*Spoiler Alert: If you haven't watched '127 Hours' yet and don't know how the story ends, you may want to stop reading here...
I just watched '127 Hours' with James Franco. It's the true story of Aron Ralston who gets trapped between a rock and a hard place...literally. He is stuck as life happens all around and his life begins to quickly leave his body. Food and water run out. Batteries. The things that sustained him are in short supply, but he won't leave this place. He can't. He is stuck. Truth be told he isn't stuck, part of him is. His arm. And in order to get unstuck... in order to live, he must cut that part off. The decision haunts him...

This brought to mind Jesus' words in Matthew:

"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched." (Matthew 18:8-9)

In many ways we get stuck too. Patterns of brokenness. Addictions. Idolatry. The rocks of this world and our self-centered desires pin us against the wall and we are helpless to escape. The teenage girl constantly searching for acceptance. The career-driven professional who's drive for success leads him to sacrifice relationships and morality. The wife whose loneliness or dissatisfaction leads her to another's arms. The porn addict. The homeless alcoholic. The chronic Facebooker. 

These are all me. These are all you. The grace of God is the only hope we have of escaping these ends. The grace that holds up a mirror, reveals our true selves and our haunting situations. The grace that leads us to uproot the bitterness, dethrone the idols, break the addictions, and cut off the parts of our lives that bind us to death in order that we may experience the abundant life Jesus has come to give us.

In the end that's exactly what Aron does. He realizes that there is no other way. It's him, or his hand. Does he want his whole body to die, or just his hand? Liberation comes at a high cost.

He makes the grueling choice, which is a commitment to the most maniacal of processes... Breaking his arm off at the elbow to the best of his ability, then using the dull blade from his pocket knife to gouge and rip through raw nerve, sinew, and muscle in order to free himself. Liberation is a long, difficult and painful process. It's almost unbearable. But to stop short... to not finish... that's certain death.

If we are not willing to make that choice, it is because we have already made another. The security of our brokenness and the desire to hold on to the part of our life that binds us is greater than the desire to risk it all... to break free... to experience life outside the prison we've grown accustomed to and made our home in. If we refuse to make the choice that leads to life, we are in essence choosing death.

Aron chose life. That is why the story is so inspiring. It's what we all long for deep within. 

It's what Jesus Christ came to bring. It's what his Spirit calls you to when He first draws you. It's the essence of the call to discipleship: a breaking away from the old patterns and paths to follow the new. It's the way of the cross: death followed by resurrection. It's made available, empowered, and finished by the cross. It's the way of sanctification: emptying yourself of the old life, and allowing the life of Jesus to come flooding in. If you are a Christ follower, this is the essence of your daily life: repentance and belief (allowing godly sorrow to do its work, turning your hope and worship from the functional saviors, and towards Jesus Christ in every area of your life). This is the gospel at work... the same gracious gospel that justified you also sanctifies you. Salvation is all God's work, from start to finish. 
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:6
In the end Aron is met with divine providence in many forms, from random pools of water and climbing tools that were left behind to random people in the paths of the canyon who come to his rescue. He finds the provision of God that saves his life, but only after he has made the choice to separate himself, by God's grace, from his destructive circumstances... Salvation was there all along, but he had to lay hold of it. Liberation from sin is a God-led, gracious process. 

1) What things in my life do I need to cut off?
2) What will enable me to do it? (motivation... it it anything other than the gospel?)
3) To what point will I digress before accepting that my circumstances are as helpless as Aron's were?

2 Interesting Statements:

Michelle said...

We had a similar discussion in church group last night. About fasting from things that distract us. We as a group are doing a technology fast. It's amazing how dependent we feel on things like our smart phones and the Internet.

Vince Larson said...

It's true... There are so many things our heart aims its allegiance to eventually. And it's not even that those things are necessarily bad, but that our heart begins to hope in them instead of Christ. Before we know it we end up looking to the created instead of the creator for our comfort, security, happiness, and provision.