BY TRACY BAUGH - SPENCER CALVARY CHAPEL — NEW LIFE
With the outbreak of COVID-19 causing an estimated 911,000 deaths worldwide as of Sept. 11 (according to Johns Hopkins University), we live in a time of uncertainty. For many people, their primary concern is safety — how they and their loved ones can be safe and protected from a virus that may cause death. In general, we hide behind sanitizers, masks, shields and even walls, isolating our families and ourselves. But should physical safety be our No. 1 priority?
The time in which we live isn't really a time of unprecedented worldwide pandemic, nor will it be the last virus to cause one. In 1347-51, the bubonic plague — the deadliest pandemic on record — caused an estimated 200 million deaths, killing 30% to 50% of Europe's population. Two hundred years later, the second deadliest pandemic in history occurred in the form of smallpox, which killed 56 million people. Four hundred years after that came the Spanish flu, the third deadliest pandemic, with a death toll of 40-50 million people. Since then we have had the Russian, the Asian and the Hong Kong flus, each responsible for the deaths of 1 million people. More recently we have had SARS (770 deaths), swine flu (200,000), MERS (850) and ebola (11,300). This brings us to COVID-19, which isn't even the most deadly modern-day worldwide virus, as the HIV/AIDS virus has been ongoing since 1981, killing an estimated 25-35 million.
As we rush for a vaccine against COVID-19, we continue to hide from it. Sadly many businesses have closed or have had to adapt their business models, allowing people to work from home, with customer and employee interactions done over the Internet. When an in-person transaction takes place, a Plexiglas divider usually separates us from each other for "protection," while slowly graduating to a cashless society — no exchange of currency. And we make all these adjustments to protect ourselves from a virus that we can't see, creating effects that we can see.
If we — either willingly or begrudgingly — make all of these changes to protect ourselves from this physical, although invisible, virus, then why do most people make no changes to protect themselves and their loved ones from another more dangerous type of worldwide virus that has a 100% infection and death rate? It too is unseen to the naked eye … but its effect is greatly seen.
What is this worldwide virus that I speak of? Sin. What is sin? Well, let me give you a history of this virus.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The "heavens" included all the galaxies and solar systems, with their stars, planets and moons. The "earth" included not only this planet, but all the life-forms on it and within its atmosphere, right down to the smallest electron of an atom. God fashioned each and every aspect specifically for his crowning accomplishment of creation: mankind.
The first human couple, Adam and Eve, were able to not only enjoy God's creation, but also the physical presence of God — there was nothing that separated God from dwelling among his creation. Yes, God designed every detail of his creation, mankind included, perfectly and without sin, allowing him to state at its conclusion that "it was very good indeed." Then he did what we see him doing throughout the Bible: He gave man choice.
Without choice you have "robots," but you cannot have love. Jesus, God incarnate, said, "If you love me, keep my commandments. He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me" (John 14:15, 21). God put man's love for him to the test by giving Adam a command to keep: "Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will die." By reading the first three chapters of the Bible, you know the outcome of man's choice. But even if you don't read them, you should easily come to the same conclusion simply by observing our world today.
In due course, Satan enters the garden. This celestial being created by God, declared to be "the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty," but whose own pride corrupted him causing him to sin and rebel against the very God who created him. Following his choice to sin, Satan, who desired to see all of God's creation corrupted through sin too, tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God. Sadly, he succeeded. And because mankind disobeyed God's command, sin entered into their perfectly-created environment.
Sin, in its essence, is disobedience to God and sin transfers from father to child, much like any other genetic trait or marker. Therefore, ever since Adam and Eve, all of their offspring have been infected by this virus. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men" (Romans 5:12).
"But Adam and Eve didn't suffer immediate death," you may say. To which I ask, "Didn't they? What is death, but separation?" The "real" person is a spiritual soul contained within a physical body until that body expires. Death separates the two parts, body from soul, but the soul part doesn't physically "die" — it continues to live forever separated from the body, either in the presence or in the absence of God. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve — and then the rest of mankind in general — continued to "live" in their mortal bodies, although separated from God. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). That is true death: a life separated from God.
Currently we have no vaccine to keep us from sin, "for all have sinned" (Romans 3:23), but we do have an antidote. God incarnate was born into this world and given the name of Jesus, meaning "Savior," "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Since Jesus had no earthly father, he had no inherent sin passed down to him, allowing him to live a sinless life in complete obedience to God, his true Father. If anyone deserved to live forever, it was Jesus; but instead he was delivered into the hands of sinful men who crucified him. They did not understand then what we can know now: that a sinless Jesus died in the place of sinful mankind — the Sinless for the sinners, the uninfected for the infected. The blood of God incarnate was poured out and the antidote has forever since been made available to all mankind. Jesus is the cure for sin.
So how do we obtain this cure for sin? By faith! But first you must believe that God exists and that he will reward those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6), with the reward being eternal life. Then you have to place your faith in Jesus, that he is God's Son, the Christ and our Savior. God signified that Jesus was indeed his Son when he raised him from the dead (Romans 1:2). Finally, you need to acknowledge your sin — that you yourself have sinned against God. You must confess (admit) to God that you are a sinner, and ask God for his forgiveness. "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved," (Romans 10:9-10, 13). "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Although COVID-19 might appear to be causing the deaths of many people, sin is the actual cause of deaths of all people. Our primary concern shouldn't be for safety, but for salvation: to be saved. Neither masks, shields nor isolation will save us — we need to be sanitized by faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. And although God freely offers the gift of eternal life to anyone who places their faith in Jesus, we must remember also his gift of choice — we get to choose to believe that Jesus is God's Son and that the Son can set you free from the virus of sin that leads to death — eternal separation from God. For "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation," (Hebrews 2:3). Make salvation a priority and in the end you will be safe.