Every painting needs a canvas, and it’s on the canvas of our sin that God paints the beautiful picture of the Gospel. When we were at our worst, Christ was at His best. When we first rejected Him, He chose to redeem us.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I absolutely love movies, and one of my favorite movies of all time is Gladiator. Within the movie, Russell Crowe has that incredible scene where he takes off his mask, stands before the evil emperor, and declares to the shocked crowd in his manly-raspy-don’t-mess-with-me voice:
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”[i]
If you’re not ready to fight evil after that motivational talk, then I’m not sure if we should continue being friends, but please continue reading. At the very least, I think everyone can agree that movie is epic! Other acceptable battle movies with cool speeches are Braveheart and The Patriot.
Whether you like epic battle movies, superhero movies, dramatic action movies, romantic movies, or comedic movies, they all have the same thing in common… a problem. Now you might be thinking, Jon, why are you so negative? Talk about glass half empty. But before you can have a solution, the problem must be first established and explained. No problem, no story. No crisis, no hero. If movies could be made without conflict, then my screenplay called Naptime: A Journey through Peaceful Rest would have been a box office smash. But alas, I’m still waiting for a studio to give me a call back.
When the stakes are high and the situation is pressure packed, the results are magnified. Movies demonstrate this truth. Sports also demonstrate this truth. Bill Buckner played twenty seasons in Major League Baseball, accumulated more than 2,700 hits for five different teams, including winning the batting title in 1980. With all these accolades, one would think that his name would get associated with some of the all-time greats, but instead Buckner is most remembered for his error in game six of the 1986 World Series against the Mets. Leading the series 3-2, with the game tied in the tenth inning, Buckner let a slow rolling ball go between his legs at first base, which allowed the winning run to score for the Mets. The Mets went onto to win Game 7, and Buckner’s name is still mentioned three decades later when any baseball announcer brings up the topic of choking. Bucker was a good player. In fact, he had a fielding percentage of 98.9% for 1986,[ii] but his mistake came at the most crucial time. The greater the stage, the greater the reward for winning and the worse the consequences are for losing.
Beyond a movie or sports level, I understand the concept of high stakes on a personal level. I am terrified of heights. Not airplanes or roller coasters, but what I call open-air heights, like tall balconies, stairs, and the Grand Canyon. Jon, isn’t the Grand Canyon a giant hole in the ground? Yes, but when I visited it a few years ago with my wife, for some reason I thought there would be a fence around it for safety. Apparently, our government didn’t think it was a wise investment to fence over 700 miles of the Grand Canyon’s perimeter. Definitely a breath-taking sight, the canyon is a mile deep from the carving of the Colorado River, and the immediate edges along the walking path for tourists have drops of over a thousand feet. At one point during our romantic walk along the south rim, Samantha wanted go onto a jetted peak where several tourists were out taking panoramic pictures with their cameras and phones. In the mode of trying to impress, I walked boldly to the edge, where my only comfort was a single safety bar that didn’t even reach my thigh. Feeling proud of myself for walking out, I looked into the beautiful canyon of God’s creation, marveling at God’s majesty. Just then, my wife came up behind me and quickly grabbed my waist.
I would like to say that I didn’t flinch a muscle in all my manliness. I would like to tell you that I grew a lumberjack beard while tightrope walking across the canyon like Nick Walenda, but the truth was that at that moment I screamed like a junior high girl at a One Direction concert. The scream pierced the air and it echoed my shame in the never-ending canyon below. Having lost all pride and fearing for my life, I sprinted back to the path, knocking small children and elderly to the ground along the way.
Why was I so scared? I was petrified because the drop was so deep and a fall would have been fatal. I wouldn’t have been that scared if my wife had grabbed my waist in the hallway of our home, but then again, I would have never seen the beauty of the Grand Canyon either. The view of the Grand Canyon outweighed my fear of falling. The risk was worth my fear. You have to ask yourself, then, what am I willing to risk my fears for? At some point you have to be willing to get into the game, even if that means there’s a chance of losing.
While attending Cedarville University, we had shirts that read, “CU Football, Undefeated Since 1954.” While the t-shirts weren’t lying, the truth was that Cedarville hadn’t had a football program since 1954. If there’s no opposition, no danger, no reason to be afraid, no reason to worry, then you can stay “undefeated.” Then again, there is also no movie, no solution, no relationship, no hero, no championship, and no epic ending. When it comes to God being for us, the story of the Gospel is told on the ultimate stage with eternity at stake (Romans 3:23; 6:23)!
When it comes to the sacrifice of Christ, we were up against an eternity in hell. The Gospel is the greatest story of all time, with the biggest problem possible, which led to the greatest hero ever. The Gospel is the ultimate epic movie, has the greatest super hero, and is the most incredible romance story as Christ was willing to lay down His life for His bride, the church. Christ is the ultimate champion, defeating death itself, and rising again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:12-20). The existence of hell actually magnifies the glory of God! Because Christ rose from the grave we can rise! Because He lives, we can live for all eternity! We can know that God is for us in our struggles because it’s on the canvas of our sin that God painted the masterpiece of the Gospel.
*The above post is an small excerpt from my book, God is For Us. If you enjoyed this post, check out the full book, available on Amazon.
[i] Gladiator (DreamWorks, 2000).
[ii] “1986 Boston Red Sox Fielding Statistics” Baseball-reference.com (Available Online): http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BOS/1986-fielding.shtml