Anxiety and the Gospel

I want to encourage you to speak the gospel to your anxiety. 

Because of the coronavirus, many of us are confined to our house. Some of you have lost your job, or have reduced income. You are concerned about how you will eat and pay bills. You are concerned for your children, for your parents, and grandparents. You are concerned for your health, that maybe you’ve been exposed to the virus, or that you might expose others.

All of these are appropriate concerns. However, these concerns become anxiety when we have FALSE beliefs about God. The difference between concern and anxiety begins with what we believe and manifests in how we feel. Fear will rise when we believe a FALSE gospel. Faith will rise when we believe the TRUE gospel.

How does the gospel speak to anxiety? It addresses your false beliefs. A false gospel produces anxiety because it mutates one or all of the elements of the gospel: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. Let’s identify what that looks like.

A false gospel believes God is not in control; but I am! This distorts the Creation element of the gospel. Worry is a result of a false gospel because we believe in our own sovereign power to control the universe. When that belief is met by reality, we realize we can’t control the universe. 

In a false gospel, the FALL is the problem we find ourselves in as a result of another person or people group. In our current circumstance with the coronavirus, some are blaming China, others their local government, and many are casting aspersions on their political opponents. You may be blaming your mayor’s decision for “shelter in place,” or your employer, or the folks who paid no attention to the social-distancing order and spread the virus unknowingly. You might even blame yourself! The Fall element is tricky because no one is “without fault.” However, in a false gospel, we tend to downplay our involvement in why things went wrong and peg responsibility on other people’s shoulders.

In all false gospels, the Redeemer is someone other than Jesus. The Redeemer restores wholeness, delivers justice for the oppressed, and brings judgment to those who caused the problem. People often look to the government, a political party, a new job, or a relationship as the redeemer from their current problem. The government could be seen as the Redeemer because of their actions to mitigate the spread of the virus, send ventilators, engage businesses to support the effort, or send a stimulus package for individuals and businesses. The people of America could be seen as the Redeemer, for they have bonded together to make masks, and care for their neighbors. The medical professionals could be seen as the Redeemer, for they have bravely stepped into hospital rooms to care for individuals suffering from the contagious COVID-19 virus. All of these are good Redeemer actions, and we rightly praise their courage! Yet all of these Redeemer roles point to the TRUE Redeemer. Man alone cannot ultimately and finally save mankind from all evil and sickness and sin. While we may find a cure, create a vaccine, the next virus is sure to come. Furthermore, it is God who raises governments and tears them down, and who gives life and breath to all people. We can do nothing without His gracious hand, working in us “to will and to do.” Even the actions of our modern-day heroes (whether it be government, people, or medical workers) are brought to completion through the gracious outworking of the will of God.

When someone is trusting in a worldly redeemer, they are looking for a worldly New Creation. When the New Creation is brought down to our present life, it is a false gospel because what was promised was a re-created perfect heaven and earth in the presence of Jesus, not heavenly circumstances — without pain and trial and tribulation, in the present sinful world. Man makes an idol out of New Creation without Jesus. In our current circumstance, this new creation would be people receiving their job back with higher pay, no longer confined to the house, the coronavirus expunged from existence, and their political party now in charge in light of it. I’m heavy on politics because I see too many people placing their trust in government, Christian and not. If only the “such-n-such” political party would win, then we could shape America into the kind of country we want. It’s our new creation.

Fear is the root feeling of anxiety, and it destroys our joy. Joy comes from believing the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is the true gospel: 

Creation: God is the Creator and Father of all life. He spoke the galaxies into existence, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. He created mankind in His image and bestowed upon us glory and honor. He defined reality, and your identity is rooted in Him and how he created you. There is nothing beyond God’s control; not one government, not one person, not one atom, and not a virus. There is not an outcome of life that God doesn’t graciously preside over. 

The Fall, our rebellion against God has separated us from his loving presence and has brought forth the corruption of mankind and the earth. We are all sinful and rebellious against God by nature, and while we still carry the image of God, the image is marred. Our rejection of God has caused the onset of all kinds of evil that has corrupted the land. As a result, we experience sickness, disease, relational discord, racial and ethnic prejudice, selfish behavior, malice, envy, greed, strife, murder, and death. We are the cause and perpetrators of all kinds of evil.

Redemption has and is happening in Jesus Christ. The Son of God has come as the Redeemer of all mankind. He came to proclaim the good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, give sight to the blind, and liberty to the oppressed. Because God is perfect and just, Jesus came to accept the punishment for our rebellion. He did so willingly, because he loved us, and revealed to us the Father’s heart towards us. He worked miracles, casting out demons, healing the lame, blind, sick, and raising the dead. These were his works displaying his power to roll back the effects of our sin and recreate the heavens and the earth. In Him we have been given a new heart, resurrection and life, here and now and into eternity. He promised us trials in the world, but gave us His peace, and commanded us to take heart, for He has overcome the world! We wait for The Day of His return when he will completely recreate the heavens and the earth.

The New Creation will be established upon His return. All sin, evil, death, disease, hatred, malice, anger, and separation from God and between man will cease. This is the consumption of joy we wait for! Those who trust in the Redemption of Jesus will live with Him and the host of believers into eternity in the fullness of joy, beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus, our Redeemer. It will be exponentially better, more life-giving, soul-filling, and we will overflow with joy for all eternity. THIS is the New Creation we wait for as Christians. This is what we live for, and this is what we are willing to die for: beholding the glory of God in the land of the living for eternity.

Take heart. Cast all your anxiety upon God the Father. He knows you need food, shelter, clothing, family, friends, and toilet paper, and He will give you all these things. Trust Him, and live in faith, not fear.

Bobby Gaither

Faith & Wisdom

The World Health Organization has declared a pandemic in response to the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus. Several states in the US have declared a state of emergency. As of this morning, all gatherings of 250 or more in the state of Oregon have been asked not to meet, and the government is encouraging social distancing. This includes school events, church gatherings, and private events. The corona virus most adversely effects the elderly and immune system depressed, and those with underlying health conditions. Most who have the virus will experience symptoms which pass within a few days. For a small percentage— the immune system depressed, the virus has complicated underlying issues and has led to death. The drastic response of the government is one of prevention to keep the virus from spreading at the rate observed in other affected areas. In response to the current pandemic, fear and panic are on the rise.

As a people who have faith in Jesus, the one who rules the wind and sea, how do we respond? 

With faith and wisdom.

First, faith in God. No matter the outcome, we believe as people of the Word, that God is in control. There is no force, no country, no virus that can act outside His will. Jesus declared in Matthew 10:29 that “not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father.” He does not promise that we are impervious to sickness or trial, but that God is in control. This is an admonition towards faith, not fear. It’s faith in God’s goodness, faith in His power, faith in His sovereign plan. 

Second, we proceed with wisdom. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge. We know those whom are older and with underlying health conditions are at the greatest risk. Wisdom would encourage those with such underlying conditions to use discretion when choosing where to go, and if they should go to places like the market, or large gatherings. 

If the possibility of catching a virus— which could kill the body, exists, our response is not to fear, but to be wise. It’s not more or less spiritual to avoid physical threat — remember, Paul was ushered out of town to escape a death-plot from the Jews! If you’re considered “vulnerable” according to the CDC, you’d be exercising discretion to stay home, even from church! By God’s grace, we have access to technology by which you can access sermons. We have table groups at Hope, which are smaller gatherings in homes, and we are of a size of congregation that we will not let you slip out of fellowship. Thus, you are not “less spiritual” for doing so, only don’t let it be an excuse to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). But, if you are healthy, especially if you do not have any underlying conditions, we encourage you to act in faith, and join us for worship!

However, acting in wisdom applies to our entire body, not just those at risk. Wisdom should be applied by our families who have sick ones in their home. This is part of caring for others. Symptoms may not show for up to two weeks from exposure. If you or your family have any symptoms, it is wise to consider others, even if it is to your detriment, and stay home from work, coffee shops, community gatherings, even church. Staying home from work might be the hardest to accomplish for some, as many in our body don’t have jobs that allow them “sick leave.” My hope, as a church body, is that we care for those in our community and minister to their needs. This, too, is biblical, as we consider others more important than ourselves. 

At Hope, we are operating in faith and wisdom by taking the following measures: sanitizing surfaces, door handles, and toys; hand sanitizer in hallways and classrooms; snacks to children with use of gloves; modifying or suspending communion. We aren’t afraid, but acting in wisdom for the sake of the body. As of right now, all studies and services will continue as normal. 

God is good. He is sovereign. He calls us to faith in Him, and to know that we are invincible until our work is done. And he calls us to wisdom, for He acts in wisdom. 

Go forth in faith and wisdom!

Bobby Gaither

Who’s the pastor at HOPE FELLOWSHIP?

Greetings!

You’ve found my blog. Here’s a bit on who I am:

I’m a husband to a wonderful woman, and a father to 4 brilliant children. My wife is a music educator in Beaverton. We married in 2006. Our children are the perfect mix of love and “personality” that keeps us on our toes, and our knees!

I have the honor of shepherding a church hungry for life in the Word and Spirit. We are a “splerge-,” a church plant that merged with an existing church. This has created a wonderful opportunity for growth in me, and for the church, as we sit on 5 acres of property in a prime location for ministry.

I have a B.A. in Psychology, and am working on a Masters in Divinity. I have been a student of the Word since college in 2001. I was a worship and college pastor prior to planting in 2016.

I might be a bit of a conundrum. I’m an intuitive person who seeks facts. I’m a feeler who is a person of truth. I choose to lead by influence first, authority last. I aim for the heart and the head, as scripture informs us that both are being renewed (Ezekiel 36:26, Psalm 51:10, Romans 12:2).

If you desire to know what drives me, I’d respond with “beholding the glory of Christ.” I’ve been radically changed by the beauty of the gospel of Jesus. That beauty, that glory, is none other than the glory of Christ. Thus, my life’s pursuit is to see, to behold, the beauty of God in the face of Jesus Christ (Psalm 27:4, John 17:24, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 2 Corinthians 4:6, Colossians 1:27). My aim, then, is to behold and enjoy the glory of God with all of my being, and invite others to share in my joy. This informs how I live, how I love my wife, how I raise my children, how I deal with conflict, how I lead the church, and how I preach.

You may have heard this language before. I have been greatly influenced by present day pastors, such as John Piper, David Platt, Timothy Keller, and Ligon Duncan. Furthermore, I see this passion for the glory of God from pastors and authors before them: CS Lewis, Jonathon Edwards,  George Whitfield, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, Athanasius of Alexandria. These pastors span from present day to the 3rd century BC. I prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants, of heroes of the faith in order that I may see farther, and more clearly, into the glory of Christ our Lord. They were mortal men. Their words are not Scripture, and they were prone to error. Therefore, I am first a student of Paul, Peter, James, John, Mark, Luke, and the Old Covenant writers, for I am first a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I also am part of a podcast, called Satisfied. You can find our podcast at www.satisfiedinchrist.life, or on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, and Soundcloud. Look for Satisfied in Christ with Nick Jackson and Bobby Gaither.

Thank you for taking the time to read. I invite you to join us on a Sunday morning, or contact me if you have more questions!

For His glory,

Bobby Gaither, Lead Pastor, Hope Fellowship of Hillsboro

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