We love stories! Particularly the ones that cause us to use our imagination. Is it possible that our love of stories is in fact God leading us towards the deepest story of all?
INTRODUCTION – THE RISE OF FANTASY
Afternoon/Morning. My name is David Sorn; I’m the lead pastor here at Renovation Church.
Happy Easter to you!
You’ve maybe noticed, that in the last 10-15 years, Americans tend to watch one type of movie more than any other
The superhero movie.
And really, we could widen the circle even further…
We love anything that allows us to use our imagination.
Real…is so not cool right now.
What’s popular is comic book movies, and fantasy movies, and even sci fi.
Think about how many billions of dollars have been made off of the franchises of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Avengers)
They even made a movie called ANT-man…and it made 400 million dollars.
It’s about a guy who becomes small like an ant…
What’s wrong with us?
In fact, let me read you the list of the top ten highest grossing films of all time.
#1: (anyone know what it is?) Avatar
#3: Star Wars Episode 7
#4: Jurassic World
#5: The Avengers
#6: Furious 7
#7: Avengers: Age of Ultron
#8: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: part II
#10: Iron Man 3
Almost none of those movies are what we would call “realistic fiction.”
And even Titanic struggles to stay in reality.
You ever seen this meme?
(Titanic meme 1)
Or, others have portrayed it this way
(Titanic meme 2)
I love the one where they’re sitting up playing cards
So why are these movies so insanely popular with the vast majority of Americans (and others around the world)?
They provide a peculiar comfort to us.
For many, they’re an escape from the mundane or the harsher realities of our daily lives
In fact, interestingly enough, the very first superheroes made their debut during some really difficult times in American history.
Superman, and “The Bat-Man” (as he was called back then)…both debuted in the 1930’s as Americans were trying to grapple with the severe difficulties of the Great Depression.
Many have theorized that the current rise of the “fantasy genre” and “comic book” genre have been tied to the difficulties we’ve faced in the 21st century…through September 11th…the Great Recession…and more..
When life is hard…whether you’ve lost your job, a marriage, or your good health…
Or even if life just feels overwhelming at work…or even at home…
A lot of us just want to escape.
Our minds…and our hearts long for a story where everything works out …where good triumphs over evil.
And so we go to movies, we turn on Netflix for hours, we read…we look for a story that’s better…that’s deeper…than our own.
A DEEPER STORY
What’s in those stories that moves us so much?
Years ago, the great writer (and author of the Lord of the Rings) J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote an essay on the power of stories.
He wrote that we have these deep longings in our hearts that not even “realistic fiction” can satisfy.
In fact, he believed that the reason these types of imaginative stories are so powerful, so compelling to us because they bear witness to an underlying reality.
That they bear witness to a deeper story that God has already put in our hearts.
Tolkien draws out 5 storylines that people love to read about…or see in film.
(Show Story Chart #1)
Outside of Time
Longest Running TV show…Dr. Who…Time travel, etc.
Talk to Non-Humans
We’ve seen our fair share of alien movies
Find Perfect Love
Even if you’re not into superhero or fantasy movies, you’re probably into romantic comedies…
Where everything possible goes wrong for 90 minutes, but then they somehow seem to live happily ever after.
Good Triumph Over Evil
And what Tolkien is saying is that these very things that we crave from our stories, are actually just deeper longings…from the deeper story that God is trying to move our hearts towards
In fact, the Easter story itself is the deepest story…of the greatest rescue
Let’s take a look at it.
(Matthew 28:1-10) – NIV
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
2,000 years ago, Jesus came to earth on a rescue mission.
To save us from our sin.
But like any great story, something terrible happens.
He is executed on a cross.
And unknown to those who thought it was all over as they pounded the nails into the cross, Jesus had a purpose in dying.
He was taking the punishment that we deserved.
He was dying for our sins.
And just when things looked the darkest, Jesus was resurrected from the dead!
And He’s alive today!
For us to have a relationship with.
And the Bible tells us that if we believe in Him, surrender our lives to Him, we can be forgiven of everything.
Rescued so we can have an amazing relationship with God.
And think about this story…in contrast to what so many of us are looking for
(Show Story Chart #2)
Jesus Escapes Death
It’s the story of Easter!
God is Outside of Time
God planned from the beginning of time to send His Son Jesus for us to die and resurrect.
He knows our past, and knows the future.
We Can Talk to God
Because Jesus resurrected and is alive, we can know God! Talk to Him…have a relationship with Him!
God’s Love is Perfect
When we enter in a relationship with Him, the Bible says His love for us is UNCONDITIONAL.
he promises you…that when you believe in Jesus through faith…He will NEVER leave you or forsake you…no matter what.
God Will Defeat All Evil
The Bible tells us that when human history wraps up, God will defeat all evil, and only good will be left.
“Justice WILL be served and everything will be made right.
And this is no fantasy, it’s reality.
God really did this…and He will do it.
And God has drawn our hearts to these types of story lines…because they’re a reflection of His deeper story.
That He came to defeat death, so we could one day be rescued from the ultimate death, and live forever in amazing relationship with Him.
A DEEPER WELL
The reality is, the stories of our world, and the things of our world that we desire, won’t ever fulfill us.
They can only serve as a temporary escape.
You turn on Netflix…and you escape…for 42 minutes.
And then, when it’s over, you feel this sinking sense…as your back in your own life and problems again.
This is why we binge watch!
We hate that feeling.
So we say, “How about another one!”
But what if you could have your life changed in such a way, where you didn’t feel like you needed to escape from it?
Where you could actually be a part of the real, deeper story?
When Jesus was on earth, he once met a Samaritan woman who had been searching far and wide to find fulfillment.
In fact, this woman had been married 5 times…but men/relationships…weren’t fulfilling her life.
Let’s take a look at what happened
(John 4:5-6) – NIV
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
Quick note: Jacob’s well would have been one of the most important pieces of their culture.
Jacob, was their ancestor (a famous man from the Bible), many, many centuries before Jesus walked the earth.
The fact that the story of his well had been passed down for a long time, would have had great meaning to their culture…and given them great pride.
It was the most famous story of their town.
(John 4:7-14) – NIV
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus is telling this woman that what He can bring to her life is far greater than any sort of life we can find in our culture.
That’s the point of this woman standing at Jacob’s well (an incredibly important cultural landmark)
It wasn’t enough.
You can go everywhere the culture tells you to go and accomplish everything you’re supposed to accomplish…and it won’t be enough.
Because it’s not how God created you to find fulfillment.
Jesus is telling this woman that a relationship with God will provide the relationship she’s truly looking for…
He’s saying that a relationship with God would provide her with the forgiveness she’s truly seeking.
It would provide her with the real love and acceptance she’s really looking for.
She may be seeking the right story…but she needs to look deeper.
Not just to the water of this world… (she’s on the right track)…but deeper…
To the spiritual life
To the living Water.
What would it look like for you to start seeking that out in your life?
Are you willing to believe that God has made you for a deeper story?
That if you look deeper, there is living water that can actually bring a deeper meaning and purpose to your life?
If you’re willing to start seeking that, one of the things I want you to consider doing is taking our “3 Weeks of Hope Challenge”
(3 Weeks of Hope Challenge Slide)
The “3 Weeks of Hope Challenge” is this: What if you committed…to coming to church…for 3 weeks?
What if you said, “It’s time for me (and my family) to start seeking out God again…or maybe for the first time.
We want to help you in that journey.
In fact, we’re starting a short 3-week series on HOPE…next week.
We’re going to talk about how to start living in hope every day…rather than fear, and worry, and anxiety.
We could all use a bit more hope in our lives.
And I believe that if you take this 3 week challenge, that you’ll being to see Hope rise in your heart…as God changes it.
Will you take the challenge?
This is a great time to be around here.
Hundreds of new people have started attending here in the last few years…
In fact, because of that, we’re in the process of purchasing land in Blaine…on 125th & Lexington…for our future building.
But most of all, we’re just committed to helping you grow in your faith…wherever you may be starting from!
So think about taking that challenge…and letting some hope arise in your life again!
LIVING THE STORY YOU WERE CREATED FOR
(Back to Deeper Story Slide)
You know, I think the challenge for most Americans, is that we don’t feel like we really need God.
The average American is not an atheist…they believe God exists.
They just don’t follow Him.
He’s not a daily part of their lives.
And YET… we immerse ourselves in these stories that have us constantly longing for something deeper…
Something that could satisfy…something that could deal with evil and make things right…something that could provide us the relationship and love we really need.
And I want to tell you: Jesus is that deeper story you’ve been looking for.
Perhaps, nowhere is this more obvious in how we are moved by the storylines of sacrifice and love
We’ve talked a lot about movies today, but perhaps one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen is actually a short film from 2003, simply entitled “Most”
It’s actually a foreign film.
I don’t normally watch a lot of foreign films, but somebody told me I had to see this, so since it was only 30 min long…I went for it… “I can do subtitles for 30 minutes”
Plus, that was before I was 35 years old with 3 kids …I used to have this thing called free time.
The film is the story of a single father, who takes his 8-year-old son to work with him one day at a railroad drawbridge over a large river of sorts.
The father goes into the engine room and tells his young son to stay outside and play
A ship comes by, so the father presses the necessary levers and buttons for the railroad bridge to go up, so the ship to come through. (think like the Duluth Lift Bridge, but with a railroad track on it)
However, just as the lift bridge goes up and the ship finishes going under, a passenger train is seen coming in the distance (an hour earlier than it was supposed to arrive)
The father now has to lower the railroad drawbridge earlier than expected.
But just as he’s about to, he notices that his son, has fallen into the gear works of the drawbridge, and is trapped.
The father is left with an impossible choice.
He can go and save his son, but then the bridge won’t lower…and the train will derail into the water…most likely killing all of the few hundred passengers.
Or, he can lower the drawbridge, which would result in his own son’s death, but would save the hundreds of the passengers.
What do you do??
And the father, through sobbing cries, lowers the bridge.
I think it’s perhaps these stories of love and sacrifice that move us the deepest.
Because, again, it’s connected to the deeper story that God put in our hearts.
This is God’s deeper story of our rescue:
First of all, we need rescuing…that’s maybe the hardest thing to admit.
We can’t find the fulfillment we’re looking for…on our own.
We can’t make it to heaven on our own.
See, God is perfect, and holy, and just.
And we are not.
And because we all sin (we make the wrong choices)…I do who knows how many times a day!
Because we all sin, there must be punishment, justice for that sin.
Otherwise God isn’t just!
(Romans 3:23) – NIV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
And so what we deserve for our sin, is justice/punishment, and that’s hell.
It’s certainly not heaven. None of us deserve heaven.
God has to punish our sin somehow…because He is just!
And so the story feels dark…without hope.
But God isn’t only “just”…He’s always incredibly in love with you!
Even though He’s seen ALL of our mistakes.
There’s a line in our closing song today that says, “My sin was great, your love was greater.”
He’s crazy about you. He never stops thinking about you.
He’s so in love with you that He came up with a plan where He could make things right.
God decided to send His own Son, Jesus, on a rescue mission…to die on a cross in our place (thus taking the punishment that we deserved for our sins).
And that way, justice would be satisfied, and we could be forgiven.
Think about how much God loves you.
Can you imagine God agonizing over the same decision just like the father at the railroad bridge I told you about?
Do I really let my own son die…to save those people?
And yet God does it.
Because He loves you!
But the Bible says, we can only be rescued…we can only be forgiven…when we believe in faith that Jesus died in our place.
Thus, it’s our faith that moves our punishment off of us and onto Jesus instead.
But without surrendering your life to Jesus in faith, nothing is removed.
(John 5:24) – NIV
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
It’s our FAITH that does that
Jesus died…for YOU
But even better…as our Easter story explains, He also resurrected from the dead.
He’s alive today.
And you can know Him personally.
And so I want to ask you, do you need to believe, maybe for the first time today, that God sent His Son for YOU?
Are you ready to surrender your life to Him today?
Are you ready to say, I know I’ve been searching for something deeper for a long time…
And this…this is the DEEPEST story.
This is what I’m looking for…a relationship with God…
The one who created me…has a plan for me…and wants to spend eternity with me.
Can you trust that Jesus can provide what you’re looking for? Living Water!
And if that’s you, and you’re ready to believe that Jesus died for you, to be forgiven, to turn your life over to Him today…I want to give you the opportunity to do that today.
In fact, let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If that’s you…and you do want to tell God for the first time today that you believe He sent his son for you, and that you want to follow Him…in a moment…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “Here I am. I believe in faith. I believe you died for me. That this is what I’m looking for! I want to start following you!”
This is how you can be forgiven, go to heaven, to start living out the story of your life that God CREATED you for!
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you who are standing for just a moment
I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe in any scenario, that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, one of our leaders is going to come up and pray, but right before he does that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.
I’m going to go out there with you…(w/ some members of our follow-up team), and we want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
I promise you’ll be able to sneak right back into the service & back into your seats in just a few moments.
One of our House Leaders is going to come up here now and pray…
But for now, would you please had out there with me.
Go ahead. We can all go together.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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