“The Church of Jesus is a battleship, not a cruise ship.”

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I’ve said this many times, but I know it’s not original to me.  But this sentence is divisive in American congregations.  It separates the self-centered from the “others-centered.”  It defines the mission Jesus gave the church in terms of reaching and raising disciples for Jesus.  It means I am second and the lost are first.  It means I must become less, and the lost must matter more because they matter to Jesus.

It means Heaven is too good for people to miss, and my preferences don’t matter.  It means my personal mission is to be at my post on the battleship to save the souls of men and women, boys and girls.

But that truth is difficult to accept for parts of the American Church. It’s a lot to bear.

But there’s always hope!

Jesus and his disciples are at the table where the Last Supper occurred.  In just a few hours, Jesus would be betrayed and crucified for the payment of our sins.  By this time tomorrow evening, Jesus would be dead and buried.  And He’s thinking of His disciples.  Jesus continues in John 16:12-15:

 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”  

John 16:12-15
New International Version

Some Biblical scholars struggle with these verses because Jesus told the disciples in John 14:26,But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  Upon closer investigation, this struggle dissipates.  In John 14, Jesus references what He had already taught them and reminds them that the Holy Spirit will both remind them what they know and teach them what they do not.  John 14 and John 16:12-15 are complementary.

Here, Jesus tells them there are things He cannot share with the disciples.  The reason is that they couldn’t bear it at that time.  Later they would learn these things (that they couldn’t bear now), but for now, they had enough.

There were things they weren’t ready or able to hear and accept.

Jesus was willing to trust the Holy Spirit.

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We should too.

We will meet people who aren’t ready to believe all the truth we possess and profess.  If they are not followers of Jesus, we are not as surprised by this.  At least, we shouldn’t be surprised. 

We are shocked when professing followers of Jesus cannot accept the truth of Jesus.

We can be surprised when they give us blank stares when we say, “Our lives are not about us, but Jesus.”  They might argue if we say, “The mission of the church is making disciples (and not keeping people happy).”  They might walk away if we say, “Disciples of Jesus pursue righteousness.”

That is shocking.  But in those times, we must remind ourselves of this passage.

The disciples spent so much time—in the flesh—with Jesus.  Yet, on the night before Jesus was to pay the penalty for our sins, they could not handle everything He wished to tell them.  They had sight along with their faith.

Disciples of Jesus today do not have that benefit.  And like our Master, we must be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to work.  After all, Jesus is patient with us while the Holy Spirit works in us.

Sometimes, we want to be the Holy Spirit to people.  We want to solve their marriage, parenting, personal, and professional problems for them.  We want to intervene.  We love them and can see how they’re making disastrous choices. 

But we’re not the Holy Spirit.

We live to glorify Jesus with our lives and help others to take another step towards Him, but we cannot do it for them.  We can testify to the work of Jesus in our lives, but we cannot make them let Jesus work in theirs.

Our mission is to stay at our stations on the battleship and trust the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, so the family of God grows.