Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Simplifying 2020

            Few would disagree that year 2020 brought unprecedented physical, psychological, and relational challenges from personal life all the way to the seats of power on a global scale.  I think back to the many “2020 vision” plans many communities initiated almost a decade ago, asking the question, “What do want our community to look like in year 2020?”  Did we imagine anything like our current situation with a pandemic?  I don’t think so.  Now that year 2020 is “in the books,” we can ask, “Where are we, in reality, and where are we going in 2021?”

            Year 2020 has been a year of “vision shakeup.”  Isn’t it ironic that 20/20 is the standard for perfect visual acuity?  Eyesight is measured by how accurate one can distinguish letters on a standard chart from a standard distance.  Without the standards in place there’s no way to get an accurate measure of how well one sees.  Our vision for the future is similar.  Our standards are drawn from our beliefs and what we have experienced to this point in life.  In 2020, so many uncertainties, on so many different levels, in so many areas of life at the same time has created a serious problem of vision loss.  So many of our “standards” are gone.  For many, our world has become a complicated maze in which they find themselves groping in darkness, looking for some sort of new “eyeglasses” to help them make sense of what’s in front of them.   

            For the Christian, how do we navigate the complications?  I would suggest we simplify, and make Jesus our 20/20 bullseye target.  The more complicated our world becomes,  the more simple our devotion to Jesus requires of us.  The Bible records a warning the Apostle Paul gave the church in Corinth.  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).  Simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ is our shield against being deceived and dissuaded by the devil. Yes, evil is at work in our world, and its goal is to deceive and distract us from pure devotion to Jesus on a daily basis.

              As I see it, year 2020 brought us an overdose of deception. From a so-called pandemic virus out of China (with coverup on a global scale) to a “fake” Presidential election in America on November 3rd , craftiness of the common enemy of our soul has deceived the minds of many. Much of the deception hides behind things like “science” and “public opinion.”  But lies are lies, and Satan (“serpent” in verse quoted above) is the master liar (John 8:44). Science cannot deceive God, and public opinion does not define truth. Truth is God’s reality, not man’s. Jesus IS “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Devotion to Jesus demands a commitment to truth. Many Proverbs speak of the folly of falsehood. By no means do I claim to have a corner on truth regarding the China virus, nor the extent of lack of integrity in the November elections, but enough evidence is available to warrant deeper investigations if we are genuinely devoted to seeking the truth. As Americans we should be demanding that our leaders uphold truth. As Christians, we should be praying for God’s righteousness and justice to prevail, and taking action accordingly in whatever sphere we are called to serve God and our fellowmen.

            Truth both divides, and unites. Pursuing truth drives out (divides out) falsehood. Falsehood is evil, but Jesus conquered evil. Without Jesus we are enslaved by falsehood. The Way to conquer evil, is to believe in the Truth, that we might have Life (John 14:6). The more devoted we are to Jesus, the more united we are “in Christ.”

            The writer of Hebrews gives us a similar exhortation as Paul wrote in Corinthians.  Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  This chapter begins with “therefore” because it immediately follows chapter eleven describing the exploits of a whole list of “heroes” of the faith.  It lists some of their “complicated” situations.  When we think WE have it bad, we do well to read and consider the difficulties many before us have faced. But, besides taking encouragement from our predecessors vision in pursuing God, we can follow their example by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.”     
            Jesus is our standard. Jesus deserves our devotion. He also requires it.  He lived a life devoted to vision set forth by Father God.  All through the book of John we read how Jesus didn’t do anything outside the will of Father.  He was simply devoted to pleasing the Father in everything, and he calls us to the same devotion.  Before he left the earth, he gave us the Holy Spirit for power and companionship to complete the vision (see John 20:19-23).  Jesus calls us to more than acting or pretending devotion.  Jesus calls us to BE devoted.  Jesus doesn’t just call us to part-time purity, but Jesus calls us to full time, all in, no turning back, purity.   

            I think the days ahead are going to require us to pay more attention to our devotion quotient. To increase our devotion will require more simplifying.  We may look back someday and see how year 2020 served us in that way.   

My hope is that the reader could “uncomplicate” his or her life by simplifying to  “lay aside every encumbrance” (as the verse above says).  We do well to ask ourselves some questions and simply ACT to go in the right direction.

What “encumbrances” are in my life?  Examples are addictions, pornography, immorality, ungodly friends, so-called social media, too much food, technology, etc. 

What is my next step in “purifying” myself from these?  Examples might be, telling a co-follower of Jesus and being accountable, finding new friends in church relationships, set time limits or dollar limits and log your progress, write down your commitments and read and follow them every day, talk to God about them and get his help every day, and whatever necessary change looks like for you.    

            Where might confession and repentance be necessary?  Examples might include seeking God’s forgiveness for things you know are wrong like the encumbrances note above, things done to other people like lying and cheating, slandering, or inner life condemning judgments and bitterness.

Who might I need to forgive or reconcile with to be free from an offense? (either as the one offended or as an offender)

What broader changes do I have to make to be “devoted” to Jesus as a lifestyle?   Examples could be regular Bible study, engaging community of believers, career/ type of work, living situation. 

How committed to truth am I in reality? Do I want to know the truth even if it hurts? Where is my voice needed, or what actions might be necessary for me to take, to uphold the truth in my community, organization, political party, family, church group, employment?

            May 2021 be a year of deeper devotion to Jesus and simplicity in obeying the truth of God’s Word.

 by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry