Sunday, May 10th, 2020
First Baptist Church
As I thought through a sermon for today, I wasn’t quite sure what to preach on or what the mood of everyone would be like. I knew that I did not want to continue this week in the series that I have been preaching through online.
I’m honestly not sure I would even call this a sermon. Rather, what I want to be brief and speak with you about what I think we must learn from this pandemic.
When all of this started, I wrote a short article I posted online which detailed 3 hopes I had following the coronavirus outbreak. I want to return to that this morning. I’d like to update it, and then I want to give you some additional commitments I think every single person in church should make as we reopen our economy and our churches.
A GREATER PASSION FOR GOD’S WORD
The first thing I hope for is a greater passion for God’s Word. It’s been an interesting couple of months for me. Week after week, I receive comments on email or through social media from people looking for hope or for a greater understanding of the Bible.
When all this started, there was a tremendous amount of fear in every corner of society. I saw reports online of Bibles selling out at Walmart. Curious to know if it was true, I went to our Walmart in Kinston, and sure enough, their Bible section was low on Bibles. At Walmart.
At the same time, hopelessness was on the rise. Suicide prevention hotlines were frequently reporting a twice as many calls as usual with the average call lasting twice as long. And this is still happening even now - hopelessness is on the rise.
In other words, what all this revealed is that people need an anchor that can latch onto a foundation that will hold them secure when the waves of life feel more like an approaching tsunami.
The Bible says in Hebrews 10:23 that we must hold fast to the hope that we profess. That hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ that we read about in the Bible. It’s so easy to let other things fill the void and tell us they are more worthy of our time and attention. But, they’re not. God’s Word is an anchor that will hold tight when everything else seems to fail.
We must be people and a church who proclaim and believe that God’s Word is an anchor that is far stronger than anything the world has to offer. So I hope and I pray that we would grow in our love for God’s Word.
When the world began to fall apart and so much was unsure, people went in search of hope. They went to the Bible section at Walmart, and yet we have many Bibles in our homes collecting dust. Let us return to the Word of God.
Secondly, I pray for a GREATER PASSION FOR CHURCH ATTENDANCE
The second thing I hope for is a greater desire for church attendance and in-person gatherings.
ZOOM is great. I am thankful for that kind of technology, but it has its limitations. The fact of the matter is that we were created for community. We were created for a relationship with God and with other people. We are relational beings, and when you remove that relationship, something isn’t right.
And the truth is that this is a highly theological point. The reason we are relational beings is because God is a relational God and we are created in his image.
In John 1, in Matthew 3, in 1 Corinthians 6, and in 2 Corinthians 12, we see this relationship of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit all together. The Trinity was present before creation and there was a relationship there within the Trinity itself. God is a relational God and if we are created in his image, then we are relational people, and that means that being together in-person with one another matters greatly.
So my hope following all of this is that we would be reminded of the importance of faithful church attendance. I pray that many would be brought back to church, and that many would realize how important it is that we have one another. The gathered church matters because of relationships and that truth is rooted in who God is and who he made us to be.
My third hope is for a GREATER PASSION FOR EVANGELISM
This point is somewhat related to the first. As we saw the sharp rise in hopelessness, it should cause a sharp rise in the desire for evangelism. If nothing else, the coronavirus should teach us that life is brief. It should teach us that we aren’t as secure as we think we are. And it should teach us that we must be a people who consistently and faithfully share the hope we have within us.
1 Peter 3:15 says that we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. In the days ahead, people are going to return to work fearfully. It’s likely that many won’t go into a crowd for quite some time. That’s ok. But as believers, when we have the opportunity, let us be the kind of people who are hopeful even in the midst of times that are uncertain.
It is in those moments that people often listen and need to see in us that Jesus Christ is our rock and our foundation.
In the months ahead, it will be increasingly important that we anchor ourselves to the Word of God. It will be increasingly important that we realize the importance of gathering as a church. And it will be even more important that as things open back up, we are ready to share the hope that each of us has in Jesus Christ.
Finally, I hope and pray that these last couple of months will cause us to value the humanity in each and every person.
One of the most difficult and parts of all of this, at least for me, is when I’m in a grocery store and there seems to be a common fear between people. You keep your distance of 6 feet, but other people look at you and you can tell that they avoid close contact because you might have the virus. I get it. People don’t want to get sick.
But there’s something not right when everyone is afraid of each other and they don’t even want to look you in the eye. We live in a highly polarized society where deep distrust exists among people. This virus is going to cause that polarization to be even greater.
What I hope for is that no matter how you feel about all of this - my hope is that we learn to value the image of God in all people, and that we might turn away from the polarization that exists all around us to see the shared humanity that we all have because of the image of God in us.
When you go out to the grocery store or to work, be safe, but look people in the eye and say, “hello, it’s good to see you.” As more and more things open up, some people are going to have a deep distrust of others. As Christians, we must be the light of the world. We must exude hope. And, now more than ever, we must see other people as people created in the image of God.
In closing, I want to read from Romans 8. I know many people are fearful and have great heaviness in their hearts. This passage is a tremendous reminder of God’s love for us. Romans 8 beginning in verse 31.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him
graciously give us all things?
33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Have a blessed day!