I think we can all agree that 2020 hasn’t turned out to be the year we thought it would be. Who would have dreamed at the beginning of the year that so much would change? Even though I had heard of Covid-19 back in January, I never imagined how much it would affect our country. The pandemic has introduced a whole new way of life that includes a lot of hand-washing, face-masks, and social-distancing. It has made us conscious of how our actions affect others. It has given us an opportunity to appreciate the people who serve our communities. In many cases, it has given us time to think and re-evaluate what matters most in life.
The pandemic has given us something else that I think is really valuable—a glimpse of life as it truly is—uncertain.
When everything in life is fine, it’s easy to get the impression that all the things we look to for security—money, jobs, health, relationships, etc.—are going to go on being there for us when we need them. But the corona virus has revealed that that simply isn’t true. At any time, catastrophe can strike, and when it does, the very things we look to for security are vulnerable. Jobs are jeopardized. Money dwindles. Freedoms we are accustomed to may be suspended for indefinite amounts of time. We may not be able to get certain items which are normally readily available. Effective medical care may not be available to us or our loved ones when most needed. And people we know and love may die. It’s not a pretty reality.
Here is a question to think about—is what you have been looking to for security truly secure?
The truth is that we need something solid and immovable beneath our feet when the ground around us gives way. Our hearts crave that kind of stability.
And that is why I want to share with you the hope that I have in Jesus. He is the only constant in an ever-changing world that is wracked with worry and pain and loss. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to face the uncertainty of life—or death—without knowing Him. Would you give me a few minutes to share what He’s done for us?
The story begins with God creating the world. At that time, everything was perfect. There was no sickness, no pain, no death. God made everything, and everything was good.
God created a beautiful garden called Eden, and when He made the first two humans—Adam and Eve—He put them in this garden. And God Himself would walk and talk with them there.
God provided all kinds of trees—beautiful to look at and good for food—and gave them to Adam, telling him that he could eat from any of them, except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If man were to eat from that tree, he would die.
And this is where history takes a tragic turn. Satan, the enemy of God, deceived Eve about the fruit. He questioned God’s authority and contradicted what God said, saying that she would not die if she ate the fruit, that really God just didn’t want her to be like Him, knowing good and evil. And as Eve listened, the fruit began to look good, and she began to think that it would make her wise. And so she reached and took and ate, and then gave some to Adam, and he ate.
(I would encourage you to read the account in Genesis 1-3.)
This taste of the forbidden fruit was the first sin—an act of independence from the God of all good, and it necessarily plunged Adam and Eve and our entire race into an experiential knowledge of evil and its consequences. Death came just as God said it would. Because of their disobedience, all kind of bad things came into being—pain, sorrow, sickness, hardship, death.
And since that day, every person born has been a sinner (Romans 5:12).
Maybe you feel that you are a pretty good person. And maybe you are—compared to other people. But God’s standard is perfection. He says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He says about us, “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
Is it hard to believe that we’re sinners?
Let’s think about this about it this way—have we kept God’s law? I know I have not. Listen to what Jesus says the greatest commandments are: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). I have broken these commandments every day of my life. How about you? Do you love God like that? Every second of every day? Do you love every person in your life as much as you love yourself?
If we are honest, who can love like that? None of us. We are sinners.
And do you know what the penalty is for sin? Death. Eternal death (Romans 6:23).
Try to imagine an eternity—a line of time running on forever—where there is nothing good, where people are separated from God, the Creator and Giver of all good things. If a few months of pandemic seems like too much suffering, Hell is infinitely worse. Jesus describes that place as “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43-44) and a place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Right now pain, sorrow, and misery come and go, but in Hell they will last forever. We were not made for an eternity like that.
You know what we were made for? Paradise. A place of peace and rest. A place of joy and beauty. A place of dwelling forever with our Creator, the Designer and Giver of all good and beautiful things.
Listen to how God describes the place He has prepared for His people:
“In [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy; in [His] right hand there are pleasures forever,” (Psalm 16:11).
“He will swallow up death for all time, and the LORD God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken,” (Isaiah 25:8).
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will 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,” (Revelation 21:3-5).
“There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever,” (Revelation 22:3-5).
Do you realize that God made us for life like this? (Could that be why the pain and suffering in this world bother us so much? Why it hurts so much to lose family and friends? Why death seems so unnatural? Why there is a desperate, inner longing that is never quite satisfied?)
You know what’s beautiful? God never forgot what He made us for. Even before the foundation of the world, when He knew that man would sin and never be able to meet His righteous standards, He made a plan to redeem us (Ephesians 1). A way for us to come to the God we could never deserve and partake of life as it was meant to be. And when the time was right, He sent His Son.
Jesus, fully God, took on human flesh and came and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He did something that we are incapable of doing—living his entire life without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He experienced all the same kind of consequences of sin that we do—sickness, pain, loss—even though He didn’t deserve them. And then He died an excruciating death by crucifixion. At the same time, God the Father punished Jesus for our sins so that we could be exempt from the death penalty that was rightfully ours. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can be reconciled to God. “He made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
That beautiful, eternal life with God that we talked about earlier is something that He offers to us freely—a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). All we have to do is to believe Him and accept the gift.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
“For whoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Romans 10:13).
God is eager to bless us. He wants to give us the most valuable thing in the world—relationship to Himself. In John 17:3, Jesus defines eternal life this way in a prayer to His Father: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Can you believe that we can know Him? The God of limitless mercy. The God of infinite power. The God of all comfort. The God of unbreakable Love. The God of perfect justice. The God of hope. The God of peace. The God who saves. The only Source of true security—now and forever.
Do you know Him?
If we have believed on the Lord for salvation, our lives should be different than they were before. When we receive God’s gift, we become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us (I Corinthians 3:16), and He changes us. He teaches us the truth found in God’s Word (John 16:13-4). He gives us power to obey God (Acts 1:8). He produces good fruit in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
If you don’t see evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, please take some time and consider whether you truly know the Lord. The Bible warns us that in the end, not everyone who claims to know Him will enter the kingdom of heaven. They will have done many good things in His name, but He will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness,” (Matthew 7:21-23). I would hate for anyone to think that they were going to spend eternity with God in Heaven only to discover that they never truly knew Him. That would be awful.
Just believing in God is not enough to save us—the demons believe in God too (James 2:19). Knowing the facts of the gospel or merely relying on a prayer is not enough, either. Real, saving faith depends entirely on the work of Christ done for us. And it results in changed living. If we truly believe that God has saved us from sin and that we now belong to Him, then we will live in a way that reflects that belief. We will do our best to keep His commandments (I John 2:3-6). When we do sin, we will want to confess that sin to God so that our fellowship can be restored (I John 1:7-9). And if we stray from His ways, He will discipline us like a Father (Hebrews 12:5-8).
If you are unsure if you know Christ, ask Him. Read I John, a book that contains many evidences of true faith (as well as false faith).
If you are not a Christian and have rejected Christianity on the basis of distasteful, “Christian” behavior, I understand where you’re coming from. It is horrifying to see some of the things that are done in the name of Christ, things that are completely contrary to His example and teachings. Many of the people who call themselves Christians simply are not; others have been misled by false teachings; and those of us who genuinely desire and commit ourselves to following Christ are still human. We still struggle with our sin natures. We know that we are not perfect, and that we cannot be on our own, and that is why we need Christ so much. Please don’t discount Christ without considering Him on His own merit. You can read all about Him in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
I am so thankful that God has given me abundant life with Him. I don’t have to be afraid or frustrated by the uncertainty all around us because I know that my God reigns, and that He excels in bringing beauty from ashes. And when I am weary from the pain and suffering in the world, I can look ahead to a future of beauty and peace forever with the Lord.
I am thankful that many of you know the Lord, too. I pray that you will continue in the beautiful reality of what He has done for us, and that His Spirit will fill you with His love and peace and joy.
For those of you who do not know Him yet, I pray that you will come to taste and see that the Lord is good and to know His love which is better than life.
Praying for you all!