The Missing Illustration
Yesterday we looked at “Are You A Christian, Evaluating Your Claim To Christianity” at Kitwe Church. In Mark 4 Jesus answers the question why so many professing Christians “fall away” and never bear fruit. Here is the “missing illustration” that for sake of time was dropped from that sermon, but is so helpful to our understanding of sharing the gospel message. It comes directly from the book, Hells Best Kept Secret, written by Ray Comfort.
The way we present the gospel determines the kind of response the sinner makes. Let me illustrate.
Two men are seated in a plane. A stewardess gives the first man a parachute and instructs him to put it on because it will “improve his flight.”
Not understanding how a parachute could possibly improve his flight, the first passenger is a little skeptical. Finally he decides to see if the claim is true. After strapping on the parachute, he notices its burdensome weight, and he has difficulty sitting upright. Consoling himself with the promise of a better flight, our first passenger decides to give it a little time.
Because he’s the only one wearing a parachute, some of the other passengers begin smirking at him, which only adds to his humiliation. Unable to stand it any longer, our friend slumps in his seat, unstraps the parachute, and throws it to the floor. Disillusionment and bitterness fill his heart because as far as he is concerned, he was told a lie.
Another stewardess gives the second man a parachute, but listen to her instructions. She tells him to put it on because at any moment he will be jumping out of the plane at 25,000 feet.
Our second passenger gratefully straps the parachute on. He doesn’t notice its weight upon his shoulders nor that he can’t sit up upright. His mind is consumed with the thought of what would happen to him if he jumped without it. When other passengers laugh at him, he thinks, “You won’t be laughing when you’re falling to the ground!”
Let’s now analyze the motive and the result of each passenger’s experience.
The first man’s motive for putting on the parachute was solely to improve his flight. As a result, he was humiliated by the passengers, disillusioned by an unkept promise, and embittered against the stewardess who gave it to him. As far as he is concerned, he will never put one of those things on his back again.
The second man put the parachute on to escape the danger of the coming jump. Because he knew what would happen to him without it, he had a deep-rooted joy and peace in his heart. Knowing he was saved from certain death gave him the ability to withstand the mockery of the other passengers. His attitude toward the stewardess who gave him the parachute was one of heartfelt gratitude.
Now listen to what the contemporary gospel says: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ; He will give you love, joy, peace, and fulfillment.” In other words, He will improve your flight. In an experimental fashion, the sinner puts the Savior to see if these claims are so.
What does he get? Temptation, tribulation, and persecution. The other passengers mock his decision. So what does he do? He takes off the Lord Jesus Christ; he is offended for the Word’s sake; he is disillusioned and embittered, and quite rightly so.
He was promised peace, joy, fulfillment, and all he got were trials and humiliation. His bitterness is directed at those who gave him the “good news.” His latter end is worse than the first – another inoculated, bitter backslider!
When the sinner sees the awful consequences of breaking the Law of God – that he cannot escape the certainty of judgment – he will see his need to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we preach future punishment by the Law, the sinner comes to Christ solely to flee from “the wrath to come.”
Instead of preaching that Jesus “improves the flight,” we must warn men about the inevitable jump. Everyone must pass through the door of death.
It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment – Hebrews 9:27.
But doesn’t Christianity offer the abundant life? You bet it does! Peace and joy are legitimate fruits of the Spirit. But we do sinners an injustice by enticing them with only the benefits of salvation. Our misguided efforts only result in sinners coming to Christ with an impure motive void of repentance.
Remember why the second passenger had joy and peace? Because he knew what that parachute was going to save him from. In the same way, the true convert has joy and peace in believing because he knows that the righteousness of Christ will deliver him from the wrath that is to come. “The kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Why is righteousness coupled with peace and joy? Because “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).
Now let’s take a look at an unfortunate incident on board the plane. During some unexpected turbulence, the stewardess accidentally drops a cup of hot coffee onto the lap of our second passenger.
What is his reaction? Does he cry out in pain, then rip the parachute off his back in anger?
No! He didn’t strap it on for any other reason than the jump. In fact, he doesn’t even relate the incident to his parachute. Instead, it only makes him cling more tightly to his hope of salvation and even look forward to the jump!
If we put on Christ to flee the wrath to come, when tribulation strikes we wont get angry at God. Why should we? We didn’t come for a better lifestyle. Trials drive us closer to the Lord, and we cling more tightly to Him. Like the apostle Paul, we only stay around to encourage other passengers to put on the parachute. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Sadly, multitudes of professing Christians lose their joy when the flight gets bumpy. They are the product of “man-centered” preaching.