Applying gospel medicine to Covid sickness Pt 2
Applying gospel medicine to Covid related sickness
APPLYING GOSPEL MEDICINE TO COVID SICKNESS
Last week we began looking at how we need to apply the gospel’s medicine to the Covid sickness that has overtaken the world. This morning is part 2 of that message.
Again, I’ll say that I’m not talking about the actual virus, which is pretty much immune to the gospel. I’m talking about all the secondary effects of Covid that have overtaken our world.
· I’m talking about the isolation we are feeling as a result of social distancing and lockdowns
· I’m talking about the added pressure we are under due to the economic downturn and retrenchments and having to work from home and find ways around extra health and safety protocols.
· I’m talking about the weariness we are feeling as a result of long Covid, or longer working hours and too many online meetings and too many changes.
· The heaviness that is weighing so many people down due to the loss of loved ones and not being able to grieve freely or naturally.
· I’m talking about the negative changes to our lifestyle and habits and relationships and church involvement and attitudes that are a direct result of the impact of Covid on our world.
What does the gospel have to say about our present context? How should the gospel be impacting our response to these secondary effects which I’ve called Covid sickness? More specifically, how does the gospel lead us to live victoriously amidst all this?
Open your Bibles to Rom 12 – read Rom 12:1-2
Paul is taking the indicatives of Rom 1-11 and showing the corresponding imperatives. How the truths of 1-11 should change the way we live. In view of God’s mercy, or as a result of the gospel – how then should we live?
How should we apply the gospel’s medicine to Covid sickness?
· In the gospel we have died to sin and self and been made alive with Christ. We are therefore living sacrifices and are to live sacrificing ourselves to make much of God.
· In the gospel, those who were suppressing the truth in unrighteousness according to Rom 1:18, who were corrupt and futile in our thinking, have been renewed and restored. We are therefore to continue to renew our minds according to the truth, saturate our lives in the Scripture so that we can resist worldly pressures and know how to do God’s will in this present age.
These are the 2 points we covered last week. 3rd gospel remedy we need to apply to Covid sickness. Third way the gospel teaches us to live amidst a world that has been overrun with Covid:
3: Serve the church with your gifts (Rom 12:3-8)
Read Rom 12:3-13
Before we lose ourselves in the details, what is the overview, the flow of this section:
· Reorientate your goal and purpose in life toward God (1)
· Reorientate your thinking or perspectives toward God (2)
· Reorientate your actions or activities toward God (3-8)
· Reorientate your relationships or interactions towards God (9-13)
So 12:3-8 is about our service or ministry in the body of Christ. The unique or specific ways that we take up our place and serve on another in the body of Christ.
think rightly (3)
It starts in vs 3 with a mindset, or attitude or perspective we must all have, which pertains to the whole section right down to vs 13. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think with sober judgment – think rightly about yourself.
· We are never so great, so wise, so resourceful, so self-sufficient that we don’t need the body
· We are never so useless, so uneducated, so needy that we are not needed in the body
· In reality we are a body and mutually dependent or inter-dependent on one another.
One mutually dependant body (4)
Vs 4-5 he draws an analogy between our physical bodies and the body of Christ.
· As our physical bodies are one living organism with many parts, so it is with the body of Christ.
· As our bodies are made up of diverse members which are very different from each other, so it is with the body of Christ
· As our body needs each and every part, so it is with the body of Christ.
· The analogy fits so well that the church is regularly referred to as the body of Christ. That name or description helps us understand what we are – one united, living organism serving one head together in many different ways.
Covid Sickness and isolation
One of the great impacts of Covid sickness is on our sense of community. Covid has literally forced us to self-isolate for long periods of time, it has put restrictions on our gatherings, disconnected us from our work colleagues and placed strain and distance on relationships even when we do get together.
As I’ve gone around to visit individuals, it’s obvious that people are struggling.
· I went through our members list and over 50% of our members have gone through significant trials in the last year: retrenchment, serious health issues, death of close family members, severe income restraints, significant problems with child raising or in marriage. Those are the things I am aware of.
· Normally my counselling load would have gone through the roof by now, but people are increasingly dealing with problems on their own rather than in community, grieving on their own, struggling to keep their heads above water on their own…..
And God has not created us and saved us for that kind of existence…..
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but with sober judgment – God has made you a member of a body. We are mutually inter-dependant.
3 characteristics of this body that I want you to notice.
a: Divinely constituted (3)
The body of Christ is divinely constituted. Each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
· God has determined your place and function in the body.
· When you withdraw and tell yourself you don’t need the body. When you become passive and tell yourself the body doesn’t need you, you are effectively saying that God doesn’t know what He is doing.
· You are telling God that the body would be better off with only one eye, or one leg, or no fingers. You are telling God, I don’t need to see, seeing is over rated, I would prefer to walk around in the dark and listen out for the dangers and savor the beautiful scenery with my ears….
· Going back to vs 2 – you have to renew your mind according to God’s truth and the truth is you are part of a body.
The second thing you must notice is that God has designed the body with diversity as an essential feature. Diversity of form and function.
In our sinful pride and insecurity, we aim for uniformity. We want to all look the same, sound the same, dress the same. Diversity makes us feel uncomfortable.
· Why do we get so emotional about differences of doctrine, or opinion or conviction or practice? Why do we often try to force people to see it our way and do what we do?
· Sometimes it’s because we genuinely care about the other person or we care about the truth. Often, if we’re honest it’s because we feel uncomfortable with other people making different decisions to me, or heading in a different direction, or looking different.
· If I’m homeschooling and they are sending their children to public school who’s right? Who’s made the better choice, whose kids will be better off? The only way I can really calm my anxieties and insecurities is to convince you to make the same choice as me, or find a bunch of other people that have already made the same choice and we can assure each other that we’ve made the right choice and criticize the other group and talk about the problems with their choice and sometimes we can even mock and ridicule them because then we feel so much better about our choice.
· That’s why we form cliques and factions within a group – most often it’s because we are more comfortable with uniformity than diversity.
We feel it when we go into cross cultural settings, or cross racial settings or when we cross significant economic barriers. The average middle class white person feels completely out of place in a township – many of us won’t even venture to go into one.
Then we come to church and we are confronted by diversity: Different ages, cultures, races, social status, different education levels, income levels, different appearances, dress styles, languages, ----
And church makes us feel very uncomfortable, very out, very misunderstood – if uniformity is what we are pursuing, then you won’t be able to find it in the church.
And that’s where the divisions and factions start: I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I speak in tongues, I prophesy, I homeschool, I submit to government, I’m Jewish, I’m Afrikaans, I’m English, …..
The ears and noses get together and criticize the fingers because they are not holy. The nails get together with the bones and laugh at the liver and heart who are so soft. The lungs get together with the mouth to make a lot of noise about the hands who never say anything and the hands and feet complain about the tongues that are all talk and no action.
God has deliberately made us different! Get used to different, embrace different.
Example: Diversity in our church
Our church is becoming increasingly culturally diverse. That is something we have been praying for years, something we view as a step in the right direction. We should reflect the diversity in the community around us. But that is going to come with challenges and miscommunication and differences. That’s going to make church feel a lot more uncomfortable for all of us and we are constantly going to feel the pressure to form our comfortable cliques. We are going to struggle with factions, with wanting to pull away and form these sub-groups where we all agree, where we understand each other and can easily communicate.
Unless we embrace diversity as desireable….Somehow in the church – that diversity is our strength, it allows us to accomplish things we could never accomplish if we were all the same.
C: DEPENDANT (5)
Notice the balance between vs 4 and 5. We are many members and we do not all have the same function (vs 4) but vs 5 despite this diversity, we are one body and individually members one of another.
That’s unity. We are interdependent, we are part of each other, one with each other, dependant upon each other.
In the church uniformity is not the goal – unity amidst diversity is.
That is how God has designed the body to be. Dependent upon each other and dependent upon God.
Dependant upon God (6)
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us.
· We don’t decide where and how we will serve in the body – God decides that.
· Vs 6 talks about gifts that differ according to the grace given us – 3 different ways of saying we haven’t earned and don’t deserve these things. Our function in the body is divinely ordained – we are dependent upon God for where and how we serve.
· Vs 3 talks about each according to the measure of faith. So not only is the nature of the gift, but the magnitude of the gift divinely determined. Not only what we do, but where and how we do it, how much we get to do it.
· It tells us that we need to depend upon God to use these gifts. We don’t exercise these gifts according to our natural abilities, by our own strength and wisdom – but by depending upon God.
Wanted to quit the ministry
For years I wanted to quite the ministry because I have significant natural strengths and abilities – none of them pertain to people. I’m below average when it comes to people skills and I don’t like speaking, much less public speaking.
You put all of that together and you have to conclude that I’m not cut out to be a pastor. I find just about everything pertaining to the ministry to be extremely difficult because I’m always operating from a position of personal weakness and I hate that.
Except this text says – that’s pretty much how everyone ought to be functioning in the body. Faith = trusting God to enable you to take up your unique place in the body, knowing that you can only do it with the gifts God has given you, to the degree that they are able to trust God.
Both the gift and the way it is exercised are supernatural. This is not just giving, but giving generously, serving with zeal, helping with cheerfulness. That doesn’t come naturally.
Then when someone comes to you and says, you’ve had an incredible impact on my children, you’re such a gifted Sunday school teacher – you are blown away that God could use such weakness and inability to accomplish anything significant, and God gets the glory.
Personal specific service
Notice how personal the text makes this. Vs 3 I say to everyone among you. To each and every one of you. Again in vs 3 each according to the measure of faith. Then follows this list of diverse gifts, diverse manifestations: prophesy, teaching, exhortation, contributing.
This is talking about the unique way that we serve the body, the unique contribution we make to the building up of the body. This might be in a formal ministry capacity like an elder, or deacon, or Sunday school teacher, or maintaining the church property – but it may not be a formally recognized ministry, but it is the way we most desire to contribute and where we see the most fruit.
Example: cooking and preaching
Some of you would never stand up in front of 50 people and teach God’s Word, but you can help cater for a men’s breakfast where someone else can teach, who possibly can’t cook as well as you can.
We are not in competition with each other, we are working together for the glory of God and the building up of His people, and our differences complement one another.
If you are teaching at the breakfast, you probably will do more harm than good dabbling with the menu and if you have put together the menu, you probably shouldn’t be putting together the outline for the message. God has made us different so we can depend on Him and each other and do better together and more together than we could ever do by ourselves.
COVID= New places to serve
Where are you serving – so much work to do. Every member serving, every member contributing.
One of the impacts of Covid sickness is that it has changed the shape of the church. Literally shut certain ministries down and opened up new ones. Where do you fit in, what are you doing? Many of us have become completely inactive and its time to get serving again.
STOP…..what is you unique contribution, where are you serving?
· Do you have administrative abilities, you can help arrange and organize things in the church, maintain rosters or help co-ordinate events
· Do you have catering or cooking abilities, you can make meals, or be part of a team catering for fellowship events
· Do you have practical skills – can help maintain the church property, fix up the play area for the kids
· Do you have computer skills, you can help upload sermons, update the website.
· Do you have artistic abilities, photgraphic abilities – you can help with audio visual or video production
· Do you have social abilities, you can greet people at the door and make them feel welcome
· Do you have a licence and God has blessed you with a car – perhaps you can use that to help get people to church and home, or to Bible studies and team up with someone with admin abilities to keep track of who needs lifts from where and when…..
· The needs and opportunities are endless – notice how Paul gives some specific practical examples. Serving is a very natural, ordinary thing – but in the church these ordinary things are divinely inspired and empowered and produce fruit that echoes into eternity.
Tell someone today – I’m not doing anything….hold me accountable to find my place of service…..Contact one of your Bible study leaders or one of the elders – say please help me find my place of service.
How do I know where?
Where is there a need?
· Is there a need/ opportunity?
· Do I have a desire/ burden? Sometimes it just comes down to, am I willing?
· Do others see/ feel the benefit?
Teaching Sunday school
My own experience in teaching Sunday school when I couldn’t find a place teaching a Bible study or get involved in missions.
Sacrifice yourself for God’s glory. Saturate your life in the Scripture. Serve in Specific ways. 4)
4: Show love and hospitality to others (Rom 12:9-13)
Paul moves from service to love, from activity to relationship
He lists a bunch of different activities that every believer should be involved in all the time. We shouldn’t have to program these things, we shouldn’t have to give them a name and co-ordinate them – they should be an overflow and outflow of our love for each other.
So he begins with saying – have genuine love for each other. The real deal. And he goes on to describe what Christian fellowship or Christian community should look like. What are some of the activities that will form part of a Christian community who genuintely love each other?
· There’s a holiness to it. We are encouraging each other to forsake sin and pursue righteousness.
· There’s an intimacy to it – like the affection between family members
· There is mutual honour and respect
· There is activity and sacrificial service in vs 11
· There is joy and hope to it, a gospel-centeredness.
· There is a perseverance to it, through thick and thin, good times and bad times.
· There is a divine focus to it – constant in prayer
· There is a practicality to it – contributing to the needs of the saints
· There is outwardness to it – seeking to show hospitality, to be a blessing to strangers.
You get the picture here – lives intimately intertwined….
· At the start of this pandemic it was encouraging to see how everyone was reaching out and actively connecting. That has always been one of the strengths of our church – the depth of our relationships.
· But I’ve noticed over time that people have become increasingly comfortable in their little bubbles. We are finding it harder and harder to go out and engage and easier and easier to make use of virtual alternatives and those virtual alternatives maintain a barrier of safety between us and others….
· The sphere of our private worlds has been greatly enlarged and we have online persona’s that are increasingly disconnected from reality.
· We are feeling haggard and exhausted and the last thing we feel like is people, so we sign in to Bible study on zoom, switch the video off and become a passive, silent observer and avoid having even a single conversation with anyone and we prevent anyone from seeing just how much we are struggling. In the past we would have opted to stay away from Bible study and after a few weeks people would have started to follow up and find out where we are – but now we can give the impression of being there and being ok, when in reality we are feeling increasingly overwhelmed and isolated and we are not coping.
What Paul is describing here is not unique and different ways we serve in church – but the quality of relationships, the kind of relationship we are all to pursue and what should be taking place in those relationships.
· It’s not that some pray and others contribute to the needs of the saints.
· This is what we are all to be doing to sustain and strengthen the Christian community.
· God has caused some of us to have physical needs, and blessed others with financial resources to meet these needs – in order to build the unity, build the love in the body.
Examples: kinds of needs
People need you to pray with them, or they need help getting to the clinic or the hospital, or they need help moving, or they need encouragement – a phone call or a nice meal delivered in love, or they need you to baby sit their children, or help fixing their car, or learning to drive. People need help putting together a CV for a job, or access to a computer to have an online job interview, they need help mending their clothes or drying their house after their geyser burst. They need help washing their clothes because they don’t have water, or cooking a meal because they don’t have electricity.
But how will you know about these needs if you are living in isolation, living disconnected lives?
One of the reasons why we have small groups is to create the context and environment in which we you practice the one another’s. As we get together in each homes we hear about many of these needs and can move out in love toward each other. Bible studies not just about discussing the sermon, or learning more theology – they are about applying our theology in community.
We are rearranging the Bible studies to make sure there is one nearby where you live and they are small enough that you can get to know everyone in your bible study and support one another in these practical ways.
If you only see and interact with your Bible study members at bible study once a week and nothing more – missing the point completely. Build relationships, build community.
· Don’t tell me you feel out – welcome to the club. Everyone in the church feels out, we’ve covered that.
· Don’t tell me nobody cares, everyone is too wrapped up in their own lives. That’s exactly the point – that’s the very reason you should reach out in love.
· Don’t tell me you need more programs and meetings and ministries to facilitate this – genuine love can’t be programmed, it can only be freely given.
· If you genuinely love others because Christ loves them – you have no excuse for not expressing it in these ways.
One more practical opportunity I want to leave you with. We have a number of visitors and new members coming into the church. Many of them come from different church backgrounds and don’t understand what we believe or how we do church. There are so many new people, who we have hardly seen because of all the Covid realities.
We need to integrate them into the church, into relationships, make sure they have a solid doctrinal foundation to stand on. So we are encouraging them to do 6 weeks of FOF with an existing member. Foundations of the Faith, or FOF, as we call it covers some essential Christian doctrine – but more than that – it connects new members with existing members who can in turn help them connect with other members. It’s our best attempt to make sure new members are not only grounded in essential Christian doctrine, but in vital Christian relationships. But we need you to make yourself available. It’s honestly not rocket science, it’s basically getting together with another person or another couple to pray with them and discuss a Bible passage and help them find their place in the church.
Normally at this point I would make an appeal for you to sign up, but this time we are doing things differently because we have new members wanting and waiting to do FOF and honestly, we can’t see why every member can’t be involved in this kind of ministry to new members. Contact Michael or Frank (or the church office) if you are a member and are NOT willing to set aside some time to be a part of this ministry. If you don’t contact Michael Felton or Frank you are going to get allocated someone at some point.
The SIGNFICANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS
In all seriousness though – just stop again for a moment and think. Who in this world has really loved you, taken time to get to know you and over a significant period of time invested in your life so that you are a better person and you life is on a better trajectory.
Think of the names of the people who qualify for that list. I guarantee you that almost everyone here cannot name more than 5 people.
In a lost and broken world it is a very rare thing in deed to find people who selflessly and sacrificially invest in the lives of others for their good.
And you can be that person. You can put your name on someone else’s list and you don’t need any special gifts or abilities or education or training – you just need to love them because Christ loved you.
· 1 Jn 3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. … Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
· 2 Cor 5:14: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Covid has overtaken our lives and our world and the church. The secondary impacts are far more severe and far reaching than the disease itself. The world has changed in significant ways and certain things will never go back to the way they were.
But the gospel hasn’t changed and divine imperatives of the gospel haven’t changed. The need for the gospel to impact our lives and our world is as great as ever. Our purpose in life hasn’t changed and the nature and mission of the church hasn’t changed.
We need to apply the medicine of the gospel to the covid sickness that has overtaken our lives.
· Sacrifice yourself to make much of God
· Saturate your life in the Scriptures
· Serve in specific ways in the church
· Show love and build relationships with others