There is a feel good movie from about 10 years ago called The Majestic. Jim Carrey played an amnesiac screen writer who stumbles into a small, depressed, down beaten town in Northern California. There are two prominent features of this little town, the dilapidated old, out of service theatre that once dominated the main street and the absence of any kind of hope because the war, WWII, has taken its youth away. That hopelessness is focused on the loss of one young man in particular, Luke, the larger than life, hero type favorite son of the community and of the theatre owner. And in a plot that only Hollywood can come up with, apparently Jim Carrey is a dead-ringer look-a-like for Luke, the missing in action son of the town. The whole story of the movie is the transformation that takes place in the community, the theatre, and the people when they believe that Luke has come home.
In the upper room Jesus is fully aware that his imminent departure is going to devastate His little band of followers. Not just the disciples but the small community of believers, His entourage, they are probably gathered there as He teaches them one more time about the significance of the Passover meal, about Branches and Vines, and about Abundant Life. Remember He has just said,” I have come that you might have abundant life.” John 10:10. And now He says, “It is important for you that I go away.” John 16:7
Really Lord? Okay, I’m really confused now. Are you going to give us something that makes us happy wealthy and wise? Is it going to be all ice cream and roses from this point on with lots of singing and laughter, and generally feeling good? I mean are we going to have abundant life like you promised? Or? Are you leaving us in our darkest hour? Is it true that we are going to be misquoted, misunderstood, and mistreated? Are we really going to be kicked out of the church? Even killed in your name? Really? Which one is it? Abundant life or miserable death? Good times or bad times? To which Jesus replies…you guessed it, YES!
The reason I am leaving He says is so that the Holy Spirit can come. Now we can have a great fun discussion about the theological physics of the Trinity. Was there some time and space edict, like Back to the Future, where Marty Frye and his father couldn’t occupy the same space at the same time? Was it necessary for the physical body of Christ to be gone so that the universal body of Christ could be receptive to the Holy Spirit of God? Well, my deep theological answer to that is…I don’t know. But I do know that Jesus says, “I have to go away. But when He comes….Well, when He comes that is going to be a game changer. Life will hit this town again, the lights of the theatre will blaze once more. Like Luke in The Majestic, His coming (The Holy Spirit) will put pep back in the step of everyone who recognizes Him.” (Believe it or not, that’s not an exact quote.) The Abundant Life comes to us when we fully recognize, invite, and embrace the Holy Spirit in our world, our lives, and our hearts.
Here’s the deal. The Abundant Life is not a thing that we get. It is a Person that we engage. The Abundant Life is a life immersed in the Holy Spirit of God, given over to Him, and His leading, and His presence in a way that perhaps we have never dreamed possible. When we allow Him to live in us like that, the old theatre comes alive in a new way and the lights come. Our life becomes….. Majestic.
I am not sure everything that this means but, the Perfect Presence of God, the Divine Doer of all that is good, and right, and noble, the King of the World and the Creator of the Universe, somehow steps inside my skin and lives in me. Wow! That changes everything. Listen, remember our conversation last week? I don’t mope around in fear. I don’t keep my fingers on my spiritual pulse to see if I’m still breathing. Jesus says, “I will leave physically so that I can come spiritually and live in the form of the Holy Spirit inside each one of you.” Paul says it another way in Colossians 1, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Do you get that? Christ, the Holy Spirit, actually living in you and in me. Well, that is downright Majestic.
That means at least three things to me. All three of them are about taking the pressure off of me and allowing me to just live the Abundant Life. First, He keeps me on track. “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: “ ( John 16:8) Jesus uses the word “righteousness.” Dikaiosune is the Greek word that we might translate as right-ed-ness, to be put in a right relationship with God. We are like a mirror trying to line up correctly so as to produce an accurate reflection of God to the world. It is the Holy Spirit that is saying, “Easy, easy, a little more to the left, now bring it in just a smidge. Perfect.” He is at work in us to help us point our compass to True North.
Second He continually teaches me. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13) I don’t know about you but I am in a perpetual state of remedial life. I constantly need refresher courses. And the Holy Spirit gently but firmly teaches me all day long, each step of the day. I don’t have to cram for some cosmic final exam. I am just enjoying lessons all along the way about grace, and patience, and trust. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John14:26)
The final thing the Holy Spirit does, He keeps me focused on what really matters, or better yet, who really matters. “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:15) I can get distracted with the best of them. I fret about finances, fuss about family, fume over the future. But when I listen to Him in me, the Holy Spirit says, “Hey, you’re missing the big picture. You need to focus on me and see all of the marvelous things I am doing. (And going to do!) You see that bad doctor’s report? Watch how I step in there. Are you looking at that pile of bills on your desk? Let me show you something about providing. Do you have your eyes on that kid that’s breaking your heart? See what I can do with prodigals.
When my focus becomes Him rather than the stuff around me life gets Abundant. The dread and drudgery turns unto delight. It’s like magic. Instead of doom and gloom the lights come on and everything around me is joy and peace. The Holy Spirit, living in me, when I get out of the way turns the dark screen into a 3-D, multi-view, surround sound, Cineplex. And I can sit back and enjoy the show.
In the movie, The Majestic, Jim Carrey’s make believe father is telling him about re-opening the theatre. His voice is full of passion and his hands gesture toward the dusty old screen. “That’s why we call it The Majestic. Any man, woman, child could buy their ticket, walk right in. Here they’d be, here we’d be. “Yes sir, yes ma’am. Enjoy the show.” And in they’d come entering a palace, like in a dream, like in heaven. Maybe you had worries and problems out there, but once you came through those doors, they didn’t matter anymore. And you know why? Chaplin, that’s why. And Keaton and Lloyd. Garbo, Gable, and Lombard, and Jimmy Stewart and Jimmy Cagney. Fred and Ginger. They were gods. And they lived up there. That was Olympus. Would you remember if I told you how lucky we felt just to be here? To have the privilege of watching them. I mean, this television thing. Why would you want to stay at home and watch a little box? Because it’s convenient? Because you don’t have to get dressed up, because you could just sit there? I mean, how can you call that entertainment, alone in your living room? Where’s the other people? Where’s the audience? Where’s the magic? I’ll tell you, in a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it.” The Holy Spirit is at work in you today. The trick is to see it.
(This is the second blog in a six part series on The Abundant Life. To read the whole series, or to find the complete manuscript of the lesson to our staff from which it came, go to www.mikecourtney.blogspot.com)