A few minutes before opening curtain, my friend Krista (the fine arts director at my son’s high school) asked if I could pinch hit on the pre-performance devotional. I soon found myself standing in the middle of 75 full-costumed cast members looking to me for some spiritual inspiration before they stepped on stage for their brilliant production of the musical Big Fish.
What does a group of teenage thespians need to hear in a moment like this? The same thing all of us need to hear every single day.
I know what it’s like to be on a stage. I was a music pastor at a large suburban church here in Indianapolis in what seems like a lifetime ago. Even when your heart is in the right place, something happens inside of you when the lights come up.
“It’s easy to think about what we need from an audience,” I told them. You’re up there singing, dancing, delivering your lines, and inside your spirit is screaming, “validate me, love me, tell me I’m worth something to you.” It’s instinctive. Our flesh feels a void and looks to fill it through adulation and applause.
“But here’s the deal,” I said. “Everything you need you already have in Jesus. The last thing Jesus said before he died on the cross was ‘tetelestai.’ That’s the Greek word for ‘it is finished.’ In that moment, Jesus took everything on himself. Your identity was settled. That gap you feel between who you are and who you know you’re supposed to be was crossed and mended by the finished work of Christ. All the earning has already been done.”
“And because it is finished,” I added, “you can walk onto that stage tonight in complete freedom. Everything you need you already have because of Jesus. Now you can take the gifts He gave you and turn them completely outward. You can worship the Lord and love the audience with this production. Your performance doesn’t define you, Jesus does. You don’t need anything, so go pour yourselves out and give the people in those seats a gift tonight.”
And as I was pumping those kids full of Gospel fuel, I was refueling myself in the process. You’re probably not staging a musical today (if you are let me know, I might want to come), but your flesh is needy, too. We forget the “it is finished” of the Gospel. We root our identities in our performance. We look for the accolades of others to give us what only Jesus can provide. We define ourselves by our achievements.
So here’s what I want to remind us both of today: the earning is over, the gap has been mended, our identities are settled. Every thing we need, in Christ, we already have. It truly is finished.
Now turn your life outward and go honor God, love your neighbor, and point others to the hope you have in Christ through everything you do today. Including the work of your hands.
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Erik Cooper | The Stone Table