Over the past several decades, the superhero movie genre has grown into a box office juggernaut. Beginning with Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman in 1978, audiences have flocked to movie theaters through the years to experience the adventures of characters such as Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, and Captain America.
From the Avengers to the X-Men, these characters and their stories have struck a popular chord with moviegoers. But what is it that makes these characters and stories so compelling to so many?
On some level, I believe we enjoy witnessing characters – bestowed with strengths we can only dream of – fighting for good in a quest to emphatically defeat the forces of evil. It’s inherently satisfying to see the villain get his comeuppance in dramatic fashion.
When we think of these superheroes on the silver screen, the first images that typically come to mind involve their superpowers: superhuman strength, lightning-fast speed, and the ability to fly, spring razor-sharp claws, or sling webs from their wrists.
What many of us may not appreciate is that we too have access to superpowers as we wrestle with our own villains. Now before you scoff at this suggestion, consider Galatians 5:22-23, which speaks to the qualities produced by the Holy Spirit. Among these fruits are love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Have you ever considered these attributes as superpowers? Strange as it may seem, I believe there is great power wrapped within the beauty that love, goodness, faithfulness, and the other attributes of the Holy Spirit represent. When we walk with the Spirit, we are endowed with superpowers that strengthen our minds and steel our souls, creating a powerful weapon against the villains of sin in our lives.
Of course, real life is rarely as dramatic as the tales depicted at the cinema, but the villains in our lives are real, and every bit as dangerous. In kicking off the Heroic series, lead pastor Ben Snyder spoke of how we all struggle with villains in our lives. But within every struggle, he noted, is an opportunity – an invitation – to be heroic.
In Galatians 5:16-18, we read about the warring desires of our sinful nature and the Spirit:
16So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When we follow our sinful nature, rather than the Holy Spirit, the inner villains gain a foothold. These villains, which are as considerable as they are varied, include anger, jealousy, selfish ambition, lust, immorality, and other sins (Galatians 5:19-21).
But the Holy Spirit offers us invaluable help – superpowers, if you will – to contend with these villains.
In his commentary on Galatians, pastor and author David Guzik says, “There is no way anyone can fulfill the lust of the flesh as they walk in the Spirit. The two simply don’t go together. The Holy Spirit doesn’t move in us to gratify our fallen desires and passions, but to teach us about Jesus and to guide us in the path of Jesus. This is the key to righteous living – walking in the Spirit, not living under the domination of the law.”
There are a couple of distinctions here that are worthy of our consideration. First, the “lust of the flesh” extends beyond mere carnal lust. As Martin Luther wrote, the lust of the flesh “takes in all the corrupt desires with which the believers are more or less infected, as pride, hatred, covetousness, (and) impatience.”
The second distinction to consider is how vital it is to live in the Spirit, rather than simply obeying the law of Moses. New Testament scholar Kenneth Wuest wrote, “The Holy Spirit strove with men before the Mosaic law was given. He still continues to do so … no preacher ever enables the Christians to whom he ministers to live a better Christian life by putting them under the Ten Words from Sinai and by letting them smell the brimstone of the Lake of Fire.”
The mistake we can make, Wuest suggests, is in substituting Mosaic law for the restraint of the Holy Spirit. “A policeman on the street corner is a far more efficient deterrent of law-breaking than any number of city ordinances placarded for public notice,” he concludes.
We may not often feel “heroic,” particularly when considering our susceptibility to sin. But allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our lives provides the confidence to bring our villains into the light and the strength to contend with them from the front foot.
In a cruel twist of fate, actor Christopher Reeve, who famously portrayed Superman, suffered a catastrophic spinal injury in 1995. The debilitating nature of the injury, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, provided a stark and sad contrast to the hero he had once portrayed. After the accident, Reeve reasoned that his life, though forever changed, had been spared because God still had something for him to do. Indeed, he became an inspirational and influential advocate for spinal cord injury research.
By virtue of playing Superman, Reeve had often been asked about his definition of a hero. Before his injury, he commonly responded by saying that a hero was “someone who commits a courageous action without considering the consequences.” With this newfound perspective of life after his injury, he significantly altered his definition of a hero. “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles,” he said.
When we attempt to live life on our own terms, or worse yet to follow our sinful nature, our villains can represent overwhelming obstacles. But when we embrace – and walk in – the Holy Spirit, we are effectively donning our cape, which wraps us in the powers to combat the villains of sin. And in doing so, we can indeed become heroic.
What does it look like to let the Holy Spirit guide your life?
What villains do you need to bring into the light?
How can we enable the Spirit to give us the desire to do as he wants?
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the abundant love and other gifts you have bestowed on me. I pray that you grant me the wisdom to appreciate the fruits of the Holy Spirit, to recognize the powers they represent in battling the villains in my life, and to know that by walking with you, I am on the path to living a righteous life. Amen.
This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.
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