Life in a Pandemic

Wow, how life has turned upside down!  This pandemic outbreak has led to a life-as-we-know-it disruption that is the most dramatic that I can remember in my lifetime.  Many of us have already been impacted by job losses, isolation, and life event celebrations cancelled; not to mention the fear of sickness and death.

Where do we find “life” in the midst of this whirlwind?  We find life in the place it has always been waiting for us; real life is found in Jesus Christ.  In the gospel of John alone, Jesus says …

  • True Life is found in Me (Jn 1:4).
  • He who believes in Me has eternal life (Jn 3:15, 3:16, 3:36, 4:14, 5:24, 6:27, 6:40, 6:47, 6:54, 10:28, 12:50, 17:3).
  • I am the water of life and he who drinks from Me will never thirst (Jn 4:14).
  • I raise the dead and give them life (Jn 5:21).
  • I am the bread of life come down from heaven (Jn 6:33, 6:35, 6:38, 6:51).
  • I speak the words of life (Jn 6:68).
  • I am the light of the world and the light of life (Jn 8:12).
  • I came to bring to you abundant life (Jn 10:10).
  • I lay down my life for my sheep (Jn 10:11, 10:15, 10:17, 15:13).
  • I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25).
  • I am the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6).

And finally, we have John’s final word.  “This gospel has been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31).

True life is found in the name of Jesus.  True life is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  True life is found in the gospel message of Jesus.  True life is found in the grace of Jesus.

And this true life, this abundant life, is not only for our future eternal state.  It is not only for life here on earth when things are running smoothly.  No, life in Jesus transcends time, and history, and culture, and geography, and yes even pandemics.

In this present circumstance, don’t just “lean in” to Jesus.  Dive deeply, launch fully, and feel the surrounding love and life of Jesus.  “Your life is hidden in Christ Jesus” (Col 3:3).  Hidden is such a powerful word picture.  You are safe in His arms.

No matter what lies ahead in this upended world of ours, your life is hidden in Jesus Himself; hidden in the sovereign universe-creating God Himself.  Let’s share that hope with our families and friends and all who God places in our path during this crisis.  Let’s create an unstoppable viral spread of the good news; true life is found in Jesus.

The King in Disguise

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1) … “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14) … “I go and prepare a place for you, and I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:3).

The child in the stable, the child that we celebrate at Christmastime, arrived in Bethlehem with a past, a present, and a future.  He existed long before that winter’s night.  He existed “in the beginning”; so far in the past that He was there at the start as the Creator himself.  “For in Him [Christ] all things were created (Col 1:16).  “All things came into being through Him” (Jn 1:3).

In His present, which began with the Christmas story, Jesus walked the earth as fully God and fully man.  He was a king in disguise if you will.  He downplayed His kingship even as He invited the world to join His kingdom of God; a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men, not a political kingdom of military might.  We only get glimpses of His kingly identity such as on the cross in His identification as “King of the Jews”.

Looking forward, we wait for a glorious future when this King will be fully revealed.  The day prophesied by Zechariah – “And the Lord will be king over all the earth” (Zech 14:9) – is coming.  The fulfillment of the promise of Jesus the coming King, is made clear throughout the book of Revelation.

“And there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15).  “And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True … And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God … And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’ ” (Rev 19:11,13,16).

And with an incredible hand of grace reaching out to us, He has invited us to reign with Him.  “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.  And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’  And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’  And He said to me, ‘It is done.  I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (Rev 21:4-7).

“And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I Jn 5:5).  By virtue of your belief in the Son of God, all the promise of Revelation chapter 21 is yours.  You are the overcomer; you are the son of God.

Jesus Christ was and is and is to come the preeminent “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16).  And by faith in Him, you are invited to join Him in this glorious future.  Will you accept His invitation?

Beloved Child of Mine

Buried in the minor prophets of the Old Testament is a prophecy that I believe came true in you and me.  Looking ahead through the centuries, God said through the prophet Zephaniah, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17).

Is there a day coming when God will take great delight in you and rejoice over you with singing?  If you have believed and embraced God’s message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, that day of singing over you is today.  That day of delighting in you is now.

One place this prophecy is fulfilled, among many other places, is in a short verse in Ephesians in the New Testament.  “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1).  The fulfillment is wrapped up in three words – “as beloved children” – and there is so much depth of meaning in that phrase.

All of us have a father.  It is a fact of being human.  I had the joy of having a good father.  But I know that is not always the case.  Having a father and having a father who calls us beloved (and treats us that way) is not always the same thing.  Many in our circle have been hurt by fathers who were heavy on the rebuke and shame and light on the affirmation and love.  But no matter your father background, you do have a heavenly father who delights in you.

First, you are God’s child.  It is that simple.  When you trusted Christ to take away your sins, you were adopted into God’s family.  This adoption into the family of God is incredible.  But even more incredible is that you are not only God’s child, but you are a beloved child.  God loves you with an everlasting love that cannot be broken.

And this takes us back to the first part of Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God.”  When you read this command, what is your first thought.  For most of us it might sound like, “Well, that’s impossible.  Good luck with that.”  An imitator of God?  Who can reach that high standard?

I contend that you can because of the rest of the verse.  Yes, in our own strength, in our own power, in our own effort, it is impossible to live up to imitating God the Father.  But look at the rest of the verse.  You can move in that direction because you are a beloved child; made able through the blood of Jesus Christ and sealed by His Holy Spirit.

If you had an affirming and loving mom and dad, you wanted to imitate them.  You saw something noble in them, even if you did not know what to call it, that made you want to be like them.  Their example was something you wanted to follow.  As God’s beloved child, we feel the want to.  Who would want to disappoint such a loving Father?

But He does not just give us the desire.  He gives us the ability to imitate Him by giving us something no earthly father can give a child; himself living inside the child.  You father may have set a great example.  Your father may have taught you many skills.  Your father may have taught you how to carry yourself such that you had a toolbox of how to imitate your father.

But God goes way beyond that.  Through Jesus, God is actually living His life in you.  And not just living it.  He is loving it; to the point of taking “great delight in you and rejoicing over you with singing.”  You are a beloved child!

Overcomer

Rhonda and I recently went to the movie “Overcomer”.  It is a message of hope, forgiveness, and restoration.  We follow along as the main character, a high school cross-country runner, finds new life in Jesus.

Following her conversion, she begins to learn who she really is by listing all that God says about her as a new believer.  She started in the book of Ephesians.  And her list is incredible.  “I am loved, I am chosen, I am redeemed, I am forgiven, I am a child of God, I am raised up with Christ, I have been brought near to God… and so much more”.

At the end of the film, she shared her story with her new college friends.  One line of her testimony touched me deeply.  After talking about some of the new labels God has pronounced upon her, she said, “The Creator is the one who defines the creature.”  The Creator is the one who defines who you are.

Who we are in Christ is not left to our description, not left to how we feel, or how we experience life, or our past, or how we describe ourselves.  Who we are in Christ is defined by what God says about us.  And these new and beautiful ways we are described are not just theological jargon or blanks to fill out in a notebook.  They really are who we are.

But we will only experience the freedom, the joy, and the peace of these new truths about us if we really believe they are true.  If we believe, by faith, that we are loved, chosen, redeemed, forgiven, a child of God, raised up with Christ, brought near to God … and so much more.  If we believe that God Himself, and His grace, live inside us, we will walk in this broken world with His guidance leading us.

I love this thought from Ted Dekker in his book, The Forgotten Way, “It is never what you believe about yourself that defines you; it is your Father’s opinion of you that defines you.  Your opinion of yourself only defines the experience you have in this life.”

My prayer and my passion in writing on our new identity in Christ is to help each one of us bring our thoughts about ourselves into alignment with what God says about us.  But it is even more than this.  This alignment in our thinking is just the start.  The next step?  To let what God says about us penetrate beyond our minds to our deepest heart and not just be our theology, but be our actual every day experience as well.

And the experience of being an overcomer, of seeing everything God says about us come to life in our day-to-day walk, is brought about by faith.  “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (I Jn 5:4).  If you have embraced the gospel message, you are a child of God; a son or daughter who has overcome the world by faith.  Believe what God, your heavenly Father, says about you!

To Love as God Loves

Love is not just an attribute of God.  Love is His very essence.  And as His child, love should be our essence as well.  It should be our aroma, our inclination, our motivation, our choice.

The book of I John can be summarized by chapter 4, verses 7-9.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”

God is love.  Love is God’s essence.  And He demonstrated that love by sending His only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  And because love is God’s essence, the one who is born of God, a child of God, will also be known by their love; demonstrated by their love for one another (I Jn 4:7).

While the love we practice has its foundation in our identity in Christ and He living His life through us, there are some specific reservoirs from which our love flows.  The apostle Paul writes, “The goal of our instruction is love that flows from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Tim 1:5).  Paul’s goal is to teach us to love in a way that taps into our pure heart, our good conscience, and our sincere faith.

When you embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, you received a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  These were pure gifts of God’s grace.  You did not earn them by your genius, your popularity, or your good works.  But even though we received these for free, the act of seeing love flow freely from these gifts requires some choices on our part.  The flow of love is not automatic.  It is up to us to tap into our pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith.  It is our choice of how we experience and maintain this flow of loving one another.

Suppose someone gave you a gift of a new Maserati, one of the most expensive cars in the world.  If you settled in behind the steering wheel and then just stared out the window, what would happen?  NOTHING!  If you just sat there with no action on your part, what would happen?  NOTHING!  For you to enjoy and experience the gift, you have to take some action.  You have to turn the key, rev the engine, put the car in gear to get something going.  You have to steer, turn, accelerate, and brake to experience all the car is offering to you.  You have to take some action.

In your spiritual life, all that Christ offers to you; a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith is sitting there under the hood as it were.  But we have to turn the key, rev the engine, and put it into gear to tap into the spiritual energy we need to let the love flow.  Take the first step of offering your love to the one who needs you, to the people God has brought into your life.  Start somewhere even if the first step is small.

Loving one another from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith is a tangible expression of the Christ who lives in us.