Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Lion King

This message is based on four clips from the Movie “The Lion King”

0.20 - 4.19 – Born to Reign
The opening scene of the Lion King is awesome. It reminds me of the anticipation that Paul writes about in Rom 8 when he describes the whole of creation travailing in birth, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. At that moment creation will break forth in worship and wonder as the New Creation breaks free from the bondage of the curse and experiences the ‘glorious liberty of the sons of God’. This opening scene captures something of the response of creation at that time. The entire animal kingdom responds in adoration to the presentation of a new King – the lion cub Simba. It even has a prophetic moment as the old Baboon Rafiki (which in Swahili means friend) ‘anoints’ young Simba and presents him to all the other animals.

In process of time the young lion cub grows up living with an eager anticipation of being the future king. Yet at this point in his journey he doesn’t realise what it truly means to reign. For him it all appears to be about who calls the shots. Into the world of this naive lion cub comes his wicked uncle, Scar. Through careful scheming he places Simba in harm’s way and it falls to Simba’s father Mufasa (the Swahili word for King) to save his son. But he does so at the cost of his own life. Scar manipulates Simba into taking the blame and so the young lion cub runs, living in exile for many years.

Here lies the parallel with the Biblical story. Mankind was made and destined by God to rule and reign on the earth; to be His vice-regent no less. But through the scheming and plotting of an enemy, who is a master of manipulation, mankind has forfeited that privilege. Trapped by sin we are left exiled, driven out of the garden, we no apparent hope of return. In the mean time everything in the earth tends towards death and destruction. Just like the Pridelands of the movie, when the true king is not on the throne then selfishness reigns and the land and creation suffer.

So Simba gets on with life meeting two new friends and learning to have a carefree attitude summarised in the phrase, Hakuna Matata – meaning no worries. But this carefree attitude is a cover that hides a deeper reality of fear shame and guilt. In the next scene Simba will be confronted by an old friend. Someone he values, who will challenge his lack of involvement. In the dialogue we can see four lies that Simba has bought into that keep him back from moving into his destiny.

59.00-100.30 – 4 Lies That Hold Simba Back
The first lie is in the statement, “No-one needs me”. In fact the opposite is true. Simba is desperately needed. But he feels a failure. He feels responsible for all that has gone wrong. He cannot see how important his role is to the future of the Pridelands. Believers can often be caught up in a similar way of thinking. Paul encountered this with the church in Corinth. He wrote to them in 1Cor 12.14-22, reminding them of the uniqueness and importance of every member.

The second lie is when he says, “I’m not the King, Scar is”. In reality Scar was a usurper. He had no right to the throne. It belonged to the true son of the King – and that was Simba. Similarly believers need to recognise that in Christ we are restored to our true destiny. Rom 8.17 says we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. 2Tim 2.12 says that if we suffer with Him we will reign with Him. As long as we believe the lie that says we are not ‘kings’ we remain trapped in a self made prison. Simba will have to face a vision that reminds him of who he truly is. For now we see how much effort he has put into living in denial.

Lie number three is powerful, “I can’t go back”. Simba has convinced himself that what has happened in the past is too difficult to face. He is too ashamed. What will people say? The prodigal son in Luke 15 was in a similar predicament. Yet after months of hunger with nothing left, he realised that even the servants in his Father’s house were better off than he was in that moment. He dared to go back, expecting very little. His only ambition was to be a servant in the Father’s House. But to his surprise the Father fully restored him to the full status of a son. I’ve learned in life that many times God will take us back to our place of disappointment, back to the place where we failed. And in going back we actually go forward; for we go with a new attitude that enables God to do something to bring about His purpose.

The fourth lie is almost a philosophy, “Sometimes bad things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it – so why worry?” It’s true that sometimes bad things happen but the good news is that there is always something you can do about it. That doesn’t mean we can undo what has happened. It means we have an opportunity to work in the midst of disaster to bring God’s love and mercy to hurting people. This is what the Good Samaritan did. While others crossed over to the other side he got involved – he made a difference. Rom 8.28 shows us that God is always waiting to get involved – but He needs a willing channel. This is what He found in Jesus – someone perfectly yielded to work together with Him to bring about His good purposes in the lives of others.

So how will Simba break through the power of these lies? The old prophet Rafiki realises that Simba is alive and finds him. He helps him to have a prophetic vision of his Father that begins to change him. In that encounter he is reminded of four truths that will help him to break free and follow his true destiny.

104.03 – 106.30 – 4 Truths He Must Embrace
The first truth is this, “He lives in you”. Old Rafiki declares this to Simba. This resonates with a wonderful Biblical truth for the believer expressed by Paul in Col 1.27, Christ in you, the hope of Gory. He lives in us too. Jesus said to His disciples, “I will not leave you orphans”. He has sent the Holy Spirit to fill us and be with us. He is the other comforter – just like Jesus. Through the Spirit we can have a relationship with God whereby we can Abba – Father, Gal 4.6.

The second truth is expressed by Mufassa, “You are more than what you have become”. Many of us have yet to reach our real potential in life. Churchill’s finest hour in life was at an age when most people retire! It literally changed the course of history. In one sense there was nothing wrong with Simba’s life. But there was one essential problem – he was destined for more. More was in him and he had not yet fulfilled that potential. When we chose to live below our capacity for life, we are choosing a life of mediocrity. We are cheating ourselves. Paul said in Phil 3.12-14 that even he had not yet attained. His attitude was one of pressing forward, keeping his eye on the prize and forgetting the past. Good advice for anyone wanting to move ahead into their destiny.

The third truth speaks to our insecurities, “Remember who you are”. This is one of the greatest challenges to us as believers. There is the truth of who we are by birth, education vocation and achievement. Then there is the truth about who we are according to God’s call. By embracing who God has made us to be in Christ we bring a new confidence to all we put our hand to. This is what made Paul so confident. He did rely on his education or Jewish credentials. These where not what gave him a sense of self assurance; rather it was the knowledge that he was a chosen vessel. All of his past achievements were seen by Paul as rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ, yet he also used these things to serve into God’s purpose for his life, Phil 3.4-8; 2Cor 11.6. In terms of his identity they were rubbish, in terms of being used to serve God’s purpose they had value. We need to remind ourselves often who we are.

For the first century Christians this was a radical teaching. Slaves now had equal status with Masters in the church. Women now had equal status with men. Children where the model of what it means to trust in order to enter the Kingdom. The lowly were being exalted and the lofty were being humbled. Gal 3.28 was a dangerous message that was subversive to the status quo of Paul’s culture. Yet it was this reality that empowered the early church to turn the world upside down!

In the fourth truth that Simba must embrace old Rafiki reminds him, “Ah yes the past hurts. You can either run from it, or learn from it”. This is a liberating truth. Paul Billheimer once wrote a book entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows”. It speaks to this very issue. He had suffered great loss in his life including a son who died in the prime of life. But Billheimer chose to respond to God in those times of loss and learned great lessons that he was able to pass on to others. It was not wasted in self-pity or regret. We too need to learn from the past rather than being trapped by the shame, guilt or grief of the past. Only as move ahead in life do we really gain the benefit of lessons learned through what my old pastor used to call, “the school of hard knocks”. Moses had to learn this lesson about his own shortcomings and embrace who he was as a servant of God rather than a son of Pharaoh!

118.49 – 120.32 – It is Time!
The final scene I have selected is the closing part of the movie. We here Rafiki speak almost prophetically again to Simba, “It is time”. These are powerful words. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because, in His words, “you did not know the time of your visitation”. Timing is everything. God has a time for all things – a Kairos moment to use the Greek term. When John the Baptist appeared on the scene in Judah, he declared, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand”, Mark 1.15. John’s time had come. But he also knew when his time was over declaring to others, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, John 3.30. He was of course speaking of Jesus. His time had now come. Paul tells us in Gal 4.4, "But when the fullness of time had come....." The Greek word for fullness is pleroma and in this context its meaning is similar to what happens when a glass is filled to the brim.

Simba had to seize the opportunity that was before him. In the movie the return of the King is represented by him standing in the place where his Father stood and letting out a roar – a mature lion’s roar, very different to how he practised in the early part of the film. And with that roar comes a transformation of the Pridelands. A restoration into plush green lands filled again with life. This is what the gospel has secured for us. This earth will be transformed and restored. Right now we have the opportunity to begin that process, redeeming what we can as a prophetic sign to the world that this is our true destiny.

Jesus lived with this sense of destiny. When others tried to push Him forward to reveal Himself as the true King He responded with, “My time has not yet come...” John 7.6-8. Yet when we get to Mat 26.18 he declares, “My time is at hand”. This sense of timing is crucial for us. And like Simba, sometimes we need a prophetic voice like Rafiki to provoke us. My spirit is stirred by this truth. It is time for the church to “Arise Shine”, Isaiah 60.1. It is time for God’s people to stop hiding in the shadows. It is time to see that the church is the hope of the world. Dare to move ahead into all that God has spoken over your life. Get all the training you can. Receive all the wisdom you can. Learn all the lessons you can. It is time!