Nearer to Christ Because of 2020
What a year! Much can be said about 2020. So many have said in very negative terms how they wish 2020 would just go away. It has been a very hard and difficult year for all of us. As a husband, father, pastor, and a disciple of Christ, 2020 has been a challenge to fight for joy in Christ and to encourage RBC to do the same. Wave upon wave of trials this year can, if we are not careful, lead to despair, discouragement, and depression. Yet, these trials have caused me to cling tighter to him. Yes, I can say, “I thank the Lord for 2020 for it has taught me to draw nearer to Him.” As I reflected over the year, I can clearly see that God taught me seven profound lessons through 2020.
- Christ reigns over the government: Lessons relearned from the election.
Tempers flared. Insults were hurled. The country has proven again that it is completely and polemically divided right down the middle. Though we may be Christians who are fellow citizens in God’s household, it is very easy to get sucked in to the vortex of political debate and mockery. There are a few key points the people of God should remember.
Political heads are sorry saviors.
More than ever, the flaws and faults of both Republican and Democrat officials become increasingly apparent. There is very clear corruption on both sides and it is foolhardy to believe that any real lasting change of peace in our nation can come through a president. Though we respect the office, the Scriptures warn us, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Psalm 146:3) Trump cannot save you. Biden cannot save you. If your candidate wins or loses, Christ will never fail.
Political ideology is a sorry salvation.
So much of the faulty thinking in the church is confusing conservatism with Christianity. Though some values may overlap, they are not one and the same. A conservative ideology never saved anyone. Not one soul. Christ alone saves through the gospel. Yet sadly, professing believers are more vocal and more fervent in their arguments to win a liberal over to conservatism. If you are a believer in Christ, you should remember your goal is not to win conservative arguments. Your goal should be to win souls through the gospel. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) The message you are most passionate about is the one you truly believe works to change others. So which gospel do you preach?
Political legislation is a sorry sanctification.
If political heads can’t save, and political ideologies can’t change hearts, then political legislation can not produce righteous living. In all these things, then, we should pray for our government, honor our leaders (so long as they do not ask us to sin), vote according to biblical convictions; but ultimately, trust in Christ and the power of the gospel to affect real change, one soul at a time.
- Christ outlasts other treasures: Lessons relearned from the wildfires.
This was a terrible year for fires. California alone lost over 10,000 buildings and 4.1 million acres were burned. Sadly 31 people lost their lives. While at a conference in the Bay Area, the sky was dark and red blocking the sunlight, unlike anyone has ever seen in his or her lifetime. We should definitely weep with those who weep, and help where we can, but what can we learn from these fires?
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth.
Matthew 6:19 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Make no mistake, the folks in these fires (some of my dear brothers and sisters have lost everything), were just going about living their lives and providing for their families. Yet, with houses and possessions, we are reminded to not hold them with a tight grip. “Where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal,” point to the folly of treasuring and compiling things on this earth. The things of this earth are both subject to destruction or theft. The fires teach us that you really can not hang on to anything on this earth; so steward everything you have for His glory with a loose grip.
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
The next verses tell us to “...lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Rather than placing your heart’s desire for the things of this earth, your heart’s desire should be the things of heaven. Why? For the simple reason that it cannot be destroyed nor stolen. The point is that if you invest in the things of heaven, (the glory of Christ, the feeding of the sheep to maturity, serving Christ in the local church, choosing Christ as priority in your life decisions, etc.), none of it will ever be taken away. The verse continues, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Did you catch that? Whatever you are treasuring and desiring and planning to have and to keep, that is what your heart is occupied with. If it is heaven and the glory of Christ, it will last forever just as it always has, just as it always will.
- Christ conquers over death: Lessons relearned from celebrity deaths.
In Adam, all die.
While celebrity deaths were not unique to 2020, these deaths reminded the world that it is under a curse from which no one will escape unless there is reconciliation with God through Christ Jesus. The accomplished athlete Kobe Bryant, the storied and celebrated life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the musical talent of Eddie Van Halen, and the heroic performance of Chadwick Boseman, none could escape the curse of Adam. In 1 Corinthians 15:22a, it says “For as in Adam all die. . .” As our representative, the curse of Adam spread to every boy, girl, man and woman and all are cursed to a physical death.
In Christ, all shall be made alive.
The next part of the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:22b says, “so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” True eternal life and bodily resurrection is given and provided by Christ who, just like Adam, will be our representative if we trust in Him and repent of our sins. Physical death on this earth should point you to true eternal life in Christ. My own dear father-in-law, William, passed away this year. I was reminded of the urgency of the gospel, as my sweet niece, Nadia, pled with “GG” to turn to Christ for He is the only hope of reversing the curse. Even as I write this, I miss my Auntie Evie who died last night and I am thankful she had a quiet and joyful faith in Christ alone. I am thankful for the conversations we had about Christ, and I await our reunion in glory.
In life, number your days.
Psalm 90:2 pleads with God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom.” God, may we not live this life like we have days to squander. May we remember that this life is short and to make every second count for the glory of Christ. May we take up the resolution of Jonathan Edwards, “Resolved, to live with all my might while I do live. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.” Contextually, if you know anything about Edwards, he meant to live every moment for Christ.
- Christ reconciles the nations: Lessons relearned from BLM
The world watched in horror as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world regarding police brutality and racism. Deep-seated distrust of police exhibited itself in looting, riots, and mayhem. One group, Black Lives Matter, led the way in its angered leadership and vitriol. Many in the church joined the group in its protest. While there is much in the BLM movement which is biblically unsound, the incidents did raise the question of where the evangelical church should stand. Some answered the error with more error. Yet, the church as the “pillar of truth”, was called to respond to the explosive situation.
The pulpit must continue to teach that everyone is made in the image of God.
The intrinsic value of man is that he is made in the image of God. The Bible does not describe any other creature in such terms. Mankind is the crown of God’s creation. Mankind has the ability to have relationships, to have dominion and stewardship over the earth, and can create unlike any other creature. Genesis 1:26 clearly teaches this fact, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. . . .” Churches must proclaim and live this out in love to all regardless if they belong to a different ethnic background that you come from.
The church must continue to make disciples of all nations.
Christ commands the church to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). The church is to preach the gospel of Christ, baptize, and teach them all that Christ has commanded “of all nations.” The Greek panta ton ethnon speaks of all people groups. Those groups are distinguished by culture and language, not necessarily geopolitical boundaries. There is no room for bigotry or racism in the church. You cannot teach that all of mankind is made in the image of God while ignoring Christ’s call to make disciples of all nations. All of mankind is made in his image. All should be offered the gospel of Christ. All believers in Christ should be discipled.
We must continue to show that true reconciliation comes only in Christ .
When we have peace with God through the reconciliation that comes with Christ, we can say anyone of any ethnic background, can truly be my brother or sister in Christ. The apostle Paul illustrates this point as he teaches how Christ removes the animosity between Jew and Gentile. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…” (Ephesians 2:14) We should be convinced of the fact that Christ has died and shed his blood for “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) The church must teach this and live this and demonstrate to the world so that “all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
We must define justice by God’s righteousness not by the term “social justice.”
The term “social justice” has nothing to do with God’s true justice. God’s justice is His perfect attribute and ability to discern and render a decision based on his righteous and unchanging standard on any matter because of His perfect omniscience over the affairs and hearts of mankind. Because God is altogether righteous there is no thought of impartiality with his perfect justice. God’s justice can not be coerced, manipulated or perverted.
“Social Justice”, on the other hand, as defined by sociologists is the “state’s redistribution of advantages and resources to disadvantaged groups to satisfy their right to socio-economic equality.” To address grievances, they teach there should be a redistribution of power and resources. This “social justice” teaches there is an oppressed (people of color, fringe groups) and an oppressor (white people).
There is no understanding of God’s compassion or God’s justice with “social justice.” You have a justice with no true righteousness. “Social justice” is defined by sociologists and professors who are fallible human beings with no real standard of right and wrong. God’s justice stands based on His righteousness.. The solution to injustice is not their redefined “social justice” but God’s justice based on absolute righteousness and truth in His Word. The church cannot follow the redefining of justice and go with the “social justice” crowd. It is based on a false standard; man’s own broken view of righteousness.
We must continue to be discerning with whom we form alliances with.
While it is true that the church should have nothing to do with bigotry and racism, we can not link arms with those groups who are not like-minded with believers in the essentials. Many well-intentioned Christians raised the flag of BLM wanting to display love to their fellow neighbor without ever having read BLM’s manifesto. If you truly follow Christ and believe and obey His Word, you simply can not support BLM. The BLM runs against clear biblical teachings of 1) the model of the family unit, 2) the model of created genders, 3) the sanctity of life,  and 4) the gospel of Christ as the means to forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Christ restores the image of God: Lessons relearned from LGBTQ.
Confusion over gender roles and sexuality has proliferated in our society. Film, media, and politics has saturated society with the belief that there are 72 (or more!) genders. From youth on, individuals are taught that they can choose their gender. This destructive ideology has hurt many as they fight against the very obvious and beautiful gender they were created in. The church’s response has been of either a blind graciousness that does not speak of the sinfulness of the behavior nor the judgment forthcoming or of a judgmental truth that offers no forgiveness. Both responses are unbiblical. What does God say about the matter?
We must teach that man and woman are made in the image of God.
Again, we come to the fundamental teaching and design of creation. In Genesis 1:27, it reads, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Whereas all of human kind is declared to be made in God’s image, this distinction is visibly seen in the beauty and dignity of male and female roles. Society and sin lies to individuals’ hearts, stating they can do anything they want with their sexuality, even to go against the very basic and elemental understanding of male and female distinctions. The higher rates of depression and suicide in the LGBTQ community is a manifestation of the true guilt that is experienced because they rebelling against the very created order of God Himself as revealed in the Bible. Yet, society and their own hearts continue to lie stating everything is just, “fine.”
We must teach there is a judgment of God.
Society, and sadly unbiblical churches, are lying to a whole generation, teaching that God will not judge. Paul makes it clear, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) When society tells you that you are “brave and courageous” to choose a different gender and that it hurts no one, they are lying to you. Paul says, “Do not be deceived.” No, it is not the only sin that brings judgment, but to say that you won’t be judged is just plain lying.
We must teach there is forgiveness from God.
Wonderfully, the story doesn’t have to end in judgment. Paul continues, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) Some in the Corinthian church “were” former fornicators, former idolaters, former adulterers, former effeminate (men behaving as women), former homosexuals, and former thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers as well. The Bible says unequivocally that there is forgiveness in Christ for anyone who believes and repents of his or her sin. Hallelujah!
- Christ calms through the crises: Lessons relearned from COVID-19.
We are nearing our 11th month under COVID restrictions and there does not seem to be an end in sight. It has changed the way the US functions as a society. God has indeed taught us many things through this unique and devastating time.
Prefer one another in love.
Mask or no mask? Pandemic or no pandemic? Reality or media propaganda? Stay at home or meet? Is Governor Gavin Newsom a protector or a tyrant? 2020 had no shortage of controversy and COVID was by far the biggest. One lesson to take away from COVID was what Paul said to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” (Romans 12:10) Wherever you land on COVID, you know Christ’s call on you is to love others, even if they differ passionately from you.
Weep with those who weep.
Paul tells us the importance of sharing in the suffering of others as a demonstration of Christ’s love. Paul state, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” I wept when I saw business owners try and stay afloat and then finally had to call it quits. I wept when my second cousin, Michelle, died at the age of 29 due to COVID. God calls us to suffer alongside others who are suffering and offer the hope and refreshment of the gospel of Christ.
Continue the Great Commission
Quite wonderfully, through media and through in person, outdoor meetings, we as a church continued the work of making disciples of all nations. We saw Christ bless us by bearing fruit in the lives of folks who were depressed and discouraged because of COVID and all its accompanying difficulties. Christ taught RBC to keep their hands to the plow no matter what happens around us.
- Christ loves the church: Lessons relearned from the church.
Last March, RBC lost its rental building due to COVID. We never stopped preaching the Word of Christ. Though we met virtually for 6 weeks, we quickly began meeting in-person outdoors. We have been outdoors ever since. Christ has reminded the church of many things.
Fellowship and corporate worship must take place.
The spiritual needs of fellowship and corporate worship were now more poignantly felt when it was taken away. The Bible clearly tells Christians that they are to, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together.” (Hebrews 10:25-26) I recall the first time we met in-person after the drought of fellowship and how all souls were lifted from despondency and depression. Christ’s people heals Christ’s people as they seek Christ together. (Eph 4:15-16)
Hospitality is crucial.
Because we lost our building, members of RBC willingly open their backyards and front yards to meet and worship Christ together. This trial has brought us much closer together as all hands were on deck to ensure that Christ received all the glory and that His people would be fed with His Word. Members took on new ministries they never did before. Our young adults and students served Christ with diligence and were pushed out of their comfort zone. Through it all, the church welcomed several new visitors despondent and despairing due to COVID restrictions.
Christ will build his church.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “and I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” Through these very weird and trying times, Christ has shown his sufficiency and strength. He is the One that is building the church, not me. He saved five individuals during this time and they all owned him in baptism. He brought discouraged visitors to RBC. He provided joy to a weary people. He has displayed his power by showing people their need for Him through this time. He has matured us all to depend more on him. I am thankful for 2020 for it has drawn me closer to Him.
 Was recently removed due to public awareness, but was originally listed in the manifesto here. https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/
An internet record can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20200408020723/https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/