Ouch!

In the following excerpt from The Problem of Pain, Uncle Jack (C.S. Lewis, for the uninitiated) plows a bit too close to my own fence, and I hope, yours as well:

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—“kindness” or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities. And if one virtue must be cultivated at the expense of all the rest, none has a higher claim than mercy. . . . The real trouble is that “kindness” is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble. You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues. If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creature great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happened to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease.

Folks think I’m a nice guy, an impression I don’t try hard enough to discourage. Instead, I’m a counterfeit, a fake.

“What’s wrong with being thought of as nice?” you may well ask.

“Nothing,” I may well answer, if I weren’t a Christ-follower. You see, anyone can be nice with the proper motivation; maybe she’s singularly gorgeous, he holds your promotion in his clammy hands, they’re well-connected, or you just want to be liked. Under such circumstances your niceness is for your own sake.

Uncle Jack pointed out a painful truth, “… though in fact he has (or I have) never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature.” Here’s a personal example: I know a sister in the Lord who possesses both inner and outer beauty. I used to help her with the yard work on her large, corner lot. My motivation was both selfless and selfish, er, mostly selfish, as I wanted to be close to her and make brownie-points. Was I kind? Or was I simply cunning?

Apostle John, in his first letter to his children in the faith, said a lot about godly love.
1Jn 2:15-16 NASB
(15) Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

While that is all truth, allow me to focus on, “the boastful pride of life.” When I actively seek to be liked, I indulge in that sort of pride; I think I’m a nice guy and want others to think of me in the same way. That has nothing to do with love of my Father God or any of His children, and is instead, worldly. For a Christ-follower, that is a solid no-no.

Some may feel that I am overthinking this issue, but if my concern brings me closer to embracing godly attitudes I’ll overthink everything I read in the Scriptures.

Response to a Good Man

Laurna Guiste posted an article titled, As a Christian, where a reader posted his comment to the effect that most other great religions provide the same benefits as Christianity, and that becoming a good human being is a pre-condition for becoming a Christian or member of any other religion. I answered his thought with mine, which are based upon God’s Word.

I respect your views regarding human goodness through living according to the great religions’ principles. Though I respect your views, I feel compelled to exempt the Way of Christ (not Christianity) from your list of great religions, for it is not a religion at all. Many have succeeded in perverting Christ’s Way to their own religious purposes, to the extent that the result hardly resembles the Biblical Way of Christ at all. Respect for the Person of Christ Jesus demands a careful reading of His words. Such a careful reading will reveal exactly what He said about Himself, and the fact that He alone is the Way to our Father God.

Unlike many of the world’s religions, Christ does not require conversion to any particular religion on pain of persecution or death. Jesus taught a morality that far exceeded any religious law: We are to love even our enemies, and do good to those who persecute us. We are to be pure of mind, and not simply of body. We are to deal fairly with all people, honest to our own hurt. We are to forgive completely those who have injured or defrauded us. When someone strikes us on the cheek because of Him, we are to offer the other cheek as well.

Though Jesus was born a Jew and perfectly followed the Torah, the Jewish religious leaders had Him crucified for purely political reasons, fearing the Roman occupation rather than God. You are right in saying that “Christianity” is one of many religions, but it is just as impotent for redemption as all the rest. Only Christ provides salvation, and that apart from good works produced by human wisdom or goodness. Only those works done through Christ’s Spirit living in us will provide blessings beyond this mortal life.

You are obviously a good person, bhuwanchand, and I pray you will discover the incomparable blessing of eternal life in Christ Jesus, God’s only Son after His own kind.

Love in Him,
James

In retrospect, I can see how an inquirer might think that fully following Christ is a daunting endeavor. In fact, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted. I said, “attempted,” because I haven’t yet mastered the Spirit-filled life that Jesus modeled. Nor will I ever master it, as only the Master, God’s only begotten Son, could do. In that regard I can’t help praising God for His infinite mercy and unmerited favor toward me. Only He knows the depths of my personal depravity, yet He called me to redeeming faith in Jesus as the only Way to Himself.

I praise God for “good” people, and pray that even they will see their need for salvation through the only One who can provide it.

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!

About God….

 

About God....

Proof that not all ideas are good ideas.

Click here to view this author’s refreshing ideas about God’s nature and personhood. The author, who apparently is or was associated with MIT—student? professor? staff?—makes no mention of Jesus, so I deduce she or he is not a Christ-follower. And the author’s reference to C.S. Lewis’ insightful thoughts on generic devotion indicate a respect for at least one Christian’s ideas.

This is a good read, with but a shadow of new-age philosophy, and though it is a bit lengthy, reading to the end will reward you with some true wisdom. Thanks for your insights, O nameless contributor.

How Thaughty

The first one hundred people who “Like” this post have the original, round Tuit. (Of course, anyone else can also cut it out.)

My mother had a sarcastic way of encouraging us to show deference to one another. When one of us acted thoughtlessly she would say, “How thaughty of you.” I think the word’s similarity to “naughty,” plus her voice, expression and body-language, communicated her disappointment without further comment.

Did you catch the word “deference” above? As it has passed out of vogue and most of us, even if we have some idea of its meaning, consider it a non-issue, I’ll try to define it for you in the context of Christ-followers. But first …

The Negative Sense

Codependency is a familiar subject to all the trendy, amateur psychologists out there. It just means getting off to being needed. A codependent relationship is where both parties try to fulfill destructive needs, usually without even realizing it. Deference can be just that, and discerning which kind of deference you’re practicing isn’t all that hard; if you purposefully prefer others’ needs over your own, godly character is most likely your motivation. But be sure you aren’t simply a people-pleaser—you know, one who just can’t say “NO.”

The Positive Sense

For a Christ-follower, “deference” means obeying the Law of Christ by considering others’ needs, desires, or opinions before your own. It means risking inconvenience for someone else’s sake.

In my own life, the idea of deference takes me to Bible studies I attend, where I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut when others, who typically aren’t as vocal as I, try to contribute their insights. Figuratively biting my tongue doesn’t come naturally for me, but the rewards of actually listening to them are bountiful.

More active examples of deference might be volunteering to help someone who needs an extra hand, when your own lawn needs mowing, or helping to clean the church when your favorite TV program (even, The Game) is on the air.

Those examples involve the more peripheral people in your life, but how about showing deference to family members whose continual demands for attention annoy you? This calls for another hard thought:

Godly Priorities

You’ve got places to go, people to see, and things to do, so you can hand “Round Tuits” to the kids and wife, or hubby, while you do what you want. Question is, how would Jesus respond if he were in your shoes … or easy chair?

And what about that promise that is now sooo inconvenient to keep? You might want to add another box of Round Tuits to your shopping list.

Does a neighbor need a lift uptown? Just how important is that blog entry you’re working on? (Ouch)

Oh, I see. You’re afraid others might take advantage of you, so you keep a respectful distance, and maybe screen your calls before picking up. (bigger Ouch!)

Is all this priorities stuff too big a chunk to bite off? Baby steps, but keep on pursuing godly character, or virtue, if you want the reward God’s Word promises.

Corrie ten Boom on Forgiveness | PBS

Corrie ten Boom

I find this hard to believe; PBS, the bastion of Politically Correct Doctrine, included an objective article on Corrie ten Boom in their series, The Question of God. They even included the best photo of Corrie that I’ve seen, with a loving, open, happy smile displayed for all the world to enjoy. (Watch The Question of God video at the end of this article.)

But this post isn’t about PBS! It’s about Corrie’s experience forgiving the concentration camp guard who so brutalized her and her sister Betsie. If you’re already a Christ-follower, you’ve no doubt heard this story, but whether-or-not you have, it’s one of the most compelling, positive, uplifting narratives of spiritual fruit in action.

I won’t retell the story here, but I want to highlight the Scripture that forced her to capitulate to God’s will:
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

While Betsie was frail, Corrie was hardy. But spiritually, Betsie was the strong one; even while her physical strength faded, she forgave every offense the Nazis could throw at her. Oddly, by worldly standards, her strength under abuse gave Corrie the strength to resist the bitterness that tried to consume her.

I have to ask myself, what in these two women’s rearing gave them the godly character to endure such cruel treatment without giving way to the hatred surrounding them?

When I look to their pre-story, I see a father who lived his Christian faith—as opposed to Christian religion—under the greatest adversity, loving even the very Jews who had thought themselves superior to these Gentiles. His actions matched, and even exceeded, his profession. Any young person who witnesses such Christlike integrity in her parents will aspire to follow their example. Of course the converse is also true; hypocrisy in parents will usually produce cynicism and hypocrisy in their children.

Curious, isn’t it, how kids’ “BS” detectors can be so well-tuned while their parents’ have no clue about their inconsistent lives. Somehow, parents view angry words and harsh discipline while preparing for and heading to church, as appropriate behavior. Somehow, adults see nothing amiss when they gossip about the church brethren or enjoy roast pastor for Sonday dinner, after weeping for joy with raised hands, and even testifying of victory during worship just an hour before. Formally teaching two-faced behavior to the kids wouldn’t be as effective as that sordid example.

And me? Guilty-as-charged! I feel I must apologize to my own children, now grown, for my questionable example while they were growing up. By God’s grace, however, they have survived and spiritually prospered as adults, now providing godly example to their children, and to me.

The highest example of all is Jesus Christ, and the few Christ-followers who most closely emulate his life, like Betsie and Corrie ten Boom, who imitated Jesus in his most difficult task, when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

C.S. Lewis on His Belief in Christianity

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
(from C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

“… the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
(Matthew 4:16 ESV)

As the light that shines in the darkness, Christ’s gospel illuminates all things, both natural and supernatural. Naturally it would repel those who are used to the darkness, and even prefer it. Why else would Christ’s enemies take such militant stands against him?

In his early years, Lewis counted himself among those standing against Christ, but he differed from militant atheists in that he still sought truth. So God, knowing he could be open to the gospel, unmercifully pursued him with it until he could no longer deny it. Sometimes God has to figuratively pry open our hard-shut eyes so we can see the world as he sees it, in the light of his truth.

Like Lewis, my rearing in formal religion alienated me to that background, but unlike him, I believed that God was the only source of all truth, even though I could have hardly been considered a Christ-follower. When I came to the point where I acknowledged my need for Christ’s control in my life, my ineffective repentance and stubborn insistence on my own way made my growth in him painfully slow. Nearly forty years later, I still fight my undisciplined mind, praying for victory over it even though Christ tells me that I’ve already overwhelmingly conquered it. For a dead foe, my carnality is surprisingly agile.

Apostle Paul addressed my problem in the seventh chapter of his letter to the Roman church:

Romans 7:10-25 ESV The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. (11) For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (12) So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (13) Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (14) For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. (15) For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (16) Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. (17) So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (19) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (20) Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (21) So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. (22) For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, (23) but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (24) Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (25) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 8:1-2 ESV There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Years ago, when I finally mastered that passage’s complex sentence structure and understood what it was telling me, I realized that I’m not unique in my failures.

Verse thirteen teaches an important aspect of sin’s seriousness; once we realize what is sinful, our sin-guilt grows “beyond measure.” That’s called, absolute sinfulness. We don’t have to be a Hitler or a Dahmer to be guilty of sin.

Apostle John punctuated Paul’s liberating message:

1 John 1:5-10 ESV This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (6) If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Six-Year-Old Driver

If you’re a computer geek, a six-year-old driver explains why something on your computer doesn’t work(that’s a geeky inside joke). If you are a driver, or the parent of a six-year-old kid, putting “six-year-old” and “driver” together gives you hives. I heard of a kid who went on a joy-ride in his dad’s car. He was having so much fun that he plumb forgot to watch where he was going. Do I need to tell you how his joy-ride ended?

Yes, there is a spiritual application to this weird rant; God’s church is largely populated with “babes in Christ,” who either resist instruction in the Christian life, or have no one to teach them. They “make a decision for Christ,” and all the saints say Hallelujah! and then go back to trying to win more “sinners” for Christ. If you hadn’t noticed, that sentence has a number of problems: First, a “decision for Christ” doesn’t necessarily insure your eternal destiny. And it certainly doesn’t do that if you haven’t repented(turned away from) dead works. Matter of fact, all works are dead if they aren’t done for the Lord. I know that seems extreme, so look it up if you doubt me(Isaiah 64:6Hebrews 6:1 and 9:14). In fact, if “fire insurance” is your reason for coming to Christ, you need a different insurance agent.

Second, a “saint” is one who is set apart for God’s glory. Any “Christian” who isn’t interested in teaching(discipling) new believers, but sends them on their merry way into the mine field of church life, is arguably not a saint. More often than not, that is a spiritual death sentence, because more self-interest exists in churches than Christ-interest, and that makes for lots of stinkin’ thinkin’.

Third, only Jesus saves sinners. We can try to influence people through our example and testimony, but we can’t “save” them or “win them for Christ.” That’s God’s job, and he’s kind enough to use Christians’ example and testimony to accomplish it, through his Holy Spirit.

So, back to the six-year-old driver. If a new Christian doesn’t become a Christ-follower, and quickly, he or she is like that clueless kid behind the wheel of three hundred horses. The joy ride will likely end in a sad, sad story of disillusionment and hardening of the heart. I’ve hard it said that church members are one of the few animals that eat their young. Sound harsh? Ask the next atheist you meet.

It Ain’t Whatcha Know

It’s Who ya know.

I’m all for nepotism. Not the kind that got me a job with the Navy civil service back in the ’60s, when my dad rammed my application through the selection process because he had the clout to do it. I’m talking about the kind of nepotism by which the King of kings arranged my reconciliation with Father God after I had totally screwed up my life with self-gratification and nearly every other brand of sin.

By the Son of God’s intervention I have a new job description, a new family, and a new destiny. Now, my job is glorifying God as a Christ-follower, and the perks are out of this world: The most obvious is eternal life insurance, with the premium fully paid. Then there’s Holy Spirit Security Monitoring, also fully paid. With all that going for me, can it get any better? Yes, as a matter of fact, it can. I also have a new life with which I can live, rather than hating myself for being the person I was. Yes, I’m taking some time maturing in that new life, but at least I’ve begun walking the right path.

My new family loves me, not with the problematic love that lets me down, but with God’s perfect love that casts out all fear; fear of rejection, fear of punishment, fear of failure, but unfortunately, not fear of spiders(shuuuder). And I’ll still have my new family in heaven when this earthly life ends, which brings me to my new destiny.

I can’t imagine what heaven holds for me, but I know it’ll be the best that God can provide. After all, he already provided his Son, just to get the ball rolling. Like the pitchman says, “But that’s not all.” I also have a new earthly destiny, overseen by God himself. No more worrying about where or how I’m going to live, my God will provide all my needs according to his riches in glory.

Is that great, or what? Just make sure you get to know God’s Son(if you don’t already) when he comes knocking on your heart’s door. He won’t wait there forever.