COVID, the Government, and the Christian


Series: Special Messages

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

In this unprecedented time of pandemic, public health orders, health concerns vs. civil liberties, how should the Christian and the Church respond? In this special message, Jeff looks at some key truths in the Scriptures that can help guide us through the coming days.

Transcription (automatically-generated): 

Amen. Amen. Thank you, BJ. It's so good to be here with all of you. And oh, man, we got some stuff to talk about today, so I'm glad that you're verse is hope you had a wonderful Christmas season and found room to rest in the truth that no matter what is going on in the world, we are the most blessed people on Earth.

For one simple reason. We belong to Jesus. We belong to Jesus. Can you say Amen to that? Amen?

Well, I could have titled this message Trigger Warning, because for much of our society, that's what this message is going to be. Just one massive trigger after another. We're going to look at some of the big issues that have been thrust upon us all because of the COVID pandemic and talk about how we should navigate them as Christians. And so right here at the beginning of this message, I need to start with a preface and I'm going to have to do a bit of a good cop bad cop routine.

Bad cop comes first if you know how this is done.

Right. So I'm going to ask you to listen all the way through this message to not get up and leave or pretend that you suddenly got a call that you didn't really get the first time you hear something that rubs against your personal views. Why? Here's the honest answer, because we're not children. Okay?

We're not children. We're not three yearolds who have an emotional meltdown simply because we're exposed to an idea that we don't like. We don't throw all our toys out the crib and scream. And I can't be around this. We're not children.

We're adults. I don't even need a verse. We're not children. Okay? We're not incapable of handling other views.

Now, here's the good cop part. Okay, I'm going to pray for us one more time before we get into this, because pretty much all of us are deeply emotionally invested in our current views. I haven't met a lot of people when you're like, what do you think about the whole COVID thing and vaccines and stuff they're like, well, I'm ambivalent. I don't really have an opinion. Not a lot of that going around.

I don't know if you've noticed. So most of us are deeply invested in our views. And so with that, let me pray for us one more time. And you just received this prayer as I pray it. Father, thank you that your spirit is among us and is promised to us in this time by your word.

And so we claim that. And we stand on that. And, Lord, we just confess that we are tired. Many of us have been worn down by just the relentless barrage of negativity or anxiety or whatever it is. And even for those of us who might not feel that way, it's been a battle to not be overwhelmed by those things.

And so, Lord, I pray that the peace and the comfort of your spirit would Minister to us, Lord, as we find direction from the only one who is the truth, your son, Jesus, and from your word. So, Lord, give us open hearts and open minds to receive all you have for us. We love you and all God's. People said, Amen. Amen.

Okay, I'm going to share a series of truths that I believe every Christian needs to be reminded of right now because these truths are scriptural, and they apply to every believer. So first of all, I don't want you to think, oh, you know who needs to hear this? This is for you. Okay? This is God's word talking to you.

One last warning because I love you. If I say something that reinforces a belief or a view that you currently hold, don't get too excited. Don't clap and be like that's what I'm talking about because I'll be coming for you later in the message. Okay? You can clap and say, Amen when I talk about Jesus, if you clap because I said something that you agree with, that's not about Jesus, necessarily.

You're going to look stupid later on. So don't do that. So, here's where we start. This is your first fill in. The Christian's highest goal is pleasing Jesus.

Amen. You could aim in that the Christian's highest goal is pleasing Jesus regardless of the issue, regardless of what is going on in the world, the Christian's highest goal is pleasing Jesus. It is the supreme purpose of our earthly lives. If that's not your goal, then this message is not for you because this message is predicated on the assumption that it is your highest goal in life to please Jesus. When Jesus came to the Earth as a man, do you know what his highest goal was?

It was pleasing his Heavenly Father. In John Six. Jesus said, let's put that up on the screen. He said, I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of those he has given me, but should raise them up on the last day.

For this is the will of my Father that everyone who sees his son and believes in him will have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day. You see, the agenda of Jesus' life was singular to do the will of His Heavenly Father, and that is what Jesus calls us to do. We live our lives for Him, and he directs us in the paths that are pleasing to His Father. Jesus was not concerned when people stopped following him because he failed to meet their political expectations.

Why? Because his agenda was to do the will of His Heavenly Father. I need you to know that at Gospel City, we are not concerned if we fail to meet your political expectations because our agenda is to please Jesus. This is the Council that Paul gave young Timothy writing. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life.

He seeks to please the commanding officer. Here's the point. The goal of a soldier is to please his commanding officer. And so he does not get himself entangled in civilian affairs because they take his focus away from his goal in the same way Jesus is our commanding officer. And so we must ensure we do not become so entangled in civilian affairs that we lose sight of our primary focus, which is pleasing Jesus.

Am I fired up about this little bit? Okay, for your second fill in, I want to ask you to write this down and then we'll unpack it. Critical thinking is virtuous. Would you write that down? Critical thinking is virtuous.

And as travels spreading the gospel, the Apostle Paul came to a city called Bureau. And in Acts Chapter 17, Dr. Luke records this. We'll put it on the screen for you as soon as it was night, the brothers and sisters sent Paul and Silas away to Bureau. Upon arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

The people here were of more Noble character than those inerrant Thessalonica Why? Since they received the Word with eagerness and examined the scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Paul and Silas get to this city called Bureau. They go into the synagogue, they find the Jewish people in the city. They preach the gospel. Paul is doubtless explaining that Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament scriptures.

The Jews in Bureau listen to what Paul has to say with open hearts and open minds. And then they went and searched through the scriptures for days to verify if what Paul was teaching was true. And what does scripture say about these Bereans? What did Paul and Dr. Luke think of their response?

It's called Noble. It's called Noble. Checking the facts. Using critical thinking and reason going to the scriptures is Noble. It is virtuous.

Notice how Paul doesn't respond when the Bereans say we're going to need to look into these things. We're going to need to investigate. Paul doesn't say I'm sorry. You must not understand who I am. See, I'm Paul.

I am literally the greatest evangelist on planet Earth. I am a Super Apostle. I am going to write like half of the New Testament. You would be taking selfies with me right now if you could even conceive of how amazing I am. Everything I'm teaching you.

I didn't look up online. I was taught by who? Oh, maybe you've heard of him. His name is Jesus. He taught me directly.

I've planted churches across the known world. I have performed miracles. I was trained by Gamileo, the greatest teacher in Israel. I was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin. I am the expert.

I am the authority. You don't need to verify or check what I say because I am Paul. He doesn't do that. His response is praise God. These are Noble people.

Now, why does Paul have that response? Because Paul understood that the truth can stand up to any amount of scrutiny. And because these Jews were looking into the Scriptures with sincerity, Paul knew they would find the truth. He knew they would find the truth, that Jesus is Messiah. That's why here at Gospel City, we regularly tell you not to believe anything you hear us teach simply because you hear us say it.

But rather, we encourage you to be like the Berians and search the Scriptures for yourselves to see if what we're teaching you is true. We encourage you to fact check everything we say because when you have the truth, you don't need to be afraid of people questioning it or analyzing it. The truth can take it. And Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Now one other quick observation.

Please note they searched what the scriptures. They did not search YouTube or Google or find some basement vlogger who did an expose on Paul's Ministry. Now here's my point. Part of critical thinking is going to valid sources. Okay?

It's finding good evidence. The Bereans did the work. And so should we. If you watch a video or read an article that supports your existing view, here's what you should do. If you want to be a proper critical thinker, go and Google that same topic and the word debunked, go and search out the arguments from the other side.

Because if you're not doing that, you're in an echo chamber, you're in a cave, yelling in and hearing your own voice come back and say, I knew I was right. That's what you're doing. Critical thinking means understanding the arguments from the other side. So don't send me articles. Don't send me videos unless you've checked out the other side, because that's how critical thinking works.

That's how critical thinking works. The exact opposite of how Paul responded to the Bereans. The exact opposite of how we encourage you to fact check everything we teach here at Gospel City is a logical and philosophical fallacy known as an appeal to authority. An appeal to authority. It's the fallacy that because an authority or expert thinks or says something, it must be true. Instead of arguing a point based on the merits of the argument, those who employ the appeal to authority fallacy attempt to play the authority card or the expert card and say things like, well, it's true because I'm the expert. I'm the authority. You don't need to look at the argument, you just need to recognize I'm the expert here.

I'll give you two examples. They both have trigger alerts. Trigger alerts within trigger alerts. Okay, in Catholicism, the Pope can speak excathedra. That means his thoughts expressed through words are to be taken by Catholics on par with Scripture.

Why? Because he's the Pope. He's the authority. What he says is not to be critiqued. It is to be obeyed.

You don't need to examine it to see if it's true. You must just believe it because the source is the Pope. That's an appeal to authority. Perhaps the most famous current example of the appeal to authority fallacy was a quote delivered by the current American chief medical advisor to the President, Dr. Anthony Fauche, in a June 9, 2021, interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC.

He said attacks on me, quite frankly, are a tax on science. That is literally the most textbook example of an appeal to authority fallacy you could create. If you were writing a textbook, that would be an example you could put in because what he's saying is, if you attack me, you're attacking science because I am science. And when I speak, I speak for science, and you need to receive it unquestionably because I am science. It's an appeal to authority fallacy.

Whatever side of this you fall on, okay? Don't get offended because you don't like what I'm saying. Ask one question is what I'm saying true. It's absolutely true. This is an appeal to authority fallacy.

The reason this type of thinking is a fallacy is because being an authority or an expert on something means your conclusions should be correct, but it doesn't guarantee they are correct. Okay? It means you should have the best arguments, but it's not a guarantee that you do. Most of us are not experts on epidemiology and Virology, but that does not mean we are completely incapable of critical thinking. That does not mean we are completely incapable of asking good questions or understanding anything.

It means we value and consider what experts say. We do our best to be honest about what we do and do not understand. But we don't blindly believe anybody. Paul didn't ask the burials to blindly believe him. We don't ask you to blindly believe us.

Think about this. What did Jesus say? Hey, if you don't believe me for the things I say, believe me. Why? Because of the miracles that I do.

So, in other words, Jesus did miracles and rose from the dead rather than ask us to blindly believe in him. Okay, critical thinking is virtuous. So if you're telling people they should just shut up and do whatever the experts say you are wrong. That is not the Christian way. The word counsels us over and over again.

To be soberminded. Be soberminded. That means we are to be aware of our own biases, and we all have them. Okay? We all have them.

We're to be aware of our own biases, aware of our own fleshly tendencies. This might seem crazy to you, but you have feelings and emotions and things that your flesh wants to do, and you tend to like policies that support those things. It's a real thing. We need to consider all the available data. We need to listen to the experts.

We need to search the Scriptures and then we need to prayerfully, draw a conclusion. Notice that nowhere in there in my decisionmaking process is the phrase comments section. Nowhere. The next truth we need to all remember, write this down is that God commands Christians to live free from fear. God commands Christians to live free from fear.

Hundreds, literally hundreds and hundreds of times. The Lord tells us in His word to not fear, not be afraid, not worry or be dismayed. And those verses are not coaching tips. They're not life encouragements. They are commands from the God who is our commanding officer.

It does not matter what your personality type is. It doesn't matter what your circumstances are. The Christian is not to be controlled by or be slave to fear because fear does two things. Number one, fear stops you thinking clearly, you cannot be controlled by fear and be soberminded at the same time. It is impossible.

Fear breeds irrationality. That's why Paul told Timothy God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and sound judgment. Paul was telling Timothy, Timothy, you can't lead the Church from a place of fear. You can't do it. It's impossible.

In other words, when our flesh wants to be controlled by fear. But we choose instead to be controlled by the Spirit of God. We're able to walk in His power. We're able to walk in His love. We're able to walk in his way of thinking.

The second reason we are commanded to not fear is because it's a bad witness. It's bearing false testimony. When we let our lives be controlled by fear, we are acting as though our lives are in the hands of our circumstances rather than the hands of our Heavenly Father.

When our lives are controlled by the fear of death, we are acting as though Jesus has not defeated death on the cross, we're bearing false witness. Now listen to me. Some of you are living lives controlled by fear of COVID. You need to repent. Some of you are living lives controlled by fear of the government.

You need to repent. The Christian is not to wake up every day and live their life controlled by fear. The Christian is to wake up every morning and pray, Jesus help me to do your will today. Nothing more, nothing less. Christians do not make decisions from a place of fear.

We make decisions from a place of obedience and submission to Jesus, our commanding officer. And if you're here and you're thinking, hey, Jeff, I do need to repent. I've been controlled by fear, but I don't know how to change that. I want to encourage you to memorize one John 418. It's on your outlines.

We're told this glorious truth. There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives out fear. As our brother BJ has been teaching us over the past few months, what is perfect love? Or to put it more accurately, who is perfect love.

It's God. In that very same chapter, John reminds us that God is love and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in Him. You see, you don't get rid of fear in your life by trying to push fear out. Fear is forced to flee when we invite Jesus in. When we abide in relationship with Jesus.

When we turn off the fear-pumping media and open the Word of God instead, when we take our concerns to the Lord in prayer instead of posting our concerns on social media, when we memorize Scripture instead of arguments for or against a vaccine, God has commanded us to live free from fear. We're a Church that believes in the authority of Scripture. That means we believe that the Word of God has authority over all of us equally. And here's the hard part of believing that it means we're under the authority of the whole Bible, the whole Bible.

We don't get to pick and choose the parts we like and ignore the parts we don't.

We don't get to post the verses that support our opinions while ignoring the ones that challenge our opinions. Let me tell you about some of my least favorite parts of Scripture because they rubbed me the wrong way. My flesh doesn't like these when I first read them. I'm like Lord, obviously, you made a mistake, but you're still like 99 point 99%, right.

So I'll let it slide and then I had to actually deal with the fact that it's still the Word of God. I'm talking about what the Bible says about offices of authority. If you're not picking up every point I'm going to make in this message could be its own message. I'm sorry, we don't have time to do that. My heart in doing this is to give you some things that you can go think on and consider and weigh.

So I'm just going to read it straight through. We'll put it on the screen. Listen to what Paul writes in Romans 13. He says, Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then the one who resists the authority is opposing God's command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the one in authority? Do what is good and you will have its approval for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid because it does not carry the sword for no reason for it is God's servant an Avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience.

And for this reason you pay taxes. Since the authorities are God's servants continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone taxes to those you owe taxes tolls to those you owe tolls respect to those you owe respect and honor to those you owe honor. Now, to make matters worse, who's the Emperor? When Paul writes this Nero and the same Roman rulers he calls believers to show honor to would end his own life by unjustly beheading him.

Around 64 Ad. Peter wrote this in his first Epistle. Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority, or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good for. It is God's will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good, submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover up for evil. But as God's slaves honor everyone love.

The brothers and sisters fear God honor. The Emperor Peter was crucified within a year of Paul's beheading by the same rulers in Rome. Peter famously requested he be crucified upside down as he considered himself unworthy of dying in the same manner as his Lord Jesus Christ. When Paul wrote to Titus, he told him to share this with his fellow believers. Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one to avoid fighting and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.

For we too, were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful detesting one another. I don't like it. I don't like it, but it's in the Bible, it's the word of God, and it's the will of God. Here's the point I want us to remind us of God has established offices of authority on the Earth, political leaders, militaries, police, teachers, pastor, etc. And what these verses are telling us write this down is that God expects us to honor offices of authority, even when the person occupying that office is not worthy of honor.

I'll say it again in case you didn't get it. God expects us to honor offices of authority, even when the person occupying that office is not worthy of honor. How far does this go? Well, in the strange little book of Jude, we read about a moment in time when the Archangel Michael was arguing with Satan because Satan wanted the body of Moses, which is a subject for another day. And this is what it says in Jude 9.

It's on your outlines. Yet when Michael the Archangel was disputing with the devil in an argument about Moses' body, he did not dare utter a slanderous condemnation against him, but said, the Lord rebuke you. Here's the point. If you haven't heard this, we've talked about it before. This will blow your mind.

Satan currently occupies an office that is worthy of honor. What office Jesus told us? He's the current ruler of this world. It's an office that was once held by Adam. And it's an office that will be held in the future by Jesus himself.

And because the office of ruler of this world is worthy of honor, Michael wouldn't tell Satan to take a hike. He wouldn't insult him. Instead, he said, what the Lord rebuke you now hear me on this Church. You might think that some of the people, let's keep it real. Most of the people in leadership positions in our culture are not honorable.

But let me tell you something. The Lord says that the offices they hold are worthy of honor and were established by Him. And when you insult and slander those offices, you are insulting and slandering God. That's what Paul says. And some of us need to repent of this.

I've had to ask the Lord for forgiveness more than once. I'll just leave it at that in this specific area. Let me be a little more topical here, especially for my American brothers and sisters who are posting about the let's go, Brandon, meme, let me be straight with you. It's not funny. It's not funny.

It's grievous, it's slanderous. It's insulting. It's not the will of God. And such conduct has no place among his people. None.

But the Democrats. Are you following the Democrats? You're following Jesus? I don't care what anybody else did. We follow Jesus.

We don't take our cues from the culture. We are not to insult men or women that God has placed in positions of authority. This is the will of God. And if you disagree, then you need to explain to me how you get around those scriptures that I just read with you because we can talk about this around the word of God. If you've just got an opinion, I really don't care.

Let's talk about it in the context of the word of God, because my opinion isn't worth a whole lot. But, Jeff, they're enemies of God. They're enemies of freedom. Makes it even easier. How did Jesus say we're to treat our enemies?

He said you have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your father in heaven. Now, if you're not picking up on what Jesus says there, he's saying, don't pray for them. Don't do good to your enemy, because if you do, they'll be magically transformed by love. He doesn't say that.

He says so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. In other words, what he says is this is about you. You pray for your enemies. You do good to your enemies. You don't allow hate and bitterness into your heart so that you act like children of God.

That's the issue. That's why we don't slander. That's why we don't insult. It's not about them. It's about who we are.

And our heavenly Father says you're. My kids act like it. Keep that talk out of your mouth. When a dishonorable man or woman occupies an honorable office, we're to pray for them. We're to pray for their Salvation.

We are to pray that they would submit to the wisdom of God. This does not mean we remain silent in the face of injustice. But it means we speak up in the face of injustice by attacking the injustice, by exposing the wicked nature of the policy of the plan of the law. But we do not attack or insult the man or woman in the office of authority. Hear me on that.

Our brother Paul put it like this. He said, let's put it up there on the screen. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone's eyes, if possible. Get this as far as it depends on you.

Live at peace with everyone friends. Do not avenge yourselves. Instead, leave room for God's wrath because it is written. Vengeance belongs to me. I will repay, says the Lord.

But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him something to drink for. In so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. The next truth that every Christian needs to understand with absolute clarity is that write this down.

Jesus has authority over the believers, person, marriage, family and home. There are so many verses I could share on this, but for Time's sake, I'll just share one Corinthians, six verses 19 through 20. It's on your outlines where Paul writes, don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own for you were bought at a price so glorify God with your body. When Jesus was confronted about the issue of paying taxes to Caesar, he said, Pay your taxes to Caesar.

His image is on the coins you use because he owns your financial system.

But remember whose image you were made in. Remember whose image you bear and remember who you belong to. If you are a Christian, hear me on this, then the government is not the authority over your person, your marriage, your family or your home. I don't want to be real clear about something, especially for our American brothers and sisters. Because when I say something like the government is not the authority over you, many people will say, yeah, tell the government to step off.

A lot of people love that kind of talk. And I'll tell you why a lot of Christians love that kind of talk. I'll tell you why it's because they want to be the authority over their own lives. And that's not the Christian position either. Please understand the difference.

This is the Christian position. Jesus is the authority over your person, marriage, family and home. That's the Christian position. So don't be all excited when I talk about the government not being the authority over you while you ignore the command that Jesus gave us to honor offices of authority or the command to live peaceably with all men as much as it depends on us, the issue is not the right to do whatever we want. The issue is who has the authority.

And for the Christian, the answer is simple. Jesus has authority over us. Jesus, he's our commanding officer. Yes, the government can throw us in prison, could even have us killed. But we are not to recognize their authority over our person, marriage, family, or home.

We honor Jesus. We live our lives, we build our marriages, we parent our children, and we show hospitality according to His commands and the leading of His Spirit and Christian, you better be straight on this point. There is no room for confusion on this point because we are all going to be forced into decisions around this very issue in the very, very, very near future. And when we are, we cannot be confused about whose authority we bow to. You've got to make up your mind before you get there.

Let me make some more trouble by pointing out what it really means to have Jesus as your authority. Let me give you some examples here. I'll try to equally offend everyone. If Jesus is your authority, it means you might be personally opposed to the vaccine, but Jesus might ask you to take it so that you can go Minister in certain places that you would otherwise not be able to. Even if you believe there are health risks.

Are you willing to do that? If you're not? Don't tell me Jesus is the authority over your person. If Jesus is the authority over you, it means that you might want to comply with public health orders, but the Holy Spirit tells you, hey, I want you to disobey. I want you to go and meet with those people and encourage them and pray with them, even though it's a violation of a public health order.

If he tells you that, will you do it if you won't? Don't pretend Jesus is the authority over your life. Please understand this. My point is not that the government is not our authority. My point is that Jesus is our authority.

So write this down. We honor the offices of authority that God has ordained over us. But we honor Jesus above those offices. We honor the offices of authority that God has ordained over us. But we honor God above those offices to say it another way.

We do our best to comply with things like public health orders unless they are in opposition to the will of God expressed in the Scriptures. In that case, we obey God. Now, as always, our example is Jesus. When he stood before a Pontius Pilate who was the civil authority over Jesus in Judea, Jesus refused to answer his questions. Why?

Because his heavenly Father was telling him to remain silent. This is what it says in the Scriptures. Let's put this up on the screen. So Pilate said to him, do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you know that I have the authority to release you and I have the authority to crucify you?

You would have no authority over me at all. Jesus answered him if it hadn't been given to you from above. Jesus did not resist arrest. He did not try to assassinate Pilate. He did not insult Pilate.

He did not slander him. He did not try to start an insurrection among the Jews. He was submitted to his Heavenly Father. And in that situation, his father said to quote the Prophet Isaiah, I want you to remain silent as a lamb is silent, going to the slaughter. And then I want you to go to the cross and die, even though all of this is unjust.

Or what about the Church at Smyrna? In his letter to them in Revelation chapter two, Jesus says, don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the Crown of life. No mention of resisting the government, no mention of an armed rebellion.

Just stay where you are. Be faithful to me to the death. I believe there's a time to resist. But listen, scripture is also clear that there's a time to lay down your life for Jesus. Come what may.

And if our theology doesn't have room for the latter as well as the former, then our theology is wrong. It's unbiblical and it doesn't line up with what Jesus did.

There are many issues that are black and white in the Bible. In other words, there are many issues where Scripture explicitly says this is right. This is wrong. But here's something we all need to remember as well. Write this down.

There are Gray areas where believers can reach different conclusions and both be right in the eyes of the Lord. The most famous example of this is found in one Corinthians, chapter eight, where Paul addresses an issue that was tearing apart the Church in Corinth, because the only place to buy meat in that city was at a public market. And all the meat in that public market came from animals that had just been sacrificed at the surrounding pagan temples. And some in the Church were saying, Listen, we can't eat this meat.

It's impure.

Others in the Church were saying it's just meat. The back story doesn't matter now again, we don't have time for an exhaustive study of this text, so we'll just read it. And then I'll share a few observations. Let's put this on the screen. Paul says now about food sacrifice to idols.

We know that we all have knowledge, knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it. But if anyone loves God, he's known by him about eating food, sacrifice to idols, then we know that an idol is nothing in the world and that there's no God but one for even if there are so called gods, whether in heaven or on Earth, as there are many gods and many Lords, yet for us there is one God, the Father.

All things are from Him, and we exist for Him, and there is one Lord Jesus Christ. All things are through Him, and we exist through Him.

However, not everyone has this knowledge. Some have been so used to idolatry up to now that when they eat food sacrifice to an idol, their conscience being weak is defiled. Food will not bring us close to God. We're not worse off if we don't eat and we're not better if we do eat. But be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak.

For if someone sees you, the one who has knowledge dining in an idols temple, won't his weak conscience be encouraged to eat food offered to idols? So the weak person, the brother or sister for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge. Now, when you sin like this against brothers and sisters, and would he weak conscience, you're sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother or sister to fall, I will never again eat meat so that I won't cause my brother or sister to fall. Paul says, he says, first of all, guys, remember, love is the true evidence of knowing God.

Love is the true evidence of knowledge of God. So Paul begins by establishing love as the supreme ethic and virtue. In dealing with this type of division in the Church, we should take note of that. Then, he observes, of course, it's just meat. It has no power over us.

But he adds that if a person feels like they're participating in idol worship by eating this meat, then they shouldn't do it because for them it would be sin because their conscience is telling them not to do it. That means that one believer in Corinth could eat meat and it wouldn't be a sin, and another believer in Corinth could eat meat, and it would be a sin. And then Paul ends by getting back to the principle of love and saying that we should be considerate of one another.

Don't eat meat in front of your brothers or sisters who are troubled by it. Don't let your love for your rights exceed your love for your brothers and sisters.

Here's what I want us to do with Paul? S words. Extract the principles from them and see how we can apply them to our current situation. Let's take the vaccine issue something not too divisive.

Do you realize that you can make biblical arguments for and against the vaccine. Do you realize that? Do you realize that for one believer, taking the vaccine would be a sin, but for another believer not taking the vaccine would be a sin. So let me be blunt here. If your theology does not afford room to believers to have different convictions about the vaccine, then your theology is wrong.

Did you hear me? Your theology is wrong. It's unbiblical. Do you think this meat sacrifice to idols thing was a small issue in the Church occurrence? It wasn't wasn't a small thing.

It was a bigger deal than the vaccine. I can imagine the kinds of things people were saying. Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that fellowshipping with demons was a Gray area. I didn't realize we needed to be tolerant of our brothers and sisters participating in demonic activity.

Please forgive me for being so judgmental. While the others would say there's no such thing as possessed meat. Okay? It's just meat. Why do you hate science?

You don't think some people left the Church over this? They did. You don't think some people said, Listen, I'm sorry. At the end of the day, I just can't go to Church with people who are okay with other Christians. Fellowshipping with demons.

I can't go to a Church with people who are so stupid and anti science that they think you can become possessed by eating a hamburger. I can't do it. I just can't do it now. Hear me on this. The vaccine is a scriptural Gray area.

Believers can have different convictions, and we are to love our brothers and sisters more than we love whatever conviction we have. Let me be really clear and real honest. I would bet the overwhelming majority of Christians have never even prayed about this. Let's be real blunt. There's all kinds of things contributing to our opinions.

But if we're honest, for most of us, we never actually stopped and said, hey, Lord, what do you want me to do?

There are Gray areas where believers can reach different conclusions and both be right in the eyes of the Lord. And we are not allowed by scripture to draw red lines in Gray areas. We're not allowed to do that. We're going beyond the scriptures. I know there's not a lot of room to breathe in this message, so let's take a deep breath for a second.

Relax your shoulders because you probably haven't realized how tense they've become over the last several minutes. Write this down. Jesus wants unity in his Church. Jesus wants unity in his Church. John 17 records the great high priestly prayer of Jesus, which he prayed in the presence of his disciples on the night of the Last Supper.

Here's part of what Jesus prayed. Let's put it up on the screens. He said, I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. So Jesus wasn't just praying for those disciples. He was praying for everyone who would believe in Him in the future, including us.

And so here's what he prayed over you and me. May they all be one as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me so that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you are in me so that they may be made completely one that the world may know.

You have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me. Jesus' prayer was that the men and women of His Church would be in unity. But here's the key here's where people get it distorted, not unity at all costs, not unity around anything, not unity. By developing a theology that's not even biblical and lets us do whatever we want. A very specific kind of unity, the same unity that Jesus shares with the Father.

In other words, Jesus' prayer was that we would be United about living in agreement with Jesus and his Heavenly Father, that we would want the same things they want. Just as there's no disagreement between Jesus and His Father. Jesus prayed. There would be no disagreement between us and Him and His Father. That's our goal at Gospel City.

That's the goal. We desire to be men and women who are united in following Jesus and pleasing God with our whole lives. And in order to do that, we must care more about pleasing Jesus than pleasing ourselves. We have to care more about honoring offices and authority and honoring our brothers and sisters than we do about venting our frustrations and opinions. We have to allow room for people to prayerfully reach different conclusions on some divisive issues. Practically, here's what else it means.

Watch your tone in person and online. Don't insult your brothers and sisters directly or indirectly. Don't ridicule them. Don't imply that those who have a different conviction to you in these gray areas are stupid. Don't do that.

If you want to raise good questions and share what you believe to be true, do so in a God-fearing, God-honoring, loving and gracious manner. And if you can't do that, then shut up and stop causing division among the people of God. Really, it's not so important that we all get our angry opinions out there and cause division among the Church, and that brothers and sisters who might be in the same room as us know, "Hey, if you check my Facebook this week, then you know, I think you're an idiot."

That's what we're doing should not be so. So how do we make decisions as a Church regarding these Gray areas and how do we decide when to comply and when to disobey things like public health orders in Acts chapter 15, there's a record of the Jerusalem Council and one of the agenda items of that Council was this question what are the non-negotiables for new believers regarding conduct? In other words, when someone becomes a believer, what is the bare minimum lifestyle change that they need to immediately implement?

The biggest issue was circumcision under the old Covenant. It had been the identifying Mark of the Amen of God.

But Jesus has ushered in the new Covenant, and he fulfilled the law on our behalf. So, they searched the scriptures. But the scriptures didn't give them a black and white answer. So, they prayed. They talked, they reasoned, they challenged one another.

They asked questions, they meditated, they reflected. And here's the conclusion that they reached. Let's put this verse up on the screen. It was the Holy Spirit's decision and ours not to place further burdens on you beyond these requirements that you abstained from food offered to idols. It just means that you don't participate in idol worship.

You abstain from blood, same thing. Idol worship from eating anything that's been strangled, basically same thing and from sexual immorality. So he says, can't keep worshiping your previous gods and you can't be involved in sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things. But I want us to notice the first part of that verse is it's recorded.

It was the Holy Spirit's decision and ours. Here's what that means. We've sought the Lord. We believe the Lord has spoken to us through His Spirit, through His Word, through His people and through these circumstances. And that's how we're going to have to make decisions as a Church in some of these Gray areas, like public health orders, you're not going to find a verse that says, when public health orders forbid the gathering of no more than five people, thou shalt rebel.

It's not going to be in there. You're not going to find it. We're going to have to pray and search the Scriptures and discern. Jesus said that the heart of the law and the heart of how God still wants His people to live can be summed up. Thusly, Matthew 22, let's put it on the screen.

Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets depend on these two commands.

Did you know that Jesus violated public health orders and let his disciples do the same thing? See, Jesus laid hands on Lepers and healed them. Jesus disciples ate without practicing ritual hand washing plenty of times. And yet Scripture says that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law. So how do we reconcile that?

Well, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed that the law is really about the heart. It's about the heart. And when Jesus laid hands on Lepers, he was obeying his Heavenly Father and following his call to love his neighbor. The primary purpose of ritual hand washing was to teach God's people that they were unclean by default spiritually so that they would begin to understand they needed a savior. Jesus' disciples understood that they needed a savior, and so the law was fulfilled.

They didn't need the ritual hand washing. You had people like the Pharisees and the scribes and the Sadducees, however, who washed ritualistically and never got the point, never got it. Here's where I'm going with this. This is how I'm bringing this together. When we violate things like public health orders, it should not be because we're concerned about our rights and our freedoms.

It should be because we're concerned with loving God and loving our neighbor. The motivation is not to be selfish. Nobody tells me what to do. Our motivation is to be love for God and love for our neighbor. And so, I can tell you this.

If the situation is anything like it has been or is now, if the government says you must be vaccinated together as the Church, even in homes, we will not comply one way or another because since Jesus set the example, Christians have been ministering to lepers and to the sick. The Church does not withhold the gospel. The Church does not withhold Ministry or fellowship from anyone because we are scared of getting sick or dying. The Church doesn't do that. The Church has never done that.

Our lives belong to Jesus. We also cannot properly practice the one and others of scripture without meeting together in person. So, when I think about, "Are we going to comply or not?" Let me be honest. It's easy for me to be like, "Dude, I got like, six kids. I'm around people all the time." You want to know what my flesh is? I'm like, "Hey, this would be great if there's a public health order. I don't have to visit anyone. I don't have to talk with anyone."

And I'm an introvert. I love doing this. I love studying. BJ, and I laugh because he's literally, like, when he teaches, he's like, "Pray for me. Jeff. It's just like, oh, all week, I'm just in books and studying and writing...", and I'm like, "Oh, that sounds amazing." He just wants to kill himself. So, for me, when someone's like, "Terrible news - public health orders, you can't meet with people. You're just going to have to stay home." I'm like, "Oh, no. What are we going to do? I guess we just have to honor offices of authority." So let me tell you why I won't - because I love my brothers and sisters. Not everybody has six kids. Not everybody is married. I have brothers and sisters who need fellowship with other brothers and sisters.

So, I want to break this law to love them. But I also want to do it because Jesus says we need to gather as the Church, they have things that God wants to use them to bless me. With that I can't get unless I'm with them. It goes two ways. I need them and they need me.

So, when we break public health orders, and I'm sure it's going to end up happening, it won't be because we're, like, "We got to keep the government in check, man! We're not going to do it." We don't do it with two middle fingers in the air, going to obey Jesus.

We do it to love God and to love people. And can I tell you we do it with heavy hearts, heavy hearts? Because if we're forced to do that, it means we have a government that is so detached from what is right and what is good and what is Godly. And we grieve that we grieve that. And it makes us long all the more for the coming day, when a righteous King will reign on the Earth and rule in truth and justice.

And that day cannot come soon enough. But listen, if you disagree, when the time comes for us to violate public health orders, we still love you. We're not going to kick you out of the Church. We're not going to have, like, frequent fellowship cards. And if you don't get a stamp for three weeks like you're out, we're not going to do that.

We're not going to disfellowship you. We're not going to cut you off. But we will ask you to pray and seek the Lord, because here's what we don't want to hear from you.

I just think that here's what we're going to ask you to do if you don't break public health orders when the Church does, I want to ask that you pray enough that you can come to me and BJ and say, I believe that the Lord wants me and my family to not do this. You can say that. Hey, we're good, but we need to pray on these things. We need to hear from the Lord on these things. I need to let you know that we'll also do everything we can.

And this is our track record. Over the past 18 months, everything we can to honor all of God's word. Here's what that means. It means we comply with public health orders as long as we possibly can until they come into conflict with the scriptures. I know many of you don't like the fact that we're wearing masks right now.

You're like, don't you see where this is going, Jeff? I'm like, yeah, I do the message before this one in Revelation is the Antichrist regime. Part one, the one after this will be the Antichrist regime. Part two, I know where this is going. Okay, we're on the same page, and I'm probably way off base to where you think this is going.

I'm way ahead of you. I'm like, oh, you think it's only going there? Oh, there's so much more coming.

I don't like wearing masks either. It's an inconvenience. Listen, we're Christians. You better get used to being inconvenienced for the sake of Jesus Christ. Okay, that's part of being a Christian.

And that's why we do it. We don't do it because we're like, hey, guys, listen, wear your mess. We never know if an Inspector is going to show up. We were amassed right now for one reason. I mean, this.

It's not a health reason. We were amassed to honor the offices of authority because it's only an inconvenience. And we care about pleasing Jesus. That's it. We are all about pleasing Jesus, and we need great wisdom in all of this.

As Church leaders, BG and I have to weigh what is best for the people who make up Gospel City Church. And I know some of you would love us to draw the line at wearing masks, but I think of our sisters in places like the Middle East in countries where they can't even meet for Bible study unless they're wearing a full body Burke or a hijab. Let me ask you. Is that the Hill they should die on? Should they all go to jail over having to wear a burka at Bible study?

Or should they deal with that inconvenience in order to be able to gather as the Church, there's no one right answer. My point is that these are not simple questions. They require prayer and contemplation. Jesus told His disciples, I'm sending you out a sheep in the midst of Wolves. So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Wisest serpents, innocent as doves. We will not make any decisions rashly. We will not draw red lines in Gray areas. We will pray. We will seek the Lord we will discuss.

We will search the Scriptures, we will research. We will talk with you. We will investigate. And then we'll trust the Holy Spirit to lead us. And we'll trust Jesus to lead his Church, as he always has.

The singular question that BJ and I weigh most heavily in all these things is, how do we please Jesus in this situation? That's it. How do we please Jesus in this situation? And I pray. The same question guides your decision making in all these things.

The time when we will no longer be able to both serve Jesus and comply with the demands of the state is almost here. It's already been here for some Canadians. Are you ready? Are you clear regarding your allegiance? If your desire is to be part of a Church that is concerned with pleasing Jesus above anything and everyone else, then Gospel City is the place for you, because that's what we're going to do.

Come hell or high water. Pleasing Jesus is our agenda. We don't care if our community or our culture or the government doesn't approve of our Church. We care if Jesus approves of our Church. That's it.

It's His Church. And one of the things that BJ and I want to ask you to have is a wartime mentality regarding your faith and your participation in the body of Christ. There are going to be so many things seeking to pull you away from life in the Church. There's going to be fear. There's going to be public health orders.

There's going to be increasing inconvenience public sentiment vilification from your neighbors. The list is only going to grow. And when I refer to a wartime mentality, I'm talking about a mindset that says nothing is going to stop me from following Jesus. Nothing is going to stop me from being with the people of God. I need to pray with them.

I need to worship with them. I need the word of God spoken over me. I need the eclipse, the mysterious supernatural building up of my faith. That only happens when the people of God gather above everything. Everything seeks to please and honor Jesus, our Lord, our Master, our brother, our Savior, savior and our coming King.

Think on these things. Wrestle with these things. Ask the Lord to give you insight, and he will. He will.

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