The sermon series we’re experiencing at Smoky Row Brethren Church has been challenging.
I’ve come to expect that- barring a freak accident- I’ll be healthy. I have come to expect that my neighbors will respect my presence, that I’ll be refreshed after every experience in which I play, that my definition of what it means to be a Christian in this country will always mean what I grew up believing. I’ve been challenged to maintain those routines in which my faith reveals itself, that I’ll maintain my responsibility to my congregation, and maintain my responsibilities to serve people outside the church. That my integrity will remain intact whether I’m in the presence of peers, in the midst of antagonists, or in the company of believers; that I’ll be a good employee, a loyal friend, and a humble Christian, a committed spouse and parent, and a man of who takes little for granted.
Yes, I knew that we live in a fallen world, that our experiences are affected by sin’s presence in this blemished world, and that only our transition to Heaven or the return of Jesus to earth can change our fallen reality. But some of my preconceptions have been shaken.
I’ve begun to change my expectations. I’ve held tightly to an expectation that my health, my job, and my civil rights are immune to the effects of the fallen world in which we live. After all, Christian people have the promise of an indwelling Holy Spirit. His presence, in my expectation, creates a sphere of immunity that surrounds me. He keeps believers from ever going through any negative experience
That awful theology does not explain why Christian school children are still being held by kidnappers in West Africa, that Christian villagers in the middle-east need to flee to a mountain to escape persecution, and that saying ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes can earn a student suspension time in our own country.
I’m learning to realize that Christians are subject to two realities. First we are characterized by our membership in God’s domain. Whether you call this ‘God’s family’ or ‘God’s church’, the point is that God’s protection and provisions are available to his people. God responds to our prayers, and can and may bend and suspend laws of normal existence. But the other reality is that we are still part of the fallen creation for the time that we’re on earth. Bad things do happen to good people. Our bodies age, ail, and fail. Worry, panic, and anxiety, as Pastor Rich pointed out, coupled with loss and shame, are normal feelings for fallen human beings. That side of us continues to be a reality we face.
God promises to be faithful to the promise he has made with all believers, regardless of what we deal with. We are redeemed, but not yet perfected. We are being transformed, but we are not yet who God intends for us to be. Any feeling possible among human beings are feelings believers might have. We are tempted but provided with resources to be able to say ‘no’.
There is one stream of Christianity that teaches that after conversion to the faith, Christian people living with worry, anxiety, and panic show evidence of faithlessness, self-absorption, or even Godlessness. Why? They believe that believers in Jesus Christ have put those issues behind them. The Bible is clear that once a person has accepted Christ as Savior and Lord that they have been delivered from these human problems and have been delivered to life in the Holy Spirit and the accompanying peace, joy and love that can be found most deeply in him. I can’t disagree with that. However, what these Overcoming teachers fail to keep in mind is that we live in a world that is less than what the creator intended.
Our world is messed up. Sin crept into the garden, was embraced by our human ancestors, and the world has not been the same. God’s ideal was compromised by human failure. Yes, I’m holding Adam and Eve equally responsible for the situation, but the truth is that I would have done the very same thing they did. I’m convinced that in the identical situation, you would likely do the same.
So let me say that in the ideal world, the topics of this week’s blogs, fear, anxiety, and depression, would not exist. When Jesus returns, they’ll be wiped away with every tear that accompanies pain, regret, and failure. But until he comes back, we have to deal with living in a twilight zone a place where we have one foot firmly planted in this fallen world and the other rooted in God’s realm. It’s not an easy place to exist. but may we take comfort in knowing that worry, panic, anxiety, loss and shame, will one day be a distant memory. Until then, they’ll continue to be part of the broken world we live in. May we increasingly take comfort in our Lord than in the world. May we increasingly find confidence in our Lord than in our circumstances. May we increasingly grow dependent on our Lord as we straddle life in two realities.
~Post written by Jeff Whiteside