.4:6. A thought! In the NT all Christians are priests. “You also, as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood …” 1 Pet.2:5. In thinking of Hosea’s statement, will not God reject the NT priests who fail to learn His word?
This lack of knowledge is destroying God’s people today. Talk with fellow Christians. Ask them why they believe what they believe. They should be able to give a reasonable answer. We are taught to “ … always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” 1.Pet.3:15. But much too often when asked, they might say they believe in God, Christ, the Bible, but they say it with little conviction. They have a lack of understanding of what they really believe and that is why they are easily led to get on the ship destined for destruction because it is guided by the wrong crew as mentioned above.
A lot of Christians have one foot in the Lord’s church and one foot in the world. They have never completely separated themselves from the world. They feel the pressure of the world around them to conform, so they want to bend and shape any teaching into something that’s popular to fit the thinking of what society has decided spirituality ought to be. Never mind what God has to say about it. We wonder why so many young people fall away from the faith. It is because the generation that should have taught them has failed, not only to instill the truth into them, but, also, to practice before them what they claim to believe. When young people see little evidence of personal conviction and commitment in the lives of their parents, and sometimes their Bible teachers and preachers, they copy their peers. Because of this lack of proper guidance when growing up, many of them, after (but some before) reaching adulthood, put Jesus on the shelf.