There’s a legend of an explorer who destroyed his ships because it prevented his guys from having retreat and mutiny in the back of their minds. They all had to go on together.
Imagine being part of an expedition, sent to explore and settle in a new land. After weeks on board, you have come to love and loathe the ship you arrived in. It feels like it’s been most of your life on that ship.
You’ve landed, you’re a little excited, relieved, terrified, because this place is new, but at least you’re off the confines of the ship. You have some space between you and the crew mate who smelled bad, the one who picked his teeth, and the one who was your friend, but was kind of annoying sometimes.
The group you’re with are your average cross section of society. Some you could definitely live without, some you’re glad to have with you, and a few you might even take a bullet for.
However, there has been discontent, worry, fear, and talk of going back home. There are risks to staying and risks to leaving.
Then, your commander gives orders to dismantle the ships, take everything of use on shore, and essentially render the ships useless. There’s no going back. You live here now. These guys you came with, they’re your family.
What do you feel?
This is community.
Because I only listen to kids show songs these days, just this week I heard the song Burn the Ships, by For King and Country. While it was written with one message in mind, which is beautiful, the song stirred something quite different in my heart.
When you come to a crossroads like this, you have to walk together. There’s no going back. Your crewmates are now your lifeline.
When Jesus called his dozen disciples, they might not have all liked each other, but by the end of their time with Jesus, they knew they had to stick together. There they were, midwives to the birth of the church; they stood on a new shore, with nothing but each other and the Holy Spirit.
The Israelites spent a few weeks in the wilderness and wanted to go back to Egypt. It was a known bondage, instead of an unknown potential. They wanted the “shadow of security”.
Israel crossing the Jordan – an entire generation later – Josh 5:10-12
“While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year”.
They came out of one season into another.
We just heard the message on Sunday about David in the wilderness. It was a season. The Holy Spirit led him there. And the Holy Spirit led him into leading and establishing his kingdom.
The Holy Spirit walks and works in all seasons, through community.
We learn to follow the Holy Spirit not in solitude but in community. We have heard the Holy Spirit speak to us and confirm His word to us, not only alone with Bible open, but in small group times, in corporate worship, and in conversation.
The only way we can walk in the newness of life in Christ is to huddle up, acknowledge our losses, and turn together to the work of the Holy Spirit, to build only on the foundation of the truth.
We will only grow up into Christ together. Anything that separates us by our retreating into it, not buying in to the all-inclusive call of God, prevents us from developing the character of Christ in us.
The ships are already burned.
We used to be so many things. Some admirable, some awful. Maybe some of us got off a cruise ship for an excursion, but here we are, and that ship is gone, too.
We are crucified with Christ, and no longer live, but the life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God, who died and rose again. Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Don’t drag that old body with you. We live by faith. Our faith has to be in the Son of God, not in the ships.
What are the ships? Old life. Anything we would use to save ourselves. Don’t return to anything that you can use to hide from the body.
The ship of Independence will not help you.
Burn the ships of independence, self sufficiency, shame, insufficiency, prejudice, preference, ignorance, presumption, religiosity, academia, racism, nationalism, addiction, success, workaholism, idolatry, perfectionism, failure, busyness, service, illness, etc.
It’s not a level of discipleship to be crucified with Christ. It’s a historical, spiritual fact. You don’t get to decide if you’re one of the elite, special forces Christians who died in Christ when He was crucified, or if you’re going to be a kind of half way alive to sin and half way alive to God kind of Christian.
Are you in Christ? Then you died with Christ when he died. In faith in Him we are all raised with Him into new life.
The ships are already burned.
Everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus.
These are facts. Whether we believe it or not will determine if we get the benefit of the faith that comes with them.
What I am not saying is that you should never move from the group you started with, or should tolerate bad teaching or abuse. What I am saying is we are all members of one body. We’re on the same team. The church down the street has the same mission we do. The home group you don’t go to is just as good as the home group you do go to.
If we’re on an island that is not our home, we need to recognize the faces of the ones we’re stranded with.
In our need for human companionship, help, comfort, someone to fight alongside and for, and celebrate with, we have each other. The ones you’re with are the ones you have been given to walk with.
Uncomfortable, sure. Refining, absolutely. Humbling, painful, necessary.
Since we’re in this together, we need to learn to practice following the Holy Spirit to resolve misunderstanding and conflict. We need to follow the Holy Spirit to understand what is worth arguing over (an issue of orthodoxy) and what is a gray area (an issue of liberty).
Through the variety of personality, background, understanding, we have diversity. In our diversity we can have unity. “University” means bringing together diversity.
We don’t go to the same church. But we are all part of one church.
Appreciation of diversity of thought and background, and understanding.
Example: Beth Moore and other women in ministry, who are of more “progressive” leanings. In the twitterverse. I can guarantee they don’t see eye to eye on everything. But they’re on each other’s socials, cheering one another on. They know Jesus and they love Jesus and they value that about each other. Huge maturity to disagree and still love and honor and say “the gospel is being preached” and laugh and they have had each other’s backs in the stand to minister as women in a man’s world of preaching. They wouldn’t have had to stand together if they didn’t have to fight together, back to back.
We stand side by side or back to back as armor bearers.
We are on the shore, knowing we don’t have an escape route. Darkness surrounds us.
But we can stand together, fend off the dark, walk in the light,
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:6-9 ESV)
One body, one family, one baptism, one faith.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV
We’re off the boats, not to hunker down and just survive. We are here to explore, to take possession of the treasures available, and to walk together into new life. We are members of an ever increasing kingdom.
This means we recognize the new nature of Christ in one another. We build one another up. We grow together. We rally around one another, and we join arms with those who will yet come into the kingdom themselves.
We do not remind each other of our sins, past, except to mention the redemption of Jesus. (New creation, all things are beginning new)
Col 3:9-10: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Do not speak lies to one another. Lies are affirming things that are not true. We lie to one another when we agree with the enemy about ourselves or another. (Colossians 3:1-15)
Don’t say awful things about yourself, Or others, that do not align with scripture.
Community is not a bunch of people who all enjoy watching the same football team and drinking lattes together.
Community – common-unity – is one that is centered around one thing. Being friends won’t hold water. We have to base our unity on something bigger than ourselves, something more reliable, and something stronger, something unchanging. We change, we move, we break.
Heb 6:17-18 – Because he wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.
Our covenants are only as strong as we are. Embracing God’s covenant is the only way we can walk in real community together.
(Contributor Cindy Chen)