C.S. Lewis on Atheism
| Annie Dillard on the Church | John Baile
on Prayer | J.
B. Phillips, Ring of Truth | Eckhart on Love |
Christian Claim of Universality | On Modern
Civilization | Dark
Night of the Soul | Life as a Play
| The Silence of God | A
Word from Justin Martyr | God's Three
Choices | "Too Easily Pleased"
| Real Christians are a Different Lot
| Our Upside Down World | Life's
Paradoxes | Preface to The Great
Divorce | This World is Not My Home
| The Man in Charge of the Universe
| The Power and Authority of the Scriptures
| Christ Was Not a Dull Person |
On Coming to Christ | Your
Life Counts as a Christian | God
and His Angels | The Myth of Evolution
| The Mississippi Delta - Mark Twain
| On Unchastity and Other Vices |
Divine Humility | On
Death and Dying | A Prayer to an
Ordinary God | The Kingdom of God
is a Party | On Prayer | On Temptation and Testing | The
Importance of the Cross | On the
Crushing of Grapes | The Dark Night
of the Soul | The Gospel and Miserable
Sinners | The Onion and the Lake
of Fire | On the Priesthood of Every
Believer | On Youth | God
is Not Obsolete | On Divine Humility
| The Old Cross and the New | The Cross Before the Crown | Excerpt
from The Martyrdom of Polycarp | On
Modern Gods | From Commentaries on
the Laws of England |
"When I was an atheist my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?... Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless. I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning."-C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity).
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982)
"I, a pilgrim of eternity, stand before Thee, O eternal One. Let me not seek to deaden or destroy the desire for Thee that disturbs my heart. Let me rather yield myself to its constraint and go where it leads me. Make me wise to see all things today under the form of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail: through the grace of Christ my Saviour. Amen" (John Baillie)
Much of today's Christianity is almost completely earthbound, and the words of Jesus about what follows this life are scarcely studied at all. This, I believe, is partly due to man's enormous technical successes, which make him feel master of the human situation. But it is also partly due to our scholars and experts. By the time they have finished with their dissection of the New Testament and with their explaining away as "myth" all that they find disquieting or unacceptable to the modern mind, the Christian way of life is little more than humanism with a slight tinge of religion. J. B. Phillips, Ring of Truth 
"...God lies in wait for us with nothing so much as love.
Love is like a fisherman's hook. Without the hook he could never
catch a fish, but once the hook is taken the fisherman is sure
of the fish. Even though the fish twists hither and yon, still
the fisherman is sure of him. And so, too, I speak of love: he
who is caught by it is held by the strongest bonds and yet the
stress is pleasant. He who takes this sweet burden of himself
gets further, and comes nearer to what he aims at than he would
by any harsh ordinance ever devised by man. Moreover, he can
sweetly bear all that happens to him; all that God inflicts he
can take cheerfully. Nothing makes you God's own, or God yours,
as much as this sweet bond. When one has found this way, he looks
for no others. To hang on this hook is to be so [completely] captured
that feet and hands, and mouth and eyes, the heart, and all a
man is and has, become God's own."-- Meister Eckhart, "The
This Christian claim [of universal validity] is naturally offensive
to the adherents of every other religious system. It
is almost as offensive to modern man, brought up in the atmosphere of relativism, in which tolerance is regarded almost
as the highest of the virtues. But we must not suppose that this claim to universal validity is something that can quietly
be removed from the Gospel without changing it into something entirely different from what it is... Jesus' life, his method,
and his message do not make sense, unless they are interpreted in the light of his own conviction that he was in fact the
final and decisive word of God to men...For the human sickness there is one specific remedy, and this is it. There
is no other. Stephen Neill (1900-1984), Christian Faith and Other Faiths.
Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength, before going out to face the world again. "The thoughtful soul to solitude retires," said the poet of other and quieter times; but where is the solitude to which we can retire today? "Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still," is a wise and healing counsel; but how can it be followed in this day of the newspaper, the telephone, the radio and television? These modern playthings, like pet tiger cubs, have grown so large and dangerous that they threaten to devour us all. What was intended to be a blessing has become a positive curse. No spot is now safe from the world's intrusion. The need for solitude and quietness was never greater than it is today. What the world will do about it is their problem. Apparently the masses want it the way it is, and the majority of Christians are so completely conformed to this present age that they, too, want things the way they are. They may be annoyed a bit by the clamor and by the goldfish-bowl existence they live, but apparently they are not annoyed enough to do anything about it. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), Of God and Men
God perceives the imperfections within us, and because of his love for us, urges us to grow up. His love is not content to leave us in our weakness, and for this reason he lakes us into a dark night. He weans us from all of the pleasures by giving us dry times and inward darkness. In doing so he is able to take away all these vices and create virtues within us. Through the dark night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation, envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength. No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works passively in that soul by means of the Dark Night. (Saint John of the Cross)
Think of actors: they wear masks, they dress up. One looks like a philosopher while not being one; another seems to be a king but is no king; another appears to be a doctor and has not the faintest idea how to cure the sick; another pretends to be a slave despite being free; still another plays the part of a teacher yet does not know even how to write.
They do not appear as they are, they appear to be something else. The philosopher is a philosopher only because of his abundant but false wig, the soldier is a soldier just because he sports a military uniform. These disguises help to create an illusion, to hide the reality.
The world is a theater too. The human condition, richness, poverty, power, subjection are merely the pretenses of actors.
But when the day is done and the night falls (which, however, we ought to call day: it is night for sinners and day for the just), when the play is over, when we all find ourselves confronted with our own actions and not with our riches or dignity or the honors we have had or the power we have wielded, when we are asked to give an account of our lives and our works of virtue, ignoring both the feats of our opulence and the humility of our need, when we are asked: "Show me your deeds!", then the disguises will fall and we shall see who is truly rich and who is truly poor. --St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Lazarus
"Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. But none says, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?' There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men." (Job 35:9-12)
"Why is God silent? Men cry for help, but God knows that what they are crying for is merely relief, that is all. They want to be taken out of the harmful, painful effects of their selfish ways and then allowed to go right back to being selfish. Nobody is concerned about God's glory and about being taught by God and learning at his hand and at his feet. Rather, they are simply crying out for deliverance, they want to use God, and to that kind of an appeal God is silent. I think this is why our prayers are often unanswered. Our selfishness has produced agony in our life and all we want is to escape the penalty; we are not at all concerned about God himself. And that is one reason for God's silence." (Ray C. Stedman)
"...we who formerly delighted in fornication, but now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magical arts, dedicated ourselves to the good and unbegotten God, who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into common stock, and communicate to everyone in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different tribe, now since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly, to the end that they may become partakers of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all." (Justin Martyr---2nd Century)
"All through the Bible we see God's love is manifest to
men and women everywhere in urging them to escape this judgment.
God in love pleads with people, 'Do not go on to this end!' But
ultimately he must judge those who refuse his offer of grace.
He says, in effect, 'I love you and I can provide all you need.
Therefore love me, and you will find the fulfillment your heart
is looking for.' But many men and women say, 'No, I do not want
that. I will take your gifts, I will take all the good things
you provide, but I do not want you! Let me run my own life. Let
me serve my own ends. Let me have my own kingdom.' To such, God
ultimately says, 'All right, have it your way!'
"God has three choices: first, he can let rebellion go on forever and never judge it. In that case the terrible things that are happening on earth, all these distressing injustices, the cruelty, the anger, the hate, the malice, the sorrow, the hurt, the pain, the death that now prevails, must go on forever. God does not want that, and neither does man. Second, God can force men to obey him and control them as robots. But he will never do that because that means they cannot truly love him. Love cannot be forced. Therefore, third, the only choice God really has is that he must withdraw ultimately from those who refuse his love. He must let them have their own way forever. That results in the terrible torment of godlessness. If God is necessary to us, then to take him out of our lives is to plunge us into the most terrible sense of loneliness and abandonment that mankind can know. We have all experienced it to some small degree when we get what we want and then discover we do not want what we got! For that sense of bored emptiness to go on forever, is unspeakable torment." (Ray C. Stedman, The Time of Harvest, Discovery Paper No. 4206, March 18, 1990)
"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward
and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,
it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong,
but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around about
drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like
an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum
because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday
at the sea. We are too easily pleased." (C.S. Lewis, The
Weight of Glory)
"A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme
love for one whom he has never seen; talks familiarly every day
to someone he cannot see; expects to go to heaven on the virtue
of another; empties himself in order to be full; admits he is
wrong so he can be declared right; goes down in order to get up;
is strongest when he is weakest; richest when he is poorest; and
happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live; forsakes
in order to have; gives away so he can keep; sees the invisible,
hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge. The
man who has met God is not looking for anything; he has found
it. He is not searching for light, for upon him the light has
already shined. His certainty may seem bigoted, but his assurance
is that of one who knows by experience his religion is not hearsay.
He is not a copy, not a facsimile. He is an original from the
hand of the Holy Spirit." (A.W. Tozer)
"As a society, we have our values upside down. Our government creates entire bureaucracies to monitor minute amounts of suspected carcinogens in our food, air, and water---yet it also pays subsidies to farmers for producing one of the worst, most highly cancer-causing substances around: tobacco. We are told we must save the whales, yet we allow unborn babies to be slaughtered at a rate of 3,000 abortions per day. School teachers are allowed to teach witchcraft and New Age philosophy in our public schools, yet the Bible, prayer, and the Ten Commandments are banned. We sentence peaceful pro-life activists to prison and we turn convicted repeat killers and rapists loose on society." (God's Loving Word: Exploring the Gospel by John by Ray C. Stedman, 1993)
"The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think of
yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone
speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as
as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those
who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you
hope to have inward peace? The heart's fierce effort to protect
itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the
bad opinion of friend and enemy. will never let the mind have
rest" (A.W. Tozer)
"Eternal life is promised to us, but it is promised to
the dead; we are told of the resurrection of the blessed, but
meantime we are involved in corruption; we are declared to be
just, and sin dwells within us; we hear that we are blessed, but
meantime we are overwhelmed by untold miseries...Faith is therefore
rightly called the substance of things which are still the objects
of hope." (John Calvin)
"Perhaps the most difficult struggle in the Christian
life is with the slowness of God. Have you found that out? How
absolutely incredibly slow he is at times! Do you get as impatient
with him as I do? Why, there are times when I can see as clear
as daylight how he ought to act! I can outline the steps for him---and
I do! I tell him just what to do. And it would all work out if
he would just take those steps. But he utterly ignores me and
goes on doing nothing until I want to rise up and say, "Look,
you've got to get off your throne and do something!"
...The Lord tells us that his work is like a farmer going out to sow his seed. The farmer scatters his seed, and then what? Jesus says he goes home and goes to bed-rests, just relaxes and lets the seed grow, because that is the nature of seed. The farmer knows that if he sows the seed and lets it rest---it must go through a certain process involving time; no seed merely drops into the ground and springs up suddenly; no, you must allow it to decay, to deteriorate, to fall apart, and then out of that comes a new life---it will grow slowly and steadily into the air until finally the whole plant is before you. God announces that this is his way of working. And he urges us to understand that the result is certain, and that we can rest patiently, knowing that he is working out his purposes." (Ray C. Stedman, Messages on Ephesians).
"You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.
"We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision.
"Even on a biological level life is not like a pool but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection.
"Good, as it ripens, becomes more different not only from evil but from other good. I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.
"A wrong sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find your error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, 'with backwards mutters of dissevering power'---or else not.
"It is still 'either-or.' If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.
"I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he has abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in 'the High Countries.'" (C. S. Lewis, Preface to The Great Divorce)
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this
world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was
made for another world." (C.S. Lewis)
"The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this
very moment, there is a Man in heaven appearing in the presence
of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or
Paul; he is a man glorified, but his glorification did not de-humanize
him. Today he is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our
lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man, whom any
other man would recognize instantly as one of us.
"But more than this, he is the heir of all things, Lord of all lords, head of the church, firstborn of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel, and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell, and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on him in truth. Salvation comes not by accepting the finished work, or deciding for Christ; it comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as his own and paid it, took our sins and died under them, and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ; nothing less will do." (A.W. Tozer)
Only the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper
than any double-edged sword, is capable of exposing the thoughts
and attitudes of a single human heart! We do not know ourselves.
We do not even know how to distinguish, by feelings or rationale,
between that which comes from our souls (psyches) and from our
spirits (pneumas). Even our bodily functions (symbolized here
by joints and marrow) are beyond our full knowledge. Only the
all-seeing eye of God knows us thoroughly and totally (Ps 139:1-18),
and before him we will stand and ultimately give account.
The images the author employs in this marvelous passage are effective ones. Like a sharp sword which can lay open the human body with one slashing blow, so the sword of the Scripture can open our inner life and expose it to ourselves and others. Once the ugly thoughts and hidden rebellions are out in the open, we stand like criminals before a judge, ineffectually trying to explain what we have done. Yet such honest revelation is what we need to humble our stubborn pride and render us willing to look to God for forgiveness and his gracious supply.
Plainly, Scripture is the only reliable guide we have to function properly as a human in a broken world. Philosophy and psychology give partial insights, based on human experience, but they fall far short of what the Word of God can do. It is not intended to replace human knowledge or effort, but is designed to supplement and correct them. Surely the most hurtful thing pastors and leaders of churches can do to their people is to deprive them of firsthand knowledge of the Bible. The exposition of both Old and New Testaments from the pulpit, in classrooms and small group meetings is the first responsibility of church leaders. They are "stewards of the mysteries of God" and must be found faithful to the task of distribution. This uniqueness of Scripture is the reason that all true human discovery in any dimension must fit within the limits of divine disclosure. Human knowledge can never outstrip divine revelation. (Ray C. Stedman in Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series Commentary, 1992. Commenting on Hebrews 4: 12-13).
"The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice,
accused him of being a bore---on the contrary; they thought him
too dynamic to be safe...He was tender to the unfortunate, patient
with honest inquirers, and humble before Heaven; but He insulted
respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; He referred
to King Herod as "that fox;" He went to parties in disreputable
company and was looked upon as a "gluttonous man and a winebibber,
a friend of publicans and sinners;" He assaulted indignant
tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple;
He drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and
hoary regulations; "He cured diseases by any means that came
handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people's
pigs and property; He showed no proper deference for wealth and
social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps,
He displayed a paradoxical humour that affronted serious-minded
people, and He retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions
that could not be answered by rule of thumb. "He was emphatically
not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there
can be nothing dull about God either. But He had "a daily
beauty in His life that made us ugly," and officialdom felt
that the established order of things would be more secure without
Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness."
(Dorothy Sayers in Creed or Chaos)
Some say, "I see all this, and I want to do it too. I know what is said about how to rest, but I try it and it doesn't work. Why? Why do we fail?" The answer is given, I think, in a word of the Lord Jesus, recorded in Matthew 11, words we well know.
"Come to me, all 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."
Notice that twice in that passage is the word, rest. One rest
is "given," the other is "found." One is experienced
when we first come to Jesus Christ. He gives us rest. Do you remember
when you came to Christ? You simply believed what the Scripture
said, that on the cross of Calvary he took your place, he died
for you; he bore the punishment for your sin; he was wounded for
your transgressions, he was bruised for your iniquity; and you
believed that. Immediately there was a sense of peace flooding
your heart, a quietness. You felt no more guilt, no more fear
of death, no more need for painful efforts to win Brownie points
with God. You were resting on the work of Another. Christ paid
it all; you were freely forgiven. What a sense of rest that was!
He gave it to you.
But as you went on as a Christian you found that problems began to return and failures came. Your Christian life became boring and dull, barren and uninteresting. You knew something was wrong and you resolved to try harder, to give yourself more fully to Christian activity, to throw yourself into it with more zeal and effort. This you did, and for awhile things went better, then it seemed to ebb out again into the same old thing. You ended up bored and disillusioned, disenchanted, discouraged. What is the answer? Well, it is what our Lord said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and you will find rest."
Back in the days of the old West the oxen teams that came across the prairies were yoked together with a great, wooden yoke, made to fit over the necks of two oxen. A yoke is always made for two, never for one. Jesus was a carpenter, and in the carpenter shop in Nazareth he often made yokes. From this he draws this very apt simile. "Enter into the yoke with me," he says, "you on one side; l on the other." A yoke is also a symbol of servitude, of controlled labor and activity. It means the end of self-service. When an ox is yoked he is no longer free to do what he wants to do. He is under the direction of the owner, the driver. To be yoked means the end of running his own life and seeking his own way. This is what Jesus means. He did this. "He learned obedience by the things which he suffered," the writer of Hebrews tells us. He learned to do what he did not want to do, because God wanted him to do it. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me," he says.
When you enter into the yoke with Jesus you expect the Father to take over the program of your life. You may be surprised what he does with it. You no longer have the right to decide what you are going to do with your life. It does not make any difference what time of your life you enter into this yoke, whether you are a youth at the beginning of your adult life, or whether you are a man sixty years old, with a great business depending upon you as the executive head. It does not make any difference. When you enter into the yoke with Jesus Christ you give up the right to determine what your life may be. You expect him to direct you.
It is his job to give the orders, it is his job to make you know what he wants you to do . He may make some dramatic changes, or he may not. He may leave you right where you are, doing what you are doing now, or he may tell you to stop it all, at great cost perhaps, outwardly, and leave it and go some place else to do something else. But one thing is certain, one thing he surely will do, no matter if he sends you some place else or leaves you right where you are-one thing he will certainly do. He will remove you from the spotlight, out of the center of things. He will enroll you in school; and do you know what the curriculum will be? "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." He will begin to teach you humility-how not to be the center of attention, how to be content with letting someone else get all the credit. He will enroll you in the school that cancels out ego satisfaction. That is the principle by which the world lives, in its delusion. It is the thing that is destroying human life; the desire to be a god, your own god; to run your life to suit yourself. This can never be for those who are called to be Jesus Christ's-"you are not your own, you are bought with a price."
The reason why you cannot enter into the joy and glory and excitement of the rest which God has provided in ceasing from your own activities and resting upon his, is because, in some way or another, you are protecting some area of the ego, the self-life, saying, This is mine; keep your hands off. As long as you do that you cannot have rest.
"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit."
Rest is the secret of human fruitfulness. As you consent to
this, a wonderful thing will begin to happen. You will find rest.
Jesus said you would. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of
me; for l am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest."
Rest, with all it implies in terms of fruitfulness and dominion;
reigning, ruling, producing that which is worthwhile and satisfying
in life. That is the secret of life. This is why Jesus said, "If
any man will save his life, he shall lose it. But if he shall
lose his life for my sake, he shall find it." He will find
rest, he will fulfill the sabbath for that is what the sabbath
is. It is God's divine provision for us. (Ray C. Stedman)
"We have been saturated by a world that is committed to
falsehood. That is why, as Paul sets forth here, we must increasingly
proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus. As we see these things abounding
around us, the temptation in our day is to start a protest movement,
to organize a demonstration, to mindlessly chant slogans, or stage
sit-ins. I understand the feelings of frustration that come when
we see all that is dear and precious in humanity being destroyed
by these lies. We want to seize hold of these things and smash
them. But that is not what the Word of God says will work. The
apostle reminds us that the most effective thing is, preach the
word, announce the truth, tell of reality, make it clear, spread
the word. All of heaven is watching, and all of the program of
God is committed to blessing, fulfilling and carrying that through
until the world at last arrives at the day that God himself has
designated, that final end when all creation shall bow together
before the Lord Jesus and declare that Jesus is Lord, to the glory
of God the Father.
"You and I are called to advance that work. Do not let anybody tell you that your life as a Christian does not count. It counts tremendously. It is the most significant thing taking place on this earth today, far and away above any international program, act of Congress or decision of president, king or ruler. Glory in what God has called you to do, and be faithful to his command: preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; convince, rebuke, and exhort; be unfailing in patience and in teaching." (Ray C. Stedman, Expository Sermons on I, II Timothy)
"It is important to recognize...that God doesn't just sit in heaven and push buttons on a control panel. He uses "messengers," better known to us by the Greek word: angels. The Biblical view of the universe is not the modern one of vast reaches of barren space interrupted every couple of million miles or so by flying dead boulders. The Biblical view of the universe is that it is teeming and throbbing with life everywhere. The cosmos is heavily populated with "legions" and "myriads" of angelic beings, of various ranks (Colossians 1:16) and "species" (see, for instance, the descriptions in Ezekiel 1:5-25 and Revelation 4:6-8). Angels are associated with astronomical phenomena throughout the Bible (Judges 5:20; Job 38:7; Isaiah 14:13; Matthew 24:29; Jude 13; Revelation 1:20; 8:10-12; 9:1;12:4) as well as with the activity of the weather: wind, storms, and lightning are spoken of in connection with the actions of God and the angels in both blessing and curse (Genesis 8:1; 41:27; Exodus 10:13,19; 14:21; 15:10; 19:16; Numbers 11:31; Psalm 18:10; 104:3,4; 107:25; 135:7; 147:18;148:8; Ezekiel 1:4ff.; Matthew 24:31; John 3:8; Acts 2:2; Revelation 7:1-3; 8:5,7; 16:8, 17,18). Clearly, the Biblical worldview does not attribute changes in weather to impersonal "forces" or "processes."
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers [angels],
flames of fire his servants.
(Psalm 104:3, 4, NIV)
"God controls the government of the universe," said
Calvin. "No wind ever arises or increases except by God's
express command." Further, "since angels are the powers
of God, it follows that they never cease from their office of
working. For God never can rest: he sustains the world by his
energy, he governs everything however minute, so that not even
a sparrow falls to the ground without his decree (Matthew 10:29)...God
works continually by angels...so that all creatures are animated
by angelic motion: not that there is a conversion of the angel
into an ox or a man, but because God exerts and diffuses his energy
in a secret manner, so that no creature is content with his own
peculiar vigor, but is animated by angels themselves." Martin
Luther, as usual more pithy and direct, took seriously the psalmist's
statement that the wind has wings. After a particularly severe
and violent storm, he offered his opinions on the subject: "The
devil provokes such storms, but good winds are produced by good
angels. Winds are nothing but spirits, either good or evil. The
devil sits there and snorts, and so do the angels when the winds
The Biblical worldview is uncompromising: God is running the world. Every atom in the universe is under His command. His Word created and sustains in Him. That is why He can assert His power and authority in such absolute terms:
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity,
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Who can speak and have it happen
if the LORD has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
(Lamentations 3:37, 38, NIV)
("The Wings of the Wind," from Power in the
Blood, by David Chilton)
"Take another myth widespread in our day, the myth of evolution. In the last century, by and large, this myth began to take over the scientific world, again without a shred of empirical evidence to support it. Any attempt to try to set forth anything to the contrary is met with ridicule and mockery, put down as though those who hold any other view are village idiots, incapable of reasoning with intelligent men. Yet I find that many Christians believe the myth of evolution. They do not seem to understand the theological implications which evolution teaches, without any support from science, that our race is descended from apes and other animals so that there never was or could be a fall. By denying the fall evolution teaches that there is no need for any redemptive act on the part of God. Why should we need to be redeemed if we have never fallen? That is the theology of the lie of evolution." (Ray C. Stedman)
"In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the
Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two
miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third
per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic,
can see that in the old Oolitic Silurian period, just a million
years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of
one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over
the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any
person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now
the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long,
and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their sidewalks and
be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual
board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science.
One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling
investment of fact. ---Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi.
"Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about
sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre
of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians
regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The
sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.
All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of
putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing
and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of
hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the
human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self,
and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the
two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly
to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of
course, it is better to be neither." (C. S. Lewis, Mere
"It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose him as an alternative to hell. Yet even this he accepts. The creature's illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature's sake, be shattered. And by trouble, or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it, unmindful of his glory's diminution. I call this "divine humility," because it's a poor thing to strike our colors to God when the ship is going down under us, a poor thing to come to him as a last resort, to offer up our own when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud, he would hardly have us on such terms. But he is not proud. He stoops to conquer. He would have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to him, and come to him because there is nothing better now to be had." (C.S. Lewis)
"Enemy-occupied territory---that is what the world is.
Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed
in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign
of sabotage." (C.S. Lewis)
"Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation, regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong. Just as what we may call holiness without love is not God's kind of holiness, so also what we may call love without holiness, is not God's kind of love...A false spirit of accommodation is sweeping the world as well as the Church, including those who claim the label of evangelical." ---(Francis Schaeffer in The Great Evangelical Disaster )
"Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a package tour of the Absolute?...On the whole I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up batches of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." (Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk).
"What is your view of your approaching death? Do you have
some sense of anticipation about it, with the awareness that beyond
death is the final explanation of all the unanswered, unexplained
questions of life? I became a Christian when I was 11 years old.
Like all young boys, I faced life then with mixed feelings of
both anticipation and dread. But one thing I have always wanted
to do was to grow old. God has answered that prayer. Now, as I
near the end, I can say that looking ahead is a time filled with
happy anticipation that God is going to answer all the questions
which I have had to leave unanswered, because the full meaning
of this present experience will never be brought out until death
intervenes. Then will come all the answers, abundantly, satisfyingly,
"That is the Christian perspective of life. If we succumb to the empty view of the worldlings around us we too will find ourselves all ajitter, frustrated, feeling bitter, angry and upset with our circumstances. But these words call us to the realization that the meaning of life can never be found by trying to solve all the problems. Rather, it is by trust in the Living God, who knows what he is doing and is working out his strange purposes through our existence, teaching us all we need to know as we go on through, so that our eyes should reflect the peace of God and our hearts respond with joy at the promises that await fulfillment yet to come."
"Our own personal death is the hard, harsh, square peg
that refuses to fit into all the round holes we plan for our future;
it is the sand in our oyster that irritates us and makes our spirits
protest against it. Why should we learn all these great lessons
of life and, just when we have learned them we must give them
all up and there is no opportunity to exercise them? Something
about that makes us protest.
"If we have been brought up to believe the universal lie of our day which is being flung at us all the time through the media that we deserve to live, then this constantly approaching termination of our life reminds us that that is not so. In the eyes of the God of the universe we do not deserve to live. If we are allowed life beyond death it is a gift of God's grace, not something we have earned ourselves. Something in us deserves to die; that is what universal death declares.
"That fact is what makes everybody essentially religious. This is why man cannot live like an animal. Even those who claim atheism, and attempt to act and live as though there were no God, give evidence from time to time that they do not really believe that. Beyond death is something someone they do not know who or what waiting for them, so they cannot be comfortable with the idea of atheism. They have to find some answer to the problems of life, and death is what forces them to do that."---Two Quotations from the Sermons of Ray C. Stedman.
"O thou pleasant, comfortable, kindly, good-natured God,
with a reasonable degree of certainty, how glad I am that I can
look forward to another ordinary day.
Keep me today from anything that may tax my faith. From discomfort, from unnecessary strain, from unusual problems, Especially those involving sickness or death, or the necessity of extending financial aid to relatives or friends, Dear Lord, deliver me.
Grant that nothing may occur which will disturb my satisfaction with the way I am, the things I say, The thoughts I think the acts I do, or the many deeds I leave undone.
Give me this day, in addition to my daily bread,
The butter, meats, and sweetmeats
That are my necessary diet.
And let me not be troubled by qualms of conscience.
Concerning the amount of time and money I spend on food and clothing; pastimes good and bad, And those pursuits which, while not of spiritual value, Are the accepted hall-mark of the normal citizen of this enlightened community in this enlightened age.
Should strong temptation come my way, help me above all else to be a gentleman who will not embarrass by word or deed those who are my companions at the moment of temptation.
Forgive me, in advance, if I embarrass Thee by failing to identify myself as one who seeks to honor Thee in all my ways. Let my conformity to this world's ways be limited, O God, to things which, while some may question them, will not, I pray, be positively sin.
About the future, And the darkening trend of things, keep me from thoughtfulness. Events rush on: the world travails: Can screaming headlines prove Thy hand's at work this very moment, bringing near that fateful cry, "Behold, He Comes?"
O, Lord, Such disconcerting thoughts! Keep me from worrying about such things, And guide me safely to and from my office, and my home. Amen." ---(Quoted by Ray C. Stedman)
"All the Gospel accounts tell us that sinners flocked
around Jesus. His love for God brought him into contact with all
manner of men and women, none of whom seemed to find him an embarrassment.
Nor did Jesus consider them an embarrassment to him. It was the
religious hierarchy who had difficulty with Jesus. And frequently,
his association with disreputable types was a particular source
of criticism by religious groups.
"Churches and religious people today do not make friends easily with people who are looked down on in society-jailbirds, prostitutes, drug addicts, drunks, thieves. This suggests that they may not be so near to God as they suppose. "Sinners" do not find churches attractive, so that sinners and would-be saints often keep to their respective ghettos.
"However, there are refusing exceptions to the rule. Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College, tells the story of his visit to Honolulu for a Christian Conference. On his first night there, he awoke sometime after three (a six hour time difference had confused his sleep pattern) and left the hotel in search of a place to get something to eat. Eventually he found a tiny coffee shop, with one man behind the bar who served him coffee and a doughnut. Tony was the only customer until, quite suddenly, the coffee shop was filled with girls. Some sat at small tables, others at the counter near Tony. From their conversation he learned an astonishing amount about Honolulu's night life, for the girls were discussing their night's work and their male clients. These girls were prostitutes. He tells the story:
I overheard the woman sitting beside me say, "Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm going to be thirty-nine." Her "friend" responded in a nasty tone, "So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing 'Happy Birthday?'" "Come on!" said the woman sitting next to me. "Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that's all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?" When I heard that, I made a decision. I sat and waited until the women had left. Then I called over the fat guy behind the counter and I asked him, "Do they come in here every night?"
"Yeah!" he answered. "The one right next to me, does she come here every night?" "Yeah," he said. "That's Agnes. Yeah, she comes in here every night. Why d'ya wanta know?" "Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her birthday," I told him. "What do you say you and I do something about that? What do you think about us throwing a birthday party for her-right here-tomorrow night?" A cute smile slowly crossed his chubby cheeks and he answered with measured delight, "That's great!..." "Look I told him, "if it's OK with you, I'll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I'll even get a birthday cake!" "No way," said Harry (that was his name). "The birthday cake's my thing. I'll make the cake."
At 2:30 the next morning, I was back at the diner. I had picked up some crepe-paper decorations at the store and had made a sign out of big pieces of cardboard that read, "Happy Birthday, Agnes!" I decorated the diner from one end to the other. I had that diner looking good. The woman who did the cooking must have gotten the word out on the street, because by 3:15 every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. It was wall-to-wall prostitutes...and me!
At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung open and in came Agnes and her friend. I had everybody ready (after all I was kind of the M.C. of the affair) and when they came in we all screamed, "Happy birthday!" Never have I seen a person so flabbergasted...so stunned...so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her. As she was led to sit on one of the stools along the counter we all sang "Happy Birthday" to her. As we came to the end of our singing with "happy birthday dear Agnes, happy birthday to you," her eyes moistened, when the birthday cake with all the candles on it was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.
Harry gruffly mumbled, "Blow out the candles, Agnes! Come on! Blow out the candles! If you don't blow out the candles, I'm gonna hafta blow out the candles." And, after an endless few seconds, he did. Then he handed her a knife and told her, "Cut the cake, Agnes. Yo, Agnes, we all want some cake."
Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she slowly and softly said, "Look Harry, is it all right with you if I... I mean is it OK if I kind of... want I want to ask you is...is it OK if keep the cake a little while? I mean is it all right if we don't eat it right away?" Harry shrugged and answered, "Sure! It's O.K If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake. Take it home if you want to." "Can I," she asked. Then looking at me she said, "I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake home, OK?" I'll be right back. Honest!" She got off the stool picked up the cake, and, carrying it like it was the Holy Grail walked slowly toward the door.
As we all just stood there motionless, she left. When the door closed there was a stunned silence in the place. Not knowing what else to do, I broke the silence by saying, "What do you say we pray?"
Looking back on it now it seems more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at 3:30 in the morning. But then it just felt like the right thing to do. I prayed for Agnes. I prayed for her salvation. I prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her. When I finished, Harry leaned over the counter and with a trace of hostility in his voice, he said "Hay! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?" In one of those moments when just the right words came, I answered, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning." Harry waited a moment and then almost sneered as he answered, "No you don't. There's no church like that. If there was, I'd join it. I'd join a church like that!"
[from Changing on the Inside by Dr. John White,
Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, 1991].
Prayer lies at the heart of all experience of God. In prayer
God is known and met and touched. In prayer all our knowledge
about God kindles into life. Our understanding of the Scripture
gains personal illumination and power. Our whole conduct and career
passes consciously under the divine judgment. In prayer the soul
is molded and attuned to fresh obedience and confronted with new
duty. Our relationship to others is seen in a new perspective,
and conscience grows tender again. In prayer vision is clarified,
the horizons are broadened, the goal becomes better defined and
the inner resources by which the soul lives are replenished from
eternal springs of power, hopefulness and peace. Prayerless religion
is mere theory. (Reginald E.O. White)
We must either be praying or fainting--there is no other alternative. The purpose of all faith is to bring us into direct, personal touch with God. True prayer is an awareness of our helpless need, an acknowledgment of divine adequacy. For Jesus, prayer was as necessary as breathing, the very breath of His life. Although God certainly knows all our needs, praying for them changes our attitude from complaint to praise, and enables us to participate in God's personal plans of our lives. (Ray C. Stedman, Talking to My Father)
I know about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation.
It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance
at breaking records, impatience, etc. don't get the upper hand.
No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves
up each time. We shall be very muddy and tattered children by
the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels
put out, and clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal
thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice
the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of
his presence. (C.S. Lewis, Letters)
Meet (temptations) at the door as soon as they knock, and do not let them in. One simple thought can enter the mind and start the process. The process starts like this. First, the thought is allowed to enter into our minds. Second, the imagination is sparked by the thought. Third, we feel a sense of pleasure at the fantasy and we entertain it. Fourth and finally, we engage in the evil action assenting to its urges. This is how, little by little, temptations gain entrance and overcome us if they are not resisted in the beginning. The longer we let them overcome us, the weaker we become, and the stronger the enemy is against us. (Thomas á Kempis)
Sometimes it is good that we put up with people speaking against us, and sometimes it is good that we be thought of as bad and flawed, even when we do good things and have good intentions. Such troubles are often aids to humility, and they protect us from pride. Indeed, we are sometimes better at seeking God when people have nothing but bad things to say about us and when they refuse to give us credit for the good things we have done! That being the case, we should so root ourselves in God that we do not need to look for comfort anywhere else. (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ).
The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think of yourself
whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking
slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as as a little
god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight
to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward
peace? The heart's fierce effort to protect itself from every
slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend
and enemy. will never let the mind have rest. (A.W. Tozer)
The cross is the symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt,
violent end of the human being. The man in Roman times who took
up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye
to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to
have his life redirected. He was going out to have it ended. The
cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing. It
slew all of the man completely and for good. It did not try to
keep on good terms with its victim. it struck swift and hard and
when it had finished its work the man was no more. That evangelism
which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the
ways of man is false to the Bible and cruel to the soul of the
hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world. It intersects
it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our life up on to a higher
plane. We leave it at a cross. The grain of wheat must fall into
the ground and die. That is the beginning of the gospel. (A.W.
"God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers he uses to crush us with. If God would only use his fingers to make me broken bread and poured out wine in a spiritual way! But when he uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made wine to drink, we shall have to be crushed. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed. You can not drink grapes." (Oswald Chambers)
God perceives the imperfections within us, and because of his
love for us, urges us to grow up. His love is not content to leave
us in our weakness, and for this reason he lakes us into a dark
night. He weans us from all of the pleasures by giving us dry
times and inward darkness. In doing so he is able to take away
all these vices and create virtues within us. Through the dark
night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath
becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation,
envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength. No soul will ever
grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works passively in
that soul by means of the Dark Night. (Saint John of the Cross)
One of the really surprising things about the present bewilderment
of humanity is that the Christian Church now finds herself called
upon to proclaim the old and hated doctrine of sin as a gospel
of cheer and encouragement. The final tendency of the modern philosophies,
hailed in their day as a release from the burden of sinfulness,
has been to bind man hard and fast in the chains of an iron determinism.
The influence of heredity and environment, of glandular makeup
and the control exercised by the unconscious, of economic necessity
and the mechanics of biological development, have all been invoked
to assure man that he is not responsible for his misfortune and
therefore not to be held guilty. Evil has been represented as
something imposed on us from without, not made by us from within.
The dreadful conclusion follows inevitably that as he is not responsible
for evil; he cannot alter it. Even though evolution and progress
may offer some alleviation in the future there is no hope for
you and me now. I well remember how an aunt of mine, brought up
in an old-fashioned liberalism, protested angrily against having
continuously to call herself a miserable sinner when reciting
the Litany. Today, if we could really be persuaded that we are
miserable sinners, that the trouble is not outside us but inside
us, and that therefore, by the grace of God, we can do something
to put it right, we should receive that message as the most helpful
and heartening thing that can be imagined. (Dorothy Sayers)
Dostoevski, in The Brothers Karamazov, tells a
fable about a very wicked woman who died. The devils took her
to hell and threw her into the lake of fire. Her guardian angel
was very puzzled as to how he might do something to help her.
So he thought through her whole life to see if he could find at
least one good thing that she had done which he might present
before God. Finally he went to God and said, "Once a beggar
came by when she was weeding her garden, and she pulled an onion
out and gave it to him to eat." God said to the angel, "All
right, then you go down and get that onion and hold it out to
her in the lake of fire. Tell her to take hold of it, and if you
can pull her out with that onion she can come to Paradise."
So the angel took the onion, went down to the lake of fire, and held it out to the woman. She grabbed hold and he began to pull. He pulled and pulled and, sure enough, he began to pull her right up out of the lake. She was almost completely free when some other sinners around her, seeing that she was about to escape, grabbed hold of her ankles so as to be pulled out with her. At first the onion held, and they too began to be pulled out. But the woman became very angry and cried, "This is my onion, and you're not going to go out with me!" And as she kicked them loose the onion broke and she fell back in and she is burning there to this day. (Related by Ray C. Stedman).
Every child of God is a priest. He is enrolled as a member
of Christ's priestly house. He may be very ignorant, but his position
as a priest is not founded upon knowledge but upon life. His experience
may be very shallow, but his place as a priest does not depend
upon experience but upon life. His capacity may be very limited,
but his relationship as a priest does not rest upon an enlarged
capacity but upon life. He was born into the position and relationship
of a priest. He did not work himself thereinto. It was not by
any efforts of his own that he became a priest; he became a priest
by birth. The spiritual priesthood, together with all the spiritual
functions attaching thereunto, is the necessary appendage to spiritual
birth. The capacity to enjoy the privileges and to discharge the
functions of a position must not be confounded with the position
itself. They must ever be kept distinct. Relationship is one thing;
capacity is quite another.(CHM, Notes on the Pentateuch
Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt
for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to
chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the
servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders
enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before
company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers. (Socrates,
Of course, many foes of morality and religion have attempted
to argue that new scientific discoveries make belief in God obsolete,
but what they actually demonstrate is the remarkable and unique
nature of man and the universe. It is hard not to believe that
these gifts were given by a divine Creator, who alone can unlock
the secrets of existence. (Margaret Thatcher, 1994)
It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose him
as an alternative to hell. Yet even this he accepts. The creature's
illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature's sake, be
shattered. And by trouble, or fear of trouble on earth, by crude
fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it, unmindful of his
glory's diminution. I call this "divine humility," because
it's a poor thing to strike our colors to God when the ship is
going down under us, a poor thing to come to him as a last resort,
to offer up our own when it is no longer worth keeping. If God
were proud, he would hardly have us on such terms. But he is not
proud. He stoops to conquer. He would have us even though we have
shown that we prefer everything else to him, and come to him because
there is nothing better now to be had. (C.S. Lewis)
All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern
times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like
the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial;
the differences, fundamental.
From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.
The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrillseeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.
Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God's approval.
Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power. (by A.W. Tozer. This article first appeared in The Alliance Witness in 1946).
"Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow
is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls
of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside.
The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being
so, it may be asked what practical
use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use.
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight,
or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly temped to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations---these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit---immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ /vere latitat/---the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden." (from The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis)
Even so he could have escaped to another farm, but he did not
wish to do so, saying, "God's will be done." Thus, when
he heard of their arrival, he went downstairs and talked with
them, while those who looked on marveled at his age and constancy,
and at how there should be such zeal over the arrest of so old
a man. Straightway he ordered food and drink, as much as they
wished, to be set before them at that hour, and he asked them
to give him an hour so that he might pray undisturbed.
And when they consented, he stood and prayed---being so filled with the grace of God that for two hours he could not hold his peace, to the amazement of those who heard. And many repented that they had come to get such a devout old man. When at last he had finished his prayer, in which he remembered all who had met with him at any time, both small and great, both those with and those without renown, and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the hour of departure having come, they mounted him on an ass and brought him into the city.
It was a great Sabbath. And there the chief of the police, Herod, and his father, Nicetas, met him and transferred him to their carriage, and tried to persuade him, as they sat beside him, saying, "What harm is there to say, 'Lord Caesar,' and to offer incense and all that sort of thing and to save yourself?"
At first first he not answer them. But when they persisted, he said, "I am not going to do what you advise me."
Then when they failed to persuade him, they uttered dire threats and made him get out with such speed that in dismounting from the carriage he bruised his shin. But without turning around, as though nothing had happened, he proceeded swiftly, and was led into the arena, there being such a tumult in the arena that no one could be heard. But as Polycarp was entering the arena, a voice from heaven came to him, saying, "Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man." No one saw the one speaking, but those of our people who were present heard the voice.
And when finally he was brought up, there was a great tumult on hearing that Polycarp had been arrested. Therefore, when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked him if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, he tried to persuade him to deny [the faith], saying, "Have respect to your age"-and other things that customarily follow this, such as, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; change your mind; say, 'Away with the atheists!'"
But Polycarp looked with earnest face at the whole crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and motioned to them with his hand. Then, groaning and looking up to heaven, he said, "Away with the atheists!"
But the proconsul was insistent and said: "Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ."
Polycarp said: "Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"
All the modern gods are sick and dying. The nations that long
lusted after power are now terrified by it. Sex has played itself
out for many who thought an infinity of it would be heaven on
earth. The almighty dollar is falling like a burned-out star.
It is a day made-to-order for sons of the prophets, for sons of
the apostles, for Protestant Reformers, and for evangelical giants.---Carl
F. Henry. Christian Countermoves in a Decadent Culture.Portland,
Ore.: Multnomah. 1986.
On the right to bear arms: "The fifth and last
auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention,
is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition
and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared
by the same statute,* and is indeed a public allowance, under
due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation,
when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient
to restrain the violence of oppression."
[* that is, a law passed by the first parliament during the reign of William and Mary.]
On the rights of unborn children: "Life is the immediate gift of God, a right inherent by nature in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother's womb. For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb; or if any one beat her, whereby the child dieth in her body, and she is delivered of a dead child; this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter. But at present it is not looked upon in quite so atrocious a light, though it remains a very heinous misdemeanor.
"An infant in ventre sa mere, or in the mother's womb, is supposed in law to be born, for many purposes. It is capable of having a legacy, or a surrender of a copyhold estate made to it. It may have a guardian assigned to it; and it is enabled to have an estate limited to it's use, and to take afterwards by such limitations, as if it were then actually born. And in this point the civil law agrees with ours."
On the Relation of the Creator and Creature to Laws: "Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he prescribes to himself; but a state of dependence will inevitably oblige the inferior to take the will of him on whom he depends, as the rule of his conduct: not indeed in every particular, but in all those points wherein his dependence consists. This principle therefore has more or less extent and effect, in proportion as the superiority of the one and the dependence of the other is greater or less, absolute or limited. And consequently as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will."
"Municipal law is also a rule of civil conduct. This distinguishes municipal law from the natural, or revealed; the former of which is the rule of moral conduct, and the latter not only the rule of moral conduct, but also the rule of faith. These regard man as a creature, and point out his duty to God, to himself, and to his neighbor, considered in the light of an individual. But municipal or civil law regards him also as a citizen, and bound to other duties towards his neighbor, than those of mere nature and religion: duties, which he has engaged in by enjoying the benefits of the common union; and which amount to no more than that he do contribute, on his part, to the subsistence and peace of the society."
"In general, all mankind will agree that government should be reposed in such persons, in whom those qualities are most likely to be found, the perfection of which are among the attributes of Him who is emphatically styled the Supreme Being; the three grand requisites, I mean, of wisdom, of goodness, and of power: wisdom, to discern the real interest of the community; goodness, to endeavor always to pursue that real interest; and strength, or power, to carry this knowledge and intention into action. These are the natural foundations of sovereignty, and these are the requisites that ought to be found in every well constituted frame of government."
by Sir William Blackstone (1769)
Originated April 8, 1995; revised May 13, 1999. Inactive.