Applying gospel medicine to Covid sickness
Applying gospel medicine to Covid related sickness
living with covid
We’ve been working through the book of Romans which is a systematic presentation of the gospel, or God’s plan of redemption. We’ve just finished covering another major section which is Rom 5-8 which explains the implications of the gospel.
· A new relationship to God (5)
· A new relationship to sin (6)
· A new relationship to the Law (7)
· A new hope (8)
· Rom 8 brings it all to a climax in showing us the sure hope we have, the sure confidence we should have in the present because God is working all things together for our good and nothing can separate us from His love and nothing can thwart His loving purposes for us.
Rom 9-11 is going to look at the implications of the gospel for the nation of Israel. How does the Old Covenant relate to the New Covenant.
In view of God’s mercy (Rom 12:1)
Before we cover that, I want to skip over to Rom 12 for two weeks.
· Rom 12 starts the application section of the letter and I want it to be closely connected in your mind – this is all that God has done and is doing for us – therefore…..this is how we respond, how we show our gratitude, how we live out the gospel.
· That’s how Rom 12:1 begins – in view of God’s mercy, or in the light of these gospel truths, this is how you should respond.
· Because we teach so slowly through a book it takes weeks or even months to cover a few chapters which means we appreciate the details, but we don’t always form the connections. That’s not how the first readers would have received this letter. They would most likely have heard it in one sitting, so they would have heard the imperatives of Rom 12 a few minutes after covering Rom 8.
That’s what I want to do this morning, I want to put the indicatives and imperatives side by side and get really practical as we think about how the gospel should change the way we are living. To make it even more practical I want us to think about how the gospel should impact the way we are living right now, in the context in which we are living.
So I’ve called this message “Applying gospel medicine to Covid sickness”
I think it’s safe to say that Covid related sickness has infected and affected the entire world. When I talk about Covid related sickness, I’m not talking about the virus that infects our bodies, but about everything in our world that has been infected and affected by Covid.
· I’m thinking about lockdowns and social distancing and how that has infected and affected our relationships and changed the social fabric of our lives. Covid has changed the way we relate to people: shaking hands is now seen as an invasion of my personal space, and hugging as an attack on my health and safety. We spend far less time in each other’s homes and lives; and far more time in cyberspace.
· Covid has infected and affected the way we celebrate and grieve and mourn: Virtual meetings, virtual weddings and funerals, zoom socials – these are becoming normal and accepted when 2 years ago it would have been unthinkable and unacceptable to watch the recorded funeral of a close friend or relative and send our regards over WhatsApp. Two years ago it was clear in everyone’s mind that “attendance” meant I would be there in person, in the flesh, and anything else was “non-attendance.”
· Covid has infected and affected the way we work. It’s so much harder to earn a living, our job security is gone, how we do business has changed. Some of us no longer work from an office, but from home, and we no longer have the luxury of leaving our work at work when we go home... A day which would have been packed with people is now spend in hours of online meetings from the solitude of our homes.
· Covid has effected the way we do church, the way we view church and the way we live out our faith in the world. It has opened up new ministries and closed others down. The job description of a door steward now looks way different to what it did 2 years ago and most of us had never even heard of live streamed services…. Covid has divided churches and introduced a new set of taboo topics. These days your views on vaccines and mask wearing is more fundamental than your views on the deity of Christ or the way of salvation.
· Covid has changed the way we school, the way we travel, the way we relax and recreate. It has literally changed the shape of our world. Covid hasn’t just infected our bodies, it has infected our minds, our families, our churches and our friendships.
Covid related sickness has spread to every area of our life, every corner of the globe and its effects are far more pervasive and problematic than the medical impact of the disease and is going to be with us for many years to come.
The good news is that the gospel is a miracle cure…. It’s not going to help much with the physical disease itself, but it speaks directly to all these secondary effects which I’ve been describing as Covid related sickness.
We’ve just seen that God is working all things together for good, that we might be conformed to the image of His son. We’ve just seen that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. We just been reminded that neither death nor life, neither present nor the future, neither angels or demons or anything in creation will be able to separate us from God’s love and thwart His loving purposes. Covid sickness is not exclude from the list of things that the gospel cures. Covid took the world by surprise, but it didn’t take God by surprise and these far reaching effects have not somehow neutralized the gospel’s impact or potency.
God gave us the gospel for such a time as this and the gospel will lead us to overwhelmingly conquer Covid related sickness. In one form or another Covid is here to stay so we need to start to think how we are going to live with Covid, how the gospel helps us to live with Covid. We need to apply the gospel’s cure for Covid related sickness and that’s what I would like to help you do over the next 2 weeks in particular.
Turn in your bibles to Rom 12:1.
Read Rom 12:1.
In view of God’s mercy in the gospel, how then should we live. In the light of the gospel, how should we live with covid?
1: Sacrifice yourself to make much of God (Rom 12:1)
The gospel has taught us that we are the living dead. We have died with Christ, we have died to sin in order that we may live in Christ and live for Christ.
· This text takes the indicative and makes it an imperative. Your old self has been crucified with Christ – that was the indicative or Rom 6, that is what God has done for you in the gospel. Now you must live as one who is dead to sin. You must die to self and live for God, that is the imperative, the right response to the gospel.
· As he goes on to say in Rom 14:8, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.”
· As he put it in 1 Cor 6:19-20 “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
· We have died to sin and self, been freed from sin in order that we might live to make much of God.
· The picture is drawn from the Old Testament sacrificial system where the sacrifice was killed and laid on the alter as an act of worship to God, as a way to acknowledge the goodness and glory of God. Now Paul says – you are that sacrifice and your life’s meaning and significance is to make much of God.
· Holy and acceptable to God: means that your life should be set apart from sin, set apart from all that is profane and secular and set apart to be and do only that which is pleasing to Him, what will reflect God’s glory and goodness.
Covid sickness – my life is about survival
Let’s stop and think for a moment about how this applies to Covid sickness.
· All of us at some level have retreated to the safety of our homes. We’ve isolated, gone into lockdown, distanced ourselves, protected ourselves, gone into the storm shelter and closed all the hatches as it were.
· But we can’t stay there… The goal of our life is not self-preservation. God didn’t create us and save us merely to exist, to survive, to stay alive. If we live, we live for God and to His glory and that requires us to emerge from our storm shelters and get back to the work of rebuilding, living, evangelizing.
· The gospel has taught us that all things are working together for the good of those who love God and that nothing can separate us from God’s love or derail us in our service to Him. So we have nothing and no-one to fear.
· We need to remember that our lives belong to God and are to be lived for His glory and His good and not our own. We need to remember that God holds our lives in His hands and is able to direct and protect and empower us in our service to Him.
· Better to die serving God and his gospel than to live just to serve and preserve self.
· That is exactly how Jesus put it in Mk 8:34-36, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
· There is more to life than merely preserving the health of our bodies.
I’m not saying that we should be reckless and there is no place to take precautions and do what we can to protect our health and safety – but what I am saying is that if that is driving you to hide out in your homes and stopping you from serving God and His purposes for your life, then you are suffering from Covid related sickness and you need to apply the gospel’s medicine so you can get out and start serving Him again.
For some of us, Covid hasn’t impacted our health nearly as much as it’s impacted our bank balance, our work, our ability to earn a living and provide for ourselves and our families. Many of you are still earning, but not what you used to, or you are having to work twice as hard as you used to. Work has literally taken over your life as a result of Covid. You are working night and day, from early morning to late at night and on the weekend as well. Because you are afraid of losing your job, or because you are afraid of losing your living standards, or your car or house.
Pre-Covid you used to be living for God, now you are just living to survive the impact of Covid sickness. There’s no time for rest, for relationships, for ministry, for church, for anything but work. If that describes you, then you need to apply the gospel’s medicine.
· In Luke 12:22-30 Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our life, what we will eat, nor about out body, what we will wear and then goes on to point us to the birds and the flowers which are of much less value to God and yet He faithfully clothes and feeds them every day.
· He goes on to say, “Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness and these things will be added to you as well.”
· In other words Jesus is saying, life is about more than mere survival. We need to prioritize God and His work, we need to be living for what will matter in eternity and trust that as we do so, God will take care of our daily needs as well.
Again, I’m not saying that we should be irresponsible and quit our jobs and pray all day for world missions. But I am encouraging you, “Don’t let Covid reduce your life to mere survival….” You were created and saved for more than that.
There will be no Covid in heaven, but neither will there be anybody to evangelize. While there is work to be done here, we might need to navigate a bit of sickness and suffering and difficulty in order to get the job done. Christ did say, “Whoever would come after me, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
We have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to make much of God. To offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. The symptoms of Covid sickness aren’t going to subside until we get busy with gospel work – that’s our responsibility, that’s the first gospel remedy for Covid related sickness. The second gospel remedy is this:
2: Saturate your life with God’s Word (Rom 12:2)
Read Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed, do not let the world squeeze you into its mold, but rather be transformed by the renewal of your minds.
The text is alerting us to the reality that this age that we live in, this era is a time of ungodly influence, worldly pressure. We live in hostile territory where our minds and souls are constantly under threat of invasion.
The world has taken such radical steps to try protect their physical bodies from the attack of a known virus – yet here we have been warned of real and present danger to our hearts and souls and minds, which can do far more damage to our lives than all the worlds virus’s combined and yet Christians don’t take that threat seriously…..
The text is describing the pervasive corrupting influence of the world, which must be resisted. The focus of that influence is not on our behaviour, but on the mind, on our thinking, our values, goals, perspectives and priorities. Long before our behaviour starts to resemble that of the worlds, we will adopt the worlds way of thinking and begin to value and pursue what they value and pursue.
Example: Lockdown restrictions
Just think about it, the world has basically said that we can close Sunday gatherings down in order to protect our bodies and it will have very little impact to our economy or the well being of our societies. The world has largely put churches in the same category as bottle stores, night clubs and casino’s. We are of the last category of social gatherings to be freed from lockdown restrictions. Because in the world’s eyes we add little value. People can be perfectly happy and healthy without church. But is that God’s perspective? Is that how God sees it? Unfortunately many of us, as we manage our own health and the risks – are getting our cue from the world more than the Bible.
Covid has impacted our thinking
The Covid virus can only effect our physical bodies, but Covid related sickness as I’ve termed it, is doing far more damage to our thinking. It seems that the world has gone Covid mad.
· Before Covid I didn’t have a Facebook account and you could hardly even find the church on-line, much less follow our services. That is not all bad, but it is symptomatic of what has gone on globally and in many of our lives.
· As we became more isolated physically, we turned to social media, to online platforms and virtual modes of communication. I’m currently doing pre-marital counseling with a couple in Durban whom I haven’t even met – that was unthinkable before Covid and is fairly normal now.
· The boundaries between worldly thinking and Christian thinking have become more blurred and the spheres between the world and the church are overlapping more than ever before. We have secular governments issuing detailed instructions about what we can and cannot do in our Sunday services and policeman coming around to our churches to inspect our Covid protocols. And we have church leaders preaching on the relative effectiveness of mask wearing and telling their churches whether to be vaccinated or not. The world has gone Covid crazy.
· I think without exception, we are spending more time on line, we have greater exposure to information and blogs and online sermons. I think most of us have watched more t.v and YouTube than ever before and have moved onto social media more than ever before.
Discernment is gone
Vs 2 speaks about testing, approving, examining the will of God. Our minds must be saturated with God’s Word so that we might grow in discernment and be able to distinguish good from bad, right from wrong, and even good from better and best.
· The danger is that the filters on the internet and social media are largely missing. When you visit the library, or the local Christian bookstore, you go with specific books or authors in mind. You don’t take out any bad books, you don’t even open them up or consider them. But the internet throws chapters from every book and author at you all the time – the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright immoral and you have much less control over what you are exposed to.
· And the boundaries of time and location are also removed. You can be working on your computer for work one minute and checking your Facebook feed for personal entertainment the next. You don’t go out with a group of friends to watch a 90 minute movie and then it’s over, you sit alone at night and watch endless YouTube movies all the time telling yourself that this will be the last….and there’s much less accountability for what you watch and how much you watch than ever before.
· I read an article this week about how China is now forcing gaming companies to limit the amount of time that minors are spending on their games to a few hours a week because they are realizing how addictive online gaming is and how destructive it is to the long term health and productivity of the country.
Covid has resulted in Christians being more isolated from each other than ever before and more immersed in the world than ever before. We spend substantially more time in cyberspace than in divine revelation and the effects are more far reaching than the Covid disease and far more dangerous to our souls.
Stop and read your bibles
· Stop and take stock. Do a digital fast for a month so you can detox and then put some principles down, some boundaries for how you are going to use and relate to these various online and social media platforms. Covid has catapulted the world into the digital age, this is the new world, but I fear that Christians are wondering around aimlessly and taking our cue from the world rather than the Scriptures.
· Make sure that you are feeding on God’s word. The transformation, the renewal of our minds is accomplished as we read and meditate on and study and discuss God’s Word. The Greek word used in vs 2 is where we get the word metamorphosis from. A complete transformation of our minds, a radically new way of thinking as different as caterpillar to butterfly.
o Please stop feeding on Christian memes and nice quotes and blog articles as the major portion of your biblical diet.
o Stop listening to so many sermons. I bet you never thought you would hear a preacher say that… but people listen to sermons as a form of entertainment these days and we were never meant to be entertained by God’s word but transformed by it. A good sermon is good, but its not divinely inspired, it’s not living and active – it’s not God’s word and cannot and does not transform our hearts like God’s Word.
Ezek 33:30-32 : We are consuming sermons in exactly the same way we consume movies, with popcorn on our couch, for the entertainment value.
Ps 19:7-8 “The law of the Lord is perfect reviving the soul, the testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple, the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, the commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes.”
If we want our souls to be nourished and revived, our minds to be informed and renewed. If we want to be able to live well and fruitfully and productively in this present age and resist the corrupting influence of this age – we need supernatural, divine revelation. We need to get our head out of the cloud and into the Scriptures.
o Make sure that you are in the Bible for yourself, fellowshipping with God around His word more than any of these other voices.
o If we are spending more time listening to the voices of the world than the voice of God – whose values do you think will be shaping us?
o We need to get into the bible because there is a perspective there, a worldview, a way of thinking that is radically different from the worlds and will help us be more discerning about where we are getting sucked into worldly thinking or squeezed into wordly priorities and pursuits. The Bible is other-worldly in every sense of the word and we need to be otherworldly.
o Make a simple commitment that you will never spend more time online than in Scripture and you will see the impact it has on your thinking. Not just time, but meaningful time, prayerful time, quality time in God’s Word is literally life transforming.
Whether we are pro pro-vac or anti vac, let’s spend more time and effort pushing the Scriptures as the necessary solution for Covid related sickness than we do propagating our medical convictions.
Our time is gone and we’ve only covered 2 verses – but I want to be sure that we see the relevance of this text to our present context. I don’t want anyone listening to this sermon and doing nothing about it. Please, consider how the gospel should be impacting your life, how the world has been completely disrupted and is reeling from Covid related sickness and the gospel is the medicine, the cure, the divine perspective and priority that should allow us as Christians to recover and get on with kingdom work.
1: Sacrfice yourself to make much of God
2: Saturate your life in God’s Word.
Hopefully next week we will get to 3 remaining ingredients to this gospel medicine – serving the church, showing love to others, and sowing peace.