Sunday, August 30, 2020

Spiritual Journey: Apotheosis, Realizing Our True Identity

"Every morning before shuffling out the back door, the old man told the cook to keep the frying pan hot. Tonight he was going to bring that elusive fish home for supper. All day he would sit on the same battered lawn chair, under the same Florida sun, next to the same fishing hole, holding the same rod, while dangling the same hook. Day after day, month after month, and year after year, he waited for that fish to bite.

Occasionally, visitors came from Chicago or New York to pay homage to the old man at the fishing hole. They tried to mask their dismay upon seeing him. Though he was only in his late forties, he looked old beyond his years. His brain was eaten by syphilis, his face was scarred from earlier wars, and his body had been ravaged by prison. For a brief moment, his eyes would flicker in faint remembrance. He might respond with an incoherent grunt. But always his glassy gaze would quickly return to the hook in the water.

After awkward moments of silence, visitors would sadly slip away. There was a time when old Alphonse was Big Al. As America’s most notorious and feared gangster, he ruled a crime syndicate as rich and powerful as the federal government. He was Public Enemy Number One. His detractors called him Scarface. His victims called him Sir. His stable of slick lawyers and bribed public officials kept him out of prison for years. No mobster had ever had a run like Scarface Al Capone.

But even the boss can’t mess with the Internal Revenue Service. At thirty-three years of age, Big Al was sent up the river for tax evasion. When bribed officials allowed him to turn his cell into the Ritz-Carlton, he was carted off to the new maximum security prison at Alcatraz. There he experienced the true meaning of “hard time.” After four years on the Rock, he was released for good behavior. The truth is, he was broken in spirit and addled by syphilis. He had spent most of his last year in the prison hospital, and the syndicate had moved on without him. The Feds figured that Alphonse Capone no longer posed a threat to anyone.

So old Scarface spent his final days near Miami, fishing for that elusive fish in a swimming pool that contained nothing but chlorinated water. You have to say this for addled Al: he was a persistent fisherman until the end. He died in 1947, at age forty-eight, still hoping to catch that fish.

Big Al’s fishing story may sound crazy. But it’s not as crazy as the everyday story of folks who keep fishing for what can never be caught. They actually believe they can find lasting satisfaction by hooking on to the things of this world. But the elusive fish never strikes. Maybe they’re fishing in the wrong place, thinking they can fill that God-shaped hole inside with finite and temporary things.

Most folks go fishing all their lives without realizing that it’s not fish they’re after.

The things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."

-Robert A. Petterson, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories

Do you really realize who you are? Do you really realize that God is real? And do you understand that the hunger in your soul, that empty vacuum can only be filled by Jesus Christ the Lord of all?

The message goes out everywhere. The message of Jesus. It’s like a farmer who worked his fields, and planted the crops on new land that he wasn’t quite sure about. But he planted the seed everywhere. Some it landed with rocks and didn’t grow well. Some fell among weeds and the weeds choked out the crop so it couldn’t grow well. 

 "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." -Luke 8:14-15

And that is what we are talking about today, apotheosis, the moment when we realize who we truly are. And we’ve come to a certain level of maturity, where we are hard at work producing a crop for the Lord’s kingdom.

This is the moment on the Christian spiritual journey where we realize “this is really who I am.” I am the hero. I’ve become the hero. I’m really a child of God. I’m really a new person. I really believe it. I really know it. And I’m not going to live my life completely differently.

We’re on a mission for God. This is so freeing, it’s so powerful when we really realize and believe God now lives in us. I’m the soldier of Christ now. And anything is possible.

We’ve gone through the spiritual journey, where we go from one who isn’t on the journey at all, to being one who joins the adventure. We talked about how we often make peace with family. We talked about how we face a road of trials. And we talked last week about how we face a temptation, and we also come to the moment of the union with the lover, our partner in life.

Today we talk about the moment apotheosis, when we come to realize who we truly are: the hero of the adventure. And we get to work fighting for the noble cause.

This reminds me of the apostle Paul. Before he met Jesus he was one who hunted down and persecuted the early church. But then something powerful happened to him. He saw a vision of Jesus who commanded him to “stop persecuting me” And he became a new man.

Acts 9:17-22 says, "So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was, and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said, “the Lord has sent me—Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like fish scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; 19 and after he had eaten, his strength came back.
Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. He went straight to the synagogues and began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard him were amazed and asked, “Isn't he the one who in Jerusalem was killing those who worship that man Jesus? And didn't he come here for the very purpose of arresting those people and taking them back to the chief priests?”

But Saul's preaching became even more powerful, and his proofs that Jesus was the Messiah were so convincing that the Jews who lived in Damascus could not answer him.”

Saul began a new phase of his life. He’d reached the moment of apotheosis. He realized who God was, and he now had Jesus living inside of him, the divine within him. So Saul became a new person. And he knew who he was. He finally knew the purpose of his life, to do something very special, something billions would learn about over human history.

He became the hero. He embraced a new identity. Saul, became Paul, the hero. Have you come to this moment of realizing your identity?

Do you really know now that you are a Christian? Do you really know that have been adopted by God? Do you really know that you’ve found the answer to every question about life, meaning, and God? It’s all here. And you are part of that. God is with you. And He is going to lead you through your life, as long as you continue to walk with Him. That is amazing, isn’t it?