The thought of a modern disease sweeping across the world and claiming large percentages of cities like historic plagues sometimes causes fear to swell in the hearts of people. As we’ve been hearing about a new virus since December of 2019, the spread has consistently moved from China throughout the world. This week President Donald Trump, while addressing the United States regarding the disease, instilled a firm travel ban that goes into effect tonight in order to prevent further outbreaks of the disease—COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus.
We are currently at the pandemic stage of the disease as it has now transitioned into an international epidemic—crossing the ocean on planes and boats to various different nations around the world. As we watch the NBA suspend their season indefinitely as a result of a player on the Utah Jazz who has tested positive, major conferences and events cancelled, schools closing, and many businesses going to remote location operations—what should be the response of the church? Should we panic? Should we be overcome with fear?
In the 14th century, the Black Death was an epidemic of bubonic plague, a disease that spread through wild rodents and fleas where they lived in great numbers and density and in close proximity to humans. It spread far and wide resulting in the death of 50 million people in the 14th century, or 60 percent of Europe’s entire population.
When the Black Death raised its nasty head again in 1527 in Germany, many people began to panic. People were fleeing for their lives. Yet, Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, decided to stay in their home. It wasn’t a stubborn response to the need to evacuate, but a loving response fueled by love and sustained by faith in their sovereign God. Rather than running for the hills, they turned their home into a makeshift hospital. They took in the sick, cared for them, demonstrated genuine Christian hospitality, and risked their own lives in the process. During this crisis, their son almost died.
As Luther and Katie ministered to people, they watched some recover and they watched many cross over the precipice of life into eternity. Undoubtedly many of these people Luther had ministered to in the city during his lectures and sermons. The pain would be severe. The stench of the Black Death was all throughout Wittenberg and the German landscape. Luther was not only standing up to the powerful Roman Catholic Church as he exposed their false doctrine, but he likewise stood strong in the midst of a horrible disease.
It was with this backdrop that Luther penned the words to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” which is one of the most famous hymns in the history of the church. As he faced the plague, looked at the black death surrounding him, and contemplated the frailty of his own life (and the lives of his family)—he thought about the walls of the castle and how he once found refuge. Then he considered the words of Psalm 46 and applied the grand truths of God’s sovereignty to his dark situation.
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing
No matter what you face today as you journey through this world with devils filled who threaten to undo you—you can walk with confidence that your God is big. “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). No matter what trial you face or what challenge is presented before you as the news media continues to talk about the present day pandemic of the COVID-19, remember to lean on the theology of the Bible and find comfort and peace that passes all understanding in the God who is big, strong, and serves as our Rock and our Refuge! If God is for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?
Remember that as you face news reports and hear about the spread of a new virus into your nation, state, and even close to your neighborhood—the proper posture of a Christian is resolve and confidence in God rather than fear and panic. That doesn’t mean that as a Christian you should not take precautions or use common sense, but it does mean that we should have confidence in our God in the face of trials. Our God is our fortress.
Remember that when watching reports and listening to the media, it’s important to not be manipulated by overreactions and political tactics. When comparing the COVID-19 to the flu, the numbers are nowhere close to the same. The 2017-2018 flu resulted in 959,000 hospitalizations and 61,099 deaths in the United States alone. Current numbers for the COVID-19 virus are at 5,000+ worldwide with the most susceptible are those with underlying conditions, weak immune systems, and the elderly.
As we navigate this present day pandemic, let the Church of Jesus Christ shine in the midst of this crisis. Dear fellow Christian, may your theology be put on display in a world gripped by fear. Common sense and great resolve in a sovereign God is what the watching world should see from the Church of Jesus. The watching world should see the Church elevate our trust in our sovereign God in the midst of a world gripped by fear and given to panic. We can pray for the medical community as they research and seek ways to address this virus from a scientific and medical perspective. We can use logical tactics that will help avoid the spread of germs such as washing hands and limiting personal contact. Ultimately, Luther’s bulwark must be ours too.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Psalm 46:1–3; 6-7 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah…The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
I recently went to see the movie Unplanned—a movie about the real life story of Abby Johnson who once worked as a clinic director for Planned Parenthood and became an advocate for life. After viewing the film, I would like to share my thoughts about the film as a whole—providing some simple critiques and compliments.
What is Unplanned?
The movie Unplanned falls into the “faith based” category, which is a fairly new category that has developed through the release of several films in recent history that were funded and developed with the idea of providing a clean film that has a positive message and one that points people to Christ.
From the website of Unplanned, we find the following description:
All Abby Johnson ever wanted to do was help women. As one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation, she was involved in upwards of 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women about their reproductive choices. Her passion surrounding a woman’s right to choose even led her to become a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, fighting to enact legislation for the cause she so deeply believed in. Until the day she saw something that changed everything, leading Abby Johnson to join her former enemies at 40 Days For Life, and become one of the most ardent pro-life speakers in America.
The Quality of the Film
The movies that typically fall into the faith based category find it difficult to compete with other films with much larger budgets, sometimes three or four times the budget of the faith based film. As a result, the quality of the production, the actors, and the overall feel of the film seems to take away from the goal and message. As a result, many supporters go and watch the film because of the message, but most of the people can see the difference in the film.
With Unplanned, there was a certain aspect of that that came out with a few of the scenes, but overall, the acting and production of the film was high quality. Ashley Bratcher, who plays the role of Abby Johnson, did a great job taking the lead in the film. If she fails in her role, the film will not succeed. I felt that she did a great job in her acting out the parts and scenes of the storyline. It seemed much more natural than some of the other faith based films from the past.
Before getting to the compliments, allow me to provide some honest critiques of the film. As a Christian who opposes abortion and stands for the sanctity of human life, I enjoyed the film, but I also felt that the clear message of the gospel could have been shared. There were opportunities in the film from church scenes to conversations through the fence at the clinic that would have been a great opportunity to insert the message of the gospel in a natural way, but that never happened. The faith talk was centered upon God, but it never went deeper into describing who God is and how a person can be reconciled to God.
There were a couple of scenes that had pro-life advocates and open-air preachers at the clinic seeking to stop women from entering the clinic. There seemed to be a hard line distinction drawn in the movie between those who used signs, had their Bibles, and were calling out to the women as opposed to those who stood and prayed quietly and only occasionally spoke up and offered help.There was one scene where a bearded man who was with the open-air evangelists spoke roughly to a young woman through the fence and I would like to know if that was something that happened or if it was merely an inserted creative addition. I think it’s unfortunate to paint open-air evangelists as fanatical.
As a preacher who supports and engages in open-air evangelism, I think this is unfortunate. By creating a hard distinction by placing a person in a Grim Reaper costume in with the crowd of open-air evangelists (no matter if this happened or not)—anyone who stands with an open Bible and calls out with the gospel of Jesus is painted as a fanatic. Once again, my critique here is that we must pray, but we must do more than pray. We must speak up, call out, proclaim the truth, and plead with women to stop. Sometimes the people standing at the edge of the sidewalk at an abortion clinic are literally standing between life and death for a real baby—and at that moment it’s time to speak up.
The film did a great job of revealing the R-rating of abortion. While initially the film producers were not pleased with the R-rating because it would limit how many people would be able to see the film (specifically the younger generation who typically spend time at the local mall and movie theater), at the end of the day we must not forget that abortion is rated R. That is precisely the message that Ashley Bratcher delivered in an interview on FOX.
The graphic nature of the abortion process was visibly seen in two different types of abortion (D&C and medically induced RU-486). Both types of abortion techniques were depicted with bloody scenes and actors who delivered the intensity of pain and even the regret of such procedures. In the scene where Abby Johnson is asked to assist in the abortion, the baby is clearly seen on the sonogram monitor moving and then the baby is suddenly sucked from the womb as the doctor cuts the baby and finishes the procedure through the D&C suction technique.
The deep regret and pain of Abby Johnson is vividly displayed on the screen as she talks openly about her own abortions and her regret for working for Planned Parenthood. This is helpful for those who may have walked a similar path. It was also helpful to see the Planned Parenthood organization clearly identified with this abortion process since they often spin their services as healthcare and prevention services. It was likewise important to see the deception and lack of care for women by Planned Parenthood through this movie which is clearly detailed in Abby Johnson’s personal story.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is near the end when Abby Johnson is standing on the other side of the fence and is engaged in helping a young lady who showed up at the clinic confused and looking for help. As she talked to the young lady and pointed her to the reality that there are other options, but Planned Parenthood will not deliver those options because they are interested in helping through abortion. One of the best messages that Unplanned drives home is that there are other options.
I recommend the movie Unplanned. We live in a culture of death that celebrates the murder of approximately one million babies every year in the United States. In only 37 states in the US is parental consent required for abortion in the case of minors. Planned Parenthood is government funded and is responsible for the murder of many babies—often targeting the young, poor, and minorities in the process. Just this week, Stacey Abrams called the new “heartbeat bill” in Georgia “abominable” and “evil”—suggesting that it’s bad for humanity, morality, and business in Georgia. When you see babies being butchered to pieces and sucked from the womb of a woman in the name of reproductive freedom and women’s rights—it’s abominable and evil to suggest that saving lives through the “heartbeat bill” is bad for humanity and morality.
We live in a culture with good technology, great imaging machines, and we have all of the information and science to prove that the baby in the womb of a mother is a living human being. To allow for ancient practices of murder to continue in our modern age is unthinkable and quite honestly unacceptable. It’s time that we work diligently and engage in the fight to see abortion come to an end in the United States of America.
Psalm 139:13–16 — For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (ESV)
Sometimes we are really good at putting people into little groups in the local church and waling right past one another. Often teenagers walk around in the church with the idea that the older people don’t really care about them. They blink a couple of times and find themselves in a much different position. They have reached the “old” category and feel as if they’re forgotten. They feel as if they’re a fading shadow moving through the halls of the church, but not very useful in the life of the church. I was talking to an older gentleman recently who said, “I once looked forward to the ‘Golden Days’ only to arrive there with the sobering reality that these days are filled with far more pain and far less gold than I ever imagined.”
So, what happens when you wake up one day and discover that you’re officially—old? What now? Can you do anything in the life of the church that’s profitable? Your wrinkles don’t lie as you gaze into the mirror. Your aches and pains are a continual reminder that you’re not young anymore. Yet, you remember when you once had invitations to serve and opportunities to do more in the life of the church. But now, you’re old and it’s like you’re merely focusing on existing rather than living, serving, and worshipping. Consider the words of an old man who prayed for more days, but not just to see his grandchildren’s next birthday or to travel the world on nice vacations. His prayer in Psalm 71:17-21 was different.
At the time in which the Psalmist wrote this psalm, he was an old man with grey hair. He had spent much time on planet earth and had experienced many trials and difficulties along the way. Yet, there is something that we can learn from the Psalmist—something worthy of praise and imitating.
First of all, the Psalmist was old now, but he was still proclaiming the wondrous deeds of God (Ps. 71:17). What a terrific example. In an age of compromise where many start out well but few seem to finish well—this older man was still persevering in the faith. He was steadfast in his proclamation of God’s wondrous deeds.
When the Psalmist prayed for more days, it was not a selfish prayer. He wasn’t looking for more opportunities to waste time or more days to focus on himself. He was interested in investing in the younger generation and he has a purpose in this investment. He wanted to proclaim the truth about God’s might, God’s righteousness, and God’s mighty works. He desired for the younger generation to know these very important truths about God. What a God glorifying prayer.
Far too often men fail to recognize that Titus 2 isn’t in the Bible as a women’s ministry manifesto. It’s a section of Scripture that outlines how the older saints (men and women) are to invest their time into discipling the younger generation. If you are prone to think that just because you have grey hair, wrinkles, and a body full of aches and pains that you are somehow not useful within your church—you’ve been severely misled. The younger generation needs you. The church needs you. Pastors and church leaders need you. So, don’t bench yourself. Get into the game and serve God for his glory. Look for opportunities to serve. Make it known that you want to serve. Pray selfless prayers for more days in order to invest in the younger generation for the glory of God. Charles Spurgeon once lamented about the shallowness of the church in his day by saying:
Alas! Much has been done of late to promote the production of dwarfish Christians. Poor, sickly believers turn the church into an hospital, rather than an army. Oh, to have a church built up with the deep godliness of people who know the Lord in their very hearts, and will seek to follow the Lamb wherever he goes!
- What can I teach the younger generation about the sovereignty of God?
- What can I teach the younger generation about the righteousness and holiness of God?
- What can I teach the younger generation about the mighty works of God?
Look for opportunities to redeem the time and invest in your local church. Approach each day with the goal of making it count for God’s glory. There are many younger people and younger parents who are walking broken roads and experiencing the pains of life. They need direction, encouragement, and advice from wise men and women who have grey hair and wells of wisdom to share. The Psalmist could look back and teach the younger generation about the creation, the covenants, and the great work of God. However, you stand on the other side of the cross and can proclaim the truth of the promised Messiah’s birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection.
You have much to teach the younger generation. God has a purpose for your life. Take the words of an old man to heart!
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
 So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
 Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
 You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
The author of Hebrews sounds like a track and field coach explaining the need for proper attire and the danger of unnecessary resistance as he writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). The Christian life is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. Who dresses in long jeans and bulky leather shoes for a marathon?
Not only is it essential to dress appropriately for a marathon or even a short race on the track, it’s imperative that Christians are properly clothed for the Christian life. Unnecessary baggage that clutters life can hinder us, harm our relationships, and create distance between Christian friendships in the local church. Much more severe than unnecessary baggage is the “respectable sin” that is often ignored because—after all, it’s not murder, child abuse, or embezzlement. Jerry Bridges, in his excellent book Respectable Sins, writes:
Those of us whom I call conservative evangelicals may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own refined or subtle sins. 
What sin are you overlooking in your life that could be holding you back from a God glorifying pursuit of holiness? That one sin has become your achilles heel. Not only does it dishonor God, but it hinders you from shining for God, from serving God, and from pursuing holiness. Below are many respectable sins that often fly under the radar, but they should not be overlooked or ignored. Their poison is deadly too.
Respectable Sins of our Evangelical Culture
- The Sin of Neglecting God (lack of desire for God’s Word, for prayer, for worship, for the local church)
- The Sin of Flattery
- The Sin of Lust
- The Sin of Materialism (quickly runs to idolatry)
- The Sin of Overworking (workaholic, neglecting family and the local church)
- The Sin of Impatience
- The Sin of Anxiety
- The Sin of Pride
- The Sin of Doubting God (results in a lack of prayer and respect for God’s character)
- The Sin of Sloppy Doctrine (embracing false interpretations or being content in perpetual ignorance)
There are many different examples of respectable sins that we often overlook because they aren’t on the same level as open adultery or murder—but they’re just as deadly. Interestingly enough, the small venomous snake is often more deadly because they inject their venom without any restraint when they bite their prey. Larger snakes hold back some venom for additional strikes depending on the size of the prey. This makes the young snake more dangerous. When it comes to respectable sins, they can often be more deadly because they’re often overlooked for years.
Think about how many years you have considered eating better or getting more focused on a workout schedule. Those dreams never turn into reality. How many years have you continued to allow certain sins to remain comfortable in your heart and life while cautioning yourself, your family, and your church family against the “big evil sins” like homosexuality, murder, and adultery?
Beware of the respectable sins because they’re extremely dangerous and not very respectable at all. If you’re walking in the forest and you come upon a small venomous snake—remember the small snakes are dangerous too. If you ignore a small venomous snake—it could cost you your life. When it comes to the Christian life—don’t overlook the small sins. They’re full of venom and they can hinder you from running the race of life for the glory of God.
- Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, (Carol Stream, ILL.: Tyndale House, 2014), 9.
Far too many people approach their religion as a checkbox religion — something they have to do in order to please their god. However, as a Christian, the life of a Christian is not bound up in a “must do” or “must perform” ideology, but rather a Spirit-empowered life of joy that finds ultimate fulfillment in God through Jesus Christ. Have you stopped to consider what you get as a result of being a Christian? What has God given to each of his children that we often overlook on a daily basis?
The Perspicuity of Scripture
The natural mind cannot fully understand the Scriptures because of the stain of sin. It is the effect of sin that prevents the depraved sinner from reading, understanding, and comprehending the meaning of sacred Scripture. This point Paul made clear in 1 Corinthians 2:14 as he writes, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” What does it mean that the Scriptures are spiritually discerned?
Spiritual discernment is a way of Paul referencing the work of the holy Spirit in illuminating the truths of God’s Word to his people. Remember, Jesus taught in parables not merely to place the cookies on the bottom shelf for everyone to understand freely — instead he utilized the parables to reveal truths to his disciples while concealing the same truths to the God-haters. In the same way, today God’s people can read and understand the truths of the Bible while those who reject God are incapable of seeing it because the work of the Spirit is not at work in their hearts.
The perspicuity of Scripture is an old phrase that isn’t very clear at all. Interestingly enough, it means the clarity of Scripture. As a Christian, it’s a thrill to open the Bible and know that I can read it, understand it, comprehend it, and obey it. All of this is the overflow of the Holy Spirit’s work in each of God’s children.
The Local Church
Contrary to popular trends, the local church is not for unbelievers. That may sound a bit harsh, but allow me to explain. First, let me explain what I don’t mean by that statement. I am not insinuating that unbelievers should never be invited to our church assemblies. What I am suggesting is that membership in the local church is for followers of Jesus only — and to deviate from that plan is to redefine the very word “church” as we see it in the New Testament.
Through the years, I have witnessed many professing Christians who approached church attendance more like an old family tradition rather than a joy and privilege. For some, attending church is a “checkbox” for their religious duty. Once they get that checked off by noon, they’re free to go on and enjoy their day. However, true Christians find joy and fulfillment in attending church for worship and fellowship. It’s through the local church that we serve God, worship God, fellowship with friends, and serve one another. Because I’m a Christian I have the distinct privilege of attending church — assembling together with the church on Sunday mornings, evenings, and Wednesday evenings (our regular scheduled gatherings).
The church is often referred to as the family of faith — and as a family of Jesus followers we gather together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). What a joy and privilege to be a member of a local church (1 Cor. 12:27).
Temporal and Eternal Joy
Before regeneration changed my life, I had no true joy in God. The temporal joys of waking up in the early hours of the morning and just thinking about how good God is and how his love for me is all satisfying was non-existent. Those moments of gazing at the sky and considering how majestic God is in creation and how sovereign he is in ruling over the universe was not something that occupied my thoughts often. When I did think on those things, they usually were in conflict with my sin and resulted in fear and shame rather than joy and happiness.
As a Christian, I have the overwhelming privilege of looking at the birds of the sky, the flowers on the roadside, and the expanse of God’s creation with joyful eyes. As a Christian I have the opportunity to look beyond the temporal joys of enjoying God now to when I will have the privileges of enjoying God for all of eternity. When those temporal opportunities pass away, I will be welcomed into the presence of my God — and the beginning of a never ending happiness in the presence of God will suddenly come to pass. What has been visible only through a veil will become vividly clear in high definition focus. As a Christian — I get to enjoy God now and for all of eternity.
1 Corinthians 15:50–58 — I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Colonial America was filled with white wigs. The 18th century was ripe with the wig wearing men who from young ages were already desiring to fit in among the wise men of the day and it was the wig that created such a bridge of opportunity. Men wore them openly in order to make a statement. Their statement was not so much to do with fashion as much as it was to do with wisdom and knowledge. We see this all throughout our nation’s history as well as church history in America. Men such as George Washington (who reportedly never wore a wig, but embodies the iconic image of the wigs of that era) and Jonathan Edwards are depicted with long flowing gray curls—although undoubtedly fake—they were wigs worn to symbolize their wisdom far more than their age. We see this all through the Puritan age of church history.
Where are all of the gray wigs today? Why do we not see them worn openly in our culture today? The evidence may point to a shift in ideas—one that favors immaturity in this youth-driven culture. What exactly does the Bible say about this whole youth focused culture? Does the Bible say anything about age and how we should approach the inevitable?
Gray May Not Be Your Thing—But Wisdom Should Be
In recent years, I have addressed the need for the younger population of the church of Jesus Christ to know, be involved with, and attend the funerals of the elderly. Tragically, our society looks over the heads of the elderly in favor of the young, the strong, and far too often—the immature. Since we live in a culture that despises the aging process and thereby disrespects the elderly—it would be wise for Christians to consider what the Bible actually says about this matter rather than adopting the culture’s patterns.
In Leviticus 19:32, we see that the Law of God insisted on the honoring of the aged. Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” In other words, the biblical text points to the idea of honoring those with gray hair, but not just for the sake of their hair color. The graying of the hair represented more than an aging process—instead it pointed to the wisdom that comes with age. In most cases, the aging process allows a person to accumulate a certain amount of wisdom through life circumstances (practical wisdom) and through the study of God in theology and walking with God in life.
When we see the words of Proverbs 16:31 and couple them with Paul’s words to Timothy (a young pastor in Ephesus) regarding how he was to address older men (1 Tim. 5:1-2)—it would be extremely healthy for us to learn to respect and honor the aged among us in society in general—but especially within the local church. We may not see gray wigs on sale in a center kiosk at the local shopping mall and they may never be en vogue in our culture at any day in the future—wisdom should be attractive to us—especially to those who are followers of Jesus (James 1:5).
Do Not Worship Adolescence
It should be plainly evident to all of us that we’re living in a culture that celebrates youthfulness and despises the aged. A trip down the cosmetics section in the supermarket will reveal many products designed to take away gray hair, smooth out wrinkles, and make the body look and feel young. Any trip through a major city will certainly reveal our culture’s love for shopping malls. When we examine the stores in the malls, the overwhelming majority are centered on young people who linger in the atrium of the mall for social purposes with their friends or gather for coffee and entertainment outlets such as theaters—largely designed to entertain young people. The men’s clothing or women’s clothing stores are few and far between these days because—quite simply—the profit margins simply don’t compare.
This cultural shift leaves much of the focus of our society centered on youth—and that spills right over into the context of the local church as well. We often hear much talk about how we have to focus on the youth of the church because they’re the next generation of members and leaders. While we certainly need to invest in young people and children within our church—the lack of respect for the elderly in society as well as within the church has done far more than remove men’s clothing and men’s shoe stores from the front street of our communities. It has likewise affected how we worship. In many evangelical churches, the worship is designed around the young people rather than adults—resulting in a concert with a sermonette attached to it or in some cases the feel is more like a VBS for adults—complete with all of the light-hearted entertainment and canned jokes.
Paul, in his words to the church at Ephesus, implores them to strive for maturity as God has given them leaders for that very purpose (Eph. 4:12). While there is nothing inherently sinful by shopping malls turning to the teens for profit margins—the church of Jesus Christ would do well to celebrate maturity and gospel-centered wisdom that comes with age. This is one reason for the title of the office of elder—driving home the point that wisdom is needed in order to properly lead God’s people theologically and spiritually. Fools despise wisdom (Prov. 1:7). We’re living in strange days to be sure, days when immaturity is championed among a culture demonstrating just how much wisdom is needed in the end. This, to be sure, is a tragedy. Remember what happened to Rehoboam when he despised the wisdom of the old men and gave his ear to the immature voices of the young men (1 Kings 12:8)?
Our culture and our churches are filled with wise older men and women who are overlooked because of their age. Gray is not proof of wisdom, but it would do us well not to view gray as outdated, expired, or irrelevant. Once upon a time young men wanted to look old. Today, old men want to look young while young men never want to grow up. Fashion may change, but it’s the heart that truly matters. May the Lord grant us wisdom and enable us to value the wise and aged among us in the life of the church in such a way that creates stability and maturity among God’s people.
Proverbs 4:7 — The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.