One of the toughest things to do as an actor is what we call “becoming your character”, or figuring out how to properly portray the essence and emotions of a certain person. How would this character you’re representing say a certain word? What kind of quirks or weird ticks do they do? How would they display their emotions? Everyone expresses themselves differently, when you’re angry or sad, to express this emotion, you may cry; however, if you’re portraying someone more stoic, they may withdraw themselves and become quiet and straight-faced. You have to perform these actions and see yourself through the lens of a different perspective. For example, when Will Smith took on the role of
Muhammad Ali, he knew one of the main things to bring out the essence of this character is the flattering way he talks about himself, "I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I'm in a world of my own." Or "I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark." Smith had to become prideful and believe that he was the greatest in the world in order to be Muhammad Ali because, that’s what Ali’s perspective was, he was the greatest. When you become your character, and see things the way they would see them, you’re not acting anymore... you’re just living.
When you join the military and you’re sent through boot camp or basic training; the role of the drill sergeants are to break you down so they can build you back up in the “right way”. You must conform and adapt to the military standards in order to become a soldier. It’s a lot harder than it sounds because it isn’t something that happens overnight. Some military members go through 13-grueling weeks of sleep deprived nights, physically and mentally exhausting days just to relearn how to operate as a service member! But, each new day you start to see things a little differently. The transformation process begins. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Once you become this new person, you gain a different perspective and start to see things in a new light.
Whenever we start talking about seeing something in a “new light” or becoming someone new, the first person I think about is Paul, the apostle formerly known as Saul (no Prince pun intended). Saul had gained a reputation for persecuting Christians. He was a Pharisee, and Pharisees at that time were known to be very strict religious leaders or what we now call the “super-saved” folk. They were the ones who would say “I’m a good person because I follow the law to the “T” and tithe a 10th of everything I have”; but wouldn’t want anything to do with justice, mercy and love because they neglected others, according to Jesus anyway. Saul was one of those guys (you never want to be one of those guys).
The quick version of Saul’s conversion is basically this: One day Saul was on his way to Damascus when a bright light appeared out of nowhere and blinded him for 3 days. While he was blinded from this bright light, Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” It was the voice of Jesus. From there Saul went into Damascus where he met a man by the name of Ananias, who the Lord previously spoke to and said go pray for him to receive back his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ananias did just that and Saul was filled with the Spirit and received his vision back. And from then on, he went on to be one of the most notable figured in the Bible, writing over two-thirds of the New Testament! But, that would have never happened if the Lord didn’t give Saul a new ‘eyesight’, a new perspective - God’s perspective.
Not only was this a physical transformation, but it was also a spiritual transformation. Saul’s entire perspective and approach changed. He went from acting as a religious leader to becoming a child of God. He went from persecuting Christians to converting people to Christianity. Once he was broken down and the Holy Spirit brought him back up, he could no longer see things as Saul sees things, but as Christ sees things.
We fast forward a few books in the New Testament from Acts to Philippians, where now Paul is stuck in prison. This isn’t something new to Paul (he approximately spent 6 years’ in total in prison throughout his ministry). He wrote many letters from prison to various church plants, but the letter he wrote to the people in Philippi was a little different. In Paul’s other letters he spoke more on church matters, like doctrine, the deity of Christ, and forgiveness but, the letter to Philippi was more of a love letter than anything else.
The church in Philippi had a special place in Paul’s heart. His message was - no matter what circumstances they may face, how much suffering occurs, the level of anxiety… REJOICE! They should continue to look to Christ as the object of their faith and hope. What’s interesting in this scenario is that Paul, though stuck in prison, wants to encourage the very same people that years ago, he wanted to imprison. He loved the people who he wanted killed. Paul was broken down, but when Christ came, he truly became a new creature, a new soldier for Christ.
When God works the ‘you out of you’, you stop acting… and you start becoming.
If you missed out on this week's sermon, check it out here.