Don’t Waste the Pandemic

Josh Greiner April 4, 2021 Luke 13:1-9
Outline

Isaiah 55:8-9 - “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

4 proper responses when facing terrible calamity

I. Believe that Jesus Invites Your Hard Questions

A. We all have to decide where to go for answers and direction

2 Timothy 4:3-4 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

B. These men and women took their questions directly to Jesus, knowing full well that His perspective might be dramatically different than theirs

1. Warning about hypocrisy – 12:1-12

Luke 12:1 - Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

2. Warning about greed and trust in wealth – 12:13-34

Luke 12:15 - Beware and be on guard against every form of greed.

3. Warning against being unprepared for the Son of Man’s coming – 12:35-48

Luke 12:47 - That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will shall receive many lashes.

4. Warning about the coming division – 12:49-53

Luke 12:52 - From now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.

5. Warning against failing to discern the present time – 12:54-59

Luke 12:56 - You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?

C. God wants to engage and challenge our thinking

Luke 13:2 - And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose…”

Isaiah 1:18 - Come now, and let us reason together…

II. Understand that There is No Universal Relationship Between Calamity and Sinfulness

Luke 13:4 - Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

A. Jesus’ clear answer: No

B. On the other hand, sometimes calamity does occur because of sinfulness

1. Sometimes people are ill because of their sin

James 4:14-15 - Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing his head with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

2. Sometimes calamity strikes because a person is reaping what he’s sown

Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

C. God can accomplish multiple purposes with multiple people with multiple spiritual conditions simultaneously

Psalm 119:71 - It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.

III. View God’s Mercy Upon You as an Opportunity for Repentance

Luke 13:3 - I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Luke 13:5 - I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

A. Of your belief that you could live successfully apart from a personal relationship with God

B. Of a tendency to find ultimate joy and satisfaction in lesser gods

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses)

Jeremiah 2:13 - For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

1 John 2:1-2 - My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

C. Of presuming on the future instead of trusting God for our daily provision

Matthew 6:11 - Give us this day our daily bread.

IV. Seek Greater Fruitfulness with the Time Entrusted to You

A. Growing in thanksgiving

B. Valuing relationships, hospitality, and fellowship with your church family

Hebrews 10:24-25 - …and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

C. Abounding in the work of the Lord

1 Corinthians 15:58 - Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

-Let me ask you this…have you learned any lessons in the last year from the COVID pandemic? …

- ones that were small and ones that were large…

- Did you learn lessons about yourself? About those around you? About our country and world?

- many of those lessons probably didn’t matter much but some were super important…

- a few of those lessons may have affected the entire trajectory of our jobs or our health or our future…

- and there were even lessons that were directly related to our relationship to the God of heaven and earth…

- we’ve just been exposed to a season of potential learning over the last 12 months or so like few other times in our lives…

- here’s what I’d like to ask you to consider this am…

- how does the Lord want you to be different as a result of the pandemic?....

- what lessons did He want you to learn?...and have you truly learned them?...

- a passage of Scripture that can help us in this regard is Luke chapter 13…and I’d like to ask you to open your Bible to that great text this morning

- so, Luke chapter 13 – and I’m really happy to be able to tell you this morning that’s on page 58 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…I haven’t been able to say those words for over a year…let’s all celebrate the return of the Bibles under the chair in front of you…

- our message today is Don’t Waste the Pandemic…this has been a very hard year and it looks like, by God’s mercy, we might be emerging from some of the worst of it…if that’s the case

– the question before the house now is – will we carefully consider, and learn, and implement all the lessons the Lord had for us during this fascinating time in our country’s history…

- Luke 13 is an ideal passage to guide us because Jesus is speaking to a group of people who had a question about a recent calamity…

- if you’ve been with us for our studies in this Gospel of John….what we’re looking at today occurs later in Christ’s public ministry…

in the previous chapter Jesus has been challenging his listeners with truth that would have been hard to accept – about topics like hypocrisy, and greed, and apathy…

- and if you scan over some of the verses…you can see that the teaching is both direct and pointed, as Jesus’ words often were…

- it harkens back to what the Lord said in - Isaiah 55:8–9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

- since Jesus was the Son of God – it shouldn’t be surprising that much of what He had to say required a radical change in thinking and behavior…it was challenging and not always easy to hear…

- it is also why when he says that his ways are not our ways…so much that happens in our life is definitely not what we would have chosen…who would have said, “you know what we need is a pandemic…lockdown…and so on?”

And yet, God, in his providence says that is doing something…

- and for the people that are there….that’s part of what attracted at least some people to Him…that He taught as One with authority…and that He spoke the words of life…

- and much of Luke 12, the previous chapter to the one that we are going to be studying…how it fits in that category…

- so now at the beginning of chapter 13, some of the listeners asked Him for direction about how to think about a recent tragedy…

- we don’t know for sure what they are asking about because the event is not recorded in Scripture...but apparently some Galileans were going to offer some sort of sacrifice to God...

- it was probably at Passover, because that is when persons like this would be involved in sacrifices in this way...but that’s not really the point...

- whenever it happened, Pilate, the Roman ruler ruthlessly slaughtered a group of these people and then mixed their own blood with the blood of the sacrifices...

- that kind of brutality would be very consistent with what we know about Pilate...

- let’s see what happens – read Luke 13:1-9

- so our point his morning is – Don’t Waste the Pandemic…and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 4 proper responses when facing terrible calamity.

I. Believe that Jesus Invites Your Hard Questions

- you know…

A. We all have to decide where to go for answers and direction.

- if you were part of our church family a year ago when the pandemic began, you may recall that we offered 3 pieces of advice…

1) Spend a lot of time in your Bible – many of us were going to have more time on our hands because of limited outside activities…so let’s use this season as an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord…

2) Pay attention to the science – we encouraged you to track the IN Department of Health website to be aware of the pandemic trends…

3) Limit your exposure to cable news, regardless of the brand you prefer…

- that became even more important as the election issues heated up and then some of the social unrest…

- lines have been crossed between news and entertainment in our country…

- or news and opinions…

- one danger is to stay in your echo chamber…and only listen to people to already agree with your own preconceived notions…whatever they might be…there’s no growth or learning from that…just the hardening of opinions, and sometimes unbalanced, unnuanced ones…

- you realize that can happen in your views of spiritual matters…

- Paul told Timothy that - 2 Timothy 4:3-4 - For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

- you don’t want to be that kind of person…and part of what’s important to note about this text is that…

B. These men and women took their questions directly to Jesus, knowing full well that His perspective might be dramatically different than theirs.

- I alluded to this a few moments ago, but these men and women should be commended for posing yet another hard question to the Lord in light of what Jesus has already been teaching.

1) Warning about hypocrisy – 12:1-12

- 12:1 – Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

2) Warning about greed and trust in wealth – 12:13-34

- 12:15 – Beware and be on guard against every form of greed.

3) Warning against being unprepared for the Son of Man’s coming – 12:35-48

- 12:47 – That slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will shall receive many lashes.

4) Warning about the coming division – 12:49-53

- 12:52 – From now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.

5) Warning against failing to discern the present time – 12:54-59

- 12:56 – You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?

- here’s the point---What Jesus had been saying to them thus far would have been pretty difficult to swallow...and yet they believed and appreciated…

C. God wants to engage and challenge our thinking.

- let me just pause and ask you – do you really believe that?...

- whether you consider yourself a Christian, or perhaps someone who is just thinking about making that decision, are you supposed to ask hard questions or just be quiet and toe the party line?...

- and what were Jesus’ first three words in response?...

- Luke 13:2 – And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose…”

- what was that?...a question designed to help them think…

- that may have reminded you of another verse from the OT…Isaiah 1:18 - “Come now, and let us reason together,”…

- this would be one of the terrible outcomes of the pandemic, especially now if we are getting to the end of some of the worst of it…

- that you might have lingering questions or doubts or even complaints…but you are going to leave them unaddressed and therefore unanswered…

- the phrase “time heals all wounds” is not true if what is being covered over is infection or poison…

- it was not disrespectful for these women and men in Luke 13 to raise this question with Jesus…in fact it was the opposite…especially since they had to know that what He was about to tell them would challenge what they already thought…

- if you’re still struggling with believing this is an appropriate way of speaking to the Lord – with questions, and hurts, and disappointments, and even complaints – I would encourage you to read the book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy – this a book about the biblical practice of lament and it is an important aspect of our faith…

- so that’s the first proper response when facing terrible calamity…Believe that Jesus invites your hard questions…

II. Understand that there is No Universal Relationship between Calamity and Sinfulness.

- the Lord is the One who raised the additional question in this text…

- the crowd asked Him about these Galilean worshippers who had been slaughtered…

- and the Lord asks – do you think that happened to them, and not to others, because of their particular sin?...

- in other words – is there a direct and immediate principle of cause/effect at work in God’s world so when calamity strikes, we can just conclude – well, that person must have sinned in some way?...

- then the Lord raises a second example just to be sure there’s no misunderstanding here…

- Luke 13:4 - Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

- we don’t know a lot about that event either, but the story essentially tells itself…and reinforces the core question…

A. Jesus’ clear answer: No.

- can we automatically conclude that the Galileans who died were more sinful than the other Galileans and that God was therefore mad at them?...No.

- Can we automatically conclude that the people who died when the tower in Siloam fell were more sinful than the other men in Jerusalem and that therefore God was mad at them?...No.

- the Lord could not have been clearer about that....there is no universal relationship between calamity and sinfulness...

- so regarding the pandemic, we certainly can’t look at what happened to someone else, or what did or did not happen to us—and know with absolute certainty why that occurred…

- and we definitely can’t conclude – well, if it was bad, it was because of their sin…

- now, we have to be careful here – this is why we believe in interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture…

B. On the other hand, sometimes calamity does occur because of sinfulness.

- Scripture is clear…

1. Sometimes people are ill because of their sin.

- James 4:14-15 – Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing his head with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

- there’s no question about the fact that some illness is the result of sinful choices...but this passage is clear---you can’t automatically conclude that about every illness...

2. Sometimes calamity strikes because a person is reaping what he’s sown.

- Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

- so clearly, sometimes that is the case...

- but based on what Christ said emphatically in this passage...you cannot look at those who avoided serious calamity during the pandemic and say...God was pleased with them and those who had bad outcomes and say...God was displeased...

- so how then do we make sense of all of this?...please remember…

C. God can accomplish multiple purposes with multiple people with multiple spiritual conditions simultaneously.

- the Lord has been shaking up His creation pretty vigorously in the past 12 months…and is it OK for me to say – for many of us, that was a needed and necessary exercise?...we can get pretty used to our routines and apathetic or complacent about the things of God…

- this is why perhaps we should say with the Psalmist…Psalm 119:71 - It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.

- so where does that leave us as we emerge from the pandemic?...if this passage is our guide, there is little doubt about the answer…

III. View God’s Mercy Upon You as an Opportunity for Repentance

- what is the clear and repeated key point in the text?...

- Luke 13:3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

- that was in reference to the Galileans who had been slaughtered?...was the answer any different about those who died when the Tower of Siloam fell?...

- Luke 13:5 - I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

- and please think about this in light of the day we are particularly celebrating today…repentance is especially possible and appropriate because we have a Savor died on the cross for those sins we are being challenged to repent of – and was buried and rose from the dead proving the price He paid on the cross was acceptable to our heavenly Father…

- if forgiveness and new life is possible because of the power of the gospel – why wouldn’t we use an event like a worldwide pandemic as an opportunity to consider any possible need of repentance?...

- now you might say – of what?...the answer to that is as varied as the spiritual conditions represented in the room…

- but please consider this – what tendencies of your heart, speech, and life were revealed by COVID-19?...

- those tendencies were already there – buried in our hearts…but the pressure of the pandemic brought them to the surface…

- that’s the point of our title…don’t waste the pandemic…

A. Of your belief that you could live successfully apart from a personal relationship with God.

- I wonder how many people will hear this message who went into COVID-19 as men or women who did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?...

- so maybe they believed that life consisted of the abundance of things a man possesses as Jesus discussed in Luke 12:15…

- or maybe they were putting the issue of what would happen after they died to the further recesses of their minds…

- what is the first step required of a person being in such a condition?...repentance…

- that words means – turn around – go in the opposite direction…I used to think this…but now I have changed my mind…

- I used to be heading this way…and now I am going in the other direction…

- sometimes it takes the Lord removing some of the things human used to trust in to bring us to a point if recognizing we need a personal relationship with a Living God to sustain us each and every day…

- friend, if you have never made that decision – I would urge you to do that today…

- it’s one thing to go into the pandemic without Christ…it’s something entirely different to come out of it in the same spiritually lost condition…don’t waste the pandemic…

B. Of a tendency to find ultimate joy and satisfaction in lessor gods.

- for some people who call themselves Christians, their lives are wrapped up in the next vacation, or the next sporting event, or the next good time…

- perhaps the Lord removed some of those pursuits for a period of time to guide us to Someone who is more reliable and sustainable?...C.S. Lewis said, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

- a good question to consider as we come out of the pandemic is – is it possible that the Lord has allowed some of those lessor gods to topple so that we might find the only One left truly standing worthy of our ultimate adoration and worship…

- we saw this passage a few weeks ago in our study in the gospel of John about Jesus as our Living Water… Jeremiah 2:13 - For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

- and if you would say – but I find repentance hard…we all do – it is not easy to admit ways we need to change…but this is where Easter enters the story again…

- in John’s first epistle – he discusses the issue of walking in the light – of having an open attitude toward admitting our sin…and then he says… 1 John 2:1–2 - My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

- because Christ is both our propitiation (satisfaction) and our advocate – we can come to Him boldly in repentance because we know we will find complete forgiveness in Him along with the hope and power of change…

- you don’t want to come out of the pandemic spiritually as the same person who entered the experience 12 months ago…Don’t waste the pandemic…

C. Of presuming on the future instead of trusting God for our daily provision

- has it been good for you to have to rely more closely on the Lord for your health and your financial wherewithal?...has that been a good thing for you?...

- no wonder we were instructed in the Lord’s prayer… Matthew 6:11 - Give us this day our daily bread.

- when you’re not sure if you’re going to have a job, if the economy is going to survive…and on and on…it drives you to your knees…

- Lord willing we’ll spend more time there post-COVID than pre-covid…and if that’s the case, the pandemic will not have been wasted…

- now, there’s one last important question here?...what’s at stake in whether we use the pandemic as an opportunity to consider needed areas of repentance?...

- where does this parable in verses 6-9 fit into the conversation?...

- the answer is pretty clear…

IV. Seek Greater Fruitfulness with the Time Entrusted to You

- see what should the Galileans who weren’t slaughtered do?...use that tragedy as an opportunity to consider needed areas of repentance so they can be more fruitful for the Master...

- what about those on whom the Tower of Siloam didn’t fall?...same answer…

- what about people like you and me who survived COVID-19 thus far?... use that tragedy as an opportunity to consider needed areas of repentance so they can be more fruitful for the Master...

- and what does a farmer do to fig trees that are not producing fruit?...

- he fertilizes it…and you realize, in that culture that didn’t mean that he went down to the Wal-Mart and bought a few bags of Scotts Turf Builder…

- you understand what the fertilizer was, right…should we have put a scratch and sniff on the handouts at this point in the outline to round out the experience?...

- how can you be more spiritually fruitful post-COVID?...

- just as we said with the possible ways repentance might be needed, this question about greater fruitfulness is as varied as the listeners this morning…

- but here are some to consider…

A. Growing in thanksgiving

- we have a tendency to take the people around us for granted…

1. Healthcare workers and first responders

- [develop] – the courage it took for front line workers to don all that Protective clothing and go in and treat people who had a disease about which we knew very little

2. Janitors in our hospitals

3. Funeral directors

4. Educators

5. Moms who became teachers

6. Small business owners/restaurants

7. Government leaders

B. Valuing relationships, hospitality, and fellowship with your church family

- Hebrews 10:24–25 - and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

- develop the recent stat that suggests that 30% of evangelicals have no intention of returning to in-person worship…

C. Abounding in the work of the Lord

- if it’s true that the Lord has shaken up His creation fairly vigorously this year, that also means the opportunity for spiritual harvest is going to be everywhere we look…

- consider the way Paul concluded the great resurrection chapter in the Bible…

- 1 Corinthians 15:58 - Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

- [conclude with the end to the IKEA story – the good news is – I paid very careful attention the rest of the cabinets – at least I didn’t fail to learn the lessons…]

Authors

Josh Greiner

Roles

Pastor of Faith West Ministries - Faith Church

Director of Faith West Community Center - Community Ministries West

Vice-Chair of the CDC Board - Northend Ministries

MABC Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Director of Biblical Counseling Training Conference - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

Bio

BA - Political Science, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary
Th.M. - Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ph.D. - Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (in progress)

Pastor Josh Greiner joined the staff at Faith Church in 2013 after being a part of the three year internship at FBS and oversees the Faith Church West Campus. He also serves as an ACBC certified counselor, grader, and fellow in training; he teaches in Faith’s Biblical Counseling Ministries and serves as an adjunct professor for Faith Bible Seminary (M.Div. and MABC); and serves his community on the Board of the Faith Community Development Corporation and as the chaplain of the West Lafayette Fired Department. Josh is married to Shana and has four children: Winston, Cecilia, Lorelai, and Edwin.

Read Josh Greiner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Greiner to Faith Church.