Without a doubt you have all heard the phrase, “the new normal.” This has been used in regards to school, to work, to dining, to dealing with relatives, even to how we do church.
What is the “new normal?” I have been pondering that a lot lately. In some respects I guess that depends on who you talk to, and where you live.
I don’t know about you, but I am glad I am living in Utah, because of all the states I am aware of, the leaders of this state appear to be handling the pandemic with more reason and sanity than the leaders of most of the other states, and clearly far better than the “insane” leaders of a few states.
For example, in California Governor Newsom has decreed that protest groups can get together in large numbers and sing or chant without masks or social distancing restrictions, but people cannot get together for worship. In fact they cannot even get together in private homes with friends for Bible study or prayer. To do so is now illegal in most California counties.
In California, churches are allowed to be open to feed people, to give out supplies, to care for unsupervised children, but no one in the building can gather for worship, even if they are more spread out in their worship than they are for the other “approved” activities.
Is this the new normal for churches?
In many states school is resuming. In some of those states it is only through online learning. In other states it is with limited class sizes, and students will rotate as to who can come to school that week or month. In other states school has resumed in a somewhat traditional fashion, although health precautions are obviously being observed.
Is this the new normal for school?
There is much for all of us to deal with these days, and I don’t think anyone is certain what “normal” will look like in the future.
On the other hand, even in the midst of this pandemic, have you ever considered what “normal” is supposed to look like — for the Christian?
In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when He said you must deny yourself?
When Adam and Eve fell into sin they corrupted the entire following human race. You see, we don’t become sinful when we sin, we — all humans — sin because we are born with a sinful nature.
But when you choose to repent of your sin and turn to Christ in faith you are forgiven of your sin, and at that time are given the gift of eternal life. At that time you become a new creation; or if you will, you become a “renewed creation.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17 God says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
One of the new things is your nature. You have been born again, and that means you have been recreated in righteousness and holiness. In other words, you can now act like a true child of God, making choices that honor God because they are holy and righteous choices that Jesus would make.
But, even if you are born again you still have the old nature to deal with (this side of heaven), and you will often be tempted to make decisions that are not godly. When Jesus says that you must “deny yourself” what He is saying is that you must deny your old nature, whatever it might tempt you to do or think, and that you must say yes to your new nature, that which is being led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Many Christians may not have thought about it before, but there actually is a “normal” for Christians. What is that normal? It is to think, speak, and act as the Lord would have you think, speak, and act.
Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me Lord, but don’t do what I say?” This obedience Jesus is pointing to is not an occasional request, but a 24/7 leading by the Holy Spirit that the Lord calls you to follow.
In Galatians 5:25 God says if you live by the Holy Spirit you should also walk by the Spirit. Everyone who is born again has been born again by the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore everyone who is born again should take each step in life by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit that is what it is to be “normal” for the Christian.
Normal is not to be defined by the world. The world says that “normal is what everyone else is and you are not.” That is not true. The unsaved are not normal. They live in a state that perverts what God has created. It is only when you give your life to Christ in repentance and faith that you can be truly “normal,” and that requires the continual leading and help of the Holy Spirit.
From the Bible’s perspective, there is no “new normal.” There is the normal that God intends for you when you strive to be like Jesus each and every day; a task, that as Jesus says in John 15:5, you cannot do without Him.
Choose Christ; choose to be normal.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.