The magician's strength lies not in the quickness of his hands, but in
his ability to distract the eyes of the audience. I enjoyed an article
about a Houdini biography play performed in Miami. The actors recreated
Houdini's magic tricks throughout the play to illustrate major
turning points in Houdini's life. Near the end of the play as the most
dramatic trick was being performed, an audience member's cell phone
went off loudly
near the front row until a stagehand angrily came out into the audience
it off. The article writer of course surmised the cell phone
rang far too conveniently, distracting all of the audience's eyes at
For far too long, the eyes of Christians have focused on eternal life in heaven and on the danger of sin which can keep us from eternal life in heaven. Martin Luther redefined the gospel as if it were a message focused on sin's forgiveness, distracting our message to outsiders as a sin-focused message. What small surprise it is then that the insider who joined our faith through a sin-focused message continues in such distraction, focusing far more on Sin than the Son in daily life. Western Christianity preaches sin, focuses on sin, and constantly prods its adherents to contemplation of their sin. Likewise we love to say, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace," and in so doing, we define ourselves by Sin and define our relationship with God as a cycle of Sin and forgiveness. Our Christian bookshelves address countless sins, philosophize about Sin, psycho-analyze Sin patterns, and prescribe unending Bible studies to remedy Sin.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus did not tell the believers that all the law and the prophets speak of Sin. He said all the law and the prophets spoke of Him. The funny thing is that all the law and the prophets DO speak of Sin, but the Son taught His followers to focus on Him instead. The great Distractor wants to distract our faith to focus on Sin. Paul said instead, "I live by faith in the Son."(gal 2:20)
The explicit gospel (mk1:14-15; act2:36) focuses on the authority of Jesus. Throughout the book of Acts, the apostles focused on the resurrection of Jesus rather than the death of Jesus because they preached the gospel of the King, not Martin Luther's re-defined gospel of justification-from-sin. The explicit gospel which Jesus and His apostles preached is a Son-focused gospel and a resurrection-focused gospel. Paul therefore gave us two commands in Romans Six which empower us to focus our daily faith not on Sin, but on the Son.
The Christian who fails to count himself and present himself will (by default) be conformed to the thinking of this world. Apart from counting and presenting, the believer will consider himself a sinner, lament his sin, and worry about when he will sin next. He is naturally distracted from the Son to focus on Sin. The believer who counts himself as God counts him is a believer who focuses instead on God's Son and confidently expects the Spirit of the Son to bear fruit through him. The believer who presents himself is a believer who keeps his body-parts busy with the activities of faith, with prayer, with scripture, with serving other believers, and with serving those in need.
When the enemy tries to bring temptation, the Son-focused believer quickly counts himself dead to sin, counts himself alive to God, counts himself as clothed in King Jesus, and presents his body-parts to God, immediately engaging in righteous activity. When the counting and presenting believer sins, he does not wallow in the despair of Sin, the condemnation of Sin, or the cycle of Sin. Instead he confesses it and repents from it immediately by counting himself (dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus) and by presenting his body to God for immediate engagement in works of righteousness.
As "counting" and "presenting" believers, we find our eyes are rarely distracted by Sin because the Holy Spirit powerfully affirms our prayerful counting so that we do not merely say we count ourselves "dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus," but when we pray those things, the Spirit miraculously affirms within us that what we have counted is true. The Holy Spirit empowers us to not only say we are "dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus," but more importantly to know we truly are "dead to sin and alive to God in King Jesus."
Finally, the Spirit also affirms our presenting as well. When we prayerfully obey Romans 6:19 by presenting our body-parts to God for righteous use, the Spirit of the Son miraculously enables us to immediately engage our bodies in righteous work. Without the Holy Spirit's help, I can only busy my body with legalistic and exhausting activity. In practice though, the believer who obeys Romans 6:11 and 6:19 (by counting himself and presenting himself) finds the fruit of the Spirit immediately at work in him so that once he has counted himself and presented himself, he delights at how the Holy Spirit immediately enables him to engage his body and mind in the work of the kingdom with a joyful focus on the King. When we prayerfully obey Romans 6:11 and 6:19 we find ourselves undistracted by Sin and miraculously living the Son-focused life described in Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 12:1-2. Now that is living! Hallelujah.
"Harry Houdini & the Son of God" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on August 24th, 2013. All rights are reserved.