‘Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:3).
Jude, I couldn’t possibly have worded it better myself!
Along with many Christians, I have been using this period of lockdown to lean into my faith, to review my personal relationship with God, and, in this unprecedented time of global disruption, I’ve been seeking a deeper meaning to how I’m to spend seemingly endless days inside the same four walls (and praise God, a garden!). But recently in the quiet stillness of morning prayer with my cup of coffee, an overwhelming sense of humility and guilt washed over me – I’d been so (almost narcissistically) focused on what God might be speaking to me, that I was blind-sighted as to how He might speak through me.
The reports that one in four people are tuning into online services, together with Google reporting a ‘skyrocketing surge’ in searches including the word ‘prayer’, had me (as I’m sure it did you) excited that the pandemic was leading the lost to Christ.
And yet, if I’m honest, my social media newsfeeds have been telling an altogether different story. They are awash with New Age quotes and imagery, and my heart breaks for those desperately and blindly seeking hope in the current climate. ‘New Age’ describes a cherrypicked set of beliefs from a range of religions and cultures that aim to help the ‘believer’ find inner peace, happiness and, ultimately, control of their destiny. A New Age believer may also adapt many Christian practices as part of this, including meditation and prayer. But often prayer in this sense is to an ‘unknown god’ or even to creation – the universe, energy, or even self, are all common idols.
Let us not be so complacent in our own salvation that we naively confine ourselves to a comfortable bubble of passivism to such practices. We are called to make disciples of all nations. Does this mean inwardly delighting in tabloid reports of a praying nation whilst outwardly turning a blind eye to those crying out for true discipleship under our very noses (or newsfeeds)?
Convicted that I should be declaring Jesus’ love more boldly, I also sensed a real air of urgency. Very soon lockdown in the U.K. will be lifted; reported COVID-19 deaths will cease and the world will go back to some degree of normality. My concern is that the openness and hope that many are truly experiencing in the spiritual realm will soon be forgotten or seem superfluous when overshadowed by the pressing demands of the day-to-day physical realm.
Friends, the time is now! Those desperately praying to their unknown gods and seeking validation in a turbulent world need to know that there is hope! Not just hope under pressure or during a pandemic, but real, lasting, eternal hope that has been assured through the blood of Christ. If we don’t act to reach out to those people now, sooner or later I believe that the opportunity afforded to us in this time of global crisis will be lost forever.
And so, what does this look like? How do we disciple those who have no concept of discipleship nor desire to be discipled?
Well, Jude reminds us very clearly: We persevere.
How? By ‘…building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt.’ (Jude 1:20-22).
We are called to simply reflect Christ back into the world. God is love (1 John 4:8). And love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude… (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
And so when our friends and ‘followers’ are on the other side of our smartphone screens, putting their faith in deceptive idols, let us not be scoffers or, worse still, eye-rollers, instinctively reaching for the ‘block’ or ‘unfriend’ button. Rather let us act (proactively) in love.
Put on the armour of God and open up conversations. Don’t belittle the spiritual experiences of others but listen with a warm heart. Share your own experiences and, where appropriate, refer back to Scripture, the true bedrock that separates Jesus-followers from the worldly New Age deception.
It’s important to remind ourselves that in the garden of Eden the serpent didn’t convince Eve to murder, cheat or steal; he simply convinced her to doubt the word of God (Genesis 3). The enemy is subtle is his attacks and convincing in his lies. It is our duty to remain alert, on fire for the gospel and to redirect all desperately searching eyes to the only one who offers true hope and salvation.
Because what we know for certain is that though ‘The grass withers, and the flower fall, [but] the word of the Lord remains forever’(Isaiah 40:8).
Rachel is a member of Pinner Baptist Church and has a calling for helping and encouraging others, especially those who feel lost or lack hope. She helps to run the Alpha Youth project at PBC as she seeks to develop her gifts in communication and building community. Rachel lives in Pinner with Husband, Joseph, and their Welsh Terrier puppy, Olive. As well as acting as Trustee for grassroots charity, Freedom from Poverty, she owns a legal consultancy, runs an online Wellness Hub and has a love of all things creative.