Many are speculating that cultural Christianity and prosperity gospel will decline during this time. Could it be that this pandemic serves as a refining fire for the Bride of Christ? Those who give to the church in a transactional way on Sundays may discontinue their giving when the plate is not passed before them, their neighbor not watching from the seat beside them. Cultural Christians may follow along from home with a hyped service, for some time, but is there a genuine hope? Will devotion dwindle? Have many relied more on a communal gathering place, alternative to the country club or the town square, rather than deep unity and authenticity among the Body? Time will tell.
The reality is that many are hurting right now. My friends are mourning loved ones lost. We pray for them, and for so many around the world. Yet, we as Christians have a sure and living hope that extends beyond the grave. The world does not have this hope. The world has no consolation in death; only pain, a deep sense of loss, confusion. As the lost die, whether in agonizing suffocation or in seeming ‘peace,’ what they enter is not peace.
The world of cultural Christianity is likewise confounded. Over and over they are prayerful, yet the healing does not come. At its root this is the dreamed-up prosperity gospel (which sells so well) applied in reality; the false notion that God owes us physical healing because we are His does not work as a bargaining chip. It is not wrong for us to pray for healing, unless our prayer does not end in this: “Your will be done.” It is not a lack of the right amount of faith which results in healing withheld; rather, this serves to expose a lack of Truth and understanding of the all sovereign God. The comfort of the Western world is a breeding ground for disorientation when it comes to the effects of the Fall and the reality of brokenness in our world. We live in a largely sanitized realm, where manipulated ‘spirituality’ is spoon fed to the masses.
Jesus Christ is no bottled genie who comes out to play when times are tough. He’s not a ghost who pops his head in when we’ve exhausted all of our strength, and find ourselves in need of a little extra help. He’s not merely a tingly feeling when you hit the right notes with your eyes half-closed, with the throngs of people around you; though He may very well be near. He’s not just the little nudge from a song on the radio or a daily devotion, though he will undoubtedly use these things (He has in my life, time and time again).
Hear this: Jesus Christ is the full embodiment of God. He is ever present. He is our strength, always, and apart from what He provides in His grace, we can do nothing. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. He sits on the throne. He has crushed the head of Satan through the finished work at the cross. He will return again to throw the devil into the fire forevermore. Jesus Christ is our Savior, believer, and He understands our every struggle; our hurts, trials, and losses, are not beyond Him. He is perfect in peace, perfect in love, perfect in humility. He is perfect priest. He is perfect sacrifice. He is fully God, and fully man. He is perfect mediator. He is redeemer to all who call on his name and trust on Him; those who truly submit to Jesus will certainly be saved. He is the Almighty from Everlasting, and He is King, always and forever.
And yet, the reality of this broken world does not go away.
My best friend died my senior year of high school. Relationships fall apart. Dogs live, and dogs die. Sports come to an end by injuries. Friends die in car accidents and relatives get paralyzed. Memory loss, cancer, and financial troubles fall on some of the kindest people we know. Wars are fought. School is difficult, and sometimes we fail. We get sick. We sin, and bring hurt on ourselves and others. God is gracious, we are forgiven in Christ. We joy in Christ, through all circumstances. We learn to yearn for Heaven. We fight sin. The lost carry on in their lostness–at large–though some are saved! We share the Gospel compassionately, boldly, increasingly. We stumble. We feel the real consequences of sin. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. None can make themselves righteous, no not one. Only Christ.
One day, we will die. However it may come, we know that it will come. All who are made righteous in, by, and for Christ, enter the perfect presence of our Lord and Savior forevermore.
Ultimately, the Word brings us to understand: this life is not about ‘me.’ All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give. Dead to self, alive in Christ. The old is gone, the new is come. To live is Christ, to die is gain.
This is not another religious tradition. This not commercialism, nor is it consumerism. This is reality—one that is often hard. But this is blessed relationship with the Maker, through every trial. This is Church: brothers and sisters who are in this together, the great gift of fellowship, until the end. The true Bride of Christ will never die.
I will die; my dying will be Christian, as I live unto Christ.
This is Christian.
Let us live Christian.
Let us die Christian.
This, our resolve.