Last Sunday millions of Christians around the world celebrated Easter differently. Many worshiped using online streaming services. Others met in parking lots or outdoors while socially distancing. The gospel was preached and heard. But this serious disruption in our lives affords an opportunity to re-evaluate what it really means to follow Jesus. What IS God’s desire for you in this pandemic?
For many evangelical Christians their “rule of life” has consisted of weekly worship at church, perhaps a YouVersion Bible app reading each morning, and hopefully being part of a small group. The general feeling is, if you’re doing those things, you’re a good Christian. But as great and helpful as those things are, is that what Jesus has called us to? Is that the life God created you for?
Our 21st century consumer Christianity has become comfortable with large well-financed churches with high-quality productions each week, multiple options to consume Christian media, glitzy Christian conferences, Christian schools and seminaries and publishing houses, and on and on.
Let me remind you that in the early centuries after Jesus was here, the gospel spread to the then-known world without any church buildings, denominations, seminaries, mass media, church schools or publishing houses, or anything else we consider “necessary” today. Throughout the last 2000+ years, the gospel has often spread best under the worst possible circumstances.
Social media memes have been circulating about how the “shut-down” most of us are living under is in some ways an answer to prayer, removing the focus on entertainment, sports, consumerism, and more. Our idols, even our Christian idols, have been disrobed and found wanting.
So what IS God’s desire for you in this pandemic? What would He be saying?
The Jews in Jesus’ day were consumed with figuring out how to please God, which of the 613 commandments they derived from the Torah was most important, what “work” they needed to do to be right with God.
Jesus had a wonderful way of brushing away the clutter and getting to the heart of the matter. He disrupted their paradigm and simplified things. “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 first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
So let me ask you; are you loving God with all your heart and soul and mind? Or have you allowed the external trappings of Christianity to fool you into believing you’re truly following Jesus?
There’s nothing wrong with our Christian consumerism – unless it distracts us from the main thing. And I fear it has done so far too often. And you have to know Him to love Him.
I challenge you to look at your own soul and consider, Am I loving God first and most? What does that look like for me?
Jesus continued his simplification of the Torah. After naming “Love God” as the first commandment, He said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:39-40)
Following Jesus is not just about you. Perhaps the biggest downside of our Christian consumer culture is the ease with which we get the message that the “church” is about making me feel good, meeting my needs, helping me with my problems. I volunteer where I want to, and only if I feel appreciated adequately. I pick and choose what parts of the “system” work for me.
Can you for one moment imagine the early Christians getting the impression that following Jesus was about making life better for them? Most of the time following Jesus meant life would get worse! Persecution, being outcast from social circles, business loss – was this really what we signed up for?
The point is again, following Jesus is not just about you! You cannot be a true follower of Jesus without loving your brother, said John. (1 John 4:20) Following Jesus raises your sights from your own belly and empowers you to focus on those around you who need something – physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Again I challenge you to consider, What evidence is there in my life that I am truly loving others?
Jesus loves you unconditionally, right where He finds you. But He also loves you too much to let you stay that way. (And would you really want to?) He saves you not only from something, but for something: “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)
You can’t hang around Jesus very long without being changed. What gets your attention gets you. You become like those you spend the most time with. And if you’re spending time in the presence of God, you will become more and more like His Son Jesus.
God’s desire in this pandemic, and always, is that you come to the place where you look like, think like, act like, feel like, “smell” like, respond like Jesus. Your natural inclinations to greed, anger, self-centeredness, entitlement, isolation, lust, or anything else become displaced by the growing likeness of Jesus in you.
This is not an indictment of where you are in the journey right now, but it is an invitation to more. You don’t have to live like this! “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)
So finally, let me challenge you; Are you more like Jesus today than you were last month? A year ago? Ten years ago? If not, why not?
Following Jesus in a COVID-19 Environment
The stripping away of many external trappings we’ve become used to highlights what’s most important. So finally:
- Are you loving God?
- Are you loving others?
- Are you becoming like Jesus?
When the extra stuff is gone, that’s the heart of following Jesus. That’s God’s desire for you in this pandemic – and always.
Your Turn: How has the current crisis environment affected your Christian walk? How are you following Jesus in the middle of this season? Leave a comment below.
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