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Guard Your Quarantined, Self-Isolated, Sheltered-at-Home, Socially-Distanced Heart

2 Samuel 11 has to be one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Especially given the previous ten chapters. 2 Samuel 1 – 10 reads like the plot of King David’s own Marvel movie. He consolidates his rule over the nation of Israel in the first six chapters. In Chapter 7, God makes an extraordinary covenant to David saying that his “throne shall be established forever.” Chapters 8 – 10 bring us stories of David winning in every facet of life – defeating his enemies, executing justice, demonstrating compassion, and for good measure, winning a few more battles. It’s time to cue “Eye of the Tiger,” roll the credits, and buy the King David action figure and matching family PJs!

But then, Chapter 11. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle … David remained in Jerusalem.” And so, “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch … that David saw … and David sent and inquired … So David sent messengers and took her … and he lay with her.” (11:1-4)  

Like a train wreck in slow motion, David then piles sin upon sin in an attempt to cover his guilt. Deception, murder, profound arrogance, and callous indifference to the suffering of others – David gave himself completely to his sinful desires.

What happened?

What went wrong? How could a man after God’s own heart fall so fast and so hard? How could he go from the pinnacle of success and blessing to making an absolute dumpster fire of his life and dragging so many others down with him?

  • A Change in the Routine – the text implies that David should have been with his army. Instead, for whatever reason, he wasn’t. As a result, his routine was changed, and he found himself with more free time on his hands with less structure and less accountability.
  • A Chance for His Heart – the external change in circumstances didn’t cause his failure, but simply provided context for his internal desires to act. Already in his heart, these desires now had the chance to fully express themselves. What desires were in David’s heart? The Bible doesn’t say specifically, but it’s likely that it was a toxic combination of arrogance (“I’m the man! I deserve better.”), discontentment (I’m not satisfied with what God has given me), and lethargy (I’m tired of the pressures of normal life and need pleasure).

Take Heed

Today, our quarantined hearts face an abrupt change of routine and more free time than usual. In this scenario, it’s likely you’ll face new or more intense temptations and opportunities to sin. Our enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8) and would love to use this time of self-isolation to gain and secure a foothold in our hearts. Where are you at risk?   

  • Lust
  • Laziness
  • Fear / anxiety
  • Lack of self-control
  • Anger / impatience
  • Unkindness
  • Selfishness
  • Gossip
  • Ungracious speech
  • Fill in the blank

None of us is beyond temptation or the ability to make shockingly foolish and sinful choices. In nearly every instance, major failures don’t happen all at once, but are the product of a slow fade comprised of subtle compromises. So let’s consider how we can remain faithful to God and guard our hearts while sheltering at home.

Practical Steps

One, look to Christ. When He is precious, sin’s allure diminishes. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” He is our help and it’s in his strength that we fight against temptation. So cry out to our great High Priest “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He is able to give us “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”(Heb. 4:15-16) Pray that he would “deliver [you] from evil.” (Matt. 6:13) If you’ve chosen sin, confess it and forsake it. There is mercy for the most significant sin. (Read David’s testimony in Psalm 32 & 51) John also provides a glorious reminder that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath from us] for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2) May his amazing love give you assurance in your guilt and motivation to hate sin and pursue righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Two, renew your mind. There is no substitute for regular, meaningful intake of God’s Word – reading, studying, meditating, memorizing – in our fight against sin and temptation. Battle the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Eph. 6:17) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16) that you may “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

Three, distrust your own heart. The Bible offers many clear warnings about the true nature of our hearts, including Jeremiah 17:9 which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” and 1 Corinthians 10:12 which instructs, “let anything who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The old Rich Mullins song rings true, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” Distrust the strength of your sinful desires, the craftiness of your enemy, and your ability to withstand in your own strength. Simultaneously, rejoice in the power of God who is faithful and “with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

Four, guard against idleness. If you have more time on your hands than normal, praise the Lord. Put it to good use. Read your Bible, pray, exercise, write letters of encouragement, do online training, knock out past-due projects, invest in the people in your home, reconnect with a friend at church or in your community, plant a garden, etc. Don’t settle for non-redemptive activity simply to pass the time. Avoid binge-watching the never ending stream of entertainment, doubling down on gaming, or mindlessly scrolling through more social media. Let’s guard against legalism, but take seriously God’s command to make “the best use of the time because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16)

Five, fight for community. Just because you can’t go to church, attend growth group, or have coffee meetings in person, doesn’t mean that you can’t do everything in your power to stay connected with your church family. Sin lies to you and will thrive in secrecy and isolation. Now, more than ever, we need to take seriously the command to “exhort one another every day … that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13) Pray for and with one another. Ask good and direct questions. Be honest about struggles and failings. Confess your sin to one another. Consider how you can spur one another to love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)

By the grace of God, let’s take steps during this global pandemic so that our “prone to wander” hearts don’t succumb to wickedness. Rather, for the glory of God, may we emerge stronger in faith, more fervent in love for God and neighbor, increasingly wise in how we spend our time, and more capable of identifying temptation and resisting sin.

Posted by Mark Severance with

Your Unbelieving Friend Just Heard the Gospel. Now What?

So you sent the Easter Sunday sermon link to your non-Christian friend, family member, or neighbor. They watched the singing, heard the Bible readings, and listened to the sermon. Now what?

The most effective evangelism and discipleship includes follow-up. In other words, we don’t grenade the gospel into people’s lives and then leave them alone to sort it all out. Christ actually calls us beyond evangelism into discipling. Discipling includes telling people the gospel, but also teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us (Matt. 28:19). To do this effectively, we must be willing to share our lives -- not just our links -- with people

So let’s say your friends and family just heard Sunday’s message about Jesus' resurrection. They heard several reasons why it’s true that Jesus is alive. They heard that they could be reconciled to God, have their sins forgiven, and escape death if they trust him. What do they need now? How can you follow up?

First of all, pray. If you’re not already, start praying for those people every day. God loves to show his power in response to our petitions. 

Second of all, enlist a few other people to pray with you. Tell some others from church about who you're praying for, and ask if they would pray with you. 

Third, reach out again soon. I don’t want to be too specific here, because every relationship is different and we don’t want to promote cookie-cutter techniques. But what if you shot them a text asking whether they agreed with the sermon? Or asked if they’d be willing to come to church with you next time the doors are open? What if you shared next Sunday’s sermon or sent them a gospel tract?

My family put together an Easter basket with candy, a note, Greg Gilbert’s book What is the Gospel?, and, of course, some toilet paper! Today I followed up and was encouraged to hear that the couple said they’d start reading the book together - pray for fruit! Whatever you do, don’t leave them hanging. Make follow-up contact.

Fourth, think strategically about how to create an ongoing discussion around Christ. The idea is that you don’t want this to be an Easter-only thing. Again, everyone must seek the Lord’s wisdom as to how this works in the relationships you have. It’s worth considering. Perhaps you offer to read through the gospel of Mark. Maybe you ask how you can pray for them, and then plan to follow up with them in a few weeks or months. Would they be willing to attend a Bible study? Think through ways that might elongate this conversation about Christ.

Fifth, rest in God’s sovereignty. He is accomplishing his purposes. Though we desire to do all we can for the sake of the elect (2 Tim. 2:10), we also rest in the promise that those who are his “will listen to his voice” (Jn. 10:16). Let’s be faithful to continue bringing the gospel into all our relationships, praying for God’s mighty hand to save.

Posted by Eric Durso with

Don't Waste Your Pandemic

John Piper published a book called Don’t Waste Your Life in 2003. Eight years later he published a short pamphlet after his bout with cancer: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. It’s a odd and provocative, isn’t it? It reframes our perspective, challenging us not to see cancer merely as a trial to get through but an opportunity to learn from. 

I wonder if it would be helpful for Christians to make a similarly odd statement these days: don’t waste your pandemic. It’s even more odd. But it’s helpful. Because wouldn’t it be awful if after all this, Christians learned nothing? 

I resonate with what Ray Ortlund recently said: “If we pastors and our churches get through this, only to return to ‘normal,’ with a sigh of relief but without repentance, without prayer, without courage, we will have wasted our historic moment. And then what more will the Lord have to do, to shake us awake?”

What do I need right now? Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself as a way to process how I might not waste this pandemic.

What is Dominating Your Mind?

First and foremost, I need my mind dominated by truth, not world news. Everything I read, watch, and listen to about the crisis in the world right now is unnerving. I am tempted to read it and meditate on it without filtering through the realities I see in Scripture. Unfiltered water can cause disease in the body; unfiltered news disease of the mind. World events need to be rightly filtered, interpreted, and processed. The truths of Scripture don’t remove problems, but they allow me to interpret them within God’s plan of redemption. That’s the framework I must fill my mind with: a sovereign God who is a heavenly father who is redeeming a broken creation through Jesus Christ for his glory. And in all this, if he cares for birds and flowers, he will certainly care for me, my family, and my church.

How Are You Guarding Your Heart?

Secondly, the truths in my mind need to be absorbed into my heart. In other words, God doesn’t merely want me to know the right things, but to feel the right things. His fatherly care is meant to produce rest and peace. His sympathetic ministry ought to cause me to feel understood, cared for, confident and assured. This means it’s critical that I continually rehearse truth to myself, not so much for rote memorization, but to feed my hungry heart. The first psalm encourages me to “meditate on the word day and night.” This is more than reading and memorizing -- it involves prolonged pondering. The shallow beds of trite cliches and pat answers are drying up; these are days we need to dig deep wells of truth for our souls. 

Are You Watching Your Information Intake?

Third, I will not be able to do this without being more careful about my information intake. Certainty feels like control. I am tempted to try and gain mastery over this situation by seeking to follow every last detail of every news story, and all the latest prognoses. While it’s good to be informed, I am also noticing that the firehose of (often conflicting) reports can drown my soul. Continually grasping for more knowledge about the crisis does not help me grab hold of the Lord; it seems to be a subtle form of self-reliance (the more I know, the more I can control). More than ever, the principle of “devotion before distraction” is relevant.

What are Your Learning About Yourself?

Someone said, “the plague searches us,” and I am finding this to be true. I am learning a lot about myself these days. What am I hoping in? What were my expectations for my life? Do I really trust God to do good for me and for the church? Can I trust that Christ will care for the church in this time (even as I feel unable to)? Do I engage in escapism (trying to ignore problems by tuning out in various ways)? 

And the regular questions I need to ask myself have been amplified: How do I lead my wife through this? My kids are cut off from the godly influence of the church, how am I discipling them? Is my leadership in the home life-giving or oppressive? Do I encourage or exasperate my kids? The stay-at-home order brings all these questions to the fore and we must deal with them.

The COVID-19 Classroom

I guess, in summary, what I’m realizing is that I have a lot to learn and the coronavirus crisis is the classroom in which God instructs me. And not just me -- God has enrolled the whole world in this course. What grace! He is not done with us! May this season of severe learning lead to another kind of outbreak - of robust truth, sacrificial love, holy zeal, fervent prayer, and all-in service. Let’s pray for a global awakening the church has never seen. 

As C.S. Lewis has said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures...but shouts in our pains.” Are we listening? Am I listening?

Posted by Eric Durso with