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(Click or hover over the above Scripture reference link to read the passage.)
In this world, there are so many places we look to find our identity; places or people we look to to tell us who we are and what we are worth. One of the more common places we look is sex and relationships (including fantasy and pornography). But this thirst for worth spreads through almost all areas of our life. Not all are directly sinful, some are even necessary. But when we look to these things to give us our value, our thirst will never be quenched. I’m reminded of a spooky scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Geoffrey Rush’s cursed Barbossa says,
We’re not among the living and so we cannot die, but neither are we dead…For too long I’ve been parched of thirst and unable to quench it. Too long I’ve been starving to death and haven’t died. I feel nothing. Not the wind on my face nor the spray of the sea. Nor the warmth of a woman’s flesh.
He then steps into the moonlight where his body turns into a skeleton (which is part of his curse) saying, “You’d better start believing in ghost stories Miss Turner, you’re in one.” Then comes a picture that has always stuck with me: his talking skeleton figure pops open the cork of a wine bottle and starts chugging. The red liquid goes into his mouth and trickles through his open rib cage onto his feet.
This is a perfect picture of the alcoholic, so thirsty for a drink that satisfies, yet never does. Barbossa’s plight always reminded me of my previous porn addiction: wanting something that satisfied, but always being left empty. Tasting the wine in my mouth, but it emptying out onto my feet. The only way to keep the wine inside of me was to keep drinking more and more and more of it. Our culture feeds us this lie about sex all the time, with people having sex before marriage with regularly, yet continuing to come up empty, in loneliness and despair, masking it all by chasing the next hit with even more abandon than the last. In the Pirates clip, the crew-mates reaction to Barbossa’s wine is telling. They are all staring silently at what is one of the most tragic sights imaginable, then when he looks at them they all laugh as loud as they can! If they can make his tragedy cool and popular and desirable and normal, it will mask how sunk they really are.
If you haven’t picked it up already, this is all of our state under the curse of sin. We’re not among the living and so we cannot die, but neither are we dead. Or as the Bible says it,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.Ephesians 2:1-3
In our sin, we are in a sort of zombie state. Dead but not dead, living but not living. Chasing the next fix and the next fix and the next fix to try to make us feel alive. If we can just keep that chase going, we can give off the illusion to ourselves and everyone else that we are doing just fine.
Alcoholism, promiscuous sex, and pornography are some of the more overtly sinful ways we keep the chase going. But there are plenty of good or even necessary things that fit the bill as well.
That promotion will finally satisfy.
Owning my own home will be the ticket.
Getting married will make me happy!
(Getting divorced will make me happy!)
This new outfit, that new car, watching more TV…
And on and on it goes.
Ephesians 2 tells us it’s not the next bottle of wine flowing out of our rib cage that will give us real life, it’s Jesus himself:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christa and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We see all of this in Psalm 16. Not of course the specificity of Jesus being the answer as we know in the new covenant, but we see the rip current of the world, the rip current of sin, trying to pull the psalmist from his foundation. We see the allure of chasing things that won’t satisfy, and we see God as the only one who can. We see God being where he firmly puts his feet. Where fills himself up. Where he knows he is loved and accepted. When this cup is already full, there’s no need to look anywhere else.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup, you make my lot secure.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…
Is the Lord your portion, or is something else?
Is the Lord who makes your lot secure, or does something else?
Are you keeping your eyes on the Lord? Is he at your right hand? Or is something else? What are you leaning on in hopes that it will stop you from being shaken?
What are you looking to for your path of life?
This gospel invitation is for people who don’t know Jesus. But I’m also talking to Christians here. We have the truth of what makes us fully alive, and yet so many of us are still numbing this life away in one way or another instead of getting on the adventure Jesus has laid out for us. This is a relational adventure where he satisfies us with his loving presence, and then he sends us out, off our couch, and into the world to bring his life to a world of living dead people. To love them with his love. To show them what wholeness in Jesus is really like. Not by arguing them into it, but by loving them! By being there for them. By modeling it to them.
It’s not easy to keep our feet when the rip current of sin is pulling against us. In fact, it’s impossible…unless our foundation is secure in Christ. Unless we know we are our Father’s beloved sons and daughters, made whole and holy by Jesus himself (Colossians 1:22). This is our fuel. This is our strength. Every morning. Every minute.
Prayer for the day: Thank you for being my foundation, Jesus. Thank you that you tell me who I am. Thank you that I am your beloved son / daughter, heavenly Father. Thank you for finishing the work on the cross needed to save me and make me whole and holy, Jesus. Lord in your mercy, give me strength. Help me when I’m weak. Help me to feed off of you. Help me to be fueled by you. Help me to not follow Satan’s lies and deceptions. Help me to desire to live in the truth, your truth. Help me to stay on your path of life, even when the road gets rocky. Thank you that you’ll never leave me or forsake me. Give me strength to show this love to our dying world, even if I am mocked for it. Help me to be satisfied in you and to build my life around your adventure, not my own, and not the one I inherited from Western culture. Jesus, be my King. May your kingdom come, may your will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven, and please use me in that process.
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