8 Weeks With C. S. Lewis: Book 1 of Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity is often regarded as C. S. Lewis’ greatest works. In book one Lewis begins unwrapping this sense of a “Moral Law,” which claims that everyone has, within the core of their being, an understanding of right and wrong. Lewis saw the on coming storm of post modernism and he hated it with a passion. Lewis lived and wrote in a word that was moving on from Christianity into subjectivity and relativism. Lewis hated the lie that all truth is subjective to one’s perspective and ventures to prove that all peoples have at their core being a sense of good and bad.

The moral law is a sense that we have been made with a want to do well toward others and not be selfish. This is not an instilled sense that has been taught to us by our parents, teachers nor friends. What we are taught by the influential people in our lives, is what our culture holds valuable. Like not sagging your pant and looking presentable; or not scraping your teeth on the fork while you’re eating. These are things that our parents and friends teach us, mainly I think, because it annoys them. But, what happens to be offensive in this culture is not in another. For instance, here in America we eat usually something sweet in the morning, like cereal. But in most other countries they treat it as though it’s any other meal for the day. I for one cannot image eating brisket just after waking up, but that is my prerogative.

The moral law goes far beyond that. Lewis is trying to establish that there is deep inside of our beings that we want to be unselfish and mindful of others. There are ways of being unselfish cross-culturally such as not stealing and being generally respectful to others. Why though, do we have this urge to want to do right by others if there in general if, as the postmodernist would say, there is no right and that everything is relative.

Lewis was writing in an time where Christianity had just started seeping its way out of mainstream culture and being passed off as just some people’s opinion or worldview. This is exactly what is happening today in America if not completely already. The problem with this age is not apathy, though that could be a big problem, but the whole notion of the spiritual is gone. Now all we tend to base facts on is what science can prove and science cannot prove anything in the spiritual realm. Therefore the spiritual aspect of all life must not exist at all, and it is much more easier to chalk it up to personal feelings (some go so far as to say delusions).

What the scientific world hasn’t proven to us yet is what love is, why people feel  the need to help someone in distress, why we have a desire to do good when survival of the fittest says we must look after ourselves and how people all across the globe have, with variations here and there, the same set of standard rules as how not to be selfish. And yet after all of this, as Lewis says, “We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity.”

What is Faith?

πίστις  =  pistis  =  Faith

Hebrews 11:1-3, “ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Faith is not belief. The action of faith displays knowledge given and accepted as truth in something or someone, specifically on God, and needs first to be given by God. Faith is not blindly stumbling through the dark, hoping for someone to bring salvation, but turning on a flashlight and knowing what is true. Faith is enduring confidence in God, and then doing the will of God in the power of that confidence in the hopes of what is promised.

Faith is a gift from God. Hebrews 11 says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what is unseen. The chapter describes a list of people who had faith in God and God’s actions on their behalf. That’s what faith is: trust in God and what he has done for you in Jesus. Through faith we trust in Christ. When we trust in Christ we experience grace, reconciliation with God, and forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:1–2 says,

“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

Faith is not belief. Faith is a longer lasting type of belief. Faith is first given by God to Christians through the Bible, and Christians receive it as not only truth but as the word of God. Beliefs are personal observations and conclusions about reality. Beliefs are a reflection of culture. If beliefs are a result of a personal observations then truths would be different for everyone due to different perspectives. However believing is very important, according to Romans 10:9

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

So belief is very important, perhaps even the first step towards faith. Faith is different from mere beliefs because it is accepted to the believer as truth, not from general observations, but by God through Prophets, Apostles, and most importantly His son. Faith is not an idea that is cherished, but a knowledge of a truth un-provable and non-visible.

The action of faith displays knowledge given and accepted as truth in something or someone, specifically on God. Granted, there are many different religions all across the globe, all of them claiming things very different, and all of them with devote followers who believe theirs to be true. Not getting into what others may teach, this should be the difference between them and Christians, that you do not simply discover biblical truth on your own but it is given as a gift by God. Jesus says in John 6:44

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . . ”

In a Christian’s walk the journey always starts with the realization that they are filled with sin and deprived of any good and in desperate need of salvation. This is the awakening. Then they are led toward faith by indomitable grace and trusting in the total atoning suffenency of Christ’s death. All who are led to such faith are chosen by God, without merit and independent of prior or future sins committed. Finally resting in the preservation of the sustaining faith in the all satisfaction of God.

Faith is not blindly stumbling through the dark, hoping for someone to bring salvation, but turning on a flashlight and knowing what is true. Skepticism is usually frowned upon in the Christian circle because it usually means something is being questioned about Christianity. However, skepticism can have a good connotation. Skeptics are people who are inclined to question every opinion offered in order to come to the truth. When Jesus says “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves,” in Matthew 7:15 it means watch carefully what you are exposing yourself to. Matthew Henry says in his commentary

“Nothing so much prevents men from entering the strait gate, and becoming true followers of Christ, as the carnal soothing, flattering doctrines of those who oppose the truth.”

So, faith was not meant to be blind. In death there is nothing but darkness and an absence of God entirely. In John 8:51

Jesus says,“…if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Jesus also says that, “He is the way, the truth and the light…”

God did not leave his people in darkness, but with the ability to find truth even in the darkest of times, if one remembers to trust in the light.

Before Jesus comes into the Christian they are perfectly happy with in their sins. No desire to make right the wrong. Once Jesus enters it is like opening the window of a dark dusty room and getting a better look at the filth. Maybe seeing the empty bottles of booze and boxes of food that never satisfied, and the dust that shrouds everything along with all the motes floating in the air and being unhealthily inhaled. Faith opens the window into the soul and shines the light on the mess, and Jesus justifies it by saying, “this is now mine.” After justification is sanctification, or the process of being made holy. The entire process is essential to faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 11 says, Faith is assurance. Assurance of what? Things hoped for. But, what is it that is hoped for? Once awakened there is a increasingly strong desire to be rid of all disgrace and of all shame that lines the hearts of the Christian, like dust in an attic. The reason Romans chapter seven was written is to show that all of mankind’s flesh is sold to sin and condemned by the law. Then, in Romans eight the burden is lifted when Paul says,

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

The death of Jesus set sinners free from the old law so that we can have enduring, unshakeable faith in Him. Now Christians can rest, assured in the knowledge that they cannot be taken out of the hand of God. Because if God gave up his own son to reconcile an unclean people there is no way that he will loose what was bought at the highest price. Understanding this, faith could now be described as the endurance maintained by God, in the trusting of His will to glorify Himself in all things, and the final fulfillment of what is promised, the forgiveness that was purchased in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 43:6  I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7  everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

Jesus & Nothing Else

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“The essence of Christianity is that God is the supreme value in the universe, that we do not honor him as supremely valuable, in doing so we are guilty of sin and under his omnipotent wrath, and he alone can rescue us from his own condemnation, which he has done through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, for everyone who is in Christ. Knowing this, if what we promote is housing, jobs, health care, sobriety, family life minus this message, we are not Christian. . . we are cruel.” – John Piper

Classified and Divided

 

There are at least three different way to lead a church. They are named Prophets, Priests, and Kings. These derive from Eusebius of Caesarea, an exegetical-Christian polemicist, along with other Reformation leaders. Prophets tend to love sound doctrine and great teaching, Priests have a natural love for, and drive to help people, Kings are great vision implementers and can strategically get things done. All pastors will fall under at least one of these classes.

            Jesus himself, being a perfect man, was all three. Some people relate to him best as a Priest caring for all people and healing the sick. Some relate to him as the King casting vision, “ . . . and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) Many times in the Gospels we see Jesus, just like a prophet, defending sound doctrine and proclaiming the truth to everyone that would listen.

Just as Jesus was a King there are many pastors that lead in this way. They have been blesses with the spiritual gift of administration. They can build systems, manage recourses, lead from behind the scenes trough strategy. Kings, although they may not be the most popular of all church leaders are vital to the survival and growth of all churches. There is a downside though. Kings can be, at times rigid or inflexible, refusing to change. It is imperative that pastors bend and flex to their culture in order to be relevant. A lot of times Kings make too many rules and can be overcome with self-righteousness with their policy.

There is no question that Jesus loved people. When there was a guy that had a rough life, say he was blind like in John chapter nine, Jesus stopped and took the time to heal them. More than once Jesus fed thousands of people who would have gone hungry. Just like Jesus, Priestly leaders see hurting and needing people and cannot stand it if they don’t do anything to help. Priests tend to be mainly about compassion and mercy and justice. They are the ones who have a big emphasis on small groups and want to get involved in other people’s lives to see if there is any way they can help you.

Priests have been gifted with the spiritual gift of encouragement and the ability to lead through relationships. They would tend to focus on the “ground war” and counsel people one on one. They have a high want of friendship with other people and sometimes this will make them want to exchange what the Bible says in order to keep these people in their church. This is happening certainly today in churches that would say, “It’s okay to be gay,” when this is contrary to scripture. (see Romans 1:18-32) Priests are sometimes self-righteous with compassion and love.

In the book of Hebrews, which some scholars think is a sermon, Jesus is described as a Prophet. There is no question that Jesus was a preacher. At every town he visited people would leave what they where doing at the time and come see him. They did this because of His reputation. Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to read scripture in public and exhort one another. The church has a duty to preach and teach the Bible without adding it’s own ideas, but contextualizing it for today’s audience. John Piper calls it, “expository exultation.”

Prophets have the spiritual gift of knowledge and the natural gift of preaching and teaching to larger audiences. These pastors are best as communicators and have a focus on being in a visible preacher and teacher. They lead through communication and focus on the spiritual “air war.”  A lot of times Prophets become conceited, harsh, cold and self-righteous with their knowledge. Prophets tend to follow pastors like John Piper or reformers like R. C. Sproul and Jonathan Edwards. Prophets are key for the growth of theology and knowledge within the church.

All three have major importance in churches today, just as they did in the early days. If one area is lacking there is going to be a severe hurt in that organization. If there is a Priest and King but no Prophet, a whole bunch of good works will be done but that is it, no salvation. If there is a Priest and King there will be great ideas for getting things done and a lot of Biblical truths, but no counseling, no small groups, and not healing or love. All pastors will fall under at least one of these classes and every church should realize the need for the correct leaders.

 

*All info about prophets, priests, and kings was learned from the book Church Planter by Darrin Patrick and theresurgence.com 

*The Photo at the top of this post is also from theresugence.com

 

Diagnostic

The first of many papers that I will write this semester. This one made my professor laugh…hope you like it.

Diagnostic Paper

            I have already been to a Bible college once, Baptist Bible College in Springfield, M.O. When I first went there I had a completely different, and probably unrealistic expectations. Now that I have been in a little while I know kind of what I should expect. What my expectations are is to be filled with head knowledge of the gospel and put that to use in who knows what way.

            When I first started going to BBC I was just a kid. I thought I knew everything about the Bible and would hardly take advice from anyone else, including the people I looked up to most. Today it is greatly opposite! Now I have this hunger to learn more, and the more I do learn, it feels like the less I know. But, there is one thing that I have learned, if you do not get out of your little bubble of friends you will never make an impact on the world around you.

            I came into the Bible college life expecting the school to teach me certain ways to do things. Almost like a sure fire way to build community with outsiders, and get them into churches. But, the school couldn’t teach these things, because they have to be learned by experiencing them for yourself. You need to get out into the world and find some friends that don’t love Jesus. Eventually you will build relationships with them and start to really care about them. I recently read an article on Relevant.com that was titled ‘Christians called to party?’ What the article was talking about was throwing a get together for people in your neighborhood or co-workers so you could build community with them. Let’s be honest, do you think people are more likely to listen to a complete stranger, or one of their friends they know and trust?

            I soon got into a bubble of friends that hung-out together, went to class together, and even went to church together. What was I doing, who was I reaching? Once I realized that all my friends where homeschooled, anti-everything nerd-virgins, and that I was loosing my connection with everyone who needed the gospel, I had to get out! So, I got a job at a local Pizza Hut, where I met some of the most interesting people ever.

            Once I got into people’s lives I started making an impact that I would not have other wise. I wish I had a great story about how some of them saw what I was telling them and turned to Jesus, but I don’t. What I did do is get some of them to re-think the things they where doing, and hopefully, give them a new perspective of what a Christian should be.

            All of that to say that my expectation for college is to get a firm understanding of the Bible and how Jesus lived his life, and to exult in His name. “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 146: 2 ESV)