taken from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2169924
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. – Ephesians 6.10-18
As the final (blockbuster) film was being released, the Washington Times ran an article about grief counseling for Harry Potter fans. Seriously. Advice for mourning fans of Harry Potter came from the oddest – and most obvious – of places, the cult followings of the Star Trek and Star Wars series that ended years ago. I get the enjoyment of Harry Potter, as well as the sci-fi series. They are full of excitement, adventure, danger, and the raging battle between forces of good and evil. Potter, like Star Trek and Star Wars before it, captures the imagination and momentarily lifts us out of our more mundane daily lives into a fantastical world where anything can happen and often does.
These serial movies and television shows express the longing of human beings to be caught up in a world greater than our own, a place where we can associate with heroes and struggle against villains. The vast realm of the unknown, be it the “final frontier” of space or the magical land of Hogwarts, calls us to uncharted territories in which the world as we know it is at stake. Of course, it is much easier to engage in such daring and treacherous drama from a cinema seat than it is actually to take the risk, but our deep desire to live a life of adventure is revealed in our fascination with it. Human beings long to be part of something greater than ourselves, to be pushed to the limits of our courage and strength, to be tested and tried and to rise to the demands before us.
The thing about it is, the ultimate adventure is Christian life and faith. True discipleship is a quest into the unknown and uncharted territory of the work of the Holy Spirit and the battle against evil, fresh and new with each generation. The stakes are eternal for every human being, and the conclusion is more glorious than the best cinematographers can imagine, much less concoct. We have tamed Christianity, as evidenced by doldrums of our evangelistic efforts. But life in the Spirit of God pursuing authentic discipleship is anything but boring. If our faith does not push us to our limits and demand more of us than we believe we have to give, then our faith is not a real reflection of life in Christ. The disciples got up and wandered around the region with Jesus Christ, and they repeatedly witnessed amazing and fantastic works of God. Following Pentecost, they traveled far and wide to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Every disciple except John met a terrible death as they advanced the Good News into hostile areas and faced evil in myriad encounters for the salvation of the world. How we ended up with such a docile religion is a worthwhile study of history, but that we reclaim the vitality and challenge of genuine Christian life is an absolute necessity. Eternal destiny for our generation hangs in the balance.
The life that Paul describes above is not a tame or docile life. The passage probably has at least a half-dozen good sermons in it, and I cannot do justice to the whole text in a single writing. But, what we can see simply by reading it is the dangerous war between good and evil in which we all are to be engaged. Moreover, we go forth in the armor of God – in truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God – not armed like soldiers, but armed with the life of the Spirit that our Father has given each of us.
We no longer talk about evil, at least not publicly. Twenty years ago while in seminary, I learned that the Roman Catholic Church has reinstituted and/or expanded the position of exorcist in dioceses around the world, and I remember being shocked. Who really believes in the devil and a cosmic war between good and evil? Jesus did. Paul did. The evidence of their lives makes clear that all the apostles knew they were part of an eternal war, waging battles for Christ and the salvation of others throughout their lives. They were pushed to their limits, and the impact of their lives far exceeded anything they ever could have dreamed. That’s what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ – to be invested in a cause so much greater than we understand, to give our all when we think we have nothing more to give, to make a lasting difference beyond our comfortable calculations, and to trust that our God goes before us.
This language is archaic in today’s Christianity, but that is our own naiveté, not the reality. Christ won the war with evil when He rose from the grave, but the battles continue on. Just look at the lives of the disciples. We do not have to look for adventure in fantasies. If we take the leap from belief to faith and move forward as a true disciple of Jesus Christ, we will never lack for adventure or excitement. Some of life will be thrilling beyond our imagination, and some of it will be excruciating. The war between good and evil rages on, and if we truly follow Jesus Christ, we will be in a fight to the death against evil, the outcome of which is life, guaranteed.
Christian life should be full of risks, adventures, triumphs, and harrowing trials. If it is not, then it’s not really life in Christ. It’s just another religious sentiment. We do not need to live vicariously through fiction; the real adventure is before us – and waiting to begin.
In Christ –
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