And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on highto give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." - Luke 1: 76-79 (ESV)
Robin Williams is dead at 63. The world has lost one of the most brilliant comedians and underrated actors we have ever seen. The star of Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting always portrayed a chaotic happiness in his public appearances and was considered the king of ad lib comedy. Behind the mask of joy however was yet another life tortured by the king of this world, the devil. Williams openly admitted his early battles with cocaine addiction which took the life of his friend John Belushi. Following this was a bout with alcoholism and even though he eventually would stay sober for 20 years the devil raised his head again in 2006 when Williams checked himself into rehab because he had started drinking again. The truth behind all of these battles and all of the laughs is that Robin Williams battled with depression for all of his life.
His death today is being called an apparent suicide by asphyxiation. I think back to 2007 when Richard Jeni, another brilliant comedian, took his life with a handgun just one month shy of his 50th birthday. We have to realize that what we see on stage and on television is not who they are. What they struggle with. What demons haunt their lives. We all mourn the passing of a man who brought us so much joy as an actor and comedian but we do an injustice to allow it to pass without examining the truth about what is going on. The truth is that this world has a god who speaks a particular language:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2Corinthians 4: 3-6 (ESV)
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8: 44 (NIV)
I know the world has done a masterful job of reducing the devil to a caricature in a little red suit carrying a pitchfork but he is very real. He is the god of this world. He blinds the eyes of the unbelieving. The result is they walk in darkness. The things of God are foolishness to them. The verse from John explains that the devil's native language is lies. He is incapable of telling the truth. As he lies to everyone, he so lied to Robin Williams.
This is not to say that these lies are incapable of affecting Christians. Quite the contrary. Christians fall prey as well to the lies of the enemy when he can convince them that their feelings mean more than their beliefs. As someone who once suffered for seven years with a panic disorder, I am well aware of these lies and the power they can hold over us. This is not an exercise in denial. It is an attempt at understanding.
It also is a chance to remember the crucial importance of doctrine. I know that it has become vogue in seeker friendly church worlds to turn doctrine into a dirty word. That no one wants to hear about what God says we should and should not do. That we do not have to discuss sin and repentance. That somehow this is "old school" and not sufficient to reach the next generation. A world where sinners prayers are two sentences long focused on inviting Christ into your heart but no turning from our sins. What does the Bible say about doctrine?
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)
Do we care anymore that the very salvation of our hearers is at stake? Or have we grown so concerned about worldly measurements of success that we sacrifice their souls on the altar of purpose driven expediency? Even beyond the walls of our evangelical churches, what is left in this world for religion to offer the lost? Robin Williams once quipped that he was Episcopalian, which he said was, "Catholic Lite--same rituals, half the guilt." That might make for a funny sound bite but the ramifications for someone in as much pain as Williams are all too real. We have to move beyond trying to be relevant to people and introduce them to a Savior who can truly heal all wounds.
How many more will it take? Robin Williams, Richard Jeni, Amy Winehouse, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger and the list goes on and on. Beloved, fame will not bring you peace. Riches of this world will not give you peace. Only Christ can bring you peace and as he said, not peace the way world thinks of peace. The peace of this world is just another lie from the devil they do not want to believe exists. Our key verses today come from the opening chapter to the Gospel of Luke. It is the conclusion of the prophecy from Zechariah regarding the birth of John the Baptist. It teaches us several things we might often forget.
First of all the people who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior sit in darkness, in the shadow of death. Within that darkness the enemy whispers into their souls. Whispers of anxiety, depression, and anything he can to destroy their lives. The shadow of death continually hanging over them. Think of the job the god of this world has done in cheapening the value of life. From abortion to unfettered gun violence. Kids going into their high schools with automatic weapons, an adult slaughtering innocent children at an elementary school. Kids killing other kids for not going to the prom with them. Twelve years olds killing a classmate to appease a fictional internet demon. Celebrities unable to cope anymore with decades of listening to the lies of the god of this world.
The Good News from the key verses however is that God has provided a Savior. Not the nonsense sold on television each week that has no power to shine light into darkness and less power to save. No beloved, a real Savior who can guide anyone who seeks Him into the way of peace. A real Savior who is the truth amidst all the lies this world sells. A real Savior who can cut through the pain, the anxiety and the depression. The world lost a brilliant comedic man today who suffered needlessly for a great portion of his life. I pray peace for his family but not peace as the world provides, which is fleeting and conditional. No. I pray the peace that can only come from a relationship with the only one who can shine a light into the darkness of this world. The Prince of Peace. Jesus Christ.
Rest in peace Robin. You will be sorely missed.