The Gift of “Canceled” | July 28th, 2020
“It’s been canceled.”
I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard that since the middle of March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The first time was the hardest for me to hear. It was the cancellation of all of my exercise classes at the senior living place where I had taught for over five years. I dearly loved the residents there and always looked forward to encouraging them to boost their energy and improve their health as they moved from their chairs with enthusiasm to the upbeat music of their era.
Since that time, everything on my schedule has been canceled. Events, conferences, shows, reservations, church, plane tickets, vacations, you name it. For my friends and their kids, it’s been school, summer camp, graduation, concerts, sporting events, birthday parties, weddings, and even funerals. All canceled.
For many, the pandemic has also canceled jobs, good health, and an active social life. People are now isolated, lonely, depressed, and anxious while trying to keep it together in the midst of being forced to stay socially distant. It feels like a much more unfriendly world now as even a reassuring smile from a stranger is covered up with a mask.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Problem of Pain:
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
We realize we need Him more than ever now!
As most people would agree, we are living in very challenging times. Never has our country (entire world) shut down like this. It could become pretty depressing if we dwell on the negative side of “canceled” for too long. So I began to wonder if anything good could come from it…
God Has Our Attention
A study by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that over 60% of American believers of all faiths feel this pandemic is a sign that God is telling humanity to change how it is living.
According to research from American Bible Society and Barna Group, more Americans said they were exploring the Bible for the first time in June 2020 than they did in January of this year. However, we have a long way to go. Their study showed that as of January 2020, only 9% of adults are Bible-centered versus 46% who are Bible-disengaged.
Before COVID-19, just a few months ago, we were all so busy. Our calendars were filled to overflowing with things we had to do – from working late hours to running a long list of errands, taking kids to school, meeting up with friends, shopping, attending events…it was non-stop.
And then it came to an abrupt halt. All of it. Not just for a day or two, but for weeks on end. After four months, it still isn’t what it used to be with so many of the places we frequented now closed, some never to open again. Seems pretty obvious God is trying to get our attention.
God’s jealousy is stirred when we give to another something that rightly belongs to Him. He longs to keep us near to Him. As His follower, He expects our complete devotion, not a lukewarm commitment. We have been giving our all to everything but Him. These other things that took up our time have become our idols as we shut God out to make room for everything else to take priority in our lives.
Our worship belongs to God alone. It does not belong to a sports team or a rock star. It does not belong to the movie theater, television, or the internet. It does not belong to our lofty career goals and obsession with self so we can hoard more wealth. It does not belong to indulging in worldly, sinful pleasures to feed our insatiable lusts. It does not belong to continually planning the next pleasurable vacation destination to escape from reality. It does not belong to spending hundreds of dollars on rich food and imported wine to celebrate the weekend, drowning any thought of Him glass by glass as we slowly numb our minds. We have pushed Him so far away. It’s no wonder He is trying to get our attention!
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” Deuteronomy 5:8-9a
The coronavirus, like any disease, is the result of living in a sinful, fallen world. God certainly could have stopped it as He is completely sovereign (in control) but He didn’t. He needed to get our attention. Our time on earth is very short and it’s getting shorter with every passing day. Those who died from the virus would have never guessed they would be taking their last breath in 2020. God wants everyone to be ready to face eternity whenever it may be that they take their final breath. Through everything being canceled, I can see God’s gracious gift to us in this.
Paid in Full
Not one of us is without sin. It separates us from our perfect Creator. Although you might think you are a good person, no one can ever be good enough on their own to be able to spend eternity with God who is Holy.
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; Romans 3:10
We need God’s forgiveness to purify us so we can be in His presence. In order for us to have an eternal future with Him, He had to pay the price with His own life for our sin so we could be made righteous. Jesus willfully went to the cross and died an excruciating, painful death for us in our place. That’s how much He loves us and wants us to be with Him forever!
Sin’s unavoidable cost is separation from God. It is a debt that had to be paid so we would not have to be separated from Him. When Jesus died for us, our debt was canceled! It had been paid in full.
This free gift of salvation is offered to everyone, but not every person will be in heaven. Why? Because not everyone will accept this gift. Many people are too proud to receive it. They will not admit they are in need of a Savior. They want to get there by their own means on their own merit.
Salvation is not something you can ever work to attain. The last word Jesus said during His final moments as He was hanging on the cross was “Tetelestai.” This Greek word translates to “It is finished.”
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
During biblical times, the word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts to indicate that a bill had been paid in full.
When Jesus died, our need to prove ourselves died with Him. What freedom we have knowing there is nothing we can do or need to do to receive this incredible gift!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
The ABC’s of Salvation
Receiving the free gift of eternal life can be explained as simply as ABC:
The A is for ADMIT. You must admit that you are a sinner and repent of your sin. I have had people tell me they have never sinned so refuse to repent because they don’t think there is anything they’ve done that needs to be forgiven. Their pride keeps them from salvation. Being able to humble yourself and admit you are a sinner is vital to accepting the gift of eternal life.
Romans 3:23 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
We all have sinned by living our way instead of God’s way, so every one of us needs a Savior. He offers the free gift of eternal life so you will not be punished and separated from Him for all eternity.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
“Wages” refers to a payment. If you are hired to do a job for someone, you receive a wage or payment for the work you’ve done. The wage we receive for our sin is death.
“Death” is speaking of spiritual death which is eternal separation from God in hell. Since we have all sinned, this sounds pretty hopeless for us until we read the rest of the verse. Through putting our faith in Jesus Christ, we are given the free gift of eternal life in heaven!
The B is for BELIEVE. If you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you WILL be saved.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10
It’s a popular, well-accepted idea in our world today that there are multiple paths to God. This is a lie straight from Satan himself who would love for you to believe it to keep you from receiving the gift of eternal life found in Christ alone.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Salvation is only available through faith in Jesus Christ who died for your sins and was raised from the dead three days later. There is no other name under heaven that will save you. Not Buddha, not Muhammed, not Brahman…no other name but JESUS. All others fall short. Jesus’ death was the only death with the power to free us from the debt we owe and redeem us from eternal condemnation.
“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
The C is for CALL. If you call upon the name of the Lord, you will be saved as written in Romans 10:13:
For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
When you call upon the name of Jesus, you will be given eternal life through His power. Your sin will be pardoned, your heart purified, and your debt completely canceled.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
We can now have a whole new perspective on the word canceled. Because of having so many things canceled in our lives that took our eyes off of God, He has our attention. It’s a true gift as we will be facing eternity sooner than we think.
“Canceled” also means our debt of sin has been paid in full. Another incredible gift!
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28
Jesus loves you so much and died for you so He could have a personal relationship with you. The most important decision you could ever make is to ask Him to be your Savior before it’s too late. Time is short and Jesus is coming again soon to take us Home with Him. Are you ready?
Sparkler #1: Prayer
If you have not ever done so, ask Jesus to be your Savior. Don’t wait another day – a day that may never come. Admit you are a sinner, believe in your heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead, and call on His name. You will be saved and given the free gift of eternal life!
Sparkler #2: Action
Give your complete devotion to God. Spend quality time with Him and be a Bible-centered follower!
Sparkler #3: Challenge
Make time to share Jesus with others and tell them about the free gift He offers of eternal life. Perhaps it will be the very first time they’ve ever heard the Good News!
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