Ken Foreman is the Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Faith, a mega-church in San Jose with membership over 7,000.
The Voyage: Sailing the High Seas at Christmas
Change Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
This weekend we begin a series entitled, “The Voyage – Sailing the High Seas at Christmas.” The starting point for the series is the movie, “Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” It is a movie based on a book by the same name that was written by one of the great spiritual leaders of all time, C. S. Lewis. I hope you get a chance to see the movie or to the read the book. It is a wonderful analogy about our spiritual growth as Christians. The movie is about a ship which sets sail on a voyage. While sailing the high seas there are many adventures that happen on this voyage. Some of the things that happen on their voyage are the kinds of things that happen on our voyage. So how about if we climb aboard, set sail on the high seas, and get ready for the ride of your life?
In the voyage that is found in the movie and in the book, one of key themes is that you can “Change Beyond Your Wildest Dreams.” Let me set the stage for this week’s message.
In one of the scenes of this story, there is a boy by the name of Eustace, who is not a very nice boy at all. He has a bad attitude combined with a bad mean streak, which makes him bad all the way to the bone. He is a pain to every one else who is on the ship with him. One day, after they sail into one of the islands, Eustace wanders off on his own and he ends up on a personal voyage of radical change. He falls asleep in a cave of treasures and when he awakens, he realizes that he has become a dragon. His real inward character has now become his outward appearance.
After some difficult moments and important lessons, with some outside help, he turns back into the boy. But he is not the same. He does not have the same bad attitude. He does not have the same mean streak. He is not such a pain. He is still Eustace, and yet he has changed. The book puts it this way, “He began to be a different boy.” The voyage he was on, . . . the voyage we are on, is a voyage of change. This lifelong voyage following Jesus is about changing the way that we think, changing the way that we feel, and changing the way that we act. The voyage which we are on is a voyage of change. What kind of change could you use? What kind of change do you need?
The Bible says, “We are being changed from glory to glory, being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory,” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I. The Change Which We See In The Baby –
The Most Radical Change of All
God Initiated A Radical Change. When you set sail on the high seas of Christmas, you find that it is a voyage of change. It begins with the most radical change of all – God comes to earth in the form of a flesh and blood baby.
A little girl once drew a picture of the manger scene. She drew an angel with a halo over it and she drew a donkey with a halo over it. She drew a camel with three humps so all the wise men could ride together. She drew Mary who was kneeling, and she drew Joseph who was working. When she drew baby Jesus he has his little legs sticking up in the air, “Because,” the little girl said, “Baby Jesus had just been changed.”
When you look at that baby lying in the manger you are looking at the most radical change of all. The Bible says. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14). God comes to us in human form as a baby. That is the most radical change of all. Some look at Jesus and say He was a good prophet, and it’s true, He was a good prophet. Others look at Jesus and say He was a good teacher, and yes, He was a good teacher. Still others look at Jesus and say He was a good man, and He definitely was a good man. Yet to really understand the radical change that takes place at Christmas you have to go further than that. Jesus was more than a good prophet, more than a good teacher, more than a good man, He was the God/man.
God comes to us in the form of a flesh and blood baby and that is the most radical change of all. If you want to stretch your mind a little over the next few days think about the voyage that God took. Think about how big a step down it was for divinity to take on humanity. Sometimes we think only of what Jesus did for us on the cross, but think for a moment of what Jesus did for us in that stable. How big of a sacrifice was that? How big of a demotion was that? How big of a step down was that? And yet, that is how much we matter to Him. He was willing to step down to us so that we can step up to be with Him.
It is God’s voyage of radical change that makes possible our voyage of radical change. If you are a parent, you know what it is like when a baby enters your life. A baby has a way of changing every thing. A baby changes the look of your house. A baby changes your schedule. A baby changes the way you spend your money. A baby changes the way that you talk, and a baby changes the amount of sleep that you get. One comedian says, “ I do not know why they say you have a baby, the baby has you.” And, it is true, when a baby comes into your house, it is not a minor adjustment it is a radical change.
What a radical change He makes: in the way that we think, in the way that we feel, in the way that we act. We are not talking about a slight tweak here or a slight tweak there – it is the kind of change that takes the dragon which we have become, and turns us back into the man or the woman that we were meant to be. C. S. Lewis puts it this way, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house, . . . You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
II. The Change Which You See In The Shepherds –
The Baby Can Change You, Even if He Does Not Move You
When you sail the high seas of Christmas, it is a voyage of change. Look at the voyage of the shepherds. The Bible says that after the shepherds saw the baby, “they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, “ (Luke 2:20). The shepherds returned. After the divine encounter with adoring angels that gave way to their own adoration of the Christ Child, they returned to their office. They returned to where they worked. They returned to the same place – to the same flock to the same job.
And when they returned, they were different. Because they are different that makes a difference. When God makes you different, that makes the difference. In the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace, returns to the same place, to the same people, to the same ship. Even though it was the same place, the same people, and the same ship which seemed to make his life miserable before, when he is changed, everything is different.
The baby has the power to change you even if He does not change your location. The baby has the power to change you. Sometimes we think that the thing we need in order to make our lives better is a change in location or circumstances. We think that we need a different place to work, or we need a different school to go to, or we need a different city to live in, or we need a different church to attend, or we need different spouse. But it is possible to change your location, and yet not improve your situation. The experts say second marriages fail more often that first ones. Third ones fail more often than second ones. Fourth ones fail more often than third ones. And fifth ones, . . . I am not sure that there is a statistic for that. There are many reasons for that kind of statistic, one of the reasons is this: You may move from marriage to marriage to marriage but you still have to take yourself with you. Unless you grow, unless you learn, and unless you change – you can change locations and still not improve the situation. Because wherever you go, there you are.
We are not always responsible for the circumstances that we are in, but we are responsible for the way that we allow them to affect us. They can get on top of us or they can transform us into what Christ wants us to be. The good news is that the baby can change you, even if He does not change your location. If you return to the same situation, the same office, the same school, the same city, the same church, or to the same spouse – things can be different – if you will let Him make you different. The power to change you is even more important that the power to change your location. He has the power to change the way you think, the way you feel and the way you act, even if you do not change your location. He has the power to change your life and make you different. That makes all the difference.
III. The Change Which We See In The Wise Men –
The Baby Can See You Home Another Way
When you sail the high seas of Christmas, it is a voyage of change. Look at the voyage of the wise men. The Bible says, “After they had seen the child, they were warned in a dream to go home to their country in another way,” (Matthew 2:12). At one level the writer is giving us some geography. To make sure the wise men did not run into the evil king, they went home on a different road. They went home on a different path, they went to their country another way. On another level, the writer is giving us some theology. The wise men are not the same. They have been changed by their encounter with Jesus and they went home to their country another way.
For some of us it sounds too good to be true, when we consider our way, and we think about the things that have shaped our way. We have biological sources that have shaped our way. We have sociological forces that have shaped our way. We have volitional forces that have shaped our way. We have the freedom to choose. The more we make a choice the more we tend to make that choice. If you come to church, you have a tendency to sit in the same seat. You have the freedom to sit in any seat that you want, but we all tend to be creatures of habit. We tend to sit in the same seat, we do not even think about it. We walk in the door, and we head to our seat. If someone else is in that seat, the usher needs to throw them out they are sitting in our seat. The more we make a choice the more we tend to make a choice.
The same thing is true when it comes to our ways. The more we choose our way the more we tend to choose that way. We do not even have to think about it. We do not even have to plan on it. You still have the freedom to sit any where that you want, but when you have sat in that seat so many times you just tend to go to that seat. When you add up the biological factors, or you add up the sociological factors, or you add up the volitional factors it can almost seem impossible to change your way. Yet, there is the power of the baby to change your way.
You may have been down one way, you may have been down one way a hundred times before, you may have been down that way a thousand times before, and it seems there is no way you can change your way. This is the day you can return to hope. Have hope that you can change your way – the way that you think, the way that you act, the way that you feel. You can go home a different way.
IV. The Pathway of Change Which We Can Follow
When you sail the high seas of Christmas, it is a voyage of change. What does that pathway look like for you? The pathway starts with a want to. You have to want to change. Sometimes you have to hit a pretty bad place or a pretty painful place in order to have the desire to change. But, you do not have to wait until you hit a bad place, or a painful place. When Eustace sees that he has turned into the dragon, it finally hits him that he needs to change. Before that moment, he did not want to change. Before that moment, he does not see the need to change.
It is when he turns into a dragon, that the desire for change kicks in. If you are going to change, you have to want to change. How strong is your desire? It takes the desire to change and it takes the power to change. When Eustace finally gets the desire to change, he tries to change himself. He tries to peel off his dragon skin himself. But every time he peeled off the layers he just came to another set of layers. No matter how much he tried on his own, he could not change himself.
It took something beyond himself. It took Someone beyond himself. The same thing is true of us. If we are going to change, we need help. If we are looking to make changes, changes on the most profound level, changes in the way that you think, or the way that you feel, or the way that you act, you simply cannot make these changes on your own. It is the lion, Aslan, who shows up and changes him from a dragon back into a boy.
You need a power, a higher power, by the name of Jesus. He is the one who can turn you from a dragon into who you were meant to be. You need some patience. You need the want to. You need the strength to. You need patience because it is a radical change that takes place – a radical change that takes place over time.
It is like a baby who is learning to walk. He climbs to his feet, with his big head, and he wobbles this way, and he wobbles that way. He takes a step and he falls down. But, he does not give up and decide to crawl around the rest of his life. He gets up and he tries again. Through patience and perseverance, one day he walks all the way across the room. When you start making changes, it takes some patience, it takes some time, but if you stick with it, if you stay at it, with the help of the great lion, one day you will walk all the way across the room.
In “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Eustace is changed by Aslan and then he continues on the journey of change. There is no doubt that he is a different boy, and yet he continues on the voyage. The book puts it this way, “to be strictly accurate he began to be a different boy, he had relapses…but the cure had begun.”As you continue your voyage, how do you need to surrender to Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, to bring change in you? Perhaps you have tried on your own to stop habits, to change your thinking, to rid yourself of vices, but it is only with the help of the God who radically changed from heaven to earth, that you can be radically changed to also live on earth, as it is in heaven.
Watch and listen to the story of one man’s change. As you do, return to hope. Change is possible. Change beyond your wildest dreams. (Play resource video testimony of pastor with dragon tattoo.)