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The other night Public Television was broadcasting “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” I had never seen it (of course I was sooooo young when it first came out). I don’t really recommend it, but I guess I watched the last part of it out of theological curiosity more than anything else. Liz and I were both moved by the crucifixion scene. And we sat there waiting for the resurrection…but all that came were the credits. It ended with the death of Christ – that’s all folks!
Jesus with no Easter? Christ’s life with no resurrection? I’m sorry, Mr. Andrew Lloyd Webber, that’s not all folks. Jesus Christ has destroyed death by his resurrection.
The movie industry has made some pretty creative attempts at explaining conflict with god. For those of you that remember the movie “Caddyshack,” there is a scene toward the end of the movie in which a golfing enthusiast priest is playing the round of his life. As he makes his way around the links, the weather turns.
The movie depicts the scene as a battle between this priest in search of nirvana through a golf game and a insensitive and spiteful god that would thwart the priest’s quest for that perfect game. The scene ends with the priest defiantly raising his putter to the violent heavens and being struck down by a well-placed bolt of lighting.
I’m sure many of you have seen the movie “Forrest Gump.” Well, there is a scene in this movie about man’s conflict with god as well. In this movie, the character “Lt. Dan,” who lost both of his legs in a battle in a Vietnamese jungle, and was saved by none other than Forrest Gump, decides its time to have it out with god.
Forrest, by this time, is trying to make it on his own as a shrimp boat captain. Lt. Dan joins Forrest as his first mate. The two men manage only to salvage tires, license plates, and toilet seats from the ocean’s bottom. After several failed attempts, Lt. Dan asks Forrest, “Where’s this god of yours?”
As soon as Lt. Dan asked the question, god arrived in the form of a destructive hurricane. As the storm rages, we find Lt. Dan strapped to the top of the mast, next to an American flag, shaking his fist at god, daring god to try to destroy the boat, and cursing like a sailor. When the storm subsides, Lt. Dan and Forrest’s boat was the only one still afloat. Since no one else could harvest the shrimp, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company became a multi-million dollar industry. A few minutes later in the movie we find Lt. Dan at peace with the world. He had met god face to face, so the filmmaker would have us believe, and won.
Let me share with you one last example, one that I saw recently. The scene is found in the season finale of the popular television show “The West Wing.” President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, faces his major conflict with god.
The scene finds President Bartlett alone in the National Cathedral following the funeral of his secretary and long-time friend. The President orders his chief of staff to tell the Secret Service agents outside to secure the perimeter so he won’t be disturbed. After a moment or two of silence, Bartlett does battle with god.
Bartlett begins to curse god for, as he saw it, causing his friend to die in a car accident. He curses god and blames him for the other tragedies that have occurred up to this point, during his presidency. He defiantly lights a cigarette, takes a few puffs, and then tosses the cigarette to the floor, crushing it under his shoe as he gives god a dirty look.
The producers of the show set the scene the way they did in order to try to get the audience to feel sorry for Sheen’s character and respect his independence and defiance of god. It certainly didn’t work for me. In fact, I was so offended by the scene; I doubt I’ll watch the show again.
In all likelihood, and I think I’m on safe ground with this assumption, the producers of the shows I just described have spent little time studying James’ letter. From what we see often times in the media, conflict with god is portrayed as something god desires and causes.
More often than not, we find man as the hero in the conflict and god being the weak, unknowable force. In the media, when man comes to terms with god, it is more often than not due to man’s strength and god’s capitulation, not as a result of man’s submission to God’s will. Hollywood does not see conflict with God the same way James does, or the way we should.
If you go on-line and read the transcript of this portion of this morning’s message, you will see that when I describe these various scenes, I use a little “g” when I make mention of God. The reason is simple. In depicting man’s conflict with God, Hollywood shows quite brazenly that they have no idea who the God of the Bible is.
This morning, as we study God’s Word, we’re going to see what conflict with God looks like from God’s perspective, not man’s.
In the article "The American Witness" in the Nov/Dec 1997 issue of The Barna Report, George Barna examined 131 different measures of attitudes, behaviors, values, and beliefs. In that study he concluded that in the aspects of lifestyle where Christians can have their greatest impact on the lives of non-Christians there is no visible difference between the two segments. For example, Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to have been divorced, bought a lottery ticket, watch MTV or have subscribed to cable television. Christians are also just as likely to watch PG-13, R, and even X rated movies as non-Christians.
My wife and I recently saw a television show on The History Channel titled, “The Man Who Predicted 911.” We were both moved by this hour presentation and its focus on one man by the name of Rick Rescorla. Long before September 11th, Rick Rescorla, the 62-year-old head of security at the Morgan Stanley Bank, developed an evacuation plan for the bank. The bank’s offices were situated high up in the South Tower at the World Trade Center. Rescorla was convinced that Osama Bin Laden would use jet planes to try and destroy the World Trade Center. The plan and its preparation were hugely unpopular with the Morgan Stanley staff, many of whom thought Rescorla was mad.
On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 hit World Trade Center Tower 1 at 8:46 am. Rick Rescorla ignored building officials’ advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,800 employees on 20 floors of World Trade Center Tower 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5. Rescorla reminded everyone to "be proud to be an American ... everyone will be talking about you tomorrow", and sang God Bless America and other songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building. Rescorla had most of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 employees as well as people working on other floors of WTC 2 safely out of the buildings by the time United Airlines Flight 175 hit WTC 2 at 9:07 a.m.
After having reached safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains were not recovered. As a result of Rescorla’s actions, only 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 WTC employees were killed on September 11th, 2001, including Rick and three of his deputies who followed him back into the building.
The remainder of this very moving broadcast focused on Morgan Stanley Bank employees who now in tears were praising and acknowledging Rick Rescorla for saving their lives from total destruction that day. Many felt so guilty and apologetic they had thought Rick foolish to keep preaching and standing for what he believed would happen if they were not ready. Those interviewed said they would never forget Rick Rescorla. He was their hero.
Mr. Rescorla left behind a widow, Susan Rescorla, and two children that day. Since 911, a memorial stone was erected in Rick’s hometown of Hayle, Cornwall, to commemorate his life and the sacrifice he made to save others.
James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” As sinners saved by grace, we must have a “Rick Rescorla Attitude.” He was convinced people entrusted to his care would perish if his plan of escape were ignored. Rick Rescorla stayed the course even when unpopular and ridiculed because he believed what he was doing would save lives.
Sadly, many Christians today have a “Cain Attitude” when it comes to rescuing the perishing and having a consistent witness. Unlike Rick Rescorla, they say by their actions: “I am not my brother’s keeper.” How this must grieve the heart of Almighty God who has left us here as His Beloved Children to sh...
THE DEVIL’S VISION
The devil once said, to his demons below, our work is progressing entirely to slow; The holiness people stand in our way, since they don’t believe in the show or the play; they teach that the carnival, circus and dance, the tavern and honky tonk, with games of chance, drinking and smoking, these things are wrong; that Christians don’t mix with this ungodly throng. They’re quick to condemn everything that we do; to cause unbeliever’s to be not a few. They claim that these things are all of the Devil, that Christian folk should live on a higher level. Now, fellows, their theology, while perfectly true, is blocking the work we are trying to do. We’ll have to get busy and figure a plan, that will change their standards as fast as we can. Now, I have a vision of what we can do; Hearken-- I’ll tell this deception to you. Then find me a wise but degenerate man, whom I can use to help out this plan.
There’s nothing as real as what you can see; the eyes and the mind and the heart will agree. So, what can be better than an object to view? I say, it will work and convince not a few. The home is the place for this sinful device; The people deceived will think it’s quite nice. The world will possess it; most Christians won’t tell that it’s all of the devil, and was plotted in hell.
We’ll soothe them with pictures of the latest of news, and while they are looking, then will advertise booze. At the soul damming cigarette they’ll also look, until they forget what God say’s in his book. At first it will shock them, they’ll seem in a daze, but soon they’ll be hardened and continue to gaze. We’ll give them some gospel that isn’t too strong; and a few sacred songs to string them along. They’ll take in the ad’s with the latest of fashion and soon watch shows that stir evil passions. Murder and love-making scenes the will behold, until there souls become bitterly cold. The “old family altar” which once held such charm, will soon lose its place without much alarm. Praying in secret, will also be lost as they look at the screen without counting the cost. The compromising preacher’s who won’t take their stand, will embrace the new vision and think it is grand. They’ll help fool the people and cause them to sin by seeking this evil and taking it in.
The influence is great, and this you can see; Just look at my fall and you will agree. It won’t take long my demon’s to tell, that the vision of Satan will populate Hell. Divorce will increase, sex-crimes will abound; much innocent blood will be spilled on the ground. I say, the home will be damned and this in short order. When this vision of mine comes in to stay.
Get busy my cohorts, and put this thing out; we’ll see if the church can continue to shout. The holiness people who stand in our way, will soon hush their crying against the show and the play. We’ll cover the earth with this “Devil vision” though we will camouflage it with the name “Television.” The people will think they are getting a treat, till the Antichrist comes to take over his seat, He’ll then rule the world, while the viewer’s behold; The face of the beast, to whom they were sold. We’ll win through deception, this we cannot fail. Though some holiness preacher’s against it will rail.
I don’t know how I feel about the Christmas Lexus commercials. Have you seen them? In a series of vignettes, a key to a new Lexus is given to a very surprised and very pleased wife or husband. IN one instance, the husband has the family dog take the ribbon holding the keys to his wife. In another, the husband and wife are decorating the tree, with the man handing his wife the ornaments who then hangs them on the tree. After handing her ornament after ornament, he hands her keys to a new Lexus. I don’t know how I feel about these commercials. To be honest, I love the expressions of delight and glee and surprise on the faces of the women. But part of me says, “Isn’t there something more to the Christmas spirit than tens of thousands of dollars of automobile?
I would much rather see the look of surprise on the face of a gangly adolescent opening a gift from our church through the Christmas angel project. It seems to me that something more of value in that than another expensive gift to another home that already has way more than they need. It seems to me that that is somehow closer to what Christmas is all about.
We need a better sense that we are temporary.
Between ’88 and ’97, Hollywood produced 17 times more R-rated films than G-rated, but the G-rated films generated 8 times more gross earnings and a 78% greater rate of Return on Investment, according to the Dove foundation. The average G-rated film earned $94 million in gross revenues compared to $24 million for PG-rated and $11million for R-rated films. Film critic Michael Medved, says, “They care more about Oscar gold than the Ft. Knox variety.” (Christianity Today 4/5/99)
James O. Davis
What someone has called the pleasure explosion has overtaken us so that in the United States alone the pleasure business has been growing at an average rate of 6 billion dollars a year since 1965. Thrills and chills are available on demand. Popular amusement parks offer themes and thrills of all sorts, including spectacular shows and breathtaking rides. And, there are the video games which rival TV itself, one of the most pervasive sources of amusement. One estimate is that 5 billion or more is spent in a single year on video games and that during a single year people play them for the equivalent of 75 thousand manned years. Over and above that something like an additional one billion dollars is spent annually on games that can be plugged in and played on television sets and computers in our homes.
There can be little doubt that we have become a generation addicted to pleasure, that this is a generation addicted to pleasure more than to the things of God. The United States probably has the greatest percentage of people going to church on a more or less regular basis. The spending habits of the American public make it quite evident that token attendance to religious duties is in no way allowed to interfere with most people’s pleasures.
One survey taken some years ago, that is still relatively valid today, showed that in one year Americans spent 16 billion dollars for amusements, 10.5 billion for alcohol, 5 bil...
One of my favorite cartoon strips is “Frank and Earnest.” Frank is in the courtroom standing before the judge who says to him, “It’s ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ You can’t plead ‘I gotta be me.’” The cartoon is humorous because it touches a reality in our culture which places the need for self-expression above the need for morality, integrity and honor. I often think about the fact that Jesus warned his followers to beware of the “wicked and adulterous generation” in which they lived. And then I wonder what he would call our generation which has long passed the simple immorality of his day into acts of violence, sexual addictions and perversions that had never been thought of then, and around which we have built many of television programs and movies. And yet, we have an aversion to calling anything sin these days.
There used to be a show on cable television called, "Tales from the Darkside." The title sounds a little more sinister than the series really was, because I’m not one to watch scary movies and such. It was more like the old show, "The Twilight Zone." In one episode, there was an old man who lived with his son and their family, and he loved living there. Early in the episode, the man had a heart attack and died. But he enjoyed being with his family so much, he wouldn’t admit it. He went on living there until he began to decay and decompose. You can imagine what the smell must have been like for the family! [Well, folks, that is what happens to us when we refuse to die to sin. We STINK to God!] OR [You might not want to admit the truth in your life, but sooner or later, the truth will be revealed.]