C.S. Lewis on Christ Alone

Uncle Jack’s critics call him a universalist because of such statements as, “… we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” If that were the extent of his statement on the issue I would join his critics in trying to discredit him, but it’s not, and I won’t. To establish the full context of his statement, here is an excerpt from his, Mere Christianity:

Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.

The main Scriptural reason for criticizing Lewis’ statement above is Apostle Peter’s declaration recounted in Acts 3-4:12, “This One is the Stone counted worthless [despised] by you the builders, the One who has come to be into the Head of the Corner (Psa. 118:22); and there is salvation in no other One, for neither is there any other name under Heaven having been given among men by which we must be saved.” (LITV)

This brings us to the inevitable confrontation with that dreaded word: theology. Two main schools of thought exist among evangelical Christians: Calvinism, and Wesleyan-Arminianism. Please note the -ism behind each of those titles that mutates ideas into institutions. Over-simplified, Calvinists believe that God chose His children before creation, and somehow, those “elect” will hear the gospel of Christ and believe unto salvation; it’s, “sorry, Charlie,” for everyone else. The Wesleyan-Arminian (Holiness) school of thought declares that anyone who, by their own free will, hears Christ’s gospel, believes it, repents of his sin and bears the fruit of God’s Spirit, is one of God’s elect by His foreknowledge. Both views ignore or rationalize Bible passages that seem to support the opposing side.

I heartily agree with Lewis’ statement that, “God has not told us what His arrangements about (those who never heard the gospel) are.” Calvinists say they were never members of God’s elect, while Holiness people, at least on this issue, remain silent where the Bible is silent. With Lewis, I doubt that God will hold anyone responsible for their honest ignorance, but because of such passages as Acts 4:12, I can’t agree with his statement that we don’t need to know Him to be saved through Him.

Lewis aptly sums up his thoughts with, “If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them.” I warn the doctrinal nitpickers that there are worse things than being mistaken about points of dogma. God will not hold anyone accountable for honest error, but the unloving, the judgemental, the zealots, are subject to the same judgement as they were in Jesus’ time. Just because they now call themselves, “Christians,” makes no difference at all.

C.S. Lewis on Effort

Uncle Jack has always had a way of eliciting controversy; religious liberals accuse him of being too conservative, and religious conservatives accuse him of being too liberal. He brings out the extreme range of opinion among Christians. While I disagree with him on some theological points, I’ve found much more agreement with his Scripture applications. His statement on effort, from Words to Live By, is a case in point.

Many things—such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly—are done worst when we try hardest to do them.

So true, but Lewis didn’t mention the self-control required to do those things without trying.

Did I hear you say, “That’s nuts!”? Well, it’s not nuts. The only way to develop positive behaviors so you do them automatically is by developing the appropriate habits, and that takes self-control.

What motivates those positive habit formations? God’s Holy Spirit, working through frequent exposure to, study of, and meditation on his Word. That is the very first godly habit, and all the others flow from it. When God opens your eyes to the awful wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins, and the depth of his love for you—personally—that motivated him to submit to that torture, you will want to let him speak to you through his Word. God will show you that he is love, and as Jesus demonstrated his love by dying on the cross for you, so you will want to demonstrate your love for him by crucifying your own desires for self-gratification, and obeying him even when you don’t feel like it.

Rest

Jesus said, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) While that is one of the first passages kids learn in Sunday school, it’s one of the last that we adults put into practice.

We normally think of those labors and burdens as related to our worldly concerns, like supporting our families or taking part in civic affairs. At least, that’s the way I’ve always thought of it. Today, however, an alternative application occurred to me that, though somewhat novel to me, is probably old hat to many of my brethren. But I’ll tell you my bright idea anyway.

I look at the stranglehold that the religious authorities held on the people of Jesus’ time. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:2-4 NKJV) To me that describes legalistic religion in all its forms, both then and now. Jesus also said concerning the religious authorities, in Matthew 15:7-9 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

One problem with legalism is, human traditions and rules become worldly burdens to those who are trying to please God through them. So it’s all the same; whether the works and burdens are worldly, or religious, they are not of God. Our Sabbath rest is the Lord Jesus Christ, who will give us rest for our souls.

To Arms! To Arms!

Meet AK 47, the insurgents’ weapon of choice.

Conservative news sources say our government is threatening our rights, to the extent that millions of U.S. residents are “prepping” for the “SHTF” scenario. God speed, rugged individualists.

I guess Preppers are the same folks who used to be called, “survivalists,” but now many more people are arming themselves, hoarding provisions, and fortifying their homes against looters, even if some of those looters are wearing the uniform of the very government that is supposed to protect the people.

The elitist news media—that’s most broadcast news sources—paints those who might be willing to fight for our Constitution as pillaging brutes, and all the Kool-Aid-drinking lemmings accept that sort of lie without question. So “we the people” allow the powers that be to pass punitive executive orders and legislation to keep the folks in line.

As Apostle Paul said, “I speak as a fool.” The above paragraphs present the extreme right end of the conservative spectrum, but as Christ-followers, our role is not to take up arms. If we will obey Christ’s Great Commandments, which Apostle James calls, “the perfect law of liberty,” we must submit to the corrupt authorities and endure persecution with patience and love. Such spiritual guns and bullets will be far more effective than trying to kill government enforcers. I pray that God’s church will grasp our peace in Christ and never let it go, regardless how much suffering we must endure. Jesus said we must be salt of the earth, which serves as both a flavor enhancer and a preservative.

Jesus said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:16) Wherever persecution reigns, God’s church spreads, and when that happens here, the remnant will shine with God’s eternal glory, bringing the abundant sheaves into His eternal storehouse. Praise God for His marvelous wisdom!

As for our God-given rights, I’d like to see the Biblical basis for our constitutionally guaranteed rights. The only God-given right I know is our right, as His children, to expect Him to be true to Himself and His promises. I’m plum tickled pink with that, and don’t expect any more. When our entitlements go belly up, the church will have to start taking care of its own. If it doesn’t, it’s not God’s church.

What a shame, that the LDS religion holds the standard for charitable giving higher than God’s church cares to match? The trouble with that religion, though, is such giving is mandated as brownie-points toward edification to godhood. But that’s human nature; fallen man gives so that he may get back. Whether it’s karma, God-brownie points, altruism, grudging responsibility or tax deductions, we want to know, “What’s in it for me,” before we part with our ungodly manna. I call it ungodly because we grasp God’s provisions near to our hard hearts out of love for money and the stuff it will buy, when we should consider everything we have holy unto the Lord, out of love for Him. When I say, “we,” I mean God’s church at large.

I personally don’t believe God requires us to tithe under the New Covenant of grace. What He does require, though, is far more than a simple tithe of our income. To obey God, Christ-followers must give of our earthly resources sacrificially, according to the principles Jesus laid out during the Sermon on the Mount. For every point of law He mentioned, He upped the ante. But the standards Jesus laid out are not required for salvation; they follow salvation, as the fruit of God’s Spirit that believers will bear.

If you’re walking just a hair’s breadth inside your idea of God’s requirements for salvation, or if you’re trusting in worldly weapons and wealth for survival, you’ve got it all wrong. Obviously, you’ve neglected to don the only armament that matters eternally: the Whole Armor of God. So, TO ARMS, God-style!

Extraction!

“Just relax. This won’t hurt a bit.”

Does anyone else love to hear the dentist utter the word, “Extraction?”

Okay, I lied, but with the benign purpose of illustrating a crucial, Scriptural principle. If I’d really meant the “love the word extraction” bit, the authorities wouldn’t allow me to live in the general population. Who knows where such insanity would lead.

As Lou Costello often said, “I’m a baaad boy,” for neglecting my dental health, resulting in the need to extract my broken tooth. While that’s one kind of extraction, we also necessitate another kind of painful extraction through neglect. Extracting habitual sin from our lives is more painful than getting a tooth pulled, even if the pain isn’t physical. And we must do it to alleviate an even more persistent disease than an abscessed tooth, yet without anesthesia. That’s right, we can’t even dull the pain of sin extraction, but knowing the blessed relief that awaits that procedure makes it bearable.

Romans chapter six is a pivotal point in the New Testament. It takes God’s teaching about law versus grace, and applies it to how He expects us to live our lives.

Romans 6:12-14 NKJV Therefore (since you are, “dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” you must) not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (13) And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The command is as clear as any in God’s Word; letting sin “reign” in your mortal body means embracing its power to rule your life. Jesus defeated sin, and thus death, by His perfect sacrifice, a spiritual victory through His physical death, burial and resurrection. You and I, however, are still stuck with our mortal flesh until we shed it when He calls us home.

David Mathis, of desiringGod, made a helpful observation about the catchphrase, “We are in the world, but not of it.” I followed his word-search, and discovered it is not in God’s Word as stated. Brother David pointed out that God, in John 17, expresses the thought in the opposite order.

John 17:14-19 NKJV I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (15) I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (17) Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (18) As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (19) And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

First, note verse fifteen, above. Jesus prayed for His Father to keep us from the evil one. That means Satan has no control over us, as long as we are in Christ. Also note that Jesus prayed for our sanctification, or separation, from the world’s seductions. As far as the “not of, but in” statement, you can see those two clauses are not only in the opposite order of the catchphrase, but there is far more to being, “in the world,” than just existing here; Jesus never intended that we should simply endure until He takes us away, but He sent us into the world on His Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Just remember that Jesus’ Great Commission—which is actually our great commission—is just one of many commands He gave us through the New Testament writers, and all of them spring directly from God’s Great Commandment to love Him with our entire being, and to love others as ourselves. So, back to that painful, sin-extraction, which is the only way we can fulfill our Lord’s Great Commandment, and thus, His Great Commission. Bad habits are hard to break, but God gave us the power of choice. Will you use it to placate your flesh, or to obey God?

The Lie’s Silver Lining

Funny, isn’t it, how so many lawyers want to be known as results-getters, but never admit to lying.

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Some folks couldn’t lie their way out of a paper bag, but I don’t suffer from that malady. When I lived in and for the flesh, I “lied when the truth sounded better,” which was one of my mother’s homespun expressions. Even after I began allowing God to change me, lies came too easily. Oh, they weren’t whoppers, but they still weren’t the truth. Old habits die hard, but over my years of growing in Christ, lying has become ever more repugnant to me, until today those temptations to lie are about as influential to my behavior as are temptations to steal or murder.

Even in today’s church, expediency too often holds sway over truth. In that sense, Satan’s other name is, “Expediency.” Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

So, you’re probably asking, “What’s this ‘silver lining’ in your title?” The fact that the gospel’s enemies must lie to oppose it, proves it’s truth. In fact, lies prove lots of things, such as the character of the one speaking them. The news media’s lies, misrepresentations and innuendos, are a great illustration of that. Take, for example, the almost comical way Soledad O’Brien talks over Allen West, trying to fluster him in this video. It proves that “progressives” must lie to get their point across, just as their communist brethren so often do.

 “Progressives,” my eye!

The “progressive” entertainment and news medias busily prove my point with their unbalanced presentations of any scenario involving Christians, and especially preachers. How often have you heard the Network News mention a perpetrator’s day-job that has nothing to do with the alleged crime? Unless, of course, the perp’s day job is preaching in an evangelical church. News programmers defend their biased reporting by insisting that such knowledge is in the public interest. Right! It’s in their own interest to sully the church’s reputation whenever possible.

Then, there’s the popular entertainment media, of which the network news media is a de facto member, that consistently portrays homosexual characters as well-adjusted, fun-loving, everyday folks, often in committed, lifelong relationships that really should, after all, be considered legal marriages. And how do these same media moguls portray Christians? On the rare occasion when the scenario mandates a Christian character, they portray him as a mindless, wild-eyed, assault rifle-carrying fundamentalist, or a complete idiot, or both. Anyone who is not a media-engorged idiot would see such portrayals as the transparent lies that they are.

If God were not the beneficent, loving Creator that the Bible reveals to us, how long would He allow such slander to go on? Does the phrase, “Give us enough rope to hang ourselves,” ring a bell? Our Creator God did just that when He gave Man free will. With that “rope,” we can either hang ourselves eternally, or grab hold of it and allow Jesus to pull us out of sin’s quicksand. The choice is ours, and I’ve already decided where I want to spend eternity. Have you?

C.S. Lewis on Self-Insight

34502Though I’ve taken some flack recently over using Lewis’ ideas to illustrate truths, I must continue to do so despite the acknowledged errors in his theology. Following our Lord Christ’s narrow Way does not demand that we follow Him with narrow minds. I’ve discovered errors in my own understanding of theology, and I expect to do so again, and the only way to continue with that program of self-correction is to keep my mind open to God’s Truth. I will always stand squarely on God’s Word as my exclusive source of eternal Truth, but that does not preclude others’ words opening my eyes to Biblical Truth that I have not yet discovered, or better understanding Truth-related concepts. With that disclaimer, here’s Uncle Jack.

Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

Uncle Jack, in his inimitable style, expressed a concept that I call, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” When you’re in sin, you can’t see it for what it is, rather like magnifying a photograph to the pixel or grain-level, where the colored dots mean nothing to you. If you’re a serious Christ-follower, a similar phenomenon effects your appreciation of your spiritual life; though you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you can often forget how far behind you’ve left your former life of sin.

That’s why you need faithful brethren close by to encourage you in those bummer times of forgetfulness, to remind you of who you are now, in Christ Jesus. In case that doesn’t ring a bell, it’s called the Church. Remember the exhortation of Hebrews 10:24-25  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Everyone will live to see, “The Day,” whether it comes for you alone, or for God’s entire church. So, be ready!

Penal substitutionary atonement – Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity

 Penal substitutionary atonement – Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity

While I cannot say that much of this article will stick in my feeble memory, I learned a lot in principle. Though it only dealt with the teaching of Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement, it included criticisms from quite a few theologians, both those who agree with the teaching, and those who disagree. Those brief statements taught me that many schools of thought exist regarding the minute details of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and without studying them in great detail, I suspect that they all contribute a grain of truth to the subject.

My issue lies with the theologians who paint with broad strokes in strictly human colors. The gospel of Christ is both far more simple, and infinitely more complex than anyone can grasp. All we can and should do is believe what the Bible says, and not a word more, but even that takes great discernment; while every word is true, they are just words that can be defined variously, depending on what the reader needs or wants to see. That’s why we require God’s Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to our understanding, an understanding that is as personal as each one who reads and studies it. But even that is an inadequate statement of principle, as whatever understanding we take from God’s Word must conform to His Word as a whole.

As the guy said, “It’s … complicated.” But there is as much danger in oversimplifying God’s message as in overcomplicating it. If conceptualizing God’s Word seems complicated, it is we who cause the confusion.

Personally? I subscribe to Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Caution! Read the Label

Warning! May be addictive.

Yesterday I bought a jar of sunflower kernels (that’s the seeds without armor). As I hadn’t enjoyed such a treat in a very long time, and I went to the store hungry, I naturally bought the beckoning jar of golden pleasure. After enjoying a modest snack—I kid you not—I stopped today and read the label:

INGREDIENTS: SUNFLOWER KERNELS, SEA SALT, SUGAR, CORN STARCH, CONTAINS 1% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: MONOSODIUM  GLUTAMATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SMOKED TORULA YEAST, DRIED CORN SYRUP, SPICE, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER. (Emphasis mine)

I was aghast! Why would I want to take all that junk into my body? I thought I had read the label; it said, “Dry Roasted Sunflower Kernels (with sea salt),” but I hadn’t read the entire label.

So, I relearned a valuable life-lesson: Always read everything on the label.

You were “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14), and your Maker even provided a detailed label so you could know exactly what’s inside; it’s contained within our User’s Manuel. Of course, the Bible doesn’t tell us all the minute, physiological details of our composition, but it does reveal the really important stuff; you have a body, a soul, and a spirit, and each of those require certain things to prosper, or even to survive. For example, your body needs nutrition (preferably without all the garbage in those sunflower kernels), shelter, and hygiene. Your soul—including your mind, personality, temperament, and emotions—need to take on strong, positive character. Your human spirit is like bleached, white flower; it “tastes” great, but lacks anything to sustain life. God designed the human spirit to work in concert with his Holy Spirit, but that all ended when Man chose to disobey God’s clear command—his only command, by the way—and believe the serpent’s lie.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you already know all that, but did you know that your behavior and attitudes can shackle the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? If we subscribe to the “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” mentality, or refuse to cultivate spiritual fruit, we grieve God’s Spirit and open ourselves up to the unpleasant, even catastrophic, consequences.

Acts 17 tells the story of Thessalonian Jews dragging Jason and other believers into court with accusations of “turning the world upside down.” Are we still that church? Are we still making more than a subtle difference in our world? When did we, God’s church, loose that power? What compromise do we make that grieves God’s Spirit in our lives and churches?

The answer is easy: We have once again sold our souls to the enemy, trading the Way of Christ for playing church. We allow the world’s values and perversions into our homes by calling it, “entertainment.” We compromise our holiness to seem relevant, even cool, in our world. While all of these shortfalls are also true of me personally, this last one is true of me especially: We over-think our faith, trying to make it humanly reasonable, unable to believe what doesn’t make sense, living by sight, and not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

If that indictment seems like no big thang, I even have to wonder if we are in Christ at all. If we’re okay with an impotent church, is it truly God’s church?

Caution! We need to carefully and completely read the Label God placed on us, then follow its instructions, not to the letter, as that is legalism, but by his Spirit. Only then will we complete Jesus’ Great Commission.