Summary: Are the star of your own story with God playing a supporting role, or are you in a story that’s bigger than you, with God in the lead and you in the supporting role?
Bill Clem opens his book, Disciple, with two scenarios. One has to do with a couple of guys who are theater majors in college, and they grow impatient with all the hoops they have to jump through to finish their degree. They just want to be producing plays and directing and acting in them. So, one day they come with an idea: rent a warehouse, put together some makeshift furnishings, write a script, and stage their own play. So, against the advice of their parents and their professors, they drop out of school and begin pursuing their dream. But, of course, they run into all sorts of obstacles. They’ve considered the cost, and they figured they had that covered. After all, there was the money they would save on tuition and other expenses. But when they got into it, it wasn’t enough. The rental itself was going to take most of their cash. And they wouldn’t have enough left over to do the other things they needed to do. There would be lighting and chairs and props, not to mention a cast—and, of course, they would need a known actor as a draw. What a disappointment! But, you know, even if it had worked out, there is little chance that their idea was going to take them where they wanted to go.
Scenario two also has to do with a drama major. While visiting family in New York City, she learns about open auditions for a Broadway play. It’s a bit part, but, if she gets it, it’ll look good on her resume, and she’ll get some valuable experience, working with professional actors under a world-class director. She asks her parents and her professors, and what do they tell her? “Go for it,” they say. “At least show up for the audition.”
What’s the take-away here? It’s easy, isn’t it? We all want to star in our own show. We all want to be the director of our own production. We don’t want the bit part. We want our name on the marquis. We want it to be about us.
What I want to do today is visit with you about the story of your life. I don’t know the details, of course—not like you do—but I know the details of my own story. And I’m guessing there are some ways in which your story and mine are a lot alike. Let me give you four words, if may, that I think capture the story of each and every one of us here. Four words. Are you ready? They are reflection, rebellion, redemption, and reset.
Let’s take the first word: reflection. The Bible says we were all created in the image of God. In Genesis 1:27 we read that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” What does that mean, to be created in the image of God? We could spend the rest of the morning talking about that, but I want to pare it down as much as I can. And this is what I want to say about it. We were made—you and I—to be image-bearers. We were created to reflect the likeness of God in all we do to all we meet. You might say each of us is to be a mirror of sorts, a looking glass, angled in such a way so as to catch the reflection of our Creator and cast it into view for all to see. That’s our purpose as human beings. That’s our job description. How are we doing?
Not great, right? We don’t want to reflect God; we want to be God. And in our scramble to dislodge him from his throne and make it ours, we have fallen and shattered our mirror. It still reflects the light, but in a broken, distorted way.
That’s where our second word comes in. The first word, remember, is reflection. The second word is rebellion. Rebellion. It’s a part of your story, and it’s a part of mine. But it’s much more extensive than that. It has a long history. It flared up in the Garden of Eden with our first parents. You remember the story. Adam and Eve lived in a literal paradise with everything at their disposal. There was only one restraint: the tree in the midst of the Garden. God had said they were not to eat any of the fruit of that tree. That was the only prohibition.
Enter the serpent. And what did he do? He tricked Eve into thinking that, if she went against God and ate the fruit, even though he had said not to, she could displace God. She could take God’s place. She could be her own god. Turns out it was the same feverish obsession that, long before that fateful day, had motivated the tempter himself. Isaiah 14 is addressed to the king of Babylon, but it could just as easily be the dark lord himself. Once a prince among angels, he was known as Lucifer, a name that means “light bearer.” Isaiah calls him the “Day Star, [the] son of Dawn.” He had lived in elevated splendor, but his arrogance got the best of him. And his envy of God brought him low. “How you are fallen from heaven,” Isaiah says to him. “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high…; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isa. 14:12ff.). And he tried. He failed. But he tried.