By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
Our world came to a sudden halt in March 2020 in a fashion we have never experienced. Schools went virtual, sporting contests were canceled, people worked from home, restaurants went to parking lot pickup, and our churches were either shut down by state governments or recommended to do so as they were deemed inconsequential. Even for the churches that remained open, many of the worshippers decided to watch online or in the parking lots via FM transmitters to avoid the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
We were told the health crises would be solved after two months of life disruption, social distancing, and wearing masks. As the months passed, the “cases” persisted, but most churches decided to reopen. Vaccines, boosters, and boosters for boosters were widely distributed. However, a large portion of regular attendees were still opting out of in-person worship despite extreme sanitation methods and the recommendation of masks.
The virus through its variant strains is still present in our society to a degree. Most American churches have returned and opened for business as usual. Unfortunately, many of its members have not and are still resorting to watching services in the comfort of their own homes via streaming. The result is predictable – spiritual coldness.
The side effect of home worship and virtual attendance is a spiritual coldness because of a lack of spiritual connection with the physical church. Man left to his own devices in today’s world becomes disconnected spiritually and socially. The accountability from regular meetings with our church family is necessary for many of us. The excuse of contracting the virus inside the church is rebutted by these members frequenting Walmart, Lowe’s, and family social events. Still yet, they can justify the danger of church attendance with a straight face. This justification evidences a spiritual blindness and cold condition that must be remedied as many smaller churches are shutting down completely or shuttering mid-week and evening services.
The church needs its people, and the people need their churches. This article isn’t about the detrimental effects on the church. The pandemic has created a spiritual coldness within many of the baptized members of the church. We have allowed this spiritual distance to draw us away from our Redeemer. How can one recover from the backslidden condition of pandemic spiritual coldness?
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We Must Reconnect Spiritually
We had high hopes Covid-19 would be eradicated by all the safety precautions and of a return to our normally scheduled lives. A return to full “normalcy” has yet to happen after over two years for many occupants of our world. We have been disconnected for so long from our families and friends physically and from our churches spiritually.
We are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and “transformed by the renewal of [our mind]” as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2. It was by this spiritual discernment we are “not be conformed to this world.” He wrote to the church in 1 Corinthians 2:13, that we are instructed to give higher regard to the things “taught by the Spirit” over matters ascertained by “human wisdom.”
The Holy Spirit takes precedent. Believers throughout history have risked the threat of persecution and prosecution by meeting secretly in each other’s houses. Charles Spurgeon visited many homes during the cholera pandemic. They deemed spiritual worship and a physical connection to be worth the risk. We are a local body in need of each other. Colossians 3:16 tells us to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
The church needs each other. We need to see and hear the pastor preach the convicting Word of God, that lady in the choir singing “Power in the Blood,” and the prayer request from that widow with tears in her eyes for her lost children. We lose a valuable connection when we are not shoulder to shoulder to lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We Must Reconnect Physically
Returning to the church after an extended absence can sometimes feel as difficult as visiting a church for the first time. Satan will plant seeds of doubt, insecurities, and hesitancy in our minds by telling us that maybe “now just isn’t the right time.” Joy and happiness, however, are in the heart of a believer whenever he or she enters the church.
David in Psalm 122 wrote he “was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the hose of the Lord.” How did he find this gladness? Could he not sit alone contemplating the greatness of God and the many mercies in His life? Could he not sit at the dining room table and meditate upon the great lovingkindness and resulting restoration following his fleshly failures? Certainly, our spirit rejoices whenever we quietly consider the greatness of our God. But as we have proved in every area of our life, we are a social people and have an innate desire and need to fellowship with others.
David continued by noting other great aspects of the house of the Lord. He said, “peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.” The peace we find within the walls of our church is the same testimony of peace we offer through Christ to those around us. In verse 8, David wrote, “for my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, peace be within thee.”
We Must Stop Being Warmed by the World
Whenever we feel apart spiritually from our Savior, we have allowed ourselves to be drawn closer to the world. When we realize the distancing of our faith in Jesus, we must withdraw from the warmness of the flames of the world.
In Romans 12:2, Paul taught the church “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Many with the disease of spiritual coldness have found other activities during the normal hours of church worship since the waning months of the pandemic.
In John 13, Peter was told by Jesus that “the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” Then in John 18, we see the circumstances of each of the predicted denials. In verse 16, Peter denied being “one of this man’s disciples” as he entered through the door of the high priest’s palace. Notably, he then stood with the servants and officers and warmed himself with the fire of coal. While still warming himself because of the cold, in verse 25, Peter again denied being “one his disciples” as Annas sent Jesus bound unto the high priest. Immediately thereafter Peter even denied being with Jesus in the garden when asked by one of the high priest’s servants.
Even though warmed by a fire, spiritual coldness had set in as Peter came to the realization of the words of Jesus. There was a realized distance. Being satisfied with virtual church worship has the same result as being warmed by the fire of the world. Jesus is in the palace adjacent to your location, but we are staying outside in the cold. Peter risked association with Christ by the warmness of worldly identification.
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We Must Realize Physical Separation Fuels Spiritual Separation
David’s first act after being established on the throne of Israel was his request in 2 Samuel 15:25 for Zadock to “carry back the ark of God into the city: If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation.” David knew the importance of the ark and the presence of the Lord.
Yes, we can certainly have spirit-filled worship in our homes, cars, and workplaces. However, there is no substitute for the House of the Lord as a respite from the distractions of our daily lives.
We Must Pray for Restoration
In Psalm 27:9, David desperately pleaded with the Lord to “hide not thy face far from me.” He was experiencing a spiritual coldness and separation from the Lord because of disobedience and discretions. In Psalm 51, David prays for the Lord to “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” David did not lose his salvation or his redemption. He lost his fellowship and his communion with the Heavenly Father.
Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our “iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Earlier in the prayer, David acknowledged, “against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” Backsliding from regular worship, prayer, or Bible study is not a sin against the pastor or the local church. Our sin is against the holy God and our Redeemer.
For a believer, the loss of the joy of the Lord’s salvation is possibly as devastating as losing salvation because of the greatness he or she has already experienced. A rich man who lost his fortune is in much greater peril and anguish than a lifetime beggar who has never experienced worldly riches.
We Must Regularly Examine Our Ways
All believers have periods of spiritual famine or seasons of dryness in our walk with Christ. We would all like to put on the façade that we live at the foot of the cross continually. An honest audit of our spiritual state, however, will often reveal deficiencies in certain areas of our lives. Many who are feeling this spiritual coldness are not on the verge of backsliding but are actually under heated conviction of the Holy Spirit and in the need of salvation.
Lamentations 3:40, advises us to “examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” God guides His people through the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit. In 1 John 2:19, the apostle explained that a group of people from the church will be deceived by antichrists. These fake saviors are not the Antichrist, but servants of the devil planted to deceive. John wrote, “they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that were not all of us.” Thus, John explained that the Lord used these individuals to be witnesses of those among the church body who were never saved.
The exodus from the church during the pandemic is a troubling dynamic. Thus, it is imperative for each of us to examine our spiritual state regularly. Much spiritual concern should be given to those who do not view the church as essential for believers. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13:5 that we should examine ourselves “to see whether [we] are in the faith; test yourselves.”
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