The Price of Your Soul
So tonight we watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest for a second time, and this go round pretty much confirmed everything I thought the first time - I really like this movie.
One scene in particular struck me as memorable - when Beckett of the East India Company tries to buy Governor Swan's loyalty by hinting that he might be able to rescue his daughter.
Beckett: "Shall I remove these shackles?"Wow. That last line struck me like a ton of bricks, because it's the essence of what this movie is all about - everyone is a pirate at heart, and the only real question (as Jack Sparrow so eloquently puts it Davy Jones) "is just a matter of price."
Governor Swan: "Do what ever you can for my daughter."
Beckett (unlocking Swan): "So you see, every man has a price he will willingly accept, even for what he never hopes to sell."
What's Jack's price? What's Will's? Elizabeth's? Better yet, what's yours and mine?
A week or two ago, a friend asked me that very question, although not quite in those words. "What are you celebrating in Christ?" he said.
Seeing that I didn't really get what he was after, he put it another way, one that was much more blunt and to the point - "What's your price? What would you sell everything for? Is it porn? Is it sex with another woman? What would cause you to walk away from the ministry and give it all up? What is it that really tempts you?"
And that, my friends, is a terrifying question - first, because I had never really asked it of myself; second, because I instantly knew the answer. There is something that tempts me. Just like there's something that tempts you.
Neither of us should be surprised, because there is always something that tempts everyone. After all, every man has a price he will willingly accept, even for what he never hopes to sell.
In many cases, it's probably not that obvious, because the stakes are not that high. Most of us are boringly inconsequential. But when you put your hand to the plow of ministry, everything changes, the ante gets upped - not because we're suddenly more important, but because we publicly raise our hand and say "I'm going to be good, do what's just and right and noble - I'm going to serve God rather than myself."
You see, the stakes never get raised until we take a stand. An action is never tempting until I try and resolve not to do it. And then I suddenly find myself gripped by it - allured, enticed, and surprisingly weak and vulnerable.
Go ahead - make a resolution: "I hereby resolve not to think lustfully about a woman's breasts. To be content with my job (even if my salary sucks). To be patient. To be kind. To love my enemies."
Not so easy, is it?
That's why it's so important to actually ask the question - What IS my temptation? What would I sell my soul to the devil for? If I never bother to ask, no wonder I am shocked when it finally rears its ugly head and eats my lunch - not so much because it is unconquerable, but mostly because I never saw it coming.
But what do we do once we have asked that question, once we DO recognize the price of our soul? That bring's us back to that first question - what are we celebrating in Christ?
You see, the reason temptation grips us in the first place is because we find sin attractive. And sin is most attractive when we are not seeing Christ, the gospel, clearly.
Let me speak plainly - when Christ meets with the woman at the well (John 4), he looks at her and says "You are thirsting for something in sex, in marriage, in relationships (that's why you've had 5 husbands, and the guy you're with now isn't your husband). Even worse, you're not getting what you are craving (that's why you've had 5 husbands, and the guy you're with now isn't your husband)."
And then Jesus goes on to make the most amazing claim - "If you really knew who you were talking to, you'd ask him (me) for living water, the kind that always satisfies, that never lets you down." Jesus can offer this, because he is the way, the truth, the life. What he is offering is himself.
We are no different than this woman in what we crave - we sin because we are thirsty, because we crave something, and because we think something other than Christ can satisfy it (and it never does). So we sell our souls for a lie, a false hope. Sure, some really go through with it, others just dream about it in their hearts. But all of us have wandering eyes when it comes to God.
Similarly, we are no different than this woman in what we need - the secret to dealing with temptation begins by seeing our temptation clearly, by realizing there's a pirate in all of us, that we really do want things we shouldn't. And the secret to overcoming temptation is to see in Christ the fullness of what we are really looking for elsewhere.
Thomas Chalmers puts it like this - we are torn between two affections: love of God and love of the world, not merely in a state of rivalry, but opposed to one another in irreconcilable enmity. And so he concludes, "The only way to disposses the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new affection."
That is a brilliant observation. Only as I see my sinful temptations will I learn where I am weak and needy. And only as I see Christ - only as I see his love for me and love him more in return - only then will I ever experience freedom from the temptations that so easily entice me.
That's why I need to learn to celebrate Christ - not only what he has done for me (bearing my sins, the punishment I deserve), but also what he presently offers me (the fullness of all I desire, encapsulated in himself).
I do not need something - I need Christ, and he is mine through faith. He - the real, live, flesh-and-blood god-man who lived and breathed and walked and pooped and loved - this Jesus, the one from Nazareth, he alone of all men was not a pirate, but rather a servant of the most high God, and he has given himself for me, for my sake, as a ransom.
This Christ has himself paid the price for my soul. He was my price, my ransom. That is a great honor - it means I was worth dying for. But it is also quite sobering - it means I deserved death. But now God has raised him up, and seated him at his right hand in heaven. And all that is mine is his, and all that is his is mine. My own life is inescapably connected to his, all through faith alone.
That's really quite a treasure when we see it for what it is...