Just recently, I began reading Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way, a book that dissects one of the biggest problems that many Christians in the modern era struggle with: stagnant faith. Yes, we declare with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord” and yes, we believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead and yes, we are thus saved (Rom. 10:9) and declared righteous by God (Rom. 5:1-2), but how often do we remember and exercise this truth in our day-to-day lives? How often do we go back to the fact that Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) – the only Way to truly know the Father and the power He has given us, the only living and breathing Truth that the Spirit will imbue upon your soul, and the Life that was breathed into us through His sacrificial death on that cross?
It’s that first aspect of Christ’s nature – the Way – that I want to emphasize today because, as stated, this book I’m reading is titled “The Forgotten Way,” emphasizing how Jesus (referenced in the book by his original Hebrew name, Yeshua) layered His teachings with an emphasis on the true path that a Christian should follow, so that even beyond achieving our salvation through Him, we can go on to accomplish wonders in His name. So yes, while salvation is definitely the piece of the path that guarantees your spot beyond those pearly gates, the path itself does not end in salvation, but continues along the road of furthering God’s kingdom, something many Christians fail to acknowledge or pursue.
Jesus’ followers, long before receiving the title we bear as our trademark today, actually called themselves “followers of the Way” for the first few initial years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension; it was only later that people would begin to refer to them as “little Christs,” or Christians. Nevertheless, the meaning is the same; we have a mission to go upon beyond our salvation, yet so many of us Christians – myself often included in the bunch – forget of the truth that Jesus preached, which included the means of truly beginning to know ourselves and who God has made us.
One particular analogy stuck out to me as I leafed through the early pages of the book, and of course it included a reference to Superman (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a huge superhero nerd). To spare myself the embarrassment of inaccurately summarizing Mr. Dekker’s words, I’ll quote the passage below and we can move on from there:
Think of yourself as Superman or Superwoman. If Superman were to forget that he’s Superman, he would only be Clark Kent and Clark Kent can’t fly. Only Superman can fly. And having forgotten that he’s actually Superman, Clark no longer knows he can fly.
How then does Clark Kent go about flying again?
Someone would need to tap Clark Kent on the shoulder and say, “Umm . . . excuse me, but you’re Superman. If you take off that shirt and tie (surrender them) you’ll find you’re clothed in another suit in which you can fly.”
Then Clark Kent would need to believe this is true and align himself with that truth of his identity. Aligning himself with this truth would look like rushing to the phone booth, letting go of his old Clark Kent costume, and flying once more as Superman.
(from The Forgotten Way, pg. 38-39)
For a lot of Christians, the Christian walk seemingly begins and ends at salvation. Sure, they go to church every now and then, they probably get baptized at some point, they’ll attach a Bible verse to their Instagram caption, and every once-in-a-while they might spout out a one-or-two-line prayer to God shortly before they fade away to sleep, but in many ways they are like Clark Kent in this scenario, having all that power hidden within yet not utilizing it to the best of their ability. Groups of metaphorical people keep tapping them on their shoulder to remind them of their true identity – that strange bell that goes off in their head on a Sunday morning when they consider whether or not they should go to church, that gnawing desire to go pop open a Bible and maybe read a passage or two, that person crying on the bus as if they’ve lost all hope in life and just needs somebody to comfort them – but often they shrug them off as nothing, reminding themselves that God will love them regardless of what they do (Rom. 8:37-39). These “shoulder-tappers” keep reminding them of that Superman suit hiding beneath the Clark Kent costume, but they brush it off like it’s nothing, something worth putting off for another minute, another hour, another day. Perhaps they will check the validity of the person’s suggestion later, but for now they have Clark Kent-business to attend to, so the possible Superman hiding beneath can wait.
And while Clark Kent might go and live a pretty dandy life, Superman can do so much more.
You see, I’m not condemning Christians who go about this kind of life, for it isn’t my place to judge. They could be perfectly good and amazing people that live fairly moral lives with a smile on their face and a helping hand at the ready, and that is awesome in and of itself! They have already accepted Christ as their Savior, thus establishing their identities as one with Christ, so whether or not they pursue the Way Christ preaches of, they will still have their spot in heaven (for salvation is by grace alone and not through works, Eph. 2:8-9). To condemn them would be to condemn myself, for I so often fall into the same, stagnant role in which I forget my identity in Christ and go about for days, weeks, or even months before suddenly reminding myself of who He has made me. This blog post is just as much for me as it is for everyone else. It’s a part of the Christian walk, the Law of Undulation, the constant fluctuation between spiritual highs and spiritual lows that we experience throughout our earthly life (see The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis for more on that).
My point is this: whether or not Clark Kent accepts the fact that he has superpowers, he’s still Superman. His lack of acknowledgement of the power he beholds doesn’t in any way take that power away from him, but instead leaves that power unused and immobile, wasted potential amidst a world of need. He’s still Superman underneath, but until he reminds himself of this fact and accepts the power he beholds, he’ll still be the everyday man behind the thick-rimmed glasses, going about his everyday life as an average Joe.
But as Superman, he can go out and change the world.
You see, Superman is in this world but not of it, a lot like Christians. Yes, we find ourselves currently inhabiting an earthly body on this temporary orb known as the planet Earth, but our faith in God and the promises He has left us with remind us that this earthly life is but a speck in the realm of eternity, which will go on forever and ever, an eternal life of bliss, free of pain and free of suffering (2 Cor. 4:17, 1 John 2:17, Rev. 21:4). If Superman were still on his home planet, Krypton, he would equal with the rest of his population, all the same and unified under God – just like we all will be equal and united under God once we are in heaven [which, unlike Superman’s planet, will not implode]. But send Superman to earth and BOOM! all of a sudden he receives these special gifts – these superpowers, most of which break all laws of physics and no scientist would be able to explain (if Superman were real, that is).
This is the life of a Christian. As we read in 1 Corinthians 12, at the moment of salvation we are “all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body,” a unified body of believers, united through Christ yet diverse through the spiritual gifts God has bestowed upon us. In this scenario, Christ himself is the head of the body (Col. 1:18), and we would be the rest of the body – the limbs, the organs, the bones. Christ is Superman – the only Son sent into the world to save it (John 3:16) – and we are His superpowers, the ones who use the power He has given us to go out and help the world.
In the world, but not of it.
And once we recognize our true identity, as one with Christ (John 17:21, 1 Cor. 6:17), we can accomplish wonders. If we are in Christ and Christ is Superman and Superman can fly, then so can we. The Bible tells us that we can do all things through Christ (Phil. 4:13), so rather than going on living like Clark Kent, run into the phone booth, shed the suit and tie, and come out clothed in your true identity!
As I mentioned before, the Bible says we are one with Christ, which means we should share his ambitions, his desires. The way we go about living is a direct reflection of Him, one of His main arguments for the necessity of the church’s unity in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17:21-23. If Jesus was sent into the world not to condemn it but to save it, than that should be our goal as well.
So here’s my lasting challenge to you:
It’s time to figure out which superpower you are. You see, each of us play a part in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:3-8), serving as a superpower for the metaphorical Superman of this whole situation. The Spirit lives within us and allows us to go out into the world and make a difference, utilizing the special gift(s) that each of us has/have. For some of us, that gift may be evangelism; for others it may be going out and helping others, using their works of love and devotion to speak to people the truth of Christ. For still others, their gift could be writing, speaking, singing, serving, loving, you name it. You can do the work of God in the workplace just as much as you can at the movie theater. The Lord can work through anything and no spiritual gift is greater than the other – they all bring glory to God (1 Cor. 12:21-26). In its text, the Bible lists out various kinds of spiritual gifts bestowed to us believers (1 Corinthians 12 is a good place to start, in case you hadn’t notice by the Scriptures I’ve been citing), so the best way to remind yourself of your identity as “Superman” is to figure out which part you will play in the grand scheme of things. Dive into the Bible. Pray about it. You may have one spiritual gift in particular or you may have multiple. You may have some strengths and some weaknesses, but as long as what you do further promotes God’s kingdom, it’s definitely worth a shot and you might find new passions in things you had never considered even trying. Sit down and pray about it; ask for God to reveal to you your true identity. You, like me, are a child of God who is clothed in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28) and can fly through Him, so go out and figure out which role you will play in this story called life.
Shed the glasses and put on the cape, because it’s time to go save the world.