Hear me when I say that my intent in writing this post is not to be controversial. As you read, please do not hear what I am not saying. This is not about whether you should or shouldn’t take the vaccine. This is ultimately about us as a church seeing the bigger picture and not getting sucked into debating the symptoms to a bigger epidemic, which is sin and our need to repent. Many are up in arms about the growing mandates to get the COVID vaccine. I have sat and listened to my brothers and sisters in Christ share both sides of the argument. Both have shared legitimate points of which I will not discuss here. Ultimately, pray and if you feel at peace to get it, then do, and if you hear God saying no, then don’t. It is also important for us not to shame our brother or sister in Christ, who may make a different decision than us. God didn’t make us robots, so we will not always agree on matters that do not affect our salvation. Don’t let your pride blind you to this truth. Instead, let us agree on that which is of eternal value. While we may not agree on whether we should mandate the vaccine, let us unify on our need to mandate repentance. We can learn something from the King of Nineveh in Jonah 3:6-10.
Now I know repentance is a heart matter and we cannot force anyone to do it. But oh, that our eyes would open to the many ways we have embraced the ways of the world, disregarding the holiness of God. I pray we will mourn over sin instead of celebrating it and mislabeling it as freedom. May we come to God in humility and ask Him for forgiveness for giving our affections to everything and everyone else but Him. I pray we see the need to repent for our pride in trying to be our own god and treating Yahweh as our sidekick. Oh, that the bride of Christ would arise and unashamedly declare God’s Holy standard, and call people to repentance because we have drifted so far from it. May we be courageous and call out sin and take responsibility for the fruit of turning our backs on God and conforming to this world. True repentance yields forgiveness. God is merciful. 1 Peter 3:9 reminds us that God is patient with us and that He does not want anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. Let us continue to meditate on the prescription given in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Amen.
Jesus’ coming was anticipated, but He did come in the package that was expected and many misunderstood His mission. There were many prophecies about Him prior to His arrival on earth. The Romans oppressed the Jewish people, so the thought of the Messiah excited the Jews. Surely, He would overthrow the Romans, lead a military coup, and bring freedom to His people. But plans quickly seem to sour when the expected King was first born to a poor virgin in a stable, a place for stinky animals. His crib was the feeding trough for said animals. No palace to receive this King and lowly shepherds in the field were the first visited with the news of His birth.
They were looking for Jesus, but He didn’t come in the package they expected and as He grew, He didn’t do what they perceived as most important. Sadly, many rejected Him and missed Him altogether.
Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the Roman Empire; He came to overthrow sin so that we could be spiritually free-true freedom. Jesus understood that chains on the heart are more lethal than chains on the hands. He didn’t come in all the pomp and circumstance of an earthly king because he understood that humility unlocks the power of God. Today, many claim to be looking for Jesus but have missed Him altogether because they are expecting a certain package and are more focused on deliverance from the temporal. Pain and oppression can be blinding if you let it. What does it matter if we have all the comfort and “freedom” this world offers, yet sin binds us in our heart? The Jesus that is often being preached to tickle our ears is a far cry from the Jesus of the bible. The one who left his heavenly abode, emptying himself of all divine privileges to bring freedom to us. The true Jesus that was born in a stable over 2,000 years ago asks us to deny ourselves, embrace humility, freely forgive, surrender our lives and set our affection on things above. This true Jesus reminds us WE WILL have times of suffering here on earth, but His grace is sufficient and that we must set our gaze on the eternal. Jesus offers true freedom and peace. This Christmas season and the rest of our lives, let us not reject Jesus because He doesn’t meet our carnal expectations. Who He is and what He offers is far greater!
Noah’s act of obedience did not exempt him from experiencing the flood, but it allowed him to experience the flood differently. People of God are not insulated from the storms of life, but there is something about being in the ark of safety that gives us an advantage over the wicked. God promises that in this life we will have difficulties, but when we are in Him, the difficulty will never have the final say! So He tells us we are to rejoice when the storms come. 1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Additionally, James 1: 2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The storms of life destroy the wicked but for those submitted to the Lord, the storms purify and promote!
Speaking of storms, remember in Mark 4, Jesus was sleeping in the middle of one while His disciples were panicking. Jesus’ response is a template for us to follow. Sometimes, we panic when we see the storm. Similar to the disciples, we ask God, “don’t you care if we perish?” When we remain connected to God, it is possible to be in a place of rest in the middle of the storm. We know that a part of true rest is trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross (Hebrews 4). Since Jesus conquered death and the grave, what do I have to fear (Psalm 27)? My job is not to avoid the storm, but I am called to obey God, that when the inevitable storms come, my experience will be redemptive instead of destructive.
Even if what God is directing us to do is unfamiliar or makes little sense from our perspective, He still requires obedience. God is good and faithful so we can trust that whatever He leads us to do has great purpose and will work together for our good in the end. In Genesis 6, God instructed Noah to build an ark because He was going to destroy the earth because of the ongoing wickedness. Noah was unfamiliar with what an ark looked like, and he had never experienced what God was about to do. He had no previous frame of reference. God gave Noah unfamiliar instructions, but I love Noah’s response. Genesis 6:22 tells us, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Wow! Even in what was unfamiliar, Noah fully obeyed God. Noah may not have understood all the instructions, but he knew God, and that was enough for Noah to move in obedience.
I think as humans we sometimes give ourselves too much credit and think we are smarter than we really are. God gives us instructions and we want to explain to Him why what He is telling us to do makes little sense, or we just respond to the parts that make sense to us and disregard the others. God is calling His children to obey Him fully, even in what we may not understand. There really is no such thing as partial obedience. What is God calling you to do? Have you fully obeyed or are you questioning God? Consider that Noah’s act of immediate and complete obedience to God’s instructions provided safety when the flood came.
If you remain connected to God and truly desire to please Him, it is 100% possible to stand and not bow to the world’s system. It is easy to make excuses for not walking in holiness. Somehow, we think that because most are choosing the broad path to destruction that it is near impossible to live holy. We excuse our ungodly behavior by in so many words saying, “well everyone else is doing it.” Or “I know what God’s word says but God understands I am human.” If tempted to believe you cannot stand in this vile generation, the account of Noah in Genesis 6 and 7 will encourage you. Genesis 6:6 lets us know God regretted He made human beings because they had become so evil. However, we see in contrast Genesis 6:9 where it says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” Noah saw the surrounding evil, but it did not consume him. He was definitely in the minority, but he still had a resolve to please the Lord, and He did! We read how God destroyed the entire earth and all the people in it except for 8, Noah and his family. Don’t tell me that God’s grace cannot keep you on the narrow path regardless of what everyone else around you is doing. The real question is not whether it is possible to live holy in an evil world. What we really should ask ourselves is, do I want to live holy? As you ponder that question, remember that regardless of how evil the world is, God keeps those who want to be kept.
Titus 24-25 NIV
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Will the thing you desire bring distance between you and God? If so, it is not worth it? Adam and Eve were in perfect fellowship with God. They were content and at peace. But once the devil entered the picture, he planted seeds of doubt in Eve. He caused her to question God’s motives. The devil made her think God’s restrictions concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil were not for their protection. He made her think God was holding out on them. Eve took the bait, and she and her husband ate from the tree. Once they ate the desirable fruit, they realized their nakedness, and they hid from God. The thing they desired created a distance between them and God. This is a story for the ages and one not worth repeating. However, we continue to repeat this destructive narrative. God puts restrictions in place, we listen to the lies of the enemy, and our disobedience creates distance between us and God. Sometimes we complicate very simple matters and we struggle to come to the right conclusions with the decisions before us. Should I pursue this relationship? Ask yourself, are there warning signs letting you know that this individual, while he may say the right thing, his actions reveal his true heart. Is there a job that seems perfect on the surface but you know that the time commitment will take you away from communing with God or the integrity of the company is questionable? Is there a popular movie that is out, but you know fully that the plot is displeasing to God and watching it will only feed your flesh? Does God put restrictions in place for His children? Absolutely! But we understand these restrictions are not to harm us, but they are there to protect us. Are you struggling with desiring the very thing God said was off limits? You must ask yourself, is indulging in this desired thing worth the distance it will create between me and God? The devil specializes in making the wrong things look right! If we hang out long enough with him, we will desire the forbidden fruit. Forbidden fruit, no matter how sweet it may be, leaves a bitter aftertaste, a separation between us and God, and it is simply not worth it!