UNDERSTANDING THE SUPERNATURAL
November 27, 2005
Chris Brady/Nelson Searcy
Today we are launching our Christmas in Narnia series. Fantasy…the supernatural…there is something about supernatural stories that I love. In fact at any given time you will find a fantasy book in my bag. I don’t think I am alone. You may not be as fanatical about them as I am but stories of the supernatural and of the fantasy realm are extremely popular to us. Just look at Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter and The Matrix.
I think that we love fantasy so much because we yearn for something more than this natural world around us and a fantasy story allows us to suspend our disbelief and believe in the supernatural if only for a little while. There something about a story, any good story that awakens our desire for something more than our natural world.
During this series we are going to explore the world of Narnia which is the magical world of the Chronicles of Narnia series. The most famous being “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” During the next four weeks we are going to dive into this series which was written by CS Lewis whose real name is Clive Staples Lewis but he disliked the name Clive so he liked to be called Jack.
CS Lewis was born in 1898 in Ireland, he fought in WWI, became an Oxford professor and is one of our times most prolific writers. He completed THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, the first of a series of books set in Narnia in 1948. He went on to write 6 more books in the series. The Chronicles of Narnia books have sold a combined 85 million copies in more than 40 languages. And there is a soon to be released big budget Hollywood movie coming out.
During this series we are going to discover in depth how the lion, the witch and the wardrobe continue to speak to us but today I am going to give an overview, using Narnia, on how the supernatural is real and is all around us.
Now this message today contains spoilers if you have not read the story. But discovering the reality of the supernatural by using the parallels in Narnia is worth it.
Before we begin its important to note that CS Lewis never meant the The Chronicles of Narnia to be a biblical allegory. He referred to it as is a supposal; an exploration of “What if?” Therefore there are not 1 to 1 comparisons between this story and the biblical story. But there is quite a bit of symbolism which is what we are going to explore.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is about four children who find their way through a secret portal in the back of a wardrobe that leads into the magical land of Narnia. While they are they there they discover a supernatural world of talking animals, endless winter, a White Witch, a powerful Lion named Aslan, and they find themselves as main characters in a story of redemption, sacrifice and good versus evil. It’s a great classic story! But if we look deeper it can help us reveal the real life story of redemption, sacrifice and good versus evil that we are a part of right here and right now.
In order to get the most out of this series we must first understand the supernatural world all around us. We understand the natural world. We interact with it every day. This morning we climbed out of our natural bed, we brushed our natural teeth, well I hope you all did, we put on natural clothes, and we came to this natural building and met our natural friends and felt natural emotions. I am standing on a natural stage, speaking on a natural microphone which uses natural electricity to amplify my natural voice so you all can hear what I am saying.
We might not know how everything in the natural world works but we understand it because we live in it.
But we also live in a supernatural world
“The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural - same seed, same body….” -1 Corinthians 15:44
There is both a natural and a supernatural existing together. The difference is that we have to search for and allow in the supernatural into our lives. First we have to know what to look for.
How many of you recognize this kind of artwork:
[Slide of stereogram]
This is a stereogram. They were very popular way back in the 90’s, you could find them in every shopping mall and it was even featured on Seinfeld. When you look at this, what do you see? Do you see only 2D patterns like I do or is there something else there. If you are good at these things you will see the 3d “hidden picture”. It may take a little work but many of you would see the hidden picture if you had enough time. But there are also many of us, like myself, that no matter how hard we try we cannot see anything in this picture but the 2D patterns and colors.
Just like this stereogram our world is made of what we can easily see and what we must work to discover. And then we have to believe that the supernatural exists.
If we stop and think about it the only separation between the natural and supernatural is our lack of belief. Our lack of belief. We all can accept a supernatural fantasy story because we know it’s only a story. Why is it so difficult to suspend our disbelief in the natural world to discover the supernatural? CS Lewis uses the term “Watchful dragons” to describe our skepticism of the supernatural. As if we had these dragons guarding our reality, watching to make sure nothing of the supernatural gets through
So how do we put our watchful dragons to sleep and discover the supernatural? We must first understand it. There are three elements we need to understand and we are going to use the story of Narnia to help us along this journey.
TO BELIEVE IN THE SUPERNATURAL I MUST UNDERSTAND…
• THE SUPERNATURAL PLAYERS .
In order to believe we must understand who the players are. Who is involved? Who are the characters that play a part in this supernatural world. In THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE the story is written from the perspective of four of the main characters…. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy….the children.
1. The Children
These human children from the story represent us. In the story the children discover that they have a choice; whether to believe in the hope and the light and engage themselves in the supernatural story or to remain in the dark unwilling to see the beauty and wonder all around them. This choice has eternal consequences. We also have the same choice, to believe in the supernatural and engage ourselves in it or to remain in the dark.
What’s interesting is that we didn’t start out tied to only the natural world. We all start off as children, full of imagination, full of belief and faith in the supernatural, for at that age everything we have not experienced, which is a lot, falls under the category of the supernatural. As a child anything is possible and we will believe anything. For instance Santa Claus.
I remember when I was about 7 or so waking up very early Christmas morning and hearing some noise downstairs. Its Santa!!! I remember being instantly awake, a state I know my mother wished for every school day but never found in me. So I get up but remember that I was told that children are not suppose to see Santa on Christmas, a brilliant cover. So I sneak down the stairs and stop halfway and see a pile of presents under the tree.
There is a light on in the kitchen but from my vantage point I cannot see who is there. Santa’s here! He is eating the milk and cookies that I left out the night before for him. Oh I wanted to run down the stairs into the kitchen to see him but I was scared that he would take back all the presents if he knew I was awake. So I snuck back into bed and laid there, wide awake, barely containing myself for what seemed like years until the sun started to rise and then I promptly woke the whole house up and ran downstairs to enjoy Christmas.
I still remember the magic of that night.
But at some point, I don’t remember exactly when, I stopped believing in Santa Claus. And Christmas for a long time, no longer captivated me with that kind of wonder, awe and excitement. In fact I became cynical about it, discouraged and depressed about how selfish and commercial Christmas was.
What happened was once I started to gain a level of earthly wisdom the supernatural was eased out and all that was left was the natural. And the natural held no magic, held no wonder…held no joy.
This leads us to one the main principles of this series: The more deeply we enter in the natural the more we distance ourselves from the supernatural.
CS Lewis writes “"The more lucidly we think, the more we are cut off: the more deeply we enter into reality, the less we can think."
Our challenge is going to be this - How do we rediscover the supernatural? Well we must be open, we must be willing to be retaught, we must admit that our understanding is not complete or the final authority, we must believe. Look what Jesus says:
[Jesus] "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 18:3
We will never discover the supernatural that exists in this life or the eternal life we are promised through Jesus if we do not lay down our natural understanding take on the qualities of a child; humble, teachable, helpless.
There is one other human character in Narnia that is worth mentioning. It is the character of Uncle Andrew. He is found in the story of The Magicians Nephew. In the story Uncle Andrew is unable to recognize the supernatural wonders in the land of Narnia. He does not hear words coming from the talking animals but only growling. He misses out entirely of the magic of Narnia and only experiences fear. Why because he refused to believe…because he only sees the natural….because all he thinks about is how he could use Narnia for his own advantage.
What supernatural signs are we missing because we refuse to believe, because we only see this world as something that we can take from?
In Matthew 13 there is a passage where Jesus only does a few miracles because the people in his hometown do not believe in Him.
Let’s not miss out all of God’s supernatural power and miracles because we are too stubborn, too proud, too pragmatic, too hurried to believe.
The next character of note is
2. The White Witch
The White Witch is the protagonist in Narnia. She is evil to the core, without even a hint of goodness within her. We going to spend a whole message in a couple weeks talking about the witch but for now its important to know that she is merciless, cruel, power-hungry, and sadistic. The Witch claims the throne of Narnia by brute force. She enchants the land so it is always winter.
The Witch controls and influences the world through fear and lust for power. Sound like anyone we know? Sounds a little like the devil doesn’t it?
In the bible the devil has many names; Satan being the most prominent. In the book of John he is called “The Prince of this world.” Isn’t that interesting? He is given this title because he tries to rule us and to control us by using the natural to keep us from the supernatural.
“Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s." - Matthew 16:23
Satan wants to trap us in the natural, the human point of view. He wants us distracted from the supernatural, from God’s point of view.
Who is influencing your life? When you see this world do you only see the natural? If so guess who is behind it?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is another character in THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. The greatest character of all. The character that brings life, light, hope and redemption. The character that guides the children through the story. This character is
Aslan is the Lion. Aslan is actually the Turkish word for lion. He is the creator and true ruler of Narnia. He is majestic, powerful, the king of the beasts.
In the bible there are many instances where God is likened to a lion.
“Like a lion coming up from the thick jungle of the Jordan … I will come.” –Jeremiah 49:19
I don’t know how many of you have seen a lion. If not it’s a quick trip up to the Bronx zoo.
Lions are strong, fearless, stealthy, frightening, destructive yet protective. All these qualities are applied to God in various points throughout the bible. Jesus in fact is referred to as the lion of Judah in Revelation.
You are not going to want to miss next week as we will be spending the whole message exploring Jesus as the lion and how through Jesus we can discover supernatural strength.
So now that we have a basic understanding of the supernatural players we must now understand how we tap into the supernatural by understanding the
• THE SUPERNATURAL PORTAL .
We are going to discuss this portal, in depth, in a couple weeks as well. But basically the wardrobe is the portal to the supernatural world of Narnia. A wardrobe is basically a cabinet for clothing.
In order to reach Narnia you must find and enter the wardrobe and keep walking towards the back until suddenly you find yourself walking in Narnia. An ordinary object with extraordinary properties. In the story the way isn’t available to everyone all the time. There are times when the back of the wardrobe is just the back of the wardrobe.
In reality, we don’t have to travel to a different world or go through a portal to discover the supernatural. God has revealed it here, He has pulled back the curtains.
“God’s secret plan has now been revealed to us; it is a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to his good pleasure.” – Ephesians 1:9
God has not hidden it away so that no one can see it but yet the fact remains that not everyone can see it.
It all depends on how you look for it. It all depends on your heart. Are we looking for it with the qualities of a child? Are we looking for it through the lens that is Jesus?
Ephesians tells us it is a plan centered on Jesus Christ. And only through Jesus will it be revealed to us.
While we often strive to discount or ignore the supernatural we all still seek to discover it. We want to be in tune with the supernatural and we often look for it in the wrong sources. Horoscopes, tarot cards, fortune tellers, eastern philosophies, drugs… these are all ways people look for the supernatural…but they are all ineffective, counterproductive and even destructive to the discovery of the real supernatural. Only through Jesus can we tap into it.
So what does this mean? How do we tap into it through Jesus? Jesus gives us the answer Himself.
"Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.” - Matthew 7:7-8
We must ask, we must look, we must knock. Asking by praying, looking by reading the bible knocking with an urgency and importunity.
Asking: praying to God to reveal His power and majesty, setting aside time every day to spend with God, away from all of our usual distractions.
Looking: Reading and searching through Gods word every day and looking for ways to apply it in our lives right now.
Knocking: having that urgency and importance to get to the other side of that door.
What happens when we do these things? Look what is promised us: we receive from asking, we find from looking and the door is opened to everyone who knocks. EVERYONE. That’s includes every one of us. But are we diligent in discovering this portal to the supernatural?
I mean it’s so easy to try and then give up because things don’t suddenly make themselves known.
But God is determined to reveal the supernatural in our lives. He will never give up, nor should we. Let’s not cheat ourselves by settling for the natural.
We read the bible but we do not look for meaning or relevancy to our lives right now. It’s so easy to dismiss the bible as the ancient history…as not relevant! CS Lewis writes “It carries the Word of God; and we receive that word… learning its overall message.” There are lessons in the bible for us, right now in 2005 in NYC. But we have to look for them.
We often only rap quietly on the door because we don’t understand the importance of what’s on the other side. Or it can scare us. As Pastor Steve said last week we often are afraid to discover the supernatural that is God because then it will require our allegiance and our devotion.
I guarantee you God is working in your life right now in ways that you cannot even imagine. The key to recognizing it is to keep on… keep on asking, keep on looking, keep on knocking….
So now we have a basic understanding of the Supernatural players and the supernatural portal we now must understand
• THE SUPERNATURAL PLOT .
Every story has a plot. A rise and a fall, an act 1, 2 and 3.
In THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE in Act 1 Edmund betrays his brothers and sisters to The White Witch.
Because of this betrayal he becomes the property of The White Witch as required by the deep magic as set by the emperor that is law in Narnia.
In Act 2 Aslan, in order to save Edmund while still adhering to the law, sacrifices himself to the White Witch.
Because of this sacrifice not only is Edmund saved but death itself starts working backwards and redemption and salvation becomes available to all of Narnia.
In Act 3 The story goes on to tell us about Aslans return and how the children go on to fight the evil White Witch, with his help, to save Narnia from her evil spell which curses the land to be always winter and never Christmas.
Just a story right?
Yes it is but the bible also has a story.
In Act 1 of the bible story which we are characters in, Adam and Eve fall from grace in the Garden of Eden by eating from the tree of knowledge.
In Act 2 Jesus is sacrificed on the cross in order to provide salvation to this fallen world because of Adam and Eve’s sin
And in Act 3, which is taking place right now, we are fighting a spiritual battle for the souls of people all around us. And in this battle there are two spiritual forces at work, one is activated by faith and the other is activated by fear. On one side is God and on the other is Satan.
As we approach Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We celebrate this crucial point in the story because at Christmas God became human so that He would be our savior, so that he would go on and be the sacrifice instead of us. That He would take on all the sins of the world, all of our sins, an extremely heavy burden, so that we may be made pure again.
But in order for us to share in this victory we must put our faith, our very lives in the supernatural hands of Jesus. But Satan is doing whatever he can to try and separate us from this supernatural love of God.
“Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8
Notice how Satan is described as lion-like also? The difference is that Satan only acts as if he is king. He is a poser. That’s why he has prowl around and roar!
He only acts as if he has the ultimate power. He does such a good job at this we are often fooled by him. We all are. We all sin. But because of what Jesus did, our sins are wiped clean.
But there are real victims in this real story. They are the ones who don’t even realize what is taking place. CS Lewis believed that the devil has the advantage when people do not believe in him. This allows him to work without resistance. This allows him to get us to focus on the natural while we remain unaware.
It allows him to encourage our skepticism in the supernatural. It creates a scenario where we have given up before we have even started. After all how can we fight a battle, let alone win one, if we do not even believe there is a war going on? We can’t! And that is exactly what he wants.
So how do we fight this battle?
“Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” – Ephesians 6:13-18
God has given us all that we need to fight this battle. He has given us a suit of armor and a weapon. But we must put it on and keep it on and use what He has given us.
We are engaged in this battle. It is occurring right here right now. This Christmas open your eyes to the supernatural. The choice is yours as to what side you choose. Choose the right side.
The great news of Narnia, the great news of Christmas…is that if we choose the side of the lion, the side of Jesus …victory is assured.
“Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne has conquered.” –Revelation 5:5
Conquered. The past tense! The battle is already won!