The state of our culture has many people living in fear, but this should not be the case for the Christian. The world is shuddering with anxiety over economic collapse, civil unrest, and even the fear of death. Its desperation is on full display. You cannot spend time on social media without being inundated with doomsayers, conspiracy theorists, and social pressures to conform to the world’s narrative. It seems we are in danger every hour.
This fear causes many Christians to hold their tongues, keep their faith private, and fall in line with the ways of the world. They have no voice of truth to offer our culture because the world has stifled them. They stagger along, barely able to stand. It is time to wake up from our drunken stupor. We must not go on sinning. Many who bear the name Christian have no knowledge of God, and this is to their shame (1 Corinthians 15:34).
We have allowed the fear of unrest and becoming social outcasts to silence us. Many Christians live lives cowering in the corner when they should be standing boldly for the world to see. Now, more than ever, the world needs to hear the truth of the gospel, but we are too busy trying to maintain personal peace and affluence.
The conflicts of our day are not the time for Christians to be afraid. We must be willing to put ourselves in danger. Speaking the truth of Christ and biblical standards, especially when it comes to sexuality, will cause you problems. You will subject yourself to cancel culture. Your social media accounts could be censored or shut down completely. You could even become unemployable because your views will not fit the world’s narrative. There is peace in Christ but that peace is not with the world.
Sooner or later, after our time here is done, we are going to die, and then what? Then comes the end, or should I say, the beginning. Christ will eventually return. He will destroy every rule, every authority, and every power that is contrary to his (1 Corinthians 15:24).
For those who bowed in fear to the world, what will you have then? You will have capitulated to the powers of those who will be on the wrong side of history. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Even death will be extinguished so we have nothing to fear. As Jesus himself rose from the dead, so will all believers. We will be raised in spiritual bodies that are imperishable, glorious, and full of power (1 Corinthians 15:44). Why do we fear the world’s rage? Do we not believe the King of Kings?
We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead shall be raised imperishable, and our mortal bodies shall put on immortality (Corinthians 15:51-53).
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but for those who are in Jesus, his blood has washed us clean. He has purchased us, he has risen from the dead, and he gives us the victory (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
We are not to speak the truth with the world’s venom, we are to speak the truth in love. Why do you let the world cause you to cower? Why do you hide your light under a bushel? We are a city set on a hill. We are the light of the world, and even though the world loves darkness rather than light, we must shine his love for them to see. We must be the salt of the earth. Do not let Satan steal your saltiness because he has already lost.
Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Be willing to pour out your life as a drink offering; then comes the end, and it will be glorious.
We have history’s greatest sermons at our fingertips. I have recently discovered a new edifying podcast called Revived Thoughts. I was able to connect with Troy Frasier, one of the men who produce the content, and I asked him if he would be willing to write a guest post to let us know what Revived Thoughts is all about, and he graciously agreed.
Most people serious about their faith are familiar with some of the great theologians of the past. It’s not uncommon to hear a quote by Charles Spurgeon dropped in a sermon. Or maybe you have seen a quote go by on your social media of Jonathan Edwards or Martin Luther. These men continue to inspire us, and their books continue to be read by those seeking insights into their faith.
One thing we often forget is that before they were famous theologians they were preachers. To their congregants, they were often tender-hearted pastors who preached a passionate and accessible Gospel on how to live out the theology that they expressed in their books. It was there that their thoughts met real world-application.
Today it is not uncommon for Christians to listen to sermons from preachers all over the country. Sermons by pastors that have made names for themselves such as John Piper, Francis Chan, or John MacArthur. Before the age of podcasting and live streaming, preachers could be heard on the radio. Famous names like Leonard Ravenhill and Billy Sunday could be heard by tuning the dial. Through technology, these radio evangelists had replaced the original way of finding out what was preached: reading the sermon.
We have sermons going all the way back to the doorstep of the Apostles, with 2 Clement possibly preached within just a few years of John the Apostle’s death, all the way up to the mid-1900’s that were written down. Yet all these sermons, filled with magnificent truth, have been forgotten. They have been left on bookshelves to collect dust, and with them, the stories of the amazing preachers that delivered them.
When I was a teacher at a Christian school, I asked the middle school students to name any famous Christians they could think of. They named “Martin Luther King,” “Malcolm X,” “Mother Theresa,” and “Ghandi.” Now, besides the fact that half of that list is not even Christian, it shows a complete lack of awareness of Christian history. Of course, I may have had a bad survey sample, but I think it is also true that most Christians in the west hardly know how they got here. They may have a distorted memory from High School about the Reformation and Martin Luther nailing theses. They may know of some Puritan names, but they usually have little understanding of the lives of each of these men and how many of them interacted with each other. What were they up against? How was their family life? What great historical events did they experience, and how did that change their perspectives?
We are missing incredible testimonies and assurances of our faith! Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Andrew Gray, and so many other Puritans spent time in prison for their faith. They were told not to gather, yet they did it in secret and in barns in the woods. They show us a church that can grow and flourish despite cruel persecution and that can still be well-read through it all.
John Wycliffe lived through the Black Death. When he watched 60% of his village, people who looked healthy but were the sickest they had ever been drop dead a day later, he turned to God’s Word. When Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai during the start of the Taiping Rebellion, the fourth bloodiest event in human history, and saw the city on fire he stayed and created one of the biggest missionary organizations in Christian history.
These men were more than just scholars. They were people with lives that shine the glory of God. Even with their flaws, we see the amazing glory of God using broken individuals to accomplish incredible purposes.
These men were pastors. They preached and loved their congregations and labored week after week on sermons. Sermons that we have put aside, but technology is bringing them back to life! Their biographies and the best research on who these men were is now readily available online. Internet libraries have placed all their old catalogues within reach again, including books which contain these old sermons. Speakers from around the world can record these sermons and send them out to be published alongside the biographies of these great people of God.
You can download all of these sermons and biographies with the simple click of a button. Technology, the very thing that buried these incredible preachers of the past, is now bringing them back. Revived Thoughts is a podcast that exists to bring history’s greatest sermons back to life! Each Thursday, we publish a new sermon by a different preacher, and we also give you their back-story. We have released over 60 sermons by men ranging all across history. Not just those that you have heard of, but probably some that you’re unfamiliar with. We hope these sermons will all encourage you in your walk with God.
Check us out by subscribing to us on any podcast player or by going to our website, “Revived Thoughts.” We also run a sister podcast Revived Devos that takes devotionals from 7 great men of God and deliver them to you in 2-3 minute bite sized listens every single day.
Many people think they have peace with God, but their lack of concern about their standing with him is a deception of their spiritually dead soul. There is a peace that passes all understanding, and in times like we were living in now, it is one of the most blessed aspects of the Christian life. The foundation of this peace is the cross of Jesus, where our sins found forgiveness, and the wrath of God is satisfied. The moment we trust in the atoning work of Christ, we are at peace with God objectively. From there, that truth begins to give us peace subjectively as God sheds his love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
The problem is, many people believe they are at peace with God, but because of their sins, they are still at enmity with him. Though they experience no distress at the thought of the holiness of God, it is not the peace of Christ they are experiencing; it is a dead calm. Scripture tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. There are signs that manifest if what we are experiencing is not the peace of Christ but is, in reality, the stillness of a spiritually dead soul. Here are six telltale signs of a dead calm.
1. Peace Without Heavenly Joy
One of the first signs that the peace we are experiencing is not the peace of Christ is that it is not accompanied by heavenly joy. The person who is alive in Christ and has experienced the conviction of sin, knows that there is no more significant dilemma in life. Once we have been awakened to the fact that hell is the only proper punishment for our sins and we find salvation in the cross of Jesus, all other problems in life pale in comparison. From there flows joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:8), and that joy of the Lord will be our strength. If you find yourself unconcerned with your spiritual state before the Lord, but there is no joy in Christ Jesus, you may be experiencing the ease of a deceitful heart.
2. Peace That Rests on Our Own Merit
The second evidence that we do not have the peace of Christ can be seen when we consider our good-standing with God, and we base his favor on our character; when we think of all we do for the church, how we help the community, and think, “Of course, I have peace with God, look at all the good I do.” To further deceive ourselves, we often try to convince ourselves of our worthiness by looking around at the sins of others and see how we have avoided many vices that others have embraced. It is this comparison to other people that causes us to take comfort while we are still in our sins. This confidence in our goodness is a sure sign that we are experiencing the calm of a spiritually dead soul. Even if we claim the merits of the blood of Jesus, but believe our justification in Christ is a mixture of his death and our works, scripture says we are lost. We are saved by faith apart from works (Rom. 3:28); it is entirely the merit of Christ that brings us into a right relationship with him. If we add righteousness of our own, we condemn ourselves because our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
3. The Things of God are Barren and Dry
The third sign that our peace is not of God is exposed if we find the things of God barren and dry. This is when we have no hunger for the word of God, and when we try to feed upon it, it is like ashes in our mouth. If we can find more joy in an obscene Netflix series, than a time of prayer and Bible reading, something is seriously amiss with our spiritual condition.
4. Peace That is Easily Disturbed by Life’s Troubles
The fourth indicator deals with our response to trials. When life is going smoothly, our calm continues, but when troubles arise, so does the desperation of our heart. If life’s calamities have sent us into a tailspin of despair, the peace we are experiencing may not have been born of God.
Peace born of the flesh trembles when the things of the flesh tremble. Peace born of the Spirit of God looks to God himself who does not move, even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea (Psalm 46:2). There will be times of lament, sorrow, grief, and distress in the life of the Christian, but though we may be perplexed, we will not despair (2 Cor. 4:8).
5. Death Will Be Fierce
If we are reading this, we have not yet experienced this last one, but if worldly peace is not replaced with true peace with God, our deathbed will be a harrowing experience. Only the believer strengthened by the Holy Spirit is able to say, “Death, where is your sting. Grave, where is your victory. (1 Cor. 15:55)” A peace founded on the things of the world and confidence in the flesh will die when the flesh begins to perish.
As you went through this list, was any of this true of you? If so, it can only mean one of two things. 1. We are not a child of God, and we need to confess our sinfulness to the Lord, and trust entirely in the merits of Jesus, and the work he did on our behalf. Or 2. We are a believer, but our heart is still trying to find its hope and peace in this life. We must grow to be more spiritually-minded. If we do not, we may be saved, but we will suffer great loss as our carnal works are burned up on the day of judgment. We will be saved, but as one through fire (1. Corinthians 3: 15).
None of us are without sin. It is time for all of us to draw up under the wings of our Savior, and find joy in our salvation as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts. The revived joy will make the things of God more precious to us than anything this world can offer, and life’s storms will not be able to take our peace. Finally, on the day we die, death will not have its sting, and the grave will not have its victory.
It may seem strange, but my favorite thing about blogging is that you are not required to read this. Sure, there are several other aspects I enjoy. I like to write even if it is a painstaking process for me, and I desperately need an editor. I also find blogging therapeutic, or putting it in more biblical terms; it is a chance for me to be still and know that he is God. Most of my posts come from some stirring within me; some distress in my soul listening to hear the calmer of the storm say, “peace be still,” or some thirst meditating on the word of God seeking to be refreshed by a drink of living water. With all that said, though, I love that you can walk away whenever you choose, and here is why.
I do not like to waste people’s time, and several of my writings are just that. This post may fall into that category, or you may find something in it that is useful. It may encourage you to look at writing in a new way. It may even be the catalyst for you to start one of the most uncool things on the planet, a blog. Rarely does anyone gain any social credibility by walking into a party and telling people, “I have a blog,” however, that does not mean you should not do it. But I digress.
Writing a blog post is like pulling up a chair in someone’s home and starting a conversation. Somewhere along the way a piece of my heart will be exposed as a few of the fires within me struggle to find expression, but if my company is unsatisfactory, I can vanish from your presence simply by you looking away. You can do it now if you want. I will not even notice, so you do not have to worry about hurting my feelings, but the longer you keep reading, the more you allow the conversation to continue, and the more your hospitality endears me.
I teach a lot of classes, and one thing I know is that there are always people there who do not want to be. Whether it is my lack of teaching ability, the topic itself, or a desire or need of theirs that is pulling them away, I feel like I am imposing myself on them. I know that can be good in some situations, but not in most.
The inability to get up and walk out without causing a scene is one of the reasons we need to go to church regularly and sit under the Word of God. It is one of the reasons virtual church will never be as beneficial as actual church attendance. Our hearts are prone to wander, and physically sitting under the preaching of a man of God is a check on our restless souls. Even when they want to wander, they cannot. We must sit and listen even if we do not like the preacher’s manner of communication or his subject matter. It is the grace of God that he often convicts and nourishes us as we desire to escape, but that is church. Being imposed upon there is a good thing, but this is a blog, and I am not your pastor. At best, if you are a Christian, I am your brother in Christ, but that does not mean out of the millions of other things you could read online, you should be reading posts here.
What is the point of all this? The people I most enjoy hearing my thoughts are the ones who want to hear them. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, most of my writing comes from a stirring within me, and today, I simply wanted you to know that I do not take you for granted. Our time together may be as long or short as you wish, and your attention, however much of it you decide to give, is a gift to me. So, if you are still reading this, thank you. It means a lot, and knowing you took the time when you did not have to is what I love most about blogging.
Your frequent afflictions are His sweet lessons. It is the proper work of the grace of Jesus to humble the proud sinner, to make him and to keep him sensible of his needs, convinced always that he has not any good of his own and cannot possibly of himself obtain any but what he must be receiving every moment out of the fullness of Jesus.
All providences, sicknesses, losses, successes, are only so far blessings, as they lead us more out of ourselves, into the fullness of Jesus.
The Lord having appointed you for His heavenly kingdom, has also appointed all the steps which are to lead you there. Your every affliction is in the covenant. Your sicknesses, your failings, your disappointments, there is not one thing that thwarts your will, that is not in God’s will. Nothing can befall you but what is divinely ordered, contrived for you by infinite wisdom, brought upon you by infinite love!
Oh, for eyes to see, for a heart to receive all God’s dealings with you in this covenant view. How sweet would be your many trials, if you found them all appointed and managed for you by the best of friends! Learn to receive them thus.
To the care of His dear loving heart I commend you and yours,
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. -Psalm 119:15
The habit of laying up a text of Scripture in the morning, to be meditated upon while engaged in the business of this world through the day, is both profitable and delightful. It is as a refreshing draught to a weary traveler!
Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living, than the habit of getting a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day’s thoughts and words and experiences.
Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live, and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.
A devotional book which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning, that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough, is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives, is the application of the great teachings of Scripture to common, daily, practical life.
We have sown the wind and reaped a whirlwind. If the troubles of 2020 have not humbled us and brought us to our knees before God, we are not paying attention. We are a society that has abandoned the God of the Bible. The only God who exists. First, we saw the pandemic and found out we are a nation that turns diseases into battles for control and uses death counts as weapons in our political warfare. Our leaders on both sides of the aisle set policies that force people not to work, and then they feign disbelief as unemployment rates skyrocket. They then blame the other party for the economic collapse, and we the people parrot their rhetoric. As the restrictions lift, and joblessness drops they will undoubtedly take the credit and claim to be our saviors. Then 2020 highlighted the deep seated racial sins that permeate our nation.
In the death of Ahmad Abrey, we saw racists hunt down and kill a black man in the streets. In the case of George Floyd, we saw four police officers abuse their authority and callously and brutally torture a man made in the image of God in a way that led to his death. It was murder. From there, many people rightly began to protest these atrocities. These protests, of course, then brought out new acts of evil, as a portion of the protestors literally set cities on fire. They killed civilians and police officers. We devoured our own, forsaking the Lord, who gave us life.
Race relations are not the only issue in our society that is marred by our sinfulness. We are a society that still has laws on the books that declare certain people as non-human. These laws allow children to be ripped from the womb when they get in the way of the plans of more valuable people, and the government funds it. The institution of abortion exists because we want sexual gratification on our terms. Sexual pleasure has become the god of our culture to which all other gods must bow. One of its contenders is reproduction itself. We must separate the pleasure of sex from reproduction and fertility, or there can be no sexual freedom. “My body, my choice” is the battle cry of a generation who, whether they realize it or not, are rebelling against their natural design. Nature and nature’s God, not the patriarchy, is what our culture hates most.
All of this undermines the God-given institution of the family, which further advances the pathologies mentioned above. In sowing the wind of sexual deviancy, we have reaped the whirlwind as another form of slavery continues to increase. Human trafficking for sex is alive and active in our nation. Of course, most people would never participate in that kind of behavior, but we consume pornography at a catastrophic rate which feeds it and feeds off of it. We are a people determined to go after filth (Hosea 5:11). As our culture continues to move further away from God’s standard, we do not think about the fact that he remembers all our evil (Hosea 7:2). We should not be surprised when he withdraws from us and leaves us to our own destructive devices (Romans 1:24). We are destroyed for lack of knowledge because we have rejected his word (Hosea 4:6).
The list of ways we have abandoned God could go on and on, but for the sake of time, I will move along. This is a Christian website, and I assume many Christians are reading this article. I also believe some have nodded with approval as they read, but the evangelical community also plays a role in our culture’s decline. We have been negligent. God has called us to be beacons of the love of Christ to our world, and we have turned our churches into shrines of entertainment. In an effort to win the world’s approval, we have stopped loving them by failing to preach the word of God. Instead of the gospel, we preach pop psychology glossed over with a Christian veneer and comic relief. From there, we fail to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ as we adapt the world’s philosophy and lay atheistic categories over the word of God. Critical race and gender theories are not the balm of Gilead; they are salt in the wound. Yet, churches across the land utilize their constructs.
I know God has kept a remnant of churches who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and if you are part of one, you are blessed (1 Kings 19:18). If you are a close adherent to the word of God, you know all of this to be true. The problem is, we see many members of doctrinally sound, Bible-believing congregations on social media posturing with smug pleasure at the world’s demise. They do not love their enemies. They do not bless those that curse them. They do not return evil with good. Instead, they attack, provoke, post memes filled with half-truths, and comfort themselves with the fact that they are righteous enough to spot virtue signaling. Let us also not forget how easy it is for us to find joy when something tragic happens to counter the narrative we oppose. Our hearts do not weep; they applaud because we are more concerned about winning the culture war than we are about winning the soul.
Our hearts do not break at the thought of countless millions on their way to an eternity in hell. We were just happy that we had a witty comeback to make fun of someone’s ridiculous post on social media. We spend more time on idle activities than we do in the word of God. Our prayer lives are barren, and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is bruised and turning brown.
Is this starting to get close to home? I am not writing this to point fingers. I am writing to myself as I ponder the sins of our culture that have set this world ablaze. As I watch the world sowing the winds of sin and reaping the whirlwind, all I start to see is how much sinfulness I have been sowing in my life. The world needs to humble itself before the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I am no exception. The word of God tells us, he who says he is without sin has deceived himself and makes God out to be a liar (1 John 1:8,10). There is only one standard by which we will be held accountable, and that is the word of God. One look at that, and we should all start to tremble.
Every one of us, Christians especially, should be on our knees, humbling ourselves before our merciful Savior asking him to save us from this whirlwind. Our witty comebacks on social media, our clever signs as we march in the streets, and our hours of idle time binging Netflix content cannot bring peace to our land and peace to our hearts. Only Jesus can do that.
A large portion of people who read this post may not be guilty of many of the sins mentioned in this article, but each one of us has enough sin in our lives to condemn us before a holy God. The problem is we are often content with it because we tell ourselves we are not as bad as “those people.” We measure ourselves by ourselves, but this is not wise (1 Corinthians 10:12). Only when our sins are washed in the blood of Jesus who paid our penalty on the cross, can we have peace with God. Without peace with God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we cannot have personal peace. Without personal peace, we cannot love those who hate us. Without being able to love those who hate us, we cannot be what Christ has called us to be, a light to a dying world.
Jesus has called us to exhibit the exact opposite of what this world says we should desire. Instead of a thirst for power, we are to be people who live out poverty of spirit, who mourn over sin, who are meek, and hunger and thirst after righteousness. Only then will we be merciful, pure in heart, and, ultimately, peacemakers (Matthew 5:2-9). None of this is possible without the power of the Holy Spirit. We must cleanse our hands and our double-minds. We must draw near to him, and he will draw near to us (James 4:8).
Our sins have struck us down, but he can bind us up. Let us return to the Lord (Hosea 6:1). My prayer is that he has allowed the troubles of 2020 to show us that without him, this world is empty. My earnest desire is that there will be a move of God across the land. Instead of sowing wind, we will sow for ourselves righteousness and reap the steadfast love of God (Hosea 10:12). Perhaps he has drawn us into the wilderness where the whirlwind is wreaking havoc to speak tenderly to us, and this valley of trouble will end up being a door of hope (Hosea 2:14-15). It is time for us to break up our fallow ground and seek the Lord that he may come and rain righteousness upon us (Hosea 10:12).
Today is a gift from God, and you marred it with sin. It was not your intention. You planned to bring God glory in all that you did, and for a portion of the day, you were on track. You started the morning with scripture; you spent time in prayer, then you were off to handle the pressures of the day, but somewhere along the way you lost focus. The world threw so many curveballs, you forgot about your Savior, and focused all your attention on issues at hand.
As you successfully navigated the first several obstacles, you began to grow confident. You believed that whatever was going to come your way would be no problem for you. You even started to feel good about yourself, thinking that what you were doing was impressive. If people knew how well you were handling it all, they would most likely applaud you.
You knew the afternoon would have more that would need your attention, but you had already handled quite a bit today, so you thought you would give yourself a short break. You knew you should be doing something else, but you deserved it. Then you came back to handle the rest of the day.
As the hours progressed, something in your spirit started to long for more. The short break was not quite enough. There was a mild dissatisfaction that wanted to be filled, an itch that needed to be scratched. Before you knew it, temptation had presented itself robed as relief, and you had given in to that old familiar sin. You did not see it coming. You were not vigilant, and the enemy caught you off guard. He sent you to the ground bleeding and cloaked your day with darkness.
As you lay there, you remember the old saying, “The strength of sin is death, and sin is the death of strength.” Now more than ever, you know that to be true. It feels like something inside you has died. The spiritual vitality that moved you in the morning, now seems to be on life support.
As you lay there wounded, the enemy hides in the darkness whispering “failure” in your direction. “You might as well hang it up,” he hisses. “You have ruined this day; you are ruined” You feel like a lost cause; you wonder if you should give up, but then something starts to stir within you. The realization of your weakness and the humility it produced turns your eyes away from yourself and the issues at hand back to the one who can wash you clean and give you new strength.
Once again, you learn to trust yourself less, and your Savior more. You remember that you do not have what it takes to run this race, yet somehow, you do not despair because you know the one who can lives within you, and greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.
The Spirit reminds you that the wrath you deserve for the sin that so easily entangled you received its full punishment on the cross. He stands you to your feet, brushes you off, points you in the right direction, and empowers you to continue pressing toward the goal.
As you walk entirely dependent upon him, he does not leave you. He walks with you and reminds you that a soldier often wins the day after a fall; soldiers can win the battle after being wounded. Some battles in the Christian life are short-lived, but the struggle with yourself will last a lifetime. Remember this, however, life is short, and when the battle is done, comes an eternity of triumph in Christ Jesus.
Press on in the strength of the Lord. You may have fallen, but you are not foiled.
The past several days have been heart-wrenching. Not only are we dealing with COVID-19 and the restrictions and fallout related to it, but we have also witnessed what is clearly the wrongful death of a man at the hands of police officers. To compound that, we have had six days of violent protest across the United States as many have turned to rioting, vandalism, and theft. If we were not awake to the fact that we are living in a fallen world before this, we should be awake now.
If we spend too much time focused on the news or following social media feeds, we will soon be defeated and worn. If we spend too much time focused on this world without turning our eyes heavenward, we will quickly be hopeless because this world is unable to satisfy. The emptiness of this world is why scripture is continually calling us to turn our eyes away from the waves and turn them towards Jesus.
We see a perfect example of this when Jesus offers living water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter four. What is especially relevant about this passage is we see racial tension at work in these verses as well.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he stopped to rest at the well in Samaria. The significance of this is that Jews and Samaritans, in general, did not like each other. Each group claimed the other group looked down on and mistreated them. The Samaritans were people who had married during Israel’s captivity, so the Jews did not believe they were genuinely Jewish. They were two or more ethnicities.
Adding to their racial differences, though the Samaritans believed in the God of Jacob, they merged their worship of him with pagan ideas. Some Bible scholars believe they worshiped him as a local deity who was only one among many. Due to these issues, the animosity between Jews and Samaritans went deep and cut both ways.
In walks Jesus, a Jew, and he engages the Samaritan woman in conversation by asking her for a drink of water from the well. Her response was to question why he was talking to her because Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Her question could have been honest, but most likely, her own prejudiced was starting to show. To put it in today’s vernacular, she could have been saying, “You Jews are usually too arrogant to talk to Samaritans. Take the hint; I am not interested in helping you.”
Jesus responds by saying, “If you knew who was speaking to you, you would have asked, and he would have given you living water.” What Jesus is doing, despite her disregard of him, is preparing to bless her. The first thing we need to notice about Jesus is that he does not play our culture’s race, gender, and class games. He simply treats this woman as a person made in the image of God regardless of society’s sins. The biggest problem is not this woman’s gender or race or even the mistreatment she has experienced at the hands of others; those are symptoms of a deeper issue. The real problem is her spiritual blindness, which becomes evident in her response to Jesus.
She says, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” Her exaggerated focus on the physical exposes her inability to see spiritually. All she can think about is physical water. This is the state of many people today. You talk to them about God, and all they want to do is require evidence and the only evidence they will allow must use the scientific method. Their blindness, often willful, has so reduced their world to the physical that they cannot see past it, and they try to find all their satisfaction in it because, for them, it is all that exists.
This blindness, however, is not merely a problem for some people. We are all born with this blindness. Every believer alive today was once just as blind, but Jesus did for us what he is doing for the Samaritan woman in the passage. He restored our spiritual sight and offered us living water.
When all you can see is the physical world around you, you will do everything you can to find your hope in it, because you know of nothing else. As Jesus continues to speak to this woman gently, he brings to light the fact that she has had five husbands, and the man she is living with now is not her husband. Whether it was by death, divorce, or adultery, this woman had tried to find fulfillment in men, and she was left empty, and Jesus had exposed her sinfulness. He did not need to condemn her. He simply opened her eyes, and she saw it. When we focus only on the things of this world, ultimately, all we will find is disappointment that will leave us weary and worn. In our attempts to address our weary souls without looking to Jesus, we will walk deeper and deeper into sin.
Despite the woman’s sin, because of the sacrifice Jesus knew he was going to make on the cross, he knew her sins could be washed clean, and she, a sinner, could be in a right relationship with the holy God. In light of the atonement he would make, He offers her living water and says, “Whoever drinks of this water will never be thirsty again, and the water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The water he is speaking of is ultimately the Holy Spirit who opens our blind eyes, points us to Jesus and the cross, makes our spiritually dead hearts beat again, and causes us to rejoice in our God of mercy. He took our sinful hearts and made us whole, he calls us his children, and his banner over us is love. Instead of the wrath we deserve, we find forgiveness and peace in his presence, and this river of living water is eternal. It will never run dry.
I am not sure where you are right now spiritually, but if you have spent too much time focused on the things of this world, I am sure 2020 has left you discouraged and broken. Even we as believers can experience this when we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our surroundings. This is what we see happening to Peter when he was walking on water, and he began to sink. The more we focus on the waves, the further we will descend until we find this world overwhelming us. Our society at large is undoubtedly sinking right now. This spiritual blindness so permeates our culture that it is attacking itself trying to find its happiness and hope in a world that cannot deliver.
What the world needs now more than anything is the living water that Christ offers, but we will only find it by being spiritually-minded and spending time with Jesus in his word and in prayer. As Christians, Christ is with us no matter what we face in this life. Sickness, racial injustice, and even riots cannot separate us from his love: even when injustice is directed toward us and at our front door.
The living water is a spring overflowing with joy, joy in the Lord. Joy in knowing he has forgiven us of our sins and healed us of our spiritual blindness. Joy in knowing no matter how bad this world may get, he will will not lose us and eventually return to set it all right. My question for you is, do you have this joy, or is your heart overwhelmed by the troubles of 2020? It is proper for us to have hearts filled with lament at times like these, but that lament can coexist in the full confidence in our great Savior.
How do we navigate these turbulent waters? How do we express our lament and reveal our hope? We cannot do it in our own strength, it is only through the Living Water himself, the Holy Spirit. If you are weak and unable to shine forth the light of your Savior, then turn to your eyes to him, he will restore your joy, and the joy of the Lord will be your strength. Did you catch that? The joy of the Lord will be your strength.
If there is anything Christians need now more than ever, it is strength. We need strength to be who Christ has called us to be, strength to be a city on a hill, strength to have hope during a pandemic and the resulting economic collapse, and power to model Christ’s example of the way past racial prejudice, violence, and anger. He broke down the racial wall when he broke down the wall between Jew and Gentile. In Christ, He destroys the artificial categories of class. All are one in Christ Jesus.
It is only in Christ that we will be able to love our enemies and return good for evil. It will only be in knowing our sinfulness and the grace we have received that we will be able to show mercy to those who mistreat us. As the world works to build higher and stronger walls of separation, Jesus has called us to break them down with the love of God, and there will be nothing easy about it. Others will mistreat us in the process, and as our scars begin to show, may the Spirit use them to draw people to the nail-scared hands, the only hands that can heal our world. We will only be able to live a life like that if we make sure our eyes are on Jesus, and we are drinking deeply of the living water.
As the nation slowly lifts its restrictions, there is a conflict going on in the hearts of many people. While many are tired of the lockdowns and rejoice at the thought of going to work, getting out to see friends, sitting in a restaurant, going shopping, and even gathering at church, many of those same people are experiencing anxiety about life returning to normal. Why is that? The answer that is not what you would expect.
The reason many people are feeling anxious about life returning to normal has nothing to do with the threat of COVID-19. Even when they look further into the future when the coronavirus threat is gone completely, their hearts still shiver at the thought of going back to the way things were.
Though many people have personally experienced economic distress, been rightly concerned about government overreach, and have dealt with the emotional fallout due to the lack of face-to-face human interaction, there are aspects of this cultural slowdown that many people have enjoyed.
It is possible to hate every negative aspect listed above and yet still unselfishly enjoy the fact that you now have more time with your family. It is no contradiction to detest the economic decline and at the same time to feel stress levels drop when you drive because the freeways are clear, and you are now able to get to your destination in half the time. It is even possible to feel the emotional toll on your children when they cannot participate in the activities they love and still find relief that you can enjoy your weekend without having to be in five different places on Saturday.
Though these benefits of the pandemic lockdown certainly have not outweighed the costs, the current cultural slowdown has many people reexamining their lives and asking the question, “What kind of life do I want to live when this is all over?” The thought of “everything” going back to normal can be a cause of concern for many people.
The way through this anxiety is to consider carefully what to let back in your life and what to discard. As we bring each piece of our old life back into play, we need to ask ourselves, what price am I willing to pay for the reward this gives me. Most activities will require little thought. Going back to work, being active in your church, and a host of other things will, and should, be embraced with open arms. However, for example, maybe Sunday should only be reserved for worship, family, and friends. Perhaps we were created to have a day of rest, and part of the anxiety we feel at the thought of going back to the way things were, stems from the fact that we had abandoned that practice. Maybe human flourishing happens best when we have a day of rest each week.
If our lives were so busy that we did not have time to enjoy our families or to pause and reflect, going back to “normal” is certainly not healthy. Some people were so overloaded they never had time to consider the purpose of it all until now. As we add pieces back into our lives, it is perfectly acceptable to leave unnecessary activity out if it adds little value to your life yet contributes to your exhaustion. It is not only acceptable, it is the right thing to do.
As authorities lift restrictions, now is the perfect time to ask ourselves, “What kind of life do I want to live?” As Christians, self-examination is an essential discipline of our spiritual lives. We are called continually, and especially on the Lord’s Day, to pause and realign our lives to God’s design for us. Maybe realizing we have permission to live a less-frantic life, even when all this is over, will calm the misgivings that arise at the thought of the lockdowns ending.
Hectic lives are often the result of having too many targets we are trying to hit; too many masters we are trying to please. As Jesus said, we are not able to serve more than one master (Matt. 6:24). My prayer is that during the weeks of quarantine, the Lord has reminded us all that there is only one worthy calling, and that is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Whatever does not tend toward this glorious end in our lives is expendable.