First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
We are called to live godly lives because we are kingdom citizens regardless of the situation we find ourselves. Christians often celebrate what is often entitled The Christian Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 but notice all of those saints suffered in their lives and I think the hook is the phrase describing them as “of whom the world was not worthy.” The historical context of those in the past who suffered for the Lord cannot be overlooked when we are called to godly living in the next chapter when it says, “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. . .” This is a call to live for the Lord in the midst of great difficulty and we should count it as our joy just as James 1:2 instructs believers, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. . .”
The missionary’s death was more than a shock to those who knew him best. A void would be left in their lives as he gave to the youth in a camp in China everything he had to give. His death must have been painful as he developed an inoperable brain tumor as he uttered his final words about his full surrender to God which was evident throughout his life. Who was this missionary? His name was Eric Liddell and his story came alive in a 1981 movie called, Chariots of Fire. He was a runner but more than that he was a Christian and he lived what he professed as a member of the body of Christ. To qualify for the Olympics must be a fulfilled dream of many people every four years, and Eric’s joy to run the 100-meter race was soon filled with difficulty when he learned he would have to run on the Christian Sabbath. He refused to run the 100-meter race which he would be the favorite for a gold medal, because of his conscience. He knew why he ran, as he said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” He was a middle of the pack 400-meter runner and decided to pursue that distance leading up to the Olympics because none of the races were on Sunday. Who would do this? He wasn’t expected to win anything, but he not only won the gold medal in the 1924 Olympics, but he broke both the Olympic and World records. What a powerful testimony! What is interesting is that a year after the Olympics, he entered missionary service in China until his death. When he spoke about his purpose in that famous quote, it had nothing to do with running, but glorifying God in his life.
Our lives will be filled with difficulty in the future as it has been in the past, but will we take the easy path of disobedience or will we follow the Lord with joy seeking to glorify our great God. Currently, all of us are affected in some degree with this virus being called a pandemic. We have no control over the virus, but we can control how we respond to it. Our lives have been affected by a million decisions we have made throughout the years, but one thing is certain. We should seek to glorify God through these days of fear and uncertainty. How should we live? Paul wrote to Timothy what a godly life looks like, and we would do well to heed his advice as well.
Pray for Everyone
This may be too judgmental, but I think Christians spend more time talking about prayer than praying. It is foundational in our relationship with the Lord and we are called to pray even if we do not have urgent prayer requests, and it is reflective of our relationship with the Lord. Think about it this way. How we pray often is forged by our years with the Lord. If I pray everyday to the Lord and speak to him throughout the course of my life, then I will have far less difficulty than one who only prays when he must.
Paul states prayer is an issue of necessity when he writes, “First of all,” which indicates the importance of this spiritual discipline. Paul does not say prayer is a good idea, or if you have time, but rather he assumes they will pray. He strengthens his argument when he describes prayer in four ways. He calls prayer supplication, which has the idea of going to God for the sake of another person. We should be praying for each other and in this way we ought to be a community of faith. We should be praying for those going through difficulty in their lives. In this way, prayer is selfless and not self-centered. Paul also says prayer which reminds us of whom we are speaking. Prayer is our speaking to God who sits on his throne in heaven. We should remember to whom we are praying always and remember he wants us to pray to him. Prayer is also intercession as we intercede for others in our relationship with the Lord. We intercede for others when they are going through times of difficulty. We also intercede for those who do not know the Lord by asking the Lord to convict them of their sins and bring them to the knowledge of the truth. I know I pray that prayer often as I think about people who need the Lord. So often, this type of prayer is for the sake of the one who does not know the Lord. Our prayer should be thankful as Paul uses the word thanksgivings. Prayer is not just telling God what we want but prayer is also thanking God for who he is and what he has done. We should also thank the Lord because of his great promises to us throughout the pages of his Holy Word.
We should pray for our all people which means those we like and those we do not. I think we have an easier time praying for those people we like rather than those we do not. Here, we are called to pray for those in high positions, such as our President, Governor, and all politicians. We should still pray for them even if we did not vote for them. They have a lot of responsibility and must lead in times of difficulty. I do not think this is an easy time to be an elected official as concerns about public safety, economic consequences, and personal freedoms are being addressed.
Live a Godly Life
Our responsibility is clear. Our calling in life is to live godly lives which means we are to live as members of this society while applying the principles of God’s kingdom. We know our time here is short, but one day we will leave this place and shall be in the presence of our Lord. There is much argument among Christians how to live. Some believe we should enforce the Beatitudes on all people, but we cannot ask someone to act like a believer when they are not. We need to make sure we are living a godly life by obeying the principles of Christianity in the Word of God.
We live a godly life by being peaceful which means we do not seek confrontation and war in our lives, but we desire to be at peace. I have seen Christians who do not seek peace but seem to be the happiest when they are in the middle of controversy or at odds with other people. This is not what God has called us to, but we should be people who love peace. We should pay attention to the warning in Hebrews 12:14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” This means that every Christian should pursue with everyone and peace is a mark of holiness.
The Christian should also identify with a quiet life and not one that is boisterous and aggressive. We should seek peace with everyone and live out our faith in peace with others. Certainly, there are times when this is not possible, but we should seek to not make our leaders jobs more difficult than it has to be. Christians should not bring disrepute upon the kingdom of God. Do you pursue a quiet life? This does not mean we are quiet on issues of the gospel. Rather, we should preach Jesus to those who have never heard. We should always seek a quiet life within the context of obeying the command of God. In other words, we are compelled to obey the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, but we must do it in a peaceful and quiet way. The peace of Christianity will in the end win the day against the militaristic nature of Islam.
Please the Lord
Finally, we live a godly life by pleasing the Lord. We should seek the glory of God by what living as Christians and our faith should be clearly evident to those who do not know him because Jesus changes more than our future home, but he has given to us a new life and this should be evident in every believer. Ephesians 2 tells us we were spiritually dead, but the gospel resurrected us to spiritual life. Listen to the joyful words in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . .” In other words, pleasing the Lord means being what he has created you to be, which is the point Paul makes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Eric Liddell sought to glorify God in his life, but I think God was even more glorified in his death as generations of people have been touched by his profession of faith and unwillingness to compromise on his faith. May we seek to please the Lord during this difficult time in our life, because if we do not glorify God during the difficult times then how shall we glorify him during the good times. What does that say? Will we only worship the Lord and glorify him during the good times? Let us conclude by listening to the words of famous preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, “The apostle’s concern is not simply with our talk and conversation with one another, but with the whole course of our life and behavior in the world. The Greek word translated ‘manner of life’ signifies the actions and privileges of citizenship: And in this way we are commanded to let our actions, as citizens of the New Jerusalem, be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”
To God be the Glory!
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.
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. . . Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:36-39; 44)
It wasn’t long ago, when children throughout the Commonwealth were awoken to a familiar routine as they prepared to go to school as they have done for years. Although, many expected this day to be the final day for a couple of weeks, it probably came as a surprise when the Governor announced all public schools to be shut down for the remainder of the year. On March 24th, which was yesterday for me, I witnessed a caring act for students, when the Wilson Elementary School’s teachers and certainly some staff were led by a police escort throughout our neighborhoods as they waved from their cars with their names on the side of the car. The term bittersweet never meant more to me and my family. Many of us are familiar with the term bittersweet when we describe chocolate. Perhaps there is a moment of sweetness, but the aftertaste left in our mouths is one of bitterness. The parade-like ceremony was sweet because the children, including my Olivia delighted as she saw the familiar teachers, but it turned to bitterness when these children realized it is the last time, they will see their teachers.
The passage describes a time in the past as it compares to one in the future. The past event was the great flood that unleashed God’s judgment on the world as they filled their lives focused on minutia while neglecting the greater things of God, just as the Jews often focused on the small parts of the Law while neglecting the greater things of God’s commands. These people were eating and drinking and living life to the fullest unaware God was about to end life as they knew it. What would have happened if at the last moment as the rain began to fall, hundreds of people remembered what Noah said and repented of their sin? I believe God would have forgiven them as he did with the people of Nineveh when they were warned by God’s prophet. We are also told of a future event that will mirror the days of Noah but with greater intensity as the Lord returns in what is called, “the coming of the Son of Man.”
The crisis created by the Covid-19 virus reminded us of the importance of human life as a priority. Sporting events were cancelled such as the NBA season, NCAA basketball tournament, and even the MLB season will be delayed for the sanctity of life. I watched with interest as I heard those who espouse abortion declaring the value of every human life. Oh, how I pray they really mean those words as they consider their own political views. The intrinsic value of life is not a human invention but God’s declaration, and it is right for us to value what God values.
In times of crisis, what people value and their character become obvious. For some reason, stockpiling toilet paper was of supreme value for many people. I don’t know this for certain, but I would not be surprised that some people have 100 or more rolls in their homes. This reminds me of my childhood when after my great grandfather died, we were cleaning his house, and I discovered and delighted in a 1908 Sears and Roebuck catalog. I asked my grandmother if I could keep it and she told me they used those for toilet paper when she was young. I also have seen another disturbing trend among pastors and church leaders as their rebellious nature arise. These are those who refuse to listen to their governors and President and state they believe in God and will not listen. This is certainly not good Christian leadership as the Bible tells us in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
What do we do when our lives have been inconceivably reduced to the basics? What do we do when our leaders tell us to stay in our homes unless it is necessary to leave? What do we do when we are told to isolate ourselves socially? We obviously should listen to our leaders, but we need to return to those things that are most important. Times like this are a curse and a blessing at the same time. They are opportunities for us to consider our lives and return to those things that are most important. As much as I personally enjoy the Olympics and the NCAA tournament, it is not the most important thing. It is a great time to evaluate our lives when many of things that hold our attention have been stripped from us. This is not a time to collect all the toilet paper we can but a time to return to the Lord. I am not saying food and supplies are not important because we need them, but our greatest need is the Lord. Who keeps us from stumbling and entering eternity? Is it not the Lord? Lean upon him and delight in the God of your salvation. Grow closer to him and do not waste this time of waiting for the virus to minimize its impact in our world.
It has been my hope and prayer that God would use this time for his glory as he may create a revival in our nation and around our world. Perhaps people would not think they are so invincible and realize they could stand before the Lord at any moment. People are terrified because of this uncertainty, and it is important they turn to the Lord before it is too late. The good news is that if the Lord does not return then 2021 will arrive, but what will we do? Perhaps this would be a great time for us to evaluate our devotion to the Lord, return to the spiritual disciplines, delight in our God, and reach out to our community with the gospel. Think about it, our church and communities have been closed by this virus. This is a time to be humble and return to the Lord because time is short and the Lord will return, but not even the angels in heaven know when this is going to happen.
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.