Posts Tagged ‘James Franco’

Breaking Spring part 2

Posted: March 22, 2013 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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Yesterday we began considering the pervasive Spring Break Culture: a time to enjoy life like there is no tomorrow. We examined some of the common reasons to avoid going CRAZY for a few days, and really none of them make the cut if our life is all that there is.

In Kevin DeYoung’s excellent little book “The Hole in our Holiness”, he considers many of the difficulties and objections we have against holiness. Proverbially, we perpetuate the error of sinning plentifully so that grace will be more abundant.

Is it legalistic to talk about personal holiness? To say that you should not be overcome by drunkenness, that drugs should not be on your plate, that free sex is simply plain wrong? Is it not going against a Gospel of grace? Should we not be proclaiming that we can join Vanessa, Selena and Franco, eat drink, be merry and still go to heaven?
Let’s think biblically:

1. Nobody in the whole world will ever be saved by being good or avoiding spring break. This may save you from diseases, heartbreak and heartburn, but not from hell.

2. Salvation is fully from grace, through faith in the work of Jesus Christ – he has paid it all in the cross so that partying people like us can be saved from God’s wrath and from our own foolishness.

3. He saves us to adopt us in his family – this truth is so precious and yet so underappreciated in our churches. I recommend heartily Russell Moore’s book Adopted for life. The idea for us here is that the goal of adoption is to cause us to be more like Christ by uniting us to him and causing us to, beginning in this very life, be similar to him.

4. This adoption causes us to imitate in love our older brother Jesus Christ

5. That is what he saved us for: holiness. Think, for example, about the famous passage of the Great Commission in Mt 28:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Do you see in this passage Jesus saying that the mission of the church has to do with teaching people to obey what he commands? Good news of salvation from sin means good news of God adopting us and making us more like the family.

6. It is a common thing to hear people say: “Christianity is not about a set of rules and commandments, but about a relationship” Hmmm…this is only partially true. If I had a penny for every time I heard phrases such as this, I would not be rich , but I would at least have more cash for movies.

As we saw earlier, the Gospel is a set of news about what Jesus did for you. And yet, being brought into this relationship results in rules and commandments that serve to seal and protect the relationship (as DeYoung puts it). It would be very weird if your wife told you : “I love you so, so much that I can sleep around as much as I want. Our relationship is not about rules, only about love” What would think about that? In one occasion Jesus said “if you love me, keep my commandments” John 14:15.

The whole idea of divorcing behavior from love is what the apostle John is combating in his first letter. I call you to read it prayerfully. In it John explains how it is that those who are born again are necessarily called to live righteous lives; no, nobody will be sinless for now. But if we sin we have Christ to advocate for us. And yet, because we were adopted in his family,

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” 1 John 3:4-10

The reason we do not Spring Break is ultimately not because it will give us AIDS or kill neurons. It is because we have been rescued from thinking that the delights of the world and the devil are better than imitating our brother Jesus Christ. From him springs life, and he breaks the power of sin.


Over the last few years, we have had so many “origin” stories in film that it could be argued that they represent a new genre.  In reality, this is not entirely a new method of movie storytelling (think: Godfather 2, where we learn of Don Corleone’s origin), but it certainly has become much more prolific of late.  My personal favorites are Batman Begins and X-Men: First Class.  X-Men: Wolverine is pretty good too.  Now, if you’ve seen some of these origin movies, they appear to follow a pattern of a tragedy or crisis which changes a “normal” person into something/someone entirely new.  Bruce Wayne becomes Batman after the death of his parents.  A group of outcast mutants overcome personal tragedy to become a band of superheroes.  Oz the Great and Powerful is the current offering of this movie genre, and I bet we’ll see some sort of crisis that changes one normal man into the powerful wizard.

The film’s summary from IMDB confirms my hypothesis:  Oscar Diggs, a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he’s hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes, however, when he meets three witches, Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda, who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

When I first read this movie’s plot summary, I thought about the story of how the people of Lystra treated the Apostle Paul and Barnabas.  Because of this duo’s miracles and healings, the people thought they were gods come to earth in human form, thereby worshiping them as Zeus and Hermes.  But unlike Oscar Diggs, Paul and Barnabas didn’t attempt to falsely act as wizards and rescue the people.  They refused to be worshiped, and pointed people to Jesus Christ as the only One who could save them from their sins.

But the even better contrasting parallel in this origin film is between Oscar Diggs and Jesus Christ.  Oscar came from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz.  Jesus came from vibrant and perfect Heaven to dusty old earth.  In pride and arrogance, Oscar looked for fame and fortune.  In perfect humility, Jesus came to sacrifice and serve.  Oscar is reluctantly drawn into the epic problems of Oz, while Christ willingly came as the solution to mankind’s problems.  Oscar emerges as the powerful Wizard of Oz through the use of illusion, ingenuity, and even wizardry.  Our Lord emerged as King Jesus because He had REAL power as the Son of God.

In the end, Oz the Great and Powerful is just a story of a mythical man who goes from somewhat of a rascal to a good man–masking himself as an all-powerful wizard.  Do you remember Dorothy’s scolding of the wizard in The Wizard of Oz?  She told Oscar that he was a very bad man for deceiving the people of Oz (as well as herself and her friends).  The wizard’s response is classic: “On no, my dear…I’m a very good man.  I’m just a very bad wizard.”  In other words, Oscar Diggs was a horrible GOD even if he did become a good MAN.

Well, contrary to what many people believe, Jesus was NOT a really good man, or simply a prophet who left us with insightful moral teachings.  And, He was NOT a good man who somehow pretended to be God or even emerged as God later in His life.  He was not God who sort of looked like a human being.  The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the perfect God-Man, fully God and fully Man.  And, as the perfect God-Man, He fulfilled all of the law’s demands, satisfied the righteous wrath of God, and gave His people salvation from sin and a relationship with God.

So enjoy the origin story of the Great and Powerful Oz.  Use it to remind yourself and train your children about the person and work of King Jesus.  Rejoice in the fact that He is the Great and Powerful Lord that delivers us from the need for any mythical wizard.  And, as a bonus, there are no flying monkeys in Christ’s kingdom!

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:30)

There has been much talk about Danny Boyle’s Oscar-nominated film 127 Hours [2010], which was based on the true life story of an adventurer, named Aron Ralston [James Franco], who was forced to amputate his own arm after a rock pins him in Bluejohn Canyon. Most of the talk I had read and heard centered on ‘the scene’. The scene I’m obviously referring to is the scene depicting Aron cutting off his own arm. There have been reports of people vomiting, passing out (I actually knew a guy who did) and theaters putting up signs warning people about the graphic nature of ‘the scene’ – I’ve watched the movie twice and still haven’t been able to watch the entire scene.

All of that to say, my thoughts about the film had been focused on that scene, so I wasn’t prepared for how much I actually liked and appreciated this film. In my opinion, 127 Hours was the best picture of 2010 – with The Social Network in a very close second. Boyle’s direction of this film was amazing. To take a story where the main actor is in complete isolation for the majority of the film and tell it in a way that is intriguing, exciting, emotional and celebratory, that is a feat many directors (and actors for that matter) would shy away from. However, that was the main reason Boyle said he wanted to tell the story, because of the challenge it presented.

127 Hours is a film that resonates with anyone who has a pulse, because the theme of love and community are central to the story. Wesley Hill wrote an excellent article at Ransom Fellowship, dealing with those themes, but I wanted to focus on another aspect of this film.

Aron Ralston is a self-professed, “Big, hard, hero who can do everything on his own.” At the opening of the film we have flashes of scenes depicting crowds of people together, but Ralston is seeking isolation. He lets his phone go to voicemail, he passes a group of bike riders, and as he enters Bluejohn he exclaims, “Just me, my music and the night, love it!” He is a narcissistic loner who thinks he doesn’t need anyone else.

It’s interesting that Ralston runs into two other hikers, who are lost, and ironically exclaims, “You’re lost, I’m a guide, I’m good.” He is essentially telling these two hikers, ‘You need help from another person.’ In actuality, Ralston is lost and he needs help from other people, but he doesn’t see that his modus operandi completely contradicts what he exclaims to these hikers. He is enslaved to his idol of independence.

We make idols out of anything and everything. As John Calvin once said, ‘Our hearts are idol factories’ continuing to crank out new ones each and every day. Ralston’s idol of independence goes against the fact that we have been created in the image of a Triune God. Our Heavenly Father, however, graciously surfaces our idols causing us to make war with them.

God speaks to us through creation (general revelation) and Ralston’s character greatly appreciates the creation – rubbing his hands on rocks and taking pictures of creation – but misses the Creator behind it. It wasn’t until God used his creation to pin Ralston to a wall that he finally listened. In essence, God is saying, “You want isolation? You want self-sufficiency? I’ll give it to you.” Ultimately, God gave Ralston exactly what he wanted – isolation and independence. One of the scariest things God can do is give us what we want. Ralston had made his independence an ultimate thing, so God gave him over to that in order to show him his need. (For more on this, see Romans 1:18-32.)

At a crucial point in the film, Ralston reflects on this reality. He realizes God’s eternal wisdom and his own rebellion towards him.

You know, I’ve been thinking. Everything is… just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the surface.

Initially he fought against the rock, screaming, “This is insane!” He cursed the rock, hit the rock, begged for freedom, he even began chipping away at it, only to realize his actions actually caused the rock to rest more securely on his arm. All of his independence was fighting the rock, but the rock was fighting his independence. In the end, the rock won.

The sustaining power for Ralston in the canyon were memories; memories with other people. He reflects on time with friends and family during those excruciating 127 hours. As he’s leaving his last will and testament on his video camera, he says:

Mom, Dad, I really love you guys. I wanted to take this time to say the times we’ve spent together have been awesome. I haven’t appreciated you in the way I know I could. Mom, I love you. I wish I’d returned all of your calls, ever. I really have lived this last year. I wish I had learned some lessons more astutely, more rapidly, than I did. I love you. I’ll always be with you.

It is this desire – to love and to be loved – that shatters his idol. As he imagines a fake interview with himself he makes the statement to himself, “Your supreme selfishness is our gain.” He has been a selfish person who has not loved others as he should have loved them. In the end, he has a vision of another life, a life with a family that enables him to give away the love he had been hoarding for himself.

While the amputation scene is one of the most graphic scenes in film history, it is not done for exploitative reasons. Not only does the graphic nature of that scene emotionally pull you into the film causing you to, somewhat, feel what Ralston felt, it also depicts that he understood the error of his ways. The one thing he loved the most was himself. The cutting away of his arm, was cutting away at his root sin, rendering him dependent for the rest of his life.

As he finally severs his own arm, he looks up and says, “Thank you.” In a sense, realizing it wasn’t his own strength that caused him to do this, rather it was the love of God which enabled him to let go of his idol. When Aron climbs out of the canyon and screams, “Help me!”, it’s interesting to see that three people come to rescue him. I’m not saying this was the intent of the filmmakers, but it was reminiscent of the Trinity and it was interesting that a Father and Son were two of the three present.

This reminded me that true mortification of our sin/idols is not a work of man, but of God. The Father placed his love on us, the Son accomplished that through his perfect work and the Spirit enables us to kill the sin in our life. I’m not sure if Aron Ralston is a Christian, but this deeply afflicting trial in his life illustrates some Scriptural truths.

While I caution many viewers about the graphic scene in which Aron amputates his own arm, I would say this is a film that communicates deep theological truths. It shows us the love and design of community God has placed in our lives, the utter dependence we have on Him, the need to kill our idols for survival and the ways in which we must be others-minded in our lives. This film, I believe, will be a timeless one that is discussed for many years to come.