Is True Love Science-Fiction?

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Sometimes when I imagine what the gospel sounds like to someone who’s never heard it before, I imagine it would sound a little like a comic book, like science fiction. Accepting that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into time from outside of time, Eternity, and saved the human race sounds like a science fiction movie, doesn’t it? An awesome one, at that. But do we realise that it is the true original and authentic historical and eternal reality from which all science fiction stories (and love stories, actually) have been derived?

But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them, because spiritually they are discerned.(1 Corinthians 2:14, Berean Literal Bible)

It seems like throughout the history of story-making, writing, film & television, that old Devil has weaved an almost perfect plan by blinding us with creative and entertaining science fiction stories to make the reality of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done, appear somewhat ‘comical’ and ridiculous to the ‘natural’ minds. To those minds, that do not have the Spirit of God in them, what we as Christians believe concerning Christ can be likened to believing in Thor, Superman, Batman and so on.

In the 80’s & 90’s there was an Aussie band called Divinyls who had a hit song called “Science Fiction”. Here are some of the lyrics;

I thought that love was science fiction
Until I saw you today
Now that love is my addiction
I’ve thrown all my books away
When I was young I was so naive
I didn’t believe no I didn’t believe
I didn’t believe
Never thought that we’d last this long…….
When I was young I was, so naive
I didn’t believe no di didn’t believe
I didn’t believe
I’ve been waiting for a man from space
To come to earth to meet the human race……….

In a way, a man from outer space did come to earth to meet the human race, didn’t He? We can look at those corny words to that corny song and see something of Christ in it can’t we? Of-course, He didn’t come from outer space, He came into time from outside of time, from Eternity.

Please bear with me now as I express a little bit of poetic license of my own, to build on my point;

In a land far, far away….. imagine a time when human beings exist but are filled with somebody else’s life instead of their own. Their own actual life died years ago.  One person had reached right into every individual and took their life out of them and killed it and replaced it with His own life. And this one person’s life is the very same life inside every human – they’re all living by the same one person’s life from then-on.

This One person let individual’s personalities and uniqueness remain because He wanted as many variants as possible to express His own life and He loved their individual personalities and uniqueness.  So each person remained an individual but living by the one life that they shared with every other human being, expressing that one shared life in many different ways. Each would think as He thought, each would do as He would do, each would express His characteristics, but differently according to their own personality and uniqueness. So in essence, all of humanity had become one man but with many expressions through the individuals, with the appearance of male and female, black and white, etc.

Why did this One person do this? Because He actually created them in the first place to live by His life, knowing that His own life was the One True Life and nothing could compare with it’s glory and power. But by their own naïve choice and independent nature, all their lives had been hijacked by a darkness from which He knew there was no return. He saw that they were all heading down a spiral of death and there was no way out for them. He actually loved them so much that He couldn’t bear to see them disintegrate and the only way He could save them was to give them His life in place of their own, as He always intended. The only way He could do this was to become one of them and die for them, giving His life to them. That way, He knew that they would have abundant Life to live by forever and ever because His Life was an Eternal Life, which overcame death.

So there’s a lot more to the story than that, I know. But in essence, did you know that the true and normal Christian life is that of Christ’s life being lived out in us? Did you realise that this is what happened when Jesus was crucified? Did you realise that’s when He took our old lives as fallen human beings and killed them, crucifying them with Him on the cross? And that when He was resurrected He became a life giving Spirit, placing His very own Life inside of us for us to live by from there-on-in?  This all took place outside of time in Eternity and inside of time at Calvary.  And it takes place on an individual level inside of time every time one of us human beings comes to believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and make Him Lord of our life.

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him!… (Romans 5:7-9)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)

Although I imagine an awesome science fiction movie could be made to represent this story, this amazing love of God’s which is given to us through Jesus Christ, is not science-fiction at all. It is our reality!

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Now, we who are in Christ, through faith in Him as the Son of God, by the grace given to us to believe, live by the life of another. What does this mean for us? It means so much that I could never cover it in all my life, let alone in one post!

However, simply in some practical terms, it means that His dream has become our dream. His purpose and vision has become our purpose and vision. His desires have become our desires. We have become one with Him, and one with His Father, and so Christ has become our All.

It means we can draw from His life on all occasions.  When we are tired, we can draw from Him as our strength and energy.  When we are afraid, we can draw from Him as our courage and comfort. When we are uncertain, we can draw from Him for His confidence and guidance. When we are hungry, we can draw from Him as our food! When we are tempted, we can draw from His well of Life as our way out. When we feel weak in faith, we can draw from His faith to believe. When we are tested, we can draw from His life to stand and persevere in hardship. When we feel we cannot go on, we can draw from Him as our endurance. In other words, Christ is All.

We are never left to our own wisdom, devices, resources. We no longer have to rely on ourselves or the world, to meet our needs in any way.  We don’t have to work hard to be a better person, to improve ourselves, or to achieve great things for Him or for anyone else. We don’t have to come up with the answers on how to live this life or how to help others. We have another life living within us which is all the resource of Heaven. In other words, Christ is All.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms(Ephesians 1:3)

Our own wisdom, devices and resources are useless.  Since we like Paul, have been crucified with Christ, there is nothing of us that can attain to anything of any value in this life. In other words, Christ is All.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

But as for me, may I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. What counts is a new creation.…(Galatians 6:14)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.(John 10:10)

Perhaps now we, just like in that silly song by the Divinyls’, can declare that once we were naïve and we didn’t believe that the gospel was true. Perhaps we thought it was only science fiction?

He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6:65)

But now, since we have been born of the Spirit, and no longer living by the capacity of our own natural man which cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit, we see that this blinding love of God through Christ Jesus, is real. We have now thrown away all our ‘books’ (to speak of our human reasoning, philosophies and human wisdom) that feed our natural mind that has no Life of Christ in it, and we are now led by the Spirit of God as the Father has enabled us.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. ……(Romans 8:14).

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it. ….the True light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. ……..The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1)

And that’s a love, that is not science-fiction.

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Seeing Christ in the movie “Far From The Madding Crowd”

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Warning: Spoiler Alert! Reading this post will totally give the story away.

The film “Far From The Madding Crowd”is based on a novel by Thomas Hardy, set in Victorian England. It is full of shadows and types of Christ. Here’s some of what I saw…

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The story is that of a shepherd named Mr. Gabriel Oak and his love interest, a strong, independent woman named Miss. Bathsheba Everdene. Even the names are amazing reflections. We see the leading man as a Shepherd, as is our leading man, Jesus. We know that the archangel Gabriel often appears as the Messenger from God on very crucial matters such as revealing the coming Messiah to Mary and Joseph.

Bathsheba in the Old Testament was very beautiful in the eyes of King David, who was a shadow and type of Christ. The name Bathsheba is made up of two words in its original text.  Firstly ‘daughter’ and secondly ‘oath’.  So the name Bathsheba reflects us as the promised bride to Christ, with God as our Father.

THE ADAMIC NATURE OF HUMANITY

In the beginning of the story, Miss. Bathsheba Everdene works on a farm, neighbouring the sheep farm owned by Mr. Gabriel Oak. Miss. Everdene is a strong, independent woman who is driven by her own ambitions. She is a hard- working, free spirited woman, and is very attractive in the eyes of Mr. Oak.

This is much like us in our state without Christ. We are a stubborn and rebellious people, born into an independent spirit.  We see this originating in the Garden of Eden when Adam turns to independence from God rather than obedience to the will of God.  We have all inherited this independent nature in Adam yet we are dearly loved by God.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD & THE FREE GIFT OF SALVATION

Mr. Oak is a humble shepherd and a man of few words. He notices Miss. Everdene from afar and then visits one day with a gift – the gift of a lamb. At this meeting, he asks her to marry him, stating how he will provide for her.  Miss. Everdene, however flattered and perhaps slightly interested, rejects his offer, stating she is too independent and doesn’t want or need a husband. Mr. Oak accepts her rejection of his offer and returns to his farm.

Here is a beautiful picture of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knowing us from afar, since before creation and coming to our home, this world, with the free gift of His own pure and blameless life, as seen in the gift of the lamb. We know Jesus is described as the Lamb of God, the Lamb that was slain for our transgressions.  By offering this little lamb to Miss. Everdene, we see also Mr. Oak as the picture of the Good Shepherd, revealing his nature to her.

In the gift of the lamb, he reveals a gentle, innocent and beautiful life. Jesus is always wanting us to know His character. He is always showing us who He is, by what has been made. His life for us is a free gift with a promise of eternal value – a holy matrimony indeed.

THE DRIVING NATURE OF RELIGION TO THE LORD’S PRECIOUS SHEEP

That night, Mr. Oak is woken by the sound of his young untamed sheepdog named Young George, barking as he rounds up the sheep in the darkness of the night, ultimately driving them to their death as he drives them all over a cliff. To Mr. Oak’s painful despair, he destroys the silly young dog and inspects his sheep which are all dead or dying. Following this tragic loss, he leaves his farm to go and find employment elsewhere, having nothing left.

This young sheepdog shows the nature of religion that is very much alive in many of God’s people. The tragedy of this scene depicted perfectly the horror of the Lord’s flock being driven by religion, to it’s death. Oh, the anguish of the Good Shepherd over His misled sheep!

JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WAS SENT TO HIS OWN SHEEP BUT BECAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF HE WAS REVEALED ALSO TO HIS OTHER SHEEP, THE GENTILES (Romans 11:11-25)

Mr. Oak stumbles across a farm where he can potentially find employment as a shepherd and it turns out the farm has recently been taken over by none other than Miss. Everdene, who has inherited it from her recently deceased uncle. She employs him as her shepherd to take care of her sheep and he humbly takes the position and works with a spirit of excellence.  

At one point, all Miss. Everdene’s sheep have eaten a type of grass that has caused their bellies to bloat and Mr. Oak is the only one who can save them. He saves them by wounding them in the side (a type of death that signifies Christ’s death for His sheep when He was pierced in the side and the church being born at that very moment reflected in Eve being formed out of Adam’s side – wow!). After going through this death experience, the sheep are then made alive.

This is an incredible picture of the believer’s baptism. In baptism, we enter into Christ’s death in order to be raised in His resurrection. Just as Gabriel Oak was the only one who could perform this operation on the sheep, so is Jesus Himself the Resurrection and the Life!

THE ENEMY SEEKS TO ROB, KILL & DESTROY BUT JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD (John 10:10)

A suprise love interest appears in the story in the character of Sargent Frank Troy. After losing his true love, Fanny Robin, in a matter of confused communication, he defects from the army with his broken heart and bruised ego, and stumbles upon Miss. Everdene on her property one night, only to return again the next day and pursue her. Miss. Everdene is completely bewitched by him and his lusty power over her is evident, much to her peril.

Mr. Oak, foreseeing the type of impending trouble by falling for such a character, warns Bathsheba but she finds herself unable to deny him, much to the concern and hidden heart ache of Mr. Oak.  In an impetuous act, Bathsheba marries Frank. Inevitably, Frank turns out to be a terrible presence in her life, bleeding her dry of money through his drinking and gambling and turning to controlling and violent behaviour towards her, she as a dove in his harsh, cold and crooked hands.

Frank Troy reminded me of the spirit of this world with its lustful enticements, lies and deceptions. How often the Lord Jesus warns us through the Holy Spirit, of  impending  trouble. If only we would listen to Him and trust the steady and caring character of our Good Shepherd who is ever with us. 

THE SPIRIT OF THIS WORLD LEADS TO DEATH AND DESPISES THE CHURCH AS THE CHOSEN BRIDE AND EXPRESSION OF CHRIST (Revelation 12)

Upon the news that his lost love Robin Fanny has died after giving birth to his baby, Frank turns to his wife Bathsheba and states that as dead as Robin is, he will always love her more than he does Bathsheba, and that Bathsheba is nothing to him.

Subsequently, Frank attempts to drown himself, leaving Bathsheba a widow. She then contemplates accepting the marriage proposal of another suitor, Mr. Boldwood, in order to secure her bleak future because of the many losses she has suffered. 

Mr. Boldwood is an older and wealthy chap whose property is adjacent to hers. Proposing to her earlier in the film, Bathsheba had declined, once again preferring her independence.  Mr. Boldwood however, remains in the picture as a dear friend and although she has not promised anything, there is a hint of possibility between the two until Frank’s entry.

To Bathsheba’s shock, Frank returns, having being rescued from the sea and relishing in his being presumed dead. He abruptly demands money from Bathsheba to survive. Mr. Boldwood catches him strong-arming her and shoots him in the chest, killing him. Mr. Boldwood is then imprisoned. It is through Mr. Boldwood’s act of chivalry and love, that Frank is defeated and Bathsheba is set free from his grip.

Mr. Boldwood’s character reminded me of Christ, in that he gave his life for Bathsheba, even without anything in return.  This is an extravagant love and reflects the extravagant love of God for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US (1 John 4:19)

Finally, Gabriel as Bathsheba now calls him, makes plans to set sail to another land, leaving her to her independence.  Bathsheba, runs after him, begging him not to leave her. He however, is insistent that he must move on. There is a moment of tension when Bathsheba is seen to weigh up her life without him and confesses her affections for him at-last, clearly deciding she cannot have a future without him. Ultimately, Gabriel embraces her with a longing kiss and the two head back to her farm, arm in arm.    

God is like this. He has loved us with an everlasting love, just like Gabriel for Bathsheba. He sent His Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to express His love for us and promises us a love-covenant for all eternity. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He says whoever will open it, He and His Father will come and make their home within our hearts.

Bathsheba had to come to a place of surrendering her independent spirit and as a result was given a personal revelation into the love and character of who Gabriel was. We too, must come to a point of repentance in turning from our independence from God and into a ‘seeing’ who this beautiful Christ is, and confess with our own mouths that He is Lord. He is only too delighted to then come and make His home with us.

Just like Mr. Oak waited for a long time for Miss. Everdene’s affections to be returned to him so he could take her as his wife, Jesus is waiting for His bride to be ready so He can take her home to be with Him.

Church, brother, sister, we have a Good Shepherd who leads us beside still waters, who restores our souls, who leads us in the paths of righteousness for His sake. He makes us lie down in green pastures. His rod and staff protect and comfort us. Do you know your Good Shepherd today? Have you seen Him, do you know Him? Maybe you’ll watch this movie again after reading this post.  I pray you will see even more of Him!

Happy viewing 🙂

 

 

How to Love Others Perfectly

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalm 16:2

 

Dear Reader

I am happy to say, that I cannot love you.

Please hear me out. I have finally come to realise that I cannot love anybody as they deserve to be loved, not anyone. I’ve finally come to truly see the FACT that nothing good dwells in my flesh (Romans 7:18).

In my ‘self’ – I am so full of flesh and the capacities of the flesh which are profoundly faulty and lacking, no matter how hard I try, what counselling training and courses I do, studies, reading, the company I keep, no matter how much I pray and read the bible. My flesh will always be just that, flesh.

For so long I have bought the lie from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that if I did all these things above, coupled with being raised by a loving Christian family, that I automatically have the capacity to love. It is definitely living from the wrong tree.

When I’ve been confronted by your quirks and perks, the things about you that rub me up the wrong way, I’ve only just tried to love you more. But this has failed and turned into frustration and offense, offending you and me being offended.  In my efforts to resolve this I’ve turned to my own resources to do the right thing. I’ve stayed in touch, I’ve continued to pray for you, I’ve kept up ‘godly’ behaviour of “do unto others” in your company, at times silently confessing my un-forgiveness and then my forgiveness. All the while I have thought this was good. I have thought this was loving you, how I should.

Sure, I could laugh and smile with you, genuinely enjoy your company, listen to your stories, enquire of your wellbeing and make small talk, perhaps even pray with you or engage on a deeper level of communication with you. Still, judgement, criticism, self-righteousness, pride, prejudices, stubbornness and offense have remained in my heart to varying degrees and at different times. I have to admit this if I’m to be brutally honest.

I started off saying that I was happy to say that I cannot love you. Well, you see at one time, all of this would have been confessed to my utter shame. However, in recent times, I’ve learned to turn to the Lord and ask Him to love through me because I was beginning to see I wasn’t able to love well. My true belief was that I just wasn’t all that good at it, not that I actually couldn’t! Therein, lay the problem and in the answer to this problem, lies my happiness.

You see, I thought having to turn to the Lord for Him to love through me and instead of me, was to my shame. I thought it was an admission of weakness, slackness and defeat. I believed that by doing this, I was admitting that I wasn’t a good enough Christian, all of which I now see is completely and ironically, liberatingly true.

On one hand such an admission seemed to me that I was buying into Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren’s, lies. To believe I wasn’t a good enough Christian and couldn’t love people properly seemed a dreadful accusation. I saw it as condemnation from the enemy for the purpose of keeping me naval gazing into my own failure and sin. So I consciously rejected the thoroughness of this admission.

However, I instinctively knew (and they say that one’s spirit is the place of intuition) there was some truth in this but at that point any truth was to my shame. For me to feel shame over this, indicated I wasn’t yet convinced of my total inability. There remained still some self-belief that I was able to love but that I was not living up to my abilities, hence the shame. That is, until today.

When I prayed today and asked the Lord to help me to see others through His eyes, I discerned this sense of admission of weakness rise in me from deep within and I didn’t like it. Then I didn’t like the ‘not liking’ it. So the Lord was beginning to show me that I still held some portion of belief in my self to be able to love. Yet my experience was telling me the opposite. My experience was that I nursed judgements, criticisms, anxiety and offense. However, my core belief was that I should and could overcome these negatives but my experience proved that I could not.

I cannot. I can’t.

These are not popular phrases in the pop culture environment of many believers today. Yet they are words that are completely theologically and biblically sound and are in fact the words spoken by this Jesus of ours, Himself. The very One who was showing me my incapacity and revealing to me the subtleties of the enemy’s lies, this very One, this same Jesus, said those same words about Himself! How can this be?

Jesus said “By myself I can do nothing” – John 5:30

And Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does”. – John 5:19

To us, Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” –  John 15:5

Paul said “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” –  Romans 7:18

But then Paul also said “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” –  Philippians 4:13

T. Austin Sparks writes;

In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere. (By T. Austin-Sparks from: Excerpt from The Risen Lord and the Things Which Cannot Be Shaken – Chapter 3).

I see this same underworking in my life, to try and convince me that I don’t need to make appeal elsewhere. Yet, Jesus Himself had to make appeal elsewhere, to His Father. What a fool to believe otherwise of myself. It seems pretty clear and to be said on the highest authority that exists, that outside of Christ, I cannot love.

So why does this make me happy? Do I offend you by this? Perhaps, if we only know one another according to the flesh and not in accordance with the Spirit, this will indeed offend you. Perhaps also, it is because of only knowing you according to the flesh that I have tried to keep my lack hidden from you and to keep up appearances in what I now recognise as something utterly impossible.

But does all this mean that I do not love you? Of course not! I simply can’t! I don’t have the capacity. My love fails. But, I want to… I want to love you and this is why I’m so happy. You see now, I can love you perfectly! – that is, through the One who IS Perfect Love. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). 

You see, I no longer have to strive in my incapacities and weakness or my anxieties over my failing efforts and works. I can now simply abide in Him who IS Love and therefore He gets the room and the expression in my life to love you perfectly, as you deserve, with His love which does not fail.

For His love is…

patient, His love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. His love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

See, I can’t love you like that, but Christ in me can. Christ in me, Christ in you, Christ in us, we in Christ. In Christ. Christ is the key.

That makes me happy.