Sunday, July 24, 2022

Taking the Red Pill to escape Satan's Matrix: Coming to the End of Yourself

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?

Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

The Matrix. Do you want to know what it is?

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” -Excerpts from the Matrix (1999)

Are you ready for the truth? Growing up in this world there was always a splinter in my mind. I was taught a particular way of life. I didn’t see anything beyond it. Life was a happy accident. Get rich. Have a family. Pay your taxes. Watch your television. Live a normal life. Focus on the physical. Watch the news. Live for yourself. Do what you want. And just be happy.

I embraced that life, and lived it. Yet deep down inside, there was a splinter in my mind, driving me mad. It was very quiet at first, easily ignored. Over the years it grew louder and louder, until I realized something was missing. I was seeing through a web of lies built around me my whole life. And I began to see the truth. A terrible truth, far beyond anything you could imagine. That there was something terribly wrong with the world. Most people can see that one. But deeper and further in, I realized, there is something terribly and fundamentally wrong with me. I do bad things. And I need something more. Nothing in this world satisfies me. And I was empty inside. I was broken. As much as I pretended I just needed more self esteem and more happy pills and more personal peace and affluence, I soon realized, I was the problem, and I needed to be fundamentally changed within. I realized I was sin.

That is the horrible thing, none of us want to admit, none of us want to realize, most don’t go beyond, I see something wrong in the world, but some few will go further and realize, I see something wrong in me. I need something new. I need something outside myself, to make me right. That is where God comes in. We realize, we’re departed and disconnected from the infinite creator of the universe. And that is something we fight our whole lives. We’d almost rather die than face it. We run, we rebel, we flee, but then a lucky few one day realize, I can’t run anymore. I will return to God. And everything changes.

It reminds me a man 2000 years ago named Simon. He was a fisherman. Probably many a day and night sailing the sea, wondering at the skyline and the rain and the sun overhead, wondering if there was something more. And he began to fail at his trade. He couldn’t seem to make ends meet. And one day he had fished all night and had caught nothing. He’s at the end of his rope. He’s hopeless. He’s miserable. And he’s realizing, I just can’t make life work anymore. And at that moment, God intersected his story. And said to him, cast out, one more time, and Simon said, alright, I will. So he did. And he caught so many fish the nets couldn’t barely hold the catch. Simon would later become a new man. He became Peter. A leader of the body of Christ.

Often times, we have to come to the end of ourselves, and hit a rock bottom, to be ready for what’s ahead. We come to the end of our efforts, just like Peter did, fishing all night, and caught nothing. And at that moment when we realize, I’m not enough, I can’t do it, I’m lost, I’m miserable, I’m the problem, God comes to us, at the moment when we are teachable, and he reveals himself to us.

Time and again in my Christian life, these realizations and teachable moments return. We come to the end of ourselves as Christians a great deal don’t we? Time and again in our walk with Christ, we hit the worst case scenario, and we can’t go on, and can’t continue, and then Christ comes to us, at that teachable moments, and changes us within.

There are many hard truths in the Christian faith. That’s why I used as the opening, the revelation of the matrix to Neo. When Neo finds out what the truth really is, it’s horrible beyond words. He finds out the human race is enslaved in a hopelessly desperate situation.

Waking up to know Jesus Christ, and the reality of sin and the fall, we find ourselves in a similarly desperate scenario. It’s rather scary actually. If anyone human dies without Jesus as their savior, they are sent to hell, forever. No second chances. No way of escape. Fires consume them forever. It’s a dangerous situation. And we find ourselves sinners, in the hands of a God who will judge with righteous judgment.

Which brings us to our parable today, the parable of drawing in the nets. Last week we talked about signs of the end times, this week, our parable is about the judgment at the end of the world. The judgment seat of Christ.

Our reflection question for today is, “Am I prepared for the final judgment day of Christ? Would I be found faithful on that day?”

But first lets take a look at our context. We’re in Matthew 13, which contains several different parables. Closely related to our parable today is the parable at the beginning of Matthew 13, which is about the wheat and the tares. But then later on in the chapter, we see this context, two parables we’ve already discussed.

From Matthew 13:44-46: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” –Matthew 13:44-46

If you remember these parables tell us about the commitment we should make it response to finding the gospel of Jesus Christ, our response should be completely radical, giving up everything in our lives to follow Jesus instead. It’s like treasure in a field, or fine pearls, and we give up everything to embrace a new way, the way of Christ.

Then we see our parable today, which says this, from Matthew 13:47-52:

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The kingdom of God, is gathering all sorts of people from everywhere, every tribe, every nation, every age, class, and group, and gathering them to Christ the savior. Yet there are two kinds of people inside God’s kingdom, there are the true disciples and the false followers. There are the sheep, who follow obediently, and the goats who resist and go their own ways. These look very similar to each other.

And our instinct as Christians is to want to try to sort out the good fish and the bad fish. Here Lord, let me help you sort them out. We’ll figure out which ones are the bad fish now, today, and we’re get rid of them. But Jesus tells us in other parables not to do that, in the parable at the beginning of Matthew 13, the servants tell the master that an enemy has sown weeds in the fields of wheat. And his servants ask the master, should we try to uproot the weeds? And the master says no because you’ll accidentally uproot some of the good wheat as well.

Similarly, in the parable of the drawing in of the nets, we’re told that the nets of God’s kingdom are gathering all sorts of people, obedient Christians and disobedient Christians. True converts and false converts. Holy followers of Jesus and worldly half in half out followers. And we shouldn’t try to remove the bad fish now.

Instead, we should wait until the coming of Jesus Christ. Wait until the judgment day. And Jesus will sort them out on that day. And we’re told what will happen to the disobedient ones, the bad fish, they will be cast in a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Immediately after sharing this parable, Jesus turns to them and says, “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” –Matthew 13:47-52

What does Jesus our savior mean by this? He could be summing up all the parables he just told. He’s saying, anyone who has been a faithful jew, will get credit in the kingdom of heaven not only for what they do after receiving the gospel, but also what they did before receiving the gospel. Very interesting. What does that have to do with the parable he just told though? You’ll have to research that on your own. I’m not certain.

After telling these parables, then at the end of Matthew 13, Jesus went to his home town. Take a look, just to understand the context.

It says, “When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” –Matthew 13:53-57’

I don’t know that this event is inexorably connected with the parables he just told. But it does remind us that unbelief is a danger to our relationship with Christ. In his hometown they had seen Jesus grow up. So they doubted him. And they took offense at him. Let’s make sure we don’t take offense at Jesus. Just because of the difficult situation we find ourselves in as Christians in a fallen world, don’t take offense at Christ, for what we and our ancestors did through sin and destruction.

In conclusion today, this parable reminds us of the kingdom of God, and how it works, it removes the cover from our eyes, and we see the truth, that God will separate within the kingdom of God, the righteous and the wicked. And heaven and hell stand before us.

How can we put these teachings into practice today? Seven 
  1. See the world around you as it truly is: A fallen planet awaiting judgment from God
  2. See the dangers of sin, lust, selfishness, and worldliness and live soberly, giving careful thought to your ways
  3. See the incredible hope, mercy, and grace found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, realize your sins are forgiven and rejoice
  4. Recognize the insane level of danger lost people are in and pray fervently for them and share the gospel with people around you
  5.  Have the courage to see the difficult truths in life. Have the attitude of simply wanting to know the naked truth of all things
  6.  Live righteously, rejecting sin of every kind
  7.  When you come to the end of yourself, realize that’s where God brings us to allow us to reach new levels of maturity in Christ
Be courageous brothers and sisters. We live in difficult times. Yet we also live in infinite joy and hope, because our sins have been washed away by Jesus blood. He’s taken us from being the problem, to being heralds of the solution. He’s taken us from being broken, miserable, defeated filthy sinners, to glorious born again cleansed renewed majestic carriers of the living word of God, the gospel, heirs, and saints of the new kingdom of God, citizens of the New Jerusalem, princes and princesses, royalty, awaiting reward and victory in paradise in the next life, beyond the veil of tears and death in this life. Realize your identity in Christ, and rejoice, because you have found the solution, just like how Morpheus freed Neo from the matrix of lies, of the fallen world of Satan, so we’ve been freed from kingdom of Satan, the slavery to consumerism and selfishness and pride and sin, and we’ve been woken up in Christ to the difficult truth that we need a savior. And now we have a savior. And our challenging mission now is to help lost broken sinful humanity receive Christ as their savior before it’s too late, before the nets are pulled in and the wicked and the righteous are separated at the judgment seat of Christ. Live that out brothers and sisters. Live differently. Amen.