This is one of the longest words in our languages (and also very hard to say many times fast!).
It, along with its antonym, disestablishmentarianism, is what this post is about.
We live in a time of heightened individualism. Even institutions like the state are now commonly and even brazenly flouted. This tension has been heightened during the pandemic, with some heeding government orders and others protesting or even rebelling against them.
How ought Christians to respond to governments during a pandemic? During church closures?
There is certainly a wide spectrum of opinions on the matter of closures, with some radically wanting to keep things shut and others radically wanting things to open (I’m probably in the middle leaning towards cautious reopening). Wherever your opinion rests, such a reflection raises the question of how Christians should respond to government orders.
Jesus famously, and very helpfully said, in Mt 22:21: give to Caesar [the gov’t] the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s. In other words, there is the kingdom of this world which is ending and the Kingdom of God which has come/ is coming. There are two worlds, two cities; yet Christians live in both and so have a responsibility to God, firstly, but also to authorities whom God has set over us for our good. The general principle is that if the authorities ask anything of us that is contrary to God’s law then we are justified in thoughtfully disobeying; but if they ask us to do something that doesn’t go against God’s law we are called to submit, even when we may not like it. This is the spirit of Ro 13 and 1 Peter 2:13–5.
When it comes to the pandemic and church closures, if only churches were asked to close and not Mosques and Synagogues, then there would be an anti-Christian streak in the order that ought not to be obeyed. However, it is a level playing field with all public gatherings and though my thoughts or your thoughts may be this or that on the subject, whether we find it hard or believe otherwise, the government believes it for our good, it doesn’t contravene God’s law (for we have found creative, though imperfect, ways to fellowship by means of technology) and so we must submit.
But submission, the very word a foul stench in society’s dictionary, ought not to be for the Christian. We are called to gladly submit to God appointed authorities so long as they do not ask of us anything that goes against God’s laws (It is an act of faith/trust): I, as a pastor, submit to Christ; Christians are called to submit to their church elders; wives to husbands; children to fathers and mothers; employees to employers and all to the state; and even to fellow believers. When we are disestablishmentarians our hearts are filled with pride, rebellion, self-centredness, anger… Yet when we joyfully submit in faith to who God has called us to submit to, beginning with Himself, the Spirit produces in us love, peace, contentment and joy.
So whatever and whomever the Lord may be calling us to submit to today, may we do so as Christians cheerfully. And whether it be to governments, employers or churches, may our respect to them and God’s word enhance our reputation to the glory of Christ.
 I’m thinking here of churches that have rebelled against government closure orders. They have lost the respect of civil leaders. When persecution comes for other moral matters, they will not be remembered favourably. However, I pray that as the vast majority of Christians have submitted to these orders, the Lord would use this favourably in our civil leaders eyes when they think about persecuting the respectful and obedient for matters which we cannot agree to their laws, laws that God against God’s laws, that they would think twice and remember how we submitted, for a long time, by forgoing our Lord’s Day and other gatherings, so dear to us, out of obedience to them and our Lord.
There has been a lot of praise of late, and rightly so, for our amazing health care professionals. Most of them have fearlessly embraced their calling to serve their communities, even at risk to their own health and that of their families. They deserve our praise.
However, even in the midst of thanks where thanks are due, there is something, which at best is misguided and worst, is disturbing. That is how our naturalistic, death fearing society, treats health workers as saviours. If this life is all there is to existence and death is the great enemy, then of course they would view doctors and nurses and paramedics in this light. They alone, in their eyes, are the only ones who can deliver us from Covid-19.
And so we see signs that say, “honk, heroes work here,” or in some communities like the UK there are pot banging parties each night at 8 p.m. in praise and support of these heroes.
Now again, such praise is not inherently wrong, but it is wrong if we praise them as saviours.
100 years ago, there would have been signs and calls for national days of prayer during a pandemic. In an increasingly godless culture, turning to the One who is Sovereign over disease and death has been replaced by faith in medical saviours. Where are such calls to prayer, certainly not on the lips of most citizens or politicians (and even many Christians). I am aware that some organized one such prayer day in Canada. Christian politicians, church and business leaders in Germany recently organized perhaps one of the more cohesive events, but on the whole, a seeking of God (and a proper worldview which understands disease and death as rooted in the Fall and resolved in the Gospel), is absent in our society. It is that, the salvific heartbeat behind the praise of our wonderful medical professionals that makes this all so disturbing.
Speaking to godless Israel, the prophet Amos said, “Seek me and live, but do not seek Bethel…” (Amos 5:4b–5a). Bethel, among other locations the prophet goes on to list, were among the high places, the centres of false worship, false security, false hope, false assurance. These all, “come to nothing.”
And so it is with worshipping the medical system and professionals, as grateful as we ought to be for them, to place our ultimate trust in them over against the Lord is idolatrous and idolatry brings us to nothing. Ultimately spiritual (and physical) life is to be found in the Lord alone.
So may we seek the Lord that “we may live, and so the LORD,… will be with you.”
 Whether by healing or through the Resurrection.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.—Galatians 6:10
I “discovered” this verse several years ago when reading through Galatians. Since then it has become one of my favourites. Let’s break it into three parts and consider what it teaches us:
God first loved us and so we love Him in return. This is our act of love in worship in response to His grace (1st half of the Great Commandment). As He loves us we are then enabled to love others. However, again, our first port of call to display such love—contrary to popular belief—is not the world but the Church. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “by this shall all men [the world] know that you are My disciples, that you [Christians] have love one for another [the Church].” (Jn 13:35). God’s plan is that the Church be an example of renewed humanity to this end, that when unbeliever’s see our good works done in love to fellow believers: it validates God’s love and the Gospel, makes wonderful our adoption into God’s family so we’ll praise Him more, and is a powerful means to cause unbelievers to want to be renewed themselves and join God’s renewed humanity called the Church.
Gal 6:10 is an ingenious truth and plan!
In our renovations and move to the new house—during Covid-19—it is a verse I’ve seen lived out by many brothers and sisters as they’ve helped us in unbelievable ways.
When our toddler son articulated the reality that we had purchased a new home but were still temporarily living in our old one as we undertook renovations he described it as the “new, new house.” Affectionately, this is the way we’ve come to describe our new home.
As many who have helped us will testify, it has been a fixer-upper. The saving grace is that the roof and foundation were in good repair, much in between that high and low has required substantial initial repairs and improvements. The walls and basement needed insulation. The floors took two men 5 days to sand back to their original state, thanks to a build-up of stain, floor wax and linoleum glue. The walls needed patching, puttying and in some cases dry walling (and not to mention the sanding). There was some framing to do, some plumbing, and new light fixtures. Then there were the coats and coats of paint and the many other little jobs (and the gardens to come!). The “new, new house” didn’t involve a simple lick of paint, rather it was a true transformation (see pictures below).
There is a spiritual analogy here. Christianity is not just about covering up the old walls with a fresh coat of paint, we’re in a far needier place than this. To assume we simply need some touch ups is to fail to appreciate how absolutely corrupt and depraved we are as humans and the dire spiritual state we are in before a holy God. Such a faulty presumption would be works righteousness: legalism, that we can achieve a right standing before God; liberalism, that we are good enough to please Him through our charitable deeds; or even Christianity-lite, that we simply need His grace a little bit.
Paul says in Ro 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
We are all, naturally, like a wretch, abandoned, derelict, fixer-upper. We are fit for no good spiritual purpose and we deserve to be torn down or have the match set to us.
What hope is there? None in works, but only in the grace and transforming power of God available through faith in the Gospel and by His Spirit.
Later in Romans Paul speaks of the total transformation the Gospel can bring to our lives, one which is rooted in God’s work to transformationally save and not our ability to provide a meagre face-lift. Ro 12:2 speaks of being “transformed by the renewal of our minds.” The word transformed is the same as what happens to a caterpillar when it turns into something entirely new, metamorphosis.
In salvation, God completely renovations our worm-like life and transforms it into something beautiful and to His glory. It’s as if He puts His “work done by” sign in front of our house so all will stand amazed at His craftsmanship. He buys our property. He fixes everything from top to bottom. The finished result blows the top out of the wow factor, a stunning new home.
Would you recognize the desperate straits the home of your life is in? Would you repent of that and ask Jesus to renovate your life and make you new by His Spirit? In faith, be prepared to be amazed!
As a child I sometimes watched the show “This Old House” with my parents. My father was a carpenter and we all loved history and so this show had a special family appeal (my wife and I now occasionally watch the British show called “restoration home” where families save historic sites).
I never thought this would be the case, but the Crockers purchased (by the grace of God!) a fixer-upper farmhouse on April 1 during a pandemic! This was no April fool’s joke either but the real deal.
We are so grateful to the Lord for the small yet faithful army helpers (and many prayer warriors sustaining us as Aaron and Hur sustained Moses [Ex 17:12]).
Here are a handful of things the Lord has been teaching me/us:
A BBC article caught my eye the other day, it was billed as “the virtual reality church that isn’t shutting its doors.” This church holds virtual services in many different time zones. They’re even church planting in different virtual cities and worlds. That might be hard to get one’s head around but it is a creative expression of the Great Commission. Though I’m supportive of using technology to a degree, I also believe the idea for Christian fellowship is not virtual but live, face to face. Acts 2:42 says:
And they [the early Church] devoted themselves to…the fellowship…
One of the things the apostolic Church devoted themselves too was fellowship, an interactive sharing in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Though some professing Christians minimize the importance of it, fellowship is indeed part of the bread and butter of the Christian life, an essential ingredient, and an ingredient that Christians around the world are longing to return to post-Covid-19.
In the meantime, in light of the reality of Covid-19, the short term social distancing measures and public health measures to ban religious services, these need not stop the Church from gathering to worship and to enjoy fellowship. I am very thankful our church is in the position to be able to find creative ways to minister at this time:
And this is my great hope, not only that we will find creative ways to minister at this time, but that when Covid-19 is past, we will all join together in person to worship our Lord, and what a day of rejoicing that will be! It is my hope that Covid-19 is teaching us the eternal importance of Christian fellowship and that we’re all longing for the day when we can put social distancing behind us and fellowship in person, together, the way God designed it to be.
Until then, we’ll see you online/by phone, in one form or another.
 In sharing this article I am not endorsing this church.
Imagine the scene:
Houses were empty.
A certain book had disappeared off of the bookshelves in shops and online inventories.
Sales of certain illicit substances and content had plummeted forcing companies to close.
Where had all the people gone? What with these mysteries?
Imagine they had all flocked to local faithful Gospel churches! Why? Because they’d heard that Jesus was coming. What began as possibly even a fear of judgement, turned to a genuine fear of the Lord and remorse for their sins, and through faith in the Gospel, their mourning had turned to an eternal joy, and they waited.
Matthew 24:44 says, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Not to trivialize our present crisis, but it is ironic that there is a far greater crisis that is pending—the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—and yet people shrug it off. Yet, tell the world that Covid-19 is coming and people rush to get supplies and self-isolate and close borders so that they are ready if/when it comes.
During a plague in Cyprian’s day (c.252, Bishop of Carthage) he thought Jesus’ return was imminent. Plagues have come and plagues have gone and so it would be hasty to say that our present disease was any different than those of the past as a signal of the Lord’s return, however, it ought to be a reminder to us to be ready, that there is an even greater arrival to be ready for and it is not Covid-19 (as ready as we need to be for that), but the coming of Christ from glory to “judge the living and the dead.”
 Cyprian, On Mortality, Treatise VII.2.
In a previous blog, “the Plague of Cyprian”, we considered how Covid-19 is teaching us about our own mortality and fear. In this blog we’ll consider how it is reminding us that we’re not in charge.
In by-gone days there was an old and wise Christian man out tending his front garden by the road when a farmer passed by with his flock of sheep. The old man hailed, “Friend, where are you off to today.” The farmer replied, “I’m taking my sheep to market, they are going to fetch a handsome price. Then I’m going to go and buy a new implement and a fancy dress for my wife.” The old man replied, “God-willing!”
Not too long afterwards the farmer walked past the old wise Christian man’s garden, this time by himself, and looking dishevelled and beaten up. The old man asked, “Friend, what happened to you?” The farmer replied, “When I was on the way to the market I was attacked by sheep thieves. They stole my sheep and beat me up and left me for dead.” The old man asked, “What are you going to do now?” The farmer replied, “I’m going to go home and secure my sheep and farm, and breed more sheep, and sell others at the market on this date, and return to this market next year, etc.” The old man cut him off, “God-willing!”
In a passage which warns against boasting about tomorrow, James 5:13–16 says this:
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-- 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
From this passage comes the Christian saying, “God-willing” or DV (Latin. Deo volente, if God wills it). While this saying can be over used its sentiment can also be underappreciated. Truly, nothing can happen unless God wills it. We need to remember that He is on the throne and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven—not ours! Corona Virus is teaching us, not only of our mortality, but how little we actually have control over our lives. We must depend upon the Lord and seek His will. We all have had plans change, trips cancelled, meetings postponed, because of Covid-19. May this be a reminder to us of the wisdom of James 5 and teach us to humbly say, in our heart of hearts, DV!
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, they compassions they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
God Never Changes
So opens the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It declares a central truth about God that He is the unchanging One, and as such He is dependable. Hebrews 13:10 says, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Humans Are Always Changing
While humans are created in the image of God and reflect His likeness in many ways, God’s unchanging nature is a characteristic that we do not share. Benjamin Franklin once said, “two things always stay the same, death and taxes!” Aside from these points in jest, we change and our circumstances change. Nothing stays the same. Our bodies change as we grow. Our circumstances change as we journey through life. We are always changing. While the rate and amount of change may be something we can or cannot easily process, or sometimes is necessary for survival, to deny change itself is to deny reality.
Change is a Normal Part of a Believer’s Life
Not only do we change as humans, if we are a follower of Jesus, change is the name of the game. The Gospel message itself is the power to change. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to sanctify us, to transform us, to make us more like Jesus. Following Jesus then is one big process of change. If we are not changing or are resistant to healthy and appropriate change, and willing to follow our Lord in faith into the future, then something is amiss.
A Tale of Two Seas
The Jordan River bubbles up at the foot of Mt. Hermon in the north of Israel. Tens of thousands of gallons of water burst to the surface every day. These waters flow south into the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea. These two seas are complete opposites. One is filled with fish and life. That is because water is always entering and exiting it, it is changing, it is alive and vibrant. The other only ever receives and never gives and as a result of that and evaporation by the sun, it salinity is so high that nothing can live in it. That is why it is called the Dead Sea. May these two seas be a reminder to us: change is needed if we want to thrive as Christians and an unwillingness to embrace the change of the Gospel can spell only certain death.
May the Lord’s grace enable us to change, for our good and His glory.
As we yield to and are filled by the Spirit in the Christian life (sanctification), each Christian is to progressively bear all of the fruit of the Spirit as a witness to the saving reality of our faith (are we who we really profess to be). Such fruit is not limited to the description found in Gal 5. Many other fruit can be found listed throughout the New Testament. James 3:17 is one such place. Speaking of the fruit that comes from the wisdom from above it lists:
Pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
I’d like to zero in on one fruit: open to reason, or the fruit of “reasoning”, or being reasonable.
There is a reason why the Bible speaks so much about good communication and that is because we are so bad at it. Most church conflicts are not about doctrine, or wrong doing, or even personality differences, they’re communication issues that usually arise from a wrong disposition, a want of sanctification. Immediately after James speaks of taming the tongue he shows what someone being transformed by the Spirit will look like in their communications: be open to reasoning.
The word here can mean well-persuaded, already inclined, already willing, easy to come to terms with because already willing, etc. It conveys the notion of someone willing to go to great lengths to come to terms with someone, foster understanding, get to the bottom of the situation, be level headed, committed to working something through, labouring to this great end. This is not being quick tempered, which short circuits the intellect, but restrained, mentally engaged and charitable. It is a clarity of the mind and a calmness of our affections. It is a rare quality today, to be patient, peaceable, and restrained, enough to work through a difficulty. It is a key Spiritual fruit that enables us to truly submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21).
So the next time you are presented with a difficult situation, in or outside of the Church, as a believer, would you pray that the Lord would enable you to be open to reason, for everyone’s good and His glory.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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