Emptied & Humbled – Spider-man 2: Glory

No pain, no gain the old saying goes. This certainly rings true for our spiritual lives. Sacrifice and death are the”birth pains” of the glory. No pain, no glory.

Think “beauty from the ashes” or the glorious phoenix rising from the ashes.

Knives, Plants, and Babies

Have you ever seen someone sharpen a knife? It is kind of brutal, to the knife. Depending on the way you sharpen a knife you can even see the sparks caused by the grinding and friction.

But you don’t get the sharp blade without the pain of sharpening.

As iron sharpens ironso a person sharpens his friend. (Proverbs 27:17)

Have you ever pruned plants? Again, it is kind of brutal, to the plant. My wife and I have a vegetable garden and grape vines. Not only do we have to prune the dead vines and branches, often we have to prune living vines and branches. We literally cut off part of the plant.

But you don’t get the fruit without the pain of pruning.

Jesus even used this metaphor about our own spiritual lives.

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardenerHe takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2)

Speaking of birth pains, we see the same in the beautiful birth of a child. Yes, childbirth is amazingly beautify, but (so my wife says) it is also quite painful!

But you don’t get the beautiful baby without the birth pains.

Spider-man and Jesus

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We see this same idea play out in Spider-man 2.

Because he is the hero, Peter Parker chooses to sacrifice his own desires. He empties himself and he humbles himself to the point of death (yea, I know he didn’t die, but he did what he needed to with no regard for his own being). It is only after this sacrifice that the world sees his true identity, that he is both Spider-man and Peter Parker. And it is after this sacrifice that Peter Parker gets the girl. It is after this sacrifice that Peter Parker gets his glory.

Peter Parker’s glory only comes after the pain of sacrifice.

We know this is true, right? We want life to be easy, we want it to be painless. But we know – we truly know – that life is hard and that good things don’t come easy.

We see this in artists, musicians, dancers, and athletes. The best of these work HARD. Harder than most of us are willing to work. Their glory comes from the pain of practice and discipline.

We even see this in Philippians 2 in regards to Jesus.

But (Jesus) emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human natureHe humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every nameso that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7-11)

“As a result,” did you catch that? As a result of Jesus emptying and humbling himself – as a result of his ultimate sacrifice and eventual death and resurrection – God the Father exalted him and gave him the name above every name so that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, all to the glory of the Father!

Glory comes from the pain of sacrifice.

Resurrection comes from the pain of death.

This idea applies to both your relationship with God and with others.

Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:27-39)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

What is standing between you and God? What glory is waiting for you “as a result” of your sacrifice? What does God want to do in you and through you?

Lent is the perfect time to get right with God.

Lent is the perfect time to choose the sacrifice.

Lent is the perfect time to empty yourself of your own ambition.

Lent is the perfect time to humble yourself before your God. (After all, someday we will all bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…)

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What is standing between you and your neighbor, your spouse, your family, your friends, your boss/employees?

What glory is waiting for you “as a result” of your sacrifice? What does God want to do in you and through you in light of these relationships?

Lent is the perfect time to get right with your neighbors.

Lent is the perfect time to choose the sacrifice.

Lent is the perfect time to empty yourself of your own ambition.

Lent is the perfect time to humble yourself before your neighbor.

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Emptied and Humbled

Spider-man 2 is an amazing Reel Parable. It entertainingly teaches us about Philippians 2.

Choice requires sacrifice.

Sacrifice often leads to death.

Sacrifice and death reveal identity.

The pain of sacrifice is required for the glory.

As you observe Lent, examine your own life in light of Philippians 2 and Spider-man 2.

What choices are you being asked to make?

What sacrifices do you need to make? What wants, desires, ambitions do you need to kill?

What glory awaits you at the end of this process?

But (Jesus) emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human natureHe humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every nameso that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7-11)

Be sure to check out all of Emptied and Humbled, a movie based Lent Bible study. If you haven’t already, you should sign up so that you don’t miss a day.


Emptied & Humbled – Spider-man 2: Identity

Who are you? If you are like me, there is a certain tension to your answer.

I am a husband, a father, a son, and a brother. I am an employee and a volunteer. I am a writer and a poet. I am a dreamer and a procrastinator (not a good combination). I joke with my wife that I am a lover who can fight and a fighter who can love. I am a sinner and I am a saint. I am a Christian and an heir with Christ, but I am also a working stiff chasing the American Dream.

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A Holy Tension

The tension comes from choice and the resulting sacrifice, in choosing between what we want and what we will sacrifice.

Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and stealBut accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and stealFor where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The tension comes from choosing between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure. Do you want earthy treasure or do you want heavenly treasure. Are you willing to sacrifice earthly treasure for heavenly treasure? Or will you sacrifice your heavenly treasure for earthly treasure?

And this begs the question, what is earthly treasure?

My wife is fond of our home and my kids like to eat. I enjoy movies (obviously!) and really like my TV. Yesterday I bought the newest release from a favorite band. Are these earthly treasures?

Notice that the storing up of treasure happens now, here on Earth, and not some time off in the future. Regardless of if it is earthly treasure or heavenly treasure, the storing up of the treasure happens now. This is not some pie-in-the-sky escapism. This is not an excuse to bury our heads in the sand and ignore what we don’t like. This is not an excuse ignore – or distance ourselves from – the world. Instead, this is a reason to empty ourselves and humble ourselves and to choose others needs over our own ambition.

Will you choose to invest in earthly treasure and sacrifice heavenly treasure?

Or will you choose to invest in heavenly treasure and sacrifice earthly treasure?

If you are like me, then there is an ongoing tension between what I want and what God wants.

Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)

This is the tension.

Son of Man and Son of God

It is during his greatest act of sacrifice that Spider-man is revealed to be Peter Parker. This utmost example of emptying and humbling is when we see his true identity; he is just a boy but he is also the hero.

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This is true for Jesus. Yes, he is the Son of Man, but he is also the Son of God.

We see Jesus’ identity fully realized in Lent.

Jesus is the Son of Man who can forgive our sins. A man – and a sympathetic savior – who has been tempted in all the same ways as we are tempted. (Hebrews 4:15)

Which is easierto say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walkBut so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic – I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:9-12)

Jesus is also the Son of God – the Lamb of God – who came to take away the sin of the world.

On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:54)

Choice > Sacrifice > Death > Identify

The choices that we make result in sacrifice. Often that sacrifice ends in death; the death of desire, the death of a dream, the death of our pride. This death reveals our true identity.

Let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Spider-man’s deeds revealed his true identity, so do ours.

Jesus’ deeds revealed his true identity, so do ours.

Our deeds reveal our true identity. Do our deeds – do your deeds – point people to God?

What do your deeds reveal about you? Do your deeds accumulate treasures here on earth? Do your deeds accumulate treasures in heaven? Do your deeds point others to God?

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of GodKeep thinking about things above, not things on the earthfor you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in GodWhen Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with himSo put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passionevil desire, and greed which is idolatryBecause of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedienceYou also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among themBut now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouthDo not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created itHere there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:1-11)

Be sure to check out all of Emptied and Humbled, a movie based Lent Bible study. If you haven’t already, you should sign up so that you don’t miss a day.


Emptied & Humbled – Spider-man 2: Death

“But (Jesus) emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8

Lent is about choice and sacrifice. Sometimes the choices and sacrifices are small (time, money, wants), but sometimes they are huge.

Spider-Man-Jesus-Pose

Peter Parker wanted a job, a girlfriend and to get good grades in school. All of these are good things.

Instead of chasing after his own ambition, Peter Parker emptied and humbled himself. Why? Because Spider-man was the hero. And like Jesus, he humbled himself to the point of death.

In the image above Spider-man even looks like he is hanging on a cross. In the image below he even has a “spear pierced” side. The imagery is very powerful; that is what Jesus did for us.

Yea, I know he didn’t die, but he was willing to and the people he saved thought he did die.

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Peter Parker emptied and humbled himself – to the point of death – to save others. Jesus emptied and humbled himself – to the point of death – to save everyone. So yea, Jesus loves us the way Spider-man loved his community. He loved us so much he was willing to die for us.

What would this kind of sacrifice look like in your life? What would it look like if we lived our lives like Spider-man? What would it look like if we lived our lives like Jesus?

What would we sacrifice? What would have to die?

Good-Friday

For most of us it is pride, wants, desires. For others it is habits or addictions or other things you try to hide.

What is currently standing between you and God? Sacrifice it. Kill it.

What is currently standing between you and others, between you and family, between you and friends? Sacrifice it. Kill it.

What do you need to sacrifice – kill – to be the hero?

Personal Note on Sacrifice and Death

Right now, during the 2015 Lent season, Christians are dying. Every week, almost every day it seems, there is another report of Christians somewhere in the world who have been kidnapped or killed.

Our issues – our pride, our desire, our wants – fade in the light of this Earthly tragedy. I don’t want to make light of our issues. Bad habits – and especially addiction – are not easy to break. But do not for a moment forget that others are currently facing real persecution and are making real – the ultimate – sacrifice.

But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better lifeAnd others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonmentThey were stoned, sawed apartmurdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earthAnd these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promisedFor God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us. (Hebrews 11:35a-40)

We are not tortured. We are not flogged, chained or imprisoned. We are not stoned, sawed apart or murdered by the sword.

Right now others, however, are.

As Hebrews says, the world is not worthy of these people.

They are worthy to suffer like Jesus and have received a glory beyond all comparison.

For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

This Lenten season, I exhort you to pray that their suffering, that their sacrifice, that their death, would not be in vain. Pray with me that their testimony would be strong and their faith firm.

For their momentary, light suffering is producing for them an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. (II Corinthians 4:17, pronouns edited)

Be sure to check out all of Emptied and Humbled, a movie based Lent Bible study. If you haven’t already, you should sign up so that you don’t miss a day.