Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John Harper's Last Convert

In 1912 the Titanic, the largest, most luxurious, and most advanced ship of its time, sank on its maiden voyage, taking the lives of 1,514 passengers. We've all heard of passengers such as “the unsinkable” Molly Brown and the entrepreneur John Jacob Astor. But one of the most astounding stories of the Titanic has received little press. It’s the story of John Harper, a widower who was traveling at the invitation of the great Moody Church in Chicago. Not only was he going to preach there, but he intended to accept the church’s offer to become their next pastor.

Four years later at a Titanic survivors meeting in Ontario, one survivor, a young Scotsman, rose in a meeting and said told of his encounter with Harper, "I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. John Harper, of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck near me. 'Man,' he said, 'are you saved?' 'No,' I said. 'I am not.' He replied, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." "The waves bore him away; but, strange to say brought him back a little later, and he said, 'Are you saved now?' 'No,' I said, 'I cannot honestly say that I am.' He said again, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,' and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper's last convert.”1

The Titanic left England with three classes of passengers aboard. But when accounting for their fate, the White Star Line set up a board listing only two known classes: KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. These categories provided a fitting analogy for what John Harper already knew. There are only two classes of people in the world: those who have chosen to accept Christ as Savior, and those who have rejected Him.

As you make your way through life do you live with the kind of evangelistic urgency that John Harper did? As we think of the closeness of eternity, we need to look at our opportunities and ask ourselves, "What am I doing with what God has given me to fulfill the Great Commission?”

The Great Commission was not the Great Suggestion. In its original language, it is a non-negotiable command. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15)” and again “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

Notice what Jesus didn't say, “If you can work it into your schedule, go and make disciples of all nations,” or “Only those of you who are called to evangelism are to go and make disciples of all nations. The rest of you are excused.” No, this command has been given to all of us, not just evangelists and pastors and missionaries. It has been given to every follower of Jesus, including soccer moms, office workers, students, and construction workers.

The problem is that for many, the Great Commission has become the Great Omission. And if you are not seeking to fulfill the Great Commission, it can be a sin, because there are sins of commission and omission. The sin of commission is doing what you should not do. James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

But the sin of omission is failing to obey God. And that is what happens when we fail to preach the gospel. It is failing to bring the only answer that can change people for time and eternity. Let’s get busy, rescuing the drowning instead of contemplating the risk from the safety of the shore.

1. David Jeremiah, God Loves You: Always Has, Always Will (New York: Faith Words, 2012), 139-141.

No comments:

Post a Comment