Acts 27 “The Sin Ship”: Part 3 of 4

Acts 27: 39-44

So this is what happens when we hit the end of our ropes, when we’ve ridden the ship of sin as long as we can and suddenly we can go no further. When it’s time to let go for good. There’s no easy landing, no easy dismount. We have to be humbled. We have to be shipwrecked. Sin isn’t something we can just sneak out of, no matter how hard we try. On the contrary – we must face the consequences of our sin.

Sometimes we wonder if we will ever survive that shipwreck. The sin that we have lived in for so long is being battered to pieces, being exposed for the frailty it is. The strongest sin is no match for God’s power. And as our sins are basically being torn out from under our feet, we too are being exposed – mere flesh and blood, helpless, weak. No more crutches, no more facades.

If we want to live, we have no choice but to abandon ship. Otherwise, we will be destroyed with the vessel. But in order to abandon ship, we must “jump overboard.”

Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been for the sailors and prisoners, especially those who couldn’t swim, to leap out of the safety of what they had known – however rickety and wrong it was – into the storm of God’s wrath and the just consequences for sinful decisions?

In the story in Acts, it sounds as if the ordeal was an every-man-for-himself situation. Similarly, when we own up to our sin, we often feel as though we are entirely alone and the whole world has turned against us. Those can be some of the most agonizing moments, days, months, or years we will ever face. When in that sea of consequence, we wonder if we will survive the tempest, if we will ever reach land again. Or will we just be destroyed by the agony that consumes us?

But there is a promise of hope.

The last sentence of this passage says, “And so it was that they all escaped safely to land.” Notice the “all.” Not some, but “all.” Because they were obedient and because they had the courage to leap overboard, God carried them through the storm. Yes, they had to suffer in the sea for a while, but God brought them through it. Just like He will you or I or anyone else who takes the plunge of faith and willingly faces the consequences of one’s sin and then leaves the wreckage of that sin behind.

It’s not going to be easy – those were probably the worst, loneliest, most painful months I have ever endured. Sometimes those sea waves still bombard me. Nevertheless, God has carried me through.

He has set my feet on dry ground once again. He set the ship’s passengers’ feet on dry ground again. He will do the same for anyone else who has the humbled, repentant heart to abandon the Sin Ship.

 

 

Advertisements

Acts 27 “The Sin Ship”: Part 2 of 4

Acts 27:13-38

Do you see the point God is making here? When we heed the world’s advice rather than God’s, we head off on our own like the ship and its crew. At first things seem all right, with just a gentle wind to blow us along. But then we find ourselves trapped in the Tempest of Sin, doomed for destruction. And we passionately wish we had listened to God rather than to the men of the world.

I notice how much the passengers had to lighten the ship. Three times they throw items overboard. We aren’t told exactly what the first items are – I’m guessing they were sundries that were not necessary for the voyage, very possibly the merchandise to be sold at the journey’s end. Secondly, the crew pitched out the tackle – the means of making the ship travel. Lastly, the food – human sustenance – was thrown into the sea.

From one perspective, the point being made here is that the only way to get back with God – to become right with Him – is to get rid of everything in our lives which is ensnaring us in sin.

  1. The merchandise – the material things which are distracting me. They’ve got to go. The crew members were distracted from obeying God because they were more concerned about the material wealth and satisfaction they could gain by selling this merchandise than they were about attaining heavenly  joy and satisfaction through obedience to Christ. Do I have any material idols which are distracting me from serving God? Then overboard they must go.
  2. The tackle – whatever aids my journey of sin. If there is something that is supporting my sinful lifestyle, and that is basically enabling my sin, I have to get rid of it. How can I become untangled from my sin if I have numerous crutches which make it easy for me to remain in wickedness?
  3. Food – human strength. Food’s not bad, and even Paul mentions that we need it. But food only supplies human strength, which is not sufficient for freeing me from sin. I desperately need God’s strength, not human resources and human power. If I want to be completely cleansed of my sin, I must turn to God and rely on His strength rather than on mine, because only He can rescue me from this storm.

 ******

 “And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let if fall off.” vs. 30-32

When we have strayed from God’s will in order to accomplish our own, we can’t try to sneak back into the Way of Life. That’s what the sailors tried to do – they didn’t want to be shipwrecked with the rest of their companions to face the consequences of their mistakes. So they pretended to be doing the right thing – stopping the ship – while they were secretly plotting to abandon ship.

Deceit will not work…at least not for long. Truth always – always – comes to the light. God has a knack for gifting godly people with the ability to see right through ungodly deceptions. Lies and cover-ups are exposed, and the deceiver’s chance of escape is cut off.

Once we’ve taken the wrong path, we can’t abandon ship and sneak back into the presence of God. Instead, we have to ride out the storm. Not that it will be easy – on the contrary, riding out the storm can be the most painful, terrifying, and humbling thing that we have ever done. But if we want to get right with God, we must ride out the tempest. That painful, humbling, terrifying process is what purifies us and helps us to become right with God once again.

 

Acts 27 “The Sin Ship”: Part 1 of 4

Acts 27

The weather was terrible. They shouldn’t have been sailing any farther…it wasn’t safe or smart. Paul warned that the voyage would end in disaster. But did the sailors or centurion listen? No, they pushed on. They had their own goals in mind, their own destination point picked out. And they weren’t willing to give up their personal aspirations, not for anybody…not even God Himself.

Through His Word, the circumstances we face in life, and the advice of good Christian friends, God desperately tries to communicate to us His desires for our lives. But too often we overlook these messages, all for the sake of self-satisfaction.

What happens when we go our own way, not heeding God’s warnings? Acts 27 clearly gives the answer with the story that I have come to think of as “The Sin Ship.”

Acts 27:9-12

Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.” v. 11

The centurion was the ultimate authority onboard the ship; he had the preeminence to choose between pressing on with the journey or harboring for the season. Contrary to Paul’s warning, the centurion chose to listen to the sailors’ urging and ordered that the ship sail forward.

Note the contrast in verse 11 between the two sources of advice – it’s “the helmsman and owner,” mere earthly men, versus “the things spoken by Paul.” Not just “Paul,” but the “things” he said. Those “things” didn’t come from mere earthly wisdom as the sailors’ words did – Paul’s statements relayed God’s advice for the ship’s passengers. The centurion’s dilemma was between the words of men and the words of God.

And the centurion chose to heed the words of men.

The situation isn’t any different today – we are faced with both worldly and godly advice. We can’t escape it, but we do have to choose whose advice we will take, whose words we will follow. Who are my influences? Who are my advisors? When I’m making a decision, do I heed the words of the world, or the words of the Lord?

Look at the advice that Paul gave: If the centurion made the wrong decision, the choice could end in “disaster and much loss.” Is it any different for us? I think not. When we choose whose message to follow, we need to remember that there are positive or negative consequences for each, and we will have to live with those consequences.

I have paid the price to live with myself on the terms that I willed.” Rudyard Kipling

The trouble is, we don’t always consider the future negative consequences seriously enough to realize how severe they will be.