Christian Living in a Pandemic Environment

This was a Wednesday night Bible class presentation made at Forsythe Church of Christ by John Dobbs and Daniel Kirkendall. There is a Facebook Live video available HERE.

Introduction

*It is hard not to think of our place in the world as our permanent home. I think it’s important to remember that this is our temporary home, and then even further that the trials that we endure are temporary, this phase that we are in right now is temporary… remember that, and let that be a beacon of hope for you.  

*News of a growing death toll in the COVID-19 outbreak is distressing. We should question how much news we really need to hear… keep to a minimum.

*Peter wrote to a church that was scattered, persecuted, distressed and wondering how to live the Christian life in such a situation. What can we learn from his letter about Christian living in an environment with uncertainty at every turn.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORLD BETWEEN YOUR EARS

I love this phrase, and believe that our response to the salvation that Jesus brings goes beyond emotions.  The Bible says to guard your heart in Proverbs 4:24 and now we read that we are to prepare our minds for action. Guard your hearts and prepare your minds- kind of an offense and defense comparison.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:13

Prepare yourself for action. Some other translations: “Gird up the loins of your mind” (KJV); “Brace up your minds” (AMP); “think clearly” (NLT).

Our thoughts, what we ruminate on, how we view things, makes a difference.  Back to the offense/defense comparison, what we think leads to how we act. Peter tells us here not just to prepare our minds, but to prepare our minds for action. A legendary Chinese philosopher, who was not a Christian, but understood the importance of preparing your mind said this:  Watch your thoughts, they become your words; Watch your words, they become your actions; Watch your actions they become your habits; and watch your habits, they become your character, and your character becomes your destiny.  

What are we filling our thoughts with? What are we consuming with our minds? Is it going to help us live for Christ or is it driving us away from Him? 

Be sober-minded. This is an expression that speaks of a restraint of temper, controlled habits of thought and a calm attitude toward irritations. There are many frustrations right now … waiting, some items we need are in short supply, our usual life has been disrupted. Parents are having new issues to deal with that can be frustrating (school, restless children,  uncertainty of the future, loss of income). It’s easy to let our temper get the best of us when we have so much pressure to deal with. 

Put your hope fully on Jesus (set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ). Ultimately Jesus will come again … above all of the noise and information overload of the world, we set our hope on the grace we receive when He returns.

The easy thing to do is to put the guard down on our hearts, and let our emotions control our thoughts, and react to situations with panic, worry, fear, doubt…feelings that are not Christlike, but if our thoughts control our emotions, we can be intentional and purpose driven with our emotions, and the result will be joy, hope, and other Christlike… or Christian characteristics.  

DON’T SELF MEDICATE ON SIN. 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16

It is easy to turn back to old temptations to find comfort / relief. Alcohol, food, drugs. A story on yahoo.news reported that internet traffic to porn sites has been through the roof. 1 Peter 4:3 (CEB) You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire... There is an old life that we remember.  When we obeyed the Gospel we had a clean break from the sin of the past. We spent enough time with sin in the past.

These were old ways of ignorance – we are called to be and remain holy.  / Ignorance sounds so degrading and demeaning, but it’s really not.  It simply means that “you just don’t know, not aware”, but as people of God, we do know what it means to be holy, and we are aware that we are helpless and hopeless without Christ

Holiness is one of Peter’s themes. We are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). We are a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). We are holy in light of the Coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:11). We are to have an ambition to become holy. Separated and set apart for God. Dedicated to leaving behind evil. Dedicated to following God.

“To pursue holiness means to pursue Jesus because the better we know Him, the more clearly we see how little like Him we really are. This leads us to deeper repentance, which leads to deeper forgiveness, which leads to a greater usefulness by God and greater holiness.” – Max Anders 

Hebrews 12:14 “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

God’s truth and standards are the focus when we feel stress and anxiety.

PANDEMIC FEAR AND ANXIETY DOES NOT EXCUSE OUR CONDUCT. 

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

1 Peter 1:17-19

Hoarding, isolating, and ignoring the needs of others lead to unhappy consequences – these are acts of selfishness. We call on a God who judges us impartially according to our deeds. Because we are worried, are we excused from treating others with kindness? Because we experience fear, should we disregard the feelings of others? God is concerned about our deeds – our actions – our works. We are called upon to fear God (respect,awe) throughout the exile. 

I definitely think fear means fear.  Think about the things that we fear in this world, disease, death, spiders, and the greatness of God consumes all of these fears.  The fear of God is certainly a healthy way of thinking about God, not that he will punish you, but in knowing that nothing is greater than God, and that an all powerful God is on our side, he loves us, he cares for us, not because of anything we’ve done, but because He is able to see us through the perspective of Jesus.  

Avoid going back to old ways and old perspectives by remembering that we were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ. What suffering he went through on our behalf! His painful experience did not excuse Him from his mission … even while dying he prayed for those who were hurting him. 

 EVEN IN DISTRESS WE SEEK TO LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS 

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:20-21

Before the pandemic struck, Jesus was made known. For our sake – we are Christians because the truth of Jesus was revealed to us at some point in our lives. This is our goal – to bring the truth of Jesus to everyone so they can be believers too. God raised him from the dead and gave him glory – the greatest truth ever told! Our faith and hope are in God – so while we are in distress, we do not forget that above and beyond all of the fear and anxiety, Jesus is Lord and we are His people. How can we lift up His name in a pandemic environment? 

THE PRESENCE OF A PANDEMIC DOES NOT OVERCOME LOVE

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…

1 Peter 1:22-23

One result of our Christian commitment is sincere brotherly love. Brotherly Love is earnest, from a pure heart. We are born again from imperishable seed, living and abiding word of God – nothing destroys this love we are to have for one another. The power of demonstrated love is still something that all people are drawn to. 

WHATEVER WE MAY FACE, GOD’S WORD IS FOREVER.

for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

1 Peter 1:24-25

Already many have died in this pandemic. Many more will likely die. It is more likely that you will know someone who grows ill from this virus.  Death is a part of life on earth, and though we seek to live long healthy lives, everyone faces the end of life at some point – whether through a virus or natural causes. The good news is that God’s promises do not cease when we pass – instead they live forever. 

For a church in exile, that was good news. I’m sure some days seemed like the church wouldn’t survive. Maybe we wonder that at this time.

There is something special about being at home, around the people you love and trust, that feeling of safety and security- but life is not a fairy tale, and we lose or change jobs, we have excess and we experience want, loved ones come and go without prejudice, and life is just not fair.  Right now we all find ourselves at home… a lot. We wonder how we can be productive, how to connect and reconnect with friends and family, we may be going stir-crazy- and when we look at our lives entirely, we may be wondering “How did we get here?” and Where can I find hope in the way things will turn out?”  Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden after being the first among God’s created. The Israelites were driven from their homes after receiving an everlasting covenant through Abraham, and then again after they had made their homes in slavery. And even when the Israelites were able to come home, it wasn’t necessarily home sweet home… they were oppressed, persecuted, and even killed. 

The Bible is almost like a continuous story of living in exile, most of the New Testament Christians are examples of Christians being exiled within the very walls of their home. In 1 Peter, the stakes are even bigger, and the exile is not from a town or country, but an entirely new Biblical form of exile brings understanding to all of the other examples of exile in the Bible.

We are exiles, citizens of heaven, living in a broken world where we experience pain, suffering, agony, disease, and even death, all credited to our own undoing and sin, while holding on to the joy, peace, and hope of what is to come.  It is not punishment, we are living in God’s wonderful creation, which he calls “good” in the first chapter of the Bible, yet because of our sin and the sins of others, we have distanced, or exiled ourselves from God’s holiness. We are longing for a better home, which has been promised. Therefore, we rely on the hope and future that can ONLY be found in Jesus Christ, who is the way to this home, who is the truth that sets us free, and who brings us life and life to the full.

Conclusion

1. Pay attention to the world between your ears.

2. Don’t self medicate on sin.

3. Pandemic Panic does not excuse our conduct.

4. Even in distress we lift up the name of Jesus.

5. The Presence of Pandemic does not overcome love.

6. Whatever we face, God’s word is forever.