EPIC Part 2 - The Larger Story
In this message you will learn: There's more to this story than simply believing and behaving.
In the movie, Patch Adams, Patch is a medical student that has a huge heart for people and a dream, a desire to be able to provide healthcare to people who were less fortunate in society. So he rallies up some friends around him with the same dream and they begin to chase after that dream. But shortly after he starts that, tragedy hits his life when his girlfriend is murdered by one of the people he's trying to help. And all of a sudden his life doesn't make any sense. So he finds himself on top of this cliff having it out with God, trying to do the best he can to make sense of God and of his life. He can only come to one conclusion: God creates man, man suffers enormous amounts of pain, and then ultimately man dies. That is the only explanation for life in this moment in life that Patch finds himself in.
My guess is that for a lot of us that's what life has looked like for most of us at some point in our lives too. Because our lives don't come at us as black and white, they don't come as a simple thing, as a simple math problem that we can solve. Life comes as a story, it comes as a mystery, it comes chapter by chapter, act by act, scene by scene, moment by moment, day by day.
What happens next? We really aren't sure. We're just forced to deal with it as it comes, as it plays out in our days. There's moments when our lives feel like a comedy, there's other moments when it feels more like a soap opera, and still others where it feels, like with Patch, it just feels like a brutal tragedy.
The life that we're living is sometimes wonderful and sometimes awful, but most often it's just some weird, mixed up, confusing combination of both. There is no wonder, when you really think about it, there's no wonder that we find ourselves losing heart. It often doesn't make much sense unless ... Unless what? Unless we know and understand the rest of the story.
So what could we possibly be missing in this larger story that we're living in? I want us to jump in and spend the rest of our time together today talking about that.
But before we take that journey, good morning to you. Welcome to Next Level. So good to have you here this morning. If you're new, we want you to walk out of here today, and be totally and completely convinced that three things are true:
- All of your story is safe and welcome in this place
- That you belong in this place regardless of what you believe even if you don't believe what everybody else in the room seems to believe.
- This place is completely full of people who are just like you.
We really hope you get that, because all of that is absolutely true. So special welcome to you if you're new. Thanks for being here. And a special welcome to all of our friends who can't be here and are watching us online right now too; good to have you with us.
So we're in a series called EPIC. And last week, we said, there's a difference in living forgiven and living free. Most Christian people settle for living forgiven, but have a hard time learning to live free. There's a difference in that. So what we're chasing after this series is not forgiveness, it's not learning to get our tickets to heaven punched. If you don't have forgiveness and the forgiveness of Jesus, you want that, you need that, you can get it, it is free, we can help you with that today. But in this series, we’re after something more. We're after this amazing abundant life of freedom that Jesus said he came to bring every one of us today, not just some day, but today, that's what we're chasing after in this series.
But one of the things that's getting in our way is that, in church, we tend to understand the significance of this thing called sin but not story. So we understand sin but not story. And that needs to change.
Today, hopefully, we're going to begin to change that by talking about this larger story that we find ourselves living in. Specifically, we will be talking about exactly what we are up against in this larger story that we all find ourselves living in. So that's a journey I want us to take together today. So let's jump in together and let's chase after it and see if we can get some more clarity on that.
We’re going to be in two places in the Bible today, Revelation chapter 12, Isaiah chapter 14.
We're going to start in Isaiah chapter 14. And I want us today to start by backing up in time before creation. That may sound a little bit confusing, you mean, like before creation? Exactly. Because before we get to the creation account in the Bible we've got to deal with this.
12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
He's telling them, "I will make myself like God himself.” We get more details on that in Revelation chapter 12,
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Which, in other place, we learn about 1/3 of the angels decided to fight on Satan's side.
Now, as we read about this, I think it's very, very important that we take a look at the immediate contrast that we see here. There is a contrast between Satan as he's hurled out of heaven, and Satan as he is introduced in Genesis chapter 3.
Satan appears in Genesis as a serpent.
But in this passage, He's a dragon.
I think we have a tendency to overlook, miss, dismiss, or not pay much attention to in the church, and I think that's a big miss for us.
Here's why. There is more to this story that we talk about in this place every single week, there's more to this story than simply believing and behaving.
How many of you grew up in a “believe and behave” church like I did?
So in that church, life as a Christian, is all about what you know. It's all about what you believe and it's all about how you behave. That's what's important.
If you don’t B&B, chances are you're not going to feel very comfortable for very long in believe and behave church.
Give credit to B&B
I missed the significance of the details of the larger story that I'm living in and I don't think that's uncommon in the church.
As a kid I was sent to Sunday school and I was taught these stories from the bible on a flannel graph.
The only flannel graph image I can remember that showed the enemy was of the snake. Not a big scary snake either. It was a snake that looked more like this. I couldn't find the exact image.
[Flanel Graph Snake]
That was the image I grew up with. Not an anaconda, not at all. That's what I grew up with. Even in the picture Bible that I had, on the third page or so there was a picture of Adam and Eve with the snake and it was the same kind of image.
I mean it was kind of a mild, almost friendly looking snake.
It reminds me of a story I heard of a pastor who was having an argument with this wife about a dress that she had just bought because I think the image we've been presented of this snake that his approach is presented to look something like this.
I think we just have this tendency to minimize this real threat.
Contrast the Snake vs Dragon
We cannot afford to minimize what we're up against in this story. I hope you trust me. There is so much more to this story than simply believing and behaving. Now skip to verse 12.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” 13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
Now, we have an angry red dragon, Who is trying to kill the woman who has just given birth to the male child. Talking about Mary.
Could not take Jesus out, so now he turns his attention on me and you.
I'm not trying to scare you. I'm trying to help you understand this. The end game for this enemy that we're up against is not to try to simply get us to do something that we're later going to regret or have to say we're sorry for.
Our behavior is not the target. We are.
As we do that, we try to be clear about this. If you decide to follow Jesus, the life you're signing up for is not necessarily an easy one.
What I can tell you is this. You're going to follow Jesus and it is going to be the most satisfying experience of your life. And there's going to be times when you have to hang on because the road gets bumpy and things get tricky.
Which means what? If he cannot get you to change your mind about following Jesus, then he's going to do everything he can to interfere with your relationship with Jesus.
We've got to move from ancient history to present reality.
That war that started in Revelations 12 continues today. It wages on.
It wages on in the life of every single one of us every single day, and our enemy is up against us. When it's up against us, it's trying to do more than simply have us buy another dress. We got to move beyond that. So how do we do that? How do we begin to see this thing for what it really is? I'm hoping that maybe this will help. Watch this.
I really hope you don't lose that image.
John 10:10 says this, "We're up against an enemy who wants to steal and kill and destroy."
In this movie, Benjamin Martin... Initially he made the choice, I'm not going to go to war. He tried his best to live a life of peace and totally ignore it, but the war and the battle found him and it cost him dearly. Now he has no choice. War has been declared, not only on the country. War has been declared on him, personally.
What I'm trying to get us to understand is that's our stories too.
So we've been trying to learn this fighting thing here for the four years that I've been here. I've been learning along the way too. One of the things that we done as a staff team, as an elder team is to learn pretty quickly to get to this question. What's behind this?
So thoughts and feelings and emotions start to stir, and it's like, "Whoa, whoa. Time out. What's going on here? This is the enemy trying to interfere here, and we fight first. We go after that thing first. We're just trying to learn that this is just our protocol. This is what we do every single time.
I just want to ask you a question. Do you ever pause your life to ask that question? What's behind this?
Think about your thoughts… stupid, jerk, doesn’t love me, she’s gonna leave
It's coming from an enemy who wants to kill and destroy you.
Now I want to skip back a few verses. Revelation chapter 12:10
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
I love what John writes here. He gives us a peek into one of the most insidious and life stealing tactics of our enemy. He is our ... Are you ready for the word? He's our accuser. That's huge. He's our accuser. It is so huge for us to see this.
There's a big part of this battle that many of us are continuing to miss, specifically here's what I mean. We miss the accusation in the fight against temptation.
We're taught so much in the church, "Fight temptation. Fight temptation." And we should. It's good and it's right and it's true. But we're missing so much in our sole focus on fighting the temptations that come our way in our lives.
There are 10 or 12 or 15 accusations that come at me for every one temptation that comes my way in life.
For today, all I want to do is make sure we see this. The enemy often changes his appearance, but he never really changes the question.
As we wrap up, I want you to understand this is not ancient history, it's my present reality. I have to take it personally. I have to take it seriously. I have to place myself under the blood of Jesus, the covering of Jesus and I must battle the accusations just as hard as I battle the temptations that come at me, if, I want to live, not forgiven, but free.
See, I think at the end of the day, everyone of us can relate to how Patch Adams is feeling, can't we?
You know what his problem is? He doesn't have the whole story. What if God created man, man rebelled against God, handed His life the earth and all humanity over to the evil one? And all of our misery stems from that, but God intervenes and sends His son to redeem and restore and rescue us, but we still find ourselves in this epic war and the whole planet, the whole human race is at stake.
We're up against this enemy who's determined to totally and completely destroy us and salvation is free. Eternal life is free, but freedom and living free requires us to fight. We have been given everything we need to win. Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.
That's the larger story. That's the context that we must start with and there's another story within that larger story that we must pay attention to and sort through to. That story is your story and mine. Our individual stories. We're going to pick it up there and dive into that together next week.
A song that we sing a lot around here says this:
Walking around these walls
I thought by now they'd fall
But You have never failed me yet
Maybe you are here today and life is not working out for you. It seems like giant walls are surrounding you. And maybe for the first time ever, you understand that you are in a battle.
If that is you, I have good news, God has come through many times for people just like you in this room… and he can do it again for you.