God On Film 2010 part 4
Despicable Me: The Problem of Evil
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 25, 2010

Why do we struggle so much with the evil within us? Why can we never seem to get it under control? Why do we spend so much of our lives living with shame and guilt because we’ve given into those evil impulses once again?

You know those old cartoons when someone has to choose between good and evil, so an angel appears on one shoulder and a devil appears on the other? Which one always wins out? The evil one, right?

Why is that? Why is that true not only in the cartoons but also in life?

We’re continuing with our God On Film message series this morning, and the movie we’re talking about today is the movie Despicable Me. And it’s all about a guy dealing with the evil within him.

Before I talk about that, though, let me just ask you: when I say the word “Despicable”, what comes to mind?

[AUDIO or VIDEO – Daffy Duck saying, “You’re despicable!”]

That’s what comes to my mind. Every time I hear that word, I can’t help by think about Daffy Duck. And he kind of made the word funny.

But in the move Despicable Me, the guy really is despicable. He’s pure evil. In fact, at the beginning of the movie… and I’m not going to give away the plot… but at the beginning of the movie, this despicable man—his name is Gru—comes across a boy who’s crying, and he notices that the boy was holding an ice cream cone but the scoop had fallen on the ground. So the man pulls out an animal balloon and shapes it into a dog and hands it to the boy. And the boy is so excited… he had lost his ice cream cone, but now he has an animal balloon and everything’s great again. Which is when Gru pulls out a pin and pops the balloon.

Because that’s just the kind of guy he is. He’s despicable. He’s nasty. He’s evil. And it’s his goal in life to become the greatest thief in the world. And when he hears that someone else has stolen one of the pyramids, he sets out to steal the moon.

But in order to do that, he has to recruit the help of three orphan girls. So he fakes an adoption, and brings them home. Take a look…

[VIDEO – GroundRules, available at MovieMinistry.com]

Nice guy, eh? Gru starts out as pure evil. And like any good movie, he gradually changes over the course of the movie and finds redemption.

Okay, so this morning, we’re going to talk about the evil within each of us. We’re going to talk about where it comes from, why it holds such power, and how we can find freedom. And you can use your notes to follow along.

We’re look at several passages this morning, but we’re going to look mostly at some verses from the book of Romans. Now, Romans is the sixth book in the New Testament and the first of what we call “The Epistles”, which is just a fancy word for letters. In fact, from Romans on, the rest of the New Testament is simply a collection of letters that church leaders wrote to different believers or groups of believers in different cities.

This particular letter was written by the Apostle Paul around AD 57 to the Christ-followers—mostly Gentiles—living in the city of Rome. Thus, it’s the Epistle to or the book of Romans. If it were written to us, it would be the book of Charlottonians.

And the first 11 chapters of the book are really about our struggle with evil and God’s grace in the face of that evil.

And one of the things we learn early on in Romans and early on in life is…

1.    My basic nature is evil.

There, aren’t you glad you came today?

But that’s what the Bible means when it tells us…

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

That means we all have evil within us. I know this to be true because I have seen the onset of evil. I have a two year old son—I have seen the onset of evil. Have you ever noticed how you don’t have to teach a child to lie, to hit, to disobey, to grab, to push, to bite… you don’t have to teach any of that. No, that all comes naturally. What you have to teach children is NOT to do those things. Because that doesn’t come naturally.

The evil comes naturally; we have to teach them what is good.

But in Despicable Me, it would appear the Gru was never taught the difference. He completely gave himself over to his evil nature.

And we all have that nature. We’re born with it. In fact, in church circles we call it the sin-nature.

So let’s talk about sin. I know it’s everyone’s favourite topic. But really, we need to understand what sin is if we’re going to be able to deal with it.

There’s one elderly lady that I run into every week or two, and one of her favourite expressions seems to be, “Oh, that’s such a sin.” Problem is, she never uses it correctly. She usually uses it in a context like, you go to the beach and it starts raining, “Oh, that’s such a sin.” That’s not a sin! Or, you go all the way through the Roll Up the Rim to Win season and you never win… “Oh, that’s such a sin.” No… no, sorry. Not a sin. It’s unfortunate, it’s bad luck, it’s poor timing… but it’s not sin.

So what is sin? Well, I really need to make a distinction between Sin and acts of sin. Usually when we talk about sin, we’re really talking about acts of sin… those things that we or neglect to do that are against the perfect standard of God. It’s lying, it’s cheating, it’s stealing, it’s murdering, it’s lusting… those kinds of things are all acts, or expressions, of sin.

But they all come from the sin-nature that is within us. The Bible tells us…

Luke 6:45 (NLT)
“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

In other words, what’s inside you finds expression outside you. Through your words, and also through your deeds. So the acts of sin really stem from the Sin within.

And while your parents may have taught you right and wrong and you might have learned to control that sin nature—you don’t always give in to those impulses—that doesn’t take care of the problem. It addresses the symptoms, but that Sin nature is still within us. And we do still lose control to it from time to time.

Do you ever find yourself doing something you don’t want to be doing, and you think, “That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be. This is wrong. I’m not going to do this anymore.” What happens? You end up doing the same thing all over again, don’t you. At least I struggle with that. And it’s frustrating… “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m going to do better. I’m going to be better. But the very thing I don’t want to do anymore is exactly what I end up doing again and again and again. And what I want to do I don’t do.

Going back to Romans, this is exactly what Paul was talking about in chapter 7…

Romans 7:19-20 (NLT)
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And so Paul talked about this cycle of trying to escape from the evil sin-nature and failing time and time again. And you can just sense how frustrating it was for him. And I’m sure it led to a lot of guilt and shame.

Of course, some people choose not to struggle against evil. They just give into it. That’s what Gru did in Despicable Me. Some people think Sin is fun, or exciting, or alluring. It’s tempting, because evil can be wrapped up in a nice pretty package.

But let me tell you something about evil. If you could ever see the corruption… the utter repugnance… of evil, you would never be tempted by it. But most times, evil is wrapped up in such a nice pretty package that it looks good. It seems right. It appears to be what will bring you happiness. And only when it’s too late do you discover its true nature.

I’ve told this story before, but I ‘m going to tell it again because, well, I like it.

There was a middle school in Oregon that faced a unique problem. Kind of a funny problem, actually. You see, the custodian was constantly cleaning lipstick off the mirror in the girls’ bathroom. It was a middle school, and many of the girls were just starting to use lipstick. So they’d go into the bathroom, put it on, and then they’d press their lips to the mirrors leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Finally, the principal decided to do something about it. So she called a number of girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained to the girls that all those lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. And to demonstrate, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. So he took out a long-handled brush, dipped it in the toilet, and then used it to scrub the mirror. They never had a problem with lip prints on the mirror after that.

Let me tell you something for when you’re tempted. If you could only see the evil you’d be kissing, you wouldn’t be attracted to it. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.

But that’s the Sin nature, and we are all born with it.

2.    The end result of evil is death.

Boy, we just get cheerier and cheerier, don’t we? But that’s what Paul tells us in Romans 6:23…

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death…

In one of the other New Testament letters, James agrees with Paul…

James 1:14-15 (NLT)
Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.

Okay, Gru never actually died in Despicable Me. Hey, it’s a cartoon! But in really life, the end result of evil is death.

Now, the Bible actually talks about three different kinds of death…

•    Physical Death

Physical death entered this world because of the Fall of Humanity in the Garden of Eden… because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned against Him. Physical death is the kind of death that’s the most obvious to us right now. It’s the death referred to in Hebrews 9:27…

Hebrews 9:27 (CEV)
We die only once, and then we are judged.

That’s the death of our physical bodies… through old age, through illness, through an accident… whatever. This tends to be the kind of death we fear most right now, but in reality this is the least serious kind of death. Here’s a much more serious kind of death…

•    Spiritual Death

This is the kind of death we suffer here and now because of our sinfulness. And since we’re all born with that sin nature, even though we may be physically alive we start out spiritually dead. What is spiritual death? It’s the death of communion with God. It’s the death of understanding our life purpose. It’s the death of the image of God in us.

Romans 6:13 (NLT)
Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.

And spiritual death in this life eventually leads to…

•    Eternal Death

The end result of our Sin… what we deserve because of the evil within us… is Eternal Death. So what is Eternal Death? It is eternal separation from God. It is an eternity removed from the Source of Life. When we die physically, the Bible says we will face the Judgement. If our names are written in the Book of Life, we will be pardoned and welcomed to eternal life in Heaven. But if we are still spiritual dead, we will be sentenced to eternal death in Hell. But that does not mean that we cease to exist. That’s not what death means. It means that we spend eternity removed from our Creator and the source of life. That was the kind of death that Jesus was talking about in John 3:16 when He said…

John 3:16 (CEV)
“God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

Is He saying that we’ll never physically die? No, because physical death is part of life. Is He saying, then, that we’ll never spiritually die? No, it’s already too late for that. We’re all born into that. So what He’s saying is that there is an eternal death which involves being separated from God forever.

3.    Despite the evil within me, God still loves me.

This is one of the most beautiful verses in the whole Bible. Paul wrote in chapter 5 verse 8…

Romans 5:8 (NLT)
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

While we were still evil, while we were still sinful, God still loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. Paul echoed this though in his letter to the Christ-followers in the city of Ephesus…

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT)
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

That’s the extent of God’s love. It’s measureless. It’s beyond comprehension. And nothing you could ever say, think or do could ever eliminate it. And when Paul realized this, he penned these words…

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And it’s because of point number 3… because God still loves us… that we have point number 4…

4.    No matter what I’ve done, I can still be redeemed.

In Despicable Me, this is what eventually happens to Gru. He finds redemption. And in his case, his redemption is triggered because he starts to care about these three orphan girls. You see this in one scene where he takes the girls to a carnival. And I’m not sure that he expressed it the right way, he definitely starts to show signs that he’s beginning to care about the.

[VIDEO – SoFluffy, available at MovieMinistry.com]

Okay, maybe not the best reaction, but at least Gru is starting to show some signs of redemption.

Now let me mix my movies here. We’re talking about Despicable Me, but I want to switch over to Star Wars for a minute.

Back about five years ago, when the final movie in the Star Wars series came out… that’d be movie number 6, episode number 3 (thanks, George)… I was interviewed by CBC Newsworld. Some of you may remember that. It was pretty neat. In that interview that was shown across the country, I was able to talk to more people in just four or five minute than I have in the rest of my life.

And I was able to explain how the overarching theme of the Star Wars saga is Redemption. It’s all about how Anakin Skywalker was consumed by evil, but right at the end of Episode 6 he finds redemption.

And I think this theme of Redemption resonates us. Why? Because we've all been corrupted by evil. Maybe not in the same way that Gru and Darth Vader were, but we all do things we know we shouldn't do but we do them anyway. We all think things we shouldn’t think, but we think them anyway. We all say things we shouldn’t say, but we say them anyway. We all fall short of our own expectations and our own standards, let alone God’s expectations and God’s standards. We've all been corrupted by evil. But the great thing is, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, Redemption is still available. No one is too far lost to be saved.

But here’s the thing: when it comes to true redemption, that’s beyond our grasp. We can’t truly redeem ourselves. We can’t make ourselves right with God. We’re spiritually dead, and we can’t stumble upon spiritual life. Our redemption starts and finishes with the work of God. We looked at part of this verse earlier; now let’s look at the whole thing…

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It’s not through our own efforts. It’s through the efforts of God. It’s a free gift from Him, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. You see, the journey from death to life, from sin to Redemption, can be defined by one word: Forgiveness.


Think about it like this: At the center of the word “SIN” is the letter “I”. I do things my way, I do what I want to do, I give into my desires, I am the center of my life.

But the center letter of “FORGIVE” is “G”, which stands for God. I’m forgiven when I decide to make Him the center of my life. I’m going to do things His way, I’m going to life His way. We move from death to life when we allow Him to be the center of our lives and receive His forgiveness.

Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT)
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

So if you are far from God, then you need to understand that the only way to move from death to life is through the forgiveness offered by Jesus. And you can receive it by choosing to live for Him instead of just living to please your sinful nature.

But even if you are a Christ-follower… even if you settled that long ago… Sin is still a reality you have to be aware of. Because even if you are committed to Jesus and to living for Him, you are not immune to the trappings of temptation. You can still be lured away from Him by Sin. Paul warns…

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.

In other words, even if you’re a Christ-follower and that Sin-nature has been dealt with and you’re living to please God, it’s when you become prideful and think you’re above it all that you become most vulnerable. And you can end up right back where you started. You can become enslaved to Sin again.

That’s why if you read through the Bible, it constantly talks about being humble and remembering that it’s God who saves us, not ourselves. We owe our freedom to Him, and not to our own strength and ingenuity. Pride comes before the fall, so stay humble. Never buy into the lie that you’re beyond the reach of temptation and the power of sin. Instead, remember that though the danger is still there, you can look to God to protect you.

Look at the rest of this passage…

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you wouldn’t exactly call yourself a Christ-follower. But maybe today you’d like to change that. You’d like to move from death to life, from sin to redemption. You’d like to experience the forgiveness of Jesus in your life. Then you can do that by choosing to live for Him.

Or maybe you’ve been a Christ-follower for some time, but you’ve found yourself enslaved to sin again… maybe some recurring sin that you just can’t seem to break free from. Let me remind you that it’s not up to you. Yes, you need to resist. But you do that by looking to Jesus and counting on His work in you to strengthen you and help you stand firm.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca