Insights from Superman and Jesus

Superman-s-symbol

One fan favorite of super hero comics is Superman.  More than any other superhero, the Superman story resembles the Gospels. If you haven’t heard the story, it goes something like this.

From above, father Jor-el sends his son Kal-el as a baby to earth

Like God the Father sent His Son Jesus to this world. By the way, El is Hebrew for God.

Kal-el was sent in a star-like space ship

Similar to Christ’s first coming that was heralded by a star.

When he came, he was raised by two earthly parents who were originally named Joseph and Mary (later Jonathan and Martha).

Jesus was raised by two earthly parents, Joseph and Mary.

When Kal-el comes of age, he visits the artic wilderness to speak with his father’s spirit.

Like Jesus’ visit to the wilderness.

Thereafter, Kal-el (earthly name is Clark) embraces his mission as Superman to fight for truth and justice.

Similar to Jesus’ mission.

Superman’s mortal enemy is Lex, who envies His power.

Like Satan who wanted to be like God.

Superman came back to life after being put to death as per a 1992 comic book called The Death of Superman.

Like Jesus rose from the dead.

Well Superman may be a bit like Jesus, but is Jesus anything like Superman? I think there are at least three implications for Christians from Superman or superhero stories.

1. Jesus is incomparable to fiction or myth

As seen above, there are similarities, but there are also incomparable differences.

  • Jesus is real. Superman and any other superhero or gods are either myth or fiction.
  • Jesus’ death achieved something amazing. When He died, He died as our atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). He died in our place. He died our death. When He rose, He earned the right to give us life (1 Peter 1:3).
  • Neither superman nor any other person in real life or fiction can take away our sins, and give life eternal. Only Jesus can. He is the true messiah; He is the true Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).

2. The Superman story can help you talk about Jesus

Given the similarities, some have used Superman’s story as a parable or an illustration to teach about Jesus. When the movie Superman returns (2006) was set to hit theaters,  some churches used it as an opportunity to share about Jesus. I know friends who did likewise. I know friends who wouldn’t do likewise.

Given how much Superman’s story resembles the story of Jesus, I think it’s great to try and use every opportunity to point people to Him. Of course we should share with them that Jesus took away our sins. He died our death. No one else, neither Superman nor any other person could have done it.

3. Don’t let superheroes take your attention off Jesus

I like super hero comics, and I know some of you do too. But let’s recognize this. Satan can turn harmless things into harmful things. If Satan can take away our attention from Jesus, using superman, superheroes or any other thing for that matter, he has set up false gods, false messiahs for people to follow.

Satan can make things appear more beautiful, attractive, and desirous than Jesus. He has been doing that from the very beginning. He convinced Eve that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her” (Genesis 3:6).

He is doing it today. Sometimes, people find super heroes more attractive than Jesus. Why wouldn’t they when super heroes are portrayed as not only standing for justice and truth, but also having popping biceps, flashing six packs, extremely good looks, and witty conversations?

Because Jesus isn’t portrayed that way, sometimes people find Jesus boring, and unappealing.

True, supers story lines may provide opportunities for sharing about Jesus. Equally, they may make sharing about Jesus challenging with people.

Nothing can compare to knowing Jesus

As Christians, let us use every opportunity to share about Jesus because He is the true Savior of the world. Let’s also remember and share with others that nothing can be compared to knowing Jesus. Paul said it this way.

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

We also need to do one more thing. To not allow anything to take away our focus on Jesus, let’s “keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Are you a faith fighter?

figthers

Did you know when you gave your heart to Jesus, you became a faith fighter?

Paul wrote:

Fight for the true faith” (1 Timothy 6:12, NLT).

Paul himself was one when he said:

I have fought the good fight” of faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Greek for fight is agon. It literally means to engage in conflict. It was used in the context of military conflict or competing in athletic sports.

Let’s ask some questions about our faith, who we fight with, weapons we fight with and the outcome of our conflict.

We fight for the faith in whom?

Paul is not talking about faith in ourselves, but faith in Christ.

What does it mean to have faith in Christ?

Faith is trusting in Jesus’s finished work on the cross to save us, and change us. It is also trusting Him daily to do what is right in your life.

When Paul says I have fought for the faith, he is saying he has kept on trusting Jesus’ finished work to save and change him, and God to do what is right in his life to the very end.

Why is keeping our faith in Jesus like a fight?

It’s because it is possible for us to stop trusting God completely, and rely on self. We also have another enemy, Satan, who challenges our faith in Christ, His word, and what God says about us.

We need to know about our enemy

To overcome the enemy, we need to know about the enemy. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, ….but against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our battle is not physical. It is spiritual.

What do we know about Satan and His forces?

His life purpose is to “be like God Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). He is “the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God” (Ephesians 2:2). His job is to accuse us before God. (Revelation 12:10). Now the devil “has little time” (Revelation 12:12) so, “he prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

What can Satan do?

Satan can’t take away your salvation, but he can take away your joy. He can’t force you to do anything, but he can put negative thoughts in your mind. He battles with us in at least three ways: through influencing our old sinful nature (Romans 7:23), the influence of people and the world’s value system (1 John 2:16).

How do we fight him?

Satan can accuse us, but he doesn’t have the last word, because Jesus rose for our defence. When Jesus rose, He broke “the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). Satan can disturb us but he can’t defeat us because, “the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (I John 4:4).

The first thing you need to fight him is you must be born again. You were born again, when God chose you, made you aware of your sins, and the moment you repented and believed in Jesus as your Savior and Lord. “When you believed [in Christ] you were sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).

When you were born again, God gave you spiritual weapons to fight.

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons” (2 Corinthians 10:4). We also suit up. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

God has many spiritual weapons in the Bible, but His built-in weapons suit lists the key weapons He gives us:

Truth belt: “Wear a belt of truth around your body” (Ephesians 6:14a, NLV).

Right with God chest guard: “Wear a piece of iron over your chest which is being right with God” (Ephesians 6:14b).

Peace giving Gospel shoes: “Wear shoes on your feet which are the Good News of peace” (Ephesians 6:15a).

Faith shield: “You need a covering of faith in front of you. This is to put out the fire-arrows of the devil” (Ephesians 6:15b).

Salvation helmet: “The covering for your head is that you have been saved from the punishment of sin” (Ephesians 6:17a).

Bible sword: “Take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17b).

God gives us spiritual weapons like faith, God’s word, right with God status, truth found in Jesus, peace that comes from the gospel, saved and empowered by grace assurance to stand against Satan’s and his minions.

Not only that, you are also connected with the commander Himself, Jesus Christ, through the spiritual weapon called Prayer, while His Spirit, who lives in you, directs you and empowers you through the battle field of life. “You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you..” (Ephesians 6:18).

You are more than conquerors through Christ

Just like Paul, you can one day say I have fought the good fight of faith. You know why? Because not only are you saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), seated with Christ in heaven (Ephesians 2:6), transferred to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13), guaranteed of salvation (Ephesians 1:14), you are also more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), and we conquer through Jesus and His weapons. No matter what the devil throws at you this side of heaven, you have a promise. “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith” (1 John 5:4).

When Christians need to be patient?

Queues

I visited Singapore recently on a holiday. One of the highlights of my visit was the amount of queues I had to stand in.

When I needed a taxi, I stood in a queue. Waited for the monorail. Stood in a queue. Supermarket, shopping mall, tickets counter. Stood in a queue. Water slide ride. Stood in a queue.

Never before have I spent so much time in queues.

Queues are a picture of waiting periods

They reminded me about the waiting periods we go through in life and couldn’t wait till we got out of. Some of us couldn’t wait till we got out of college, got a job, found love, got married, got kids, got out of debt.

If you haven’t realised already, we spend a lot of our lives waiting.

It is one thing to wait in a supermarket queue. Another thing when you wait for people to change, your health to change, finances to change, marriage to turn around. James chapter 5 mentions three waiting periods; he encourages us to be patient when we meet such circumstances.

When we need to exercise patience?

  1. Uncontrollable situations

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as for you wait the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen” (James 5:7, NLT).

James says we need patience, when we face uncontrollable situations (ex: the return of Jesus). He uses farmers as an example. They had to do a lot of waiting because they had to till, plant, prune before harvesting. They also had no control over the weather, economy, and labor practices. James tells us to be patient when we face uncontrollable situations. Why? Because we do not have control over such things.

Sometimes, when things are uncontrollable, we try to control them. We do that by worrying.  But worrying is useless. The Bible says, “can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Mathew 6:27). God encourages us to be patient during queues of uncontrollable situations.

  1. Unchangeable people

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).

James says we must be patient when people are unchangeable. He says look at the prophets. The prophets were entrusted to turn people to God and change their lives. However, prophets were resisted and persecuted, yet they served God. James says when you face unchangeable people, remember the prophets, and their example of patience.

  1. Unexplainable problems

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance” (James 5:11).

When you face unexplainable waiting periods, be patient. Everything was going well for Job. Then everything fell apart. He lost his family, friends, wealth, health and joy. A lot of things in life may not make sense. It didn’t make sense for Job, but he kept his faith. When we experience queues of unexplainable problems, God wants us to be patient.

Here is why we can be patient:

We can be patient because God is in charge. We may not see Him, but it doesn’t mean He isn’t working things out. “You can see how the Lord was kind to him (Job) at the end” (Job 5:11). What He did for Job, He does for us.

When we know He has our best interest in mind, and when we trust Him to do the right thing, we can wait for Him patiently.

And when you wait patiently for Him, make sure you also:

Wait expectantly: “… I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for He has promised” (Psalm 130:5, LB).

Wait confidently: “I will wait confidently for God” Micah 7:7, GNT).

Wait quietly: “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26, NIV).

Did you enter God’s Sabbath Rest?

Perfect-place-for-a-rest-8361

The book of Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians. It was written to show them that Jesus’s new covenant ministry (saved by trusting in Jesus) is superior to the old covenant (relying on sacrifices and rituals).

As the author talks about how everything has changed because of Jesus, the book lists certain things as much better or superior in the new covenant:

Jesus himself (Hebrews 3:1-6). New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6). New covenant law (Hebrews 7:12) Jesus’ sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23). Heavenly Temple (Hebrews 9:11). God’s promises (Hebrews 8:6). Resurrection (Hebrew 11:35). Blood atonement (Hebrews 12:24).

And then he gets on to another topic: a Sabbath. He says it this way:

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest (Greek: Sabbatismos) for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, New American Standard Bible).

After saying the Sabbath ‘remains’, he goes on to explain that the idea of the Sabbath (Sabbathismos) rest is now much bigger than just taking some time off each week. Now this verse doesn’t do away with the need to set aside exclusive time for worship, rest and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25).

With that in mind, here’s five things Christians need to remember about this Sabbath. These points will also show that this Sabbath is not a physical day of rest.

1. We enter this Sabbath by believing

For only we who believe can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:3, NLT).

2. Having a day off doesn’t mean you’ve entered God’s rest

You can keep a physical day of rest and still not enter this Sabbath. Israel who were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath rest didn’t enter this Sabbath rest:

 “Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come” (Hebrews 4:8).

3. We need to rest from trying to earn salvation

You can enter this Sabbath rest when you stop trying to earn salvation by your own works. Works here does not refer to good works that a Christian does by faith, but the effort of trying to win God over by being ‘good enough’ – something nobody gets right.

For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors (own works of salvation), just as God did after creating the world” (Hebrews 4:10).

4. Rest begins today, not Sunday or Saturday

“So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today” (Hebrews 4:6, 7).

The reality is, the Sabbath is about God’s promised rest. Something we enter into fully when we get to Heaven, but we start experiencing it today.

5. This Sabbath is associated with the gospel

 “So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God” (Hebrews 4:6).

What is the gospel or good news if not salvation by trusting and believing in Jesus alone? Paul wrote:

We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us” (Romans 3:22-25).

We are declared righteous in the presence of God simply as a gift of God’s grace we receive by faith in Jesus’ finished work of salvation.

Did you know that when you gave your heart to Jesus, you entered this Sabbath rest?

“For only we who believe [in Jesus] can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:3, NLT)

This Sabbath rest is a spiritual rest of grace, acceptance, and forgiveness we experience in Christ. It is also a rest from guilt, sin, and its penalty.

Jesus promises this Sabbath rest today for anyone who comes to Him:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Make sure you enter God’s Sabbath rest

Some do not enter this rest for at least three reasons.

  • First, they do not know about the gospel, the spiritual Sabbath rest and what Jesus has accomplished for them.
  • Second, they do not enter this rest because they do not believe completely in Christ’s finished work and His power to save them.
  • Third, they do not “make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11, NIV) in response to the good news, allowing Satan to challenge their trust in Jesus’ finished work and what God says about them.

What does God say about those who belong to Him? He says:

You are: Reconciled (Rom. 5:10). Dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). Freed from sin (Rom. 6:18). Released from law’s condemnation (Rom. 7:6). Conqueror through Him (Rom. 8:37). Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Saved through faith (Eph. 2:8). The dwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4). Qualified to share in the inheritance (Col. 1:12). Transferred to His kingdom (CoI. 1:13). Chosen to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29).

You have: the living presence of Christ in you (Phil. 2:13). A Helper to encourage you (Rom. 8:26).

You: serve in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:6). Received a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12).