August 18, 2017

Release the Superheroes!

Any fans of super hero movies?    

I’m a big Captain America fan! He was a hero before he was a superhero! His heart’s desire: do the right thing and serve people by serving a cause bigger than himself! Who is a fan of Star Wars? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? Sherlock HolmesMaybe you have a hero in the sports world or business world?”  Any American Ninja Warrior fans?

Why do we love these heroes?  They are always overcoming an obstacle of some sort! We love the Marvel universe, dc comics, star wars and star trek movies, and athletic competitions because they are exciting and fun- and the good guy eventually wins!

We live vicariously through characters/people that make a difference and move in power. Powerful stories capture our attention. We get a rush watching the good guy win! It’s only a temporary fix, because life goes back to normal. But we can get addicted to this! There lies the danger!

"On the tombstone of America, the inscription will read: they entertained themselves to death." - Leonard Ravenhill    

Let that sink in. This quote above, by the renowned English pastor, applies not only to America as a nation but us as individuals. Christians are susceptible, but according to the Bible, those who don’t know Jesus are imprisoned!

The risk is we can get our adrenalin fix this way- and ignore the truth: 

In real life, we are in a battle for our souls! One with eternal consequences. And Jesus is returning soon! (Microchipping humans? Not a good thing- and right out of Revelation 13 and 14 and 20.)

With its “marvelous” fantasies, the world tries to “copy” what God has already designed. But why accept the counterfeit? The best imitations of God’s reality fall short when compared to the real thing! You’d be right if you expect me to say this:      

Jesus is the ultimate superhero! Only he could accomplish what he did! Conquering death (the last enemy) and paying the price for our sin.

But did you know we are called to be superheroes???? It's not because we are good but because He is good! We have an enemy to fight and captives to free!

Ephesians 2:1-10:    "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 but because of his great love for us, god, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 and god raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.8 for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of god— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

God has designed us to be drawn to something greater than ourselves (eternity in mind). God has designed us for adventure because he has designed us for his work. We live in a world that promises freedom but delivers bondage- Isn’t that the great lie?

Setting the captives free is true superhero work!

People are held captives of the enemy. They are not the enemy! See 2 Timothy 2:25-26. Here, Paul is writing this towards the end of his life to Pastor Timothy in Ephesus (Modern Turkey).  About 67AD – just before he was beheaded for his faith in Jesus. Important words here from someone at the end of their life!

"25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that god will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

What’s our lesson here? Whether they are false teachers or non-believers, we must learn to see people as God does! 

Mistakenly, we can view them as the enemy instead of captives of the enemy!A very big difference! We shouldn’t treat captives like enemies! When we do this- the enemy wins- and people Jesus loved and died for are on the road to an eternity without him! 

Are we ready to risk reaching out, building relationships and loving them so we earn the right to speak the truth into their lives? We need love, discernment and wisdom.

Where would you be if someone in the church treated you as the enemy?

Even as believers- we can be in bondage to the ways of the world! Isn't it funny how we can play around with sin, justify it, get as close as we can to it- and before we know it, it has power over us. But we can also be caught thinking like the world. It's very subtle.
Colossians 2:8:    
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Note: Christians are at risk too- Paul is speaking to the church here!

Fear- that’s not of God!  Racism- that’s not of God either!  Hatred- do I even need to go there? The devil and his demons are at work here too. Not just in 3rd world countries! Anywhere sin is prevalent, the enemy is given an opportunity and moves in power. 

Humanism?  Materialism?  Nationalism? Idolatry? Are these of the kingdom of God? These are demonic strongholds in our world and in the church! Let me ask you- Isn’t the enemy just as successful when he is subtle as when he is obvious?!!!!

The main obstacle for us who are Jesus followers is accepting our mission! 

What is our mission?
I think we can all agree: According to the Apostle Paul, we've been given The ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:14-19)   

"14 for Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 and he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 so from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 18 all this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

We are compelled by Christ’s love to share the message everywhere we go.

The biggest obstacle is from within us:   Choosing who we will serve
What do I want? What I’ve been told / trained / wanted to do?
What will my family think? What will my friends think?

In our culture, we’ve made a big mistake:
We’ve made our hobbies extreme and our faith sedate!

The believer’s mission issue has always stayed the same: Love your neighbor, proclaim the gospel and go out into the world! Go where he leads you!  Now as then, submission and obedience to the Lord is the issue. Will I fail?  Is it safe?  Since when are these issues that stop us?  

Dietrich Bonheoffer, the famous- German pastor: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” He lived his words. He was tried and hung during World War 2 by the Nazis! 

Romans 12:1-2       
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of god’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to god—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  

In context of the previous chapters, Romans 12 is not about sexual purity- although that is crucial- it’s about sacrificial living for the sake of the kingdom. It’s followed by discussion on spiritual gifts and then persecution and overcoming evil with good.   Do we think like the world by living by our cultural traditions and common sense? Instead let’s live by the commandments given in the word and the leading of his Holy Spirit! Let’s not just read about our Christian heroes, let’s imitate them!

Sure, we can all fall flat on our faces! Every superhero has a weakness or area where they are susceptible:


What’s your Kryptonite? Focus on God and not your weakness! 

"The first thing a pastor or any leader needs to do is to start living a life that terrifies him."
              Erwin McManus, pastor and author

But I would change it to: "The first ANY BELIEVER needs to do is to start living a life that terrifies him."

Be encouraged- Jesus promises abundant life in the midst of this!
Like any superhero, once you choose to accept the mission, the challenges come! Afraid of the challenge? That’s ok- you should be! - but don’t let it stop you- you go out equipped!

Here’s some encouragement- We go out in his power!

Jesus is the only superhero who gives his power to those who follow him.

God gives us his great power for his purposes. It is written in Ephesians 1:15- 22 15:  

"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the lord Jesus and your love for all god’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the god of our lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." 

What is power given for if it’s not to be used? Paul says as we wait for Jesus to return, we are not lacking in any gift. Without God’s power and his gifts, we will be limited in our effectiveness because we will be dependent on our own human strength and strategy.

The Creator of the Universe has given us his power and his gifts to do his work. An eternally focused and real work that should overshadow the marvelous and creative but imaginary worlds designed by Hollywood. Love is faith in action - We go out in power and in love!

We serve a good God and a loving Father who sends us out ready for the battle!

We’ve got the armor of God as our defense against the work of the enemy- And we’ve got the gifts of the Holy Spirit to advance the kingdom of God, to draw others to Jesus and a life that makes an eternal difference!  

How do we activate God’s power?  It’s not a special magic formula! Look at the Book of Acts 4:8-13:
(Here, Peter and John stand before the authorities.)

"8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “rulers and elders of the people! 9 if we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom god raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 13 when they saw the courage of peter and john and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."

Jesus is the source of our power!!
It’s impossible to remain the same person when you draw near to Jesus!
The Holy Spirit doesn’t bypass our brains- but we must discipline ourselves to apply what we read. 
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the scripture but had no relationship with the author!
As we read and study the Word, do we interact with Jesus, asking him what he wants us to learn and how it applies to our life? 
We have a living relationship with the Eternal God!
His “ministry of presence”, being with us, changes us- your ministry of presence with others changes them. 
Do you ever wonder why Jesus called the twelve first- and then later, the schooled intellectual Paul?    Maybe he wanted to make a statement that god uses all people- beginning with us ordinary folks….  
God chose the foolish things of the world...  (I Corinthians 1:27)

It’s our love for him and our thankfulness for all He’s done that motivates us! We acknowledge the truth we’ve found by joining Him in his work!

Lastly- God goes out before us! This is the best news of all!
Not only does God give us work to do and empowers us to do it,
He also goes before us preparing the way. 

Here are Jesus’ words before He ascends to Heaven days later, in John 16:7-11:

"7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 when he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned."

1-  He will convict the world of sin  2-  He will convict it of righteousness  3-  Judgment is coming
All this is setting the stage in people’s hearts to prepare them to receive the message of the Gospel! The Good News that Jesus died for the sins of the World, offering freedom and eternal life in Heaven for all who would choose to believe in Him.

You are called to be a superhero! The mission is real. 
As Christians, we’re called to set the captives free. We’re sent out in the power of the word and the power of the Holy Spirit!
If you’re led by God, you will never regret stepping out and taking risks as he leads. 

Who will you serve?

His Holy Spirit lives in you (empowering you) and should be controlling how you live.
We must:  
1- Accept our place in life
2- Adjust to our unique design 
3- Understand our mission

Can you hear him speaking and drawing you to his purposes? Are you listening for his voice?  Is it time to release your inner superhero? There’s no age limit! Don’t get your adrenaline fix on the imaginary! 

Be led by the spirit. Don't be a slave to fear. Be willing to share in his sufferings (his will for your life instead of yours). (Romans 8:12-18)

Are you tired? If you have been serving God, if you have been reaching out, if you consider yourself “on mission”, know this: God is pleased. Keep going! The race isn’t over yet!

Or want to step out? Feeling God’s call to you?
Wanting more than what you’ve known?  Know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58)

Maybe you’ve never come to the place of allowing Jesus to take control of your life and wash away your sin? He’s been calling you and it’s time to respond.

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) He not only shares his power with us, he shares his victory over death with us- it’s a gift!

Are you ready to release your inner Superhero?
(Art copyright Marvel, Star Wars, etc.)

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