The pharisees were notorious for drawing lines of separation. They thought themselves to be more righteous and holy than others due the level of their own self perceived piety. Not only did they strive to obey God’s law, which is what we as Christians are all called to do, but they went further by making new laws. The pharisees added to God’s law their own opinions of how they thought a righteous person should live. They regularly condemned people for transgressing against their man made laws, which were not God’s laws.
“For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15.
The term regularly used for adding our opinions and preferences to God’s law is called legalism. It is a form of prideful, self-righteousness where people begin to see themselves as the measuring stick of Godliness based on their personal convictions, rather than looking solely to the scriptures.
There are primary issues of doctrine that are non-negociables. These are doctrines that are legitimate lines of separation that must be boldly defended and fought for. These primary issues are doctrines such as the deity of Christ as well as his death, burial, and resurrection. The trinity being three separate and distinct persons (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit) but together as one God. Believing that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way that anyone will ever see salvation, and that He is the one and only God. The acknowledgement that God calls men and women to repent and believe the Gospel. And the fact that believers are called to preach this glorious Gospel to all creation. These are just a few doctrines of the Christian faith that are primary and worthy to be defended to the death.
However, there are other doctrines of our faith that our secondary issues. Meaning that Christians can hold slightly differing views on these issues without drawing lines of separation. Secondary issues are worthy of discussion, but are not points of separation.
Unfortunately, many times believers begin to fall into the same trap as the pharisees when they elevate their view of secondary issues to the level of primary. In doing this, they begin to go against the words of Paul and condemn their brothers and sisters in Christ, calling out transgression where there is no law. In essence, God’s word is not their only measuring stick, but also what is deemed as right in their own eyes.
And when secondary issues of our faith are raised to a primary level inside of a church, internal strife sets in, and the mission of Christ is abandoned in exchange for a kingdom of self righteous pharisees. The true Judge of all creation and his Word are replaced by finite, whistle blowing, self appointed judges who sit on thrones of paper mache. They seek to condemn others by adding their own standards to God’s Word.
I would like to briefly touch on a few of these secondary issues that are regularly made into primary issues. My prayer is that as believers, we can guard against falling into the same trap as the pharisees and instead, keep our eyes focused on Christ, and not ourselves.
The first secondary issue that is often a dividing line between believers is soteriology. This is the doctrine or study of salvation and how it is that God actually saves. Those who study this doctrine are divided into two main camps.
First there are those who believe that God has made salvation possible through Jesus, but it is up to man to actually make that initial step in deciding to following Jesus. This was the belief that 15th century theologian Jacob Arminius taught, and so people with this view of salvation are often referred to as Arminians.
On the other side of the coin, there are those who believe that man is so spiritually dead in his sins, that he can neither seek nor understand the things of God without the Lord’s supernatural intervention, changing the persons heart and giving them Godly desires. People who believe this are referred to as Calvinist, named after the 14th century theologian who adhered to this view of salvation.
Throughout the centuries, battles over this doctrine have caused massive turmoil in the church. Faithful believers have drawn lines of separation in the sand with others in the church, raising this secondary issue to the level of primary.
Granted, I believe that each church should make it clear on the direction of how their leadership believes on this doctrine. Just as with any secondary issue, it is both right and good that we should stand firm on our convictions. But convictions that are not primary should never been a cause for division between brothers and sisters in Christ.
Leonard Ravenhill was one of the most faithful, powerful, and God honoring preachers of the 19th century. Ravenhill was bold in his proclamation and sound in his theology. He was used mightily as a tool of the Lord to lead many to Christ. And his passionate, Christ centered sermons can still be heard today via the internet. Ravenhill was also Arminian in his view of soteriology.
Paul Washer is one of the most powerful, faithful, and passionate preachers of the 21st century. Paul Washer is Calvinistic in his view of soteriology. And when speaking of the faith of Leonard Ravenhill, Paul Washer once said, “Leonard Ravenhill was a man that walked with God, and he was a man of prayer. The impact of Ravenhill’s preaching upon my life remains to this day. I’d take one Leonard Ravenhill over twenty dead Calvinists.”
We can agree to disagree when it comes to the doctrine of soteriology. This is not a doctrine that should ever divide a church nor cause strife between brothers and sisters in Christ. Again, we can and should boldly stand upon our convictions, even engaging in conversations with one another regarding our views. As long as at the end of the day, we remain united in Christ.
Another secondary issue that has arisen in the church centers around Christian education. There are believers in Christ that choose to home school their children, and other believers that choose to send their kids to public school. In this, lines of separation have been drawn at times to where one side demonizes the other side for not educating their children in the same way that they do. Unfortunately, this has many times been done to the point of Christians breaking fellowship with one another.
The scriptures call parents to lead their children in the ways of the Lord. The call for men to lead their families in family worship is undeniable all throughout the Bible. But there is no law given by God that would make sending a child to the public school system, in and of itself a sin.
The crux of the issues falls in the household of both the parents who home school and the parents who send their kids to public school. The real issue falls upon the father mainly. Is he leading his children in family worship? Is he talking about the things of the Lord with them every day? Is he equipping his family and children to walk intimately with their God and to proclaim His Gospel to others?
Yes, there are wonderful advantages to home schooling. Home schooling allows even more time for the parent to be a Godly influence to the child and to protect them from any ungodly ideaologies that may seep in. For parents that are able to do this, it is a worthy and God honoring pursuit.
But the truth of the matter is that not every family is in a situation where they are able to home school their kids. There are many households that need the finances that a two income family provides. We are not given her circumstances, but the Proverbs 31 woman worked selling her wares outside of the home to help support her household. As long as her priority was first God and then her family, working was not a transgression of God’s law.
There are other situations where a spouse may be deceased and the surviving parent has no choice but to public school their children. There could possibly be a situation where a child has severe learning disabilities that require the assistance of a trained professional teacher. Or perhaps the parent has certain health problems that prohibit them from being able to teach their children in the home.
Granted, we must keep in mind that there are grave concerns in much of what our school systems teach, and therefore Christian parents with kids in public school must be watchful. This is all the more reason why family worship and intentional discipleship of our children is so very important.
There are Christian families that I personally know of who home school their children, and they are being led and used of God to transform lives and make disciples for the Kingdom of God by doing so. And I praise the Lord for this. Also, there are Christian families that public school their children of whom I know of that regularly tell of their children speaking up for Christ in the school system and leading their classmates to know and love the Lord Jesus. In these cases, both are bringing glory to Christ and being used of the Lord for His purposes.
Christian Education is a matter of personal conscience and Christian Liberty. The Lord never once specifies a physical location as to where children are to be educated. But rather, the emphasis in scripture in on intentional, daily discipleship of the children by the parent. So that when they enter into the world they will be as those Psalm 127 arrows that are shot out of our homes and into the culture as beacons of light for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Home schooling is a wonderful endeavor if a parent is able and capable of doing so. But if a child is raised up and consistently discipled in the Lord, even the child in public school can be used in a mighty way to bring great glory to Christ. Weather a child is five or eighteen, they are eventually going to go out into the world. The question in both cases is, are they continually being discipled in the truth in the household. As with soteriology, this is a secondary issue and is not something that believers in Christ should cast judgement or draw lines of separation over. Both Christian public school and home school families should be united in their commonality found in Christ.
The last secondary issue that I will mention is escatology, or the study of end times. Like the previous two, the study of last things has commonly drawn lines of separation between believers. And I believe that it grieves the Holy Spirit when this happens.
It is no secret that the book of Revelation is mysterious. The great theologian John Calvin was an expository preaching, meaning that he preached verse by verse through books of the Bible. But Calvin said that the one book of the Bible that he would refuse to preach verse by verse through was Revelation, because he could not speak with certainty on the parts that were not clear. He did not want to misrepresent the Word of God.
This is not to say that we as believers should not study Revelation. Every word of God is given to us for teaching and reproof. The study of Escatology can actually be quite exciting. However, we should never make our views of the end times into a primary issue that causes us strife with other believers who may see things differently, nor should the study of end times be a line of separation.
R.C Sproul once said that this is a doctrine that should never divide a church, because there is some merit to be found in all of the orthodox views of the study of last things. As with any other secondary issue, it is good that as believers we have discussions to sharpen one another in our quest to know truth. But if our passion for a secondary issue should ever cause us to draw swords with our brothers and sister, we should cry out to the Lord and repent immediately.
In the book of Acts, chapter two describes the original church post resurrection. And it was said of the church that they had “all things in common.” When it comes to fallen human beings, we know that no one has all things in common. What did this mean? The early church had all things in common, because their commonality in Christ made all secondary issues pale in comparison to their unity found in Him.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul writes about recent converts to the faith who had come out of a pagan background. And because of their background, they were extremely convicted to not eat any meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Their consciences made them feel that if they did so, they were sinning against the Lord.
However, the law of the Lord did not forbid a Christian from eating meat sacrificed to idols. And Paul stated that no matter if a believer felt it wrong to eat meat, and another believer felt freedom to do so, neither should break fellowship or judge the other. Because again, where God has given no law there is no transgression.
Let us as believers in the 21st century defend and guard the primary issues of our faith, but also to see that as long as we are unified around the main tenants of our faith, we have no right to judge or separate from one another.
The dust has not yet begun to settle in the aftermath of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim California and already, questions as to the future of the convention are emerging. Although the popular slogan ‘Better Together’ was touted numerous times last week from the convention stage, the reality is that there is currently a divide in the SBC. On one side are churches that believe that the convention is stronger than ever, and on the other side are those who have concerns over a liberal drift.
As Christians, we are to be people with a high regard for truth. As called out ones, we are to be in the world without conforming to the ways of the world. There is an objective standard, that being the word of God. The secular world swims in a sea of postmodern ideologies that demonize anyone who dares to proclaim absolute truth. However, it is evident that the SBC slowly losing it’s grasp on truth in exchange for an idealized version of unity. The war cry of this year’s convention in California seemed to be, ‘Unity at all Costs.’ But true unity always has a price.
The SBC’s unifying catchphrase “Better Together” certainly sounds appealing on the surface, but what is the SBC unified around? There was much talk in California about the many missionaries that have been sent by the SBC, and churches that have been planted by leaders in the convention. These are no doubt praise worthy accomplishments for sure. But I would ask, “Are good works the glue of unity that hold the SBC together, or is our unifying factor an unwavering stance upon the truth of God’s Word?” My point is, if we are not first and foremost guardians of the truth of God’s Word, then all the good works in the world are meaningless. The SBC may as well change it’s name to the Boys Scouts of America if we are not primarily concerned with obedience to Christ and bringing glory to God. This brings me to my concerns.
In the wake of the sexual abuse scandal in the SBC, the convention excitedly shared that great strides have been made to protect women and children in the creation of a sexual abuse task force. Guidepost Solutions was contracted by the SBC Task Force to conduct the Investigation into sex abuse and allegations of a large SBC /Executive Committee cover up.
Guidepost Solutions is the firm that was hired to conduct the investigation into the SBC Executive Committee’s dealings with sexual abuse cases from Jan. 1, 2000, through June 14, 2021. The SBC has paid upwards of 2 million dollars to Guidepost Solutions in this partnership. Although the investigation has been completed, the partnership continues with Guidepost through a hotline that has been created for survivors of sexual abuse and for reporting new cases. In fact, if you go to the SBC website you will find a link that when you click on it takes you to a ‘Guidepost Solutions’ email address.
Again, this all sounds wonderful on the surface. You may be asking, ‘What is the problem with the SBC’s partnership with Guidepost Solutions?” The problem is that over 2 million Southern Baptist dollars have been given to Guidepost Solutions, an organization that does not hold a biblical worldview. Especially when it comes to human sexuality.
A Twitter post from Guidepost Solutions reads dated June 6, 2022 reads, “Guidepost is committed to strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion and strives to be an organization where our team can bring their authentic selves to work.We celebrate our collective progress toward equality for all and are proud to be an ally to our LGBTQ+ community.“
The SBC has hired a secular organization, that does not hold to Christian standards of sexuality, to be the arbitrator of cases of sexual abuse that occur in Southern baptist churches. Furthermore, our SBC dollars (over 2 million, at least) are being given to an organization that affirms that which God calls sin. Why not hire a Christian organization to conduct this investigation?
Marshall Blalock, a pastor from South Carolina and the vice-chair of the abuse task force, defended the SBC’s partnership with Guidepost Solutions in one of his recent social media posts. He said that the SBC would have preferred to hire a Christian company but there were no Christian companies had the capacity to do the job. But wouldn’t it have been possibly better to create a committee comprised of pastors in conjunction with local law enforcement to investigate these cases of sexual abuse in the SBC?
Blalock tweeted, “Guidepost did a professional investigation, they operated with integrity, they respected our faith and values, they even ate a significant amount of the cost because they wanted to help us discover the truth and assist us to be more Christlike in how we respond to sexual abuse,”
So not only has the SBC has hired a secular, LGBTQ affirming organization to not only investigate cases of sexual abuse in the church, but also they are looking to Guidepost Solutions to help churches in our convention to be more Christlike?
Dr. Tom Ascol, a conservative pastor who lost this years election of SBC president to Bart Barber, tweeted this post expressing his outrage over the SBC/ Guidepost Solutions partnership; “This is who we gave our tithe dollars to? I & 47,000 other SBC pastors, plus millions of faithful members feel betrayed. We paid millions to a LGBT-affirming & proud organization to guide us on moral & spiritual matters!? Is there no fear of God?”
Many SBC pastors returned to their congregations praising the SBC for their pro-active response in creating this sexual abuse task force. But are these same pastors telling their flock that a portion of their tithes are being filtered to an organization that affirms homosexuality? We have a book (the Bible). And this book gives us an objective standard of truth. James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world brings enmity with God. It appears that for many in the SBC, unity for the sake of good works has taken the precedence over the Authority of Scripture.
Unfortunately, this was not the only sign of compromise that was on display at the SBC in Anaheim. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church was given the floor to read what he titled as his love letter to the SBC. Keep in mind, Warren has been under fire for ordaining two female pastors this past year, and in the process of retiring and instilling in his place a husband and wife who will serve as co-pastors. This is a clear violation of not only scripture (1 Timothy 2:12-14), but the SBC’s very own Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Regardless, Warren was given ample time to read his letter before all the messengers without interruption.
However, Warren’s letter was far from a love letter to the SBC. It was an unabashed, chest pounding boasting session wherein he touted all of his accomplishments of training pastors and planting SBC churches throughout his ministry. Warren dismissed the allegations of ordaining female pastors as being as “secondary issue.” Rick Warren sought to bring to light the question regarding what is meant by the word ‘pastor.’ But isn’t this the very same question that our culture is asking pertaining to gender? Our convention has ceased to proclaim, ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in exchange for sheepishly asking, ‘Did God really mean what He said?” At the completion of his address, Warren received a standing ovation from a great majority of the SBC messengers and from those who were on stage.
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:32.
Men like Rick Warren who boast of their departure from scripture were given an open microphone on the convention floor. However, numerous times there were instances of messengers standing to address the Executive Committee only to be cut off mid sentence. For example, at least three times, different messengers brought up a concern over plagiarism in the SBC, a sin in which the acting president at the time, Ed Litton, was allegedly found guilty of. Each time this concern was voiced, Litton and the EC cut the messengers microphone. Also, Dr. Tom Buck, a conservative pastor from Texas, voiced his concerns in regards to the SBC’s sexual abuse task force in the wake of his wife being slandered upon Buck’s reporting of a case of sexual misconduct in 2021. Instead of addressing this very valid concern, Buck had his microphone silenced as well.
One messenger who was silenced before his resolution could even reach the floor was a pastor named Allen Nelson. The resolution that he submitted to the EC was entitled, ‘The Sacredness of the SBC Pulpit.’ In short, his resolution proposed that the convention hold the pulpit in high regard and be very careful who we put behind it to herald the word of God. Nelson went on to voice concerns over pastors in the convention who are preaching worldly ideologies like CRT, and pastors that affirm the LGBTQ agenda. Nelson resolved that the SBC should guard the pulpit, making sure the doctrine that comes out of it is grounded in a Scripture and a Biblical worldview. This resolution was not even allowed to be read before the messengers nor was it allowed to be brought to a vote.
Pastors like myself have been accused of being arrogant and opponents of unity. But I believe it is even more arrogant to gravitate towards what seems right in our eyes rather than taking a firm stance upon scripture. The SBC performed it’s own magic trick using slight of hand. It was as if they were saying, “Look at all the good we have done” while simultaneously saying, “But don’t look at our departure from God’s word.”
The convention attempted to distract the messengers in California from focusing upon concerns by branding the phrase ‘Better Together.’ The convention says that we are better unified than divided. But I ask again, unified around what? How much compromise is justifiable? Unity that is not grounded in conviction is pragmatism. We are not ‘Better Together’ without submission to the authority of Christ and His Word. Unity without Christ is depraved and hopelessly lost. If the SBC continues to seek unity at the cost of Biblical conviction, then it will cease to exist as a beacon of light for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the next few years.
If you were to ask ten different people this question, you are likely to get ten very different answers. The catholic will say that Jesus is the Son of God, but He cannot fully save without our contribution of works. The Hindu will say that Jesus is an incarnation of God, but not God Himself. The Mormon will say that Jesus is one of the many elite spirit beings that were created by God the Father. And the Christian scientist will say that Jesus was a very wise man who was in sync with God.
Even within mainstream evangelicalism, the question of “Who is Jesus” will prompt many differing answers. The faithful Baptist who holds to more of a traditional understanding of Christ than a Biblical one will describe Jesus as a Savior who is on bended knee just pleading with sinners to take Him up on His offer of salvation. Basically, believing that Christ’s ability to save a person is only made possible if the person first gives Him their permission. The prosperity preacher on television will say that Jesus came to earth so that we could have our ‘Best life now,’ and if we would only give more of our money and time to His causes, we would be blessed with health, wealth, and a glamorous life. There are even a great many of professing believers who claim that Jesus is a God of love, all the while negating that He has any wrath whatsoever.
Former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz would preach a Jesus that was soft on judging sin and willing to give grace without the shackles of repentance. Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church once stated on public television that there were many ways to God outside of faith alone in Christ. And the new age spiritualist Deepak Chopra teaches that Jesus is a state of mind that we can all aspire towards. There is even now a woke version of Jesus whose teachings are more in sync with Marxism than Christianity.
Still many will gravitate towards more of a postmodern view of Jesus, stating that it is perfectly acceptable to leave the teachings of Jesus up to each person’s individual interpretation, and that all versions of Jesus are relative. Essentially this is to believe that all of the above mentioned versions of Jesus are within orthodoxy, and therefore worthy of being placed under the umbrella of Christianity. But Biblically, individual interpretation has nothing to do with determining what is true.
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Peter 1:19-21.
Human interpretation or what we personally believe about Jesus can be miles away from the truth of Christ as revealed in scripture. If you begin to dial your friends cell phone number and get all of the digits correct except for the last one, it doesn’t matter that you were close to having it right. That one wrong digit will put you in contact with someone other than your friend. In the same way, if we distort or any portion of the doctrine that Jesus taught or His divinity, then it becomes a different Jesus than the one in scripture.
My wife Lacy is a beautiful brunette with sparkling blue eyes and stands around 5 feet four inches in height. If someone were to tell me that they met my wife and went on to describe her almost perfectly, but finished by saying that she was six feet tall with brown eyes, they would be completely wrong. They may have been describing a person named Lacy, but it wasn’t my Lacy. Merely calling up the name of Jesus means absolutely nothing if it is not the Jesus of scripture.
So, with all of these different versions and interpretations of the Son of God floating around our world today, who actually is Jesus Christ? This coming Sunday morning at Foothills Community Church, we will begin walking verse by verse through the book of Luke as we look to give answer to this largely debated question. This journey will take years to complete, but it is one of the most crucial and greatly needed studies in the world today.
In the book of Luke, we find a Jesus that is far different from many of the Christ’s that we hear preached in our modern day culture. The Jesus presented to us in Luke is not the Jesus of Catholicism that claims good works are a way to earn salvation. In Luke 23, we read the account of the thief that hung next to Jesus on the cross. He had no good deeds to speak of. Yet he was repentant in his acknowledgement of Christ as Lord. And with no works to the thief’s credit, Jesus said to him, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43.
Jesus is not the Christ of the Mormon that teaches Jesus was once a created spirit being. Luke 20:28 says, “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Jesus is not the Christ of the traditional Christian that says that mankind holds the keys to freedom from his unbelief and in order to be saved, must first hand over those keys to Jesus. The scriptures tell us that it is Jesus that holds the keys to salvation, not man. John 8:34-36 “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Luke records that the very reason that humanity needed Christ is because man could not make any move towards God without Jesus supernaturally changing their heart first. Jesus came to set the captives free, and they could not first free themselves. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” Luke 4:18.
Jesus is not the Christ of the postmodern idealist, who believes that absolute truth does not exist and proposes many ways to God. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Jesus never said, “Follow which ever path you like, because all roads lead to me. Rather He said we must follow Him. “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23.
The Gospel writers, of which Luke is one, did not leave the identity of Jesus up for interpretation. Luke was crystal clear in regards to the deity of Christ, the sovereignty of Christ, the message of Christ, and the mission of Christ. Luke leaves no room for ambiguity in regards to Jesus.
The book of Luke not only highlights the person and work of Christ, but also the teachings and doctrine of Christ. Some professing believers have made statements like, “We don’t need all of this doctrine talk, just give me Jesus. However, Jesus was a teacher of doctrine. It is impossible to know Jesus without knowing the doctrine of His teachings. Within the Gospel account of Luke, we read of the doctrine of sanctification, the doctrine of justification, the doctrine of reprobation, the doctrine of the church, the doctrine of election, the doctrine of propitiation, the doctrine of worship, the doctrine of angels, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of glorification. And this list of the doctrines of Christ that we see covered in Luke is only skimming the surface.
In order to answer the question of ‘Who is Jesus,’ even the most faithful church going person must be willing to set aside all of their traditional beliefs and preconceived notions and humbly submit to the Christ of scripture. When the Jesus of scripture seems to make us uncomfortable, we must be very careful not to disregard Him based on our preferences of interpretation and run off to make a golden calf that looks similar to the biblical Christ, only slightly remolded to fit into our comfort zones. As the Apostle Paul would say, in Galatians 1, a slightly altered Jesus is equals no Gospel at all.
Who is Jesus? The book of Luke tells us that He is truth. And absolute truth is not up for interpretation, nor are there many different versions of it. Truth is clear. Truth is black and white. Truth does not care about our feelings or preferences. Truth has one meaning. And truth is the only way to know anything or anyone with certainty. The Gospel of Luke is a book about the truth of who Jesus is. And He is much bigger and more glorious than you may have ever imagined.
If you are near Marble Hill Georgia, we invite you to join us on our journey through Luke’s Gospel each Sunday at 10:30 AM at Foothills Community Church. www.foothillscommunitychurch.org
If we are not careful to let the scriptures shape our thinking, we will say things about God and His church that are anti Biblical. This is especially true when we believers endure trials in their lives. The book of James reminds God’s people that we should be quick to hear the Word of God, and slow to speak our own speculations and opinions (James 1:19). Because when we do not begin with hearing the Word of God, it leads to speaking or acting rashly. And rash thinking leads to false speculations, which culminate in fear and anger.
The friends of Job Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are an example of people who interpret the circumstances in front of their eyes through secular thinking. Their friend Job had experienced a horrible tragedy in losing his family, his crops, and his health all in one day. Looking at the circumstances, they presumed upon the mind of God. They spoke for God in tell Job that the Lord was punishing job. And they spoke harshly of the Lord’s servant job in condemning him for sins that they only speculated about.
But as we see in reading Job, the Lord was not punishing Job. God was molding Job. He was teaching job to trust Him more deeply, and to know Him more intimately. God knew that the way to accomplish these two thing was to allow extreme affliction in Job’s life. God used the trial not to punish Job, but to grow him in his faith.
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;” Job 42:5.
Just like the friends of Job, we can just as easily wrongly interpret our circumstances. Just like the friends of Job, we can presume upon the intentions of God, and begin to speak harshly of the servants of God and His church when we forget the wisdom of God and become wise in our own eyes.
In the midst of this trial of pandemic that we are currently facing, many believers in Christ are falling into the mold of the friends of Job. First, they are presuming upon the mind and intentions of God. Recently there has been much talk about conspiracy theories, end time prophesy, and speculation about what God is doing. Some say this is saying that our pandemic is a fulfillment of the book of Revelation. Some are proposing that God is judging the world for it’s sins.
Is this pandemic the beginning of the end? Is God judging His people? Maybe. Then again, maybe it is being used by the Lord to draw people to Himself. Maybe God is using this pandemic to bring His people to their knees and reset their priorities. Maybe the Lord is working as He did in the life of Job to bring about great revival.
In the 16th century, Christians like Martin Luther speculated that the pope of the Roman Catholic Church was the antichrist of Revelation. During World War II, many believers espoused that Adolph Hitler was the antichrist and that the one world government mentioned in the book of Revelation. Even the disciples of Christ thought that their generation would be witnesses to the second coming of Christ. Speculations and theories are not new to God’s people. The friends of Job would attest to this.
The truth is, no one knows what the Lord is doing except the Lord. Our current trials may indeed be a setting of the stage for His glorious return. Then again, the Lord may tarry for a dozen more lifetimes. But the church of God is not commissioned by the Lord to preach speculations and conspiracy theories to the lost world. We are commissioned to preach Christ and all that He has commanded. As believers, our message does not change when uncertain times come our way. We have one message and one commission. We are not called to preach our ideas and theories about what God is doing. We are to preach the Gospel.
“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5.
The lost will not be saved by our self imposed opinions and speculations about what God is doing in the world. They will only be saved if we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not only can God’s people fall into the trap of presuming upon God’s intentions in times of peril, but we can also fall into the trap of wrongly accusing God’s servant. Just as Job’s friends turned a critical eye towards and drew false conclusions about him, in the same way we must guard our hearts in our day against this folly.
As it pertains to our current Covid-19 situation, there are some who stating that the church should have no fear and that believers should continue meeting despite the threat of mass infection. They are some believers who are mistaking the church’s caution for cowardice. Once again, desperately need the scriptures to correct our mistaken views and accusations.
In the book of Acts, Jesus said to His disciples before ascending into Heaven that they were to go and be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem was the home of the disciples, and they had not ventured very far outside of their comfort zones. So how did Jesus accomplish prodding His church to spread out from Jerusalem and take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? The answer is, He sent persecution upon the church.
As a result of persecution, the church scattered in the dispersion throughout the ancient world. And as they scattered, they proclaimed Christ to the world. Imagine for a moment that when the persecution began, the first century believers had said, “Let us not be cowards, we will stand our ground in the face of death and continue to meet in public.” They would have not gone to the ends of the earth, and the believers would have been exterminated in their home town of Jerusalem. But that was not the plan of God. He intended them to be cautious. And their caution led to the fulfillment of His Great Commission.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17.
Not long after the Apostle Paul was converted, he was being hunted by the Jewish leaders who sought to kill him for preaching Christ. Paul did not spit in the face of danger and continue to enter into dangerous places. Rather, the disciples aided Paul in fleeing away from the danger, hiding him in a basket and sneaking Paul out of the city. Paul’s caution is not to be mistaken for cowardice. He was being wise in realizing the threat. If Paul had defied his dangerous circumstances, he would have been captured and killed. But God used his caution to fulfill Christ’s mission.
“When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.” Acts 9:23-25.
The book of Proverbs is all about Godly wisdom. And the writer give the church solid direction in saying that we should not be a people that through caution to the wind, but rather we should remember that it is quite possible that the Lord is redirecting the steps of His church in the trial. In His providence, the Lord guides His people at times through the guardrails of trial. We would be wise not to hope those guardrails.
“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3.
In the midst of our current pandemic, believers are called to rest and remember. We are to rest in the knowledge of who God is. He is good, just, and Holy. And He does all things for the good of those that are called by His name. And we are to remember that we are not called to presume upon the mind of God. Believers are not to live in speculation and preach hearsay to the world. Our message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And also to remember that God has often altered the lives of His people to redirect their steps. The bride of Christ is to be cautious and wise, carrying the message of Jesus with us wherever He may lead. Don’t trust in what you see in your circumstance. Trust in what you know about God.
A few days ago as I scrolled through the television channels, I came across a very well known televangelist. Of course, he was using his platform to speak about the Covid-19 pandemic. In his sermon, he was blurring together the virus and Satan. This televangelist was rebuking the virus, casting it away in the name of Jesus. At one point, the preacher exclaimed, “And we know that God will crush your head Covid-19, just like he did to you in the garden of Eden.” The immediate thought that went through my head was literally, “Wait…what?”
I’d had my fill of daily heresy for the morning, so I turned off the television and decided to see what was happening in the world of social media. As I scrolled through the land of Facebook, I was shocked to see that many people held the same theology as the train wreck of a message that I had just witnessed from the televangelist. Numerous people were posting messages that said things like, “I am binding the devil and Covid-19 from my home!” Another posting stated, “Praying God’s power against this satanic plague.”
I concluded that one of three things was happening. One; I had just entered the Twilight Zone. Two; That televangelist must have a massive following. Or three; There are many people who are not reading their Bibles.
As we see through the pages of scripture, it is not Satan who commands pestilence and plagues. It is the Lord who sends them. That televangelist who prayed for God to “Crush the head” of this pandemic was actually ascribing more power to Satan than he actually has.
“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7.
When we read the book of Exodus wherein God sends the ten plagues against Pharaoh, we give a hardy thumbs up to the fact that God sends plagues to judge evil men. But when trials like a plague come upon us in modern times, by default we all view ourselves to be “good people.” Therefore, in our default thinking, we consider this current plague must be from Satan, because God would never send something like Covid-19 upon His people! Much less would He use a pandemic for good!
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. …” James 1:2-8.
You see, God sends things like a pandemic not always as a means to judge His people, but to strengthen their dependence on Him.
A sharp blade can be used for good or it can be used for evil. If a thief mugged you in a dark alley and held up a knife to your face, his intent would be to harm you and to take from you. Sadly, many believers view the Coronavirus as a knife in the hands of the devil that is being used to greatly harm and take from God’s people.
But a blade can also be used for good and to save lives. Consider someone who has a cancerous tumor. Their doctor tells them that in order to remove the cancer, he must utilize the painful and very traumatic procedure of using a scalpel to cut out the tumor. Although the scalpel will most definitely do external damage to the patient’s body as it cuts through their flesh, it is a necessary tool of the surgeon used for the good of his patient in removing the internal tumor.
We must remember as God’s people that Covid-19 is the necessary scalpel of the Lord, our great physician, that is being used for the good of His people in removing their growing dependence on the cancer of the world and strengthening their faith in Christ. It would be crazy to call an earthly doctor’s scalpel evil, because we know that it is a tool used for good.
The Coronavirus is the spiritual blade that is being used as a doctor would wield his scalpel to remove a cancer from his people, not as a violent thief looking to take and harm.
We need to remember the character of our God in times like these. We know that God is good. God is just. And all that the Lord does is for the good of His people and the glory of His Son. Therefore when we enter into painful times, we don’t interpret our circumstances by beginning with ourselves. We begin by remembering the character of God.
If we truly believe that He is our Great Physician that does all things for our good, then we can look at things like Covid-19 not as a violent knife that intends to hurt God’s people, but as a loving scalpel that is intended to strengthen God’s people.
We do not know why God has sent Covid-19. However, it is not the place of God’s people to speculate and theorize as to the purposes of the Lord. We are called to rest in knowing who God is. We are to rest in His Holy attributes as our comfort. We are to remember that God does all things for good. And we are to let things like a pandemic press the church into personal repentance and joyful proclamation.
In closing, consider Job. God allows Satan to inflict misery upon Job throughout the whole book. The death of Job’s family, the plague upon his body, and the loss of his fortune were all part of the spiritual surgery that God was performing on Job internally. All of his afflictions were not meant to harm Job, but to bring him into a deeper knowledge of his Creator. How do I know this? Let’s read one of the concluding statements of Job as he looks back at the tragedies of his life.
“I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” Job 42:5.
Job had heard about the Lord, but he says that it took the pain of losing his loved ones, it took a plague being sent upon his body, and it took a great economic loss for Job to truly see the Lord as sovereign, providential, and loving.
I had HEARD of you Lord. But now I SEE You.
It took the Lord using a spiritual scalpel externally upon the life of Job to remove the proverbial internal tumors that had hindered the strength of his faith. As a result, Job grew to know the Lord in a much deeper way than previously when everything was going great in his life.
My question to us today is, “Do we really think the purposes of God change for the people of God in our 21st century context?” The greatest comfort that we have is that God is immutable. He is unchanging. And when we seek to understand the hand of God in our world today, we need not listen to the televangelist on the television, but read and recall the ways of God through His Word. God uses all things, good and bad, for the good of those who love Him and the glory of His Son (Romans 8:28).
Is Covid-19 a violent knife or a loving scalpel? Viewing the world through a Biblical perspective changes everything.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15.
This morning, as we leave yesterday’s celebration of the resurrection, many Christians can be left with a sense of sadness. We greatly look forward to Easter each year, and when it has passed, believers can begin to internally ask, “Now what?” These feelings are heightened now more than ever, with so much uncertainty and fear over what tomorrow holds given our current state of pandemic. As we look in our rear view at yesterday’s celebration of Easter, and stare ahead at an unknown future, questions arise in our minds.
Jesus’ disciples were very familiar with our feelings. After the very first Easter when Christ had finally ascended to the right hand of His Father, the disciples felt much of what you may be feeling today. As they gazed in celebration at their Lord and Savior rising to His throne, they began to mentally look forward to an unknown future.
There was no doubt that persecution was coming to the church. And things were going to change. No more would they be able to publicly gather together as they once had done when Jesus was physically with them. They would now have to begin meeting in private. Due to this coming persecution, the followers of Christ were now living in a different world. Does this sound familiar to our circumstances?
As the disciples contemplated what their ‘new normal’ might be, they continued to look up into the sky that Jesus had just disappeared into. They were scared. They were uncertain. They were most likely asking, “Now what?” Then the Lord sent two messengers to set them back on course.
“And when he (Jesus) had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11.
These messengers reminded the confused disciples that they had been given a mission. They were not to just stand parayzed, gazing back at the joy of Easter. And they had been taught by Jesus to not let worry over the future lull them into complacency (Matthew 6:25-27). Basically, these two messengers told the disciples to stop staring at their circumstance. In light of Jesus’ victory over death, it was now time for the church to begin making disciples.
As we sit today remembering the joy of yesterday’s Easter morning, and we simultaneously contemplate an uncertain future, the message to us is the same. Stop staring at your circumstances and remember what Christ has commanded you to do. We have been given a Gospel to proclaim to the world. We remember and rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, but we carry that joy with us as we move. Just as the disciples faced an uncertain future through persecution, our uncertainty is rooted in a global pandemic. But we know through the scriptures that believers are not to let fear sway us from what we have been called to do.
As the messengers told the disciples, Jesus will come again in the same way He ascended over 2000 year ago. We are to let this reality embolden us as the church, regardless of what our new normal may look like. Due to Covid-19, the church cannot physically gather together as a body like we once did. But neither could the disciples after the stoning of Stephen. However, as God’s people, we don’t cave in fear to circumstances, we adapt to our mission in joy.
The reality of the resurrection motivated God’s people into action, regardless of their circumstances. We celebrate the resurrection of Christ not just on Easter morning, but always. It is our motivation in the Great Commission that we’ve have been given (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8).
Remember this week that you have been called to HIS mission of making disciples. Pick up the phone and call friends and family who may not know the Lord. Use social media to share Gospel centered videos and messages with your contacts. Begin writing that internet blog in attempts to share Christ. Start now reaching out to people in your sphere of relationships to invite them to join our LIVE streams and eventually, a local church body.
God used persecution to embolden His church after the resurrection, and the result was that they literally turned the world upside down with their passion for spreading the Gospel. I believe God is using our current pandemic in the same way. The church of Jesus Christ has historically always thrived under persecution. Don’t let our modern day “New Normal” draw you away from what Christ has called us to do. We are the church. Let’s turn the world upside down with the Gospel.
“And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,” Acts 17:6.
Love cannot exist without wrath. I love children. Therefore if I truly love children, I must by default hate the evils of abortion. I love my family, and if anything or anyone tried to hurt them, they would see my wrath. If you truly love something, you must be wrathful against that which opposes it. God is love. But His love is seen through His wrath. He is righteous. And His rightness is seen through His justice enacted against the. unrighteous.
Tomorrow morning, Christians all around the world will celebrate Easter. And most everyone who professes faith or even a simplistic belief in Jesus knows that this is the day that Christ rose victoriously from the dead. The love of God, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, was magnificently displayed in the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Savior. The church most definitely has the greatest of reasons to rejoice on this day.
However, if we are not careful, we can get caught up in the emotionalism and celebration of Easter so much so that we totally ignore the Biblical implications of why the sacrifice of Christ was such a loving act of God, thus stripping the resurrection of it’s meaning. During Easter, more times than not mankind elevates the love of God while simultaneously disregarding the wrath of God because by nature, humanity desires self pride over God’s glory.
Just read the popular cliché sayings that are prevalent when Easter comes around. I once heard someone say this of the meaning of Easter; “The cross proves that humanity is the apple of God’s eye.” A very popular social media meme states, “God could not bear the thought of eternity without us, so He chose the nails.”
Although these statements may give us warm and fuzzy feelings, they are theologically inaccurate and they rob Christ of His glory. For starters, the proverbial apple of God the Father’s eye is Christ the Son. And God did not save humanity because He was lonely without us in eternity. This is blasphemy in insinuating that God was somehow lacking within the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, and He needed us to make Him complete. Statements like these elevate the worth of man’s value above the worth of Christ’s glory.
We can easily fall into making ourselves the reason for the celebration of Easter by elevating the love of God over the justice and wrath of God. The good news of Easter is that Jesus had taken the punishment for sin on the cross so that God’s disposition towards those who believe in him would be not condemnation but everlasting life. The brutally honest truth of the resurrection is that God the Father poured out his wrath that was meant for sinners like us upon His one and only Son.
Some have argued that God is not wrathful towards sinful humanity. And some have even taken offensive at the thought of God executing justice upon Jesus instead of us. When the justice and wrath of God are spoken of during Easter, many refute the thought of seeing God in this way and say, “That is not my God.” It may not be their God, but it is the God of scripture.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:10.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18.
My question to this opposition is, “If God did not send His Son to endure the wrath that you deserved due to our sins, then who has paid the penalty for your trespasses?” If a price for our sins was not required by God, then why did Christ have to die? You see if Jesus had not incurred the wrath of God at Calvary, then you and I are still under His wrath and awaiting our eternal execution. You cannot separate the love of God from the wrath of God. Once you do this, the other ceases to exist. His love is seen through His wrath against sin.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.
Why did God send His Son to die in our place? Was it for the glory of man? Was the sacrifice of Christ necessary because God desperately needed us to make Him complete? Or was the cross ordained in eternity past primary for the Glory of His Son?
“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and rthe Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56.
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. iAfter making purification for sins, jhe sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Colossians 3:1.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.
In the death of Christ, God saved us by Himself, from His wrath, and for His glory. There would be no reason to celebrate Easter without an understanding of why Christ had to die under God’s wrath. And there would be no reason for the death of Jesus if God were not one to execute justice against evil. The love of God is see through the wrath of God.
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Romans 1:18.
God the Father sacrificed His one and only Son so that He would receive the utmost glory. The enemy loves an Easter that ignores the wrath and justice of God. As theologian Jared Wilson wrote, “The devil doesn’t mind a shiny trinket around your neck so long as it’s not a shining treasure in your heart.”
Satan is afraid of the truth of the resurrection. He is afraid of true repentance and sorrow over sins coming upon Christians during Easter. He would much rather we celebrate and place the focus on us, not Christ. Satan knows that when we gaze upon the wrath of God that was meant for us, it pierces the heart of man and reveals that the blood of Christ washed sinners clean. Satan knows that the justice of the Lord, when it is rightly understood, creates true worship of Jesus among God’s people. And he knows that the blood of Christ satisfied the wrath of God against sinners, thereby making us free from condemnation.
This is the Gospel. That the wrath of God was directed at you and I for our transgressions. The justice of God had to be carried out. And the Son of God took our cross under that wrath, dying in our place and for our sins. Don’t let the devil distort the meaning of Easter by ignoring the wrath and justice of God. God’s wrath and justice only serve to magnify His great love.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
Throughout history, it was always the darkest periods that served as birth pains to the greatest times of revival. In the mid 1700’s, there was a growing indifference to the things of the Lord. Secular rationalism was being emphasized, and passion for religion had grown stale. Praise God for men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and many others who didn’t see the surrounding circumstances as defeat, but rather an opportunity to preach the Gospel. This resulted in what we now recall as the Great Awakening, wherein many were drawn to Christ.
The Catholic church had cast a luminous shadow across Europe in the 16th century due to it’s false teachings and legalistic rules. But God used men like Martin Luther and others, who saw opportunity in the midst of the trial. Their persistence to preach the Gospel led to the historic Protestant Reformation, which brought about a return to Biblical Christianity. The reformers coined the Latin phrase, “Post tenebras lux” which means “Light after Darkness”.
After the resurrection, before Christ ascended into Heaven, He addressed His disciples with some parting instructions.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
Consider the mission that Christ had given his followers. Not only were they to carry the Gospel throughout their hometown of Jerusalem, but they had now been commissioned to take this message throughout the entire world. However, the disciples were fallible men, just like us. And the biggest hinderance to radical obedience in Gospel proclamation is complacency. As Christians, it is very easy for us to grow comfortable in the world, praising Jesus with our mouths, but neglecting to proclaim Him to our neighbor.
So how did Jesus accomplish His mission of getting these complacent men to wake from their comfortable slumber and actually start to evangelize to the ends of the earth? The answer; Jesus removed their comfort and allowed His people to be brutally persecuted beginning with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. And as a result of this dark period, believers dispersed from their home of Jerusalem and scattered throughout the world, taking with them the message of the Gospel.
In our current dark period of uncertainty, could God be using pandemic as a means to rouse His church from a comfortable slumber and move believers towards mission? A believe that a close look at church history as well as the scriptures themselves give us a clear answer. Absolutely.
When some believers in Luke 13 were asking Jesus the meaning of certain tragedies that were happening near their hometown, Jesus pointed them away from dwelling on the circumstances and to considering their own spiritual state before God.
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5
This way of viewing clarity in our world always leads to repentance in the heart of any true believer. And true repentance results in a joyful heart of gratitude that overflows in Gospel proclamation.
Has this recent Coronavirus pandemic caused you to accuse and question God? Or has it caused you to repent and proclaim? Although we are practicing social distancing, we are blessed to live in a day and age where technology has made Gospel proclamation more accessible than ever before.
As your unbelieving neighbors and family members call you in fear of what the future holds, let them hear a firm calm and confidence in your voice. Let them sense a peace in your countenance in the midst of crisis. And when they inquire as to the different spirit their see in you, point them toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, for the Christian, Pandemic should result in proclamation. The world is looking for answers. Use this God given opportunity as an open door to given them hope in our Lord. Worldly catastrophes are glorious Gospel opportunities for those who have ears to hear. Take heart in this. Repent. Rejoice. And proclaim the peace of Christ to our culture that desperately needs hope.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” Philippians 1:27-30
Currently we are facing unprecedented times in our world with fear over the Coronavirus and uncertainty over how our economy is going to be affected as a result of this global pandemic. Add to this our frustration as believers not being able to gather together to encourage one another in love.
If our eyes are on our circumstances, it is quite easy for panic and anxiety to set in. But as we have been considering in our streaming sermons as of late, let the example of the Apostle Paul lift your eyes off of your circumstances and on to truth.
Recently I have referenced the book of Philippians in my sermons because I believe it speaks so clearly to how the Christian worldview must be shaped in perilous times such as these. Paul was imprisoned at the time of his writing the epistle. His future was uncertain. He did not know how the future turn out. And he was unable to gather corporately with his church family due to his circumstance. Paul’s circumstances closely mirrored our own. Notice some things that Paul did not do in the midst of this crisis.
To blame Satan when calamity comes upon us is actually to give Satan more credit than he is due. This is a default that we as believers can easily fall into when tribulations come our way. And I believe that with the best of intentions, we are quick to give Satan credit for life’s hardships because in a way, we are trying to protect God. It sounds wrong to us to say that God would ever allow or ordain trials and or persecution. However, in our attempts to “protect God” from accusation, we fall into sin by neglecting scripture and failing to see the beauty in God’s sovereign plan. Consider the words of the Lord in Isaiah and Amos wherein He addresses the origin of worldly tribulations;
Isaiah 45:7 “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.”
Amos 3:6 “When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?”
Knowing that it was God who ordained that Paul would be imprisoned gave the Apostle the greatest of comfort in the midst of his persecution. Because to believe the alternative, that Satan had escaped his leash and was frustrating the plans of God is more terrifying. Also, Paul knew that the Lord used trials and persecution in the world for the ultimate good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The Coronavirus is not the result of Satan frustrating the plans of God. Rather, this pandemic was sent by God. You may ask, “Why would God send a virus such as this?” The answer; For the glory of Christ and the good of those that love Him. The question is not, “Is this true?” The question we must ask is, “Do we believe this?” That the Lord is so powerful that He uses evil to bring about good that could not be had without it. If anyone would doubt that God can use evil as a tool to create beauty, let them be reminded of the cross.
Acts 2:23-24 “But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.”
Genesis 50:20 “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people.”
This reality should radically shape how we as believer view tragedies, wars, and pandemics in our world today. If we are not rooted and grounded in a Biblical worldview, then we will default to speculation and myth when hard times come. And this knowledge of God allowed Paul to endure suffering without grumbling or complaining. Paul knew that his present suffering was bringing about a greater manifestation of God’s glory and a future good for His people. And it is the same in the circumstances we face today.
2. Paul Didn’t Complain, He Rejoiced!
Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When someone in the first century wanted to put an emphasis on something, they would repeat it. In the face of horrible circumstances, Paul was adamant in reminding the church to REJOICE in the Lord! Why? Because again, Paul knew his hardships were producing a greater good for those that love the Lord!
In hard times, it is common for people and especially believers to feel that the Lord is somehow distant. Paul knew how easy it is for people to feel this way. Notice in the verse above that Paul tells the church to rejoice, and he follows that up by reminding them that THE LORD IS AT HAND! He is not distant and far off! God is not apathetic to His children. Rather, through the suffering believers are bearing witness to God using the evil as a chisel to create beauty!
Therefore, building on what Paul knew of God’s sovereignty over evil, he could confidentially tell the church that they should not be panicking. Nor should they be fearful or anxious! The reason for their trepidation was because their eyes were not on God, but were on the trial in front of them.
Let me as Paul emphasize my point by repeating myself. It is crucial that we let our worldview be shaped by scripture and not by current events. I will go farther and say this; We cannot rightly interpret the events we see played out in our world without filtering everything through the scriptures.
What is the result of having our eyes on Christ rather than circumstance? Peace in the midst of tribulation. And this peace is a witness to the outside world. Consider this; When your unbelieving neighbor or family member calls you to express their fear over this pandemic that we currently face, and they hear a clam in your voice, it wont be the reaction that they expected. When the outside world sees a smile on your face in the midst of crisis, it will cause them to wonder where your peace comes from. They may even be prompted to ask you, “How is it that you are so calm and peaceful in this great time of uncertainty?”
If this happens, the door has swung open wide for you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. You see, if we view this pandemic through the lens of God’s Word and then let it be our comfort, even a situation such as this can turn into an opportunity to present the Gospel that may never have so naturally come about without our current crisis.
Rejoice brothers and sister! And again I say REJOICE! The Lord is at hand! He is not only in the midst of this pandemic, He is using it to create a greater good that couldn’t have been had without it.
A.W. Tozer once said that Christians don’t tell lies, they just sing them in church. This statement is more accurate than most of us realize. Strangely, there seems to be a glaring disconnect at times between the truths that we profess as believers and how we live as a result of our profession.
At the very core of this problem lies question of the sufficiency of the scripture. Do we believe the sufficiency claims of scripture to be true? By sufficient, we mean that the Word of God is not only all that we need for teaching and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), but also that it is the final governing authority in matters of Christian conduct and church polity.
Christians fall prey to sins of omission almost without knowing. We cling tightly to some commands in the scriptures while omitting or turning a blind eye to others. We claim belief in a sufficient canon but betray our words with a lack of obedience. I often use the example of pregnancy to press my point. Either a woman is pregnant or she is not. There is no half way or in between. And in turn, the scriptures are either fully sufficient or all together unreliable. They are either the final authority or man has the last word. There is no in between.
Jesus gave testimony to the power, authority, and sufficiency of scripture after his resurrection and before his assertion.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-19.
The Word of God was the authority that Christ declared to the disciples. And with this authority they were charged to teach the church to observe and obey the commands lain out in the scriptures. Notice that Jesus did not say that the disciples had some authority apart from the Word of God. All authority had come from God was given Christ’s followers with the expectation that they would neither add to or take away from them.
Peter proclaimed that the Word of God was fully sufficient for all things pertaining to life and Godliness.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” 2 Peter 1:3.
Again, we see that Peter was mimicking the words of Christ given in Matthew 28:18-19 when he said “His divine power has grated us all things…” We have no authority of our own that is separate from God’s Word. Everything else falls into the category of either speculation or opinion. All authority comes from the Word of God.
The Apostle Paul acknowledged in his letter to the Corinthians that we have no sufficiency within ourselves, but only in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are ministers according to His precepts, not our own.
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6.
The question is not if we profess the scriptures to be sufficient, because to say otherwise is a denial of what is blatantly obvious. Rather, the question is do we humbly bow to this authority or do we try to add in our own preferences?
When our traditions override scriptural authority, then we are denying the sufficiency of the Bible. When our man made rules ignore God given commands, then we are denying the sufficiency of scripture. And when our personal preferences take precedence over the Word of the Lord, then we are denying and defying the sufficiency of scripture and the authority of Christ Himself.
When it comes to things such as discipleship, how we worship, the church’s ecclesiastical structure, evangelism practices, and all other things pertaining to life and Godliness, God’s Word must be the final authority in our faith and practice. Because our concept of authority is self biased and critically flawed, but His words are fully sufficient in every way.