If there ever was a time for Christians to strive for unity, now is that time. The coronavirus pandemic and the government’s response to it has raised many questions about how Christians and churches should respond. Christians will have different opinions based on biblical reasoning. During these unique times, we should remember Paul’s words to the Romans:
Romans 14:1–3 (ESV) — 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
Romans 14:5–7 (ESV) — 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
Opinions informed by Scripture are good and right. Quarreling over opinions is not. Some issues are worth fighting for, dividing over, and even dying for. Other issues are worth our serious reflection, but not at the expense of unity. Wisdom and humility are what we all need.
Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman spoke with Sam Emadi about his new booklet, What Should I Do Now That I Am a Christian? The discussion is encouraging and edifying whether you are a new Christian or not.
Thomas Watson was the pastor of St. Stephen’s Walbrook in the 17th century. As a man familiar with suffering, he was well-equipped to write All Things for Good, which was his meditation on Romans 8:28. In chapter 2, Watson lists 10 ways God works affliction for our good. Below is a summary of his reflections.
Legalism tempts us to rely on our own strength as the source of our salvation, even if it is the strength of our faith. As Christians, we know that we are justified by faith alone. But that does not mean that faith is what justifies us. Instead, God justifies us through faith in Christ. This is an important distinction. Even as we champion faith, we might easily start to rely on the intensity of our faith instead of the object of our faith. If we trust in the intensity of our faith, we are really trusting in ourselves. But saving faith looks away from self to Christ, and he alone has the power to save us.
One was a world-famous basketball player. The other is a world-famous virus. Kobe took the world by storm with high-flying dunks, incredible fadeaways, and game-winning jump shots. Corona captured our attention by making hundreds of thousands sick, killing others, and shutting down entire economic systems.
What does Kobe have to do with Corona? Nothing. Except they both awakened the world to the reality of death in recent months. Last month, we watched the world mourn the death of Kobe Bryant. His sudden and unexpected death made us feel death’s sting. Kobe’s tragic end reminded us that death is not natural. We don’t mourn natural processes. We don’t mourn the setting of the sun, the digestion of food, or rain falling from the sky. We mourn death. We mourned Kobe’s death because death is terrible, and people weren’t made to die. Yet we all do. Our lives are short, and Kobe reminded us of that. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.
No pastor wants his church to get smaller, especially a pastor of a small church. Then why am I excited that our small church might get smaller in 2020? Because we would be shrinking for the sake of the gospel. Our desire is to send out two gifted and qualified leaders, and their families, to plant a church in Syracuse, Utah. We will be losing two servant-hearted families in the process, but I could not be more excited about the possibility. Here are a few reasons for my excitement.
I’ve heard it said often, “We’re not a Sunday only church.” I know what they mean. They mean the people of their church get together, fellowship, do ministry, and pray throughout the week as well. Of course, these are important aspects of a faithful church. Pastors should want their people to connect and serve outside of the Sunday gathering. If church members gather together on Sundays, but never show hospitality, pray together, do evangelism, or disciple others throughout the week, then the whole church will suffer. Life in the local church should not be confined to Sundays alone.
Then what’s my problem with the statement, “We’re not a Sunday only church”? Why do I never say it if I agree with it in principle? Because I don’t like statements that have the potential to undermine the significance of the Sunday gathering. Some people speak about “Sunday only” because they don’t think the Sunday gathering is that significant. What really matters to them are small groups or missional communities or more “organic fellowship.” In their mind, “We’re not Sunday only,” really means the Sunday gathering is less important than other ways of being the church.
The doctrine of hell is a serious, sobering, and terrifying doctrine. For some, the thought of hell as eternal conscious torment is too difficult to accept. They would rather believe that hell is temporary. People who die outside of Christ will suffer punishment for a period of time, but eventually, God will cast them into the lake of fire and they will cease to exist. This view is known as annihilationism. But is it biblical?
We cannot allow our emotions to drive our theology. Scripture is our final authority. We must submit to the Bible’s teachings on difficult doctrines trusting that God is God and not us. He is good, righteous, and holy and he always does what is right.
Even though roughly 150,000 people die every day in our world, we are still shocked when someone dies unexpectedly. I certainly was when I heard that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Eight others died with him including his daughter. All nine people were gone in an instant.
The world focuses on Kobe not because the others were less important but because Kobe was a celebrity. Kobe was a household name for over two decades. We feel like we knew him even if we never met him. We watched him enter the NBA straight out of high school; we saw him win the NBA dunk contest as a rookie; we witnessed him battle against my beloved Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs early in his career; we watched him win championships and become one of the greatest basketball players of all-time.
I have watched many interviews with different people paying tribute to Kobe and the people who lost their lives in the accident. Each time my eyes well up with tears because the pain of death is real. Many people are left with questions in the wake of a tragedy. I wonder what kind of response is appropriate when the world turns its attention to the brevity of life and the reality of death. I try to imagine what Jesus would say if the news reporters stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to comment on the nine lives that perished in the helicopter crash. What would Jesus say?