Imagine the scene. You’re at a cemetary, strolling through the lanes. (Note: it’s unimportant WHY you’re strolling through the lanes. Just roll with me). You come across a person who is yelling at one of the gravestones. You move closer to hear what they’re yelling. “Get yourself up,” the person is yelling. “Get yourself out of there and make yourself alive.” Insanity, huh? We would assume their personal grief caused them such emotion as to yell at a dead person.
I caught myself this morning. You’ve undoubtedly seen the banner – “From the Comedic Geniuses that brought you Super Troopers – Beerfest.” Yes, another debauchery-laden film hits the big screen. But I’m not being judgmental here. Seriously. Objectively, the movie is said to be filled with nudity and drunkenness. In an attempt to ease their consciences (or possibly just to get one more laugh), the producers conclude the trailer, “Drink responsibly and treat all women with respect.” I thought, “Unbelievable. That figures. What is this country coming to?” And I caught myself. I was yelling at the grave.
There is a spiritual reality that we, as Christ-followers, fail to realize far too often. People who don’t know Jesus are DEAD in their sin.
“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 not at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Question: Should it really surprise us when people who don’t know Jesus and are dead in their sins make movies like Beerfest? What else are we expecting? Dead people lie in graves. Sinful people who don’t have the power of Christ to overcome sin…they sin. It’s in their nature!
“…the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7).
We Christ-followers get angry at the immorality of the culture and we need to understand – spiritually and biblically – what is going on. It will help us to re-focus our energy! We’ve seen that sinful people sin, that they’re spiritually dead in their sin, and are hostile to God. Just like we used to be. So does it do us any good to yell at the grave, “Stop being dead! Get yourself out of there!” NO! That is non-sense. And the Word shows us how people are re-born (truly, born again).
“When you were dead in your sins and transgressions…God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13).
“When [the Counselor] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin” (John 16:8).
“I tell you the truth, no one can enterthe kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’” (John 3:5-8)
The work of conversion – the awakening of a soul to Jesus – is done by God through the Holy Spirit!! Consider that, in Matthew 16, Jesus asks the disciples who the people say He is. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” And Jesus replies, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17).
Isn’t it kind of cool here how non-Christ-followers describe Jesus…much like people today do. Back then he was called a “prophet.” Today people call Him a “good person.” This is the only revelation that is given to sinners apart from the Holy Spirit. Paul again points to the work of the Spirit in conversion…
“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:6-10).
In these last two Scriptures – Matthew 16 and 1 Corinthians), there is a word that appears in both places – a word I put in bold – revealed. Can you reveal a secret to yourself? For instance, can you reveal your birthday to yourself? No! Because that is not a secret to you. Your parents or birth certificate revealed your birthday to you long ago when you didn’t know what it was. In order to have something revealed, you must be ignorant of it. And Paul makes it clear how sinners act:
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18).
Being in ignorance means someone ELSE must do the revealing. Both Matthew 16 and 1 Cor. 2 make it obvious that the revealing is done by God!!
Practically, all of this means three things for our lives. First, we cannot get angry at sinners for sinning. They are dead people and we’re only yelling at graves when we tell them, “Stop sinning! Stop being so wicked!” The nature of dead people is to be dead. The nature of sinners is to sin.
Second, all of this means that we must pray to the Lord to awaken the hearts of unbelievers because…
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
We must pray to God – that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of sinners to the wonderful news of saving grace through Jesus Christ. It seems like nonsense to them right now. That’s part of the sinful nature – being opposed to things of God. The Spirit can change all that. Men and women might be able to oppose us but they cannot oppose the Spirit of God. His saving grace comes through the simple message of salvtion in Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most important thing we forget in sharing the message of Christ is to pray for the Holy Spirit to convict hearts of sin and unblind their eyes to the light of Christ!
None of this is PC. But we have to stop assuming that just because people are offended by the gospel, it means that we’re doing something wrong. Yes, sometimes Christians are arrogant in sharing the gospel, but the Word makes it CLEAR that, even if done properly, we will be opposed by people. Jesus was repeatedly hated. He told us to expect the same. Paul was chased all over the place for simply preaching salvation in Jesus. Should we be surprised when zombies of sin lash out at us? No way! It only means their sinful nature is testifying to the truth expressed in the Word – they are opposed to the things of God. But the Spirit can change all of that. Just like He did in us when we, too, used to be opposed to the message of Christ.
Don’t yell at the grave; don’t chastise sinners. It’s a waste of energy. Quiet yourself for a while. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts. There are times in life where you want a sick relative to be able to be normal again – to be the way they used to be. You have to entrust that person to the doctor and then they will be normal again. The only way to have a human being like they were (in the Garden) is to let the Great Physician heal their hearts with the gospel of Jesus. Entrust them to Him. Speak the gospel in peace. If they listen, the Holy Spirit has moved. If they draw a sword, keep praying for them. Just as the Spirit will raise us from the dead, He awakens dead hearts to re-birth through Jesus!
Third, we shouldn’t expect our culture to reflect godly values when it is run by ungodly sinners. Society reaps what it sows. The only way this world will change is not through protesting 10 Commandments or “Under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. It won’t change by merely criticizing how horrible things are. Our society will change when people are no longer so opposed to God. And that can only happen through the power of God Himself to change people’s hearts!
May God awaken the hearts of sinners in our lives to the gospel of Jesus as we speak it to them in boldness! May He prevent us from being deceived by Satan and allow us to see from Scripture that He is the One who saves! I praise Him for calling out to us who have believed on Jesus for salvation!