I like to have fun. I’m a fairly adventurous kind’a guy. I like to laugh. In my former position I had been known to have walked through the office with styrofoam peanuts hanging out of my ears and nostrils just to cheer everybody up! Come on… that’s funny!
I also have confidence in the abilities that God has given me. I can lead, I can follow, I can step up, and I can step back, depending on what a particular situation might call for.
So, at what point does my desire to have fun or my desire to have things my way be over the limit? At what point do my own desires and decisions override good judgment? At what point am I willing to entertain or be entertained that it becomes about MY gratification, rather than seeing or serving the need of someone else?
At what point do I become DESENSITIZED by my own pursuits that I lose track of what’s really important in life? And, as a Christian, at what point do I turn a blind eye to pleasing God in order to justify the follies of my own free will.
Around the time that John, the youngest Apostle of Jesus, had grown old and was recording the book of Revelation, a Roman leader named Diocletian had become the emperor of the Roman Empire. It was Diocletian who built the Coliseum in Rome – the arena known for chariot races and gladiator games.
[Quick side note: Emperor Vespasian, Diocletian’s dad, was the general that started the invasion of Israel in 66AD. When Vespasian was called to Rome to become Emperor, his son, General Titus, invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple of God in 70AD. Titus took all the gold and riches from the Temple back to Rome, where he eventually become Emperor when Vespasian died.
Diocletian allegedly had his brother Titus killed so that he could become the Emperor. So, David, why are you telling us this??? Only so that you’ll know that Diocletian built the Coliseum with the gold and riches that Titus had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem! Yes, the place where Christians and Jews were butchered in the arena was built with their own money! A very sad irony.]
But I digress… So for just over 300 years, the gladiator games had been played in the Coliseum. What at first was animal-against-animal, had become man-against-animal, and then man-against-man. To the death. The Roman people had become so DESENSITIZED to the Blood Lust of sport that the sanctity of life no longer held any meaning. A person’s life was valued only by what enjoyment others could derive out of watching them being ripped apart or sliced up for the sake of sport. And the crowds went WILD over this “entertainment.”
Until January 1, 404AD. A monk named Telemachus had heard about these games and was curious as to whether or not it could be true, that murder had become sport. So, he traveled a great distance to come to Rome and see for himself. He thought, “Certainly, these atrocities cannot be true!”
Once in Rome, he fought through the hustle and bustle of the big city and made his way into the Coliseum. And the games began. The blood lust sport reached a fever pitch! But, as two gladiators were about to kill each other, Telemachus jumped into the arena and stood between the two men. At the top of his lungs he shouted, “In the name of Jesus! Stop this thing! In the name of Jesus! Stop this thing!”
The crowd fell silent until one of the gladiators raised his sword, then slashed Telemachus through the skull. The crowd cheered! BUT… then immediately fell silent once again. Though the games were not yet over, the people began to slowly file out of the stands until only the body of Telemachus was the only thing remaining in the Coliseum.
What the Romans had regarded as “meaningless entertainment” had suddenly been invaded by MEANING. PURPOSE. A Mustard Seed of Jesus had been planted and His Word was about to defeat the Roman Empire. History records January 1, 404AD as the date that the very last game was played in the Coliseum. They had finally “stopped this thing.” Jesus, had finally stopped this madness.
In the pursuit of our self satisfaction, in the pursuit of our desires, in our pursuit of meaningless entertainment, have we gone too far? Have we EXCLUDED GOD and pushed Him so far away from our pursuits that we don’t know how far away from Him we’ve really strayed?
At what point, in what situation, during what pursuit, do we finally wake up and shout, “In the name of Jesus! Stop this thing!” And fall to our knees to worship the God of meaning, purpose, and clarity.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (Jude 17-21).
Are you (am I) ready to jump into the arena and shout, “In the name of Jesus! Stop this thing! Enough division, enough hate, enough brokenness, enough pain,.. Enough! In the name of Jesus!”
God bless you all, and we hope to see you Sunday!