The “R” word the world needs today
Pandemics in general, are no news to the world and to none of us. However, back in March 2020, when the WHO announced that we are in a global pandemic and crisis, we were all struck. If we simply Google this particular word, a whole lot of information shows up: from the famous Spanish Influenza in 1917-1918, to H2N2 in 1957-58, and finally to SARS and COVID-19 nowadays, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Being a mental health professional, I cannot help but associate the word pandemic with panic, affecting everyone – everywhere and at the same time. The fear that one might get infected (God forbid), pass the virus on to the next person and potentially die is quite normal. We have been created to experience emotions such as that and so many other feelings on different levels, and in uncertain and new situations these reactions are completely okay. Victor E. Frankl, a well-known psychiatrist, said that an abnormal response or reaction to an abnormal situation would be rather normal behaviour. But what we want to find out in such cases is: what lies or hides behind it? What is behind this fear everyone has faced or is experiencing right now, behind the daily exhaustions and war against time, illnesses, aging?
If we break it down into several bits and pieces, we can all agree that first of all: we all are afraid of first and foremost physically aching and dying. Who on earth would want that, right? A sane person in their right mind would not want to suffer or be in danger all the time. If they did, they’d be having a different kind of conversation inside a counselling centre or hospital room. At some point, we all want some sort of stability and security, a life free of stress and full of happiness. BUT this is not the life we get to live, not on this planet, not even when we decide to follow Jesus. He said that in this world we will have trouble… but He also promises that He is the one who has overcome it (John 16:33)!
The deadliest “pandemic” our world has and will ever see or experience is – SIN.
And as such, it has a lethal outcome.
The Bible says: the wages of sin is DEATH - but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
For those who have received and believe the gospel, but also for those who are indecisive or have never heard such news, we need to be aware that because death is the outcome of sin, blood needs to be shed, someone must die. DEATH WILL AND MUST HAPPEN. The sad thing is that we often think we are still young and our lives are ahead of us, until they aren’t. We forget all about the statistics on suicides, wars, explosions, famine, illnesses and all the big or small life-destructing events. We want to numb ourselves from the inevitable reality that is unbearable - sin causes death, real death. We can try all we want, put our whole strength, power, good deeds, sacrifices, try and try and try, until we have no breath left. It will never suffice, not cover it up, it will not erase our sin. NEVER! And because the world is so big and sins are so many, the sacrifice needs to be perfect, it needs to be sufficient - powerful enough to clean us and make us new. This is why God sent His Son, Jesus - in flesh and bone to wash us clean by His blood, die on the cross for all of our transgressions (1 Peter 2:24) and resurrect to reestablish peace with God for us. Since He is 100% God, He defeated death forever (canceled our sins - 1 Corinthians 15:54) and gave us life by His Spirit - once and for all. Now why would the world need this? Or want this Saviour? There are way too many self-help books out there, yoga classes, YouTube videos, enough methods to make us into a ‘better version of ourselves’. Well, friends, NONE of these things give real life, they don’t save us from death. Only Christ offers forgiveness from sin and freedom for everyone, everywhere. It’s a very shocking deed that our humble Saviour desires to save from hell anyone who will - REPENT - from their ways and turn to Him.
Repentance – is the most “R rated” word in the whole globe, and sadly even in some modern churches. Why might that be? Well, probably because we expect a perfect repentance, not a sincere one. We expect people to be most eloquent and articulate when they repent, and frankly sometimes we don’t even think of the sincere tears one sheds and that one sentence of saying “they are sorry” doesn’t suffice.
The modern society we live in today, wants relief, not repentance because repentance costs quite a lot.
It costs careers, pleasures, ambitions and those are the things people work all their lives for. True repentance that comes from God makes us understand in our hearts how sinful human nature is, how great the debt is, that has now been paid and how wonderful is the One who did it all. Repentance is a key word in the kingdom of heaven.
If I were to summarise the message of the Bible in one phrase it’d be: “Turn to God! Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand, and there is no time for that later. Please surrender now, listen and do not harden your hearts any longer”. True repentance as stated before comes from God, the Holy Spirit and He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). But though it comes from Him, we must act upon that. We are in need of repentance, we are in need of a Saviour. We have sinned and lived life however we thought it was pleasing in our own (blind) sight, since the Fall. Repentance is what we must do right now, today: turn away from wickedness to the arms of the most loving Father, who gave Jesus as ransom for all. In a world that refuses to take responsibility for its wrong decisions, words, actions, a world that wants to believe it is innocent but is actually corrupt, we need repentance. A. W. Tozer once said, “…we must of our own free will repent toward God and believe in Jesus Christ. This the Bible plainly teaches; this experience abundantly supports. Repentance involves moral reformation. Lying, for instance, is an act of man and one for which he must accept full responsibility. When he repents he will quit lying. God will not quit for him; he will quit for himself.”. Repentance is the response we give God for what He has done for us. Jesus still saves today, right now, no matter how lost we may be – He is waiting with open arms. Isn’t that wonderful news? Life-giving, joy-filling good news in the midst of present threats and uncertain situations? This is why we rejoice in the middle of a global crisis and every single day: death has no ultimate power over us anymore.
God came in flesh and saved us, He is the light of this weary world, He redeems us and makes us His.
This hope is what keeps us day by day away from wanting to sin. This fuels the fire, and keeps us going for as long as God has decided we will be here. Let us not be too proud to think that we have already listened to this message, or too slow to repent when we fall short. Dear friends, let us put to death worldly impulses, carry our cross, crucify our flesh daily, and walk by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16-17). And let us pray for the lost and brokenhearted, for healing and deliverance, knowing well we have been there too.
Let us gladly receive God’s promise to save, restore our relationship with Him and dwell in us (Immanuel).
Make room for Jesus this Christmas, as the Holy Spirit brings repentance in our hearts.
Embrace Him, the Messiah, like Simeon did, and be filled with praise for His glory, as God’s word comes to pass and lives in you. Finally, let’s be Jesus’s hands and feet, knowing that we are serving above all the head of the body, our best-friend, the Lord and our King. Although we hear of more COVID-19 cases, even relatives, friends that get infected, sick or die, we can have hope that the problem of the pandemic of sin has been dealt with, as the Holy Spirit of God reminds us and whispers this into our hearts daily.