Recently, as time and weather would permit, I have been spending some time outside working on clearing out densely overgrown areas of my property. This was a welcomed break from being stuck inside (because of quarantine and rainy days), but it was also a very thought provoking spiritual reality. You see, these areas of the property were overrun with pervasive thorny weeds, twisted and excessively long vines, dead tree branches, etc.
As I have been spending time on this laborious task, I have been contemplating the effects of sin. Many times our thoughts of sin begin with thoughts of personal sin or of how sin has affected humanity. However, my work outside has led me to consider the effects of sin more broadly. If you recall from Romans 8:19-22, all of creation has been subjected to futility and is groaning under the bondage to sinful corruption. My time spent hacking through thorny weeds has been clear evidence of this.
This is neither how the creation began, nor how it will be in the future, but it is what we live in currently. This world is subject to thorns and thistles, weeds, sickness, disease, cancer, wars, famine, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, violence, etc. We could very easily lose heart due to this (especially given that we are in the throws of a viral outbreak of global proportions).
Keep this in mind: Our current public health crisis is simply further evidence of the effects of sin on God’s good creation. The creation is groaning, but it is groaning with the hope that it will someday be set free from this sin riddled bondage. In the same way, we also groan and our groaning is filled with hope. We, of all people, should be filled with hope! In the same larger passage (Romans 8:18-24) Paul says that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” and that “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This hope points us forward to the glorious future consummation, when Christ will return to judge the world, and set all things right according to His perfect eternal will.
Our hope is in Christ. This hope is not only future hope. It is also past and present hope. Our hope is in His perfect plan of redemption, established from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4, 1 Pt 1:20-21). Our hope is in His person and work. It is in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return that we hope. We have future hope that just in the same way He left, He will return (Acts 1:11). We have assurance that just as He was raised (as the firstfruits), we will be raised (1 Cor 15:19-20).
We, of all people, should have hope during this time and our hope in Christ should flow forth and be infectious (pun intended) to all of those that we have contact with. Even in trials this hope should be evident to our children, spouses, family, friends, and all of those who we text, email, talk to on the phone or over video, etc. While physical proximity may be limited, gospel hope is not. Our prayer is that we as a congregation would be driven by this hope to stir one another up to love and good works (Heb 10:24).
To sum this all up, we should not be conformed to this world because our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in One who has overcome the world. John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Meanwhile, we continue our battle against sin (as I will continue to battle against weeds) but rest assured, the battle has already been won, and we eagerly await, and groan for, the physical finality of this spiritual reality. Take heart my friends!“