Pastor Michael Bowman
I alluded in the last article to the idea of God shaking the earth in order to show what is lasting and can stand. One of the things that happens when God shakes things, when he allows our normal safety nets and objects of trust to fall apart, is that it shows who we really are. I once heard it said (or read somewhere I can’t remember which) that we are all like filled cups. When God shakes things, whatever spills out is what has been inside the whole time. Jesus put it this way, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:33-34). What comes out of you at a time like this is what was inside all the time. All the pretense goes away.
Most of us have experienced the panic out there. Maybe we have taken part in it. You see what is spilling out of people. There is a large amount of bitterness and resentment in the stores as people see others take what they want for themselves or think they need. There is frustration and animosity toward those who we think are supposed to be in control. There is doubt and lack of trust wondering where God is in all of this mess. So how are you reacting? What is spilling out of you? This is a great time to realistically assess where your heart has been for a long time.
One of the ways that you can assess your heart is to look at what you are appealing to for help at a time like this. Ask yourself, “What is my first response to this crisis? Where do I first appeal?” I’ve seen countless people, including many Christians and ministry leaders, whose first response was to start with political posturing. Whether it be in trusting or condemning the current administration, or using this time to point out the glories of socialism and problems of capitalism, there are many whose first reaction to the crisis is to appeal to our political system. This shouldn’t surprise us completely. Statism, the worship of the state (no matter which party), is a common idol in our day. Is that what we want to see from Christians? If we are honest, many of us could probably fall into that camp.
What should our first, almost automatic response be in crisis? “Lord have mercy.” “Lord save us.” “Lord we trust you.” “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Ps. 91:2). We should expect the world to fear, panic, and cry out to futile idols for salvation. It’s devastating to realize that many of us in the church are doing the same thing. We have forgotten our first love. We have pledged loyalty to others. We have sought out many devices.
When God shakes you and reveals your heart of idols what do you do? Follow in the footsteps of Josiah. “And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people” (2 Kgs. 23:3-6).
The basic idea is repent. Return once again to the Lord who bought you. Cast down your idols, take them outside of the city of your life, burn them, beat them to dust, dishonor them. Put them to death. Mortify your flesh. This is one of the many things the Lord is teaching us through this crisis. We should not ignore it.
*This is the third article in a series that will hopefully be helpful in shepherding our church through this season that God has placed us in as a people seeking peace in pandemic.