Movies are powerful cultural artifacts that entertain, shape, andinspire people all over the world. This four-week series harnesses some of the biggest blockbusters slated for 2017, using them as illustrations that will help us to see God in a new way so that we can experience His presence in a powerful way.  
This week’s Movie: Wonder Woman


It’s time to make some noise

“Growth is not found in comfort”  Craig Groescel

I love watching a movie and finding representations of Godly truth that would help me to see things in a new and vibrant way.  Sometimes it could just be a quote from a movie, another time a specific scene, and yet others would carry a theme throughout the whole film.  The 2017 release of Wonder Woman was one of those kinds of movies.

Wonder Woman (Diana) was born and raised as an Amazonian.  Her mother was an earthling, while her father was the god Zeus.  As half-god and half-human, she felt the need and the call to be a bridge between both worlds.  But in order to do so, she had to leave behind the comforts of home and step into an unpredictable world.  As she would battle the evil Ares, she would encounter both great people and despicable ones.

At one point, Ares began to highlight man’s imperfections and cruelty, making the case to Diana that they are not worth her efforts.  But there was a greater truth that would compel Wonder Woman not to give up.  Just because humans didn’t deserve to be saved didn’t mean that they couldn’t be saved.  That faith, hope, and love is what separated Diana from every other Amazonian, making her Wonder Woman.

This is a great parallel to Jesus, who too had an earthly mother with a Heavenly Father.  Also, God desired to build a bridge for the lost to find eternal life and be restored back unto Him.  To do so, Jesus had to leave the comforts of Heaven and step into a deprived world.  While there, he would battle the devil, demons, and the forces of darkness.  Jesus knew mankind deserved to be judged because all have sinned and fallen short of His glorious standard, and yes He knew that they didn’t deserve to be saved.  But that didn’t mean that they were incapable of being saved.

No one will ever know what they are capable of achieving if they are not at least willing to go and try.  The greater the risk, the possibilities for a greater reward, but with that comes the chance of colossal failure.  High achievers are risk takers.  Many successful people have failed more than many of us realize.  But the resistance, struggle, and opposition that is found in those unwelcome outcomes is what gives these individuals the knowledge and strength to do better the next time.

No one is a failure just because he or she happens to fail at anything.  That’s called growing and learning.  A failure is one who decides to quit trying altogether.  No one can achieve desired results by constantly resting and playing it safe.  There is no area in life (health, relationships, finances, faith, etc.) that will get better the lazier you get.  You never know what you will be able to accomplish if you are not willing to go and try.  Yes, it is scary stepping out of one’s comfort zone and standing out among the crowd.  But what keeps me up at night is not the question, “What if I try and fail?”, but rather “What if I fail to try?”.  This question weighs the heaviest when applied to a Christian’s ability to fulfill the Great Commission in their life.  There is no telling what God can do if His followers are willing to GO and push themselves to think outside of the box and reach out to the lost.  The only way to know is to step out and go.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

These were some of Jesus’ last words to His followers before ascending to Heaven and sending down the Holy Spirit.  This great commission reads more like a great covenant, much like how many ancient kings would issue.  There would be three parts.  The first would be where the king would introduce himself and establish the authority that he possesses to issue such a decree.  Then there would be a charge or command that his subjects would be called to do.  Finally, a kingly covenant would conclude with a promise from the king that was conditional on how well his followers would obey orders.

How fitting that the King of Kings would follow this model in His farewell address.  He establishes His authority, commands then to go and make disciples, and promises to be with them always.  I love how that promise is actually not conditional upon how effective His disciples would be in making disciples.  His promise to be with them is irrevocable!

When I read this passage, what strikes me first is how some of Jesus followers could still be struggling with doubt after interacting with a formerly dead man who happens to teleport at will, walk through walls, and eat fish on the beach.  But I love how the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Matthew to include this description, mainly because it shows me that Jesus was entrusting the most important message in the history of the world to a group of imperfect people.  The group that was present to hear this Great Commission was probably made up of the eleven remaining apostles and other disciples.  We do not know if any of the original apostles where some who doubted at tat moment, but what we do know is that they didn’t let doubt stop them from trying to carry out their mission.

Here is a summary of what many believed happened to each Apostle as they set out to fulfill the Great Commission.  (This comes from an article in www.christianity.com)

  • PETER and PAUL were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
  • ANDREW went to the “land of the man-eaters,” in what is now the Soviet Union. Christians there claim him as the first to bring the gospel to their land. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.
  • “Doubting” THOMAS was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.
  • PHILIP possibly had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.
  • MATTHEW the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.
  • BARTHOLOMEW had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition: to India with Thomas, back to Armenia, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the gospel.
  • JAMES the son of Alpheus, is one of at least three James referred to in the New Testament. There is some confusion as to which is which, but this James is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.
  • SIMON THE ZEALOT, so the story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
  • MATTHIAS was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.
  • JOHN is the only one of the company generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. During Domitian’s persecution in the middle 90’s, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There he is credited with writing the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation. An early Latin tradition has him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome.

Even though it’s hard to confirm exactly what happened to each apostle, what we know for certain was that they died trying to live out the Great Commission.  Their efforts not only spread the Good News of Jesus throughout the known world but their example has inspired millions of others to go and continue what Jesus and the apostles had started, bring the light of hope into a dark world.  Though their accomplishments might be impressive, don’t look pass Jesus’ command for you to personally go too and make disciples.  Yes, one way is to go around the world and to step so far out of your comfort zone that you might have to step out of your state or country.  But don’t overlook your ability to fulfill the Great Commission by going across the street or down the hall in order to do the same.

The command in the Great Commission is not just to go, but also to make disciples.  The Greek word that Matthew uses as the word “GO” is a present participle, which could be read “As you are going”.  You could also read Jesus’ charge as, “As you are going about your daily life, look for ways to make disciples and to teach them everything I’ve shown you”.  The “GO” part is implied because we all are going about our day anyways.  While we do so, we should be aware and sensitive to any moment that may present itself.

Don’t think that making a disciple has to be difficult.  Yes there will be some challenges and struggles when it comes to guiding others in their faith walk, but understand that the idea of making disciples is more like someone taking on an apprentice.  One learns to be a disciple by learning from one who is.  It’s one thing to tell somebody what to do, but it’s something different altogether when you show them what to do as you both do life together.  I’ve heard many preachers say that you are the only Bible that anyone will ever read and the only Jesus that most will ever meet.

2 And he [Jesus] said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”  Luke 10:2 (ESV)

As we go throughout our day, loving Jesus and leading others to Him through our example, we must be conscious of this recommendation that Jesus gave His apostles some time before his death and resurrection.  Let me start by saying that God is not dumb.  Jesus isn’t telling His followers to report to God when things get too much, like if the Father is unaware.  This command is really for the apostles themselves to be humble and realize they cannot do everything alone.  It’s ok to ask for help.  They are not super men.  Interesting that even Superman needs help from the likes of Wonder Woman, Batman, and many others.  Why does Superman need the Justice League?  Because even Superman can’t do it alone.  Neither can I or anyone one of us.  Yes, God can do a lot with just one person.  But when there are many “ones” focused on the same mission, anything can happen.  The Apostles modeled this behavior, duplicating themselves in other disciples wherever they went.  It obviously worked because God used them to change the world like no group of people have ever done in such a short amount of time.

Whether you are going across the world or across the street, know that the command to go and make disciples is not just for a select few of highly spiritual people.  It’s for everyone, even for those who have some doubts or have some questions that haven’t been answered yet.  If you want to reach out to the lost, first begin to think outside of the box.  Don’t just assume that if you are not forcing conversations in order to get a conversion that you are not doing it wrong.  Remember, as you go throughout your day, look for ways to teach or show others about God’s goodness and love.  Start by making sure to be modeling Christ in your own life.  Remember, He promises to be with you and that the Spirit of God is also conforming you daily into His likeness the more you seek Him.  You can build relationships with some, find common ground with a stranger, or take advantage of a chance opportunity that may present itself.  But also consider that making disciples is more than just collecting converts.

6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul shows us that we can work as a team, even without coordinating it.  As we go through our day we should look for moments to either plant seeds, water those seeds, or allow God to use us to harvest and save a soul.  All three parts play vital roles.  So think outside of the box if you want to reach out to the lost.

My wife and I would clean houses from time to time in order to make a little more money to save or to go towards a goal of ours.  Many of these houses were vacant because the previous owner had just moved out and the new owner was about to move in.  One day while I was helping my wife, I began to wonder, “How could Alisha make disciples cleaning houses when there is no one ever at the houses she cleans?”  Then it dawned on me and I asked Alisha, “Do you ever pray over the previous and current owners as you clean their house?”  She was shocked that she hadn’t thought of it first.  Every since then, we intercede for each family, planting spiritual seeds and watering the atmosphere, calling on God to do a miracle.  That one activity has given us both a greater sense of purpose in our work.  One day, my wife’s own boss found out that my wife not only does she clean houses but she assists me in leading our church and she homeschool our kids (and may I add that she does a phenomenal job at each one because she actually is Wonder Woman).  Her boss then asked her, “How do you do it?”  There she saw an opening and spoke truth in saying, “My God is good and He gives me the strength and ability to do a good job.”  That was it.  No altar call.  No prayer request.  If her boss would’ve inquired more I’m sure Alisha would’ve done more.  But don’t overlook that statement.  Who knows who else will water that seed and eventually harvest it.  But we do know that the chances of that would be less if she didn’t try and speak out.

It’s like baseball.  Many are afraid to step out of the comfort of the dugout, step up to the plate and share their faith out of fear that they may end up swinging and missing, maybe even striking out all together.  Remember, there is more than one way to score a run in baseball besides hitting a home run.  You can get on base, and someone can move you along, or through your sacrifice you might be able to bring another runner home.  Also look at how we judge the best batters.  Many of the best batters of all time have a  batting average of over .300, meaning they are getting on base 300 times out of 1,000 attempts!  Even the best are failing way more than they are succeeding!  There are even hitters on a team, collecting a paycheck and are hitting around .188!  Babe Ruth once said that “Every strike brings me closer to my next home run”.  Imagine the impact you could have if you saw reaching out to the lost in the same way.  For anyone who is afraid to go and try, there is a way that guarantees that you will never fail.  Make sure to never leave the dugout.  You will never strikeout if you never leave the dugout.  But you also will never score any runs or bring someone “home” either.

“Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended at our message”.  Alvin Reid

It’s your responsibility to actually be a disciple if you want to make a disciple.  It’s not your responsibility to force people to do what they might not want to do or believe in.  Don’t just settle to invite people to “come and see” how good God is at your church.  Yes, that’s important, but what is greater is for you to “Go and show” others how great God has been in your life!  You might swing and miss, get hurt by someone’s response, or strike out all together, but that should not stop you from stepping up to the plate.  You are called to serve others, even if they don’t deserve to be saved, so that God can do a miracle and save them anyways!

Think outside the box and be willing to step out of your comfort zone.  Get up a little earlier to pray for your family, your co-workers, your customers, and bosses.  Find new and innovative ways to love and serve.  Keep your eyes open for opportunities as you go about your day.  Stay woke and look for ways to wake up the world by planting seeds, watering others, and save a soul.  And remember, you are not alone.  You have brothers and sisters working along side of you.  And better yet, you also have your King in your corner waiting to assist you in every which way you may need.