Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy your life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Eccl. 9:7-10)
It is all about focus. Younger people often focus on the future while neglecting the present as they think about what life will be like in five, ten, or even twenty years. Older people are often amused by how these young people are unable to enjoy the present because of their future focus. Older people have the opposite problem as many of them dwell on what is often called the good ole’ days. The problem for both groups is their failure for enjoying the present gifts of God. Often when I watch television, I hear the catch phrase, “We are living in unprecedented times.” People are focused on the future when they can leave their homes without the fear of contracting the Coronavirus. Let us be reminded that this is the day the Lord has made, and we should rejoice in it regardless of the dangers around us. We will look at Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 as we consider how to live our life during these unprecedented times.
Ecclesiastes was written by the one who is often identified as the preacher within the book. The preacher is King Solomon and he lived during a time of unprecedented peace unlike his father David who such a man of war God left the building of the magnificent temple to Solomon. The book of Ecclesiastes portrays the king as an observer of life as he sees people living out their lives within the covenant community. He sees much of life as folly and in at the end of his book he informs the reader what really matters when he writes, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Throughout the book, the preacher has many carpe diem, seize the day, statements that would benefit us if we were to heed them. In other words, we live in an unprecedented time where the temptation is to live for yesterday or tomorrow, but not today. We must reject this tendency and live for the glory of God today.
Find Happiness in the Sustenance God Provides
The author mentions three areas of life we should find happiness and he begins with what we eat and drink. Many people have an unhealthy relationship with food as it becomes a coping mechanism for what they are going through in life. Also, there is a tendency for us to eat our food and drink our beverages in a mindless way as we watch television. So much so, we forget to enjoy it as we eat through bags of chips, popcorn, 1.25-1.5-quart containers of ice cream, or whatever we choose to eat. Even if we do sit at a dining table with others, we rush through it without savoring the flavor of the foods. When was the last time you took your time and really enjoyed the flavor of a meal? In this passage, the author says, “eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with merry heart.” He does not want his people to eat without joy, but every bite should lead to their happiness.
Is it wrong to find happiness in food and drink? Absolutely not, because it is a gift from the Lord. When we eat our food, we should thank the one who prepared it for us, but above all things we should praise the Lord for his provision that sustains and grants to us happiness. Solomon does not find his pleasure only in the food but in God who gives. It is obviously wrong for a creature to worship the creation rather than the Creator, but the believer can worship God as he eats and drinks. Think about this point for a moment. The very next time you put food in your mouth, it can become worship as you glorify God by enjoying what he has given you to eat.
Also notice the phrase, “God has already approved what you do.” I think within the context of this book it means God does not want you to live devoid of happiness. He wants you to enjoy your life because it is temporary. Think about it in this way. We glorify God when we truly find happiness in his provision. A giver of a gift finds greater delight when the recipient truly finds joy in the gift. The Christian should have more happiness and delight over a meal than a nonbeliever because she knows who has provided the meal. When Solomon says clothing should be white and oil on the face it is a statement of a joyful life. The opposite of white clothing is the darkness of sackcloth and ashes representing one who is mourning in crisis. Mourning was always temporary in the Old Testament as the day arrived when the dark clothing was cast aside for clean garments. I think this has a current context as well. There are a lot of things we are not permitted to do in this current hour, but can we joyfully receive our food and drink? Worship is not just what we do at church on Sunday morning, but it is a decision we do everyday in response to God’s daily provision. The Lord’s Prayer includes God’s provision of our sustenance and our appropriate response to it.
Find Happiness in the Relationships God Provides
Solomon instructs the reader to enjoy life while that remains a possibility. He does not say to enjoy it when everything is going your way, but this should be a general practice among God’s people. Life is precious and short so we should enjoy it while we still have it. Some people are not finding much joy in life and certainly our lives have changed a lot recently, but does that mean we cannot find joy? Paul was content with his life and wrote these words to the Philippian church while he was under house arrest, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. . .I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” A few observations from this Philippian passage comes to mind. First, Paul’s rejoicing is focused on the Lord and not outward circumstances. In other words, we should still be thankful and joyful if we are focused on the Lord regardless of what is going on in our world and lives. Second, Paul knows that life is full of mountains and valleys of circumstances, but God never changes. Third, Paul understands God is his source of strength and not outward circumstances or help by others.
Christianity is certainly about relationships as we think about God’s relationship with us as he created us to be the children of God. We also think about our relationships with one another as we are brothers and sisters. All of us are created to have a variety of relationships with others and this time has made it increasingly difficult to draw near to others, but it should cause us to reflect and be thankful for those relationships. Solomon tells husbands to enjoy life with their beloved wives. One thing is for certain, married people will have great difficulty enjoying life if they do not love their spouses. Once again, your spouse is a gift from God for which you should be thankful and should lead to joy in this life. Once again, the danger is when we elevate these relationships to a level of idolatry. We do not love the gift more than the giver of the gift. God is to be loved and worshiped above our spouse. We, of course, understand that if we love God like we should then it is more likely we will love our spouse the way we should. Oh, Christian, think about all the wonderful relationships God has given to you throughout your life. I attempt to say this with sensitivity, because I know many have lost their spouses through death already, but God should still be praised as you think about the years God gave you with your beloved. There is also hope as you know there is an approaching day when you will be reunited with your loved one. It is to this point, that he uses the word “vain.” Life is vain not because it is pointless but because it is temporary. He is saying to enjoy your life and wife before death arrives.
Find Happiness in the Work God Provides
I hear people complain often about their jobs and how they cannot wait to retire. The only problem with this desire is that God created us to find delight in work. Work is not a result of the Fall but a call of God in creation. Do you believe Adam awoke in the mornings hating the fact that he had to tend to the Garden and had to name the animals? Certainly not, the temptation to not delight in work occurred after the Fall. We should find happiness at our tasks we perform in this life and sometimes it is not until they are taken from us that we finally see how important they are to us. I have heard of many retirees who wish they were able to go back to work after they discovered its importance in their lives.
In this passage we learn of work as being temporary as he instructs his hearers to toil with all their might. He obviously is referring to daily work the laborer is to perform, and he also states that the ceasing of work will be brought on my death, and not an announcement of retirement. When we become older, we still need to labor although we may need to slow down. Just as the text says concerning work, “whatever your hand finds to do,” which means it does not need to be a 9-5 job but something. As Christians, we should also remember that God has given to us a large task we are to be a part of working for his Kingdom. The Great Commission calls us to proclaim the gospel to our lost and spiritually dead world, and Jesus even instructs us to pray that God would send our workers in the field. I do not know about you, but there is great joy seeing a spiritually dead person being raised to life by the power of the gospel of our great Lord Jesus.
In conclusion, our lives have been changed over the past few weeks, but we should delight in God and the gifts he has given to us. So often, we can become unthankful and stressed because of what is going on around us, but isn’t God greater than our circumstances? Hebrews 13:15 reminds us of our delight as believers, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” This praise is not lessened because of our circumstances but emboldened because of our circumstances.
To God be the Glory!
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
This time has certainly been difficult for most of us as we stay home except in cases of urgency such as grocery shopping. When we do go out, we see people wearing gloves, masks, and purposely avoiding others as a constant reminder of the virus that has changed the intended direction of our lives. Businesses are not open, and churches have closed their doors temporarily until this viral epidemic has run its course. Last week was a particularly difficult time because it was Easter Sunday and I remember thinking out loud that we would be having our Son-rise service at this time if it were a normal Sunday. The good news is that we are a church separated and not a church destroyed. We know there will is an approaching day when we will have the opportunity to open the doors again of our church and worship the Lord. We must remember God’s strength compared to the power of this virus. Today, I want to focus on Jesus’ dialogue with his disciples in Matthew 16 and make some points that I hope might encourage us as a church.
A Return to Worship in Crisis
God warned his people for a long time about the consequences of their sins. He sent prophets to warn them and was patient waiting for them to repent and return to the God of their salvation. Instead, their stubbornness and pride created a spiritually deaf people in all the Promised Land. Those residing in Judah saw their northern brothers and sisters fall to the might Assyrian empire in 722 BC, but they refused to return to the Lord. They thought God would not judge them and they took pride in God’s promises while not delighting in the Lord, himself. It took a long time, but God raised up the Babylonians and in 586 BC they defeated Judah and forced them to leave creating an exiled people. They had about 136 years to repent after they saw what happened to the north, but they never repented of their idolatry. One of the most tragic and emotional scenes in the Bible is in Lamentations as the people are forcibly removed from their land. Jeremiah describes the scene in Lamentations 1:1-3, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.”
Judah’s crisis was not their exile but worship as they served the gods of the surrounding areas. God put them in exile so they could remember what was significant in life. Jeremiah describes the process from God’s judgment to returning to him in worship when he writes in Lamentations 3:16-24, “He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’ Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” This crisis should not be a time of distancing ourselves from God but drawing near to him in worship. Our worship should not become more distanced, but more intense. Worship does not end because we are unable to meet corporately but we must worship the Lord individually. How wonderful would it be for us during this time of isolation to draw near to God in worship as we never have before?
A Return to the Fundamentals in Crisis
This text in John is focused on the identity of Jesus. He asks his disciples who others think Jesus is and who they think he is. This is not a minor point in Christianity, but it is the main emphasis of Christianity. It is not a minute point, but it is of deepest significance. It is identity confusion and rejection keeping many people out of heaven. It is not the one who does good things who shall inherit the kingdom of God, but the one who knows the King. Jesus makes this point in this passage but also listen to what he says in Matthew 7:22-23, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Every true heaven-bound person knows who Jesus is as the basis of their faith. This is the reason why Jesus is so focused on his identity in this passage and his earthly ministry.
Our focus needs to be in the right place and this time of isolation is a wonderful opportunity for us to check our intentions and truly realign our priorities with the Lord’s desire and command. Is it possible for us to be busy doing things for the Lord while not obeying what he told us to do? Based on this passage, I think our greatest priority must be to tell people in our community who Jesus is because their eternity hangs in the balance between heaven and hell. There have been many people who have died from the Coronavirus and I am certain many more will die in the following days. Many of them, I am certain, have left their earthly bodies of comfort to find themselves under eternal damnation because of their rejection of Jesus as the eternal Son of God. When the dark night of this virus fades and the sun rises, may we have a renewed determination to be the church and proclaim the excellencies of the One who has saved us by his eternal gospel.
Knowing Jesus as the Son of God is so important that God the Father revealed this truth to Peter and the future church would be identified by its confession. When Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is, Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then says he will build his church on this truth. The emphasis was never on Peter, the man, but his confession. In other words, any person who claims to be a Christian and rejects this truth will never enter the Kingdom of God. It also took divine intervention for Peter to get this right, which I think implies that every person who believes Jesus as the Son of God needs God working in his or her life convincing and convicting. This truth should encourage us because God does not send us out without his power, but the Lord has gone before us preparing the way.
In summary, I think we need to get back to the fundamentals of our faith and emphasize, focus, and love them again. I think we should reject things, attitudes, programs, and speech that does not build the kingdom of God. I think we should be busy doing the things that will enlarge the kingdom rather than wasting our time doing things that accomplishes nothing, because if I have learned anything, it is, that we are mortal, our time is short, and life is precious.
A Return to the Promises of God in Crisis
Take heart fellow believer because God is not powerless in this crisis, but he is sovereign and powerful over any difficulty in this world and in our life. The church has been through many crises in its history and has overcome all of them. The early church had the crisis of persecution as many believers died horribly painful deaths such as being fed to animals, burned at stakes poorly constructed increasing pain, decapitation, placed on crosses, and being quartered as a few of the worst. The Coronavirus is not even on the same plane of difficulty as the first century church endured. Although, the church has dealt with persecution throughout the years, it also had to deal with disease as we are doing now. The general population including the church met a great crisis in the form of a plague supposedly introduced to the people by fleas on the back of rats. It is believed that nearly ½ of the population of Europe died by what was called Black Death. We will make it through this crisis because God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
Our passage also gives to us confidence when Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Two things we should pay attention to in this text. First, Satan is against the work of God. The church is not a neutral or safe environment. The church is dangerous because the god of this world would like to shut it down and destroy you. He would like for all of us to be removed from this world and it is by the grace of God we are still here. God certainly has plans for us and our desire should be to glorify the Lord every moment from when we wake up in the morning to when we lie down in the evening. Second, God is active in the world as he builds his church. Yes, we are called to build the kingdom of God, but we cannot do it if the Lord is working against us, but here we learn his will. His desire is for his church and that it would become all it can be, and our comfort is found in the fact that we don’t build the church simply by our plans, but we are able to destroy God’s plans by our sinfulness.
In conclusion, I agree this is a difficult time for us, but it does not have to be a destructive time as it gives us the opportunity to realign our lives and church toward the Lord. Just think of the opportunities. When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the next year of school because it provided new opportunities. There would be new teachers, new subjects, new clothes for the year, and perhaps new students. There was a great hope of expectation and perhaps this summer break from church will renew our spirits and expectations in what the Lord may do in the next season of our church life. To God be the glory and may his people continually praise him until he returns!
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
People gathered to witness the public spectacle before them as Jesus and the criminals were raised to their death on their crosses. It had been a cruel day of humility and pain but now it was over. What was raised must be lowered. On that day, the living was raised to their death and now must be lowered to their final resting places. Perhaps the sun was setting, and people started to leave to go back to the places where they were staying during the great festival of Passover not realizing the significance of God’s Son as their own Passover Lamb. The disciples were most likely the most distraught, confused, and heart wrenched to their most inner being as they just witnessed the death of their beloved Messiah.
Jesus’ death on the cross appear to many people as only a significant historical event. They fail to see the continuing significance of what Jesus did nearly 2,000 years ago. The history of the world is full of events that could have been much different if Adam and Eve did not rebel against the Lord’s command in Eden. Could you even begin to imagine if death and decay had never been introduced to the world? Two of the most important events in the history of world was the fall and Jesus’ resurrection. The fall resulted in death, but Jesus’ death resulted in life. Decay and death entered the world through the first sin, but redemption began through Jesus. The world is not what it will one day be, but there exists a future hope of redemption. I love what Romans 8:18-19 says regarding the day of full redemption, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Easter commemorates what Christians celebrate every Sunday and that is the resurrection of our beloved Lord from the dead as he granted eternal life to those who believe in his name. This devotional will not be focused on the historical and theological events of the resurrection, but on the effect of the resurrection in the believer’s life. The applicational effect of the resurrection will be discussed within the context of Colossians 3:1-4.
Being Raised with Jesus
Colossians 3:1 describes the positional standing of those who belong to the Lord. The opening phrase says, “If then you have been raised with Christ,” which identifies to whom the rest of the passage is written. This is a conditional phrase which means it should be true of those who belong to a particular group. He is not saying one is redeemed by doing certain things but rather those who are already saved should live their lives in a specific way. Imagine with me that you have a leaky sink you are unable to repair. Who would you contact? Should you call the exterminator, your family doctor, or a plumber? We would expect a plumber to be able to fix the situation. You probably would continue using the exterminator if he wasn’t able to fix your problem but if your plumber was unable to take care of the leaky sink then you would be well advised to start looking for another one.
The characteristics that follow in this passage are those that are common to those who “have been raised with Christ.” The joy for the believer in Jesus is focused on resurrection. Jesus was killed on the cross and was buried in the tomb, but on the third day he was raised from the dead. The hope for believers is not focused solely on Jesus’ resurrection but the hope of their own resurrection as well. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead then so too the Christian will be raised from the dead. Resurrection means one goes from death to life. There are two resurrections every Christian will experience. The first is the spiritual resurrection when our dead spirit is made alive. Every child who has ever been born through a natural birth has been spiritually dead at birth, but through Jesus we are made alive. The second is the physical resurrection as a future hope. One day, we know death will come, but we also know there is a coming day when the believer in Jesus will be made alive at the return of our beloved Savior. 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 describes this future resurrection for believers, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
Seeking Things Above
Christians are people who live on a physical planet and in a physical body, but we are told to keep our focus on the spiritual. We cannot physically see the spiritual reality but when the Lord resurrects our spirit at salvation then our focus begins to shift. The temptation is for us to focus on our physical priorities while neglecting the spiritual ones. We have been going through this pandemic that has limited our mobility, but it should not affect our spirit. We need to keep our focus on the things above as Paul reminds us here. Someone may say that not being able to go to church has affected their relationship with the Lord, and I admit being physically separated from the body of Christ is difficult, but what a tremendous opportunity has been given to us to focus on the Lord. Paul was often restricted from seeing other believers when he was in jail but listen to his words in Philippians 1:3-6 as he was under house arrest, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What an attitude of thanksgiving during a time of great separation.
What things should we seek above? I think the Sermon on the Mount is a great place to start. Perhaps during this time of separation, it would be a great time to seriously consider the instruction of our Lord in Matthew 5-7. The Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 are the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven we all should all possess as citizens of God’s kingdom. The rest of Jesus’ otherworldly sermon applies those principles in practical ways. The obvious truth is that these principles are not the same principles as our world, but when the Lord awakens our spirit, they become our desire. An example is found in Matthew 5:5 which says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Our world generally does not exalt the humble but the proud. We are told to be proud and let everyone else know about it, but the humble spirit is often trampled by the foot of the arrogant boasters. Where will the proud be in heaven? They will not be found because who will be able to boast in the presence of God? What was the first thing John saw when he was transported to heaven in Revelation 4:2, “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” In other words, God is the focus of heaven, and we will spend eternity praising and worshiping his greatness. For those who don’t know the Lord, this does not seem desirable, but for those who know the Lord, it is our desire to worship the Lord with this type of nearness to him.
Set Your Mind Above
The believer who has been redeemed by the Lord will focus on heaven. The idea is focused on our thinking. Christians do not think the way others think and this is a result of the resurrection. We often remember the way we used to think before we knew the Lord. Our thinking was often selfish and not seasoned with love. We desired to satisfy what was best for us while we didn’t care about other people but when we were saved those things began to change. The changing of our thinking is part of the sanctification process. Sanctification is the process in which we become more like Jesus throughout the course of our lives. We don’t transition from worldly thinking to a heavenly focus in a single day, but it is a lifelong struggle of growth. There is an approaching day when we will be completely heavenly focused, but that day is probably not today. I believe many of the struggles in this life between two believers is in relation to not being heavenly minded, but practically this is where our joy is located. Joy is stolen from the one who focuses completely on the things of this world. I don’t know about you but about 30 minutes to an hour of the news is all I can handle, especially with the outbreak of the Coronavirus. I would rather think of heaven and the beauty of our Savior who has given to us his great and precious promises.
Perhaps one of the greatest passages in Scripture in relationship to our thinking is Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to your therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It seems this passage in Romans connects worship with right thinking, and I have heard people talk about worship as a feeling they get, but genuine worship is informed by the mind and felt in the heart. Both are required, and if we think like one who does not know the Lord then our worship will certainly be affected.
Focus on Future Glory
Paul states simply and powerfully, “for you have died,” which serves as reminder that we have been changed. There is a death that occurs at salvation and it is the death of sin’s power over the believer. We continue to sin, but we can also resist it in our daily lives by the power of God and the Spirit’s work in our lives. There is also a connection between Jesus on the cross and our death to our former spirit. This should be joyful for us because we should rejoice, we are not what we once were. There should not be a single Christian who wishes to go back to his or her former lives. In other words, let us not focus on what lies behind us but focus on what is in front of us. We should always keep our eyes focused on the Lord as we live our lives and not live in the past. A good reminder of this is found in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” This is an exhortation for us to not turn back but to walk while keeping our eyes on Jesus, himself.
Our joy is in our hope that the Lord is returning. We should focus and rejoice in this truth every day and especially at Easter. The text states clearly, “When Christ your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Christianity does not live in the past but in the future, and the end of the universe as it is currently is constructed will be at the return of Jesus. The world fears the apocalyptic events such as a heavenly body striking the earth and some fear a zombie apocalypse, but we rejoice in the real end of the world, and that will be the return of Jesus. I want you to rejoice as we conclude with the return of Jesus in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect form the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” What the world will mourn we shall rejoice. There is a day when heaven will collide with the earth and the only thing that will remain is what is holy. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
The wrath of the Jews was on full display for all to see as they demanded the crucifixion of Jesus as he we mocked, given a trial without due process and nailed upon the cross to die. Our Lord displayed great power as he demonstrated great mercy to those who were oppressed. He gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, and freed the man who was made insane by demonic possession. Matthew 15:30-31 describes Jesus’ actions by the Sea of Galilee, “And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.” So, why would these people turn against the compassionate healer of Israel? The quick answer is because he claimed equality with God. To the Jews this was blasphemy, but this testimony did not cease when Jesus died.
Others proclaimed his true identity when Jesus could no longer speak about himself because of his death. After Jesus’ death, the earth, the source of Judaism, the dead, and the guard all confirm Jesus’ own testimony about himself. First, the place of God’s abode, the temple had its curtain torn from the top to the bottom. This was the curtain that separated God from man and now it no longer exists. Its testimony was Jesus is Lord and his death made the temple unnecessary. The second testimony involved the earth as it divinely shook pronouncing the true identity of Jesus resulting in an amazing declaration in Matthew 27:52-53, “The tombs were also opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” The Jews quickly sought to kill Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead, but now many deceased people are raised to life after Jesus dies. Their presence and perhaps speech glorified God’s Son, Jesus. How will they silence the deceased? Lastly, those who witnessed these events proclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” They were mostly right, but they saw things from the earthly perspective. They did not know the Son of God nailed on that cross would soon be raised from the dead.
Good Friday is the day when we remember Jesus on the cross as he took our sins upon himself enduring the wrath of God for our sins so we might be forgiven. Many people do not think rightly about the severity and effect of their actual sin, but in one sense it began the destruction of the entire universe once called good by the Lord. There exists clearly a relationship between Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday and our sins. We will examine Romans 5:12-14 as we think about the seriousness of sin and then conclude with the good news from Romans 5:15
The Birth of Sin in the World (12)
There is a difference between beautiful and good. I am certain most of us have beheld the beauty of God’s creation at various times in our lives, whether we looked at the night sky and beheld the starry heavens, looked up at the mountains, gazed down at a valley, or made the journey to the Grand Canyon. These sights are certainly beautiful, and our universe has no shortage of beauty, but good is another matter. None of us have ever gazed upon a good creation with our own natural eyes for a single moment. This assertion is a bold one considering how easily the word, good appears in our language. I suggest we use this word too often to describe things that are pleasant to us, but do remember when Jesus was called good, and he reminded the people that on one is good but God. Throughout the creation account, God often gazed upon his creation and called it good. This word has a lexical range of meanings such as pleasant, desirable, or even good, but we must remember it was God and not a future generation and fallen creatures calling it good. It was good based on God’s standards and was a sort of extension of heaven upon the physical earth.
Why is the universe no longer good? It was because of the destructive force of sin through a single agent, namely Adam. Romans 5:12 announces the arrival of sin, “just as sin came into the world through one man.” God created the physical universe to be without sin and to enjoy the goodness of God, and it did for a time. Adam walked with God in Eden and was able to enjoy a world without danger. He truly was safe in this world as he did not need to fear carnivorous beasts, insects carrying disease, or invisible viruses leading to illness or even death. He knew none of these things but enjoyed a good world and perfect union with the Lord but destroyed all these things because he chose to sin. He did not choose to sin the way we do on a continual basis throughout the course of our lives. Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature bent toward evil but was fully able to obey the command of God, but their choice was to follow Satan. That choice parents of all nations made on that day destroyed the goodness of creation.
The Effect of Sin in the World (12b)
Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command to them. No, they defied the Lord, himself, as they chose to become children of Satan by doing what he suggested. The Creator’s command was not unclear or vague but extremely clear when he said, “but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Apparently, Adam and Eve even placed further restriction on the fruit of the tree by refusing to even touch it, but the serpent removed all those barriers.
The effect of their sin was clearly death, just as the Lord said. Death was not introduced to them alone, but also to those generations who would come after them. It was death to all creation including every being and thing that is alive. The once good creation became corrupt and began to die that day. Adam and Eve would be driven from their home in paradise and forced to live in a corrupt world awaiting their sentence of death as every year revealed their mortality in their bodies as they aged. Our beautiful world is diseased with sin and it is dying just as we realize our own mortality.
The Name of Sin in the World (13-14)
Adam and Eve did not call their defiant action sin, but they knew what it was. They rebelled against God and I am certain they regretfully thought about it perhaps everyday of their lives as they labored for produce and saw the effect of sin all around them as animals became dangerous and their offspring became increasingly evil after every generation until the flood. Cain, the first naturally born human on the earth killed his brother because of jealousy. Many believe it was the type of offering God rejected, but this is never the case. God disproved of Cain’s offering because he did not approach the Lord in worship as he should have. He had a form of worship, but his heart was far from God. How do we know this? Because God does not rebuke his offering but Genesis 4:5, “but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” Cain was the problem and not his offering, because God will reject the offering that does not proceed from a heart of worship. God warned him about his sin, but instead of repentance, he decided to kill his brother. Humanity’s expression and participation in sin became pronounced after every generation. Just a few generations in Cain’s line, we meet a man named Lamech who said to his wives, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” This certainly is evidence of every generation becoming more arrogant in their participation of sin instead of godliness leading to the flood. Just before the flood God observed humanity’s heart in Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
None of those early generations called their actions sin, but they knew they were rebelling against God, and they knew the consequence of their sins was death. It was the Law that clearly defined for the people what sin was and then announced them guilty of breaking their covenant with the Lord. I think God’s motivation for giving the Law however was not to identify humanity as sinners worthy of death, but by enacting a covenant in which the Lord would create a people for his own possession. So, in this sense, there is hope in the Law, because God is merciful as he initiates a relationship with sinful humanity.
The Hope of Good Friday (15)
I know it is not very inspirational when we speak of sin and death, but it is necessary as we think about Good Friday. Some may have difficulty thinking how Jesus’ death on the cross could be good, but there are certainly a couple of answers. First, it is good because Jesus will restore the good back into the universe. In other words, that which was lost at the Fall will be restored on the last day. We know this is the case as we read Revelation and it will not be an easy process but, in the end, God will restore the entire universe for his glory. Revelation 21:1-4 describes this recreation in this way, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” We should notice a few things about this Revelation passage. God will destroy the old heaven and earth and he shall recreate one not affected by sin. God will again dwell with his people in this holy city. Also, the consequence of sin will be no more as there will no longer be death or pain. In other words, there is a day approaching when God will cause death to die.
Another reason why Good Friday is good is because of what Jesus did on the cross. As stated earlier, Jesus endured the wrath of God for us on the cross, which means if Jesus did not die on the cross then we would still be in our sins awaiting God’s judgment for our sins. Jesus on the cross, means there is hope for salvation for humanity. Not only is Jesus a hope of salvation for us, but he is the hope of salvation for all who call on his name. Jesus’ death on the cross was the beginning of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3 describes the gospel in this way, “for I delivered to you as first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . .” Logically speaking, if Jesus did not die on the cross, then he would have neither been buried nor raised from the dead, but because he was killed on the cross, buried, and then raised from the dead then we certainly have hope.
We do not celebrate the death of Jesus on Good Friday with lightheartedness but it should be approached with serious, soul-heavy reflection as we consider the depth of our sin and what it cost God to redeem us from it. I am reminded of a line from what is called the Seminary Hymn at Southern Seminary that reads, “A world by sin destroyed and dead; a world for which the Savior bled.” I exhort you today, on this Friday to consider the death of Jesus on the cross with seriousness and prepare your heart for the joy of the resurrection because even the disciples had to experience the agony of their Lord’s death before they could experience joy of his resurrection.
For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side! —as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make you face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (Psalm 31:13-16)
Relating to Fear
Emotive responses to life situations is a common experience for nearly every person that has ever lived. We all experience them to varying degrees throughout the course of our lives depending on our life situation. People often remember an emotion with a place or an event even after their memory of the event fades. One day, when 2020 fades and the coronavirus is in the past, what emotions will remain from this experience? Will we remember anger, loneliness, confidence, or possibly fear? Fearful anxiety is the emotion many people express during this horrible pandemic. Is this wrong for the Christian? And if it is, then how should we respond?
Fear is a common emotion described throughout the pages of Scripture. Psalm 31 is one of many Psalms attributed to David, and he commonly describes his own battle with fear. His life was surrounded by many dangers to put his life in jeopardy. We often remember his fight with the terrifying giant named Goliath, but when Saul was trying to convince him to not fight David said to him about the danger in his youth, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from his flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
Experiencing an emotion is a common human experience but how we respond to it makes the difference. In other words, being fearful is normal, just as it was for David, but it should not cause you to lose faith in God’s love for you and power in your life. David was fearful many times in his life, but he relied on God during those times. When David was preparing to fight Goliath, he said to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” How was David able to continue when he was surrounded by enemies such as lions, bears, nations, Saul and his army, and Absalom and his army? It was always the Lord! David said in Psalm 31 that he had “terror on every side,” which means he was surrounded, and they wanted to kill him.
I don’t think being afraid is necessarily bad if it causes us to be cautious and not careless, but what of the one who may be gripped in fear? I believe this powerful passage in Psalm 31 shows us what caused David to keep pressing on.
Remembering God’s Providence
Psalm 31:14-15 demonstrates the power of David’s strength was in his confidence of God’s providence. The providence of God is his ability to sustain the world as he directs it to its appropriate end. In other words, God is in in complete control and he will care for us until the end. David understood this principle in this text, and we should often remember and remind others of this theological fact. When our world seems to be out of control as we hear the latest numbers of infection and death in our world and our country every morning on the local news. What will keep us from being gripped in fear? Is it not that God is in control during this time of worldly confusion and chaos?
David announces his first response to fear when he says in verse 14, “but I trust in you.” Think about the strength of this statement. He trusts in God when his world spins out of control and he has nothing but fear as his enemies seek to kill him. He does not accuse God of wrongdoing or being powerless, but his response is trust. We should respond like David! Our prayer to the Lord is obviously for the end of this pandemic, but we should do so while we fully trust in the Lord. There is a danger for the one who loses trust in the Lord during times of great difficulty. If David could trust in the Lord when the Lion approached, Goliath mocked the army of Israel, Saul threw spears at him and pursued him, and Absalom sought his life, then should we not also have faith in God with the spread of this virus?
Our second response should be to remember our identity with Jesus. David says, “You are my God,” and this is powerful for us as well, because sometimes we forget this fact. We are children of God no matter what happens in this life and the Lord has given to us precious promises we should never forget. God has promised heaven to those who belong to him. We should never forget dichotomy between earth and heaven because the things of the earth are temporary while heaven is eternal. Our focus should not be on the things that do not last but should be focused on what lies ahead beyond this life. Romans 8:15-16 gives us a powerful reminder of our identity with the Lord, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Thirdly, we should remember God’s sustaining power in the universe and in our lives. Nothing is outside the power of God and certainly David remembered this when he said, “My times are in your hand.” We should both understand this fact and live our lives that demonstrate this truth for all the world to see. We should stay at home being careful to not become ill while obeying our leaders, but we don’t fear as the world fears because we know our times are in the hand of God as those who preceded us in this life and those who proceed us. We don’t see it now, but I believe a day is approaching when God will reveal to us in eternity all the times our lives were in his hand. Rejoice as you consider how your life is in God’s control.
Rejoicing in God’s Love
David desired to worship the Lord no matter what he was going through in his life because he knew the infinite worth of God. Worship is less about us and it is about God and his worth. God is not glorified in worship when everything in our life is perfect, but God is glorified in worship when his people praise him in the midst of great affliction, and not we are under great affliction. We are under some affliction in our lives in this present day. We are told to stay in our homes unless we really need to leave, but even if this continues for many months, we are still able to say the Lord is good and worthy of worship.
Worship is being described by David as “make you face shine on your servant.” He does not want less of God during his trouble, but he wants more of God’s presence. He knows his salvation and hope lies in God and he rejoices that he knows the Lord. Christians should be abundantly joyful because they know the Lord. Could you imagine not knowing the Lord during this pandemic crisis? I am reminded of Jonathan Edward’s illustration in his great sermon called, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, in which he describes a spider over a flame with only a single strand of web keeping him from the fire. Those who don’t know the Lord are like this spider today. They are hanging on the hope they won’t get the virus, but what if they perish and enter their eternal abode without Jesus? Oh, how we should pray for our world during these days that God would awaken them to their sins and point them to Jesus.
David uses the term steadfast love which is God’s saving love for his people. It is a description of God’s love for his people. It should remind us of the redemptive promises of God based on his love for us. God’s love has not lessened for us because of this pandemic. God has made us promises and he will fulfil those promises because he is good and because he loves us. Let us be reminded of God’s love for us and its intended purpose from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God is so good to us and he loves us so much. Pray for me as I pray for you during these days, and one day we shall meet again to worship the Lord as we rejoice in our common salvation. Until then, let us draw close to the Lord as he draws near to us.
To God be the glory.
Pastor Steven Lookabaugh has been our pastor since 2016 and is passionate about proclaiming the gospel of God through the weekly exposition of God’s Word; believing application is possible when one understands the historical/cultural meaning of the text. He leads our church in fulfilling our purpose toward the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, and to the Great Commandment as we seek to love one another. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Expository Preaching from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on parabolic exposition. He is married to Jennifer and they have three children, Andrew, Kate and Olivia.