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Friday, December 6, 2013

What Makes Us Alive

Next weekend The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in theaters around the country. Our family was obsessed with The Lord of the Rings movies as they came out in the last decade. We read all the books and then were usually at the theater opening day, bought the DVD’s the day they came out, and got the extended DVD’s as gifts when they became available.

I wasn’t as impressed with the first Hobbit movie that came out last year but still plan to see the new one. Gollum, a character that appears in both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books, was previously a human by the name of Sméagol. He is so enamored by a ring in his brother’s possession that he kills him for it. Then he becomes obsessed with it and doesn’t want to let it out of his sight.

This ring has “unique” qualities and over time, Sméagol’s obsession with the ring causes him to become less and less human. By the time he shows up in the stories, he’s more animal than human. He’s isolated and alone, incapable of normal human relationship. After losing the ring to Biblo the Hobbit, he can think of nothing other than getting it back.

Though Tolkien was a Christian, I don’t think he meant for these stories to be an allegory of the Christian faith, but there are tremendous parallels. Gollum represents the extreme form of what happens to us when we sin. Sin gradually corrupts our ability to do good, let alone be good. Our culture believes it’s more important to be free than to be good. Only God through the gospel can make us good. But when we put something in the place of God and worship that, not only are we not good, we cease to be free and become enslaved to the thing we worship. The only thing that can make us truly free is worshiping God from a heart reborn by God’s grace. What follows from that is a life of risk taking obedience, not being in control and not knowing all that obedience will mean. That results in an aliveness that is part of what the Bible means by eternal life. Eternal life was never just about time but is what Jesus meant when he said “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it abundantly.”

Sunday at Bethany Place I’m continuing the message series “Waiting,” walking through Matthew’s version of the Christmas story. This week we will explore the story of the wise men. In the story are four categories of people, some fully alive and some dead, even as they live. The message title is, “What Makes a Person Fully Alive.” You can see the outline here. I can’t wait to share with you this passage. I believe our hearing it, believing it, and it shaping us will make us more fully alive. It will counter the undertow of our culture which tends to deaden us and is destroying our ability as a people to innovative, to think, and be creative.

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