In the late 1800’s, a German philosopher named Friedrich Nietzsche made a groundbreaking statement that sent shockwaves through society:
“Gott ist tot.”
For us non-German speakers, that phrase translated means “God is Dead.” Nietzsche, at the time, was pointing out the elephant in the room, which was the growing sentiment that humankind was transcending the need for God to give us meaning, purpose and value.
Then in the 1960’s, Time magazine put the huge headline “God is Dead” on its cover, reflecting another atheistic cultural trend as Nietzsche’s prediction from over half a century before started to gain traction in that topsy-turvy decade.
But I don’t think that either Nietzsche or the hippie prophets from the 60’s ever could have predicted what would happen in 2014:
Gott ist NOT tot…The Movie!
Of course, we already know God is alive and well – not simply because the Bible says so (although that’s enough for me) – but the evidence for His existence can be soundly argued from Intelligent Design, logic and reasoning, the laws of physics, cosmology and enough other arguments to fill the Library of Congress!
As you probably know, that’s the premise of the movie God’s Not Dead. The evidence for God is overwhelming, and we need to be bold in our assertion that belief in Him is not “blind faith.”
This indie film started small, but to date it has raked in over $40 million dollars! And despite the rumors of God’s death and the fundamental commitment on the part of many atheistic professors in the collegiate world to perpetuate this premise, you can be assured that the Eternal God is alive and well.
Maybe atheism is dead? Or at least terminally ill?
Nah, it’s alive and well too – so what would you do if faced with the choice to either deny God or sacrifice your academic dreams? Many would tell you that this is a highly unlikely potentiality, but from my 30 years experience in working with high school students and hearing about their college experiences, it is more likely than you might think.
And even if you don’t foresee your future plans intersecting with a decidedly secular environment, there will come a day when you will have to take a stand for what you believe. But don’t believe me – believe in the words of Jesus:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me” (John 15:18-21).
The bottom line is this: whether we are standing up against a professor in college or standing on the corner ministering to the poor or standing alone against a tidal wave of bad choices among our friends, persecution is bound to come. And it is at that moment when your true colors as a Christ follower shine through.
I like what Josh Wheaton did in the film in terms of respectfully challenging his professor with a personal risk, because that’s exactly what Jesus’ apostles did when they faced a similar situation:
The captain went with some of the temple police and brought the apostles back. But they did not use force. They were afraid that the people might start throwing stones at them.
When the apostles were brought before the council, the high priest said to them, “We told you plainly not to teach in the name of Jesus. But look what you have done! You have been teaching all over Jerusalem, and you are trying to blame us for his death.”
Peter and the apostles replied:
“We don’t obey people. We obey God. You killed Jesus by nailing him to a cross. But the God our ancestors worshiped raised him to life and made him our Leader and Savior. Then God gave him a place at his right side, so that the people of Israel would turn back to him and be forgiven. We are here to tell you about all this, and so is the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to everyone who obeys God.”
When the council members heard this, they became so angry that they wanted to kill the apostles (Acts 5:25-33).
This is the original “God’s Not Dead” speech, but these guys didn’t face a bad grade – they faced a bad death! Did you notice, though, how they handled this terrifying situation?
- They declared their allegiance to God instead of people – do people know that about you?
- They turned persecution into evangelism – are you willing to do that?
And best of all, they turned tribulations into celebrations:
They called the apostles in and had them beaten. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:40-41).
Friends, if you are facing persecution of any kind because you are a part of THE Cause of Christ, take heart! Whether you are insulted, mocked, or even bullied and beaten, remember that Jesus, the Apostles and millions of others have walked in your path, so you are in great company.
Stand firm for Jesus, and you will be a living example of God’s Not Dead long after the film has left the theaters!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
The popularity of God’s Not Dead provides a great platform for us to demonstrate our authentic faith and commitment to THE Cause of Christ. This week, if it’s showing in your area, invite an unsaved friend to go see the film with you, then go out afterwards to discuss his/her opinion of the film. If it’s not showing near you, initiate a conversation about the surprising success of this initially obscure little indie film. Pray for an opportunity to share the gospel and for your friends to respond.
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Father, thank You for making Yourself known to all people, and offering us a relationship with You through Jesus Christ. I pray that we would find opportunity to share the gospel in our conversations about God’s Not Dead, and please let this film bring many people into the Kingdom.
Read: Psalm 19:1.
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Get: Venti Jesus Please. This short, engaging fiction book captures a conversation between three friends at their local Starbucks – an atheist, agnostic, and Christian. Pick up a copy, read it yourself, then share it with a friend who needs Jesus.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Big Idea: The idea of “God is Dead” has been around for centuries, but we have a great opportunity to share our faith during a season where the arguments for God’s existence are being shown on the big screen.
Key Scripture: Acts 5:25-33
- Would you take a stand like Josh Wheaton did in the film God’s Not Dead? Why or why not?
- If you have seen the movie, what are your thoughts?
- If you haven’t seen the movie, do you plan on going? Why or why not?
- How could you use the unexpected success of this movie to talk about God with your friends who need Jesus?