The Power of Story

They sat spellbound in the darkness, hardly breathing. A few were occasionally nibbling popcorn while most just stared. The screen had transported them into a new reality. Left behind was the ho-hum, the mundane, the everyday; they were swept up into a world of excitement, adventure, intrigue, and romance.

They had entered the theater as individuals with impassive expressions. But now they were one, a group that swayed and played with the drama, faces open and eager. Anger, joy, love, hate, fear, excitement—a multitude of emotions were being shared together as the moviegoers became one with the screen. They laughed and cried as they went places never before traversed. Things were as they should be—wrongs were made right, evil was punished, justice was served, loyalty was rewarded, love was shared, the impossible was overcome.

They had come, not to escape from life but to experience it. Lifted above meaninglessness, they were now elevated into something higher, something for which their spirits yearned. Life was springing to new meaning in the safety of their seats.

Hollywood has captured the power of story.  Audiences identify with the movie, locate themselves in the story, and connect with its significance.  Those who write stories have the ability, through the power of their art, to shape the values and cultures of nations and generations.  I was reminded of this truth while applying recently for a tourist visa.  Invited to teach in a nation where Christians are often persecuted for their faith, I needed to apply for a visa in a manner that would not reveal the religious nature of my mission.  In the process of completing the application, I came to the line where I was supposed to list my occupation.  I knew instinctively that I should not indicate that I am a gospel preacher.  Author.  That seemed innocuous enough to me.  So that’s what I wrote down, and sent the application off to an American agency that helps with my visa applications.

A couple of days later, an agency rep called to say that if I put author on the application it would be declined automatically.  The government, they informed us, does not want authors or lawyers visiting their nation.

I thought author was a neutral occupation and was initially surprised to discover they perceived it as dangerous.  But upon reflection, it made sense.  Stories are catalytic, and can pose a threat to repressive governments that do not want people to think for themselves or to form politically incorrect beliefs.  Authors have the power, through story, to shape the ideologies and thinking of the land.

That exchange with the visa agency heightened my awareness of the power that resides in having a great story and sharing it with someone.

Long before Hollywood, Broadway and the New York Times Bestsellers List, Jesus understood the power of story.  We see this in the case where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man but then would not allow him  to follow Him in His travels.  Instead, Jesus told him to stay home and tell his friends what God had done for him (see Mark 5:1-20).  Even though the people of the region initially rejected Jesus, He knew their hearts would change through the power of this man’s story.

Jesus knew that this man’s story would bypass people’s defenses and win their hearts. In a similar way, God wants to use your story to win the hearts of others who might otherwise not be able to connect with their eternal destiny.

God rarely writes short stories. So don’t lose heart, even if the plot seems to grow long. God really knows how to write a good story—wait for it. When God’s purpose comes clear, you’ll have a story that will have the kind of power on it to move an entire generation. Even some whose first response was to reject Jesus will be gripped by the power of your story and be won to the wisdom of the righteous.


All sins created equal

When discussing sins such as homosexuality, some leaders in the body of Christ today are saying things like, “It doesn’t really matter what your sin is. Sin is sin. All of us are sinners, and all of us need forgiveness.” It’s true that we all need forgiveness, but it’s not true that all sins are equally sinful.

One reason the enemy wants us to believe this lie is because he wants us to trivialize sin. He wants people who are bound in great darkness to think lightly of their sin. He doesn’t want them alerted to how destructive some sinful behaviors can be to themselves and others.

When Jesus said, “Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11), He was acknowledging that some sins are greater than others.

In the Bible, greater sins incurred greater punishment (Deut. 17:8; Matt. 26:24; Heb. 10:29; 2 Ki. 23:26; 24:3). Similarly, our legal systems recognize that it would be wrong to assign the same punishment to every kind of legal infraction. Our courts properly acknowledge that not all sins are created equal.

Just as some sins are greater than others, some demons are more wicked than others (Lk. 11:26). One of the negative consequences of greater sins is that they attract the attention of more wicked demons. Demons are attracted to darkness. When they see us giving place to darkness, they fan the flames of temptation and seek to lead us into even greater darkness and condemnation.

Now it’s true, any sin will send you to hell. If you break just one command of God’s law, James 2:10-11 tells us that you are guilty of all God’s law. Once you’re in hell, I suppose in one sense it hardly matters what got you there. However, Jesus made clear that some sins incur more terrifying judgment in hell (Matt. 18:6).

When participating in today’s debate regarding homosexuality, we must be faithful to speak the truth: Sexual sins are worse than many other kinds of sin. And among sexual sins, some are worse than others.

One reason sexual sins are greater than many others is because of how they adversely affect other people. Fornication defiles not just you but another person as well. Adultery is a sin both against the other person and the spouses involved. Molestation and incest are such evil sins because of their power to traumatize the victims. Some people suffer emotionally from these kinds of sins for years and years.

Paul showed that sexual sins are often worse than others when he wrote:

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18).

The construction of the Greek is emphatic, “Every sin whatsoever,” pointing to the unique ability of sexual immorality to defile the body. Some sins defile only a part of your being, such as your mind or your spirit. But sexual sins defile your entire person—spirit, soul, and body.

When we understand how destructive certain kinds of sin can be, the hope of the Gospel shines even brighter. Jesus came to save sinners! He commands us to repent, receive forgiveness, turn from our sin, and dedicate our lives to obeying Him.

What great news!

If you’re looking for more a more in-depth resource on the subject of sexuality and consecration to the Lord, click here to learn more about Bob’s newest book, A Covenant With My Eyes.