Lent 2013, Entry 22
In a new series, I’m going to just let you in on the thoughts marinating in my brain after the sermons I hear. As per usual, this might be a good series or it might flop. We’ll see.
The sermon was given on March 10 at Irving Bible Church: He Bought My Freedom, Craig Pierce, teaching. The main text was Romans 6:5–14.
There was a time when using a movie clip to illustrate points the lesson section of the Bible you were teaching from seemed to make. I came from a time when you had to have your VCR and sound system ready with an intern who would push “play” on your cue. Now, about the time technology makes that much more seamless and uncomplicated, most everybody is giving that method a rest. Well, I was, and I see why it was getting old to the kids I taught. Nevertheless, I always liked that methodology as a teacher.
Anyway, one of my favorite lessons was on the identity of those that follow Christ. My guess is that if there’s a book in me that involves the practical outworkings of the life following Christ, the majority of that book will be focused on who you are. Not who you think you are. Or who you want to be. But who you really are. Because I’m a firm believer that the way you see yourself affects how you behave more than we all care to admit. So, an accurate view of self is vital to living the abundant life Christ came to give us.
Far and away, my favorite movie clip to illustrate that point was from the Disney classic, “The Lion King.” I shouldn’t have to set the scene as I don’t know anyone that hasn’t seen it. But for the uninitiated, here’s the set-up: Simba, the heir to the throne, runs away from his Pride Lands as he is told he’s responsible for his father Mufasa’s death. Simba’s uncle, Scar, convinced him of that so he could ascend the throne and under his leadership the Pride Lands have changed from a lush place of peace to a dark place of oppression. Simba has been living his “hakuna matata problem-free philosophy” lifestyle in asylum and during a crucial moment of reflection on the state of his homeland runs into the mystic spiritual leader during Mufasa’s regime, the monkey Rafiki. If you haven’t seen the scene I have it here. It’ll take about 5 minutes.
Did you notice how Rafiki started with Simba? “The question is, ‘Who are YOU?'” Simba is unsure.
Rafiki says he knows who Simba is…and whispers “Asanti sana squash banana” playfully into his ear. Now, I was in Africa and learned that “asanti sana” is Swahili for “thank you very much.” More on that in a second. But he tells Simba that his identity is in being “Mufasa’s boy” and that he sees a lot of Mufasa in Simba and highlights that reality by showing him that in a watering hole’s reflection. Simba is then told by his father’s apparition that you “must remember who you are.” In Simba’s case, he’s the one true king of the Pride Lands.
This reminder of who he is spurs a reality that he knows he has to go back and fulfill his role, but that will mean facing a past that has a lot of negatives. He’s told by Rafiki that the past can hurt but you can either run from it or learn from it. Simba learns. Cue happy Disney ending.
But when we look at Romans 6: 5 we see a crucial point in the spiritual life: That we are united with Christ in His resurrection…which I think is a key point we leave out when we talk about the Gospel. We’re real good on the fact that we’re sinners and the Christ died on the cross to pay for that sin. Where our Tribe tends to get fuzzy is on the reality/importance of the resurrection. See, He rose again that we might have life…
…and have life with abundance. I have a hard time with abundance being a list of do’s and dont’s. I simply don’t see that in Scripture. The abundant life, that Craig points out very well in this sermon, is one living in the freedom of Christ. Not a burdensome yoke but an unchained romp. And the key to this unchained romp is in 6:11, where we’re told to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. As per usual we have to change the way we think. Freedom is found in truth (conversely, slavery is found in error)…so we have to think truth to live free.
Now, the struggle is that many Christians are given the list of do’s and don’ts and then told that this will help them live a life of freedom. Well, in one sense this is the case in that you can give a list of of stuff that’s bad for you (usually not a list of sin but things that will keep you from sinning…like don’t see certain movies or listen to certain music blah blah blah) and then told that this will somehow keep you free. Please tell me you see that.
Anyway, this unchained romp is found in the phrase “asanti sana.” Remember, it’s Swahili for “thank you very much?” That little poem that Rafiki whispered in the ear (that comes from an African children’s game they like to play)? Yeah. It’s crucial.
I firmly believe that the true unchained romp of the spiritual life is lived as a thankful response to the work that Christ has already done for us…not an understand that Christ did something so now we have to do something to stay in line or in His good graces. See, (as Craig so rightly encourages us in the sermon) we can take a look at Ephesians 2 and see pretty quickly how we move from “what we were” before we were before to “what we are now” in Christ which is…
…a masterpiece. If there is one thing I’d hammer away at for every Christian is that they need to see themselves as one. Not what your past defines you as. Not who you are told you are by your parents or your friends or your job or your self. You are a work of art created by God to do things for His Kingdom that He designed long ago.
So, we have a choice to make in Romans…to consider ourselves alive to Christ. Commanded to avoid giving ourselves to sin or letting it reign. Commanded to give ourselves to God. The apostle Paul is making a logical argument in that he is saying, “This is who you are. So, since you’re free in grace and truth, don’t put yourself into slavery.”
The illustration that seemed to resonate with teenagers is that you are the child of the One True King. You live in the palace, with the King, who happens to be your loving father, with a nice bed to sleep in and good food to eat. All the benefits of being a prince or princess (not in the Disney sense, either). You can’t be more of a prince or less of one. It is who you are no matter how you behave. So, it doesn’t make any logical sense for a prince or princess to choose to remove themselves from the house/presence of their loving father, to assume the bedless lifestyle of a vagrant hobo, and eat food out of dumpsters…and drink the dumpster juice found in the bottom of them (teenagers appreciate the reference even if you don’t).
You CAN. You can go all hakuna matata…but you still are the prince or princess. You can choose the slavery of your poor choices and the consequences of them no matter how large or small they may be. Your status as prince or princess remains unchanged…but you lose out on abundance. You chose slavery. And you don’t have to let sin reign. As Craig pointed out, the cycle of “sin, guilt, renewal, sinning again, guilt…give up” can end.
And it all starts with realizing WHO YOU ARE.
And living in the beautiful unchained romp of freedom, trusting that and asanti sana abiding in Christ our King in His “palace” is a better consideration than choosing the slavery of drinking dumpster juice.