Without the pure preaching of the gospel a congregation is not an oasis. It is only a mirage, which has nothing to offer the pilgrim but more heat and sand when what the sojourner needs is relief from the heat and the water of life. This is a basic point and obvious but it bears repeating because throughout the history of the church she has often lost sight of her prime mission. In our age congregations busily make themselves attractive in a dozen different ways but forget the one thing that makes them a true church: the gospel.
When I was boy we made frequent pilgrimages to my grandparent’s farm in Southwestern Kansas. That is where I learned to drive, put up fence, buck bales of hay, and chew tobacco. I do not recommend the latter. On the trip, on a really hot day, a mirage would appear in the distance. The road seemed to melt ahead of us as heat waves rose from the asphalt.
Travelers in the desert long for two things: water and shade, two things offered by an oasis. An oasis is desirable because traveling in the desert, where temperatures can reach 120F can be dangerous. To see an oasis in the distance offers hope. An oasis turn out to be a mirage is a bitter disappointment.
So it is in the Christian life. The Scriptures picture the Christian life as a journey, a pilgrimage and believers as sojourners or pilgrims. In Leviticus 25:23 the Lord called us “sojourners.” In Psalm 39:12 David described himself as a sojourner. Hebrews 11:13 says, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (NASB). In 1 Peter 2:11, the Apostle exhorts believers, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (NASB).