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Gibson and Communion With God

I am being drilled as to why I won’t go.
I want to know why you would go.

I cannot believe that you would be going for entertainment. How could you be entertained at the expense of Christ’s crucifixion? Nor can I believe that you are going for intellectual elucidation. You can get what you need in reading material with more accuracy than what could possibly be depicted in a film. I hope that you are not going just to be part of the crowd. Most of you are honest enough to admit that there is a hope for some kind of spiritual stimulation, devotion, and blessing in the viewing of Gibson’s film. And that is why many of you are going.

But, if you are a believer, what are you looking for that you don’t already have? What does this film promise that we can’t already claim? Jesus Christ is the fullness of the glory of God and we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10). If we think that we are advantaged by this film in any way whatsoever, then we make God a liar in that He has said that we are blessed in Christ Jesus with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Our enthusiasm for this film has been so overboard that we are ready to crown Mel Gibson above Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the thousands of others who could not bring evangelism like this worldly man has done. We are so eager to go see this film today that we say, by our statements, that those who came before us were unfortunate to not have this opportunity that we enjoy.

Prior to today, we have not been disadvantaged one bit. We are blessed with all the blessings of the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). If you choose to watch this film you are lending credence to the suggestion that those who had the misfortune of living before Mel Gibson had no advantage — because, even if you don’t believe it, millions do. The satisfaction of the soul is not in a surge of emotion, it is in worshipful walk.

You don’t need a “worship experience,” my friend. If you are a child of God, you are deceived to think that you need that experience. What your soul craves for is communion with God. If you have been given the Spirit of Adoption, your heart is crying out “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). It wants fellowship, closeness, and communion, not a worship experience or a boost. But you are like me, perhaps — your battle is that you have been so diluted by worldly ambitions, worldly goals, and worldly expectations that you are tempted to jeopardize your spiritual health on steroids instead of going to the manna from Heaven that God has provided. “Many saints have no greater burden in their lives than that their hearts do not constantly delight and rejoice in God. There is still in them a resistance to walking close with God.”[1] Oh, that we would get off the trendy worship bandwagon, and get back on track with God’s invitation to communion with Him! Then we would finally learn the glory of true worship.

Why are you going? If you plan to stimulate your devotion for God, why have you not done it with the means that He has provided? Why are you choosing Mel Gibson’s provision? If you have to go for the experience, if you go to stir your heart, if you need to increase your appreciation, how little you understand your sins. There is a solution that is far more enriching. I have experienced it in my soul over and over in the past few years. It’s communion with God restored by repentance, renewal, and restoration. No film can replace the solemn glory of private communion and the swelling heart when you, in the privacy of your closet, find yourself to be accepted in the Beloved One. There is nothing so sweet as when He wipes your tears of sorrow with His own reassuring Spirit. When, my friend — when before Ash Wednesday, 2004 — before you had this available to you, would you go to a theater to get a boost for something you have not maintained all along? I am grieved that so many readily admit to their expectation of a worship experience. You shall get your experience. You shall get your boost. But if you are in Christ Jesus, truly regenerated, your soul craves the Manna from heaven — not man-made steroids.

I am sorry for you, my friends. I am not angry, nor is my spirit judgmental. I am saddened by the plight of Christianity in this country. I must tell you something that might anger you. Your relationship to Christ lacks much if you “need to” go see this film.

You will get the rush you look for, for sure. Many get an emotional surge from films even when they are not looking for it. So, those that look for it will get it. You will get the promised emotion. You will get the thrill. But you will not be any closer to God then you were before. You will be hardened in your sins, Christian, unless you come to Jesus the only way He asks you to come — with a broken and contrite heart, confessing your sins, repenting. Christian, why are you going? Please don’t respond to me as if I am a killjoy merely because I am pleading with you to look for something better. It is that your joy may be full, that I implore you to know Him as He would be known. I don’t need the film. I don’t want it. I don’t encourage it. And you don’t need it. The Christ that saved us is so sweet to my soul even this moment as I write that I cannot endure to see a sinful human pretend to be Him.

Do you think that there will be many long-lasting results because people have finally seen with their eyes what they could not see before? Are you one of those people who think that the disciples and the early church had an advantage over us because they actually saw with their eyes the Lord of glory? Is that why you believe this film will have a great effect on the souls of men? Nowhere in Scripture is it even hinted that those who saw Christ personally had some advantage over those of us who have not seen Him. In fact, this assumption would contradict fundamental doctrine (John 20:29). Please, friends, please. Have you thought about how effective actual physical sight was for the people in Christ’s day?

What are you expecting? Peter, having seen Jesus, walked on water for a few feet. Then he lost faith and began to fall.

What are you expecting? The disciples, having seen healings innumerable, dead raised to life, leprosy cleansed, and having seen Jesus in person fled when He was led to the cross.

What are you expecting? The disciples, having touched the resurrected Lord, felt His wounds, heard His voice, abandoned their posts and took up their old lifestyles when He did not appear to them as soon as they expected.

What are you expecting? The brothers of Jesus, having seen His miracles and having witnessed His grace and truth still claimed he was mad.

What are you expecting? What more do you “need” that you don’t already have provided for you? And, if you have all you need, why would you go — when this cannot possibly result in much less than confusion for millions of people? Why not help the cause of Christ out by saying, “I am complete in Him already!”

What more did the Pharisees need? They saw the miracles, they witnessed the healings, they had seen these things. But it was not enough. They wanted more. They had to have more. Christ did not bend to their persistent pleas for a sign — because he knew them. All the spectacular signs in the world would not convince them of anything as long as He continued to present Himself as the Son of God, the Lord of all, the One who had absolute right to rule them. The Pharisees did not want Christ to be the Christ; and it is Christ, as the Son of God and Lord of our lives who is offensive and unacceptable. Present him to every movie-goer, and you will find that most do not want that. “Give me another film, make another movie,” they will say, “ then perhaps I will be convinced.”

Now, this is the serious part. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ really limits itself to the only acceptable part of Christ to a godless world — His death. In fact, this is the most acceptable part of the Christ to this sinful world since it approves of it. We put Him to death; and that is the part that will make money in theaters. It is not His claim to be Lord and His call to repentance or the hope of His resurrection that will draw millions to the movie-house.

So why do you go?

Oh, my Christian friend, if you expect a devotional charge from this movie, you will not get it from Christ. It is He who told us to fellowship with Him in our closets (Matthew 6:6). It is He who has said that we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:21). He will not share His glory with anyone, any film, or any place. The minute you expect to worship there because of the film, you have spurned His riches that were available to you yesterday, and are still available to you at this very minute. He will not bless those of you that sin against the light by going to the movie who should know by now that the fullness of Christ is fellowship with Him in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16).

It is possible to be in the best of denominations, the best of churches, and in the best of occupations and have a parched and thirsty soul. In the busyness of life you have lost Him. The little foxes have crept in and spoiled the vine. Communion with God is a distant memory. The Spirit of Adoption moves in the deepest parts of you, seemingly suffocating under your piles of activies, do-good-isms, and lifestyle.

Please don’t go to the movie. Go after Christ where He can be found. If you have lost His presence in the night of your backslidden state, do as the Bride in the Song of Solomon. Don’t give rest to your soul until you have found Him all by Himself, in His glory and fullness in the place where He waits for you. And then, do as I struggle to do, as she did: “I held him and would not let him go” (Song 3:4). Be a lover, be a friend, and find out what He wants.

Have you asked Him what He would like? Suppose you nearly died in a rescue effort to save someone you long to be friends with. Would you like it if that person insisted on looking at a friend’s sketch of what that rescue effort looked like even though the artist had never personally witnessed it and, by his life actions, clearly showed that he enjoyed doing things that went against your desires? Would your heart not be broken if you were constantly available for a lively and open communion with the one you rescued, but he kept looking at pictures, drawings, and newspaper articles to try to conjure up an appreciation for what you had done? Wouldn’t you want to cry out to him that if he would only talk to you, hear you, and learn to like the same things you like, that his heart would start pounding with an unstoppable love? If he looked into your eyes and felt your warmth of affection — wouldn’t he find a joy unrelenting, and a satisfaction in you that would elevate his appreciation for your sacrifice to heights that were completely impossible when he looked at the historical data? My friend, I urge you to ask the Lord Jesus what He would prefer!

Is He glorified as people gape open-mouthed and aghast at a man’s imagined reproduction of His humiliation? Is He glorified that details which He chose to leave out of His sacred memoirs are added to the most horrific event of world history? Is He glorified when people from all kinds of conflicting faiths merge together to seek a sign from a cinematic crucifix that has boiled down the gospel to its lowest common denominator — that fact that Jesus died? Is He glorified when His message is not preached — “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?” Is He glorified that millions of dollars will be reaped for an industry that has systematically and routinely defied His commandments, even though He has made it explicitly clear that those who love Him will keep His commandments? How come it does not disturb the millions of evangelicals who are going to see this film that the maker produced movies in recent years (during the making of this film) that are unacceptable for those who would live godly in Christ Jesus?

The burden of proof is upon you, my friends. Not me. Most of the Christian heroes you admire from Church history would not go. Not only because they would not want to be a stumbling block to weaker Christians, not only because of the possibility of violating the Second Commandment, but — most importantly — because they wouldn’t “need to.”

If your heart is cold, if you have been insensitive to the things of God — do what He has urged all along. Come to Him, repent of your sins, ask Him to cleanse you and restore to you the joy of your salvation. Do not dishonor Him by going to this movie. Truly, there is no communion like actual communion with a living person.

I am being drilled as to why I won’t go.
I want to know why you would go.

[] John Owen, Communion with God.

6 Responses

  1. I must not have noticed your denominational affiliation, but anyway I’m a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, NY. I want to applaud your conviction and the time you have devoted to this subject. I have been very disappointed to learn that many of my fellow Reformed believers are failing to recognize the urgent importance of protesting this blasphemy against God’s Word. Surely a new Reformation is in order, but these days the people have the Word in their possession, and still they don’t pay attention to it. I just wanted to express some solidarity, and thank you again for standing where our spiritual predecessors stood!

  2. Right. Whether you are an “Independent Ragin-Fundamentalist Foamin-at-the-Mouth Baptist” or OPC or FPC or PCA or Evangelical Methodist or whatnot is not really the issue.

    Some people may be tempted to blame certain [narrow-minded sects] for throwing out “The Passion” movie merely because it is a product of Hollywood.

    In this case, Hollywood’s not the issue.
    When the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, the issues transcend denominational distinctions.

  3. To answer your question, I would probably go, and my reason is that whereas crucifixion was a common enough practice in the Roman world that most readers of the Gospels would have been familiar with them on some level, I have never seen one. All the better if this movie meticulously follows the biblical account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Without question, it is not necessary for me to go. Going would be a choice, not a compulsion due to some deep personal lack (let alone Scriptural insufficiency).

    However, I don’t understand your passion against The Passion. If the ultimate purpose of the 2nd Word was to protect that unique and glorious Image of God as revealed through Jesus in the incarnation (Isa. 42, Jn. 1, Heb. 1, Col. 2), there is nothing wrong with depicting Him as He is–a man–as long as that depiction is in agreement with the Biblical record of His person and work. Therefore, I am not a crusader against adult Passion movies or even against children’s flannel graphs (although I might be more reserved about the latter). I find no biblical warrant to be such a crusader.

  4. Dear Brother,

    These weblogs are certainly a fascinating development in this technological age. What a great forum for many people who are of like faith to have a lively debate and (hopefully) be shored up in our understanding of Scripture. I have seen a couple drawbacks, though (and forgive me if this may initially seem off-topic, I intend it to be a preface to the comments that follow). One drawback is that with the opportunity of setting one’s thoughts down and instantly publishing them for the world to see, one does not likely take the time to ponder and re-evaluate the content of his or her comments as might be helpful in these discussions (this person included). Thus, our comments may be less tempered and deliberative, but instead may swerve into belligerence and hot-headedness. This is seen even in our discussions, for example, in the use of superlative adjectives and provocative phrases (e.g. – “contrived ‘Biblical’ reasons”; “some freak”; and the like) where a time of meditation and re-evaluation might have helped us to recognize that a less intense adjective might be more accurate and helpful.

    The second drawback is that, absent from a face-to-face discussion, we may read emotions and intentions into someone’s comments that do not accurately reflect the author’s feelings and motives. Few, if any, of us are adept enough in written communication to pen perfectly what we are intending for others to hear. The whole field of Biblical interpretation should be enough to let us know how difficult it can be to arrive at a perfect understanding of an author’s intent. As I have read through some of the other interesting discussions on this weblog site, I saw such a problem clearly illustrated in the postings on the clothing debate.

    If we strive to “let [our] speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt,” these items ought not be taken lightly. And, although I would certainly never purport myself to be an authority over these discussions, I would implore all involved to be careful that our Lord be honored in what we say.

    Perhaps I am too sensitive about this, but I wanted to set that out before making my comments, so that you will know, Pastor, that I do not wish to “drill” you nor “roll my eyes” at you. I do not believe you are legalistic (at least so far as I can tell from your writings), and it is obvious from several topics on this site that you spend time thinking on deep subjects that many of us would likely skim over without a second glance.

    So, when I set out my disagreements, it is with a sincere desire to show you my perspective and hope that you will be able to point out if I am “out of alignment” with Biblical teaching (or, forgive me if this is impudent, that perhaps in some points I may be able to be such a help to you and others).

    Ok, enough prefacing, and if I post again in the future, I will refrain from such a long session on my soap box!

    Several somewhat random thoughts as I read these postings/comments:

    (1) History is often a double-edged sword. If we look to our forefathers as a guide for what we do or do not do, we will often be better off for it, but not always. As imperfect creatures, we each have much we can learn from one another. And God has graciously gifted men and women of faith throughout history with the ability and insight to write down their views of the Way, to the immense benefit of future generations. However, these forefathers were imperfect, and church history gives us plenty of examples of their imperfections, both personally and theologically. So, as one person asked, “should we filter everything through what they would have or would not have done?” The answer, of course, is “no,” and yet we would be foolish to ignore their wisdom and dismiss out of hand their views as ignorant and old-fashioned. Oh, that more believers today had the dedication and passion of a Thomas Watson! Therefore, while perhaps the Pastor laid too much weight on the historical argument, it certainly had a place in his overall presentation, and to use an ad hominem attack such as the tired anti-Semitic Luther charge is not constructive in this discussion.

    (2) I am fascinated by the view of some that “fundamentalists like to go negative for the sake of being against something.” Although I would not personally use the term “fundamentalist” to describe myself, I have had contact with and befriended several believers who do indeed prefer that term, and they are some of the most dedicated Bible students I know. Perhaps this is only my admittedly-limited perspective, but from my understanding of the history of that movement, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to those in the early 1900’s who identified themselves as “fundamentalists.” We need more who will be negative against the ever-encroaching influence of an ungodly culture and a “religious” establishment that caves in at every turn to those who would undermine our sola Scriptura faith. Clearly, although I may not agree with the conclusion of this Pastor concerning the Passion movie, his motivation was not just to be contrary; rather, everything he said grew from his studies of the Scriptures, and it would be immature of those of us who disagree with his conclusion to denigrate a leader whose words are infused with such an evident love of the Word.

    (3) A particularly noteworthy example of the need for tempered argumentation in these discussions is in the statment, “If we think that we are advantaged by this film in any way whatsoever, then we make God a liar in that He has said that we are blessed in Christ Jesus with all spiritual blessings.” To follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion, we would have to eliminate all Christian media, including movies and even books! In fact, it could be argued from that statement that we should eliminate church fellowship and corporate worship, for these could not advantage us. I do not believe, Pastor, that this is what you intended to say. For, if these physical means are of no advantage, then the monk who is secluded from society and spends his time doing nothing but meditating on God would be the example we all should follow. No, God has graciously given us aids to worship via the imperfect means of other humans. You clearly have a love for the writings of our Christian forefathers, an admirable pursuit. But are you making God a liar because you believe you are advantaged by the reading of those books? Have you denied your spiritual blessings that are in Christ by looking to some other source for insight? I ask these questions facetiously, because I know that is not your belief, but to be consistent, such a harsh statement is not appropriate against this movie, either.

    (4) Do we believe that those who came before us were unfortunate not to have this opportunity? Speaking for myself, no, I do not. God has given to each person–from the theological professor to the most isolated bush-man–the light necessary to hold him accountable at the day of judgment. So I cannot say that those who came before us are unfortunate not to have been able to see this movie any more than I can say the African native is unfortunate not to have the Bible in his tongue. Or that I can say those who lived in the 1300’s were unfortunate not to have the writings of Luther and Calvin. It is in God’s sovereignty that these things have played out as they have. It is only my place to rejoice when God graciously provides any means by which the Truth can be disseminated.

    (5) “The satisfaction of the soul is not in a surge of emotion, it is in worshipful walk.” This hits at the heart of what I perceive to be your greatest criticism outside of your valid concerns about the potential violation of the second commandment. That is, you see a bandwagon effect of believers looking to find a quick-fix “pick me up” to their otherwise lagging spiritual walk. And this, I believe, is a legitimate concern.

    So, let me argue for and against your point. Certainly, if a believer believes seeing this movie is a panacea for a deadness in his spirit, he is looking in the wrong direction. You are correct that one’s “relationship to Christ lacks much if [he] ‘need[s] to’ go see this film.” For such a person, yes, the movie may be nothing more than an emotional surge, and the deadness will continue.

    However, could not this movie be a “means” that God is providing for valid and beneficial meditation on His great sacrifice for us? You say, “If you go to stir your heart, if you need to increase your appreciation, how little you understand your sins.” But to this I would say, Yes! How little I do understand my sin! Our hearts are desperately wicked. Can any of us know it? I hope none of us believes we have even come close to understanding our sin and what it meant to Christ.

    Can your desire, Pastor, perhaps be combined with a viewing of this film? Could a believer do, as I hope to do, to see this film and use it as an opportunity to be reminded of my own wickedness and then come with a renewed intensity, “with a broken and contrite heart, confessing [my] sins, repenting”? This is why I am not going to go see the movie until a day in which I can spend time before and after preparing my heart and asking for God to use it to remind me of His sacrifice. No, I don’t and shouldn’t need the film, but it is a valid means of spiritual edification and growth. You don’t need the writings of the Puritans, yet you use them, and your use of their writings does not necessarily evidence an unwholesome focus. So, perhaps the appeal to Christians ought not be to avoid the movie entirely, but rather to be certain their motive for seeing it is sound.

    (6) A valid point you have made, and one upon which I must give myself to more thought, is the instruction of Christ to fellowship with Him “in our closets.” Now, although I don’t believe that this instruction is absolutely literal (since I wouldn’t fit inside my cluttered closet), it certainly indicates an attitude and atmosphere of solitude. Now, Christ gave this instruction in contradistinction to those who would “worship” in public places for all to see, but obviously not every personal spiritual activity must be in a physically-isolated location; that would be impractical. It is clearly an attitude that God is seeking of personal communion separate from any concern of others’ opinions. On the one hand, if I wish to see this movie soon, I must do it in the movie theater, and spiritual benefit could be derived perhaps. On the other hand, for a time of intense meditation and reflection, perhaps the movie theater might not be the best location. Maybe I should wait until the movie comes out on DVD so that I will be able to be more “closet-minded.” (And, now that I think of this, it seems somewhat out of place to see this movie in a place where, sadly, I have seen other films that do not bring glory to God.)

    (7) In conclusion, I would tend to agree with the one comment that it seems perhaps your passion against this movie is misdirected. At the very least, it is an item that calls for Christian charity to say that, although one person cannot do this in good conscience, there are sufficient circumstances surrounding the issue to avoid intense criticism of those who may have come to a different conclusion. Pastor, from what I have seen from your writing, you seem to have a love for Christ that is worthy of emulation. In spite of arriving at a different conclusion, I have learned from your perspective and have definitely been “advantaged” by this discussion. I hope you will continue to challenge us not to pass by cultural events blindly but rather to examine all of our activities in light of the truth of Scripture. Thank you, and God bless.

  5. Helpful criticisms. Gracious spirit. Thanks.

    I would like to speak to each of these as time allows, but let me say briefly in response to the suggestion that I am passionate against the Passion: Millions of people are flocking to it, millions of dollars are being spent, thousands are expecting manifestations, the media is saturated with it — and I have objected in less then 50 pages of material. I am not passionate against the Passion. I am trying yell just to be heard over the din of those who are passionate FOR the Passion!

    I, like you obviously seem to be, am passionate for truth. I appreciate your thoughts and, though I may not agree with your conclusions, you are doing what I hope others will do that read my thoughts — reflect.

  6. This is out of date I know, but I was in Bangladesh when all this was going on. Its okay if this comment is never read so I will say it for my own amusment sake. I appreciate this article and think that it is well written the points are excellent. I would like to add in response to those who commented I would have no problem in being labeled as being passionate against the Passion. The reason being, it misses the point of the cross and helps several million people do the same thing. THe point of the cross is not the PHYSICAL suffering of Jesus. Many Christian martys have suffered the same amount of physical pain; sawed in half, burned, tortured for weeks not days, and torn in pieces by beasts. Why did Jesus die in a shorter amount of time than was normal for most crucifixion victims.It is that he bore the wrath of a HOLY GOD, wrath intended for me and you. Gods wrath agains sin was poured out on him, to the place where he could not look at his son. Thats THE meaning of the cross. The movie doesnt even come close to touching that.

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