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How Should the Church Respond to the Coronavirus?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2020 9:00 am

How Should the Church Respond to the Coronavirus?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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December 28, 2020 9:00 am

The current pandemic raises the question: How should the church respond in such an unprecedented time? In the midst of uncertainty and fear, the gospel still shines as a message of hope, light, and life.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. What happens when you feel like there's some uncertainty in your future or when you feel like you're afraid or when your foundation gives way? What do you turn to, to tell yourself that everything is going to be okay? Maybe it's that you have a good family, your own personal health.

Maybe it's the fact that you live in a country with great prosperity and it's all, it's all, Jesus says, a faulty foundation. Everything outside of Christ ultimately will be sinking sand. Welcome to a new week, our last week of 2020 on Summit Life with J.D. Greer.

Anyone else ready for 2021? And as always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. You know, our current circumstances raise the question, how should the church respond in such an unprecedented time? Today, Pastor J.D. looks at the early church's commitment to the gospel, a commitment that made them so distinct that others around them said these men and women have turned the world upside down. Let's consider our moment in time with Pastor J.D.

now. We are calling this series The World Upside Down because right now, recent events have challenged much of what we thought was certain, what we felt like was our foundation. In the midst of uncertainty and fear, I want to show you that we, as the people of God, have a special role, one that we believe God will make us sufficient for. You know, because of the early church's commitment to the gospel and to the Great Commission in times like these, other people said of them, this is in the book of Acts, these men and women have turned the world upside down. In these upside down times, the gospel can shine more brightly than ever.

It is a unique gospel opportunity. I'm going to kick off this series in Matthew 24, so if you've got a Bible, you might want to open it there. That's where Jesus talks about how crises like this one will characterize the last days. Here's what it says, Matthew 24, verse 3. As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, Lord, when will these things be and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age? Jesus responds, verse 6, You will hear in those times of wars and rumors of wars.

See that you're not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and pestilences. By the way, I know some of your Bibles don't include the words and pestilences, but in some manuscripts, it's there. In other places in the gospels where Jesus talked about this, He definitely talked about pestilences and plagues.

Earthquakes, He goes on in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Now, let me just be clear right up front. I'm not saying that this is some kind of divine sign that Jesus' return is right around the corner and we should all go huddle up around the mountaintop and wait for Him.

In fact, far from it. Jesus told His disciples that it was just not for them and not for us to know the times or the seasons. We're not supposed to speculate on the day or the hour of His return. What Jesus indicates here is that God is using things like this to wake up the world to the fragility of life and to the reality of divine judgment. Things like the coronavirus, COVID-19, they rock our foundations. These things are like birth pains, Jesus said.

Birth pains, of course, can't tell you the exact moment of new birth, but they indicate that the time is getting shorter, that it's close, and that a new reality is coming. As the time of judgment draws near, we can just expect things like this only to increase. So we're wise. We're wise to hear in these things a divine warning that God is giving to people on earth. The world that we live in is temporary. All of our foundations are faulty.

Everything we trust in ultimately will crumble. This has been a humbling time, has it not? I mean, I admit to you, when I first heard about COVID-19, I thought that this was going to go into that category of near misses.

I've grown accustomed to. There's some kind of big flurry in the news media, and then it kind of turns into nothing. You hear about an asteroid that comes close to earth, but it always seems to miss, and life goes on. Or you hear about an epidemic in another country, and you think, well, our medical system can keep us safe from that, or a natural disaster in another place that just doesn't directly affect us. But just think for a moment about how something that none of us can even see with our eyes, something that a month ago none of us were worried about, that has now brought our nation and its economy to a screeching halt. I mean, we're meeting in homes this weekend instead of together because of this unseen virus. Even if the reality ends up not being as bad as some of the predictions, even if the best case scenario turns out, how quickly and how easily our whole nation has just shut down, it shows us just how fragile we actually are.

You know, many say that regardless of what happens with the medical care and the future of this virus, the economic impacts of this shutdown are going to be staggering. You know, throughout Scripture, we see that God repeatedly uses things like this to wake people, to wake a whole generation up. For Jacob, the patriarch, God brought Jacob to his knees through a desperate fear that he had for his personal safety. With Moses, Moses found God through the loss of his career and the breakup of his family that he experienced when he was driven out of Egypt into the wilderness.

For the mighty Syrian general, Naaman, it was a health scare. He was diagnosed with leprosy that brought him to turn to God. For Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, it was the loss of essentially his job, his empire, and the loss of his sanity that brought him finally to his senses to understand who God was. In all of these cases, what we have is God putting somebody flat on their back, what we always love to say around the summit, so that they would finally be looking the right direction. God was saying, wake up. Do you realize how fragile your life is, how helpless you'll be if you stand unprepared for the judgment of God?

Here's my question. Is God saying that to our nation now? Is God saying that to you? Let me ask you, what happens when you feel like there's some uncertainty in your future, or when you feel like you're afraid, or when your foundation gives way? What do you turn to to tell yourself that everything is going to be okay? Maybe it's that you have a good family, and as long as you guys are together, you're going to be fine. Or maybe it's your own personal health, that you've always been strong, and you always seem to get through things.

Or maybe it's the fact that you live in a country with great prosperity and state-of-the-art medical care and a strong national defense. So ultimately, whatever challenge we face, we can overcome. It's all, it's all, Jesus says, a faulty foundation.

Everything outside of Christ ultimately will be sinking sand. In Psalm 90, a verse that is one of my personal favorites and most humbling verses, Moses teaches us to pray. Teach us, Lord, to number our days that we may apply our hearts to gain wisdom. Only by reflecting on the fragility of life will I ever develop the right perspective on my life.

Count your days, Moses said, so that you will know how to make your days count. Here's the second thing that Jesus tells us to do in this passage. He tells us to avoid false hopes, because a lot of them will be offered as a result of all these things that are happening.

Verse 11, and many false prophets will arise and they will lead many astray. You know, the Democrats will say that if they're the ones that were in charge, it would be better. And Republicans, of course, will say the opposite. In response to this, we'll revisit the medical systems. We'll develop vaccines. We'll review protocols for early containment. Businesses might resolve to move more of their businesses online. You might resolve to save more and keep more in the bank.

And most of those protective measures are appropriate. But ultimately, all earthly solutions will fail. In the final analysis, all of it is sinking sand. And anybody that tells you that this is the answer, well, ultimately, that's a false prophet. Nothing can deliver us from the sentence of death that we all ultimately live under. You know, for a few of us, death may be a long way off. And we may die pleasantly surrounded by friends and family. But, you know, for the majority of us, death will be sudden and it will be unpleasant.

Jonathan Edwards said it this way. He said, Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering. And there are innumerable places where this covering is so weak that they will not bear their weight.

And we can't even see where those places are. It is foolish for us to live our lives as if death was not certain and we would not face judgment. God is telling us to wake up. He's telling our world to wake up. That's what Jesus is saying in Matthew 24, that all these signs are birth pains telling you. The reality you live in is not permanent.

It's not anything to trust in. Only one life to live will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last. Verse 13, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The one who endures is the one who sets their hope on Christ and that foundation, and that foundation alone, and keeps that foundation there regardless of what is going on. Jesus told a story in Matthew 7 about two men. One who built a very nice house, but it was on a foundation of sand, and another who built a house on the foundation of a rock. If you grew up in Sunday school, you know the story. The rains came and the winds blew, and the one that was built on the sand, even though it was big and luxurious, it crumbled. In that story, Jesus said, the one who builds his foundation on the rock is those who build their lives on the word of God, on the foundation of Jesus. The ones who build on sand is really anything else, anything else that establishes security for your life in the future, except for the foundation of Christ is ultimately sinking sand.

So here's the question. Is that where your foundation is? Is that where, when you look into the future, what your hope is, that it's ultimately in Christ, obedience to Him, and you know that your foundation is solid, and it's something that ultimately not even death itself could take away. There's a song that we love to sing here at the Summit Church. On Christ the solid rock I stand. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand. You know, for many of you, this can just be a moment of rejoicing, rejoicing that you've got a foundation better than anything else life could give, and a foundation more secure that death just cannot take away. For others of you, this might be a time for you to actually make a new declaration, a declaration that from this point forward, you're not going to build your life on sinking sand, but you're going to build it on Christ, the solid rock, the foundation. Well, lastly, I want you to see in this text a divine opportunity that Jesus points us to. Notice in verse 14 Jesus said, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in these days throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. You know, on the heels of disastrous events, the gospel has unprecedented opportunity. When God has done the work of shaking the foundations through these things that he mentioned, then many are ready fondly to look to him. And so we have to use this opportunity, that's what our role is, to point people when their foundations have been shaken, to point them to Christ, and that's what I want to talk about.

So here's what I want to do. Summit family, I want you to, I want to use all of this as an anchor to encourage you toward a few practical things, answering the question, what should the church be? What should our posture be during a time of crisis like this?

First, the first one is just very practical. I just want to encourage you to continue to heed wise counsel. This is not a time for carelessness or bravado, but nor is it a time for panic. We all have a natural bias. Some of us gravitate toward worst case scenarios and doomsday prophecies, and we tend to overreact. Others of us tend to brush aside reports of this kind of stuff as, oh, it's just hysteria or it's some kind of mainstream media political agenda. It's probably wise to know what your bias is to avoid the extremes and the social media outlets that are just feeding those extremes and listen to a wide array of counsel. My encouragement for you is to avoid online extremists, particularly those that pander to your bias. We know that social media isn't helping that much in this time.

It's ironic that in an age of unprecedented access to information that during a crisis, social media does more to spread disinformation and hysteria. I want you to know that our disposition as a church at this point is to defer to the CDC and to our local, state, and national government. We don't want to get too far ahead of them in their recommendations, nor do we want to lag behind them. We believe this is why God gave us governing officials, and we're going to follow them. We believe in the absence of compelling reasons to go a different direction that they are supposed to, Romans 13, be our guide in something like this.

And so we're going to do our best to follow them. And let me just say something for a minute to those of you who feel young and vulnerable, like, oh, this thing can't affect me because I'm young and I'm healthy. I know that many of you have the reports, as you've heard them, they've indicated that young people are not as much at risk as some others.

First thing I want to say is don't take anything for granted. There are plenty of stories of young, healthy people developing serious complications, even dying as a result of contracting this virus. But second, even if you are low risk, you should take precautions for the sake of your neighbors. It's an act of love for them, not just, you know, no fear for yourself.

It's like a friend of mine says. He says, I'm taking these CDC instructions seriously, not because I'm afraid of getting the virus. He says, in fact, I'm young, healthy, and in Christ, so I have no fear about the future. I'm taking COVID-19 seriously because I'm afraid of distributing it. Or as another Christian leader that was reading Putin, he said, love, not fear, is the primary reason we should change our behavior during this time.

Here's my second recommendation. In this season, we need to move forward in faith, not backwards in fear. The early church, if you study Acts and early Christian history, the early church wasn't known for stockpiling ample food and ammunition for themselves or they weren't known for spreading fear on their versions of social media.

I've heard it said about Mother Teresa that her legacy was not built on hoarding months of supplies for herself and then berating the poor of Calcutta on why they weren't as wise as she was. Christian witnesses throughout history have been known for hope and for faith and self-sacrifice, not self-preservation. They were known for imitating a savior who ran toward tragedy, not away from it.

This is a time of great opportunity for us. Rodney Stark, the church's story, and tells the story of how the gospel saw unprecedented expansion in a time of plagues in the first and second century. AD 165, in fact, while Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome, there was a plague that struck the Roman Empire and over a 15-year period, it killed nearly a third of the population. Well, around this time, there were only about 45,000 Christians in existence, which is less than 1% of the entire empire. Despite their very small numbers, though, their response to that pandemic won admiration and a much greater following in the generations to come. Dionysius, who was Bishop of Corinth, he reported, Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy.

Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead. This, Dionysius explains, stood in stark contrast to those outside the church. He continues, But with non-Christians, everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick, and they fled from their dearest friends. They shunned any participation or fellowship with death, and this avoided it, which yet, with all their precautions, it was not easy for them, even with those, to escape. Rodney Stark even points out that, in evident irony, that Christian death rates during this time and many of these plagues were substantially lower than that of non-Christians, by nearly two-thirds, by the way.

You say, Well, why? Well, some analysts say it was because of their strong sense of community, their commitment to care for each other, and their robust hope in the face of death. In their willingness to embrace death, they found life. Andy Crouch, who was a Christian leader, he explains all that this way.

He said, If you were a first-century Roman, think about it. After you had recovered from the plague, where would you want to worship? The pagan temple whose priests and elite benefactors had fled at the first sign of trouble? Or would you want to now start worshipping at the household of that neighbor who had brought you food and water, care and concern, at great risk to themselves? When this plague has passed, what are our neighbors going to remember about us? Are they going to remember that the Christians took immediate, decisive action to protect the vulnerable? Will they remember that, being prepared and free from panic, the households of their Christian neighbors were able to visit the needy while protecting them by keeping appropriate social distance, of course. Will they remember that we provided for their needs and brought hope?

This is when, Summit Family, we can be at our best. So just really practically, that means in your neighborhood, in your apartment complex, wherever you are, look for those that are the most vulnerable, the elderly, for example. Maybe just offer, send a message to them about your willingness to help them out with something, or go get food, or if you have elderly in your small group or at the campus that you attend, check in on them.

Certainly, of course, your parents. It could be care for those who work not by salary, but by hourly commission. You might reach out to those that are in your community that are employed in that way and just say, how can we be a help? I know it's hard to receive help if you're in that situation, you're willing to give help when you have excess, that means you need to be willing to receive it when you're in a time of distress.

You could reach out and offer help for medical workers, maybe volunteering to keep their children, maybe just letting them know you're praying for them or ways that you can serve them. Thirdly, I would say from this passage that what Jesus is telling us is to proclaim hope, to preach this gospel in all the different nations where we are and around the world. I got this note from one of our team members earlier this week. This person said, while this situation is new, our calling has not changed.

That's not new. The gospel is still the most important message in the world and we are still called upon to tell it. It is a gospel of love and faith, precisely what we need when society is filled with fear and uncertainty. Your neighbors are scared. Many of them are feeling hopeless. They're asking questions about life and death and what happens after and they're usually hidden deep down there. As believers, we have answers to those questions. Summit family, I'm telling you, God is up to something. God is up to something in our nation, in our community.

We've got to be faithful to be at our post and point the way. You think about Easter. There was never a more hopeless time, humanly speaking, than when the Son of God was in the grave. At that point, it seemed like the end, like all was lost. The disciples themselves were despairing. But Easter is a reminder.

Jesus rose from the dead and as sure as he walked out of the grave, he promised his life to those of us living in the shadow of death and we can follow him in faithfulness. One more suggestion I'll give you here. Use this season to develop some good habits.

We know that God does some of his greatest work in secret, often in mundane situations and places. We're kind of, if you think about it, entering a kind of extended Sabbath when most of what we would normally do we just are not going to be able to do. Don't just make it through this time. Redeem this time. Don't waste your quarantine. Use it as a time of growth.

You know, C.S. Lewis, whom I quote a lot, obviously, he lived at a point in the 1960s when a lot of people were genuinely afraid that we were going to be destroyed by nuclear weapons. Lewis was once asked how could somebody live without fear knowing that at any minute the world could be destroyed. He said, well, what I do know is that none of us have the certainty that we won't be destroyed instantly. In fact, we all know that we will die eventually. And for most of us it will be sudden, and for many of us it will be unpleasant. We may not know when or how death will come, but we know it will come for all of us, and it's very likely to be unexpected and unpleasant. And I know that sounds a bit morbid, but when you resolve yourself to that, well, see, then you can start to use whatever amount of time you have, whether it's six months or 60 years, you can use that time to embrace life and to capitalize on whatever opportunities God has put in front of you. Our main question should not be when and how we'll die. Our main question is how we'll live when we are alive.

Summit family, I'll say it again. God is up to something in your life, in your family, in our community. God is on the move, maybe more so now than many of us have ever seen. He is leading us in new ways. Let's go forward with great expectation as we follow Him in this season. This season may not be over, but God is still on the move.

Let's go forward into 2021 with great expectation as we follow Him. You're listening to Summit Life and a message from J.D. Greer titled How Should the Church Respond to the Coronavirus?

As always, you can check out our latest online resources at jdgreer.com. I recently sat down with Pastor J.D. and asked him about getting organized and making plans as we look to the new year. Let's hear what he had to say about setting goals. You know, I will say that one of the most significant things that I've ever started to do is to take time at the beginning of each year to establish what's important to me and what I think God is leading me in and to chart out a way to grow in those things. One thing is for certain, if you don't plan, you don't take charge of your own life, then everybody else takes charge of it for you. And so what we're wanting for you to have is a tool that has helped us in establishing some of these priorities. It's basically a day planner for you. It'll help you set health goals, relational goals, education goals, financial goals, spiritual goals that will help you grow in your walk with God. It's not just desiring to be a great spiritual leader that will make you one no matter how much you desire that. It's small decisions, the choice to carve out time to read the Bible, the choice to spend time with that friend that can help you grow, to read the right books.

This day planner will help you identify some of those things and then what to do to actually work toward those things. I think you'll find it to be a real blessing. I know that these kinds of things have been a real help in my own life. So I don't want you to miss getting this resource. If you'll go to jdguerre.com, you'll find information on there about how you can get a hold of this and how we can continue to walk with you in your own spiritual growth.

And while there are so many good gifts that we can give, no gift is more important than the gospel. As our way of saying thank you for your one-time donation of $25 or more or for your monthly commitment as a gospel partner, we'll send you an exclusive resource, the 2021 Summit Life Day Planner, to help you stay focused on the gospel in the new year. Ask for your planner today when you call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can give online at jdguerre.com. You can even mail in your donation and request for the planner when you write to us at J.D. Greer Ministries, P.O. Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. I'm Molly Bidevich inviting you to join us again tomorrow when Pastor JD answers the question, What should we do when we feel anxious? Here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-16 03:35:00 / 2023-08-16 03:45:57 / 11

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